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LISTEN: 2018 in 10 Tracks

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Here’s another list to add to your…list. Following on from the self-proclaimed success of our ‘2017 in 10 tracks’ list from last year, we’ve decided to compile yet another list of tracks that gave us the feels in 2018.

Join us again in 2019 for another year of infrequent ramblings about great music.

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Sarah Mary Chadwick – Bauble on a Chain

How to choose a song off Sugar Still Melts in the Rain? Probably not going to be the one that you tapped your toe the most to this year. Probably gonna be the one that still wrecks you for minutes after it finished, staring off in to space feeling that literal wrench that’s so rare in things that get called ‘heart-wrenching’. ‘Five Months’ is that song. But ‘Bauble on a Chain’ is the one I sent to people saying something eloquent like ‘FKKKKKKK!’ .It’s the best example Chadwick’s genius for capturing so much in a few biting lines, floating above this simple wandering piano line – a moment of almost lightness and total beauty.

Rebel Yell – Toxic

Rebel Yell’s other half Grace Stevenson is super prolific – this year alone she’s released an EP, a remix single, a Christmas EP, moved from Brisbane to Sydney and started a new seemingly more pop-focused project called Soft Touch. ‘Toxic’ is my favourite thing she’s done this year because she really seems to let loose – without the trademark harsh distortion on her vocals she steps into a new kind of persona, sneering at posers ‘bum-puffing durries in the line to TBC’ or buying Instagram likes. It’s an anthem for everyone who’s ever been creeped on or patronised with the chorus ‘back off don’t touch me get off my rave / back off don’t touch me get off my stage’. And, like all of Stephenson’s stuff, it absolutely rips.

Harmony – Love is a Chemical High
Harmony’s tremendous 2018 album, Double Negative, brims with a raw majesty, the songs are scrappy, vulnerable and catchy as hell. ‘Love is a Chemical High’ is quintessential Harmony, pairing stripped back guitar and drums with the band’s trademark vocal sound. The rag tag soul of backing vocalists Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuis and Maria Kastaniotis shift from punctuating oohs and aahs to devastating harmonies as the song boils over into full-blown rock catharsis.

Bitumen – Pound of Flesh

This song plays in my head every time I have to walk down a dark street late at night. It’s thrilling, it’s powerful, and it makes me feel TOUGH. Discipline Reaction was one of my favourite records of this year, and this track encapsulates everything I loved about it. The use of drama and tension is masterful, and makes the Go the Fuck Off moment at the end all the more satisfying. You can’t listen to this track online though, you’ll just have to buy the album.

Bilby – November Nights

Sydney’s own emo-rap prince, Bilby, is going from strength to strength. Kicking off 2018 with a slight left-hand turn in Walkin 2 the Lake, an EP produced entirely by U.S. artist Meltycanon, this was followed by his new full-length, Shade. The new album further hones the Bilby sound, all jangly guitar, trap beats and smooth af vocal hooks. ‘November Nights’, as the title suggests, is the perfect gateway to summer, the lazy guitar setting the scene for Bilby’s melodic sing/rap style.

Madboots – Headstone

Madboots have been one of the best live bands in Brisbane for so long, and their EP 2HARD from this year gives everyone else just a little taste of how cool their music is. It’s hip hop that sounds like you turned the radio on in 1994, with lyrics that are equally funny, dirty, sweet and tough. I picked this song because it’s about needing a huge headstone ‘Cuz I can see in the future / I’m gonna need room to / spread my legs in my tomb yeah’.

Liars – Murdrum

Now that Liars is essentially the solo project of frontman Angus Andrew, I think we can safely claim it as Australian, thus its inclusion here. After Andrew proved he could handle the weight of the project by himself with last year’s TFCF, he swiftly followed this with the companion album, TWTWF (Titles With the Word Fountain), a collection of indietronic abstractions and various musical bric-a-brac that is no less intriguing than its more fully formed sibling. ‘Murdrum’s’ propulsive beat, delicate synth arpeggios and Andrew’s unassuming falsetto are eerie and affecting, a mood captured beautifully in the accompanying video.

Tangents – Stents

In 2018 Tangents proved their breakout album, Stateless, was no fluke. Their follow up effort, New Bodies, is equally as rich while introducing new directions and elements further developing their already expansive palette.
If that wasn’t enough, they also gave us Stents + Arteries earlier in the year, an EP featuring an album cut and 2 new tracks. Opener ‘Stents’ is Tangents at their best, slowly building from drum scraps and flittering electronics, cello and piano parts are subtly introduced as the piece continues to grow before exploding in a cacophony of processed drums and whirlwind piano.

The Goon Sax – Make Time for Love / Love Lost

I found some of The Goon Sax’s second record a bit overcooked, but these first two tracks seem to hold on to some of the easy honesty that made their debut such an undeniable hit. Both songs bare the band’s early aus-jangle influences unapologetically, where in other parts they seem to be trying a bit too hard to show us something new. A classic second album thing from a young bands with heaps of ideas, but ‘Make Time for Love’ and ‘Love Lost’ appeal to me because they feel unburdened by irony or self-consciousness.

Air Max ’97 – Kermes
Elusive producer Air Max ’97 delivered on the promise of his earlier EPs with his killer debut full-length, Nacre. The skeletal percussion and capacious production result in an exciting electronic sound equally suited to the dance floor as it is to your headphones.

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Setec

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Setec is the moniker of Sydney-based artist Joshua Gibbs, whose extraordinary new album recently made its way into the world.

Atrial Flutters (or Raise Yr Hand If Yr Afraid), the second full-length for Gibbs, is a warts and all dive into his own anxiety and the turbulent journey that led to the album’s creation. At times the music seems at odds with the candid and personal nature of the lyrics, bursting with utter jubilance but can just as quickly curl up into a tiny ball, each note exposed and vulnerable. The contrast capturing the roller coaster of emotions explored over the course of the album.

The unique way in which Gibbs uses samples in his music is somewhat of a trademark of the Setec sound. Breathing new life into dusty old samples, Gibbs takes unassuming vocal snippets and adds layers of his own voice, building choral arrangements that are nothing short of amazing. So it seems fitting that the theme of this Virtual Mixtape is ‘Found-sound and samples’ in which Gibbs discusses three influential albums from 2005.

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Cornelius – Sensuous

The first time I heard Cornelius, it was all in my head. My close friend Alex had described the opening track to Sensuous to me in such detail that it existed before I’d ever listened to it. Usually that would take all the joy out of a song, like someone live-reading a comic strip or when you accidentally set the wrong audio settings on a DVD and spend an hour wondering why there’s a buttery-voiced narrator describing things that are already happening on the screen. (For reference, I eventually found out this was intended for the vision-impaired). But this time was different: there’s a mechanical and exact quality to Keigo Oyamada’s music that easily lends itself to description, and instead of rendering it predictable makes it unexpected, dangerous and exciting.

The opener and title track ‘Sensuous’ ends as one would expect, settling on the major root note of the song plucked on an acoustic guitar – but then it keeps going, with the sound of an acoustic guitar’s low E string being slowly, slowly detuned while the sound swoops left to right. It keeps descending and descending, and you can hear the slack of the steel string slapping against the wood of the neck. It continues until pitch has all but vanished and all we can hear are the raw materials: steel and wood, plastic from a plectrum. This concept was so beautiful to me. I’d heard some music before that could be classed as ‘aleatoric’, but only in a contemporary art sense. Never sewed seamlessly into what was, at its core, a pop song.

It was cheeky but also serious, playful and exacting, and that’s true for the whole record. My personal favourite, ‘Breezin’, blends shimmery synths with staccato drums, a track that should feel busy but actually sounds spacious and vibrant, like a realtor’s description of a studio apartment. It builds with a chorus of clean dry vocals across the stereo spectrum, each cooing a vowel sound and sometimes completing the other’s words. The way Cornelius gives new context to these vocal samples gave me my first ideas in production and drove me to play around with sounds before I’d written any songs. It also led to me letting the songs write themselves around particular samples or vocal snippets, rather than writing long-winded acoustic ballads with too many chords (because I wrote a shitload of those).

Also, the cover art is dope and looks exactly how the music sounds.

The Books – Lost And Safe

I’ll never be able to describe exactly how this particular album made me feel. It remains to this day one of my most listened to records, and I still find myself singing its praises to people thirteen years later. Everything about their approach felt new to me- with time I would find similar artists using similar techniques but none were as influential on me as The Books. Listening back for this article conjures more vivid and colourful memories than I can ever muster on my own.

Lost and Safe was their third album, and at the time their most accessible work. It was still dense with samples and melodic ideas, but now delivered with a patience that let the songs breathe, giving moments to quietness and pauses where they felt natural. The percussion was sparing, dropping in and out of songs like waves; instead of providing the pulse, riding the other sounds and reacting to them. Big and little slices of cello wound around the space, mingling with acoustic guitars, effected voices and chopped samples of spoken-word, converging into something like complete stories.

This music was still calculated and mechanical, but not like Cornelius – there was more room here, a sense of loose improvisation mingling with the meticulous programming. Breakout track ‘Smells Like Content’ was a perfect example: a winding, choppy percussion track looping unpredictably, slowly, underneath a floor of soft bass chords. A salvaged recording of Nick Zammuto’s brother wandering aimlessly in a forest bookends this song. “Balance, repetition, composition, the mirrors”- somewhere between serious poem and silly stream of consciousness: this was a line The Books continued to toe until their breakup several years back.

‘Venice’ is so lovely and whimsical and always makes me smile. We listen to the sounds: a jubilant reporter talking us through a street-painter giving a show of his work, throwing paint on a canvas and the press below, eventually splitting open the canvas to let out twelve pigeons who then fly away. A real special slice of life underpinned by a light, airy soundtrack of rolling basses.

Juana Molina – Tres Cosas

I mean, yeah, I’m missing half the story because I don’t speak the language. And truth be told, I actually never looked up the English translations of the lyrics. The music sounded real summery to me, and I think I just mentally attached images and colours to it in place of understanding the words. Juana was writing such gorgeous, layered music on this album. All the elements comfortably fit together, and the production just felt warm and inviting. Softly plucked guitars underpin each track, but mysterious just-so warbly synths take pride of place. There’s always a sense of the slightly detuned, the not quite but almost pitch of a bending keyboard line.

‘Salvese Quien Pueda’ has such a perfect pop melody that it floors me. It almost reminds me of a nursery rhyme, although the music isn’t childish. Synths gurgle behind this melody giving a sense of warped time. It feels dream-like more than anything, like I’m walking slow-motion in a field of heavy cream.

The ear-splitting frequencies of some of those synths threatens to pull the songs off-course, but they end up integral to the sound of the record- it’s so easy to get comfortable, and then she pulls us out of our reveries and yells in our ears.

The looped nylon-string guitars feel delicate but resonant, and I’d love to know how she recorded them. Seeing her live multiple times further demonstrated that Juana is a real master of her instruments, be they vocal, strung or pressed. I’ve seen her do things with a loop pedal that don’t start with nothing and end up with everything, which is the greatest praise I can afford an artist who works so closely with loops- not everything simply goes from small to large. Things build up and scale back, melodies come and go and are reintroduced as guests at later times.

I love ‘Yo Se Que’ not only for it’s beauty, but also because of that disgusting, jagged synth noise towards the end, rewarding our previous serenity with a new sense of unease. It hurts to listen to but I just love that idea. It’s like she’s saying “Try and fall asleep now, motherfucker”.

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Atrial Flutters (or Raise Yr Hand If Yr Afraid) is available now. Check the Setec website for more details.

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Look: Golden Plains XII

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I never meant to make your daughter cry. I feel like a natural woman. Baby blue. How long, till I see your face?

Attempting to write a few words about a festival you know and love—but this year didn’t attend—is damn right awful. If you didn’t get along to the 12th Golden Plains Music Festival held at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, I suggest closing your browser right now, as these photos are about to pour a lot of salt into your fomo wound. We sent Tessa Mansfield-Hung along with her camera and great eye for capturing the good times in the ridic balmy sunshine. Here is our annual GP photo recap and it is better than ever, so I’ll let Tessa’s photos do the talking:

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LOOK: Meredith Music Festival 2017

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G’day! Here at whothehell we know that the days following Meredith can be tough. Chin up, take the rough with the smooth, never fear—you’ll feel human again before you know it. Though for now, to make you feel a bit better about the whole festival-hangover-situation, we bring you some snaps from the weekend that was (if these cannot cheer you up… well you are on your own).

We sent the illustrious Tessa Mansfield-Hung @tessamansfieldhung to the sup for MMF’17 to capture all that glittered, enjoy:

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Various Asses

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Various Asses are a force to be reckoned with. The incredible debut Loción, released via Nice Music late last year, exemplifies the self-described Body Horror aesthetic with its tough low-end, menacing samples and pummelling rhythms.

Led by Melbourne artist Raquel Solier, Various Asses is more than just amazing music. Featuring musicians, dancers, MC’s, video artists and more, the V/A family have been destroying dance floors and forging their own path with an uncompromising live show, killer film clips and a general take no prisoners attitude.

We are excited to hear that a new Various Asses EP is slated for 2018 and we can’t wait to see what else the crew has in store.

For this latest instalment of Virtual Mixtape, Raquel guides us through the diverse creative output of some of the V/A family members. Consider yourself schooled.

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Meet the Various Asses family

KANDERE

Lakyn and Ripley are Kandere; Naarm’s most progressive and relevant hip hop act.
Lakyn’s rapping is featured on the forthcoming Various Asses EP (2018) as well as being an incredible dancer for the live V/A show.

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YUM GOD

Another family member in the Filipino diaspora making bent footwork club tracks.
Future collaboration in the works between his performance at west side clubs and hosting music production workshops.

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NASHO

Total badass Serwah Attafuah, vocalist, dancer, 3D modeller and collaborator tearing down white supremacy in hardcore band Nasho.

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TRIANA HERNANDEZ

Manager, film clip director and creative collaborator of all things Various Asses.
Also a writer, bottomless pit of inspiration, commanding vocalist for Sexistential Waterfall and a name to remember.

SOPHIE GROPHY

Growing star and rapper Sophy Grophy collaborates on Various Asses’ ‘MK’94’ single.
She’s the face and voice of the next generation so we stare into her grills looking for eternal youth.

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HABITS

Mohini and Maia are the synth goth angels Habits.
Aside from being a banging producer, Mohini is an extraordinary dancer, social media icon and fashion designer that will make you look twice.

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PATRICK HASE

VR mapper, 3D modeller and video editor of our ‘Down, Down’ and ‘MK’94’ film clips, and producer and one half of dirty club act Sexistential Waterfall.

 

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HOT TAKE: Alex Cameron’s ‘Forced Witness’ is good

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Alex Cameron

Junkee is a media company that exists to get clicks, sometimes they post good stuff sometimes they post shit, it’s whatever. But that article about Alex Cameron, Kirin J Callinan and Client Liason being apologist for toxic masculinity kind of seems indicative of the media’s obsession with slowly stamping out of nuance in all kinds of art.

It seems purposely obtuse for anyone to say that by representing a bad man Cameron is benefiting Australia’s problem with toxic masculinity. Firstly, from the very start it’s clear his character doesn’t have power, he’s a loser. He’s a pathetic, creepy guy, and that we can know that and still want to listen to a whole record about him is testament to Cameron’s song writing. But there’s also no Australian references at all really – from Cameron’s upward and outward trajectory you’d guess this was targeted at his new American audience – he’s lived in the states for years.

There’s no leaving your kids in the car at the RSL here, it’s all motels and superclubs and getting shat on by eagles. If you follow Cameron or his sax player Roy Molloy on facebook or twitter, yeah sure there’s plenty of Aussie as stuff, but from the record alone there’s no reason to think the character is Australian. He’s a faded vegas grifter, the kind of guy who buys nunchucks, watery eyes, too rough handshake. We’ve seen it in movies, always the character who gets killed off in a funny way. It always feel like we’re laughing at that kind of guy with Cameron, his lame faded party fantasies in ‘Hacienda’, the Vaseline-lensed portraits of twisted sheets and fucking raw. It’s like porn, funny and gross and you feel guilty for liking it but almost everyone does.

But, for sure, I won’t tell gay people how to feel about the F word. If someone hears ‘Marlon Brando’ and it makes them feel degraded, regardless of context, that fucking sucks and Cameron should have found some other way to make the character seem even viler then he already is.

I guess the main confusion in that article was that the writer obviously likes at least some of these bands, some of these songs. They call them ‘clever’, ‘well-intentioned’, even ‘jaw-dropping’. They’re constantly second guessing themselves through the whole thing. Maybe they feel weird about liking songs where a guy sings about waiting to fuck his 17 year old girlfriend until her 18th birthday. But that’s what it’s like sometimes, the world’s fucked, got a lot of fucked people in it, and sometimes artists wanna represent those characters and also make really, really good pop songs.

Cuz Forced Witness sounds slick and sexy and cool – and cheesy and bombastic and cringey, it’s all part of the world Cameron invites us into. When you rub off a bit of the grease, ‘In my dreams I miss you / and I wake up to reality’s bliss’, is a fucking romantic line. His gift is one that allows you to dance along to ‘The Chihuahua’ even if it reminds you a bit of your ex who used to always try and touch your vagina in public, and even laugh at that guy while you do it. ‘The Chihuahua’ is full of great lines ‘Chasing pussy online cuz the dog’s feeling fine and he needs it’ – hilarious, ‘love’s a diabetic sweetness, love’s a fistful of bronze jewelry’ – great stuff. There’s also that kinda dance hall feel, the fizz and swing of brass and percussion that makes this song sound light as air while the lyrics stay mucky. It’s a bummer that people think they’re not allowed to enjoy such a fun song cuz the dude says ‘pussy’ a lot in it.

Of course people like Cameron and Callinan and all the dudes in Client Liason have benefited from white male privilege. Every white man has. To put limits on the way they can comment on this privilege seems backwards and pointless. I have benefited from straight white female privilege. You’ve probably got some privilege that you benefit from. From that point we start out, then we decide what to do from there. And what Cameron’s done is a lot better than pretending to be the sad guy who never gets the girl cuz she only chases sleazebags (the kind of cliché that ‘Marlon Brando’ so perfectly skewers), or a right-on warrior for equality getting limbered up for all the dick sucking he’s about to receive.

It’s cool that somewhere with money is publishing long form music journalism with a point. But if you think about it for more than one second, there’s a lot more going on in Forced Witness than fits into this article’s opinion of what art is allowed to say. And boy, it’s GOOD.

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LABEL PROFILE: Moontown Records

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Founded by multi-disciplinary artist and musician Danny Wild in 2012, Moontown Records has become the home for a plethora of boundary-pushing artists with little regard for specific music scenes or communities. And while the origins of the label were humble to say the least, the far-reaching roster now counts artists such as 100%, Thhomas, Lalić and School Damage, among many others in its fold.

On why he decided to start the label Danny says there was no real plan or ambitions, but instead was a platform for him to introduce people to the music of outsider artist, Turtlenecjk, whose prolific output is a story in itself. The label organically perpetuated from there as a number of Danny’s friends were making music, which to him was “engaged, fresh and inspiring”.

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On the artist selection process Danny notes “there is no formula, it might be a friend sending a demo, an anonymous email, or me obsessing over someone/something I have chanced upon. I really don’t think it’s ever been the same over the 50 odd releases I have done so far. I generally steer away from any demos sent to me from a third party, whether it be an agent or manager.” He finds that the style or genre of an artist’s music is less important than their approach, choosing to work with people who are “passionate and dedicated, but not serious”.

The label has always had a strong emphasis on physical formats, mainly cassettes but more recently vinyl. When asked about this approach Danny explains it stemmed from his own fascination with collecting, starting with “skate VHS tapes then into zines, cassettes and records”. Aside from that he also prefers the texture and sound of these medium and that he “never really saw a digital release as ‘real’”. His thoughts on this are however changing with the current state of “hyper consumption and waste”. As any music fan still drawn to the tactile beauty of a physical release will attest, there is something gratifying and ultimately more rewarding about a tangible object. A feeling which only affects a certain type of person. And as the way in which people consume music continues to evolve, Danny’s view is somewhat romantic reflecting “I am a nostalgic person…Musicians agonise over their music and by the time it comes to release day it might be a year or more old, people then consume it in a flash and are done with it. At least with physical media it exists in the world, a chance encounter could happen at a record store or elsewhere – and that is exciting to me. Mystery is exciting!”

With 2 releases already under his belt for 2017 – a 12” by Brisbane post-punk trio, Bent, and a tape of electronic and ambient experiments from Perth’s Leafy Suburbs – Danny is planning on 2 more 12” releases before the end of the year. He doesn’t want to give too much away on the releases but says its “very exciting and influential music”.

So stay tuned for more intriguing music from this great label and in the meantime navigate your way through the wealth of amazing material in the existing catalogue.

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