[Very Jerry Seinfeld voice] What’s with the upsurge in jazz collectives these days? Honestly let’s go back to slacker rock’s hey-day where every band was just a bunch of same-same blokes who didn’t go around waving their talent in your face and make you wish you stuck with those high school clarinet lessons. Make music bland and complacent again? Seinfeld and Trump in the one intro? I digress, but Melbourne’s Dr Sinha’s Jazz Lobotomy have got me all excitable and riled up. Five very accomplished musicians led by Chinmay Sinha have come together to produce a debut track that’s a clean, complex FU to big dumb boys.
Actually, I get the feeling it’s about male identity at large, and the things that come up when your gender brings up issues that are also exacerbated by your culture and race (Sinha is Indian-Australian) and how you’re meant to work that shit out while the world tells you it’s not an issue, kindly shut up and get over it. If you weren’t paying attention you’d get carried away on the clever arrangement of tight harmonies, melodic raps and warm keys when the lyrical content is the real kicker. The conversational interludes re-focus the track, as Sinha recaps an anxiety-induced downwards spiral and other identity issues.
Sinha was kind enough to provide us a few of the tracks he pops on to help stem the gushing tide of anxiety, as well as a few that explore different experiences, because as much as I love slacker-rock we need to be conscious of consuming different voices. So get scrolling for some Koi Child, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, The Bombay Royale and Fulton Street.
Melbourne babies can catch Dr Sinha’s Jazz Lobotomy in full swing on February 26 at Bar Open.
Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
“Courtney is a legend and Avant Gardener is one of those classics that will last forever.”
D D Dumbo – Satan
“I find the themes of this song quite cathartic. D D Dumbo’s singing style is also super comforting. He’s a real innovator.”
Public Opinion Afro Orchestra – The System
“Local Afro Beat legends, continue to light the fire that Fela Kuti started. You can feel the fire in their hot grooves too.”
Harvey Sutherland – Bermuda
“I could dance to this all day, everyday.”
Koi Child – 1-5-9
“I heard them last year on Triple R or PBS and I had to Shazam the tune in the middle of a freeway (I recommend not doing that…). Would love to play a gig with this band one day.”
Kirkis – Bristil Paintings
“Kirkis is part of that initial scene with Hiatus that really allowed a high musical standard to blossom in the Melbourne scene. In my opinion, a lot of kids would’ve become unafraid to dig deeper and innovate because of artists like Kirkis.”
AB Original – ICU feat Thelma Plum
“AB Original are heroes because of their activism. Makes me feel inspired and motivated to create change.”
The Bombay Royale – Karle Pyar Karle (Cover)
“One way to forget your troubles is to listen to Bombay Royale’s take on old school Bollywood classics.”
Fulton Street – Problems & Pain
“Melbourne locals, classic soul for your soul. You could really sweat out your qualms dancing to this groove.”
The artistic collaboration between Biscotti‘s Carla Ori and photographer Alice Hutchison is an all-too-rare occurrence. Regardless of how good it is, many artists’ work will often wander it’s way onto Bandcamp at some indeterminate point without much more than a Facebook post. Musicians deserve better, listeners deserve better. They deserve a 30cm dildo jutting defiantly into the sky, surrounded by peaches and greenery.
Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Hutchison and Ori’s audio/visual collaboration was realised at Neon Parlour Gallery in Thornbury. Ten songs, ten images; each a visual representation of the tracklisting that makes up Biscotti’s debut record on LISTEN Records, titled Like Heaven in the Movies. It helps that Ori’s musical stylings are so eclectic, escaped and elastic, making ample inspiration for Hutchison’s series. I spoke with Ori and Hutchison recently about their collaboration.
So the name of this record, ‘Like Heaven in the Movies’, where does that come from?
CO: Well the concept for the album was that I was playing with the idea of it being the soundtrack to a film that doesn’t exist, and because the songs that I write are so eclectic I end up going through a lot of sounds. So I wanted a theme that would tie them together. Even though I was making lots of different styles, I felt with Like Heaven in the Movies, if it was a ‘film’, there would be all these different scenes, and different things could be happening, so each song was a theme for a different scene, or event, or character even.
‘Like Heaven In The Movies’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017
What’s it like listening to your album on repeat all day, surrounded by photographs of each song?
CO: Well I actually turned it off because I got sick of it
*laughter all round*
AH: Today is actually the first day I’ve been hearing it all together, and it’s been really nice. Probably the best we’ll see it, all the photos in the physical world, and the music playing over some nice speakers.
What’s the interest been like?
AH: It’s been packed out! We’re both so happy. I don’t think it could’ve gone any better really.
‘Instamatic’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017
The album seems to draw a lot of inspiration from cinematic styles and periods, 70s Italian work especially. What are the movements within cinema that had the greatest impact on Like Heaven in the Movies?
CO: I really got into Giallo films, which is Italian horror; Dario Argento and Ennio Morricone worked together a lot during that period. They really set the style, in a way, together. Song-wise, ‘Leave the Gun, take the Cannoli’ is very specifically from The Godfather, and when I was working on the album a friend of mine mentioned that quote and I was just like “pwoah…thats just…gotta be in there”.
Actually, one of the techniques in my creative process when I was writing the album was thinking about how I could start writing a song. One of my problems is titling a song once I’ve written it, so I thought, this time, I’ll actually title the song before I’ve written it. So I just started brainstorming this list of names, one of which was ‘Leave the Gun, take the Cannoli’, also ‘Velvet Sunflake’.
‘Soda Pop’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017
How did the collaborative process begin between the two of you?
AH: We’ve been friends for many years. We’ve done a few smaller collaborations like promo photo shoots, and Carla responded to some of the imagery I’d been creating in a series of still-life photos. She expressed an interest in collaborating over some album artwork, and I was really keen; I love Carla’s aesthetic, it matches what I’ve been doing with my still life work. So we got together and we agreed we’d at least create the back and cover art for the record, but once we’d set up the lights we were like…maybe we should just do two more for the singles and stuff.
CO: Then we were like “ohhh…they’ve come out really good. We should do one for every song…”
AH: When we put ‘Jeanie Brown’ online, people really took to it. There was a lot of people engaging with the image and it encouraged us to pursue a larger project, which we see all around us now.
‘Cognac’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017
What were the conversations like surrounding the collaboration itself when it came to actually creating the images?
AH: I would say it was surprisingly organic. I mean [the images] were highly considered…
CO: We’d use Pinterest to spark the beginning of each image. I had an idea of where I’d wanna start and Alice would be like “yeah!” and start putting stuff up on there.
AH: We’d literally get colours, and put boards together just with colours. But also other things like…a velvet curtain, or an old leather sofa, and then Carla would respond to that. Then in real life we’d go on op-shop journeys and source products. Many months of sourcing went into that. Some of it was a real challenge, others were just jackpots.
‘Jeanie Brown’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017
Like the retro-futuristic television?
AH: We just found that in an op-shop; Carla literally picked it up and just yelled “ALICE!”, holding it aloft over her head. We were just like “holy shit, yes”.
CO: I was also trying to think of friends I had who were collectors. Obviously we didn’t have a huge budget to go out and buy or hire props…we only hired one thing, the gun…
‘Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli’ – Alice Hutchison, 2017
That’s a real gun?
AH: It’s a real ‘PPK’, that’s James Bond’s gun.
CO: We had to go to a back-door hire shop, we had to meet the guy in the street and he took us down an alleyway.
That doesn’t sound legal…
AH: Yeah we went up this series of outdoor staircases that led to this tiny room that was all fenced off.
CO: But y’know I didn’t get a bad vibe off him, we did call the cops, though. We actually had to because we had to check to see if we had to get a special license to use it for the day and they were like, “oh is the guy you’re getting it off named ‘such and such’? He’s fine.” I was just like, “thank christ, he’s legit”.
Carla, how did your knowledge of the song’s themselves influence the creation of the images?
CO: Well in the case of something like ‘Instamatic’ I thought more about the tone of the song, so like; summer, fun, pop aesthetic. So I thought what objects would portray that?
AH: Me and Carla were very much on the same page about everything though, I think there was enough discussion about the songs, what the songs were about, the feeling we were going for. These were pretty extensive conversations.
CO: Oftentime I would have pretty specific colours in my head when I thought about a song. These songs sound like these colours. If I was going to make a ‘Jeanie Brown’ music video, it’s gotta be blue and orange.
AH: The images are highly influenced by the props themselves, so they bring their own stories. You try to drop them into your own narrative. We were very considered, I hope that comes through in the artwork.
So I wanted to ask about the penis statue…and the school.
AH: *scoffs*, oh yeah.
I notice that you’ve got it covered up… what happened there?
AH: What happened was that we didn’t realise that there was a primary school across the road, and our exhibition opened the same day that school went back for the year. Total coincidence.
AH: Yeah, and then they called the gallery, the gallery called me, and I just said “oh well I never even considered it to be controversial, I’m not going on air to defend my work, I don’t feel like that is a balanced forum in which to discuss artwork”. My written statement was to the effect of… *pauses*
CO: “If art isn’t the form for expressing yourself, then where in society is the space for that?”
AH: Well said Carla.
And I’m assuming here that the problem was sexuality and children, right?
AH: Well, I just think they were saying it was inappropriate, and maybe it is, but in another way I think ‘is this all you need to do to get media coverage in Australia, is to put a dildo in a window’?
I’m not saying we’re right and they’re wrong, we responded in a way that was ‘if you’re asking us to censor this, then we’re going to censor it in the most blatant way we can’.
Biscotti will be touring nationally in support of the record, the dates for which you can find below.
FRI MARCH 3 – GARDEN OF UNEARTHLY DELIGHTS, ADELAIDE
SAT MARCH 4 – GRACE EMILY, ADELAIDE
SAT MARCH 18 – THE EASTERN, BALLARAT
THURS MARCH 23 – THE GASOMETER HOTEL, MELBOURNE
SAT MARCH 25 – THE BEARDED LADY, BRISBANE
FRI MARCH 31 – THE ODD FELLOW, FREMANTLE
SAT APRIL 1 – THE BIRD, PERTH
FRI APRIL 7 – POLYESTER RECORDS, MELBOURNE
SAT APRIL 22 – GOLDEN AGE CINEMA AND BAR, SYDNEY
Making a video for Petrichor’, Brisbane band Forevr’s first single as a four-piece, must have been a bit intimidating. The song itself has all the unpredictably energy of an electrical storm – how do you match those drums pulsing up from a thousand miles under the earth, then attacking skittishly from all sides? How do you make images that stand up to the precision and detail of the sound, the weirdness and the deep grounding emotion?
Using moody wafts of slow-moving smoke, deeply unsettling Claymation, and 3D diamonds shattering across the matrix,video director/editor/clay enthusiast Josh Watson (responsible for Blank Realm’s ‘Reach You On The Phone’ video, among others) has gone with vibe over plot. Though there’s still an overriding theme – a sense of being out of place, of trying to get back to the familiar, but every way you turn there’s something more strange and frightening. With fleshy molded flower petals opening and closing like mouths in silent desperation as Sam George-Allen coos ‘make your bed / where you call home’, the animation turns the natural into the perverse, but in a way that draws you in.
The 3D adds a more lighthearted future-from-the-90s tone – shit, there’s a lot going on here. Impeccably timed fast cuts fusing together the sound and image, and making sure there’s always something new to see.
Forevr are currently working on two releases, which will be out later in the year.
Might surprise you to hear this from your ah, oracle of all things new and current, but at my house all we listen to all day and night is this ‘80s playlist that my genius housemate made. Every song on there, from The Chills to deep cut Dexys to Belinda Carlisle is perfect. No matter how many times we listen to it every few songs something will come on that sparks a chorus of THIS SOOOOONNNNG. This. Fucking. SONG.
I get a real similar feeling when I listen to this new single from Sydney 4-piece Orion. The ‘this fucking song’ feeling. It’s that dirty word nostalgia, but without the kind of cheesy theatrics that makes you cringe away from stuff that sounds too openly ’80s in that big shallow shiny chorus kind of way. Not that the big choruses aren’t there, they’re just sold with a defiant gaze rather than a shit-eating grin. And that post punk-y guitar so thick you wanna wallow in it like the fucking Smiths loving pig that you are.
I think one of the biggest skills in in pop music is being able to crib little references and signifiers that already mean something to people and serve them up in a way that resonates immediately, but is also obviously your own thing. It’s difficult and takes a lot of sensitivity and smarts, which Orion definitely have.
Execution is off the band’s debut self-titled LP, coming out on Cool Death Records on Friday (not to rub industry perks in your face, but I listened to it already and that’s some GOOD SHIT). You can preorder the record here. A few of the tracks are re-records off this demo EP that came out a couple of years ago on Paradise Daily too, if you wanna be fully prepped. Also Orion shares members with M.O.B who released that sick tape also on Paradise Daily. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah LINKS.
Chelsea Bleach are B U S Y. They’re writing, recording, mixing, mastering, playing all of the shows, figuring out how they can fit more guitars into the fold (there are three at time of writing). They’ve also made a film clip for ‘Shedding Skin’, the opening track off their debut EP ‘Decent Connections’ which they released at the end of 2016 and you can watch it here on this website so don’t say we never do anything for you!!
If you’ve been consumed furiously making new years resolutions and worshipping jesus and binge drinking over the past few weeks I’ll give you the lowdown on the good thing the kind folks of Chelsea Bleach have gifted us. Their guitar riffs and vocal melodies are heavy on a cool nonchalance that brings to mind the Seattle-based garage rock of ChastityBelt, but with rougher edges. It’s not as hard or fast as Melbourne mates Cable Ties or Wet Lips, and actually the sparser elements call to mind Hobart rock dogs (they said it so it’s fine) Naked.
Decent Connections keeps the take-no-shit lyricism of lead single ‘Public Safety‘, neatly packaging what it’s like to be not-a-white-guy in public: “Watch my back / leave no tracks,” and applying this sentiment to personal growth and relationships, gradually working through the 20-something feeling of not knowing why or what you are doing at any given time. Each track abruptly shifts between pretty different components, flipping the song’s mood back and forth multiple times during the lifespan of each track. ‘Daydreams’ could have been produced by Courtney Barnett with its sunburnt slide guitars and vocals sliding up and down a three note melody, until the switch is flicked to an agitated chorus speeding through wilful indifference: “Everything changes yeah / nothing really matters to me.”
‘Shedding Skin’ carries the same menacing guitar line as ‘Public Safety’ and Chelsea Bleach’s three guitarists (Prani, Bridget and Em) really feel like they’re in sync on this one, working towards six-stringed symbiosis. The overall sound teeters on punk, threatening to topple over into all out mosh but instead channeling all their thrashy energy into sections of tight, virile bar chords. The tension works a dream.
The video for ‘Shedding Skin’ is an assortment of cameras in the direction of the Chelsea Bleach crew, and possibly others. The tangle of limbs makes it hard to discern the exact number of bodies BUT it does look like fun. I think maybe too much of my view of Melbourne comes from DIY music clips but to me the video looks like your average Tuesday arvo in a Melbourne sharehouse? Chelsea Bleach are DIY til they DIE, with guitarist and backup vox Prani the mastermind behind the video and drummer Jay mixed, mastered and recorded the whole heckin’ EP too.
If you’re in Melbourne go and check Chelsea Bleach launch this thing into the stratosphere with CableTies, PalmSprings and kandere @ The Tote on January 20, Facebook event here.
As you may have heard, the Avalanches (along with Spank Rock, HABITS and YOUNG TAPZ) have been parachuted into the 2017 Sugar Mountain lineup in place of Dev Hynes’ lauded Blood Orange project. As the chatter around the group’s much publicised hiatus and ‘triumphant comeback’ fades ahead of the promise of more new music and a run of high profile live shows, it’s easy to overlook the breadth of their discography. After all, the once five (or six… or seven) strong group began releasing music 20 years ago, and as unlikely as it sounds, at one stage in the early noughties, they could almost be considered prolific – especially if you count their fastidiously produced mixtapes and dj sets. So, without further ado, we present the history of the Avalanches in five deep cuts.
‘Thank You Caroline’
This is the B-side to the Avalanches’ first ever 7”, from 1997, and the first release for Melbourne label Trifekta (who would put out heaps of great stuff by artists like Architecture in Helsinki and the Go-Betweens). The A-side, ‘Rock City’, was reworked to appear on the El Producto EP, but ‘Thank You Caroline’ was a live staple performed in much the same form as it appears here. The song’s woozy organs and wistful tone would recur throughout the group’s discography; it’s basically the blueprint for Wildflower’s two closers (and standouts) ‘Stepkids’ and ‘Saturday Night Inside Out’. The song clearly resonated, too, earning a new lease of life with an Andy Votel remix on the ‘Since I left You’ single.
This EP marked the Avalanches’ transition from noisey Melbourne rap brats to the electronic collage thing they’d be celebrated for after Since I Left You. A slightly reworked ‘Electricity’ would appear on that album, keeping Sally Seltmann’s operatic vocals and Daft Punk drum samples, but the fun and experimentalism showcased on the EP’s other tunes signalled an expansion of horizons. The EP was also the band’s first for Modular, heralding a distinct change in direction for the Sydney label. Until this point, Modular’s major releases came from acts like Ben Lee and the Living End. Electricity saw them begin leaning towards a much more electronic roster, and arguably fostering a new Australian scene in the process.
The B-side to ‘Since I left You’, this soft house jam coincided with the Avalanches’ stint as some of the most in demand party djs getting around. Presumably an outtake from their debut LP, it’s one of the group’s few productions that betrays their admiration for house producers like Ernest St Laurent and some of the gentler releases from Thomas Bangalter’s (Daft Punk) Roulé label. While their ‘Breezeblock’ dj mixes are still guaranteed crowd pleasers nearly 15 years on, this seven minutes of laid-back house paved the way for producers like Washed Out and Memory Tapes. If all tropical house sounded like this, the world would be a better place.
Belle & Sebastian – ‘I’m a Cuckoo’ (Avalanches Remix)
With the acclaim that followed the release of ‘Since I left You’, the Avalanches became in demand remixers for a number of du jour UK artists of the early 2000s, among them Badly Drawn Boy, Manic Street Preachers and the Concretes. This reworking of Scottish darlings Belle & Sebastian was one of the last remixes they’d do in this uncharacteristically prolific period, and was a clear display of their love affair with Caribbean soca music. At the time, one of the most striking things about this release was that the group had recorded live musicians rather than sampling them – samples having formed the bedrock of much of the band’s recent catalogue. Get the full story on this one via Wired.
‘Stalking to a Stranger’ (Planets Collide remix)
Released in 2013, deep within the band’s dormant period, what’s perhaps most remarkable about this tune is how little fuss anyone made on it’s release. Not only is it a certifiable ball tearer, but it does what any great remix should – reframe and highlight elements of the original material for a new audience. For a generation who only knew Hunters & Collectors from drunken singalongs and footy grand finals, this rework brings out the original’s groove and muscularity, the way it might have sounded live back in 1982.
The Avalanches play Sugar Mountain Festival’s Dodds Street Stage on Saturday, 21 January. Get your tickets here.
We’re not gonna labour the point about the dog’s breakfast that was 2016. You know. We know. It knows what it’s done.
Life got hectic for all of us this year. While we think of this blog as a year-long ‘best of list’, cuz we only write about the good shit, some of the best stuff still slipped through the cracks. So here are the songs and album’s we’ve loved this year, but didn’t get a chance to write about for whatever reason. Blaming the year seems like the cool thing to do, so please excuse us for being deadshits; it wasn’t our fault.
Sydney 2000 – _
‘Don’t Do Bad Olympics’ is, at this moment, my favourite song of the year. This is all such catchy shit and Steve Rose (who does the Hanibaf mixtape stuff that I wrote up here) really knows how to make singing he’s like having a bad time sound like fun. Rose and Guitarist Tristan Murray both clearly love playing around with how they can fit a whole lot of wacky, difficult melodies in without making it hard to listen to – so you get music that’s immediate and poppy but unlike most stuff you’ve heard before. The drummer on this tape is James Elliott, but since he moved overseas earlier in the hear they’ve been playing with Bent’s Heidi Cutlack who’s replaced his athletic style with a more ragged, joyous sound, making them even more impressive live.
100% – ‘Lost Youth’
When 100% first started there was some jaded bullshit talk floating around like ‘yeah, they take good press shots, but is the music good?’ From day one they’ve been making any doubters shove their words up their arses and then eat them, with some of the sickest darkly sexy synth pop in the country. Where sometimes Melbourne bands doing a similar thing get laboured and over-concerned with sounding scary, 100% have kept a relentless euphoria central to their sound. I love how everything sounds together in the chorus of this song, drums sharp like a thousand tiny pins, shiny and dramatic. ‘Nikita’, the other song you can listen to from this album at the moment is uncompromisingly feminine and emotional – an absolute ‘80s banger that resonates with whole-hearted desire. And fuck yeah, they take good press shots.
(I got the record of this for Christmas so not ruling out writing up the whole record in the new year, but just in case. This song rules.)
Nun – ‘Can’t Chain’
I really liked this as soon as it came out but didn’t write it up then cuz the Noisey premiere mentioned some kind of architectural philosophy concept thing it was based on and I was like, shit man I’m gonna sound really stupid if I try and talk about this. I just like how it goes fast and Jenny Branagan sounds so threatening in the verses and it builds up into the kind of dance music that runs electricity through your body even when you’re sitting down completely sober.
Centre Negative – Emotion is Cringey
When New Zealand band Centre Negative were in Brisbane a while ago they played shows with some friends of mine so I ended up meeting and having a chat to Michael McClealand. By which I mean I mentioned knowing someone from New Zealand and he spoke in a ten minute uninterrupted stream about poetry, New Zealand, a lake near his house, Evangelical Christianity, Noisey, some kind of science shit, his bad feelings, bad writing, good writing, The Internet, other things. And all in a super interesting way – he just wasn’t really concerned with keeping to the accepted structure of ‘a conversation’. This is a super smart record riddled with that mixture of insecurity and self-aggrandisement that is so relatable – a lot of people talk about what it’s like to hate yourself while also thinking you’re a genius, but it’s rarely translated with this kind of skill. It’s jaunty, jarring, ironic, dry experimental guitar and tinny synth music sparsely filled out with snowy drum machines and strangled shouting. At the Brisbane shows everyone walked to the bar after going, ‘what’d you reckon?’ ‘yeah, I liked it! Something different, hey?’
Also the record starts off with a computer voice saying something like ‘If you’re thinking of mentioning the words “Flying Nun” in your review, please send your review to the centre of the sun and then set yourself on fire and die’ – and that’s great stuff!
Police Force – Formula One
When people ask me what kind of music I like my general answer is ‘I dunno man, I just like shit that gets you revved up’. Police Force’s Formula One does this from beginning to end – all riffs on riffs on riffs and repetition when you dunno where it’s going if anywhere but who gives a fuck and funky bass that does more than just fill out the low end, actually makes you wanna listen over and over again. Sound effects, good beats, echo and distortion build something cool and interesting out of the too-often tedious bones of groovy old rock and roll. Also: do you like bitchy boy vocals as much as me? Then yeah this is gonna be your thing.
Forevr – ‘Petrichor’
These guys are my very good buds, so I never really know if I like their music so much or am blinded by deep love for them as people. But this song is so impressive, so different from anything they’ve done before, and, to my mind, so beautiful that I have to mention it. The first time you hear this track it’s hard to get hold of, to make a reference for. It’s almost trendless – it seems outside of what’s happening, definitely in Brisbane and probably in Australia. This is not the sound of effortless cool, it’s the sound of work, talent, and commitment, and it absolutely goes off.
Friendships – Nullarbor 1988-1989
I love jangly guitars as much as the next Aus music loving asshole, but I’d be happy if ‘Australian music’ becomes synonymous with friendships’ terrifying electronic dystopia rather than another wave of #dolespo. It’s jarring and relentless in almost every track and I haven’t stopped listening to it yet.
Maia – lofi mixtape
Brisbane’s very own downtempo RnB Soundcloud superstar, Maia Francesca followed up a handful of smouldering covers and originals with an eight-track mixtape in March, and it caused everyone who heard it to do a double take. SZA? Baby Badu? In our own city? Surely not. But here she is, and I don’t reckon I’m on my own in hoping desperately there is more from Maia in 2017.
Habits – Ugly Cry
I honestly can’t stop talking about Habits. They can do no wrong. Their debut EP is ferocious and is some of the best music out at the moment guaranteed to whip anyone who hears it into a frenzied, angry-dance. The music is huge and the expression is total, everything I see and hear about the Melbourne duo excites me.
A.B. Original – Reclaim Australia
‘You had to be in their face,’ Archie Roach tells Briggs in the opening track of one of the most deservedly hyped releases of 2016. Everything that I want to say about this album has already been said, mostly by Trials and Briggs themselves on the actual record. Reclaim Australia is meant to smack you in the face, and being heaps white I can only speak to how white Australia might take this album which is predictably entitled so I’ll direct all I have to say in my pasty peers’ direction: it’s not about you, shut up about your feelings and listen to what A.B. Original are saying.
Spike Fuck – The Smackwave EP
Spike Fuck’s four track debut EP is heavy enough to feel like forty. This release is brilliant and distinct because of its post-punk minimalism backing country singer inflections, all working to do her stories justice. Spike Fuck’s recent experience with drug addiction and ailing mental health is the central theme (in case the EP title ‘Smackwave’ didn’t give it away), and the tracks sound like four pillars of triumph after a succession of losses. Maybe not quite triumph as in success, but the triumph of figuring important shit out and starting to move on.
Reuben Ingall – TT002
The second instalment of fledgling label Tandem Tapes’ split-release series paired Indonesian artist Logic Lost with Canberra’s Reuben Ingall. Ingall is certainly one of the most interesting and intriguing artists currently operating in the Australian underground, one who deserves far more praise and recognition. Following his 2015 album Microclimates, Ingall serves up another stunning collection of meditative, experimental pop and ambient electronic oddities, capturing the best parts of his distinct sound.
Hyde – Ox Hill
Under his former guise, Electric Sea Spider, Melbourne producer Jim Sellars came out of the fertile beat scene in the late 00s. As Hyde, Sellars’ music is much harder to classify, which is a good thing. This sound was heralded by his final release as Electric Sea Spider, the restless brain-explosion Ten Hunters. After the amazing ‘Sacrificed Greyhound’ single, Sellars offers up Ox Hill, his proper debut as Hyde. The music is furiously innovative, warping elements of world music with post-modern beat abstractions that leave you giddy and hungry for more.
Lovely Head – Always
After some great collaborative releases with Teenage Mustache and Pendant, Lovely Head aka Vivian Huynh returns with a new solo effort for Provenance Records, Always. Huynh’s smoky vocals and atmospheric guitar work lay the foundations for an intimate set of dark pop ballads that seep into your consciousness with simmering clarity. Beautiful and haunting in equal measure.
Spartak – I Fought The Style
After shifting away from the improvised sound experiments of their earlier work, ever-evolving Canberra outfit Spartak continue down the path forged on their 2014 EP, Five Points, with another venture into minimal electronic territory with I Fought The Style. Enlisting the vocals of fellow Canberran Becki Whitton (aka Aphir), the sound on IFTS jumps between skewed pop, propulsive techno and glistening ambience with effortless confidence.
I’ve heard a lot of great music this year but, for one reason or another, I’ve let most of it pass by without comment. In a lot of cases, my own contribution – in this forum, at least – felt kind of redundant. Our readers already know they should be listening to Spike Fuck’s debased heartland rock, Gregor’s deconstructed schmaltz, Gabriella Cohen’s effortless garage pop, the bubblegum menace of Loose Tooth and cathartic bellowing of Cash Savage & the Last Drinks. Sometimes the music I loved best – Emma Russack, Dag, Heart Beach – was already covered brilliantly by Maddy, our editor since May and a girl, it seems, after my own heart. Often, though, I just didn’t find the time. So I’m really pleased we settled on this theme for our end-of-year post; it gives me a chance to redeem myself. Here are some things I wish I’d written about in 2016:
Katie Dey – ‘Fear o’ the Light’
I would have liked to spend more time with Flood Network, Katie Dey’s second album, which seems to fit together like puzzle pieces. So far I’ve mostly hammered the single – a short, powerful little pop song, fitting somewhere between Shocking Pinks and Jackson Scott. Dey is reclusive, cloaking her voice with a pitch shifter, washing her images with light. She does very little press and doesn’t play live, as far as I’m aware. Sidestepping the local scene, her records have found a home all the way across the Pacific, with the eccentric sentimentalists at Orchid Tapes. I hope we get to see a bit more of her in 2017; so far, secrecy has only increased the allure.
Native Cats – ‘Soft Chambers’
The Native Cats released ‘Soft Chambers’ as a prelude to their next record, which will be out early in the new year. Vocalist/Game Boy-fiddler Chloe Alison Escott says it’s ‘the most complex thing we’ve ever recorded’, featuring samples, backing vocals and a guest percussionist. The layers soften a regimental rhythm section; the track sounds like Gang of Four by way of Stereolab. Meanwhile, Escott’s elliptical poetry is both defiant and thoughtful: ‘Anywhere I have walked armoured / I will walk again … Anywhere I have spoke cruelly / I will come to speak again’. All proceeds from the single go towards the US-based Trans Lifeline, a decision taken in the wake of the catastrophic November election. Head over to Bandcamp for a name-your-price download.
Ela Stiles – Molten Metal
On the Molten Metal LP, out via Paradise Daily Records, Ela Stiles takes a sharp turn from the delicate acapella of her self-titled debut. Built around analogue electronics, this record blends industrial, house, folk and drone – which sounds like a mess, but it works surprisingly well. In lesser hands, old-style electronics can feel retrograde, with drum machines sucking energy from the mix. Stiles’ work, though, is tactile and inventive: she wrings some new life out of the machine.
Comrad Xero – Comrad Xero
Also on Paradise Daily, Comrad Xero is the new solo offering from Irena Luckus of Brisbane post-punk/no-wave outfit Xero (also Zero/Xiro). White noise and harsh licks wash around Luckus’s chanting and her heavy, primitive beats. The songs skitter and sway like wind-up soldiers, restless but utterly hypnotic.
Although he recorded prolifically, Fergus Miller’s last official release as Bored Nothing came out over two years ago now – which makes the recent singles by Pansy, a project with wife Anna Davidson of Major Leagues, rather special. The tracks, ‘It’s All Over Now’ and ‘Cold Enough’, sound like the work of 90s obsessives, lo-fi guitars muffling despondent lyrics clothed in power pop melodies. Miller and Richardson make quietly emotive music; it feels private, like an unmarked eight-track tape discovered at some suburban garage sale.
Sarah Mary Chadwick – ‘Turn On’
It’s hard to listen to Roses Always Die, the latest album from Sarah Mary Chadwick, all the way through; most of the time, I feel I just don’t have the grit. The last track, though – ‘Turn On’ – is different. With her vocals, Chadwick foregrounds despair, but a euphoric undercurrent slips in on that soft, rising synth. Dark as it is, this song lifts me up.