The cover of Sarah Mary Chadwick’s forthcoming album, 9 Classic Tracks, is a blotchy, lurid watercolour painted by Chadwick herself. It depicts three clothed men performing sex acts on a woman in high heels, her yellowing skin covered only by a bodice that’s been dragged beneath her drooping breasts and a shock of smeared red lipstick.
Chadwick’s Tumblr is covered in images like this one – tableaus from online porn (with a particular predilection for golden showers), blood-spattered animals wearing sinister expressions and washed-up models with nostrils blistered from cocaine abuse.
Sarah Mary Chadwick’s element, in music and in art, is one of self-abasement. Since moving on from Batrider, the Kiwi downer rock band she fronted for 10 years, her songs have been stripped of their fuzz and left sounding vulnerable and melancholy. Her new single, driven by chilly synths and a riveting, understated hook, seems to come from a place of creeping self-doubt – the kind that causes you to ask, over and over again, despite all reassurances, ‘Am I worth it?’.
9 Classic Tracks will be out on 27 March through Rice is Nice.
Itinerant, conman and genuine good bloke, Nathan Roche is one of the most prolific artists in the Australian underground right now – and he’s certainly the most flippant. He’s a self-published novelist, frontman of the now defunct Camperdown and Out, plus half a dozen other bands, and head of his own record label, Glenlivet-a-Gogh. Roche, however, harbours no romantic illusions about his creative endeavours. Speaking to Polaroids of Androids back in 2013, he described music as ‘a curse’ and claimed that there’s ‘no such thing as art. Like the food we digest and put into our bodies, occasionally we “pass gas” and a stench goes airborne.’
Well, in early 2015, an odour is hanging in the air again. The day after returning from a tour of Europe and the US, Roche went into the studio – via a trip to the Centrelink office – to record the third installment of his Newtown Trilogy: Cathedrals Made Outta Green Cards. The album’s 23 tracks veer from the brilliant to the ridiculous, replete with bad puns (‘S-Car Go!’) and spoken word interludes, including a woman enumerating the contents of her refrigerator in alluring French.
As always, the best moments on Cathedrals… channel the luminaries of 70s avant-rock – Lou Reed, Roxy Music, John Cale. I’m not sure if the second single, ‘In Dresden They’ve Been Dressin in Black Again’, is about Pegida, the vices of fashion or both, but it rollicks snidely along like something off Transformer, sounding less like pastiche than a skillful homage.
Roche has said that Cathedrals… is to be his final musical outing. (His Soundcloud profile currently reads ‘R.I.P.’). As a guy who somehow plays the role of piss-taker and straight-shooter simultaneously, I wouldn’t doubt him when he says there’s some sort of change afoot – but nor would I be betting on his disappearance. There’s far too much going on in Nathan Roche’s head for him to put down the guitar for good.
February’s MAP has landed, with music presented by 19 blogs from around the world. Brisbane’s Nite Fields – whose moody debut album, Depersonalisation, has just dropped on Felte – are representing Australia this month. Head over to our Soundcloud to hear Robbie’s January MAP podcast, as well as a special Australia Day mix of some of our favourite local MAP entries from the past 12 months.
Click the play button icon to listen to individual songs, right-click on the song title to download an mp3, or grab a zip file of the full 19-track compilation through Dropbox here.
“January will be mine” is the translation of singer-songwriter Sol Fernandez’s artistic project. Her music is a perfect match of soft melodies and dream-pop with carefully crafted arrangements and sound landscapes. This track is from Enero3, her latest work, which is being released through Bandcamp.
Prescription is the second single from Brisbane four-piece Nite Fields’ long-awaited debut record Depersonalisation. While the intricate guitar work and broody vocals echo The Church, there’s a humid, curiously distant tone here that is something totally their own. Starting with sparse prickly guitars and splashy drumming, the song folds in on itself towards the end, becoming slightly claustrophobic but in an intimate, whispery way. Nite Fields keeps you at arm’s length – you have to squint through the haze of effects and layers to get a hold of anything solid, but once you do, you’ve already fallen hard for this moody and mysterious band.
Johnny McArthur and Eric Moore make up the electronic duo Willows. They venture into uncomfortable territory melodically. The swirling repetitive underlying of The Shape I’m In resembles the dizzying sensation of intoxication. The bursts of energy are like the highs that come back to the inevitable lows.
Sin Órbita is a duo formed by Paula Roa and Martin Perez Roa, who last year released their first record, Neón EP (Sudamerican Records). Flirting with electronica and soul, the band are a mixture of Massive Attack trip hop cadence and AlunaGeorge sensuality.
PONCHO is little collaboration between Melbourne rapper Baro and his mate Mitch, aka Ancentric, who worked on Baro’s breakthrough mixtape HOWGOODISGOOD?. The pair have just released a three-track EP called Awkward Love Songs on Soundcloud, featuring previous single ‘grab me as i fall’.
Baro touchstones like Mos Def and Erykah Badu are still discernible here, but this stuff is more King Krule than Joey Bada$$ – minus the UK youngster’s weary, streetwise barbs. Poncho songs are all sweet and breezy, as exemplified by the major sevenths and scattered handclaps on EP opener and standout track, ‘the Summer’s Over So Where Do We Stand?’.
Awkward Love Songs is here to tide you over till Baro’s new EP drops sometime very soon.
Michael Skinner hasn’t been to the Mallee. The region’s stately, arid plains, hidden beneath the ocean for most of the Earth’s history, are nevertheless a good analogue for his band, Mallee Songs. Their music is deeply influenced by the dark alt-country sounds of the 90s – particularly American artists like Jason Molina, Mark Linkous and Will Oldham. Those songwriters are present in Mallee Songs’ solemn lyricism, restrained feedback and vicious guitar solos.
Last year Mallee Songs released Gum Creek and Other Songs, a compilation of Skinner’s early home recordings. Cleaning out these scattered folk songs was a final step in his transition from bedroom to stage. He wrote the forthcoming album with a four-piece band, drummer Pascal Babare also producing.
‘Since the Kingdom’, a pretty, Silver Jews-like track, is the lead single from the new record. In the video – premiered here – Skinner wanders, jaded and sleep-deprived, through the Australian countryside, stalked by wordless strangers. Meanwhile, someone, somewhere is playing a lament: ‘All my brothers in a slow decline / I need a new feeling to describe / the arc of a mountain in a cloudless sky’.
Sugar Mountain comes to us revamped this year, after a 12-month hiatus. It has a new location at the VCA Southbank campus, where the extra space has allowed for a bigger line up than ever before. The festival’s profile is also at its highest level, with a push from the promoters at Mushroom Group, Sugar Mountain’s new partner in crime. This good fortune is well overdue for Sugar Mountain, which for years has been curating the most exciting set of acts of any festival in Australia, whether blockbuster or boutique.
While the Big Day Out flailed around trying to please everyone from Metallica fans to the triple j set and Laneway slavishly booked every band with a ‘Best New Music’ accolade, the closest thing to a ‘white whale’ that Sugar Mountain has bothered with is ESG – a cult act from the no man’s land that was South Bronx in the 1980s. Instead, these guys have displayed an adventurousness and a consistency of vision that’s brought acts like Sun Araw, Prince Rama and John Maus together on the one bill.
This year is no exception, despite the event now catering to a larger audience. As if the promise of Swans, Nas, iceage and a Boiler Room stage weren’t enough, there’s also a huge array of local talent on the bill. These are some of the artists we’ll be going to see.
NO ZU + Sal P (Liquid Liquid)
Melbourne septet NO ZU have been bringing together cowbell, saxophone and happy pants in a frenetic post-disco amalgam for quite a few years now. On Saturday they’ll be joined by spiritual forebear Sal P of no wave legends Liquid Liquid in what’s bound to be an interesting collaboration.
Terrible Love feat. Kirin J Callinan
Kirin J Callinan has already caused his fair share of trouble for Sugar Mountain. A set at the 2012 event saw audience members streaming from the auditorium in confusion and disgust as the boundaries between concert, performance and reality dissolved. It was probably the best thing I saw all day. This time Callinan’s teaming up with Terrible Records, a US imprint founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but the teaser is promising:
Baro and Milwaukee Banks are Melbourne acts that have performed the minor miracle of creating Australian hip hop that actually sounds contemporary. Milwaukee Bank’s gauzy, sputtering production calls to mind A$AP Rocky’s debut LP – if you substitute MC Dylan Thomas’ good humour for Rocky’s gaping vacuity – while 17-year-old Baro’s jazzy beats reflect the current preoccupation with boom bap shared by young rappers like Joey Bada$$ and Earl Sweatshirt.
Baro and MB are playing a double headline show tomorrow night at Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel, with rising producer (and Grimes lookalike) Stax Osset supporting. We have two passes to give away – email email@example.com for your chance to win.