Posts By Annie Toller

PREMIERE: Beast & Flood – ‘Abie Poe’

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Beast & Flood are a Sydney trio who make music that sounds like protest – that is, if you can protest a sinking feeling in your stomach. Listening to their knotty, anguished rock, it’s clear these guys feel there’s something broken. The guitars are menacing and the drums punch and stagger, while the vocals swing from dissonant dissertations to an outright wail.

Beast & Flood have been gigging in and around Sydney for more than three years now, but they’re yet to put out a full-length album. They have four releases under their belt so far – three EPs and a blistering single, ‘Amber’. A number of these tracks have now been collected and re-recorded, along with some new material, to form the band’s debut LP, Laguno, which is out 22 June through No Safe Place.

‘Abie Poe’ is Laguno‘s second single, following last month’s ‘Look at the Fish Swimming’. (An exuberant little number in it’s own sharp-edged way, ‘Look…’ might be Beast & Flood’s first properly ‘pop’ song). They’ve spent a lot of time in the studio with this stuff – starting recording in July last year and finishing up in February – and it shows. These tracks are sprawling, composed of several movements, and landing in intensity somewhere between post-hardcore and ’90s emo.

‘Abie Poe’ (named after a character of the same name from Nick Cave’s And the Ass Saw the Angel) opens with swooping chords and chiming harmonics, like Sonic Youth in one of their more melodious moments, before drifting into harsher twists and turns, screams and then release.

Beast & Flood will be touring the new album across the east coast from June to August. Catch them at one of these dates:

25 June – Rad, Wollongong

26 June – Blackwire, Sydney

9 July – Rics, Brisbane

10 July – The Bearded Lady, Brisbane

11 July – Beatdisc, Parramatta

16 July – Phoenix, Canberra

17 July – Metro, Adelaide

18 July – Vice Bar, Melbourne

24 July – The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart

1 August – Hamilton Station Hotel, Newcastle

7 August – The Boatshed, Manly

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The Coolites – ‘Growing Up in Australia’

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In this new series, ‘First Impressions’, we’re going to subject a bunch of songs to the immediacy test – getting our contributors to review a track they’ve heard only once. This time round, Annie Toller looks askance at the first track from the Coolites’ debut album.

So this is what Generation X sounds like in middle age: backward looking and out of ideas. The Coolites are a new band started by Simon Gibson of Sneeze fame. Their first single, ‘Growing Up in Australia’, is basically a list of landmark moments from the author’s childhood – and there’s no attempt to disguise the Paul Kelly impersonation here (nor any sign of that Aussie legend’s way with words). The clip – a sepia-toned montage of photos and newspaper clippings from 70s and 80s ‘straya – is charming enough. The song, however, has an irritating universalising impulse, where one guy puts on rosy glasses and tries to elevate the years of his youth to some kind of idyll.

It is understandable that Australians today are drawn to the age of Whitlam. There’s hope – not merely nostalgia – in looking to a recent past in which we had progressive leaders with vision. Hell, even the Liberal Party believed in some form of the fair go back then. But when Gibson gets to reminiscing about 20-cent bags of mixed lollies from the local milk bar, it sounds more like Grandpa Simpson (“I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time…”) than genuine historical reflection.

That’s a shame, because there’s actually a snappy (if retro) little instrumental underpinning this track, and a pretty grouse guitar solo. But, sadly, ‘Growing Up in Australia’ ends up sounding more like a eulogy than a living, breathing work of art.

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LABEL PROFILE: Breathlessness

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Breathlessness is a tiny, close-knit label formed in Hoppers Crossing, a suburb on Melbourne’s outer edges, where the label’s founders and current signees grew up. (A number of them even lived on the same street). The first Breathlessness releases appeared last year – Vulpix’s debut EP, Swarms, and Finx by Splendidid – and the label’s third outing, the self-titled EP from psychedelic duo Sun Bazel, came out in March.

The collective consists of only five or six core players: Jordan Barrow of Vulpix moonlights as a guitarist in Zac Terry’s band, Splendidid. Daniel Prieto, who plays bass in both oufits, is releasing his debut EP as DPDP (titled Afterglow) through Breathlessness in June. And last summer two members of the Splendidid live band, Jack Foy and Harry Hayes, wrote the material that became Sun Bazel’s first release.

Both Vulpix and Splendidid make sweet-sounding dream pop that could have come from a four-track abandoned circa 2008 and unearthed in someone’s basement like forgotten treasure. Built from rippling arpeggios and close, fuzzy drums, these tunes are heavy on the reverb and not afraid to enter the red. Sun Bazel’s psych-pop, meanwhile, circles woozily, composed of deceptively simple lines of detuned synths and phasered guitar.

Breathlessness is hosting a label party at the Shadow Electric Bandroom this Sunday, 26 April. (Stay calm – they’ve explained everything you need to know in this easy-to-follow tutorial). Splendidid and Vulpix will be performing live, and there’ll be DJ sets from Sun Bazel and DPDP. Erik Scerba, who mixed and mastered most of the label’s releases, will also be DJing. Scerba makes Tumblr-fied hip hop beats as Yoshimitsu, his sounds skipping from cloud rap to glo-fi and warped muzak. Don’t miss it.

Tickets to Sunday’s show are available through the Shadow Electric website.

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MAP April 2015

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This month’s Music Alliance Pact features music from 16 countries around the world, including ‘Honey’, an all-family affair from Barwon Heads duo Surf Dad. You can check out more of their material over on Soundcloud.  ‘Honey’ also features in Robbie’s new Australian music podcast, streaming right here.

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 16-track compilation through Dropbox here.

ARGENTINA: Zonaindie
Los Grillos Del MonteJaqueline

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This supergroup formed by Facundo Flores (Onda Vaga, Nacho & Los Caracoles), Tomi Lebrero (El Puchero Misterioso), Martín Reznik (La Filarmónica Cósmica) and Jano Seitún (Campos Magnéticos, Alvy Singer Big Band) has just released their first record. According to the guys, the album sounds like “a bolero who fathered a cumbia, a chorus which is the cousin of the best zamba, and rock music that won’t leave us even if we try”. MAP exclusive download Jaqueline is our favorite track from the album.

AUSTRALIA: Who The Bloody Hell Are They?
Surf DadHoney

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Surf Dad is the production duo of George and Declan Sands, brothers from Barwon Heads, a small coastal town just south of Melbourne. More than a year after releasing the excellent Unholy EP, the siblings have dropped Honey, a pristine, sensual track featuring horns, bells, woodblock, field recordings from their dad’s backyard and their mum, Natisha, on vocals. George salvaged the vocal recordings from old four-track cassettes that Natisha, an artist herself, compiled in the 1980s. As you might expect from an intimate family collaboration, the boys’ woozy, organic production complements her heady performance perfectly. And Mum’s reaction upon hearing the track? She cried.

CANADA: Ride The Tempo
Dilly DallyGender Role

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Buzz Records is taking Toronto by storm with their incredible roster of artists that include Odonis Odonis, Weaves, Greys, HSY, Anamai and more. Now I bring to you the incredible Dilly Dally, whose “I don’t give a fuck” attitude both on and off stage will have you loving them more and more.

COLOMBIA: El Parlante Amarillo
BalancerRemain Waves

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Balancer is a trio formed by Colombians and Puerto Ricans, but based in Brooklyn. Gabriela, Felipe and Francisco have released two EPs and an album called Tipsoo. Their music is striking – it’s a world influenced by indie-rock, psychedelia and electronics. Remain Waves is the first single released from Tipsoo, which takes us through the waves to the shore with a warm, downtempo sound.

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INTRODUCING: Closer

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Closer is the ambient/noise project of Melbourne musician Liam Daly. It shares the grandiose aims of his former post-rock outfit, These Hands (Could Separate the Sky), but in place of cascading guitars are shifting drones built from sub-bass, white noise and tape hiss.

Over the past couple of years Daly has released two EPs, White Heat and Descent, and a full-length called In Search of Life. His latest is the neatly symmetrical Heartache/Lifted, whose two tracks both clock in at precisely 10:10.

The album has the neo-classical tenor of Basinski’s conceptual drones and some of the muted drama of Tim Hecker compositions. It’s not as centred and melodically rich as either of those artists, but that’s probably because Daly’s process is driven largely by chance. As he recently told Forte, Closer’s aesthetic is “not overly driven by specific mood or intent. Whatever noises present themselves are the ones I have to use. Whatever form the song takes, then so be it”. As a result, these tracks don’t build so much as they unfold, revealing new details and layers, each with different evocations.

In the same interview, Daly described Closer as “music that warps time and makes you feel without choice”. At times it conveys the inevitability of a glacier slowly collapsing, or that rushing noise that fills your ears during a panic attack or dissociative state.

‘Heartache’ is like the soundtrack to some unspecified dystopian era, whether industrial, medieval or post-apocalyptic. The highlight is ‘Lifted’, with its breathy synth washes and submerged vocals, which sound like someone calling to you from inside a deep cavern.

Though these songs would probably benefit from stronger melodic motifs, Heartache/Lifted is surprisingly gratifying for something that veers so close to sound art. Like most ambient music, this makes for great headphones listening – and probably a killer live show, too.

Heartache/Lifted is available now through Bandcamp. Catch Closer performing at Old Bar next Monday, 20 April, alongside Mollusc and Fourteen Nights at Sea. RSVP on Facebook.

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LISTEN: Sarah Mary Chadwick – ‘Am I Worth It’

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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.

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LISTEN: Nathan Roche – ‘In Dresden They’ve Been Dressing in Black Again’

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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.

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