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LISTEN: A playlist by the Goon Sax

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the goon sax

“We can agree/I’m not quite what I used to be,” James Harrison, a preternaturally world-weary teen, mumbles on ‘Telephone’, a standout track from the Goon Sax’s debut record, Up to Anything. At once self-conscious and naïve, it’s one of many tunes on the theme of adolescent awkwardness, with lyrics detailing sweaty palms, unconsummated affection and the indignity – even “heartbreak” – of a home haircut.

Despite their youthful preoccupations (the band’s youngest member is only 17), this trio has sophisticated tastes. On the eve of their album launch tour, they’ve sent us a playlist: 17 songs about water. Featuring tracks from Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt, as well as John Phillips’ cult first record the Wolfking of LA, it’s a timely reminder that, though just out of high school, the Goon Sax are cooler than you.

Singer/guitarist Louis Forster writes:

‘The following songs aren’t connected by any kind of genre or time period, but what they all have in common is that they are set beside or based on some kind of body of water. Whether it’s the Marine Girls’ loneliness scaling the depth of the ocean, or Neil Young’s bitter observations on the beach, by the water is always a brilliant setting for a song, and serves as the perfect comparison to just about any emotion.’

Tracklist:

The Marine Girls – 20,000 Leagues
The Beach Boys – Feel Flows
Robert Wyatt – Shipbuilding
Bob Dylan – When the Ship Comes In
The Velvet Underground – Ocean
Pulp – My Lighthouse
Erika Eigen – I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper
Mercury Rev – Opus 40
Neil Young – On the Beach
Creedence Clearwater Revival – Proud Mary
Talking Heads – Take Me to the River
Canned Heat – Going Up the Country
The Waterboys – Fisherman’s Blues
John Phillips – Malibu People
Gordon Lightfoot – The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald
G. Wayne Thomas – Morning of the Earth
The Triffids – Seabirds
You can catch the Goon Sax on their east coast tour in April:

Saturday, 2 April

Sydney – Newtown Social Club
supports FLOWERTRUCK and Solid Effort
https://newtownsc.ticketscout.com.au/gigs/5101-the-goon-sax?_ga=1.2921016.983764161.1456103188

Saturday, 9 April
Melbourne – The Tote Hotel
supports Chook Race, Hearing and Dag
https://thetotehotel.oztix.com.au/?Event=60520

Saturday, 30 April
Brisbane – Trainspotters
supports Blank Realm and Scraps
tickets on the door

Up To Anything is out now on Chapter on vinyl, CD and digital. Order it here.

Facebook / Bandcamp

LISTEN: Gentleforce – Refuge from The Great Sadness

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gentleforce

Sydney-based producer Gentleforce, aka Eli Murray, first appeared on the scene with his debut album Sacred Spaces, a warm, immersive listen that contrasted sharply with the club nights he was DJing at the time. The album serves as a great introduction – informed by Murray’s wildly eclectic music taste, there are nods to numerous genres, all filtered through his pastoral, downbeat lens.

Sacred Spaces was followed by Looking Through New Window, a long-form live piece created for the monthly experimental sound series ‘Refraction’. Written for a live setting, the release has a more expansive feel, as musical themes drift in and out, dissolving into one another in a blissfully evolving soundscape.

Refuge from The Great Sadness is the latest album from Gentleforce, and it represents a tremendous leap forward for Murray. There’s an epic beauty that reveals itself over the course of the album. From the subtly treated field recordings of ‘Singing over Shibuya’ to the sweeping techno abstractions of ‘You hold my hand through the Gate’, the music consumes you, envelops you in its radiance. And while it’s easy to categorise the music of Gentleforce with labels like ambient or even drone, this belies the bigger picture. There is a sense of grandeur to the music, a majesty that’s uplifting without sounding overwrought or cliché.

Refuge from The Great Sadness is available digitally now.

Facebook / Bandcamp

LISTEN: TRANSGENRE Playlist

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transgenre

The work of trans and gender non-conforming musicians in the local underground community has become increasingly visible over recent months, thanks to the efforts of figures like Simona Castricum and June Jones, as well as discussions sparked around the LISTEN collective. These artists have been out there for a minute now, collaborating and playing gigs together, creating songs, poetry and artwork with a fierce DIY energy.

This Sunday, 3 April, a group of them are coming together for TRANSGENRE, ‘a mini music festival celebrating trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) musicians, DJs, poets, and performance artists’. They’ve made us a playlist showcasing the range of talent on the bill – from the droning, industrial synth pop of Simona Castricum and WK II (Wet Kiss) to the downer country jams of Callan and Two Steps on the Water. There’s also spoken word by Xen Nhà, experimental noise from Jack Mannix’s TERMINAL INFANT project and the incisive folk of Native Cats’ Chloe Alison Escott.

TRANSGENRE takes place from 5pm at Howler, with DJs playing till early morning. Get your tickets here, and RSVP on Facebook.

LISTEN: Mere Women & Gold Class – Split 7″

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mere women gold class

Mere Women and Gold Class are coming together to release a split record, and if you can think of a team-up that makes more intuitive sense, you’re out of your goddamn mind. The two bands have a lot in common – razor sharp guitar lines that tear their way through insistent, impeccable drumming (Mere Women, in particular, have got one of our very best in Katrina Byrne) and stark, powerful vocals. They’ve also both got that ‘no warnings, no prisoners’ approach to live shows that’ll blow your head off – so try and get along to their double headline shows after release day in May.

On Gold Class’ debut record, It’s You, it always seemed like singer Adam Curley took the higher status – belting out declarations from above, which we eagerly scooped up – but on ‘Standing At The Fault’ he’s allowed himself to be a little self-pitying, a little raw. A lot of this feel is because of the recording, which is looser than most of the stuff off their debut record, and Curley’s more breathless way of singing. Gold Class – with their incredible trajectory to stardom – sometimes come off a little pointed in their ambition, so it’s cool to see them make an unexpected move. Or maybe this is all calculated. Whatever, it’s a good song.

On ‘Numb’, Mere Women do what they do best and beat you into submission with the brutal force of their need. Singer Amy Wilson’s great gift is turning desperation into power, which she showed so well on 2014’s Your Town, and it has not weakened with time. Throughout the song she repeats the lines, ‘nothing feels as good as it used to / nothing fills the void like you do’. (Put that up against Curley’s ‘you’ve been gone forever/or maybe that’s how forever seems to me’, and we’ve got a hint of what the vibe of this split might be). Flyn Mckinnirey makes the track soar with dramatic, searing guitar lines, and whatever’s going on with those sharp rattling cymbals is terrific. Wilson’s closing line, though – just belting ‘Noooooooooo’ for the last minute of the song – really says it all.

Watch this space for the split record, out in May via Black Wire Records, recorded by Tim G. Carr and Rohan Sforcina, and mastered by Mikey Young.

They’ll be playing two co-headline shows – at Northcote Social Club on Saturday, 21 May, and Newtown Social Club on Friday, 27 May.

Mere Women: Facebook / Bandcamp

Gold Class: Facebook / Bandcamp

LOOK: Ali Barter – Melbourne Laneway Festival 2016

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Ali Barter portrait 1

‘It was a bit less thought out, a bit more off the cuff.’

Sitting in the bright Windsor home she shares with husband Oscar Dawson (HOLY HOLY), his parents and a train of siblings and toddlers, Ali Barter is talking about her latest single, ‘Far Away’. Built around a classic four-piece rock set up, the track howls with echo, cymbals and huge guitar riffs, foregoing much of the studio-derived ornament of last year’s AB-EP.

It’s the result of a series of last-minute writing sessions, arranged at the tail end of a family trip to LA.

‘I went and spent two or three hours with this guy I’d never met before, called Harlan Silverman, and we wrote this song in his garage. It was sort of half finished, ‘cause I was really tired… But I think the lack of thought that went into it is why it’s good’.

Back home, ‘Far Away’ was recorded quickly in a simple basement studio – ‘and that was it. No hiring the best studio, trying to get the best sound.

‘Sometimes I feel like I overcooked things on my last EPs. I’ve had too much time to mull over things and think about references and who I want to be. And this was just a song. I brought this half-cooked song to my band, and we rearranged it a bit and played it in one rehearsal, and then we were like, “Well, that’s done. Let’s record it and not fuck with it too much, and then let it go”’.

Ali Barter portrait 2

The LA sessions resulted in a number of songs intended for Barter’s debut LP, which she plans to record later this year in much the same style as ‘Far Away’.

‘I would like to do them all that way – like, all in the room – because I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself. We did this Pozible campaign in 2013 and raised 15 grand. We went to Brisbane to work with Matt Redlich, who’s the HOLY HOLY producer, and we were there for six weeks recording all these songs. By the end of it my voice packed up completely, and eventually I had to have surgery. I think there was just too much pressure…

‘Courtney Barnett recorded one of her EPs in, like, three days in a house and it was done, you know. It’s like Neil Young says – “the more you think, the more you stink”. I definitely identify with that’.

When we visited, Barter was gearing up for a hometown performance at St Jerome’s Laneway Festival. It would be her second appearance at the festival; in 2013, she joined the Melbourne line up as a triple j Unearthed winner. ‘That was awesome. From that, I met my manager and my booking agent. Everything started from there for me’.

Ali at Laneway 2

This year she played alongside locals like Blank Realm, Royal Headache and DMA’s (‘They played “Delete” the other day, and even though I’ve heard it a million times, I almost cried – I got goosebumps’), and headliners Beach House, Vince Staples and Grimes.

By this point, she’d already played two cities. ‘We’ve had some hiccoughs,’ Barter admitted. ‘At the Brisbane show, my guitar died. The amp blew up halfway through my set, so I couldn’t play – and I always play with a guitar. I don’t have any mic skills, I don’t have any dance moves…’

It must have sounded better than she let on, though, because after Silicon left the tour, Barter shot up the bill to take an afternoon slot on the festival’s main stage. She glided through her set, dance moves and all – and we were there to take some photographs.

Ali at Laneway 1

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LISTEN: Black Cab – ‘Uniforms’

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black cab

We’ve been waiting far too long for another local band like Cut Copy to unite the dancefloors and house parties and festivals of Australia. Nite Fields probably could have done it if they had any ambition to be popular in this country (and, you know, why would they?). Blank Realm have the vibe but are maybe a little too rough and tumble for that weird subset of partiers who still listen to the radio. California Girls are going too hard to care. Add your favourite of the hundreds of others who almost cracked the formula for electro-success to this list.

But Black Cab have got it: the polish, the choruses ready-made for sing-alongs under blinding lights, the universal, vaguely romantic lyrics (‘boys can boys can/and the girls can have it all’) and vocals in the monotone English new-wave style that sound vitally important even when the words are banal.

‘Uniforms’ does everything a good dance song should – swells and pulses, builds up and repeats until you think you could really dance forever. Flashback: me and everyone else at Golden Plains. ‘I love this. I LOVE THIS. This is a GREAT SONG’. It sounds like a strobe, arpeggiated and bright. And in case you needed more proof of the broad and impeccable taste of Mikey Young, here he is on guest keys. Must have been a lot of fun.

Black Cab launch ‘Uniforms’ in May at Melbourne’s Howler and at the Newtown Social Club in Sydney. Those of us outside the big smoke will have to wait (we’re used to it). The band’s hinted at a vinyl release later in the year, so hopefully it won’t be too long.

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