Posts By Madeleine Laing

LISTEN: Half High – Rubble Indent EP

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Half High

Half High is the work of Sydney Artists Lucy Phelan and Matthew P. Hopkins. Their latest three song, 30 minute EP has arrived right on the heels of their previous release Deserted Squares Under The RainHowever, it’s an entirely different beast from the pure crystalline sounds of that recording with it’s long emotive silences, where buzzing mechanical noise was used as rhythmic devices, to deliver small shocks to stop the music fading into the background.

Deserted Squares… is a beautiful mixture of ‘natural’ sounds – electronic ripples and whispers, with industrial undercurrents breaching the surface every now and then. It’s the kind of ambient music that draws vibe and mood from silence and stillness. Rubble Indent  is wholly intrusive. It invades the space around you creating a character that is unnerving, unpredictable and harsh.

Gone are the chimes and ripples, there’s no pretence of naturalism here – this is a kind of practical music, the sound of motions and actions repeating, energy being built up then deconstructed in surprising and uncomfortable ways.

Phelan and Hopkins are also visual artists, whose live shows are as much about picture as sound. You will lose something when listening to this music without visuals, but it’s also startling how readily your brain will create its own given the droning stimulus.

Phelan also plays hard-hitting and inventive dance music under the name Lucy Cliché, though I’d find it hard to draw too many comparisons between the two – maybe those heavy crashing beats, cement against metal, brain against skull, cycling faster and harder towards the end of ‘Glorious Glug’. But that’s probably a stretch.

Rubble Indent‘s second track, ‘Ground Grey’ is comparatively pretty to begin with – the ambient sounds of a space prison yard, of an empty robotic future. My favourite part comes towards the middle of ‘Send Caresses’ – a seething ocean of sharply sparkling noise punctured by dark whale-like sounds.

Honestly, I don’t listen to much stuff like this cuz I’ll have a weird time for the rest of the day – I’m too easily effected by mood in music. But this EP is just so impressively constructed, such a beautiful piece of sound art that I keep coming back for more unsettling noise, more strange and sinister droning to freak out the work day.

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LOOK: Bent & Sydney 2000 Tour Photos

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Tristan, Steve, Skye, Heidi

Last month two of Brisbane’s best bands recently stretched their legs and bank accounts on a national tour – taking in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart (The Entire Nation) and playing with local top dogs like Primo, Parsnip, Treehouse, Sex Tourists, LA Suffocated and Dolphin.

Both bands are DIY as hell – from Sydney 2000‘s bananas stage attire to Bent‘s playful, haphazard film clips to the fact that Steve Rose from Sydney 2000 drove from city to city the entire way cuz none of the others have licenses. Glen Schenau from Bent (also Per Purpose, Deck in the Pit, Kitchens Floor) takes photos of gigs around town on disposable, capturing and documenting blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments of scrappy, sweaty beauty.

We asked Glen for some photos of the tour – which was also a kind of farewell for Heidi Cutlack, who plays bass and sings in Bent and drums in Sydney 2000, and has since moved to Japan.

(Couple of iPhone ones in here too, don’t comment)

Thanks Glen, and thanks Heidi for making your wild, cool, and uniquely lovely music in Brisbane for so long.

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Sex Tourists – Sydney

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Bent

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LA Suffocated – Sydney

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Sydney 2000

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Place Holder – Sydney

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Kitchen’s Floor (Brisbane in Melbourne)

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Dolphin – Hobart

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Treehouse – Hobart

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Sydney 2000

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Bent

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Sydney 2000

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Primo – Melbourne

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Parsnip – Melbourne

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Bent’s ecstatically sick new record Snakes and Shapes is out on Moontown now

Sydney 2000 have tape out and floating around that should be online sometime in the future. Until then, see if you can hunt it down, nestled in the fur of the meanest cat on your street, sown into the pocket of the camo shorts you haven’t worn since 2009.

Bent Facebook / Sydney 2000 Facebook 

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LISTEN: Dag – Benefits of Solitude LP

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Dag

It’s interesting to me the way this record has been promoted as being Australian rock and roll, in the vein of The Go-Betweens and The Triffids – not cuz that’s inaccurate, but because of how those bands often seemed uncomfortable in their Australian-ness. They lived in England, they wanted to be English art-college post-punk, but the frustration of being outsiders on a far-off island prompted the melancholy isolation that became so much a part of what we think of the Australian sound.

And a couple of decades later middle-class uni dropouts broaden their accents and keep year ten English extension prizes hidden. Well, that’s the story for a lot of us. But not Dusty Mc-Cord Anastassiou, Dag‘s front man and songwriter. His takes in growing up amidst the struggle of cattle farming, moving to Brisbane and finding a new way to be lonely.

The kind of Australian young adulthood this record captures has the same isolation as those private school boys longing for fashionable Manchester squats. But in a way that seems to understand that it’s not always about the place – you can be alone and misunderstood anywhere. (Though Anastassiou has moved to Melbourne since recording this record – does that make that whole preamble moot? We’ll see).

Something I’ve noticed about when I write about records: I love moments. I love to quote poignant lines like, ‘Hey, isn’t this REAL’ or draw attention to the way a little drum fill or riff grabs your attention and makes a song special.

And there’s plenty of those in this record – like the off-kilter heartbreak of ‘Not Fine Mind’ perfectly signaled by its opening discordant brass, leading into the casual cruelty of lines like ‘I know at times I can be unkind / it doesn’t help hearing you move at the back of the house in a close friend’s room’.

Or the beautiful classical guitar bits in ‘Exercise’. I wonder why they didn’t make this a single – the mix of sinister imagery, hopelessness and relentless, jaunty beauty in the swing of the guitars and the ooooh oooohs seems like the perfect teaser to hook people in. I guess they kept it to start the record how they intended to go on – sadly lovely, full of surprises.

Or, the catches in the throat and the fingers moving on strings that bring such and intimate human physicality to ‘Company’. Maudlin violin and unsettling sounds mixed in to tighten the vice on your heart.

Then, the naivete of ‘Guards Down’; sweet and easy like love should be, sung with a smile – just the thing to break up ‘Age of Anxiety’s furious fear and the grim, classic country death storytelling of ‘JB’. ‘Endless, Aching Dance’ is a stark picture of a drought-stricken cattle farm, the demons that breed in an atmosphere as leaden with death as that one. Death is all over this record. And not in that ‘I’m a nihilist so I don’t have to care about anyone’ way, but like it’s something real, something you have to fight off tooth and nail at any moment.

But it feels like a disservice to just pull apart this record without talking about how, for all these beautiful pieces, it works even better as a whole. It’s less of a story more of a picture, when you listen to the whole thing you get a nuanced understanding of time and place where there was boredom and anxiety and depression and love and fun and a fuck load of nothing. It’s an album of beautifully written songs about strangeness and ugliness, an album about isolation that draws the listener in close. It exists, it struggles on, it says you can too.

Benefits of Solitude is out on Bedroom Suck right now

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WATCH: Pillow Pro – ‘Beyond the Rave’

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Pillow Pro

Melbourne two-piece Pillow Pro pull a kind of bait and switch with their new video, stunningly directed by Lara Kose. At first it’s a couple of cool girls in hoodies walking down monochrome Melbourne streets – sitting at the laundromat, looking at derro stuff etc. But then it fades into a kind of dream-sequence sun-dappled and soaked in colour.

Though the down-tempo beats and chorus of ‘Pick up your phone / been waiting / I’ve been down too long’ suggest a romantic kind of longing, it doesn’t seem much like they need anyone else. This video seems to posit that maybe all the shit you do with your best friend killing time until your lover calls you back is actually the interesting part. Especially if that shit involves dressing up in the cutest fucking cowgirl outfits I’ve ever seen (will pay any money to cop btw – madeleine@whothehell.net) and lounging on li-los with umbrella drinks and curly straws.

It’s girly, embracing all the loading bullshit that comes with that term. Its pastel-toned and pretty, wistful and sassy in equal parts. It feels luxurious, from the pristine quality of the production to the beautiful costuming and the languid slow-mo. Pillow Pro have said they were inspired by ‘90s pop videos, and this definitely comes through – though updated with all the fun and none of the daggy-ness. It’s a pure and confident statement of intent from a band who seem to have a huge year ahead.

Pillow Pro are playing at Rack Off in Melbourne on March 4th. That’s DEFINITELY where I’d be if I didn’t have to be somewhere else.

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WATCH: Forevr – ‘Petrichor’ Video

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forevr

Making a video for Petrichor’, Brisbane band Forevr’s first single as a four-piece, must have been a bit intimidating. The song itself has all the unpredictably energy of an electrical storm – how do you match those drums pulsing up from a thousand miles under the earth, then attacking skittishly from all sides? How do you make images that stand up to the precision and detail of the sound, the weirdness and the deep grounding emotion?

Using moody wafts of slow-moving smoke, deeply unsettling Claymation, and 3D diamonds shattering across the matrix,video director/editor/clay enthusiast Josh Watson (responsible for Blank Realm’s ‘Reach You On The Phone’ video, among others) has gone with vibe over plot. Though there’s still an overriding theme – a sense of being out of place, of trying to get back to the familiar, but every way you turn there’s something more strange and frightening. With fleshy molded flower petals opening and closing like mouths in silent desperation as Sam George-Allen coos ‘make your bed / where you call home’, the animation turns the natural into the perverse, but in a way that draws you in.

The 3D adds a more lighthearted future-from-the-90s tone – shit, there’s a lot going on here. Impeccably timed fast cuts fusing together the sound and image, and making sure there’s always something new to see.

Forevr are currently working on two releases, which will be out later in the year.

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LISTEN: Orion – ‘Execution’

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Orion

Might surprise you to hear this from your ah, oracle of all things new and current, but at my house all we listen to all day and night is this ‘80s playlist that my genius housemate made. Every song on there, from The Chills to deep cut Dexys to Belinda Carlisle is perfect. No matter how many times we listen to it every few songs something will come on that sparks a chorus of THIS SOOOOONNNNG. This. Fucking. SONG.

I get a real similar feeling when I listen to this new single from Sydney 4-piece Orion. The ‘this fucking song’ feeling. It’s that dirty word nostalgia, but without the kind of cheesy theatrics that makes you cringe away from stuff that sounds too openly ’80s in that big shallow shiny chorus kind of way. Not that the big choruses aren’t there, they’re just sold with a defiant gaze rather than a shit-eating grin. And that post punk-y guitar so thick you wanna wallow in it like the fucking Smiths loving pig that you are.

I think one of the biggest skills in in pop music is being able to crib little references and signifiers that already mean something to people and serve them up in a way that resonates immediately, but is also obviously your own thing. It’s difficult and takes a lot of sensitivity and smarts, which Orion definitely have.

Execution is off the band’s debut self-titled LP, coming out on Cool Death Records on Friday (not to rub industry perks in your face, but I listened to it already and that’s some GOOD SHIT). You can preorder the record here. A few of the tracks are re-records off this demo EP that came out a couple of years ago on Paradise Daily too, if you wanna be fully prepped. Also Orion shares members with M.O.B who released that sick tape also on Paradise Daily. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah LINKS.

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Pious Faults – ‘Pious Faults’ EP

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pious-faults

Pic by Glen Schenau

There was a while there when it seemed like every time you went out to a rock show in Brisbane you knew everyone in the room. And that’s sick for a while. But slowly whispers crept in: where are the kids. Where are the young punk bands starting out? Did everyone just wanna be a DJ or a singer-songwriter? There were the Goon Sax yeah but they seemed so mature, so Chapter Music ready after just like, 6 months, that it almost didn’t really count.

Pious Faults aren’t the first in the movement of younger aggressive bands pushing their way onto lineups again, but they’ve turned heads the quickest. Exciting enough to convince Tenth Court to release this tape after just a couple of shows, they make fast, grim, serious music. At just a bit over 5 minutes, it’s an intense, pressurised experience. Though ‘Our Comfort’, an opus at 1:34 minutes, shows they can make, you know ‘songs’. This is confident, self-assured stuff – sure, sing a song in French why the fuck not. These guys, by virtue of being relatively new to the scene as I know it (though at least a couple have been in other bands), are free from the ubiquitous forced irony of Brisbane rock and roll. From the underlying unspoken rule that sure, you can make punk music, but it’s got to be funny. You can’t really mean it.

Still, it makes me slightly uneasy that one of the most exciting bands I’ve seen in Brisbane recently is four dudes playing music reminiscent of ‘80s East Coast American punk. A scene of almost entirely self-serious dudes that set the blueprint of how we think of punk music until too recently- as a bunch of skinny white men singing vicious, purposefully unfeminine music. All under a guise of progressiveness because hey, it’s not ACTUALY masculine or aggressive, because they’re not big enough to ACTUALLY beat anyone up. Probably. This isn’t the bands fault. It should just be about the music. If only I could stop noticing this shit.

I got off track here. I like this record a lot – I wanna see a Brisbane punk band not shoot themselves in the foot with a lack of self-confidence and ambition. And from lines like ‘we no longer adapt to our surrounds / we now adapt our surrounds to us’  and the general manifesto-like feel of the record, this doesn’t seem like an issue for these guys just yet. I also wanna see young kids getting angry about the right shit, I wanna hear fuck-off tough riffs and someone do something interesting with fast guitar music – and that’s all right here on this tape.

But I also wanna believe that it’s not just young dudes who are allowed to do it. And that this is the beginning for punk kids in Brisbane, with more diverse bands hot on their heels with even more ferocity. I want to believe that a smart label like Tenth Court – one of my favourites – doesn’t have almost exclusively mostly-male bands on their roster on purpose, that they’re just as desperate for some different voices as me. I don’t wanna give up on guitar music because the real innovators moved on to pop and dance a long time ago. And I’m gonna keep writing about this stuff because I can’t play guitar and I don’t know what else to do. This is a good record.

Pious Faults is available via Tenth Court here

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