New Music

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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LISTEN: Friendships – ‘Nullarbor 1988-1989’ LP

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Melbourne based audio/visual duo friendships return with their new album Nullarbor 1988-1989, a tribute to the arid stretch of land that separated the duo in their respective home towns of Jerramungup and Footscray.

This is a truly original work that the duo admits may not appeal to all fans, but as they have stated “it’s exactly what we wanted to create and is exactly what we want to say.”
Gone are the playful, feel good vibes, replaced with pummelling rhythms and sinister, rolling bass lines. This is not dance floor elation. This is dance floor decimation

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The album wastes no time in making its intentions known. Opener ‘Big Farm in the Sky’ slowly unfurls with an ascending amen break and simmering synth arpeggios which give the track an air of euphoria. But from then on it’s straight down to business, and things don’t let up until the album’s death knell. This comes via the film score sparseness of album closer ‘Keep Smiling At Me Like That And You’ll Be Picking Your Teeth Up Out Of The Gutter’, with its pensive piano chords set against mechanical noises recalling petrol monsters roaring down the highway, or the cold, indifferent steel of the abattoir killing floor.

And whilst the musical cues come from around the globe the album is undeniably Australian. Whether it’s the thematic elements explored by the duo, the accompanying imagery, or the spoken word passages and their unsettling evocation of violence and menace; this is an unflinching ode to this harsh, at times nightmarish land.

Watch the stunning video for ‘The Roof’ below and grab the full album here.

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WATCH: Dag – ‘Staying Up at Night’

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Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Photo by Helena Papageorgiou

The first single from Dag’s debut LP The Benefits of Solitude, ‘Staying up at Night’ came out last month. I wanted to write it up then but, honestly, I liked it too much. It’s too breezy and, despite the uneasy melancholy of the lyrics and Dusty Anastassiou’s naturally doleful voice, rolls by so easily. It’s is a pop song from the jaunty acoustic guitar to the warmth and fullness of the chorus to the bow ba-bow bow bow bass line. To try and stop and think about like, ‘why do I like this so much? How can I explain what’s good about it?’ felt like it would ruin something, so I let it pass by.

But here’s a second chance, cause we got the very lucky scoop of premiering the video. It’s the work of Brisbane director and musician Helena Papageorgiou, who’s been responsible for many of the best clips you’ve been seeing coming out of Bris lately. This is a (deceptively) simple but imaginative and lovable version of the ‘we’ll have the band play their song, with green screen stuff also happening’ kind of video.

In it Anastassiou, Sky McNichol (Bent), Josh Watson (Sewers; also mixed and co-produced the record) and Matthew Ford (Thigh Master), who make up the Brisbane contingent of the band (Anastassiou now lives in Melbourne and plays with different members there), play their instruments in a dingy share house-looking room, while out the windows animated illustrations spin and swirl.

The drawings are by Anastassiou himself: colourful fun and freaky pictures of UFOs and weird misshapen people and anthropomorphic houses. There’s a wild world going on outside the concrete walls the band are contained by – though they break out at the end, with some cool shots of those walking down some animated streets and losing their heads in the big city.

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This clip doesn’t rest on a cute idea or one-watch novelty – you see something new and interesting in Anastassiou’s drawings and Papageorgiou’s animation with every repeat watch.

Benefits of Solitude will be out in February on Bedroom Suck

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LISTEN: Alex Macfarlane – ‘Cassette 2016’ & Hanibaf – ‘First Time Caller’

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Hello and welcome to the first and possible only instalment of a new feature: mixtapes you may enjoy listening to at work or while relaxing and being low-key.

Here’s two odd ones, one from Melbourne and one from Brisbane, from two dudes who obviously also enjoy being low-key and making stuff in their spare time, and who have put out these releases for their friends and fans with little to no fanfare.

The good thing about doing that kind of thing is you don’t have to bother with album or EP ‘structures’. Hanibaf (Steve Rose, from excellent Brisbane band Sydney 2000)’s mix has about 22 songs and is 25 minutes long. Alex Macfarlane (Twerps, The Stevens)’s tape has four sides, 24 songs and is 40 minutes long. Macfarlane’s tracks run the gamut from sunken ambient music to spacey electronica to the kind of sweet poppy guitar stuff you might readily expect from someone who also plays in Twerps. His voice is naïve in a curious, wondering way and that keeps everything light and listenable even when the music gets weird.

Rose has made a hip-hop electronic record… Kind of? Like the beats and samples are chosen and put together really well and the first few songs are groovy as hell – but he also can’t resist doing a bit of noise and distorted guitar, cutting between low-key old soul record sounding sketches and hip-hop beats, and heavy, repetitive blues-rock guitar intros. It’s distracted and hyper but with so many smart moves that you can tell while Rose is mucking around, he knows what he’s doing (get into Sydney 2000, friends).

A lot of this stuff sounds like it was recorded off an iPhone onto another iPhone onto like a computer’s inbuilt sound recorder. But if you wanna get the full crunchy buzzy ambient effect you gotta listen to it (like me) through the speakers of a 2012 Sony PC laptop. Just, like, a warmer sound, you know?

If you have made a mix that sounds like something I might enjoy listening to at work or while relaxing and being low key you can send an email to editors@whothehell.net. Will help if you’re my personal friend/in Twerps.

 

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LISTEN: Den – ‘Current Riser’

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I like Sydney band Den’s first single ‘Poltergeist’ a lot – I don’t wanna get into the whole Cotal Tontrol thing but please everyone feel free to continue to make things that sound something like my favourite band of all time, thanks. What really put me off about ‘Poltergeist’ was the film clip, which is maybe unfair, but you get to see a lot of self-serious angry boys tryna be unsettling and it all starts to grind you down.  Still, that song sounded COOL and that bitey, gripping lead guitar line could stand up pretty good next to anyone you care to compare them to.

‘Current Riser’ is definitely more fun – I mean maybe the band are dead serious with that pop metal guitar and spoopy effects, but either way, they’re funny. And tough and exciting and it still get you all revved up. The vocals keep everything anchored firmly in post-punk territory, driving a straight thick line through the song to the end. Like ‘Poltergeist’, this is the sound of an outward-facing male anxiety. A fear that makes you aggressive rather than forcing you to look inward. But with ‘Current Riser’ DEN turn this into something tense, tight and frantic.

‘Poltergeist’ and ‘Current Riser’ with both be on Den’s EP, out November 11 on Rice in Nice.

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INTRODUCING: Okin Osan

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Okin Osan is a new band fronted by Sydney-based Rose Chan, sporting a hyperactive, grungy take on surf rock with a kind of 60s Japanese twist. She’s supported names like Jeremy Neale and Empat Lima, and if you know those artists, you’ve got an idea of the off-kilter kind of alternative pop-rock you’re in for. Rose also happens to be the sister of electro-pop mover-n-shaker Rainbow Chan.

Rose doesn’t take much inspiration from her sister’s already considerable back catalogue, instead focusing on carving a new vibe full of fuzzy chord progressions along with razor sharp riffs and vocal melodies. Rose clearly has a deep affection for the period of mid-1900s western dance-hall optimism, but digging deeper into the demos on her Soundcloud also shows her leaning towards the grungy angst of the ’90s.

Okin Osan’s debut single ‘You Tell, I’ll Listen’ is a strong starting point. It’s got that lonesome, sun-soaked delivery of something like Martha and the Muffins’ ‘Echo Beach’, but is a little more rough around the edges in a youthful, carefree way. It’s short but upfront, confident, and full of ideas that are begging to be expanded on.

Okin Osan’s debut EP will be out digitally and on tape via Healthy Tapes come November 10

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LISTEN: Unity Floors ‘Life Admin’ LP

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Whether they’re trying to or not, on Life Admin Sydney’s Unity Floors ask a lot of questions. Like, is there still place for two normal nice guys in Australian music? Obviously in most genres and spaces, men still take up most of the room – but in alternate music media, we know girls are the ones doing the exciting stuff in pop and punk and techno and rock and roll. So what about these two guys bemused by girls and their designer clothes and their yoga on their lunch breaks, who still think moving to Melbourne might be the answer to all their problems. What about these two white dudes probably closer to thirty than twenty, playing drums and guitar and making sweet garage pop music.

What space do these men take up in music right now? Does anyone care? What’s worth talking about at the moment? With Restless The Ocean Party have made something untouchably beautiful, introspective and sensitive and political. They’re trying hard to earn their voices. Then there’s party-rock boy bands who play the sell-out tours and keep Weed Culture hanging around in music like a stain. In Brisbane, and probably other places, white boys who play guitar but wish they were hip hop stars make samples and heavy techno or blunt wild-eyed dumb punk music. Unity Floors aren’t really like any of this. They’re earnest and naive in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, with those jaunty fuzzy guitars that could be from anywhere between 1991 and now.

It’s a fun record, a domestic record to do the chores and ride the bus to. And yeah ‘Give and Take’ sounds like ‘Simple Feelings’ by Twerps but you know it wasn’t on purpose and they probably aren’t sitting around obsessively listening to Range Anxiety enough to pick it up. Just unlucky for them that Australian music writers definitely are.

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Maybe we’ll look back on Life Admin as the last of its kind. Or maybe garage rock for boys is here to stay and I’m talking out of my arse. But listening to this record made me feel nostalgic for something I’ve always loved but only just realised had slipped away, and it’s nice to remember it at least one more time.

 

Life Admin is out on Pop Frenzy now. Unity Floors also do a great live show, which you can catch in Sydney, Melbourne or Hobart on their upcoming tour:

Hobart – The Brisbane hotel, Satuday October 8
Melbourne – The Old Bar, Saturday October 22
Sydney – Chippendale Hotel, Friday October 28

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