Posts By Madeleine Laing

WATCH: Rebel Yell – ‘High Authority’

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rebel yell

I think one of the things that sets Rebel Yell apart from a lot of other one-person electronic bands is Grace Stevenson’s impeccable taste. It’s all over this video, for ‘High Authority’, her first single since last year’s ‘Mother of Millions’ EP. She’s working with director Triana Hernandez, a Melbourne writer and director who’s burst onto the scene with some powerful and beautiful videos (she also made Various Asses’ recent clip for ‘Down Down’ – which so. Fucking. Gooood.). It’s especially in the clothing, from brand new Brisbane fashion designer Ellen Chandler, which Stevenson cites as the clip’s main inspiration.

‘When I first saw the outfits that Ellen had done for her graduate collection I started getting ideas – the video is based highly around the clothes, a fashion film style I guess. Her outfits are amazing and super confusing to get on! They’re all made up of other garments and at one stage I had pant legs coming off my arm! Originally I wanted the film in the desert, with a lizard, but time, money and an actual place to film it made that difficult.’

Instead of heading to the outback and auditioning reptiles, Stevenson settled on one of the scrubby beaches and brown rivers that make up most of South East Queensland’s less-than-postcard-perfect coastline. It’s an area she knows well, growing up around the Sunshine Coast – she scouted locations while visiting her folks.

The video itself revels in a kind of dirty glamour – it’s DIY but never looks cheap or half-arsed. They used a VHS camera and in some scenes, the car headlights as lighting. There’s a grainy road B-movie kind of feel – which lead to a decidedly un-Hollywood moment during the shoot. ‘We had a break at my mum’s house in Eumundi before it got dark, then used my car lights for the lighting out off a dirt road. I, being highly intelligent, turned off the car but left the lights on. So we waited about an hour or so for YOUi Assist [ML:is this a plug? Can we have some money?] to revive my battery. My mum did bring us some dinner in takeaway containers though, so that was nice.’

The song kind of speaks for itself – it’s bombastic, direct and, yup, heaps authoritative. The B-grade movie vibe continues in the sound, but now it’s a space horror – lazers and squelching effects. Like, cat-suited lady aliens biting the heads off human men or something.

Stevenson has a background in dance, and the sharp shapes she makes in the video shout power and control, thanks to the help of local dancer and choreographer Erika Goldsmith. ‘Erika choreographed the dance sequence at the end of the clip’ Stevenson says, ‘I remember she taught me a dance at school when we were both kids, and I’ve been doing her Rhianna dance classes this year, so we’ve known each other for a long time. Erika advised me on things that would look cool to do in the setting with the outfits, but some of it I had to ‘freestyle’ – that was when my car died.’

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If you’re in Sydney you can catch Rebel Yell at Body Promise as part of Vivid on June 10

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LISTEN: No Sister and Bitumen – Split Cassette

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No Sister

You know when someone is talking to you with extreme passion about something you’ve not previously been that interested in, and you can’t help but get sucked in to their argument, even though you’ve got no idea what it is? That’s how I often feel about No Sister. Everything they do is so intentional, so serious that I forget to roll my eyes at their use of the kind of art-rock, playing-guitar-with-a-screwdriver business that would usually be Not My Vibe.

So No Sister make kind of pretentious music, but at least they’re not pretending to be on the dole or like they didn’t go to uni. They don’t pretend to be approachable, #relateable fuckups – they’ve talk to you from a place of knowledge and foresight. Like lookout motherfuckers cuz it’s time to get mad. And there’s nothing wrong with being a bit pretentious if it’s for a good cause – like for some of the most vicious, vital music you’ll hear this hear. Its pretentious music that rules, seethes and gnashes its teeth, scowling in righteous anger. The were like this even before they moved from Bris to Melbourne.

‘Perpetrate’ is absolutely ferocious. I want that bassline isolated in its own track, so I can discover the secret to its absolute genius. Don’t listen to this at work if you don’t wanna be making wild-eyes at your co-workers for the next half hour, Siahn Davis and Tiarney Miekus’s vocals dueling like a devil on each shoulder. The lyrics are snippets of violent imagery ‘Like a hot fist thrown first!’ / ‘blazing through the noise’

Bitumen’s side starts with drum machine, and immediately it’s more obviously influenced by Melbourne goth post punk, um, coldwave, with Kate Binning’s drawling vocals swirling out of your speakers like black smoke. Their stuff is mushier, and noisier, using repetition and emotion rather than appealing to any kind of rationality

The lyrics seem lean on more personal stuff – there’s more yous and mes and hims and hers in these songs, less burning cities and shards of glass. ‘Honey Hunter’ sounds like someone very sinister, the snippets of ominous detail repeated; ‘indefensible, heavy breathing’ ‘in a pure world, he found her’.

The No Sister side stays restrained – held in by the tightness of the sound, the dry brittleness, There’s a calculated feeling even when the guitar devolves into noise, but Bitumen are absolutely balls to the wall, especially on ‘Winter Swimmer’, with that crunchy metal rhythm guitar under all the shredding, deep and dark with rumbling bitterness, a kind of fucked-up desperate devotion ‘I’ll do what needs to be done / I’ll do what needs to be done/ for you’.

It’s kind of a head/heart divide, except both are working together in violent revolt against outside forces. And, if making a good as tape counts as any kind of victory, absolutely kicking their arse.

Get this tape via always rock solid Vacant Valley.

See Bitumen and No Sister in Brisbane tonight at The Bearded lady with formidable support from Pleasure Symbols and Clever and on Sunday at The Time Machine in Nambour supported by the nice guys of hard rock Sewers, or next Saturday April 22nd in Melbourne at the Tote with Stationary Suns and Synthetics (who I hear are very good).

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WATCH: Ultra Material – ‘Borderline’ Video

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ultra material

Yes, pure is the most overused word of all time, but there’s something just solidly, reliably, pure about Ultra Material. They’re terrific musicians and good people. They also have lots of other shit going on, so they can make consistently interesting and beautiful music and play the occasional great show around Brisbane without burning out or getting bored.

‘Borderline’, off their latest EP II, is about the poppiest song they’ve released to date. It’s less meandering and abstract, with more catchy vocal melodies and forward motion. They’ve embraced that ‘dream pop’ label bands have to take on so they can lose the ‘shoegaze’ baggage and made something that’s … dreamy and poppy. Vocalist / bassist Sarah Deasy is letting her vocals come through, without being drowned in effects. It’s a great move; while having a classically ‘good’ voice can sometimes be seen as a detriment to this kind of music, her singing is darkly lovely and resonant, elevating the whole song.

Almost everyone in this band is some kind of accomplished artist or designer in their real life, so you know they’re not going to slack off on a walking down Brunswick street eating a pie music video. Enter the queen of green screen Helena Papageorgiou, the Brisbane director who made, among others, this delightful video for Dag late last year (go watch it if you haven’t already, I’ll wait).

While the look for that clip was weird and ramshackle, this one is all moody cool, moving fast to keep up with Matt Deasy’s impeccable drumming. Patterns and silhouettes, neon colours and constellations fly by the surface of the moon and anime-style waves. Though Papageorgiou knows where to linger – like on the X-Files-y ending and the coolest use of dogs in space since 1986.

Ultra Material – Borderline from Helena Papageorgiou on Vimeo.

You can find this song and lots of other winners on II. If you buy a physical copy of the cassette if comes in a beautiful case with a fold-out poster design by keyboard player Zuzana Kovar, printed by Matt Deasy at his screenprinting company no. 7 Print House (I told you they were arty). People come and go, but objects are forever.

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LISTEN: Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing – Songs of Sodomy and the Compost of Aethyr LP

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GPOGP

If I told you that you could get a special edition of Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing‘s latest record with a wooden box of tarot cards, would you think that was lame or cool? Or be completely unsurprised, considering the name? What if I told you this record heavily featured flutes, some of the least sexy sexual lyrics AND the most terrifying vocal performances in recent memory? Well good news, it doesn’t matter! Genre is nothing, all your ideas about what makes something good or bad or cool or lame are arbitrary – and this album will blow your brain out if you let it.

There’s a lot here – 18 songs, a double album by anyone’s standards. It takes patience to get into – I’ve been trying to write about it for weeks but for a while I was getting confused and turned around more and more every time I listened to it. It’s slow and fast, messy and clean, unfolding with marching ominous repetition, tap tapping on the inside of your skull, building pressure over 6 minutes tracks as well as over the whole 90 minute-ish thing. Horns and strings see-saw wildly over and through these songs. Some feel like baroque and serious almost-folk-metal, some almost straight hardcore, when the crunch of distorted guitar gives a conventional rock dog like me something to hold on to.

There’s also a strident kind of post-punk at its heart. Something like ‘Pacific Hygiene’ could be a Mere Women song, half drowned in oil and set on fire. ‘Out of Zone’ is formidably good, low rumbling guitars jostling around a desperately spiteful rasping shout that could break bones; ‘LVX’ is brutally cynical, teasing and hectoring vocals that explode into screeching hysteria, while ‘Lustration’ shows the hopelessness lurking underneath the surface of all rage – droning slow and dangerous. There’s a real ‘last chance to save your soul’ feeling to all the performances on this record. Despite its length, it stays brutal all the way through

It’s not that the lyrics are inaudible or distorted, they’re just drawn-out and obtuse, slipping through your fingers in abstraction and long words. By sound they’re all rooted in plague, degradation, puritanism, lost faith and clung-to hatred.

Information that I should have introduced earlier: Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing are from Auckland. From the little I know of New Zealand (though, like everyone in Australia, I idealise it as a chill paradise and plan to move there ‘sometime’), Auckland is considered less cool and culturally vibrant than Wellington, but those kind of places tend to produce the weirdest art – when you’ve got something to be outside, when you’re not constantly supported by a scene of creatives. Maybe you’d be more pissed off, more likely to make something as fucked up as this grim, great album.

You can buy Songs of Sodomy and the Compost of Aethyr, with tarot or without, via bandcamp here

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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 

Bent Bandcamp

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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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