Posts By Madeleine Laing

LISTEN: Sweet Whirl – O.K. Permanent Wave LP

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The first time I listened to this tape my friend played it to me and I had to resist the urge to tell him to shut the fuck up multiple times over the next 40-odd minutes. O.K. Permanent Wave is one of the most solitary records I’ve ever listened to. It’s not lonely, the alone-ness is just a fact to be explored and examined, not judged. But that does make it weird to listen to with anyone else around. Hearing these songs is a deeply private experience.

Sweet Whirl is the solo work of Esther Edquist, vocalist and keyboardist of Superstar, but you won’t find much of the sunniness of that band’s floaty long-afternoon guitar music here. Edquist uses just her voice, an evocative electric bass sound that takes root deep down in your body, and occasional atmospheric recordings and room sound to create quiet, moving intimacy.

Gently clouded in echo, Edquist’s voice has a smoky impenetrability that’s kind of like Cat Power, and a bit of the understated sensuality of some of the more low-key parts of PJ Harvey’s Stories From the City… This might not be music for fucking but it could be music for thinking about making love. It’s obviously a total cop out to compare any female artist to such obvious touchstones but there’s something so serious and immediately classic about this record, and Edquist’s confident position in the centre of it, that it feels fitting to me anyway.

Individually the songs are hard to get a hold of, structures are suggestions to be considered, verses slip and slide past each other with rare repetition. The kind of thing that encourages total immersion rather than deconstruction or any kind of critical thinking. But I grab snatches of detached lyrics that hit home like the spectoral advice given in Girl, U or Magic Realness. These are stories told with the benefit of hindsight – she knows what can go wrong because she’s lived it. But we’re really the ones who benefit, from this beautiful bummer of a record.

O.K Permanent Wave came out as part of a series of 6 tapes from Melbourne label Nice Music (still working my way through them but I can tell you Various Asses’ tape is just as mad and cool as I thought it would be).

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LISTEN: Heart Beach – Kiss Your Face LP

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When people say things reflect ‘romance in modern times’ this is usually code for ‘depressing and heartless as fuck’. Hobart three-piece Heart Beach’s Kiss Your Face is, if not the antidote to all that (cause there’s a lot of it), at least a convincing counterpoint.

In relationships or friendships or whatever there’s always points where you have to decide if you’re gonna be openhearted about your feelings, or stay detached and guarded to possibly save yourself some humiliation. Kiss Your Face sounds like the best version of the former. It’s all here: thin walls of share houses, the giddy breathless feeling when you feel like you’ve lucked onto someone special, the woozy guilty feeling of getting blackout drunk a bit too much to deal with whatever, the small moments of doubt when you start to see how it might all fall away.

Heart Beach themselves have adopted the ‘scuzzy’ descriptor with enthusiasm, I assume cause it’s funny to say, and there’s definitely the right amount of cheekiness behind this record and their vibe in general. But to me that word also implies a bit of slackness, or half-heartedness maybe, that you’d struggle to find anywhere on Kiss Your Face. The guitar is fuzzy, distorted, but also tight and pointed. The angsty ‘Record’ shows they can write a big simple riff just like all the good pop punk bands, but then the intricate guitar of ‘Milk’ or jangly-country closer ‘Summer’ are as smartly pretty as anything you’re likely to hear from more overtly sophisticated Australian bands. ‘Summer’ is the euphoric ’80s Aus alt rock anthem we need for these times – I’m shouting along even before I’ve learned the words.

Kiss Your Face is warm and sweet record that stays grounded in its indie rock roots, with sneaky moments of heartache like slow burn epic ‘Sleeping’. That song’s maybe my favourite, huge in emotional weight, a spacing echoing gaze held for just the right amount of time. Having Jonathon and Claire McCarthy sing together across every song is a lovely move – clinging together against the often starkly open production of a lot of the record. This is a sweet record with no sugar high, just the sustained, unexaggerated niceness of love – and all the trouble that comes with it.

I just read that both McCarthys are moving to Canada next year – you gotta make this record huge so they come back.

Kiss Your Face is available through Spunk now.

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LISTEN: Lower Plenty – Sister Sister LP

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Lower Plenty are my favourite band that I almost forget exist all the time. Except when you occasionally see them pop up in an FB event as second support for some EP launch at a bowls club on a Wednesday or whatever and I shake my fist at the sky shrieking “MELBOOOOOURNE’, then quickly look at flights, then remember that going to rock shows in Melbourne is the easiest way to make me question if living is really all it’s cracked up to be. And then, I don’t know, I cry.

By playing and recording so infrequently, they’ve taken the pressure off and given themselves the room to make music of low-key genius – fans will wait because it’s worth it. Sure the whole ‘recorded-on-one-cold-afternoon-in-a-Collingwood-kitchen, before they got into their Commodores and sped off through the fog in separate directions not to speak for another year’ mythology touted in the press-release (… ok, I made some of that up) for this record does play into certain ideas of what makes music authentic in Australia – but hey, it’s true. They can’t help it if it’s a good story as well.

Maybe because I know that story it’s easy to imagine a kind of coziness and familiarity to this record. Also cause at this point listening to Al Montfort’s voice is like settling in for a few wry, beautiful stories with a mate on the back deck over a – fuck I’m doing the mythologizing now. But if there’s a less trite way to say it I can’t think of it. He always sounds so breezy, which might be kind of difficult when you’ve got something serious to say. But here he pulls it off. The dry melancholy of ‘All the Young Men’ is thick with a resigned hopelessness, and he’s maybe delving a bit into the way we (underground music people/people who wanna be cool generally) glorify irony and a lack of sincerity in ‘Bondi’s Dead’ ‘I was the best at undermining civil unrest / I was the king / of keepin’ it all in’. We’ve probably also got him to thank for the fissures of atonal jazz that pop up through Sister Sister – I haven’t listened to much of the Snake and Friends stuff but from what I understand it’s a bit like that.

Mostly this record still leans more on country and folk styles than the punk and post punk and techno punk of some of the member’s other bands. Though they still manage to subtly unsettle you at every turn with some creepy, occasionally abstract sounds (What is that? A kind of weird sounding flute?). This sense of foreboding is present, too, in the way the olden times Irish folk singer prettiness of Hayward’s vocals is used in songs like ‘So It Goes’ with its chugging, ominous percussion and ‘Ravesh’, which sounds like confidently striding into insanity, all imagery and symbols and looming saxophone circling like a vulture overhead.

The contrast between Hayward’s vocals and Jensen Tjhung’s is interesting– they’re archetypal feminine and masculine, spectral beauty and down-to earth gravelly earnestness, but all the wistful sentimentality comes from Tjhung’s songs. Montfort’s and Hayward’s duet ‘Shades of Lawn’ feels romantic but the lyrics are someone who’s had it up to here; ‘You wouldn’t be grinnin’ / if you weren’t winnin’ / take that smile off your face / get your shit out of the place’. Hayward’s song are the freakiest, like ‘Ravesh’ or closer ‘Treehouse’ with its thin spooky violin or the taunting of ‘On Off On Off’.

There’s balance in everything Lower Plenty do – they can delve into dark areas but keep everything moving forward, touching on sadness but never dragging you through it. I think they pretty much perfectly captured it on the title track of their last record Life / Thrills when Tjhungs sings ‘What have I got? Heaps. / What have I lost? Heaps.’ That’s the line I think about when I think about Lower Plenty, the clear eyed self-knowledge, the willingness to sacrifice and move on. It’s what makes remembering them every couple of years such a delight, and means we’ll continue to wait as long as it takes every time.

Sister Sister is out on Bedroom Suck for you to purchase and enjoy now.

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LISTEN: Various Asses – ‘Hood Team’

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Photo By Lauren Bamford

I don’t write much about dance music cuz I don’t know the right terms and I’m too vain to risk looking stupid. But this track, by Melbourne artist Various Asses, Aka Raquel Solier (who used to do excellent RnB stuff under the name Fatti Frances), is too good not to share. This is exactly what you wanna hear when a party’s really taking off – but it’s also the kind of thing that could really freak you the fuck out if you heard it a bit too far into the early hours. It’s a good time that’s just edging into darkness.

There’s drama here that’s missing from a lot of electronic music we’re hearing at the moment – the operatic, haunted house movie samples, snatches of vocals that remind me of ‘Toxic’ era Britney, the moments of silence that keep you on your toes but are short enough to keep dancing though, all backed by house music beats that your arse will move to seemingly on its own accord. This track has all the best parts of dance music – it’s dark, hot, unpredictable and fun as hell. Wrote all this to say you gotta listen to it.

‘Hood Team’ is coming out a seven-song tape called Loción’ that’s part of a run of six different cassettes Nice Music is putting out on November 20 – including one by Sweet Whirl (Superstar’s Esther Edquist) that I am, low key, incredibly psyched for. You can preorder Loción’  HERE.

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LISTEN: Hi-Tec Emotions – Hard to Handle LP

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I’m kinda jealous of the teenage girls who get to see bands like Hi-Tec Emotions in their first gig experiences. To hear a woman be unapologetic about their fears and desires and doubts is powerful. You know, instead of a bunch of dudes singing about how they’re too fucked up to feel love or whatever.

I wish I’d got to hear something like the desperate power of ‘Tears of Love’, or the raucously demanding ‘Look Around’, the first track and early single from their new record Hard to Handle, that kicks you straight into the deep end. That song, in tandem with ‘Beyond the Depths’s radical declaration ’I feel desire / and I want the power’, makes as commanding a statement of intent as you’ll hear. To admit want, or worse, need, as a woman is still something that makes people uncomfortable – but Hi-Tec Emotions do it with such stark clarity and power that you feel like it doesn’t have to be like that.

The music is all about maximum impact – the drums stripped back and frantic, bass nipping at the heels of the rhythm urging you to keep up, new-wave keys careen under Ema Dunstan’s ever-soaring vocals.

I wanna say it gets slightly heavy-handed with lines like ‘And I dream of a world where I can say / all the things I ever felt without debate’ and a couple of the more misty-eyed later tracks. But do I just feel that way cuz I’ve become allergic to sincerity? Because hearing this kind of bald-faced acknowledgment of inequality is still rare in the music I regularly listen to, so it makes me feel weird? Probably.

With Hard to Handle, Hi-Tec Emotions have made something that is utterly convincing in its outrage – the kind of thing I could see people fighting to the front row at shows to belt out those powerfully empathetic choruses as close to the band they can get. And, on top of all of that, a very fun record.

Hard to Handle is out on Listen Records this Friday November 4, when they’ll be launching it at The Tote with Spike Fuck (!!!!), Cable Ties and Suss Cunts. Go have a big shout.

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WATCH: Men With Chips – ‘Ardrossan’

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People say Adelaide is weird like Brisbane used to be but isn’t anymore. I say no one here was ever that weird, just like, hot and cranky. But maybe that’s why I have really strong good feelings about nearly every Adelaide band – seems like they’ve got the same kind of ‘maybe we hate each other but this town’s too small not to try and get along’ *community* thing as Brisbane. Idk I’ve never been.

Men With Chips are an Adelaide band that I have strong good feelings about, and they’ve made a ridiculous, but genuinely kind of unnerving video for their latest single ‘Ardrossan’ that oughta strike fear into a lot of hearts. Two words: jazz cult. Esteemed members of the Adelaide music community are hunted down on an overcast day at the innocuous SA seaside by overall-wearing horn players and killed(?) by bursts of loud random FREE JAZZ.

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The video was directed by Pat Telfer from Old Mate and Bitch Prefect, who really knows what he’s doing behind the camera; his clips always look great. It’s obviously a funny idea, and they pull it off with a commitment that, coupled with the jittery drumming and low bending bass of the verses, make it also pretty creepy.

The record, called Attention Spent, will be out on November the 4th, (preorder through Homeless here) though we’ve been previously given another taste with longer cut ‘And Counting’. This dankly terrific track coughs up gear grinding guitar and the same commanding vocals that only demand more attention as they get increasingly slurred and nonsensical. Everything Joel Robertson sings sounds simultaneously like a manifesto and a cry for help.

Ignore anywhere that says the record was out October 28th. Homeless Records, never change.

Men With Chips are playing the following dates in support of Attention Spent:

Friday November 11 – The Gunners Arms Tavern, Launceston

Wednesday November 16 – The Old Bar, Melbourne

Thursday November 17 – Dane Certificate’s Magic Tricks, Gags and Theatre, Melbourne

Friday November 18 – Lacklustre Records, Canberra

Saturday November 19 – Black Wire Records, Sydney

Thursday November 24 – The Wooly Mammoth, Brisbane

Saturday November 26 – 4ZZZ Carpark Show, Brisbane

Saturday December 3 – The Exter Hotel, Adelaide

Friday December 9 – The Bird, Perth

Sunday December 11 – Mojo, Fremantle


P.S I heard that Dave Blumbergs, the bass player in this band, is working on some kind of Adelaide Underground Rock Opera. If anyone has more information please get in touch. Need this scoop.

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LISTEN: EXEK – ‘Biased Advice’

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One of the things music writers do that I hate the most is calling music ‘cinematic’ BECAUSE 1) literally any music can be used to score a film, means nothing and 2) what, it’s dramatic? It’s moving? It easily conjures up a lot of images? Well, say that.

Biased Advice by Melbourne band Exek easily conjures up a lot of images – dark rooms fogs basements faces pressed again cold windows sinister shit.

Biased Advice was released earlier this month so I’m a little late on writing this up. Actually, really really late considering half of the record is made up different versions of songs released in 2014. But these are pretty distinct version, rerecorded with new permanent band members and instruments. Biased Advice is way more fleshed-out, though the sound is far from full. The emptiness of these songs is what makes them creepy and interested.

Distant, echo-y production, clattering percussion, snare hits linger and hiss. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint where the sound is coming from. I listened to it a lot home alone one night and had to get up more than once and check there was no one in the house. Though there’s also an underlying undeniable groove to these songs, the way they’re propelled by simple slow-burn bass lines – and the way ‘A Hedonist’ kind of sounds like a fucked ‘Chick Habit’ – makes the menace intriguing.

Highlight ‘Replicate’ gives us fragments of cynical, disaffected declarations, a searing guitar line and strings that hound the listener into attention. Tossed off lyrics like stick figured/ adolescent/ disinfectant/ replicant/ it reminds me of you’;  That’s not interesting / that’s old news’, are short-hand for cynical disaffected listeners to pick up on and make meaning out of. It’s music based on mood – to spell it out would ruin it.

Side B of the tape is all one sixteen minute song, ‘Baby Giant Squid’, which sounds like the name of a fucking Pond song but the psych touches Exek utilize throughout this record are way more squat than stadium. The final track slow-builds from a dreamy, sci-fi soundscape of screeching guitars and low-key jazzy bass into a cacophony of bells and chimes, before a long spacey fade-out.

Go see Exek at Maggot Fest this weekend if you’re going. And ask them to come back to Brisbane thanks.

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