New Music

LISTEN: Slumber – Body Crush EP

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slumber

‘Body Crush is Tasmanian solo artist Slumber’s first release; a collection of 2 years’ worth of work, made up of snippets, found sounds, and drowsily beautiful vocals from Tasmania’s Amber Perez. Perez also plays guitar in ferocious Hobart pop punk band Slag Queens, but with Slumber she’s turned her attention inward, making, in her words ‘dank sadgirl bops’ (and you’ll find no better description).

This EP came to me kind of like a balm against that constant low-level anxiety that we’re all getting, if not used to, bored of. Do you ever feel like there’s so much fucken blah blah everybody talking constantly out there that you struggle to even listen to music with lyrics in it? You’re like, oh god, please shut the fuck up? I do. But this EP is like restorative good company, like an afternoon spritz, like a friend who’s just as happy to spend the afternoon watching Seinfeld as talking deep stuff.

Dealing abstractly with ideas of romance with the self and others, the takeaway from these songs seems to be a kind of inner peace that comes from looking back at the past with a kind of forgiveness. With the inevitable backslide into wistful regret in ‘let u go’, a pretty highlight that brings glitches, birdsong and mumbled vocals together for a deep wallowing sigh. It’s the quiet acceptance in lines like ‘we are both the seas that we drown in / we are both our only way out’ that makes this EP more than breezy listening bleep bloops and more like a real document of progress and growth.

‘sick dank track #5’ is just what it says… kinda. An optimistic dance song to bring on the dawn ‘I’m getting better at being good to myself / I think I’m almost ready to let things work out’, Perez sings with a half-smile, multi-tracked vocals bringing the sense of euphoria to the only song I wanna hear if I ever go to the club again.

Listen to, or even buy (!) Body Crush on Bandcamp.

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WATCH: Victory Lap – ‘I knew that I’d regret it but I did it anyway’

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victory lap

Here we are in 2019, but before we can fully embrace the new year in all good conscience, we must first look back at this little gem from late last year, that somehow slipped under our radars.

Alex Badham has been a staple of the Melbourne music scene for a number of years, as the banjo-wielding frontman of freak popsters Aleks and the Ramps, and more recently as one half of sultry dream-pop duo Magic Hands, with the ever-talented Lucy Roleff.

Alex returns under his new solo guise, Victory Lap, a project that finds him further honing his pop tendencies into perfectly formed nuggets of lo-fi indie goodness. Following on from lead single ‘The Afterlife’, the new single ‘I knew that I’d regret it but I did it anyway’ has a similarly playful feel with its slinky bass line and infectious groove providing the counterpoint to Badham’s endearing deadpan vocal delivery.

At first glance, the cleverly edited clip could pass for some corporate video cliché, stitching together an innocuous collection of stock video footage…that is, until the digital ghosts start to creep in. There is something unnerving about the seemingly random jumble of footage. A feeling further heightened by the subtle warping of the images, leaving you questioning what it is you’re actually watching. And just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, the song collapses into a psychedelic guitar breakdown as the ghosts take control and the video boils over in a melting overload of digital disruption.

If the first two singles are anything to go by, Victory Lap’s forthcoming album, Bleakend at Blernie’s is one to keep an eye out for in 2019.

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LISTEN: Shrimpwitch – Gave Me The Itch LP

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Shrimpwitch

Shrimpwitch are the kind of band I wish I’d found when I was a teen – maybe it wouldn’t have taken me till I was 25 to start playing music. Cuz I don’t remember seeing girls be weird and funny like this, you know, not singing beautifully from behind the piano. These are the kind of heroes we need – ones fighting for a girl’s right to be messy and gross.

Their sound is extremely classic – rock and roll like the ’80s American bands who toured non-stop for twenty years; crusty, street smart, been-there-done-that-fucked-it-off. Surf rock guitar that went for a rollaround in the gutter. But with a thoroughly modern sense of humour, and outrage.

‘Leerers’ is a statement of personal fury that’s relatable to plenty of women, without preaching to the choir. ‘Mystique’ captures the specific kind of madness that comes from trying to maintain a cool and mysterious persona to keep ‘em all interested when you’re actually a leaking sack of blood and tears. They’ve also got that hip ‘trashbag, but make it fashion’ aesthetic, as shown in the very fun clip for ‘Digestion’.

Usually I prefer my rock and roll under two minutes, and songs like ‘Trouble’ and ‘Leerers’ deliver on the FUCK YEAH WE’RE PLAYING AS FAST AS WE CAN energy. But longer songs ‘Sever’ and ‘Digestion’ show enough of their more structured song writing skills to make it worth it. I like the messy, live-ish sound of the record in general, but sometimes I wish I could hear the vocals better, only cuz the lyrics that you do pick up are so good.

Considering how much energy and fun they’ve managed to pack into these ten songs, I can only imagine Shrimpwitch absolutely go off live. If you’re in Melbourne they’re playing a launch on January 19. But to paraphrase one hundred Shakira video commenters: COME TO HOBART.

You can buy the tape or digital album for yourself and any young girls you know right now here  

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WATCH: All the Weathers – ‘Jobs for Dogs’

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All The Weathers

I’m such a dumbshit it took moving to Tasmania for me to discover what, apparently, all my friends already knew and were keeping from me as some kind of sick joke: All The Weathers are one of the most exciting bands in Australia. It’s true, before this year I had absolutely no idea that just one band could be fun, arty, weird, funny, catchy, smart, brutal and beautiful all at once. Must be that mountain air.

It’s been a while since the band have released anything, but a few days ago we finally got a taste of their third record, called For the Worms’, out on January 21st. This first track  ‘Jobs for Dogs’ does the quiet-loud things with a frantic hysterical energy, dirty growling guitars and a video that combines a serious comment about animal exploitation with dressing up in broken wetsuits, dog masks and op-shop suits. There’s a lot going. You notice some new funny detail on every re-watch. Georgia Lucy’s voice is so good it wouldn’t really matter if she wasn’t that charismatic, but whether it’s on stage or on video (in this one she embodies a theatrical, mistreated greyhound or a villainous race-goer) she’s endlessly watchable.

The whole things brims with personality, charm, force and passion. It’s a breath of fresh air, especially for those times when it starts to feel like there’s not enough weird stuff happening in Australian music, when it’s all getting a bit too cool. Oh god I’m starting to sound like those Triple J dads asking why no one makes music like TISM anymore. Ignore/kill me.

All the Weathers are a band who write great songs which lets them be as wacky as they like and you always want to see where it’s gonna go. Hopefully the record brings a tour cuz their live shows are anything and everything but boring. Lucy, and bandmates Callumn Cusick and Gigi Lynn are all hectic multi-instrumentalists and make kind of a mix between the tightest band you’ve ever seen and wonderful chaos.

A second video, ‘Fast Lane’ was released on the same day but I didn’t find out about that until I’d finished writing this post. Ah-whoops.

Pre-order ‘For the Worms’  from good Tasmania record label Rough Skies here

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LISTEN: Sebastian Field – Unravel

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unravel

Canberra artist Sebastian Field shares the first glimpse of his forthcoming debut album with a lush take on the Bjork classic, ‘Unravel’.

Field’s spectral vocals and atmospheric guitar textures push the stripped-back earnestness of the original into an otherworldly realm. A realm hinted at in Field’s former band, Cracked Actor, whose occasional ventures into ambient territory can be heard on tracks such as ‘Ventilation’ (from the Upstructures EP) and ‘MYV/Light Year’ (from their criminally underrated 2015 full-length, Iconoclast).
This is fully embraced on ‘Unravel’, allowing it to disconnect from the original, adrift in its own constellation.

‘Unravel’ was recently included on Feral Media’s Covers Vol. 1, an EP of interpretations from artists including Bilby, Lucy Roleff, Reuben Ingall, and Aphir. The latter, a friend of Field who contributes a remix here adding beats and electronic flourishes resulting in an upbeat, almost danceable affair. Closing out the single is a propulsive remix from fellow Canberran Shoeb Ahmad, who introduces noisy blasts and choppy guitar parts which are the antithesis of the source material. If Field’s version is a celestial body in orbit, Ahmad’s is its explosive and fiery demise.

‘Unravel’ will appear on Picture Stone, Field’s ArtsACT funded solo album which explores the intermarriage between sound and space by capturing the reverberant qualities of various locations around Canberra.
Field will be launching the single in his hometown on December 1st at Smiths Alternative alongside Fossil Rabbit. Check out the full event details here, and lose yourself in the single via the player below.

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LISTEN: Bitumen – Discipline Reaction LP

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bitumen

Like every inner city nerd who couldn’t find a warehouse party with an event invite and maps, I love industrial music. Like every weepy romantic who stopped being cute ‘n’ tortured a long time ago, I love post punk. And, like every right-thinking person, I love metal. This deadly tough and dramatic record from Melbourne’s Bitumen is the best part of all three.

The album opens with the dance track, ‘Lash’, and there’s some beats here and there across the whole thing you could make a party out of if you were really committed. But at its heart this record is sinister. They play with the goth, old-timey references in the titles ‘Sicker Dowry’, ‘Pound of Flesh’, and keeping these songs out of a modern context is important. It wouldn’t work at all if these songs were about Tinder and Newstart and missing the bus. I think we’re maybe a bit sick of that anyway. I know I don’t want to hear about my own life in a song any more. Yuck. Give me darkness and depravity, power, violence, dangerous seduction. Not more constant niggling anxiety.

A lot of guitar bands are using drum machines now – it makes sense, give the people something different, don’t have to worry about a kit, hey, you’re playing clubs now. But it’s for this kind of music that drum machines were invented. Cold, precise, robotic, not a hint of swing or groove. The bass is tech without being distracting, guitars tense, tight and massive.

First single ‘Twice Shy’ comes with an unsurprisingly dark and moody film clip, it’s a good punchy single, but doesn’t quite do justice to some of the complexity of the rest of the record. But that is honestly some nitpicky shit. I’m trying to avoid slavish enthusiasm. It’s not working.

‘Pound of Flesh’ is my favourite song because it is drone and desire and it is absolutely huge. Until like a minute from the end it builds, guitars groan and rattle and shake the foundations. Kate Binning whispers ‘I’ve been watching from a distance I’ve been waiting for a signal…’. Then it opens up with her frenzied spat vocal. ‘Pound of Flesh’ and ‘At Bended Knee’ are both revenge horror movies, menacing anthems for the wronged; ‘I’m not quite who I used to be’ ‘I take back what you took from me’.

I think the secret to Binning’s power is how absolutely in control she sounds through the record. Plenty of vocalists could get lost in the sea of riffs and synth hysterics, but the vocals always do them one better, sounding a bit sicker, a bit darker, a bit more crazed. No monotone drone under reverb (well except in the obligatory atmospheric track ‘Wriggling Signal II’, but who doesn’t like a bit of atmosphere) the vocal melodies hit just as hard as anything else. Cardinalidae is the stadium track in an album full of stadium tracks.

This record, to me, is so extremely Melbourne, but without the bad parts. It’s that self-confidence, style, cool, with just enough edge, but it doesn’t try too hard at any of it. It’s dead serious, without crossing that thin sneaky grey line into being silly. Which is hard. Most bands wouldn’t even try, let alone pull it off this well.

Buy this good record from the good label Vacant Valley

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LISTEN: Yon Yonson – Fermented Fruit

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fermented fruit

The Yonnies return with their new EP, Fermented Fruit, the follow up to the excellent Yes No Sorry from last year and the surprise 2-tracker, ‘Ten Four/Dolphin’.

The trio’s unique brand of indietronica is as strong as ever, full of sardonic wit and subtle hooks that sneak into your subconscious only to reveal themselves when you unknowingly sing them to yourself in the shower, in the line at the post office (if this is in fact still a viable pursuit), or other such times when your mind is left to wander.

Opener, ‘Noise’, kicks up with some cosmic synth noodling before sliding into a typically bent pop number, the kind we’ve come to expect from the group. This is followed by the single, ‘Cardboard’, a song which relishes the schmaltz taking musical clichés from another time and turning them on their head within a clever indie pop framework. Lyrically, Andrew Kuo is at his candid best with his humorous and poignant commentary on the idiosyncrasies of the human condition.

‘Chinese Whispers’ explores the group’s love of hip hop, a fondness which has borne fruit in the past through collaborations with rap upstart and Yes Rave label head, Simo Soo as well as the surprise guest spot from former Das Racist member Kool A.D. on last year’s ‘Dolphin’.

The EP closes with the psychedelic ‘When I’m Freaking Out’, a song that harks back to older Yon Yonson material, albeit in a more restrained and ultimately successful way. A good example of how the group has matured even in their fairly limited time together.

Fermented Fruit is another notch on the metaphorical belt of this talented crew. Now off to the post office.

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