Posts By Annie Toller

LISTEN: Palm Springs, Calamari Girls & Lalic

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palm springs

Erica Dunn debuted Palm Springs just last October, releasing a pair of 7″s that sound like dust-streaked sunlight. Now, the SMB having hung up the fishnet stockings for a little while, Dunn’s been back in the studio, her group rounded out to a trio to record a new cassette. Engineered by the Drones’ Dan Luscombe and mastered by Mikey Young, the Flowers in a Vase EP features an updated version of the sublime ‘Winning & Losing’, a charming Randy Newman cover (with more harmonica than honky tonk, to be sure) and a suite of aching gothic-country numbers, delivered in Dunn’s dusky contralto.

Palm Springs are launching the cassette tomorrow night at the Gasometer Hotel. Calamari Girls will be playing in support (along with Caroline No), so this feels like an excellent opportunity to talk about the Before Darwin Tape.

Calamari Girls features members of Melbourne garage punks Constant Mongrel and the Shifters. Quietly released in July 2015 via Al Montford’s Hideotic Records, their sole release has flown more or less under the radar. There’s not much press out there on these guys; one of the only leads to follow is a cryptic message left on their Bandcamp page: ‘Long live Takashi Mizutani’. It’s a reference to the frontman of Les Rallizes Dénudés, a Kyoto band that operated in the late 60s, making long-form, DIY noise rock inspired by the Velvet Underground. This actually tells you a lot of what you need to know about Calamari Girls. Scrappy but charming, the Before Darwin Tape combines post-John Cale, pre-Loaded Velvets with the naive pop of the Beat Happening. In short, it rules, and it’s available right now as a free download.

While I’m on the subject of cassettes, I found this one mooching around on Bandcamp:

Lalić is led by Melbourne’s Mladen Lalić Milinkovic, a GNC artist who’s been recording under their mother’s maiden name since high school. Milinkovic has described Bed Tape as ‘an interim release’ before a third LP comes out later in the year, and it does have an ephemeral feel – more a collection of textural experiments than a song-driven album. Its palette drifts somewhere between Animal Collective’s early acoustic recordings and the narcotic teen fantasies of Foxes in Fiction. Milinkovic moves tentatively, testing out a melodic phrase, a synthesiser setting, a sample – adding layers almost haphazardly to the mix. The results are surprisingly lovely, with songs that stumble, frayed, then miraculously coalesce: reaching, collapsing and reforming.

Bed Tape is out now through World News Records.

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LISTEN: A playlist by the Goon Sax

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the goon sax

“We can agree/I’m not quite what I used to be,” James Harrison, a preternaturally world-weary teen, mumbles on ‘Telephone’, a standout track from the Goon Sax’s debut record, Up to Anything. At once self-conscious and naïve, it’s one of many tunes on the theme of adolescent awkwardness, with lyrics detailing sweaty palms, unconsummated affection and the indignity – even “heartbreak” – of a home haircut.

Despite their youthful preoccupations (the band’s youngest member is only 17), this trio has sophisticated tastes. On the eve of their album launch tour, they’ve sent us a playlist: 17 songs about water. Featuring tracks from Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, as well as John Phillips’ cult first record the Wolfking of LA, it’s a timely reminder that, though just out of high school, the Goon Sax are cooler than you.

Singer/guitarist Louis Forster writes:

‘The following songs aren’t connected by any kind of genre or time period, but what they all have in common is that they are set beside or based on some kind of body of water. Whether it’s the Marine Girls’ loneliness scaling the depth of the ocean, or Neil Young’s bitter observations on the beach, by the water is always a brilliant setting for a song, and serves as the perfect comparison to just about any emotion.’

Tracklist:

The Marine Girls – 20,000 Leagues
The Beach Boys – Feel Flows
Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding
Bob Dylan – When the Ship Comes In
The Velvet Underground – Ocean
Pulp – My Lighthouse
Erika Eigen – I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper
Mercury Rev – Opus 40
Neil Young – On the Beach
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary
Talking Heads – Take Me to the River
Canned Heat – Going Up the Country
The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
John Phillips – Malibu People
Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
G. Wayne Thomas – Morning of the Earth
The Triffids – Seabirds
You can catch the Goon Sax on their east coast tour in April:

Saturday, 2 April

Sydney – Newtown Social Club
supports FLOWERTRUCK and Solid Effort
https://newtownsc.ticketscout.com.au/gigs/5101-the-goon-sax?_ga=1.2921016.983764161.1456103188

Saturday, 9 April
Melbourne – The Tote Hotel
supports Chook Race, Hearing and Dag
https://thetotehotel.oztix.com.au/?Event=60520

Saturday, 30 April
Brisbane – Trainspotters
supports Blank Realm and Scraps
tickets on the door

Up To Anything is out now on Chapter on vinyl, CD and digital. Order it here.

Facebook / Bandcamp

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LISTEN: TRANSGENRE Playlist

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transgenre

The work of trans and gender non-conforming musicians in the local underground community has become increasingly visible over recent months, thanks to the efforts of figures like Simona Castricum and June Jones, as well as discussions sparked around the LISTEN collective. These artists have been out there for a minute now, collaborating and playing gigs together, creating songs, poetry and artwork with a fierce DIY energy.

This Sunday, 3 April, a group of them are coming together for TRANSGENRE, ‘a mini music festival celebrating trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) musicians, DJs, poets, and performance artists’. They’ve made us a playlist showcasing the range of talent on the bill – from the droning, industrial synth pop of Simona Castricum and WK II (Wet Kiss) to the downer country jams of Callan and Two Steps on the Water. There’s also spoken word by Xen Nhà, experimental noise from Jack Mannix’s TERMINAL INFANT project and the incisive folk of Native Cats’ Chloe Alison Escott.

TRANSGENRE takes place from 5pm at Howler, with DJs playing till early morning. Get your tickets here, and RSVP on Facebook.

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LOOK: Ali Barter – Melbourne Laneway Festival 2016

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Ali Barter portrait 1

‘It was a bit less thought out, a bit more off the cuff.’

Sitting in the bright Windsor home she shares with husband Oscar Dawson (HOLY HOLY), his parents and a train of siblings and toddlers, Ali Barter is talking about her latest single, ‘Far Away’. Built around a classic four-piece rock set up, the track howls with echo, cymbals and huge guitar riffs, foregoing much of the studio-derived ornament of last year’s AB-EP.

It’s the result of a series of last-minute writing sessions, arranged at the tail end of a family trip to LA.

‘I went and spent two or three hours with this guy I’d never met before, called Harlan Silverman, and we wrote this song in his garage. It was sort of half finished, ‘cause I was really tired… But I think the lack of thought that went into it is why it’s good’.

Back home, ‘Far Away’ was recorded quickly in a simple basement studio – ‘and that was it. No hiring the best studio, trying to get the best sound.

‘Sometimes I feel like I overcooked things on my last EPs. I’ve had too much time to mull over things and think about references and who I want to be. And this was just a song. I brought this half-cooked song to my band, and we rearranged it a bit and played it in one rehearsal, and then we were like, “Well, that’s done. Let’s record it and not fuck with it too much, and then let it go”’.

Ali Barter portrait 2

The LA sessions resulted in a number of songs intended for Barter’s debut LP, which she plans to record later this year in much the same style as ‘Far Away’.

‘I would like to do them all that way – like, all in the room – because I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself. We did this Pozible campaign in 2013 and raised 15 grand. We went to Brisbane to work with Matt Redlich, who’s the HOLY HOLY producer, and we were there for six weeks recording all these songs. By the end of it my voice packed up completely, and eventually I had to have surgery. I think there was just too much pressure…

‘Courtney Barnett recorded one of her EPs in, like, three days in a house and it was done, you know. It’s like Neil Young says – “the more you think, the more you stink”. I definitely identify with that’.

When we visited, Barter was gearing up for a hometown performance at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. It would be her second appearance at the festival; in 2013, she joined the Melbourne line up as a triple j Unearthed winner. ‘That was awesome. From that, I met my manager and my booking agent. Everything started from there for me’.

Ali at Laneway 2

This year she played alongside locals like Blank Realm, Royal Headache and DMA’s (‘They played “Delete” the other day, and even though I’ve heard it a million times, I almost cried – I got goosebumps’), and headliners Beach House, Vince Staples and Grimes.

By this point, she’d already played two cities. ‘We’ve had some hiccoughs,’ Barter admitted. ‘At the Brisbane show, my guitar died. The amp blew up halfway through my set, so I couldn’t play – and I always play with a guitar. I don’t have any mic skills, I don’t have any dance moves…’

It must have sounded better than she let on, though, because after Silicon left the tour, Barter shot up the bill to take an afternoon slot on the festival’s main stage. She glided through her set, dance moves and all – and we were there to take some photographs.

Ali at Laneway 1

(more…)

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PREMIERE: Francis Plagne – ‘Hearing Every Drop’

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francis plagne

Francis Plagne’s last solo album, Tenth Volume of Maps, was released back in 2011. A curious mix of classical abstraction, musique concrete and prog folk, the LP became, in certain circles, a coveted piece of underground pop. Since then, he’s collaborated with local experimental outfits – most recently joining Food Court to record two highly impressionistic versions of a 14th-century choral arrangement by Solage – and convened ensembles to perform works by contemporary avant-garde composers.

Plagne’s now gearing up to release Funeral Mutes, a new collection of deconstructed chamber pop, on his own Mould Museum imprint early next year. First single ‘Hearing Every Drop’ is an uneasy, wheeling thing. It spirals round a central melodic phrase, withholding resolution, unwinding and rebuilding itself as it goes. The video comprises a series of tableaux vivants enacting scenes from the old masters. The contours of light and shade, and the actors’ taut bodies and twisted limbs, match Plagne’s vivid, surrealist lyrics (“the tables on the beach that day/rose ring of paint crumpled pages of the sea/break its chill delay…”).

 

Don’t be put off by Plagne’s high-brow references; these are pop structures, pretty and playful. He holds your attention, however, by subtly undercutting expectations, leaving his songs teetering on the verge of the uncanny.

Funeral Mutes is out on 9 January. The album launch is from 7 PM that day at Eastmint Studios in Northcote, with support from Oren Ambarchi and Crys Cole, Tim Coster, and Mad Nanna’s Pat O’Brien.

Web / Soundcloud

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LISTEN: Arms Akimbo, Hospital, Us the Band, Planete, Golden Girls & OM Collective

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arms akimbo

Arms Akimbo – ‘Level Completed’

This little gem comes from Josh Bush, drummer in Sydney band Low Lux, now going solo under the name Arms Akimbo. ‘Level Completed’ channels elements of 80s pop and Balearic house, Bush’s falsetto gelling seamlessly with the snappy guitar and muted toms. It’s a stylish debut, low key yet cathartic.

Hospital – ‘Daniel’

This track from Melbourne outfit Hospital has really earned the Xiu Xiu comparisons (and supposedly got the nod from Jamie Stewart himself). ‘Daniel’ is all screams and sawing guitar, Al Dodds’ voice quivering in disgust as he addresses an absent father figure. There’s adolescent angst here, but the delivery hits hard. Hospital’s latest record, Describing Bodies, is being reissued through Skydreams on 11 January.

Us the Band – ‘And I Will’

The newest signing to Rice is Nice, Sydney duo Us the Band make up for their lack of manpower with overdrive and manic energy. ‘And I Will’ is the second single from a forthcoming EP. It’s characteristically short and sharp, with shredded vocals and a neat hook.

I’lls – ‘Let Me Have Just One (Planete remix)’

I never understood the hype around I’lls. The songs are pretty, and I admire their minimalist touch, but they’re so derivative of Radiohead (and Thom Yorke more generally), it’s kind of embarrassing. Planete‘s remix of ‘Let Me Have Just One’ – a standout track from their swan song, the awkwardly titled Can I Go with You to Go Back to My Country – elevates the original to real body music: something you can feel in your muscles and bones. Which is what the Melbourne producer excels at – driving delicate samples into a whirlwind, his rattling textures swept along by grinding bass.

Golden Girls – ‘Life of the Party’

Melbourne three-piece Golden Girls make slowcore for the present day, using synths, drum machines and loads of reverb. The Golden Hour EP was recorded under the auspices of Brunswick-based Smooch Records, with mixing from Rat & Co.‘s Joshua Delaney and mastering by Mikey Young. The trip-hop leaning numbers are perhaps slightly undercooked, but the narcotic guitar loop of penultimate track ‘Life of the Party’ works well. Tim McNeill’s disembodied lyrics sum up the mood: “I really think I might be too stoned/I think we should go home”.

OM Collective – ‘I Didn’t Know I was Trouble’

For his first single as OM Collective, Sydneysider Tim Ferson has released a chamber folk reworking of Taylor Swift’s ‘Trouble’. This is a bloke who looks like Father John Misty taking a trip at Earthcore, so it can be hard to disentangle the earnestness from the irony. Nonetheless, Ferson’s orchestral melancholy is a nice counterpoint to Taylor’s focus-grouped mix of spite and nostalgia.

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PREMIERE: Anatole – Surrounds EP

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anatole surrounds

Surrounds, the second EP from Anatole (Jonathan Baker), landed today via Tommy Faith’s impeccable TEEF Records. A graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium, Baker wrangled a bunch of his former classmates to perform on the release, which features strings, piano and clarinet alongside his trumpet and laptop creations. Sophisticated and soft-hued, these organic elements are subtly propelled by light-handed production and gentle beats that skew towards handclaps, woodblocks and jazzy snares. There are vocals from Melbourne-based singers Rosebud Leach and Tash Parker, too, but Anatole’s pristine music is just as compelling without the added human element.

The Surrounds EP is officially out on 18 December. For now you can stream it on Spotify, and preorder here.

Anatole launches the EP this Friday at Sydney’s Red Rattler.

Web / Facebook / Soundcloud

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