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LISTEN: Half High – Rubble Indent EP

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Half High

Half High is the work of Sydney Artists Lucy Phelan and Matthew P. Hopkins. Their latest three song, 30 minute EP has arrived right on the heels of their previous release Deserted Squares Under The RainHowever, it’s an entirely different beast from the pure crystalline sounds of that recording with it’s long emotive silences, where buzzing mechanical noise was used as rhythmic devices, to deliver small shocks to stop the music fading into the background.

Deserted Squares… is a beautiful mixture of ‘natural’ sounds – electronic ripples and whispers, with industrial undercurrents breaching the surface every now and then. It’s the kind of ambient music that draws vibe and mood from silence and stillness. Rubble Indent  is wholly intrusive. It invades the space around you creating a character that is unnerving, unpredictable and harsh.

Gone are the chimes and ripples, there’s no pretence of naturalism here – this is a kind of practical music, the sound of motions and actions repeating, energy being built up then deconstructed in surprising and uncomfortable ways.

Phelan and Hopkins are also visual artists, whose live shows are as much about picture as sound. You will lose something when listening to this music without visuals, but it’s also startling how readily your brain will create its own given the droning stimulus.

Phelan also plays hard-hitting and inventive dance music under the name Lucy Cliché, though I’d find it hard to draw too many comparisons between the two – maybe those heavy crashing beats, cement against metal, brain against skull, cycling faster and harder towards the end of ‘Glorious Glug’. But that’s probably a stretch.

Rubble Indent‘s second track, ‘Ground Grey’ is comparatively pretty to begin with – the ambient sounds of a space prison yard, of an empty robotic future. My favourite part comes towards the middle of ‘Send Caresses’ – a seething ocean of sharply sparkling noise punctured by dark whale-like sounds.

Honestly, I don’t listen to much stuff like this cuz I’ll have a weird time for the rest of the day – I’m too easily effected by mood in music. But this EP is just so impressively constructed, such a beautiful piece of sound art that I keep coming back for more unsettling noise, more strange and sinister droning to freak out the work day.

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LISTEN: Yon Yonson – Yes No Sorry

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Sydney outfit Yon Yonson have been making music since 2010, and after a string of self-released EP’s and albums they have joined forces with local label TEEF Records for their fourth full-length, Yes No Sorry.

Continuing to mine their quirky blend of electronic indie pop, this latest effort is a joyous patchwork of soulful synth jams, funk-fuelled samples and stripped-back, contemplative ballads. At certain points the music could be placed alongside the tongue-in-cheek RnB experiments of Oscar + Martin or even Hot Chip, but just as quickly shifts into some sample-heavy mutant lounge, and it’s this effortless eclecticism that gives the music a certain charm.

There is much to love here, a personal highlight being ‘Figurine’ with its propulsive beat and infectious energy. Not to mention the killer opening line, “It isn’t easy being flesh, and piss, and blood, and spit, and ugliness, with most of the light taken out of it all”.

Balancing flippant humour with sincere introspection, the songs are at times polished and confident, at other times scrappy and vulnerable. The latter like scrawled messages, placed in bottles and cast away into the vast waters of internet music archives.

Another impressive entry from the band, and another exciting addition to the TEEF roster. Grab a copy from the TEEF bandcamp store here.

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LISTEN: Hannah Kate – Late Brunch EP

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Much like Madeleine, I’ve been somewhat caught in the throes of the debut record from Dag outta Melbourne [ml: … Brisbane first]. I know it’s strange to start off a post about one artist by talking about another, but the shambling melancholic cloud of a record like Dag’s Benefits of Solitude hangs over you with a tenacity that can only be dissipated by something as shining and delicate as Hannah Kate‘s debut EP, Late Brunch.

As something that exists solely in vibrations, music has an incredible ability to make humans want to ascribe it emotional weight and meaning. But, to me, Kate’s collection of six songs has a grounded intimacy that seems undeniable. Warbling guitar chords that float on deep inside your ears with Kate’s youthful yet retrospective lyricism and loose drums.

These songs live and die in spaces that can only ever be inhabited by one or two people at a time, the production of the EP holding everything very close together. The only thing that’s allowed to float away is Kate’s voice, twirling off within some reverb up above.

It’s a strong first effort, a nice dose of singer-songwriter focus within a wash of bedroom guitar recordings.

If you’re in Melbouren, get down to the EP Launch on Thursday March 23, with Culte and Weatherboards

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LOOK: Bent & Sydney 2000 Tour Photos

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Tristan, Steve, Skye, Heidi

Last month two of Brisbane’s best bands recently stretched their legs and bank accounts on a national tour – taking in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart (The Entire Nation) and playing with local top dogs like Primo, Parsnip, Treehouse, Sex Tourists, LA Suffocated and Dolphin.

Both bands are DIY as hell – from Sydney 2000‘s bananas stage attire to Bent‘s playful, haphazard film clips to the fact that Steve Rose from Sydney 2000 drove from city to city the entire way cuz none of the others have licenses. Glen Schenau from Bent (also Per Purpose, Deck in the Pit, Kitchens Floor) takes photos of gigs around town on disposable, capturing and documenting blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments of scrappy, sweaty beauty.

We asked Glen for some photos of the tour – which was also a kind of farewell for Heidi Cutlack, who plays bass and sings in Bent and drums in Sydney 2000, and has since moved to Japan.

(Couple of iPhone ones in here too, don’t comment)

Thanks Glen, and thanks Heidi for making your wild, cool, and uniquely lovely music in Brisbane for so long.

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Sex Tourists – Sydney

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Bent

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LA Suffocated – Sydney

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Sydney 2000

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Place Holder – Sydney

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Kitchen’s Floor (Brisbane in Melbourne)

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Dolphin – Hobart

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Treehouse – Hobart

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Sydney 2000

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Bent

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Sydney 2000

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Primo – Melbourne

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Parsnip – Melbourne

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Bent’s ecstatically sick new record Snakes and Shapes is out on Moontown now

Sydney 2000 have tape out and floating around that should be online sometime in the future. Until then, see if you can hunt it down, nestled in the fur of the meanest cat on your street, sown into the pocket of the camo shorts you haven’t worn since 2009.

Bent Facebook / Sydney 2000 Facebook 

Bent Bandcamp

LISTEN: Dag – Benefits of Solitude LP

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Dag

It’s interesting to me the way this record has been promoted as being Australian rock and roll, in the vein of The Go-Betweens and The Triffids – not cuz that’s inaccurate, but because of how those bands often seemed uncomfortable in their Australian-ness. They lived in England, they wanted to be English art-college post-punk, but the frustration of being outsiders on a far-off island prompted the melancholy isolation that became so much a part of what we think of the Australian sound.

And a couple of decades later middle-class uni dropouts broaden their accents and keep year ten English extension prizes hidden. Well, that’s the story for a lot of us. But not Dusty Mc-Cord Anastassiou, Dag‘s front man and songwriter. His takes in growing up amidst the struggle of cattle farming, moving to Brisbane and finding a new way to be lonely.

The kind of Australian young adulthood this record captures has the same isolation as those private school boys longing for fashionable Manchester squats. But in a way that seems to understand that it’s not always about the place – you can be alone and misunderstood anywhere. (Though Anastassiou has moved to Melbourne since recording this record – does that make that whole preamble moot? We’ll see).

Something I’ve noticed about when I write about records: I love moments. I love to quote poignant lines like, ‘Hey, isn’t this REAL’ or draw attention to the way a little drum fill or riff grabs your attention and makes a song special.

And there’s plenty of those in this record – like the off-kilter heartbreak of ‘Not Fine Mind’ perfectly signaled by its opening discordant brass, leading into the casual cruelty of lines like ‘I know at times I can be unkind / it doesn’t help hearing you move at the back of the house in a close friend’s room’.

Or the beautiful classical guitar bits in ‘Exercise’. I wonder why they didn’t make this a single – the mix of sinister imagery, hopelessness and relentless, jaunty beauty in the swing of the guitars and the ooooh oooohs seems like the perfect teaser to hook people in. I guess they kept it to start the record how they intended to go on – sadly lovely, full of surprises.

Or, the catches in the throat and the fingers moving on strings that bring such and intimate human physicality to ‘Company’. Maudlin violin and unsettling sounds mixed in to tighten the vice on your heart.

Then, the naivete of ‘Guards Down’; sweet and easy like love should be, sung with a smile – just the thing to break up ‘Age of Anxiety’s furious fear and the grim, classic country death storytelling of ‘JB’. ‘Endless, Aching Dance’ is a stark picture of a drought-stricken cattle farm, the demons that breed in an atmosphere as leaden with death as that one. Death is all over this record. And not in that ‘I’m a nihilist so I don’t have to care about anyone’ way, but like it’s something real, something you have to fight off tooth and nail at any moment.

But it feels like a disservice to just pull apart this record without talking about how, for all these beautiful pieces, it works even better as a whole. It’s less of a story more of a picture, when you listen to the whole thing you get a nuanced understanding of time and place where there was boredom and anxiety and depression and love and fun and a fuck load of nothing. It’s an album of beautifully written songs about strangeness and ugliness, an album about isolation that draws the listener in close. It exists, it struggles on, it says you can too.

Benefits of Solitude is out on Bedroom Suck right now

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LISTEN: Beloved Elk – Distractions LP

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Beloved Elk are a band of great focus. Whether or not you see nobility in their gaze being so consistently directed at human connections, trauma and anxiety is a personal feeling. But there’s something to be said about the boldness of duo Amy Wright and Tina Nyugen dissecting their deepest-selves on record over the course of three E.P.’s, and now their debut album Distractions.

Writing on the production of the record, Wright speaks of a healthy dissonance in the band, and discusses the influences and overall intent of the record.

“We took all of May 2016 to home record the album in the shed at my place. Most of the songs were just guitar chords and vocals to begin with and each morning we would write out new guitar lines together and Tina would come up with drum parts on the day.”

Aside from splitting lead vocals and drumming duties separately, we shared all the guitar, bass and keys playing down the middle. Kinda fighting over each instrument and picking whichever takes sounded best…. I wanted to do all the arranging from scratch and in one hit during the recording of the album itself to keep all the songs unified together in tone and feel…”

Distractions is a collection of sombre, twinkling guitars; clattering experimental drumming; and Wright’s wrenching, mournful vocals. The pieces create a sound that is absolutely sincere and melancholic, working together to form a complete, fully-realised whole.

“It was really inspired by late ’90s Modest Mouse, Cat Power and the Drones when making the album. I intentionally minimised the use of effect pedals and overdubs so it would be as raw and immediate as possible. I was feeling very courageous going in to recording it and wanted to make something that would be challenging to listen to in parts but would take risks and cut through, wanting the delivery to be bold, brave and nuanced… recording it ourselves meant we just had no personal boundaries in what we could do in the room. Even if it meant screaming til our voices were gone.”

“The album covers a lot of ground but ultimately keeps coming back to the two main themes of feeling out of place in society/cut off/not belonging — and feeling overly sensitive, having immense difficulty connecting or reaching out.”

Distractions is out now on LISTEN Records.

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WATCH: Pillow Pro – ‘Beyond the Rave’

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Pillow Pro

Melbourne two-piece Pillow Pro pull a kind of bait and switch with their new video, stunningly directed by Lara Kose. At first it’s a couple of cool girls in hoodies walking down monochrome Melbourne streets – sitting at the laundromat, looking at derro stuff etc. But then it fades into a kind of dream-sequence sun-dappled and soaked in colour.

Though the down-tempo beats and chorus of ‘Pick up your phone / been waiting / I’ve been down too long’ suggest a romantic kind of longing, it doesn’t seem much like they need anyone else. This video seems to posit that maybe all the shit you do with your best friend killing time until your lover calls you back is actually the interesting part. Especially if that shit involves dressing up in the cutest fucking cowgirl outfits I’ve ever seen (will pay any money to cop btw – madeleine@whothehell.net) and lounging on li-los with umbrella drinks and curly straws.

It’s girly, embracing all the loading bullshit that comes with that term. Its pastel-toned and pretty, wistful and sassy in equal parts. It feels luxurious, from the pristine quality of the production to the beautiful costuming and the languid slow-mo. Pillow Pro have said they were inspired by ‘90s pop videos, and this definitely comes through – though updated with all the fun and none of the daggy-ness. It’s a pure and confident statement of intent from a band who seem to have a huge year ahead.

Pillow Pro are playing at Rack Off in Melbourne on March 4th. That’s DEFINITELY where I’d be if I didn’t have to be somewhere else.

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