New Music

LISTEN: Scraps – ‘TTNIK’ LP

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Isn’t it cool when someone who you really love from their mad funny Facebook presence and their anxiously magnetic live shows releases something that’s more than the sum of all those adjectives? I love Scraps (Laura Hill, from Brisbane) cause she’s been making synth pop music in Brisbane since way back when everyone else was still doing the Ty Segall thing. TTNIK (uh, said ‘Titanic’ obviously), Scraps’ third LP, is a fun record that’s brave enough to be kind of naïve and guileless in parts – you’d have to be real committed to your unimpressed vibe not to wanna move around to songs like the whispery and scattered ‘Touch Blue’ or sleek new-wavy ‘She Devil’.

It’s also got those slowed down interludes and random talking parts that mean they could put it under the ‘weird’ tag on Bandcamp. I get it – even though it seems kind of lazy to call songs like ‘Relate to You’ weird or unsettling: anything with out-of-sync piano will always sound like it’s straight of a ‘hysterical woman spirals into madness’ movie. But there’s still something about the rave-y drum machine over the spacey vocals singing ‘You feel so good in my mind / I wanna relate to you’, trying to reach out to the listener through the effects, that creates kind of a desperate and dangerous mood.

‘Harlequin’ is the necessary counterpoint to ‘Dreams’, the LP’s hopelessly romantic opening track where everything’s a little too good to be true. Here the vocals are buried; the drums plod forward. Nothing’s effortless anymore and the sad beauty of her voice sometimes strains and cracks with feeling. It’s probably my favourite track on the record.

There’s a great focus to TTNIK – there’s heaps of stuff going on here, but it flows smoothly and moving from one beat to the next is never jarring. That might be ‘cause Hill recorded and produced it herself – this is what happens when an artist gets to represent their own vision from start to finish. It just works.

TTNIK is out on Moontown (that Canberra label that seems to love snaking Brisbane’s most interesting releases) right now. If you’re lucky enough to also live in the New World City, Scraps is playing on Friday at The Haunt with our favourite Tasmanians Treehouse, and well as Brisbane big dogs Per Purpose, Brainbeau and Amaringo.

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Lucy Roleff

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

There is a timeless quality to the music of Lucy Roleff. Relishing the time-honoured tropes of contemporary folk music, Lucy’s music wouldn’t sound out of place if it had been released at any time over the past 60 years.

Her delicate melodies sit atop elegantly restrained accompaniment, allowing the songs to carve their own path, like water gradually eroding jagged rock into polished smooth surfaces.

Following her acclaimed 2013 EP, Longbows, Lucy’s debut full-length, This Paradise, is set for release on July 15th via Lost and Lonesome. Recorded with Tony Dupé at his home studio in South Gippsland, the album is a gorgeous, intimate affair, a record of understated beauty with universal appeal.

 

Considering the aforementioned timelessness of Lucy’s music it seems fitting that the theme for her Virtual Mixtape is ‘Five favourite female voices from the past five decades’, giving us some insight into the varied influences both past and present.

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Sally Oldfield – ‘Answering You’ (1979)

I’m a sucker for a 1970s folk compilation and so I had heard a couple of Sally Oldfield’s songs here and there but hadn’t thought to look further into her work. At work, my boss had one of her albums on a playlist and I was immediately drawn to her beautiful and interesting melodies. Sometimes I feel like her songs are about to topple into the terrain of Schlager music (which I have a wary relationship with from childhood) but for the most part, I think her song writing is brilliant and her singing so pure.

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Saâda Bonaire – ‘Invitation’ (1984)

Stefanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld are the voices of Saâda Bonaire but the story behind the duo is kind of complicated as apparently the act was the brainchild of some German DJ guy, despite them being sold more as a duo. Anyway, I think this song is so sexy and icy cool. Kind of like Nico with a bit more pizzazz.

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Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) – ‘I Wear Your Ring’ (1990)

A few ladies have been compared to Elizabeth Fraser over the past few years (actually I think I even got the comparison for my stuff with Magic Hands) but I don’t think anyone can touch her. She manages to pull off unusual and striking melodies without sounding like she was trying to be clever. Effortless and elegant. When I first heard this song, I played it on repeat over and over and wanted to find a way to cover it but wasn’t sure how to best go about it – I think, with much of her work, the magic is in the interplay of the vocals.

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Oumou Sangare – ‘Wele Wele Wintou’ (2009)

I just love this music video. There’s so much going on. Oumou Sangare is a very inspiring Malian musician – An accomplished singer, she is also apparently something of an entrepreneur and advocate for women’s rights. The political issues in Mali have come to prominent attention in the west with documentaries such as “They Will Have to Kill Us First” which I highly recommend to everyone. The fighting power and spirit of these musicians who have been threatened and exiled from their homes is incredible to witness.

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Allysen Callery – ‘It’s Not the Ocean’ (2016)

I have followed Allysen’s career for some time now and was very excited to hear her new album “The Song the Songbird Sings.” It certainly did not disappoint. The first song on the album “It’s Not the Ocean” is probably my favourite of her songs. She has a great knack for describing small, domestic moments and I love the line in this song “we’re out of sugar, I’m not shopping anymore.” Beautiful music and to top it all off, she’s a lovely person!

This Paradise is due out on July 15th via Lost and Lonesome. Lucy launches the album on 28 July at the Gasometer in Melbourne.

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LISTEN: Carbon + – ‘Reaction’

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At Bigsound last year I used the term ‘coldwave’ in front of a Melbourne music writer and he told me we’re ‘not saying that any more’, so I immediately stripped it from my vocabulary. But, passé-ness aside, I think it was a silly term anyway, cause a lot of the stuff that gets called cold and dark and moody is actually fun post-punk hiding behind some standoffish press shots and vaguely goth cover designs.

Like, I’m having a great time listening to this track, the first single from Canberra two-piece Carbon +’s debut cassette. Listen to that sharp plinky synth, that jaunty shoulder-bobbing bass, those anthemic vocals very concerned about nothing in particular. I’m gonna be singing ‘man copies man / man buries man’ in my head all day.

Though, ok, the rest of the record is pretty dark and more blatantly post punk. It gets ah, colder, as it goes on – sounding maybe a little too familiar to fans of the slew of HTRK inspired Melbourne and Brisbane bands to retain the excitement of the first single. On ‘A New Grey Area’ the guitars start to swamp everything else and become the most important part, foggy and immersive, but after that the minimalism comes back and stays.

Also, after ‘Reaction’  the vocals change markedly to become all sultry and earnest. it’s not bad, just a little unexpected. While nothing else really grabbed and held me as hard as that first track, the three atmospheric instrumental tracks that close out the record are compelling for their oddness as well as their sombre kind of beauty – why just decide, at the end, to give up all pretence of a pop record? But then, why not?  Carbon + is definitely worth a listen, and marks another interesting partnership for Dream Damage – a label that’s proved its considered, bankable taste again and again.

You can buy the cassette right here, right now.

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Listen: Steven Wright – ‘Exposure’

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Steven Wright

Let us consider Steven Wright’s new single ‘Exposure’, from the forthcoming album Repetition, through the above photograph. In the photo Steven Wright stands on a makeshift soapbox, looking forlorn, stripped and self-degraded with the limited movement of only being able to leap or remain stationary as his ankles stand drawn together by rope. His disastrousness and bare-all demeanour, depending how well it’s pulled off, looks like a great show. While every powerful performer is their own kind of vaudeville act, Wright’s stance is exactly how I’d imagine someone singing ‘Exposure’ would look. Wright appears as if he’s going to go for it all, or he’s going to walk away saying ‘fuck it all’. He looks like someone who both wants to perform and is tired of performing. Or more precisely he looks caught in the act of performing, which itself necessitates Wright’s own self-awareness in performance.

To be riddled with this kind of self-awareness is both a devastating self-consciousness and yet also strangely comforting in its truth. The frozen moment looks like a slip between an artist performing on stage and a man unwittingly caught out – it has both an ironic detachment and a complete sincerity. It’s akin to watching someone know the impossibility of being truly sincere, knowing that the stage is resolutely performance and yet instead of indulging in the irony of the moment, over-performing by sincerely acknowledging the theatre of everything.

Exposure is either a great bravery or a deep shame and for Wright exposure seems to linger on emotion, or lack thereof, as it begins with an “openness to any present feeling”, as Wright pushes through the spectrums of either over-feeling or under-feeling but never really, you know, feeling. Yet of course talking about the hardships of feeling and not-feeling is itself a feeling-inducing sentiment and, as Wright tells us, “in that volatility, vitality is found”. The dark dreamy piano and synth music works by affect and I see you’re like “yeah duh most music works by affect/emotion/tears” except ‘Exposure’ isn’t some simple one-way emotional appeal to make you feel melancholy or anxious but instead toys with structured melodies to retain a sense of hope alongside the gloom. Perhaps this sounds mighty cliche, we might even look upon the above image as cliche, but the strength of the vulnerability and honesty in Wright’s music and words demands that his work must be taken sincerely and seriously. ’Exposure’ reads like a person in control of their own song, but not their own life. It has depth, awareness and a sick humour – which is all I ever really ask of a song (or art).

Despite all my above pomposity there are various practicalities that images and sounds aren’t going to tell you. One of these things is that Steven Wright is from Hobart. That’s he’s been involved with Bi-Hour, Wasted Idol and Bad Cabin. That he’s release an LP of noise music under Polanyi.  That Repetition is Wright’s second solo album and will be released by Virtual Cool on August 15 (a tentative date) and you can get ya preorders now. That Wright will be playing select shows through Europe in August.

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LISTEN: Woodboot – ‘Black Piss’

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Sometimes, misguided people from other places ask me to recommend them some bands from Brisbane. Usually I like, mutter something about Bent or 100%, Scraps or Police Force or FOREVR. Or, if I’m a certain kind of fucked, I might just start screaming WOODBOOT WOODBOOT WOODBOOT. Cause they rule.

It seems silly to write about Woodboot, cause it’s the kind of thing that you either like/get or you don’t. At all. But I think more people should have a listen to find out which way they fall, so.

It’s hectic dumb punk music and not in a too-clever tongue-in-cheek let’s-subvert-genre expectations way. It’s absolutely overt and genuine cuz this is a band that knows heaps about the toughest, bluntest, loudest music and have put all the best stuff into their songs and pulled it off with exactly the right bad attitude.

‘Black Piss’ defines Woodboot in one line; ‘I hope you die / and never have money’. Daniel Dunn’s words are slurred – like he’s so mad he can’t get it out totally coherently. Drummer Donovan Miller also recorded the song, hightening the visceral trash feeling by making everything full-force to the point of distortion (the secret weapon, he says, is not giving a fuck). The bass does everything you want: goes real fast. Top that off with a couple of jagged unwieldy guitar solos and you got something really mad. At least, I reckon.

Go see Woodboot live if you ever get the opportunity. ‘Black Piss’ is the A Side of an upcoming single out on Florida’s Total Punk Records.

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LABEL PROFILE: Spirit Level

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New Australian label Spirit Level is the brainchild of electronic producer/Double J radio presenter Tim Shiel, and Wally de Backer of Gotye fame. Originally formed to provide a local Australian release for U.S. outfit Zammuto, who had supported Gotye on some of their U.S. tour dates, the label was then shelved for a period whilst Tim and Wally were busy with other projects.

Fast forward to 2016 and the duo have resurrected the label to provide a platform for unique, compelling artists to be heard. When asked about the decision to revive the label Shiel states that “Part of the impetus for re-launching the label was having this realisation that I am surrounded in my day-to-day life by some pretty amazing creative people, and that we all have the will and the desire to collaborate and support each other – but sometimes you need someone to sort of plant a flag and say, ‘hey – this is a thing now. We’re a family now.'”

In addition to releasing music the label is committed to helping the development of their artists, assisting with any and all facets of the industry from song writing, mixing, artwork, promotion, contracts, booking shows etc. In Shiel’s words “I think we’ll just do whatever we need to do to help out…That’s the job of a label now I think, it goes way beyond just releasing music.” Throughout his own music career Shiel says he’s “really had to learn all of that stuff, piece it all together bit by bit on my own. Now hopefully I’m in a place where I can give some of that back, and through the label just do whatever is required to fill in the gaps. Even if it’s just being a bit of a cheerleader”.

The label’s first official signing is Melbourne artist Jordan White, aka Braille Face. Stumbling across his music on SoundCloud Shiel reached out to White and the two quickly became friends. This eventually led to the release of Braille Face’s debut single ‘Glow; an emotionally resonant slice of electronica not too dissimilar to fellow Melbournites I’lls. Simon Lam, the vocalist from I’lls, coincidentally mastered the follow-up single, ‘Backwards/Medicated’. Offering up a similar mood to ‘Glow’, this latest single builds from a wavering synth line atop a propulsive percussive loop, gradually unfolding and momentarily allowing White’s vocals to soar in beautifully restrained flashes, giving us a glimpse of what the Braille Face project still has up its sleeve.

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What’s next in store for Spirit Level? Firstly, the debut album from Braille Face, due for release later this year, then we can expect new music from the label’s latest signing, Melbourne duo Telling, one of Shiel’s own projects along with singer-songwriter Ben Abraham. And as for the future direction of the label, Shiel notes “We’ll go wherever feels right….I don’t particularly care what kind of music it is as long as I think it’s really great and creative, and that it moves me. And that I can imagine it moving other people.”

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LISTEN: Lucy Roleff – ‘Every Time’

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lucy roleff

Lucy Roleff’s upcoming album, This Paradise, is a little ways off of its 15 July release date, but to distill the wait, Roleff now presents the second single, ‘Every Time’ – a perfect compliment to the soft plucking of previous single, ‘Aspen’.

Composed a few years back in Berlin on some banged-up dollar-store guitar, ‘Every Time’ is rich, slow and sombre. Apparently written about a lover who is an expert in making their absence felt, ‘Every Time’ has Roleff’s admitting that this person has an emotional resonance in her life that isn’t always convenient.

It reminds me of the intimate nylon guitar performances of Jessica Pratt; similar to the ethereal yet emotionally honest cuts from Pratt’s 2015 album, On Your Own Love Again. Roleff’s voice is whispered but strong, woodwinds playing soft melodies behind her wavering vocals.

Considering both ‘Aspen’ and ‘Every Time’, the paradise alluded to by Roleff’s album title could either be a paradise that exists only on reflection or one in which she currently resides: the beauty of solitude in Berlin or the beauty of the countryside in South Gippsland. Either way, This Paradise is shaping up to be one of 2016’s most stark but beautiful records.

This Paradise is out on Lost & Lonesome on 15 July. Get down to the launch show at The Gasometer Hotel on July 28th.

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