New Music

INTRODUCING: No Local

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Image by Greg Holland Photography

Liam ‘Snowy’ Halliwell isn’t a content man. You see it his songwriting, and the fact that his main band camp page looks like this. He reminds me of the classic fervent artist – constantly immersing himself in creative process, creation and destruction, rarely rising up to the surface to breathe in and take stock, always sorting through his ideas as quickly as possible.

The focused movements of his best-known work with The Ocean Party are probably the result of having to work to the combined schedule of five other dudes, but in his new project, No Local, Snowy is purely himself.

His debut release under that name is Nolo Contendere, named after a kind of plea bargain where the defendant admits neither innocence nor guilt. If you’re familiar with Snowy’s preference for darker self-reflection, these themes will come as no surprise.

Here Snowy’s exposed, no longer hidden behind a guitar or nestled in with others’ sounds. Last time I saw No Local perform was at STRINE WHINE’s August residency at Melbourne’s Gasometer. In that performance Snowy approached a pop-star iconography, his all-black outfit bookended by his mess of blonde hair on top and white Converse All-Stars on the bottom.

Zach Denton, also of The Ocean Party (and other groups, like Pregnancy and Cool Sounds) backs him up on drums, so Snowy’s not totally on his lonesome. In a conversation we had the other day about the project, Snowy told me that he was looking at No Local as a collection of shifting parts, different players coming in and out, bolstering and subtracting as they come and go. He likened it to operating Sui Zhen’s live outfit.

Nolo Contendere is scattershot in its sounds but unified in its intent. Speaking on that lack of cohesion, Snowy harkens back to Aphex Twin’s 2001 release Drukqs, a double LP that flits between classical composition and razor’s-edge electronic production. To him, as much as that record is sonically unpredictable, as an Aphex Twin project it all makes sense.

Nolo Contendere contains two songs that’ll eventually make their way onto No Local’s debut album later this year – the already released ‘Thinking the Wrong Things’ and ‘Somebody Else’ – but it’s the deep cuts on the tape that are the true gems. ‘Do What I Said’ could almost be summer anthem, if it weren’t for Snowy’s hushed vocal delivery. ‘I.W.B.W.U.’ is a contorted chop up of Flowertruck’s ‘I Wanna Be With You’, showcasing deft vocal sampling.

Skating the edges of indie pop, house, funk, and dance music, Nolo Contendere sounds unique. Snowy coming out from the conventional (but still wonderful) world of guitar pop is something to behold.

No Local are about to go on a wee tour in support of the Nolo Contendere release. You can catch them on these dates:

22 September – The Phoenix, Canberra, w/ Sachet, Dog Name, Territory

24 September – The Fitzroy Pinnacle, Melbourne, w/ The Finks, Frances Fox + Yours & Mine Zine Launch

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LISTEN: Akioka – ‘Right Here’

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akioka

Akioka is the solo project of Tess Darcey, a key member of Perth’s small but extremely industrious experimental electronic scene. She plays in both Mei Saraswati and Phil Stroud‘s live bands, and shares with those artists a taste for light-handed, organic compositions blending soul, dub and new age influences.

Her latest release, a two-song cassette called Right Here, is out this Friday on Pouring Dream, a bedroom-size label responsible for ambient pop releases by local artists Spirit Level, Leaving, Bahasa Malay and more.

The title track is a gentle, minimalist drone built around Darcey’s vocal loops, which flutter and tumble over a bed of sparse keys and thumb piano. Listening to it is almost a somatic experience – like lying in a shallow stream with sunlight and clear water running over your body, the sounds of birds, insects and rapids mixing in your ears.

Preorder Right Here on cassette and digital via Bandcamp. Each tape comes with a risographed cover and artwork by by Dolphin Secrets. West coasters can also catch the tape launch, presented by Pouring Dream and Semi-Decent, at Highgate Continental on 24 September.

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LISTEN: Redspencer – Fuss

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redspencer

Redspencer are a chill band. Their new one, ‘Fuss’, is a chill song. Makes sense to me.

The band seemed to be on the back-burner for a little while, a time when members Aiden and Dave McMillan threw their efforts into Jesse McCormack’s Tourist Dollars EP, a severely under-appreciated release from earlier this year. Coal’s back in the furnace now though, and the engine purrs once more. It’s the kind of jangly, driven-but-not-too-quick kind of guitar pop that you’d recognise from their self-titled 2015 EP.

“It doesn’t matter too much / what they say about you / you’re flying up and above / over the fuss” sings frontman Dave McMillan. Absolutely dude, right fuckin’ on.

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LISTEN: Pleasure Symbols – ‘Pleasure Symbols’ EP

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Brisbane two-piece Pleasure Symbols (Phoebe Paradise and Jasmine Dunn) have around for a few years, and despite being one of the most exciting bands in Brisbane the entire time have only just released their first EP. And if you told me they’d spent the entire time working on these four beautiful songs day and night I’d almost believe you. This is extremely sophisticated, darkly gorgeous music.

’80s Australian post-punk meets modern electronic pop structures and hooks, but with that goth-ish edge that makes people label this stuff ‘cold’, even though it’s actually as rich and golden as anything you’ll hear this year.

Yet it’s still gotta be called bleak – maybe cause of the suburban hell landscapes of the incredible video for ‘Underneath Your Skin’. But removed from these images the track – still intense and kinda scary, has a slinky, almost groovy feeling.

Pleasure Symbols don’t rely on forced minimalism and empty space to create a cool vibe – they do it with confidence and smart layering. There’s a lot going on here; the songs are heavy with feeling, desire, spite, delicate pain and anxiety, self-destruction – built subtly in Paradise’s voice. There’s not need for theatrics, the drama is there if you care to listen. Like on last song ‘Control’, a master class in understated slow-build sexiness.

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Hopefully signing to new Brisbane label Death Valley Records means we might hear more from Pleasure Symbols before the end of the 2010s – but if not, we at least have to thank them for releasing what is probably the best EP of the year.

You can buy the record online HERE. Though if you’re in Brisbane I reckon take the train out to Morningside and pick up a copy (and a beer) from Death Valley Bar, cause it’s a cool pace and this is as good an excuse as any to check it out (also the postage is a bit spenny for locals).

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LISTEN: Hi-Tec Emotions – ‘Look Around’

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On new track ‘Look Around’, Hi-Tec Emotions are manic, un-subtle, and the most lovable form of tacky. On the music video you can check them grooving around under adornments of dollar bin Spotlight fabrics and fake flower petals. ‘Look Around’ is short and sweet: the only way is up, and Hi-Tec Emotions never really bother to slow down. Even vocalist Ema Dunstan has to catch her breath and take a sigh of relief at the end.

The whole thing is doused in this echoey production that makes it sound like you just ducked out of a gig for a cigarette, the band still freaking out just inside the doors. The bass and organ/synth leads are completely blown out of proportion, huge lumbering beasts grinding against your ears.

It’s also another great one from LISTEN Records, the fuckin’ awesome audio side of the broader LISTEN Collective. Recently they’ve been moving from strength to strength, giving exposure to the amazing music coming out of Australia’s various LGBTQIA+ communities. You’re probably also going to want to check out the shit hot roster for the upcoming ‘Feminist Futures’ LISTEN Conference.

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LISTEN: Heart Beach – ‘Brittle’

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Heart Beach

Look, I could probably just post this song with ‘Heart Beach continue to rule’ and leave it at that. If you know the Tasmanian three-piece you know they make impenetrably solid, understatedly powerful indie rock.

New single ‘Brittle’ continues the trends of much of their debut self-titled record from last year: two guitars playing the same great riff, two low-key and likeable voices working together to drive the kinda nostalgic kinda hopeful lyrics forward. A steady beat, a terrific bass hook. Maybe that sounds like formula but it’s more like direction – Heart Beach make confident music. They know what they wanna say and they say it well every time.

The emotional ‘brittleness’ of this song comes from in the tension of trying to hold it together, to look like you’re fine on the outside while inside shit couldn’t be more wrong. The measured vocals come out like a speech rehearsed in the mirror. There’s a lot going on under the surface of those fuzzy guitars, the drums constant, spare and flat. I’ll rehash the Pixies comparison cause it’s there, but without the over-seriousness that usually plagues those who try to go for the serious Pixies vibe too hard.

The more poppy elements help to offset the cruelty of the phrase ‘I can’t believe that he got over you’, so it takes a few repetitions for it to really sink in. Then by the time it does the song is just about over, and you have to play it again. And again.

 

Heart Beach have just been signed to Spunk Records, and their next record Kiss Your Face will be out later in the year.

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INTRODUCING: Golden Syrup

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Golden Syrup

Golden Syrup is the new experimental pop act from songwriter and sound artist Sara Retallick. You might recognise her sweet-toned pipes from Melbourne band Jimmy Tait, whose 2013 AMP-nominated record Golden was a favourite here at WTH.

On debut track ‘Didn’t Go Home’, Retallick takes a sharp turn from her former indie rock project. Woven out of samples, field recordings and tape manipulations, the new material is spare, sinister and oddly ritualistic. Droning bass notes and a work-gang rhythm underpin Retallick’s incantatory vocals, while shards of noise and disembodied laughter unsettle the track’s placid surface.

‘I went to your birthday party/and I didn’t go home again,’ she sings, darkly. Seldom has a song about hooking up sounded quite so creepy.

Golden Syrup’s single launch party is this Friday at the Gasometer. Moon Rituals, Time for Dreams and Superstar side project Various Asses will be supporting, plus Laura Jean will pop in for a DJ set. RSVP on Facebook.

Golden Syrup Gasometer

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