Posts By Annie Toller

WATCH: Jack Colwell – ‘Don’t Cry Those Tears’

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A scruffy haired, gap toothed young man, in ripped jeans and a leather bomber, Jack Colwell doesn’t look out of place among the DIY bands of Sydney’s inner west. He certainly doesn’t look like someone who’s played at the Opera House not once but several times.

Growing up on the northern beaches, Colwell’s high school was the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Since his teens, he’s been working to reconcile his obvious pop sensibility with his classical background, starting out making folksy chamber pop as Jack Colwell and the Owls. On his forthcoming EP, Only When Flooded Could I Let Go – in the works for almost two years now – Colwell has come up with something much bolder and more himself.

‘Don’t Cry Those Tears’ is his latest single, and it’s a stunner – combining the drama of ‘Far From View’, the first taste of the EP, with the levity of last year’s gorgeous standalone single, ‘Seek the Wilde’. With painstaking arrangements that betray Colwell’s classical training, the track’s a dead ringer for a Phil Spector ‘wall of sound’ production.

Colwell’s also a versatile vocalist, going from breathy to thunderous without breaking a sweat. He even sounds wolfish at times, as he snaps and snarls. ‘Don’t Cry These Tears’ features his best performance yet – like Nick Cave animated by the spirits of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Nina Simone.

The video, Colwell’s second outing with London duo Brian and Karl, is shot in seedy red and blue. Surrounded by sculpted men stripped for the sauna, Colwell goes through a series of emotional spasms in a performance worthy of his hero Kate Bush.

 

Only When Flooded Could I Let Go is out 28 August. Preorder now and you’ll get instant downloads of ‘Don’t Cry Those Tears’ and ‘Far From View’.

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INTRODUCING: Solid Effort

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Solid Effort are the latest band to emerge from the smog of the coal coast. Growing up in a depressing little city dumped on top of a natural wonder seems to have a salutary effect on creativity, with groups like Shining Bird, the Pinheads and Step Panther all breaking out of Wollongong over the last couple of years.

Now based in Sydney, Solid Effort have been together less than a year but have already supported foreign acts like Tonsstartsbandht and the Courtneys. Their debut EP is out soon on the Gong’s Le Boogie Records and the ‘Sydney-based, Wollongong-inclined’ No Safe Place (which just released Beast & Flood‘s long-awaited, knotty first album).

‘One Loose Wire’ is the first Solid Effort track to see the light of day (aside from a couple of jams, like this little number). It’s a loping, sweetly melodic punk song that takes its cues from bands like Guided by Voices, Sebadoh and the Minutemen. The track shuffles along at a mesmerising pace – practically sleepwalking through buried vocals and soft bursts of harmonica.

Solid Effort will be appearing at the No Safe Place August residency on 21 August at the Record Crate in Glebe and 22 August at Wollongong’s Rad.

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PREMIERE: TEEF Records – Imperium in Imperio

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TEEF Records‘ mammoth charity compilation Imperium in Imperio drops today, and it sure is worthy of the grandiose title. With tracks contributed by 16 artists, from the established to the almost unheard of, it functions as a kind of statement of intent for TEEF – a Sydney-based label launched last year by Sound Doc blogger Tommy Faith. The songs assembled here, previously unreleased, showcase Tommy’s taste for forward-looking pop that blurs the line between electronic and acoustic elements.

Featured artists include Melbourne producer Leaks, who also designed the compilation’s stunning marbled cover art, underground RnB sensations Collarbones, inaugural TEEF signee Spirit Faces, 17-year-old violinist turned pop artist Lupa J and sample-happy electro-folk artist Setec. There’s a restrained, dissociated-sounding track from the unstoppable Snowy Nasdaq under one of his many pseudonyms, Magnum Ego. Named ‘Slow Release’, it was apparently penned while zonked on experimental drugs as Snowy was undergoing dangerous medical trials. There’s also a track by a well-known Melbourne producer, submitted under the alias Hann as a one-off release.

From beginning to end Imperium in Imperio is swathed in lush and swirling sounds, both organic and propulsive. The highlight has to be ‘Diagonal’, the 10-minute centrepiece provided by Planète. It’s a driving and cathartic techno jam that betrays more than a passing affinity with James Holden’s Border Community. There are also excellent remixes by Yeo and Shisd, and a delicate, floating closer by house wunderkind Darcy Baylis.

A pay-what-you-feel download out via Bandcamp, all proceeds from Imperium in Imperio will go to OXFAM’s Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund, so quit browsing ya cheapskates – this isn’t a library.

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PREMIERE: Primitive Motion – ‘Same in the Same’ video

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Brisbane artists Sandra Selig and Leighton Craig have been collaborating since 2003, when Craig began creating soundtracks for Selig’s art installations. They’ve since played together in a number of experimental outfits, including Deadnotes and Fig., making music based around improvisations and delighfully arcane instrumentation. (Over the years, the liner notes to Primitive Motion records have listed contraptions ranging from the stylophone to euphonium and flugelhorn).

‘Same in the Same’ is the latest single, and one of the loveliest moments, from Craig and Selig’s second LP as Primitive Motion, Pulsating Time Fibre. Taken from the record’s fleeting A-side – the pop half of this gorgeous and eccentric collection – the track clocks in at a succinct 1 minute and 14 seconds. Like most Primitive Motion songs, ‘Same in the Same’ exhibits the playful DIY impulses of early post-punk, circa the Raincoats or Young Marble Giants, as well as the lush expansiveness of electronic pioneers like Laurie Spiegel.

The track’s title is drawn from a poem Selig wrote several years ago – a verse (quoted by Craig in this 2011 interview) that seems to contain the seed for the pair’s entire creative project: “the primitive motion phenomena, the same in the same, left to chance”. This, in a nutshell, is the science of a Primitive Motion track – perpetual iterations of a melodic motif, recorded imperfectly, live, bubbling and warm.

‘The Same in the Same’ is accompanied by a video directed by Selig herself, a woozy meditation on the play of movement and light.

Primitive Motion are launching Pulsating Time Fibre on Saturday, 18 July at the Skukum Lounge in Brisbane. RSVP on Facebook.

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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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