Posts By Greg Stone

VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Sebastian Field

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Virtual-Mixtape_Lucy-Roleff

Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Sebastian Field is probably best known as the golden-throated front man for Canberra-based quartet, Cracked Actor. However he is also a member of gentle folksters, Burrows and more recently has focused on his solo project, the fruits of which will appear on his debut album, Picture Stone, later this year.

I first became aware of Sebastian’s work via Cracked Actor’s jaw-dropping full-length debut, Iconoclast, a work of majestic beauty underpinned by his distinctive falsetto. The band’s penchant for writing intelligent pop songs with an experimental flair carried through to the two EP’s which followed it; Upstructures, and the stripped-back Duo, both of which were released last year.

On the strength of his work in both bands Sebastian’s solo outing is shaping up to be a cracker, and certainly one we’ll be keeping a close eye on.

For his contribution to our Virtual Mixtape series Sebastian has selected the incomparable Squarepusher, with an essay titled ‘Squarepusher’s Fantastic Obsession with Science Fiction’. Over to you Sebastian…

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Being a human (a human being) who’s been on the planet for *some* time now, my capabilities to achieve enthusiasm and excitement have deteriorated from the levels that I once used to be able to engage in. It’s a real shame. Things repeat themselves. Disappointments occur. Realities set in. It’s hard to maintain the same heights of vigorous elation that one used to feel. How bleak – but also really interesting and by proxy very exciting and enlivening to observe personally, lolz.

I can remember days when I would get so overwhelmed with anticipation for new Squarepusher music. In particular 2008’s Just A Souvenir. In the months leading up to its release, I was a bottle of bubbly, about to blow (blue tick of verification). I got it while interstate with some friends, detached from them for some time to enjoy the first listen. It was a few hours, I played it back to front a couple of times over directly into my brain through my headphones. I was so happy.

Anyway, for some reason I’ve felt it necessary to prelude this article with that introductory blurb because I think maybe it’s just nice to reminisce, isn’t it – aside from the present, all you have are your memories (which is a nice gift, really, that the experience of consciousness gives to you). Also, in being a bit self indulgent here, I feel I’ve given myself the opportunity to link to a track that has no real attachment to the overall subject, apart from being a track by Squarepusher.

Squarepusher – ‘Tommib’ (Go Plastic)

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A Band From Another Planet

For a while now, Squarepusher (Tom Jenkinson) has had an ever present obsession with concepts of science fiction, permeating them through his releases blatantly. It’s all the way through his releases from 2001’s schizophrenic Go Plastic to 2015’s nightmarish (and unfortunately underwhelming) Damogen Furies. The most obvious of his indulgences hitherto is perhaps the coming-to-fruition of his imagined science fiction future band, initially imagined on the aforementioned Just A Souvenir (JAS) and created in real life on his follow up release, Shobaleader One – d’Demonstrator.

In conversation on JAS, Jenkinson describes that the premise of the album originated from a daydream in which he was visited by a band performing in front of a large, glowing coathanger. The band played abstract math rock/jazz fusion/classical inspired compositions as surreal occurrences took place, such as parts of the drummers kit rapidly switching places with itself and the guitarist harnessing the ability to accelerate and decelerate time. As mentioned before, clearly an indulgence, Jenkinson tries his darnedest to replicate the experience of his daydream on JAS. It’s a lot of fun, you should listen to it if you’d like to. Anyhow, not satisfied with his efforts on JAS, he felt it necessary to have one more stab at directly replicating his vision by putting together Shobaleader One, the real life band from another planet.

Unfortunately, the (as of now) only recording put out by the band is pretty plain and underwhelming. Sorely missing the palette of Jenkinson’s solo studio abstractions, Shobaleader One – d’Demonstrator comes off as emotionless, two dimensional and really, really cold. That might be the point, even, being an alien band from another planet but the experience of sitting through the album is not very pleasant. The first track is brilliant, though, haha. I love it!

Squarepusher – ‘Plug Me In’ (Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator’

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Sidenote: There are a few recent videos of the band playing old Squarepusher tunes live and they go fucking off. Here’s one for you to hopefully enjoy..

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Ones and Zeroes

There’s this one interview of Squarepusher’s where he speaks about his experience, of firstly purchasing, and subsequently becoming accustomed to, his first (or a new) drum machine. He enthusiastically recalls applying granular synthesis to his drum hits, breaking them apart/exploding them to bits, along with descriptions of his views on bass being more kaleidoscopic than it’s traditionally viewed as, along with other ruminations. The interview takes place as he’s on tour for Go Plastic, Tom’s initial total foray into music as science fiction, imo, discarding his organic roots wholeheartedly, engulfing the listener entirely in the midst of his love affair with calculated, brutal electronic music.

The interview comes off as charming (because he is, goddamit), but it serves as quite a juxtaposition to Tom’s pretentious view of his own music, illustrated in a short essay called ‘Collaborating With Machines’ that he penned closely after 2004’s Ultravisitor, his next LP after Go Plastic (I always recognised 2002’s Do You Know Squarepusher as an EP).

He spews utter nonsense about the machines’ influence over him and his music. So good, what a twit, I love it so much (read it here) Anyhow, as he’s been indulging himself along these lines for 16 years now, I feel that he achieved the height of human/machine symbiosis on 2012’s Ufabulum with the closing track ‘Ecstatic Shock’ (I’m jumping by about here a bit, but who gives a shit). It’s probably in my list of fav pieces of music over the past five years or so, so fucking good. The production and structure are both so abstract, I love it.

Squarepusher – Ecstatic Shock (Enstrobia)

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It Was Probably Inevitable, A Real Life Robot Band

Despite not liking the release very much at all, I’ve kind of left myself with no place to go other than to refer to it here – though the existence of such a thing truly is nourishingly absurd.

Music for Robots is a collaboration between Jenkinson and The Z-Machines, a robot rock band developed by a university professor and a mechanical designer as “the future of live music”, funded by Molson Coors Japan to opportunistically promote a drink called Zima. Very funny, right? I don’t feel overly qualified to describe how the band works, and this video doesn’t really help that, but here’s a behind the scenes offering.

Anyways, the record stinks, it’s a touch unpalatable and just plain boring, really. I do not recommend it. Squarepusher is quoted as using the collaboration as an opportunity to oppose the notion that only humans can create emotionally evocative music but, yes, no, I do not think you succeeded this time, mate. The only real evocation I care to put to this article is the dystopian future this record elicits if we are to consider this as music capable of inducing emotion. One fun image conjured is an imagined future where a little robot child sits on the edge of its cast iron bunk, posters of The Z-Machines on the wall above, a FireWire cable stuck into its forehead directly implanting the experience of excitement of listening to such detritus.

Here’s the last track, probably the best on the record.

Squarepusher x Z-Machines – You Endless (Music for Robots)

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Anyhow, I’m not sure how much more I can rabbit on about this all, so I’ll choose to end it now. And I’ve probably reached a good enough end point, really, given the foreword bypassed lamentation I began with. Thanks for checking out my Virtual Mixtape, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Sebastian Field – Facebook / Twitter / Cracked Actor

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LABEL PROFILE: Nice Music

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Melbourne label Nice Music arrived fully-formed, 6 beautifully packaged releases in tow in May last year. A bold introduction from a newly-minted label, followed swiftly by 6 more releases in November. Simultaneously issuing the 6 individual releases in both series one and two was an ambitious and confident statement of intent, one that hopefully pays off for this intriguing and forward-thinking label.

While it’s easy to overlook the ease with which all the pieces fit together both musically and aesthetically, this belies the hard work going on behind the scenes in order to bring this vision to life. Like a timepiece with its sleek clock face masking the myriad of grinding gears at work beneath the surface.

When asked why he took this approach label founder Simon J Karis, himself a collector, says he is “comforted by consistency and sets of things” adding that his vision for the label was “to create something I would personally love to follow and collect…letting things happen organically out of my own enthusiasm for the material”. This enthusiasm shows in the curation and execution, something made easier by the highly active music community which Karis is a part of. “There’s so much going on here it’s overwhelming and being a hoarder or cataloguer type I worry that some of it will be missed if someone doesn’t help or push”.

The diversity across the catalogue, a result of Simon’s ‘fidgety listening habits”, is somewhat disparate at first glance but there is a common thread tying the music together, a thread I find difficult to pinpoint. When asked for his take on this Simon puts it down to the artists, who according to him are “pretty idiosyncratic thinkers stretching their wings in a very honest and productive way…everyone on the label transcends genre or label to a degree in my head at least…I like the themes and emotions in music to hit you hard in the brain or spine or bloodstream in a way that means you’re never really sure why – that’s kinda ultimate for me”.

Offering each series as a bundle is a great way for the audience to discover new music, a quality missing in the current age of steaming services and digital singles. And for collectors like Simon the catalogue is available in cassette format which, of course look nicer as a collection.

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From the warped post-modern beat abstractions of Hyde, and the seething bass music of Various Asses, to the disconcerting techno sound collage of R Hunter, this is a catalogue which begs to be explored. An insight into a thriving community of artists pushing boundaries with little regard for genre or music trends. Get acquainted and get Nice.

If you’re so inclined, check out Madeleine’s review of another Nice Music release, Sweet Whirl’s beautiful O.k. Permanent Wave

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LISTEN: Yon Yonson – Yes No Sorry

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Sydney outfit Yon Yonson have been making music since 2010, and after a string of self-released EP’s and albums they have joined forces with local label TEEF Records for their fourth full-length, Yes No Sorry.

Continuing to mine their quirky blend of electronic indie pop, this latest effort is a joyous patchwork of soulful synth jams, funk-fuelled samples and stripped-back, contemplative ballads. At certain points the music could be placed alongside the tongue-in-cheek RnB experiments of Oscar + Martin or even Hot Chip, but just as quickly shifts into some sample-heavy mutant lounge, and it’s this effortless eclecticism that gives the music a certain charm.

There is much to love here, a personal highlight being ‘Figurine’ with its propulsive beat and infectious energy. Not to mention the killer opening line, “It isn’t easy being flesh, and piss, and blood, and spit, and ugliness, with most of the light taken out of it all”.

Balancing flippant humour with sincere introspection, the songs are at times polished and confident, at other times scrappy and vulnerable. The latter like scrawled messages, placed in bottles and cast away into the vast waters of internet music archives.

Another impressive entry from the band, and another exciting addition to the TEEF roster. Grab a copy from the TEEF bandcamp store here.

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LABEL PROFILE: Provenance Records

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Stu Buchanan has been a staple of the Australian music community since emigrating from Scotland in 2003. He wasted no time in immersing himself in the local Sydney scene, launching the lauded Fat Planet program on FBi Radio later that year. According to Stu, his time at FBi gave him ‘a quick education in terms of what was going on’ and allowed him to become heavily invested in the scene.

The award-winning and far-reaching New Weird Australia project followed in 2009. A multi-faceted endeavour, it produced compilations, live shows and a long-running radio program on FBi. NWA highlighted Stu’s ear for interesting and unconventional music across all genres, as he scoured the country for emerging talent and provided a platform for their music to be heard. The project also birthed the netlabel Wood & Wire, which focussed on releases from individual artists. It clocked up some 37 releases in total, from the likes of Kučka, Pollen Trio, Setec and Fatti Frances, to name just a few.

After such a successful and prolific period, Stu made the decision to retire the NWA and Wood & Wire projects – firstly due to the energy and focus required to maintain such high levels of output. And secondly, he felt there were more ‘great writers, radio shows, websites and gig series, all promoting similar artists,’ which gave him the peace of mind to bring these platforms to a close.

Never one to rest on his laurels, though, Stu recently launched brand new label Provenance Records. When asked about the origin of the label, Stu notes that first signing, Medicine Voice (aka Sar Friedman), was in some ways responsible for him setting up the label. ‘Sar sent me the album I And Thou a couple of years ago and asked if I wanted to release it. I adored it, to me it sounded like Bat For Lashes backed by Sunn O))) – a beautiful combination. But I had already wound down NWA and didn’t have a record label, so I declined. Another year went by, and Sar asked me again. I thought, “If no one else is going to release this, I’ll just need to start a label and release it myself.” And here we are.’

Although Stu cites the huge output of his previous projects as a reason for their ultimate conclusion, Provenance has certainly picked up the mantle, already responsible for 8 releases in 2016 alone. Working with both new and familiar artists, the Provenance catalogue is forging its own eclectic and challenging path – from the lo-fi psych-folk of outsider artist Paneye and the dark pop balladry of Lovely head, to the electronic abstractions of Canberra’s Spartak.

Due to the idiosyncratic world which Provenance inhabits, Stu admits that ‘sometimes you can feel like you’re pushing shit uphill and getting nowhere, but then sometimes people surprise you. Some places that I thought would be into it have been unresponsive, but the converse is also true. Which is frustrating and validating in equal measure. So it’s been a process of recalibrating my own expectations. It’s a weird fucking time to be releasing music. People don’t “buy” music the same way they did even a year or two ago, so every release involves some kind of adjustment.’

In addition to new albums from Aphir, Kris Keogh, KAIA, and Sensaround due in 2017, Stu is also considering hosting live shows again. This time around he wants to go beyond the conventional ‘gig’, instead looking to combine multiple artistic mediums in interesting and unpredictable ways. Reminiscing about the first event he ever staged, Stu says, ‘I miss those kind of unexpected happenings – where the audience doesn’t necessarily know what’s going to occur next, where no one feels safe. That’s the kind of shit I want to do next.’

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LISTEN: Bilby – Botanicals LP

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Bilby is the musical alias of Sydney artist and self-proclaimed emo-rap prince Harry Moxham, whose latest album, Botanicals, has just been released via Yes Rave.

Botanicals is a refreshing take on Australian hip hop, combining the lazy guitar of early Real Estate or Canberra’s Fossil Rabbit with sleek vocal hooks, trap beats, and infectious raps delivered with an adolescent exuberance not dissimilar from Yes Rave label founder Simo Soo.

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The understated execution and casual local references give it an authenticity absent from a lot of modern hip hop. Lyrically Moxham glides from poignant social commentary (“He wouldn’t shake my hand because I’m wearing pink, but you wish he could think as good as he can drink”) to jokey, endearing couplets (“Catch me Sideshow Bobbing with a rake. Catch me Apple bobbing with your date”). He tackles misogyny, bigotry, and the everyday pressures faced by young people today. All with a playful nonchalance that feels nothing if not honest.

The perfect soundtrack to be bumping this summer. Grab Botanicals as a ‘name your price’ download from the Yes Rave bandcamp store here.

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: 100%

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Brisbane trio 100% make synth-driven post punk brimming with infectious grooves carved from primitive drum machine rhythms and suitably stony vocals.

Their self-titled debut, released via the always on point Moontown records in April last year, is a fully realised declaration, perfectly capturing the group’s musical vision. Their sound is a culmination of their diverse influences, from 80’s pop divas and 90’s house music, to their other musical projects including Rebel Yell, Cannon, and Heavy Breather. All of which makes perfect sense in the final result.

On ‘Lost Youth’, the lead single from their forthcoming EP You are 100%, the trio continue to deliver the goods with their most irresistible offering to date, along with an accompanying film clip which visually captures the mood of the song.

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For the ninth instalment in our Virtual Mixtape series the individual members guide us through some of their favourite movie soundtracks, a suitable theme considering some of the initial influences on the group’s sound were gleaned from synth-heavy film scores.

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Grace’s Selection:

HACKERS (1995)

I only watched Hackers about two years ago, stupid!! Fashion, music, the total misrepresentation of what they thought the future would be. The film follows teen hackers who rollerblade everywhere and hack into huge company computers for fun. Angelina Jolie is a total babe and I’m still searching for a mad quicksilver rashie that she reps during the film.

‘Halcyon On and On’ by Orbital (named one of the most inspirational/emotional songs of all time) opens the movie, it starts slow and builds and builds until that beat drops and you’re in the bloody groove 3 mins into the 9 min song (thank god it’s 9 mins). P.S. please also watch the film clip, it is made from BBC planet earth footage.

[Grace also designs and sells great stuff under the name Halcyon On + On]

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‘Cowgirl’ by Underworld, woah. This started me down a whole new path of dark tech. Repetitive, builds, drops, it is just so hypnotising. The little snares and shakers that keep adding one by one to create the hype before the bass drum kicks in is something that helps inspire ideas for the drum beats I create in 100% (obviously not at the pace of this song!).

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Of course ‘Voodoo People’ features in the final hack of the film. Jolie says “alright lets boot up” and then commences The Prodigy’s greatest track (~controversial~). All these songs are insanely captivating for me and possibly due to their repetitive nature, I just love them. Hackers for life.

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DRIVE (2011)

The Drive soundtrack is everything right about the music I love today. Synths, arpeggiators, electric drums, what more can I say. The score by Cliff Martinez drives [ 😉 ] the whole film with added bonuses of songs from College, Kavinsky and The Chromatics. Accompanied by Ryan Gosling’s face in a neo-noir crime thriller.

‘Tick of the Clock’ is another one of my slow build favourites. Not much really “happens” in it, but the underlying groove is something I could be absorbed in for hours.

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College & Electric Youth’s ‘A Real Hero’ is easily one of my favourite tracks on the album. It’s sad and beautiful, that’s all I can really say.

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If I had to pick a favourite of Kavinsky’s, I could not go past ‘Night Call’. An absolute groove, slow but punchy drums and a synth line that sticks with you. The vocals change between a distorted robotic male and a soft female vocal right at the point where a new synth sound comes in. It’s a perfect combination.

I never have and don’t think I ever will, get sick of listening to this soundtrack. A+++

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Lena’s Selection:

SUSPIRIA – GOBLIN (1977)

Music like this just becomes embodied by the scenes it’s given to. Goblin are intrinsically linked with filmmaker Dario Argento and the collaboration for the film Suspiria is one of the finest musical-cinematic scores in collaboration. You can get haunted with synesthesia from the sound of the italian technicolour seeping into this track. Its divine and sickly. I would love to see this performed by the Goblins live, but I would probably blindfold myself out of fear. Great original scores fill you with feeling and there is delirium in this opening number, regret and momentum. Drop out of Ballet school or else, become a witch.

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PRETTY IN PINK (1986)

I have an indefensible love for Brat Pack films and this, in conjunction with a desire for the macabre in the likes of Suspiria for example, is something I hope can come through in a project like 100%. Pretty in Pink is absolutely the best one in my opinion, it covers all the necessary ground and has a gorgeous soundtrack. I think that John Hughes would have by the time this film came through, conditioned some sense of responsibility for the taste of an audience who came out to see these films, as well as cutting ground for bands on the edge at that time. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s ‘If You Leave’ was written for the film and is the kind of cheesy bittersweet ambiguous love notes you want for an end credits-roll piece. Take note, we’ve written one for our next release and we’ll do it again.

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Chloe’s Selection:

THE WEDDING SINGER (1998)

I’m not usually one for rom coms, but this Adam Sandler masterpiece pulls my heart strings. The films aesthetic and soundtrack resonates with 100%, it’s cheeky and fun. I highly recommend purchasing the soundtrack – The Wedding Singer volumes one and two, you won’t be disappointed. Adam Sandler plays Robbie Hart, a hopeless romantic wedding singer and he’s never looked better.

The opening of the film features the song ‘You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)’ by Dead or Alive, sung by Sandler. This wedding party scene has it all, shoulder pads, mullets, breakdancing, cocktails and an outrageously large wedding cake. Everything I could ever wish for. This song is an upbeat 80’s synth hit, and matches the scene perfectly.

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‘Blue Monday’ by New Order is a personal favourite. It mixes a 70’s disco vibe with dark 80’s synth pop, both genres I am hugely inspired by. It’s a perfect sad dance track, just over 7 minutes long with driving drums and bass. This is a sound that greatly influences my synth playing. The song is heard during the club scene, neon lights and disco balls throughout.

‘White Wedding’ by Billy Idol is another favourite featured in the movie. Billy idol makes a guest appearance as himself in this film, seen sporting his signature biker wear and bleached hair. Hot hot hot.

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And how could I leave out The Boss. I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band live twice now with my dad, both times were inspiring and captivating. Springsteen’s energy and antics on stage is like nothing I’ve ever experience before. He’s a powerful rocker, giving it all. ‘Hungry Heart’ is a neat 80’s rock ballad, with a funky keyboard part to match. Five stars.

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You are 100%, the forthcoming EP from 100% is due out on Moontown Records soon so stay tuned.

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LISTEN: Friendships – ‘Nullarbor 1988-1989’ LP

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Melbourne based audio/visual duo friendships return with their new album Nullarbor 1988-1989, a tribute to the arid stretch of land that separated the duo in their respective home towns of Jerramungup and Footscray.

This is a truly original work that the duo admits may not appeal to all fans, but as they have stated “it’s exactly what we wanted to create and is exactly what we want to say.”
Gone are the playful, feel good vibes, replaced with pummelling rhythms and sinister, rolling bass lines. This is not dance floor elation. This is dance floor decimation

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The album wastes no time in making its intentions known. Opener ‘Big Farm in the Sky’ slowly unfurls with an ascending amen break and simmering synth arpeggios which give the track an air of euphoria. But from then on it’s straight down to business, and things don’t let up until the album’s death knell. This comes via the film score sparseness of album closer ‘Keep Smiling At Me Like That And You’ll Be Picking Your Teeth Up Out Of The Gutter’, with its pensive piano chords set against mechanical noises recalling petrol monsters roaring down the highway, or the cold, indifferent steel of the abattoir killing floor.

And whilst the musical cues come from around the globe the album is undeniably Australian. Whether it’s the thematic elements explored by the duo, the accompanying imagery, or the spoken word passages and their unsettling evocation of violence and menace; this is an unflinching ode to this harsh, at times nightmarish land.

Watch the stunning video for ‘The Roof’ below and grab the full album here.

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