New Music

PREMIERE: Snowy Nasdaq – ‘New Jangle 2012′

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With song titles like ‘Ironic Life’ and ‘Dolewave 2015’, the new EP from Snowy Nasdaq (Liam Halliwell) reads initially like an exercise in self-awareness, except it’s more thoughtful than defensive – and way too good to be a joke. This is the second release of the year from Snowy Nasdaq, with the ‘Snowy Life’ band featuring members of The Finks and Cool Sounds in tow.

It’s hard to say anything really meaningful about a record that’s saying so much about itself, so really my job here is to tell you to listen to it. And tell you that you gotta sit with it. The way the vocals are mixed low with Halliwell singing more nasally than ever, the guitar pointy and insistent but without the immediate catchiness of Soft Focus, means some of these tracks slip through your fingers the first few times. But once it hits, you notice so many good lines and clever intricacies worth a bit of time.

Despite Halliwell’s assertion in his excellent handwritten press-release that it documents (hypothetical) “new love and its eventual demise” (the same presser also contains the claim that Canberra, where this record was recorded with Halliwell’s brother and their childhood friend, is “Australia’s greatest city”, so who knows what the truth is) New Jangle 2012 isn’t a particularly romantic or heartsick album – it’s concerned too much about what everyone thinks about you and what you think about anyone else to really get into personal relationships.

‘Dead Weight/Broken Nose’ is the only song that really talks about the feelings of being in some kind of relationship, though it’s still insular and kind of a downer. “I never thought I’d occupy myself with the thought of someone else”, Halliwell sings before the song changes halfway through into a gentler, flighty tangle of guitars – his vocals at their softest, singing to some “you” that looked good with a broken nose to match his own.

Whether he’s referencing it or not, when Halliwell writes about summer 2012 as ‘the golden era of jangle’, I think of Woollen Kits’ record Four Girls, probably my favourite Australian album of all time and how for better or worse, the ‘jangle’ sound has morphed since then. Four Girls was a mostly-upbeat, astute and outward-facing record that wasn’t afraid of sounding a little ugly. In 2015, what we’ve got is a lot cleaner and less celebratory, but more intricate. With people like Halliwell around to push limits at what it means to be making this kind of music, whatever jangle/dolewave/dumb shit we come up with to call it by then –  looks like in 2018, it’ll probably still sound pretty great.

New Jangle 2012 is out on French label Beko Disques and available to buy here.

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INTRODUCING: WAAX

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WAAX

For those of you unfamiliar with the punishing sounds of Brisbane’s WAAX, now is the time to become acquainted. Bursting onto the scene last year with the bruising ‘Wisdom Teeth’, the group notched up some significant airplay and recognition of their tour-de-force sound. After some time in the wilderness, the band has returned with ‘I For An Eye’, another furious, hell-bent tune that packs even more hooks and speed into its time span.

Calling this sound ‘heavy’ doesn’t quite do WAAX justice, and alt-rock is a classification best left behind in the late 90s. WAAX is rock-and-roll, for lack of a better term, but it has intangibles that keep my ears engaged. The bass gives me heart palpitations and the guitars threaten to shred my eardrums – good things in this instance. This is hard rock that rocks hard; music that spits in your face and knocks your drink out of your hand and you can’t do anything about it.

WAAX endured a line-up change over the past few months, recently enlisting the services of Tom Griffin (ex-Calrissian) to take over on the low end. Overlaying the throb and grunt of WAAX’s squall are the recognisable vocals of Marie DeVita, forceful and aggressive with spite-filled affectations that put me on edge.

‘I For An Eye’ was produced by Konstantin Kersting of The Belligerents and mixed by Scott Horscroft. As intimidating as this sound can be, it would still be a lot of fun to thrash around to. Listen if you enjoy being throttled by noise.

Take note: WAAX has been announced as part of the BIGSOUND Live 2015 line-up, and you can also catch them at the Maroochy Music and Arts Festival in August.

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PREMIERE: Hideous Towns – ‘Heart Attack’

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I saw some shoegaze bands on Thursday night. It’s awesome watching people in the crowd contort their bodies to music, especially when there’s a shrouding wall of reverb covering any semblance of a beat. I can’t dance to this music. If I pull out Stella Luna or revisit a Slowdive record, it’s somewhere with dim lighting and a massive doona where I can revel in being a recumbent, moody fuck.

Anyway, not everyone listens to music in near darkness. Melbourne’s Hideous Towns are back with their new single, ‘Heart Attack’ – a bright follow up to last year’s self titled EP.

It’s crisp track; guitars are tender; drums are hit with economical purpose and Alana’s hopeful vocal traverses in equal stride alongside the rest. There are simple pow-wows in the verse about the parallelisms of love and its undoings. Hideous Towns might have been quick to gratify the shoegaze zeitgeist in their earlier recordings, but their previous EP showed the band’s capacity to be tender and edgy all at once (without drowning in vocal/pedal fanfare).

In ‘Heart Attack’, Hideous Towns turns up the pace of their last release, but keeps the status quo. It’s quite a peppy tune actually. Maybe your new pump-up jam. It doesn’t wade in the euphoric shell pool for much of it, but even for the lack of passiveness here, I would love to hear a bit of Monika Fikerle bite happening in the rhythm section. The guitar stutters have been mixed to a clean pulp around the 2:10 mark, but I dig it. Could wax on about this track and how I’ll probably go for a run and order a pizza afterwards, but you should probably just listen to it.

It’s 2015, but still a great time to be a sad guy/girl with a loud amp.

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‘Heart Attack’ is out tomorrow digitally and on vinyl via Lost and Lonesome. The band will be heading out on tour across the country at the end of the month. Dates below.

27th June – The Bearded Lady, Brisbane w/ BottlecockThe Bag Heads

28th June – The Time Machine, Sunshine Coast w/ FlotsamjetsamPermateens

10th July – Hotel Metropolitan, Adelaide w/ The SystemaddictsPonytail Kink

25th July – Oxford Arts Factory, SYDNEY w  /The S-BendsAloha Units, Hunch 

8th August – Bar Open, Melbourne w / Pure MoodsHAWAII94Parading

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PREMIERE: Slowcoach – ‘Beneath the Board’

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Slowcoach

‘Beneath the Board’ is the debut single from Melbourne dude Dean Valentino, aka Slowcoach. Despite never having heard this before, I feel like he could be an old friend. That’s the kind of track this is: warm, assuring, forward-looking without leaving you behind. It’s confident and solid, and at every point where Valentino could have slackened off and let ‘Beneath the Board’ drip into the abyss of toothless indie rock he revs up, adding a bass lick here, a twanging guitar there, and piercing synth punctuating it all.

By three listens in I was spinning around the room SO SURE that someone was whispering to me, but that turned out to be one of the track’s many neat layers (production help from Michael Belsar of Melbourne calypso rockers Twinsy), that by chance put the fear of God in me…and made me listen to the song another three times to make sure I wasn’t going batshit (1.27 guys, promise it’s real). Such is the effort Valentino has gone to to produce a track that leaves no melodic lead or dreamy production trick unturned.

Attention must be turned to Valentino’s voice, because after I recovered from my ghost scare/religious epiphany I could have sworn that was Band of Horses’ Ben Bridwell walloping me with his restrained power ballad vocals. Pair that with a War on Drugs rhythm wall and Slowcoach have put together a really fun, effortless sounding track.

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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Marcus Whale

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Virtual-Mixtape_Lucy-Roleff

Illustrations by Lucy Roleff 

We’ve teamed up with Feral Media for Virtual Mixtape – a series where we ask musicians to create a mixtape based on a genre, artist or theme which they’re passionate about not necessarily associated with.

Our third instalment comes from musician Marcus Whale, known for his work in Collarbones and Black Vanilla. Whale has chosen a selection of tracks from experimental American composer/songwriter Scott Walker, who came to prominence in the late 60s and still receives acclaim for his unorthodox sound musings.

 

 

Marcus Whale - Virtual Mixtape - WhoTheHell

Words by Greg Stone: 

Although only in his early twenties, Marcus has been involved in the Sydney music scene for many years. When I first met Marcus, he was sixteen and reviewing for post rock website The Silent Ballet, and writing music under his recently retired Scissor Lock moniker, which over the years evolved from shimmering ambient guitar pieces to processed vocal soundscapes to woozy, sample-heavy electronica.

Marcus is best known as one half of electronic duo Collarbones, or as a member of R’n’B-tinged, dance music upstarts Black Vanilla. But aside from these more pop centric projects, Marcus has also remained heavily involved in the experimental music scene curating and performing at events including the Now Now festival, Underbelly Arts and Electrofringe; releasing works on New Editions and Room 40 imprint A Guide to Saints, and also running his own short-lived label CURT Records.

Considering this dichotomy, it’s rather fitting that Marcus has chosen Scott Walker as his mixtape theme, with Walker himself evolving from 1960’s pop balladeer as front man of the Walker Brothers, to his current status of avant-garde royalty.

For the uninitiated, consider this mixtape your personal guide through Walker’s intriguing musical career; but more importantly take in Whale’s insightful musings on a true artistic pioneer.

 

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‘It’s Raining Today’ from Scott 3

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The arrangement of the ambivalently atmospheric ‘It’s Raining Today’ from 1967’s Scott 3 is I think proof that you can be both completely dedicated to middle of the road Adult Contemporary radio format, as well as to sonic innovation. The techniques used in the string arrangement mirror that of some contemporary classical composers of the 60s, notably the Polish composer, Penderecki. His great string orchestra work ‘Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima’, written in 1960 has provided a blueprint for countless other composers (and pop musicians) in the ensuing years. How appropriate for a chromatic cluster to turn up on the exact cultural opposite end of the musical spectrum seven years later.

 

‘Boy Child’ from Scott 4

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‘Boy Child’ is another example of Scott Walker’s tendency toward excessiveness in arrangement, strings drenched in reverb. I’m not sure exactly what ‘Boy Child’ speaks to lyrically, but it feels as if it could only be about the second coming of Jesus, a kind of romantic desolation.

 

‘The Cockfighter’ from Tilt

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Fast forward almost thirty years to 1995 now, and the form of orchestral soft pop that brought Scott Walker to fame has long faded in popularity. What’s left for Walker, is just the theatre of it – the power of instruments to surround his voice with a world. Notable to me is not necessarily that arrangement in ‘The Cockfighter’ is harsh at times, but more that once Walker prioritised songwriting above aesthetics, his interests immediately took him through zones that required treatments as dark as this. Among fairly dated 90s rock band arrangements are industrially rendered pulses, white noise, squealing strings and horns, uncanny field recordings – all serving to echo Walker’s diabolical vision…

 

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LISTEN: Good Morning – ‘A Vessel’ / ‘Radiovoice’

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good morning

Two-man recording duo Good Morning are undoubtedly masters of understated, dreamy psychedelia. Their music oozes warmth and is filled with luscious sounds without being cluttered, each new sound wriggling its way in at a lazy pace and wandering off without making a big deal of itself.

Their latest release, the two-track A Vessel / Radiovoice, exhibits their tasteful sonic expertise and a late night, restrained grooviness. ‘A Vessel’ offers a beautiful lope, with scatterbrained guitars backing at times indiscernible vocals. ‘Radiovoice’ is reminiscent of a lost Sparklehorse track, complete with soft synth lines and fragile vocals. Both tracks opiated and enveloping, Blair and Parsons are certainly aiming to get you zoned.

Both tracks will feature on the first half of an upcoming vinyl release on Solitaire Recordings.

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