Posts By Madeleine Laing

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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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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