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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
Tam Vantage opens his debut LP forcefully, with the snarling guitar and dramatic synth riff of ‘High Definition’. Bolstered by a chorus of female backing vocalists, he places a hand on his hip and, in an arch sing-song, spits: ‘You don’t know what it’s like to break / to take and take and take / to take the dive then hesitate / to just break free when it’s too late’.
A Melbourne musician, Tam Vantage (Tam Matlakowski) once did time with inspired eccentrics the Stevens and as lead singer of Pop Singles (now defunct), whose only album sounded something like the Field Mice by way of Flying Nun. His new solo record picks up where the ‘Setting Sun’ EP left off, summoning a gothic jangle reminiscent of the Triffids and the Church, held together by a spiky, post-punk rhythm section. In a local landscape dominated by the jangle obsessed, Tam Vantage has staked his own ground.
Tam’s a talented lyricist, and ‘High Definition’ stylishly evokes the 80’s preoccupation with ‘plastic eyes and magazines’, and the masters of TV. Skew the references a little bit and he could be referring to the fantastical Instagram culture of Gen Y. ‘Well, you’re living in somebody else’s dream,’ he sings, ‘and I know how cold that can be’.
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’.