Posts By Annie Toller

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.

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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.

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PREMIERE: Ross Manning – ‘Sinew & Cats’ video

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ross manning interlacing

Ross Manning is an installation artist exploring the kinetic interplay of light and sound. His sculptures are made of ordinary materials like plastic sheets and fluorescent bulbs that skitter and spiral, powered by mechanisms as simple as a belt attached to a ceiling fan. A musician as well, Manning is a former member of noise duo Faber Castell and Brisbane experimentalists Sky Needle, who make ‘primitive clunk’ on homemade or found ‘unstruments’. (His credits on Sky Needle records include ‘string panels’ and ‘electric dustpan’).

On 11 December, Manning will release a new solo work, Interlacing, via acclaimed experimental label Room40. Like the ambient compositions of label head Lawrence English, Manning’s music aims to reveal the strange flickers and frequencies usually buried at the peripheries of human attention. The songs on Interlacing shift unsteadily between the persistent thrum and squeal of electromagnetic-tape recordings and custom electronics, and the undulating, organic sounds of rope, driven by a slipstream, striking clock chimes and boards of nails.

‘Sinew & Cats’, the latest track to emerge from Interlacing, is piercing and dissonant. The sound moves from a needling electronic signal towards (as the title suggests) a kind of disembodied mewling. Though less tactile than previous single ‘Expand/Scatter’, with its random, percussive flourishes, ‘Sinew & Cats’ feels inherently spatial – like a sonar exploration of a dark, underwater cavern. See Manning’s visual interpretation below.

 

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INTRODUCING: Palm Springs

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Palm Springs

Three years ago, a three-track demo appeared on Bandcamp credited to Palm Springs, a duo comprising Melbourne songwriter Erica Dunn and drummer Raquel Solier. The lead track was a dark country ballad called ‘Winning & Losing’ – a real heartstopper. Its gruff blues riff staggered through an ocean of cymbal crashes, matched by Dunn’s vocals, bellowing with the shock of rejection: “I never thought that I’d be the one who would lose / I never thought I’d be the one cut loose”.

The duo went quiet after that. Dunn travelled the US and played in a host of other bands – including Harmony and the SMB – while Solier focused on her experimental RnB project, Fatti Frances, and later had her first child. But last week Palm Springs’ official debut finally landed, in the form of twin seven inches 300 Acres / The Last Hour and Mexican Gem / Golden Dust, each with a complementary digital version featuring a handful of bonus tracks.

The releases were recorded at the same time, during a session held late last year at Melbourne’s Headgap Studios, and were intended to become a single album. The songs, however, were written at very different times in Dunn’s life and, after some thought, she decided they didn’t sit quite right together. So they were split into the sparse, pastoral folk of 300 Acres and the fuller, more diverse Mexican Gem – which ranges from the opener’s motorik hum (it sounds almost like the first Stereolab EPs) to the fingerpicking ditty ‘A List’.

Both collections are filled with aching dirges, guitar strings that buzz and bend, solos played down low, Solier’s loping drum beats and Dunn’s rich, dusty vocals. They call to mind 90s-era Drag City Records, traditional rhythm and blues, Sharon Van Etten and early Cat Power ­– even Paul Kelly, at times. These tracks are simple and strong; classic bare-bones songwriting.

Palm Springs are launching the seven inches this Saturday, 24 October, upstairs at the Tote with Sarah Mary Chadwick and Sweet Whirl. The vinyl’s out now via Rice is Nice and Dunn’s own (delightfully titled) Palm Springsteen Records.

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PREMIERE: Dollar Bar – ‘Australia Hates Me’ video

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dollar bar

Brisbane’s Dollar Bar make music for 90s fetishists with short attention spans. Their albums are brimming with snappy, lo-fi power pop in the style of Sebadoh or Guided by Voices, with off-the-cuff melodic sketches thrown in alongside fully realised pop songs. Dollar Bar have enough energy to pull this off without seeming glib, and the results are charmingly DIY.

Australia Hates Me’, the latest single from the Hot Ones LP, is a short, sharp anthem for leaners and latte sippers everywhere. It describes the feeling you get inside when your government spends billions of dollars torturing asylum seekers in concentration camps, tries to knacker the unions and take away your Sunday penalty rates, then devotes any remaining spare time to culture wars bullshit. As the band’s Chris Yates told Mess + Noise in April, “I wanted to call it ‘Australia Get Fucked'”.

The video shows Dollar Bar enjoying sunny Petersham Park (even UnAustralians love the outdoors), while Yates lip syncs his part from Tuscany – because, frankly, it’s nicer there.

Hot Ones, along with the band’s previous LP, Paddington Workers Club, is about to be reissued on cassette via Texas label Some Weird Sin. The tapes will be released on 17 October to mark Cassette Store Day – the event to out-indie them all, established three years ago in the US by Burger Records. The inaugural Australian Cassette Store Day is being administered by the wonderful people at Rice is Nice, with proceeds going to YWCA.

Other local CSD releases include tapes from Summer Flake, Courtney Barnett, Ouch My Face, the Ocean Party and Step Panther, plus a brand new mixer from Rice is Nice and a collection of rare demos from Red Riders.

If you’re in Sydney, get along to the CSD launch party at Waywards in Newtown on Friday, 16 October. The show is FREE and features Zeahorse, White Dog and Us the Band.

Hot Ones is available now through Sonic Masala Records and iTunes.

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TRACK BY TRACK: Brendan Welch – The Gleaner reissue

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brendan welch-2

In 2009 Brendan Welch released The Gleaner, his Paul Dempsey-produced debut album, to critical acclaim. He won some high profile fans and went on to play shows alongside Paul Kelly, Tim Rogers, Jen Cloher and more. Then, after a dispute with management, things ground to a halt. The LP became tangled up in legal troubles, and Welch disappeared from the public eye for more than five years.

The Gleaner is now getting a deserving reissue through Ballarat label Heart of the Rat Records, on digital and vinyl. Meanwhile Welch has sprung right back into action and is preparing a new record with production from Two Bright Lakes co-founder Nick Huggins.

Below he shares with us some of the inspiration behind his gorgeous first album, including time spent in the doldrums, the “uselessness of over-moralising, the un-clarity of guilt and the attractiveness of brutality”.

Welch is launching the reissue on Sunday, 25 October, at the Gasometer, with support from Rolling Blackouts and Mark with the Sea.

 

I Think I Always Thought (I’d Fall in Love With You)

I wrote the song many years ago trying express the frustration of not falling in love with who I thought I should. It does have a positive melody though, and all major chords, so it manages to be hopeful at the same time! Sometimes regardless of my intention the music has a way of expressing its own will. It has since been sung at a few weddings.

Oh No! I’m Wasting Away

I was in a bad place physically and mentally. I weighed about 62kg – my normal weight is about 75 – and I was choosing bottles of cheap wine over bread at the supermarket with the little bit of money I had. I couldn’t keep down a day job at that stage. I was actually worried that I might literally “waste away!” Hence the main lyric.

Halls of Men

Dead tired of all the complete bullshit that often falls out of mouths and radio waves and television screens – this is a hopeful song about the end of modern life as we know it!

I Made It to Sail

Another story set in an unknown time and place, about being on the run. I imagined a version of myself being rejected after trying and failing to entertain the king and subsequently being hunted by an ancient dynasty.

With a Steady Hand

Based on the feeling that without the status and protection of a middle-class, 21st-century, privileged, western life, I would be the first to be pushed out or put down by the ‘real men’ of my imagined ‘real world’.

Run While You Still Can

The horror and anger of finding out what someone close to you is capable of. A sung version of what you’d wished you’d said had your mind and heart been quick enough in that moment of realisation.

(more…)

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