Posts By Madeleine Laing

LISTEN: Scraps – ‘TTNIK’ LP

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Isn’t it cool when someone who you really love from their mad funny Facebook presence and their anxiously magnetic live shows releases something that’s more than the sum of all those adjectives? I love Scraps (Laura Hill, from Brisbane) cause she’s been making synth pop music in Brisbane since way back when everyone else was still doing the Ty Segall thing. TTNIK (uh, said ‘Titanic’ obviously), Scraps’ third LP, is a fun record that’s brave enough to be kind of naïve and guileless in parts – you’d have to be real committed to your unimpressed vibe not to wanna move around to songs like the whispery and scattered ‘Touch Blue’ or sleek new-wavy ‘She Devil’.

It’s also got those slowed down interludes and random talking parts that mean they could put it under the ‘weird’ tag on Bandcamp. I get it – even though it seems kind of lazy to call songs like ‘Relate to You’ weird or unsettling: anything with out-of-sync piano will always sound like it’s straight of a ‘hysterical woman spirals into madness’ movie. But there’s still something about the rave-y drum machine over the spacey vocals singing ‘You feel so good in my mind / I wanna relate to you’, trying to reach out to the listener through the effects, that creates kind of a desperate and dangerous mood.

‘Harlequin’ is the necessary counterpoint to ‘Dreams’, the LP’s hopelessly romantic opening track where everything’s a little too good to be true. Here the vocals are buried; the drums plod forward. Nothing’s effortless anymore and the sad beauty of her voice sometimes strains and cracks with feeling. It’s probably my favourite track on the record.

There’s a great focus to TTNIK – there’s heaps of stuff going on here, but it flows smoothly and moving from one beat to the next is never jarring. That might be ‘cause Hill recorded and produced it herself – this is what happens when an artist gets to represent their own vision from start to finish. It just works.

TTNIK is out on Moontown (that Canberra label that seems to love snaking Brisbane’s most interesting releases) right now. If you’re lucky enough to also live in the New World City, Scraps is playing on Friday at The Haunt with our favourite Tasmanians Treehouse, and well as Brisbane big dogs Per Purpose, Brainbeau and Amaringo.

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LISTEN: Carbon + – ‘Reaction’

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At Bigsound last year I used the term ‘coldwave’ in front of a Melbourne music writer and he told me we’re ‘not saying that any more’, so I immediately stripped it from my vocabulary. But, passé-ness aside, I think it was a silly term anyway, cause a lot of the stuff that gets called cold and dark and moody is actually fun post-punk hiding behind some standoffish press shots and vaguely goth cover designs.

Like, I’m having a great time listening to this track, the first single from Canberra two-piece Carbon +’s debut cassette. Listen to that sharp plinky synth, that jaunty shoulder-bobbing bass, those anthemic vocals very concerned about nothing in particular. I’m gonna be singing ‘man copies man / man buries man’ in my head all day.

Though, ok, the rest of the record is pretty dark and more blatantly post punk. It gets ah, colder, as it goes on – sounding maybe a little too familiar to fans of the slew of HTRK inspired Melbourne and Brisbane bands to retain the excitement of the first single. On ‘A New Grey Area’ the guitars start to swamp everything else and become the most important part, foggy and immersive, but after that the minimalism comes back and stays.

Also, after ‘Reaction’  the vocals change markedly to become all sultry and earnest. it’s not bad, just a little unexpected. While nothing else really grabbed and held me as hard as that first track, the three atmospheric instrumental tracks that close out the record are compelling for their oddness as well as their sombre kind of beauty – why just decide, at the end, to give up all pretence of a pop record? But then, why not?  Carbon + is definitely worth a listen, and marks another interesting partnership for Dream Damage – a label that’s proved its considered, bankable taste again and again.

You can buy the cassette right here, right now.

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LISTEN: Woodboot – ‘Black Piss’

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Sometimes, misguided people from other places ask me to recommend them some bands from Brisbane. Usually I like, mutter something about Bent or 100%, Scraps or Police Force or FOREVR. Or, if I’m a certain kind of fucked, I might just start screaming WOODBOOT WOODBOOT WOODBOOT. Cause they rule.

It seems silly to write about Woodboot, cause it’s the kind of thing that you either like/get or you don’t. At all. But I think more people should have a listen to find out which way they fall, so.

It’s hectic dumb punk music and not in a too-clever tongue-in-cheek let’s-subvert-genre expectations way. It’s absolutely overt and genuine cuz this is a band that knows heaps about the toughest, bluntest, loudest music and have put all the best stuff into their songs and pulled it off with exactly the right bad attitude.

‘Black Piss’ defines Woodboot in one line; ‘I hope you die / and never have money’. Daniel Dunn’s words are slurred – like he’s so mad he can’t get it out totally coherently. Drummer Donovan Miller also recorded the song, hightening the visceral trash feeling by making everything full-force to the point of distortion (the secret weapon, he says, is not giving a fuck). The bass does everything you want: goes real fast. Top that off with a couple of jagged unwieldy guitar solos and you got something really mad. At least, I reckon.

Go see Woodboot live if you ever get the opportunity. ‘Black Piss’ is the A Side of an upcoming single out on Florida’s Total Punk Records.

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LISTEN: Emma Russack – In a New State LP

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It’s so striking to hear an artist working through stuff on a record – when you feel like you’re discovering things about them as they discover things about themselves. Emma Russack’s In A New State is an album of transition, of slow self-forgiveness and a graceful resignation. Russack knows it’s not as simple as moving on without looking back – this record looks back a lot – but every time it gets a little easier.

The transition process on A New State is completely unhurried – every song unfolds beautifully and gently. Even ‘Have You’, a minute and a half of building stormy guitars and cymbals, waits till the right moment to deliver the crushing end note ‘I don’t have you / and that’s…Just… Fine’. It’s one of those absolutely ‘not fine’ fines, but soon it’ll be the truth.

With a record that’s this honest and lyrically engaging, the temptation is to just quote words from it and make up stories about what they might be about (which I’m definitely about to do), but it’s worth commenting on how much emotional work is done by the music as well. There’s a gentle push and swing to these songs, always coaxing you to feel a little more, listen a little closer. And you do, from the prettily echoing guitar of opener ‘Cottesloe’, a song about a good memory that sets the reflective tone of the songs to come, to the dramatic borderline cheesy oscillating synth of ‘Not the Friend’. ‘Not The Friend’ is probably the most fun song on the record too – it’s still possible to have a good time with some bad feelings.

‘If You Could See Me Now’ reads initially as a kind of declaration on the good of self-care, with the understandably oft quoted line ‘I don’t have sex / for validation / I’ve had no sex in six months / but I’m happy’. But while she’s not looking for validation, she might be looking for something else – closure. The ‘you’ in these songs only exists in memories, they’re not calling or coming to shows or liking your selfies, and some of the best parts of this record have Russack dealing honestly with this loss. Like on ‘Another Chance’, which captures that need to stay busy and distracted in order to forget – ‘so many years to fill up / so many years without you’ – which works especially well back to back with ‘You Gave Me’.  On that song she’s admitting that nothing’s working and the only thing to do is to leave town, cause moving on sometimes means running away.

I’m guilty of romanticising the idea of growing up in small seaside or country towns – I grew up in the city (well, Brisbane) and I still live fifteen minutes’ walk from where I went to high school. I was a sheltered and neurotic teen and I’m an anxious and cynical adult. I’ve never felt what it’s like to move away and come home and be a stranger. Or that feeling of escape; when you get to leave everything behind and start new in a big city. And I’m kind of obsessed with it. So take this with a grain of salt, but I think ‘Narooma’ captures this feeling impeccably. One side of a small-town upbringing is the freedom to experiment and grow up a little fast, as Russack shows on ‘Best Love’, talking about her relationship with an older man at 16. It’s the most romantic song here, her voice taking on a country-singers heavy-hearted nostalgia. But it also isn’t afraid to delve into the grey area, of her being ‘still a child’ and maybe taken in by the adult world too soon. Russack revels in grey areas, in second-guessing herself and her past.

Emma Russack was apparently gonna quit music early last year, before a well-timed grant swooped in and prompted her to give it another crack. And, phew, cause Australian music would be way less brave and beautiful without her.

In a New State is out now via Spunk.

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LISTEN: Wireheads – Arrive Alive LP

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The Australia on Adelaide band Wireheads‘  new record isn’t the ‘smoking cigs in your sharehouse and goin down the shops to buy more cigs and cheezels’ kind of Australia. It’s violent and murky and sinister. Sometimes it’s fun too but in a way that might go off the rails any fucking second. Album opener and title track, ‘Arrive Alive’, throws up the image ‘getting shot dead in the head/ for tryna buy orange juice/ you got two dollars in your hand’, and album highlight ‘Dedication’ the merciless bashing of beautiful faces.

But this record also might be about a hunt for something redemptive and beautiful, a bit of subtlety in circumstances that are more suited to blunt, unforgiving ugliness. Cause there’s those female vocals in the background of ‘Dedication’ too, working as a foil to the violence with a bit of uneasy romance; ‘your face is so goddamn beautiful/ your face makes me feel unusual’. And then ‘Organ Failure’s desperate squealing sax offset by interludes of sweetly drawled ‘darlin’s’ and a super pretty bass melody.

You’ll never get the energy of a Wireheads live show on record (take a look at the 20-odd people listed as contributing to the record on Bandcamp though and you’ll see they gave it a good go), but what you do get is time and space to let the emotional core of a lot of these songs to sink in. You get things like ‘Ice Kool Flavour Aid’, a straight husky cowboy ballad that’s earnest in a way that not a heap of other Australian bands would have the guts to do.

Arrive Alive is full of familiar characters and archetypes: prisoners ex-soldiers, emperors and goddesses and the dying. They’re all wondering what it means to survive, and if that’s really the most important thing. The fantastical elements could be allegories to real shit: ‘Proserpina’ is the Goddess of the cycle of life and death – or a woman offering redemption. Emperor Nero is another dictator fucking around while everything burns to the ground. Or maybe they they’re just funny stories to write songs about – ‘Nero’ is especially wacky, with that woodwind that makes everything feel like it’s coming down around your head.

The first couple of times I listened to this record I thought it was a bit long and maybe trying a little hard to be weird – but I reckon that was just because there’s so much packed in here it’s easy to get overloaded. Now I’ve got it a bit more I couldn’t think of anything I’d cut. Maybe ‘Isabella Says’ – I don’t care that much about ‘cosmic gamma rays baby’ – but then there’s the funny little flute freak out that leads you into the beautiful ‘So Softly Spoken’, making the honest simplicity of that song able to catch you off guard and be something properly lovely.

Arrive Alive is a smart, packed, generous record with ideas popping out the seams. Because of this it’s easy to overlook the humanness of a lot of the songs, the honesty and the heart – I nearly did, and now I’m tellin’ ya not to make the same mistake.

You can listen to and buy Arrive Alive via Tenth Court here

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LISTEN: Rebel Yell – ‘Never Perfection’

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Pic by Glen Schenau

Pic by Glen Schenau

Some people have a tendency to dismiss music that has too strong an aesthetic – from artists who’ve taken more than one second to think about what people might like to look like as well as listen too. I reckon that’s super reductive of what music is, and, most usually, sexist as hell.

I love Grace Stevenson’s (who’s also in 100%) solo thing Rebel Yell because it’s vibe and sound and image, form and function all coming together to deliver maximum impact. Her first single ‘Never Perfection’ is dark industrial electronic music that you can dance to if you want – but it’s not really dance music. It doesn’t matter that much if you’re having fun, as long as that bass keeps pumping you’ll keep moving. The lyrics are completely unintelligible but she’s delivering them like a manifesto, insistent and direct. There’s a trend for punk shows in Brisbane lately to have a synth band/artist opening or playing after the headliner and it’s worked both to break the three white dudes with guitar monotony and to encourage electronic music with some darkness and muscle to bloom.

 

 

The video, done by Helena Papageorgiou, is all purple smoke and strobes flashing over Stevenson’s striking face, and does a great job of recreating the vibe of a Rebel Yell live show – slightly elusive, always making you want more. I also like that although it’s shot like a underground-rave scene, you can see it was filmed under someone’s house, so it’s more like you’re at a really good house show with about three minutes before the cops arrive.

 

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Before now, the Brisbane bands that have become most popular interstate have usually been of the sunny garage pop or likeable-stoner party rock variety. But maybe we don’t care so much about being liked any more. Maybe now we wanna make music that’s cold, distorted, and bold. And look fucking good doing it. It isn’t just me that thinks this has real widespread appeal – Rebel Yell just signed up to work with Rice is Nice on her EP Mother of Millions, out August 19.

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LISTEN: Sarah Mary Chadwick – ‘Makin It Work’

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sarah mary chadwick

There’s a shaky kind of hopefulness to this new song from Sarah Mary Chadwick.  It’s like she’s got her hands out grasping desperately for something she’s not sure she wants, and which she might not get anyway.  ‘Makin It Work’ is the first single off Chadwick’s forthcoming record, with the kind of hilariously doomed title of Roses Always Die. Even knowing that, Chadwick makes us hope along with her here when she says she’s ‘moving towards a kind of finish line’. Even though neither we nor, it seems like, Chadwick, know what the other side of that line’s gonna look or sound like, we want her to get there.

The constant ticking drum machine and electric organ will be familiar to people who already know Chadwick’s stuff, but ‘Makin it Work’ doesn’t have the layers and atmospherics of a lot of Nine Classic Tracks. It’s more restrained and inward-facing, like this is a song she could have just written for herself and we’re getting a privileged private listen. However there’s no joke in her statement that ‘it’s a big song cuz I’m happy’, cause it is. A big song, a big moment, a big deal.  It must be for Chadwick to sing something like ‘baby oh baby/ spin me round and save me’, even if she’s then gonna say she doesn’t care who does the actual saving. It’s so big she had to stop and look around and write a song about these feelings cuz who knows how long they’re gonna last.

There’s an overriding notion in a lot of love songs, and, the world in general, that once love comes to ya it’s all easy – which might be true for some. But for Chadwick it seems like nothing’s ever easy. And that’s where her vulnerability and her power comes from, the effort, the fight, the pleasure, the spit, the degradation, the fuck ups, the times when hope hurts more than hopelessness.  For someone whose lyrics can be realistic to the point of self-defeatism, this song is a beautiful exercise in trying to start the circulation again, to believe that it’s worth the effort to Make It Work.

Roses Always Die will be out August 5 on Rice is Nice

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