New Music

LISTEN: Emma Russack – In a New State LP

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emma russack

It’s so striking to hear an artist working through stuff on a record – when you feel like you’re discovering things about them as they discover things about themselves. Emma Russack’s In A New State is an album of transition, of slow self-forgiveness and a graceful resignation. Russack knows it’s not as simple as moving on without looking back – this record looks back a lot – but every time it gets a little easier.

The transition process on A New State is completely unhurried – every song unfolds beautifully and gently. Even ‘Have You’, a minute and a half of building stormy guitars and cymbals, waits till the right moment to deliver the crushing end note ‘I don’t have you / and that’s…Just… Fine’. It’s one of those absolutely ‘not fine’ fines, but soon it’ll be the truth.

With a record that’s this honest and lyrically engaging, the temptation is to just quote words from it and make up stories about what they might be about (which I’m definitely about to do), but it’s worth commenting on how much emotional work is done by the music as well. There’s a gentle push and swing to these songs, always coaxing you to feel a little more, listen a little closer. And you do, from the prettily echoing guitar of opener ‘Cottesloe’, a song about a good memory that sets the reflective tone of the songs to come, to the dramatic borderline cheesy oscillating synth of ‘Not the Friend’. ‘Not The Friend’ is probably the most fun song on the record too – it’s still possible to have a good time with some bad feelings.

‘If You Could See Me Now’ reads initially as a kind of declaration on the good of self-care, with the understandably oft quoted line ‘I don’t have sex / for validation / I’ve had no sex in six months / but I’m happy’. But while she’s not looking for validation, she might be looking for something else – closure. The ‘you’ in these songs only exists in memories, they’re not calling or coming to shows or liking your selfies, and some of the best parts of this record have Russack dealing honestly with this loss. Like on ‘Another Chance’, which captures that need to stay busy and distracted in order to forget – ‘so many years to fill up / so many years without you’ – which works especially well back to back with ‘You Gave Me’.  On that song she’s admitting that nothing’s working and the only thing to do is to leave town, cause moving on sometimes means running away.

I’m guilty of romanticising the idea of growing up in small seaside or country towns – I grew up in the city (well, Brisbane) and I still live fifteen minutes’ walk from where I went to high school. I was a sheltered and neurotic teen and I’m an anxious and cynical adult. I’ve never felt what it’s like to move away and come home and be a stranger. Or that feeling of escape; when you get to leave everything behind and start new in a big city. And I’m kind of obsessed with it. So take this with a grain of salt, but I think ‘Narooma’ captures this feeling impeccably. One side of a small-town upbringing is the freedom to experiment and grow up a little fast, as Russack shows on ‘Best Love’, talking about her relationship with an older man at 16. It’s the most romantic song here, her voice taking on a country-singers heavy-hearted nostalgia. But it also isn’t afraid to delve into the grey area, of her being ‘still a child’ and maybe taken in by the adult world too soon. Russack revels in grey areas, in second-guessing herself and her past.

Emma Russack was apparently gonna quit music early last year, before a well-timed grant swooped in and prompted her to give it another crack. And, phew, cause Australian music would be way less brave and beautiful without her.

In a New State is out now via Spunk.

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LOOK: Client Liaison, Backstage in Brisbane

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Client Liaison_Backstage_By Savannah van der Niet_10

If you’ve seen Client Liaison live, you know what the fuss is about. If you haven’t, I can’t urge you to see a live show more.

The same on-stage as off-stage, these guys can’t help but give an air of genuine flair. Manager Adam always seems to sport a CL shirt and business socks, a true devotee to his mates. Monte chats with stylist Kristy about costume changes, as she fixes his collar and tightens his cufflinks. Geordie catches up on lost sleep under the keyboard in rehearsals. I find Tom planning a surprise birthday party at McDonalds for Harvey’s birthday on tour the next morning (they require advance notice, the disappointment sets in), then the pair compare catwalks backstage. The better walk is left undetermined.

The live show is sold out. The window to the backstage area fogs with the heat of a million bodies wildly dancing to music every Australian has a soft spot for. The stage is scattered with palm trees and giant water coolers.

Put it on the company card. Too much is never enough. Get ready to Feed the Rhythm and dance all night.

Photos taken on digital and 35mm film at their ‘World of Our Love’ show in Brisbane at The Triffid. Client Liaison is Monte Morgan and Harvey Miller, plus touring band Tom Tilley and Geordie Miller. Stylist is Kristy Barros.

Client Liaison backstage_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_01 Client Liaison backstage_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_05 Client Liaison backstage_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_04 Client Liaison_Backstage_By Savannah van der Niet_08 Client Liaison backstage_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_15 Client Liaison_Backstage_By Savannah van der Niet_11 Client Liaison_Backstage_By Savannah van der Niet_17 Client Liaison backstage_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_14 Client Liaison live_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_03 Client Liaison live_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_05 Client Liaison backstage_35mm film_By Savannah van der Niet_09 Client Liaison_Backstage_By Savannah van der Niet_07

See more work from Savannah van der Niet (Savvy Creative) HERE.

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Listen: Treehouse – Centre of Their World LP

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treehouse

‘But the centre of whose world?’ I ask of Treehouse’s new release Centre of Their World. Taken negatively it’s a nod to modern-day narcissism. I’d like to think it beckons more toward Treehouse’s own aesthetic world. That music, in it’s utopian ideal, is a world of its own making and your band is that warm marshmallowy centre. It’s an intuitive world. It’s the nicest thing in the actual world.

Treehouse are Hobart three-piece Cal, Jon and Will and they have a classic three-piece line-up. If rock music and it’s jangle manifestations are the genre, then the guitar is the instrument which is forever being called-out for running out of ideas. Too passé, they say. Too phallic, they quip. And yet here are Treehouse showing us that our knee-jerk doom-and-gloom over rock music is as unwarranted as it is tiring.

Released by Oz-institution Vacant Valley the album’s first single ‘She’s A Mystic’ seeped onto our Facebook feeds at the beggining of this year and enough great things have already been said that I needn’t rehash.Yet despite Treehouse feeling validated in releasing ‘She’s A Mystic’ as the album forerunner, ‘Hammer On The Door’ is the album’s actual pinnacle with its sweetness and pliancy, its aggressiveness and visceral nature.

It has one of the most identifiable and subtly grand guitar riffs I’ve heard from a local Australian band in a long time. It’s such a fucking seamlessly building song that does all the right things in all the right places. Considering this, it’s a miracle the song doesn’t dwindle into cliche, but teeters on the highs and drops we’d expect while adding an indecipherable something that keeps us listening. Maybe it’s in the production, which is wonderfully normal in it’s disregard for lavishness (which often just turns all rock/punk songs to plastic anyway).

In many ways Treehouse is Australian in the way that ACDC, The Church, Go Betweens and Powderfinger are Australian. This is a horribly abstract thing to say because Treehouse aren’t actually similar to any of these bands and yet there’s a feeling of geographical locality that signals that these songs could not have come from anywhere else.

Ultimately Centre of Their World heralds the in-between stance of much music at the moment; it doesn’t exactly try to change the social contract and it isn’t aesthetically wild but nor does it aim to amuse, please or entertain. Treehouse are certainly a band of their time. What Centre of Their World offers is something many local bands could use a lesson in: thoughtful songs rather than boring dribble melodies, horribly painful pastiche or a reliance on tedious spectacle. While Treehouse of course repeat the jangle-tropes and compositional build-ups we’ve heard before, this is a mute point because they do so in such a way that rejects a boring rehash of the past and doesn’t shame or tinge the memory of the old.

Centre of Their World is out now on Vacant Valley with a few limited edition cassettes on the horizon.

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LISTEN: Wireheads – Arrive Alive LP

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arrive alive

The Australia on Adelaide band Wireheads‘  new record isn’t the ‘smoking cigs in your sharehouse and goin down the shops to buy more cigs and cheezels’ kind of Australia. It’s violent and murky and sinister. Sometimes it’s fun too but in a way that might go off the rails any fucking second. Album opener and title track, ‘Arrive Alive’, throws up the image ‘getting shot dead in the head/ for tryna buy orange juice/ you got two dollars in your hand’, and album highlight ‘Dedication’ the merciless bashing of beautiful faces.

But this record also might be about a hunt for something redemptive and beautiful, a bit of subtlety in circumstances that are more suited to blunt, unforgiving ugliness. Cause there’s those female vocals in the background of ‘Dedication’ too, working as a foil to the violence with a bit of uneasy romance; ‘your face is so goddamn beautiful/ your face makes me feel unusual’. And then ‘Organ Failure’s desperate squealing sax offset by interludes of sweetly drawled ‘darlin’s’ and a super pretty bass melody.

You’ll never get the energy of a Wireheads live show on record (take a look at the 20-odd people listed as contributing to the record on Bandcamp though and you’ll see they gave it a good go), but what you do get is time and space to let the emotional core of a lot of these songs to sink in. You get things like ‘Ice Kool Flavour Aid’, a straight husky cowboy ballad that’s earnest in a way that not a heap of other Australian bands would have the guts to do.

Arrive Alive is full of familiar characters and archetypes: prisoners ex-soldiers, emperors and goddesses and the dying. They’re all wondering what it means to survive, and if that’s really the most important thing. The fantastical elements could be allegories to real shit: ‘Proserpina’ is the Goddess of the cycle of life and death – or a woman offering redemption. Emperor Nero is another dictator fucking around while everything burns to the ground. Or maybe they they’re just funny stories to write songs about – ‘Nero’ is especially wacky, with that woodwind that makes everything feel like it’s coming down around your head.

The first couple of times I listened to this record I thought it was a bit long and maybe trying a little hard to be weird – but I reckon that was just because there’s so much packed in here it’s easy to get overloaded. Now I’ve got it a bit more I couldn’t think of anything I’d cut. Maybe ‘Isabella Says’ – I don’t care that much about ‘cosmic gamma rays baby’ – but then there’s the funny little flute freak out that leads you into the beautiful ‘So Softly Spoken’, making the honest simplicity of that song able to catch you off guard and be something properly lovely.

Arrive Alive is a smart, packed, generous record with ideas popping out the seams. Because of this it’s easy to overlook the humanness of a lot of the songs, the honesty and the heart – I nearly did, and now I’m tellin’ ya not to make the same mistake.

You can listen to and buy Arrive Alive via Tenth Court here

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WATCH: Obscura Hail – ‘Little Web’

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obscura hail

As Obscura Hail, multi-instrumentalist Sean Conran focuses on the intricate details on life, revelling in the minute facets of a minimalist folk sound and playing in the infinitesimal spaces between lingering notes. Throughout his songs, which are commonly described as ‘basement pop’ or ‘baroque folk’, Sean handles each delicate moment as if it were dangerously fragile – each experience or thought a priceless treasure to take care of. For his latest single, ‘Little Web’, Sean has taken inspiration from the lives of fictional video game characters. The song narrows its focus to Sean’s self-imposed isolation from others in favour of a virtual world and how his preference towards actions of non-existent figures created a disconnect from reality ­– choosing to dictate his own narrative with the only limitations being the ones imposed by the game itself.

‘Little Web’ opens with a soothing and melancholic guitar melody, before Sean’s wispy vocals interject with the opening lines “Moving pictures on the silver screen / living their lives in a 2D scene / I’m glued, I’m glued / to the seat in this room”, setting the scene of Sean seated in front of the illuminated screen, immersed in a world of his own creation. The accompanying video offers a series of recorded moments, most seemingly insignificant but weaving together into a tableau of introspection. Frames of outdoor scenery offer a glimpse into a world beyond the computer screen – natural sunlight and stars instead of the harsh artificial lighting of the virtual world. The song carries a stark beauty, minimalist in nature but impressive in impact.

Obscura Hail is on the cusp of releasing an album entitled Leaves, Earth, which follows on from the Thrown Into The Sea EP. Leaves, Earth will be out in August through No Safe Place Records.

You can see him supporting Jules Sheldon at the Old Bar in Melbourne on 25 July.

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LISTEN: Rebel Yell – ‘Never Perfection’

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Pic by Glen Schenau

Pic by Glen Schenau

Some people have a tendency to dismiss music that has too strong an aesthetic – from artists who’ve taken more than one second to think about what people might like to look like as well as listen too. I reckon that’s super reductive of what music is, and, most usually, sexist as hell.

I love Grace Stevenson’s (who’s also in 100%) solo thing Rebel Yell because it’s vibe and sound and image, form and function all coming together to deliver maximum impact. Her first single ‘Never Perfection’ is dark industrial electronic music that you can dance to if you want – but it’s not really dance music. It doesn’t matter that much if you’re having fun, as long as that bass keeps pumping you’ll keep moving. The lyrics are completely unintelligible but she’s delivering them like a manifesto, insistent and direct. There’s a trend for punk shows in Brisbane lately to have a synth band/artist opening or playing after the headliner and it’s worked both to break the three white dudes with guitar monotony and to encourage electronic music with some darkness and muscle to bloom.

 

 

The video, done by Helena Papageorgiou, is all purple smoke and strobes flashing over Stevenson’s striking face, and does a great job of recreating the vibe of a Rebel Yell live show – slightly elusive, always making you want more. I also like that although it’s shot like a underground-rave scene, you can see it was filmed under someone’s house, so it’s more like you’re at a really good house show with about three minutes before the cops arrive.

 

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Before now, the Brisbane bands that have become most popular interstate have usually been of the sunny garage pop or likeable-stoner party rock variety. But maybe we don’t care so much about being liked any more. Maybe now we wanna make music that’s cold, distorted, and bold. And look fucking good doing it. It isn’t just me that thinks this has real widespread appeal – Rebel Yell just signed up to work with Rice is Nice on her EP Mother of Millions, out August 19.

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LISTEN: These Guy – ‘Lunchbox’

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cover art

I’ve always liked the idea of transporting my vegemite sang and muesli bar in a compartmentalised, carbon neutral (obviously) lunchbox, but in reality I just shovel last night’s pizza into a plastic bag and hope for the best. I have no idea how Joe Saxby, Josh Coxon or Eddie L’Estrange pack their sammiches or why a lunchbox is relevant to their debut collection of tracks as These Guy, and to be honest I’m not sure they do either. And that’s ok, we’re all just figuring it out and that’s fine.

Lunchbox begins with ‘The End’, where These Guy’s broad spectrum of alt-pop influences bleed together in a spin cycle of sounds that unfold over the album’s duration. ‘Coming Around‘ is the first punctuation point and one of the earliest singles, combining the indie pop ethos and sad boi pathos in what is a foundation theme on Lunchbox. Quirky synth hooks bubble up on most tracks to buoy each pessimistic lyric, refusing to let Saxby be sad about things he is justifiably shitty about (see: closing track ‘The Main Thing’, an 11-minute sprawling psych middle finger to long distance relationships). Despite this, Lunchbox is a significant upswing in mood from These Guy’s debut EP when it was Saxby’s heavily overcast solo project.

Techno pop track ‘Biscuits’ and ‘The Main Thing’ have featured in These Guy’s live set for a while now, but hearing them packaged up on Lunchbox makes the pivot from “everything is doomed’ sad to “silver-lining” sad a whole lot sharper. There are just so many quirks built into each song it’s hard to keep track of the ideas, from the disco synth hooks, full fret shredding and sax solos on ‘Over Before it Begins’ to the jangle pop guitar melodies of ‘Suburban Restaurant’, one album could hardly provide enough space to flesh them out.

Yet it’s the clean execution of these ideas which propels These Guy above the white noise of cookie cutter indie pop, with lofty vocal melodies, frenzied instrumentals, delay-heavy synths and a generous peppering of guitar licks all balanced by clever production. Lunchbox is like a pleasant hallucinatory experience, you’ll go places you didn’t know existed and come out wondering where the hell you’ve been and how you can get back there.

Here’s a treat for youse ahead of the album’s launch on June 16th.

 

You can see this play out in all it’s technicolour glory at Brisbane’s Black Bear Lodge on July 15th.

 

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