Akioka is the solo project of Tess Darcey, a key member of Perth’s small but extremely industrious experimental electronic scene. She plays in both Mei Saraswati and Phil Stroud‘s live bands, and shares with those artists a taste for light-handed, organic compositions blending soul, dub and new age influences.
Her latest release, a two-song cassette called Right Here, is out this Friday on Pouring Dream, a bedroom-size label responsible for ambient pop releases by local artists Spirit Level, Leaving, Bahasa Malay and more.
The title track is a gentle, minimalist drone built around Darcey’s vocal loops, which flutter and tumble over a bed of sparse keys and thumb piano. Listening to it is almost a somatic experience – like lying in a shallow stream with sunlight and clear water running over your body, the sounds of birds, insects and rapids mixing in your ears.
Preorder Right Here on cassette and digital via Bandcamp. Each tape comes with a risographed cover and artwork by by Dolphin Secrets. West coasters can also catch the tape launch, presented by Pouring Dream and Semi-Decent, at Highgate Continental on 24 September.
Melbourne four-piece RVG write tightly wound heartbreakers, with characters poised between defiance and despair. On debut single ‘A Quality of Mercy’, frontwoman Romy Vager channels everything from Camus to Television, delivering a sermon from the electric chair. “You can open me up/you can dig forever/you won’t find what you’re looking for,” she sings, quicksilver riffs coiling behind her. “There’s no evil in me”. The climax sounds like a car crash on a rain-soaked highway, with layers of synths, cymbals and blaring horns.
Vager’s urgent, slightly off-kilter vocals (imagine Robert Forster could sing) are paired with an aesthetic drawn from post punk and new wave. It’s a vivid, natural dynamic, recalling the Jam in their more reflective moments, or Florida punks Merchandise.
RVG’s latest release, ‘That’s All’, is a slow-building ballad about the self-cannibalising that comes with unrequited love. “I’ve been trying not to ruin your day/I’ve been trying not to get in your way,” Vager sings, the crack in her voice revealing the strain.
Catch RVG at the Worker’s Club on 30 September supporting Oh Mercy, who’s appearing in a one-time-only line up with members of the Triffids, Laura Jean, Loose Tooth and Dorsal Fins.
Golden Syrup is the new experimental pop act from songwriter and sound artist Sara Retallick. You might recognise her sweet-toned pipes from Melbourne band Jimmy Tait, whose 2013 AMP-nominated record Golden was a favourite here at WTH.
On debut track ‘Didn’t Go Home’, Retallick takes a sharp turn from her former indie rock project. Woven out of samples, field recordings and tape manipulations, the new material is spare, sinister and oddly ritualistic. Droning bass notes and a work-gang rhythm underpin Retallick’s incantatory vocals, while shards of noise and disembodied laughter unsettle the track’s placid surface.
‘I went to your birthday party/and I didn’t go home again,’ she sings, darkly. Seldom has a song about hooking up sounded quite so creepy.
Golden Syrup’s single launch party is this Friday at the Gasometer. Moon Rituals, Time for Dreams and Superstar side project Various Asses will be supporting, plus Laura Jean will pop in for a DJ set. RSVP on Facebook.
Nic Belor, a gentle, long-haired guitarist and songwriter living between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, is about to release his first solo album, Bestfriend, via Queensland-based imprint Feedback Town. Formerly of the post hardcore-influenced Wilde Child, he’s also a member of Figures, a three-piece band that pairs sweet, Teenage Fanclub-style vocals with rough-edged shoegaze.
Belor’s new material is pop music, plain and simple – an attempt to cut through the noise in a few harmonic minutes. The album’s title track and lead single is a sad-faced number with a chipper demeanour, kind of like Mac DeMarco minus the shit-eating grin. Easygoing and warm, ‘Bestfriend’ is nonetheless just a little off-kilter; its bright chords slightly detuned, twanging uncannily, while Belor croons about the one who’s left him.
Having released a compelling set of country-punk tearjerkers late last year – the brilliantly titled ‘Having pop punk feelings in a country-western body’ EP – Melbourne-based three-piece Two Steps on the Water are now gearing up for their debut LP, God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye. The band – comprising violinist Sienna Thornton, drummer Jonathan Nash and frontwoman June Jones – yesterday released ‘YoYo’, a tender, Kate Bush-referencing ballad underpinned by the trio’s lilting harmonies and Thornton’s intuitive counterpoint. Today we’ve got the video for you, beautifully shot in soft afternoon sunlight by the Yarra. June Jones spoke to us via email about the new record and the band’s upcoming June residency at the Gasometer Hotel.
Can you tell me what ‘Yoyo’ is about? did you write it for someone in particular?
‘YoYo’ was primarily written for myself when I was younger. I have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder since I was 14, which made life pretty hard especially when I was a teenager. I used to beat myself up about being so terrified all the time and it took me a long time to realise that I wasn’t to blame for my trauma. ‘YoYo’ was written for me back then, but also for anyone who needs to hear that it’s not their fault, that they are beautiful and dangerous. I should probably mention here that the first two lines of the chorus are totally ripped from ‘Cloudbusting’ by Kate Bush (a timeless classic).
Is there a narrative behind the video clip? It’s a gorgeous setting – where’d you guys shoot?
Nah, no narrative. The last clip we made (for a song called ‘More True More Rowdy‘) was pretty heavily rooted in narrative, and we filmed that in a few different locations which meant that it was a pretty time-consuming process. This time around we just wanted something simple and pretty. Working with absolute legends Nina Renee and Olivia A Fay, we filmed the whole thing in Fairfield by the Yarra. One half was at the beautiful amphitheater and the other half was with a group of friends in a clearing that Sienna knew about (and I think people put on raves there sometimes?).
Congrats on recording your debut record! Can you tell us about how it all came together – the writing and recording etc? How would you compare the new album to HPPFIACWB, whether aestically or thematically, or the process in general?
Hey thanks! We wrote all the songs in the second half of last year I think. Made some demos in Sienna’s shed and sent them to Simon Grounds (who was recommended to us by our friend Laura Jean, an amazing Melbourne musician). Recording took place from early February through to late April, starting at Bakehouse Studios with Simon and then RMIT with some friends who are studying sound production, then doing all the overdubs at Simon’s home studio.
Aesthetically I think we’re working with similar ideas to what’s happening on HPPFIACWB, but there’s no electric guitar this time around. Thematically I think God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye is more coherent. I’ve realised that lyrically I tend to tackle three themes over and over again, and those are trauma (spanning the last 10 years), my social experience as a trans woman (the last year and a half), and lastly the object of most songwriting ever: love and romance. The three overlap and intermingle and fight between each other. For example, there are three songs about love/romance/sex on the record but two of those are very much about my experience of these things as a trans woman looking to be recognised as such by my partner.
It’s been five years since Melbourne expats Civil Civic released their debut record Rules – a driving mix of noise, post punk and math rock. The duo met via email in 2009, and began trading ideas between their homes in London and Barcelona. It could be a slow, convoluted process, but the results were manic and immediate, and often gleefully nerdy, with fast-paced songs changing key and time signature mid-flight.
Since then, the band has released a single with outsider artist and lo-fi pioneer R. Stevie Moore (it sounds a bit like the Cure fast-forwarded to 160 per cent), and guitarist Aaron Cupples produced the Drones’ outlandish new record, Feelin’ Kinda Free. Along the way they worked on a follow-up record, describing it early on as “a big, ballsy expansion and escalation of the sonic turf we staked out on our 2011 debut Rules, with more high emotion and destruction and joy and carnage.
“Even at this stage, with the long and punishing mixing process ahead of us, we’re already scared of the results.
“This thing is going to give people brain tumours (the awesome kind). All we wanted to do was make a jaw-droppingly awesome record, not some sort of hyper-music-weapon that gets us ‘black-bagged’ in our sleep and end up working for the C.I.A.”
First single ‘The Hunt’ has finally landed, making its Australian premiere right here. It’s an acrobatic number, veering between shimmering, harmonic chords and blinding electronic passages, all underwritten by relentless 909s, prog solos and a wash of noise – kind of like Fuck Buttons spliced with TNGHT. Aaron sums it up like this:
“You wake up late afternoon, your hair a mess. You smell like a bin. Breakfast is the rest of the falafel from the night before. You’re volatile, energised, funny as fuck. You don’t give a single shit what others think of you.”
‘The Hunt’ will be out 24 June on Civil Civic’s Gross Domestic Product label, via Believe Digital, with an album to follow in spring. Check out the teaser below:
Earlier this month, Evelyn Morris released her third Pikelet LP, Tronc. After the expansive, full-band psychedelia of 2013’s Calluses, Morris returns to her roots on the new album, crafting experimental pop gems at home with a loop station and an array of analogue gear. She spoke to us recently, via email, about making the new record, her feminist practise and working with the LISTEN collective, patriarchy and white supremacy in Australia, and her upcoming launch show at Hugs & Kisses this Saturday night.
Hi Evelyn! We were really sorry/mad to hear about your gear; I hope it’s making its way back to you. Anything our readers can do to help?
I’ve been very fortunate in that everyone pitched in and crowdfunded the replacement of my gear! So I’m not feeling as awful as I did when it first happened, as it’s been somewhat affirming to have so many people rush to my aid like that. However there are some bits of gear on the list I posted on fb that can’t be replaced so… I guess just keep an eye out? If you happen to be a regular Gumtree or eBay shopper. Thanks for the sympathy!
Tronc is a pretty different record to Calluses. It’s recognisably Pikelet, but it sounds more lofi and possibly more eclectic than ever before. After working in a studio with a full band for Calluses, why did you decide to do a solo home recording this time round?
It happened rather naturally, given that I’ve had to squeeze my music practice in around my feminist practice with LISTEN, which consumed my time and energy for a good year and a half or so. The work I did with LISTEN also really highlighted my own insecurities as a musician and helped to allay some of those fears because I’ve started to understand that some of them are to do with living within patriarchy and within the binary. So exploring feminism has given me a renewed confidence – and hence recording on my own in my own way was both very interesting and much more possible than ever before. I always needed other people to validate my ideas prior to this record… so I released it as quickly as I could, because I needed to do that in order to stop myself from allowing those doubts to creep in that usually cause me to turn to others for advice. That process of self doubt slows things down immeasurably.
Tronc seems quite avant-garde; there are a lot of ideas in the mix (and what i think is the first Pikelet r’n’b track?). I was wondering if you could tell us something about the ideas you had in mind, and any reference points you had for the album?
I am so heavily influenced and inspired by music that’s around me, because that feeling of watching your friends get up and do something beautiful is like no other. So there are many of my friends’ musical inspirations infused throughout. Orlando Furious (Ben Snaith) is where I found an access point to r’n’b, though I suppose I was aiming more towards an experimental electronic track originally [on ‘the Neigbour’s Grass’] and my pop tendencies is how that aim ended up in r’n’b territory. Other local influences for this record would be Laura Jean, Rogue Wavs, Lalic and the collaborations I’ve done with Nick Allbrook have probably also had a big influence. Also more experimental acts in Melbourne are always keeping me refreshed… a band I’m in called Prophets inspires me greatly, as do artists such as Eves and Carolyn Connors.
My constant and ever-present reference point is Broadcast, and track 2 is an ode to Trish Keenan who tragically passed away not long after I had the pleasure of touring with broadcast. That track is named ‘Trish’, however on the cassette the track listing says track two is called ‘Tronc’ for some reason, I guess because I rushed the artwork along and didn’t notice it had been written indirectly until too late.
A lot of times, this sounds like a pretty angry record. On tracks like ‘the Neighbour’s Grass’ and ‘Interface Dystopia’ you talk about feelings of dispossession and disillusionment. There are places where you seem cautiously hopeful, too – making reference to human plasticity/possibility, and finishing up with a track called ‘Survived’. Could you talk a little about the themes of the album, and what kind of headspace you were in while writing it?
I have been dealing with all these themes for many years, however perhaps in a less direct way in the past. I have been stuck in a place of in-betweens my whole life in many ways. In-between the gender binary, in-between my favourite music styles but not really knowing where I sit, in-between poverty and comfort also not really always knowing how good I have it when compared to others… these strike me as fairly universal feelings for a large portion of the population, and especially for Australians that don’t opt to be as wilfully ignorant of suffering as we’re encouraged to be. We are living on stolen land and have been destroying that environment and First Nations people’s lives every day since we first arrived here. We continue to do so every day that we stay here without acknowledgment of the white supremacy infused in our culture. We are also simultaneously actively allowing for the suffering of refugees and asylum seekers to continue because we think we have a right to keep this place to ourselves. I don’t know how anyone could live in Australia and not be angry.
But it’s not just that Australian anger that I have expressed in these songs, it’s also the anger that has built up since realising my feminism more fully. The years wasted on hating myself and undermining myself because that’s how I have been raised in this structure… I’ll never get those years back.
There’s so much happening emotionally on this album though, and ultimately like any record, I wanted to find a way to capture those feelings so I could look back on them some day. I suppose the cautious optimism is the only way that anyone can look at these themes and not feel really stupified as to what we should be doing. You’ve gotta convince yourself of the fact that there’s purpose to continuing to work towards change.