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WATCH: Wireheads – ‘So Softly Spoken’

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Wireheads 4

Image by Sia Duff

A good low-budget clip should make you think two things: ‘hey that’s cool’ and ‘these guys are cool’. Alex Gordon-Smith’s one shot, one take (yeah, let’s not fuck around) clip for Adelaide band Wireheads’ ‘So Softly Spoken’, off their recent album Arrive Alive (which we  liked heaps), does just that.

It starts off inside a share house with an effective mix of the surreal and mundane, matching the haphazard energy of the first half of the track perfectly. This is a song that sounds like it could be coming through the floor into your room while your housemates band practised downstairs – if that band was actually good.

Then the tempo slows, becomes more reflective and romantic, as the camera’s blurry gaze shifts to the world outside, walking down familiar suburban streets, smoking durries and drinking tallies, eating whole heads of lettuce. The clip ends with the members of the band (and other bands – Adelaide mates from Rule of Thirds, The High Beamers, Gentleworms, and more were roped in for the shoot) walking down the street playing guitar, or wearing a stained wedding dress and drinking a bottle of red wine.

It’s a melancholy note to end on – this band house with your mates stuff doesn’t last forever, things change all the time. With that in mind this clip becomes a weird, slightly dark but affectionate document of a specific time and place and people.

You can buy Arrive Alive from Tenth Court now, and if you live in Adelaide or Melbourne and don’t catch one of the album launch shows (dates below)… sort your shit out.

August 6 – The Metro, Adelaide w/ Primo (Melb) + Fair Maiden + Workhorse

August 19 – The Grace Darling, Melbourne w/ Summer Flake + Primo + SMB

August 20 – The Curtin, Melbourne w/ Shame Brothers + Blank Statements

FEATURE: Sarah Mary Chadwick – ‘Roses Always Die’ LP

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sarah mary chadwick LP

I’ve never really been able to listen to sad music when I’m sad. I’ve never had the emotional capacity ‘have a good cry’, wallow in it, let it out and move forward. I’ve kind of always found sadness unbearable and unacceptable. I can’t deal. So I turn it into hate or anger at myself or those who’ve done me wrong. Now I’m not gonna say Sarah Mary Chadwick taught me how to feel sad, cause that’s some trite bullshit. I am gonna say that the themes on her new record Roses Always Die reveal something is so important, but almost impossible to accept: that there’s no shame in feeling bad.

These spare and beautiful songs pick at the stiches of every bad feeling: fear, grief, desperation, loneliness, hopelessness, and examine them with heartbreaking clarity.

Accessing these emotions, for Chadwick, has become routine. I can’t really kid myself that the catharsis I feel from these songs is something I’m sharing with the woman who wrote them, but you know, art’s in interpretation.

‘It’s something that I’ve just got into the habit of doing,’ she says. ‘I think when I used to play in the band [Batrider] and it was more physical and aggressive, that was probably more of a cathartic experience. I think as I get older it’s got both more of a purpose and less of a purpose. I do it more, it’s a bigger part of my life, but it’s become more mundane.’

Routine and boredom seem to be big parts of Chadwick’s creative progression. The guitar that still lingered around in a few songs on last year’s 9 Classic Tracks is gone here, leaving vocals and the organ that Chadwick bought from her housemate for $50 as the only instruments (the drums are the beats built into the organ). Chadwick said that keyboards are just more interesting to her at the moment: ‘it helps that I’m not that good at it. I got to a point when I’d been playing guitar for so many years that was like I just don’t think I can do anything that I’ll enjoy doing with guitar anymore. Maybe with keyboards the same thing will happen.’

There’s something big about these songs. For one thing, organ just sounds important, even if it’s backed up by thin programmed drums and sparse production. But the grandness is also in the way Chadwick builds drama with these few elements. She says that the idea of drama was really the only preconceived notion she had making the record.

‘I wanted to have some big songs. Some of them I reckon ended up sounding like a real Liza Minnelli show tunes vibe. I was telling Geoff [Geoffrey O’Connor, who recorded the album] a couple of times, “Oh yeah, that’s a Liza one”. ‘The Fire That Torched My Fear’ is one – I imagine that as being a big moment in like a musical or something – not in a way that anyone but us would really get.’

I get it. Yeah, probably only because she told me, but now I can’t listen to that track without seeing a ‘Life is a Cabaret’-esque black stage and spotlight, tears streaming down a stark white face.  ‘The Fire That Torched My Fear’ follows ‘Yunno What’, my favourite song on the record for its groovy-ness (the dance track) as much as it’s visceral desperation. Each song easily wounds you on its own, but back-to-back they’re out to destroy you.

Not necessarily just with the bitterness of lines like ‘The Fire That Torched My Fear’s opener why did I expect more from today? I should have let it just be nothing’ but also with that ever-present tenuous hope of the redemption that friends might offer, if you can muster up the courage to ask (‘maybe I’ll see someone who cracks me up all night / someone who’ll make it feel alright’).

‘Four Walls’ is the shortest song on the record but the most intense and claustrophobic. You can hear Chadwick’s fingers moving over and hovering on the keys, while she sings, I’m guessing, about the responsibility of living for someone who’s gone, trying to be witness to their life: ‘some things speak through me / and I can feel your pain wild and free’. This intimacy may have been helped by the way the organ was recorded. Because it was too big to be moved, Chadwick had to record everything in her apartment. Which, she says, made things easier.

‘We live in a big warehouse style apartment thing, and I think that really worked for the recording – if we lived in a tiny dead apartment thing it wouldn’t have. I think we did the tracking over a day or two, tops. And then all the vocals I recorded in his studio.’

She continues, ‘I actually wrote 9 Classic Tracks on the same organ, but when I recorded with Geoff the first time, to be honest I think he didn’t trust me. He was like, ‘Um let’s just record it on this synth…’ And because I hadn’t done anything like that before I didn’t mind at all, and I think that sound really worked for that record. But this time I wanted to use the organ I wrote it on, just to make sure it sounded different from the last [record].’

It’s easy to assume that every sad song is about sex and relationships – especially when you’re young and privileged and nothing else particularly bad has gone wrong in your life (hello!) – but there’s a lot of different kind of pain in here. Chadwick’s father and close friend died very close together in the last year, and she says obviously that influenced the record a lot, as did starting psychoanalysis. She says she’s become more interested in her own motivation – ‘there’s a lot in there: what makes things happen and what’s propelling things, why things happen’ she says.

The frankness of her own self-examination is instantly appealing. ‘I’ve never been worried about admitting the bad things about myself, or someone else,’ she laughs. But she says it might also be slightly defensive. ‘Maybe that’s a bit of inoculating yourself against bad things, or being surprised. Because if things go to shit you can be like – well, I knew that was gonna happen’.

While the record might not be overtly about physical and romantic connections, they’re still in there, still affecting everything else – you can’t put your traumas in a line and deal with them one by one. There’s no song that’s just about death or just about sex or just about hope; Chadwick’s stories are way too complex and whole for that. ‘Turn On’ deftly mixes intimate imagery and beauty with grief in lines like ‘I believed your skin would cauterise me’ or the picture of ‘a stupidly idyllic cemetery’. The vocals here are fuller than the rest of the record, dark whispers fill up the background while Chadwick’s voice strains under the weight of her loss, front and centre.

Maybe one of the reason it’s hard to separate these songs from sex and love is the art that has accompanied most of Chadwick’s music since 9 Classic Tracks. If you’ve seen much of her very cool, uninhibited pen and water colour pieces featuring sex and sex acts, it won’t surprise you that most of the subjects are directly copied from porn. But the way she describes it as inspiration is with characteristic subtlety and thoughtfulness.

‘I think porn’s really interesting’ she says ‘it’s people’s base instincts and there’s all these power dynamics and it’s a little bit seedy and a little bit hot and a little bit lame and problematic and there’s so much stuff going on in there, it’s never boring’. Like in Chadwick’s music, nothing is ever just one thing in these visual works.

It’s also shown her something about the perceived value of art. ‘There’s something kind of weird about it,’ she says. ‘If I did a song or whatever, you can buy that for a dollar on Bandcamp. But all the feelings in the world went into writing it, then me and Geoff did the tracking, then the vocals, then he mixed it and it got mastered and someone from Rice is Nice promoted it. Whereas I can sit down and watch some porn while I’m watching Bridgette Jones’ Diary in the background and draw a picture and I can sell it for like $100! It just cracks me up, how much effort goes into one or the lack of effort that goes into the other.’

There’s kind of pure joy in these drawings that comes from self-destruction and abasement – when you’re heading towards someone with open arms, asking them to fuck you up/ just fuck you. You can  hear it on the record too, most notably in single ‘Cool It’ – which comes around with some arse-moving drums and some deep and slinky base notes.

It’s hazy and kind of dangerous; ‘you’re not my good time… Unless you wanna be / I could do with a little pick-me-up/ and looking into your eyes/I wanna test out some limits’ she sings, before the song ends to slide into ‘The Man in the Flags’, where she becomes the wise friend consoling someone else. ‘I can see you’re reeling / from that last punch you’re still bleeding / she is nothing more than dead wax / and when her hold over your heart slacks,’ she sings over a jittery high hat and snare sound and a keyboard solo straight out of a sea-shanty – a false kind of joviality that sounds like putting on a happy face for the sake of a friend.

Chadwick leaves the end of the record for the more quiet and delicate moments. Like in late highlight ‘Make a Boundary’, with it’s startlingly beautiful melody in a chorus carried by vocals that catch at all the right moments. That song and the strained, empty-sounding ‘Right Now I’m Running’ make up her last exhausted shout – ‘blackened by the fire’ – wanting to be able to end things and walk away with something left, but ending up giving it all away anyway.

But she still can’t resist finishing with one eye on the hope of other people: ‘hey your eyes light up / and hey your mouth seems smart / and hey look the sun’s up’.

Different parts of the cycle of hope, loss, disappointment and trying again that makes up pretty much everyone’s whole life, are scattered over this record. There is progress, but it starts and stops, moves backwards, sometimes gives up. The absolute honesty and self-knowledge with which Sarah Mary Chadwick approaches this cycle makes her an artist to be in awe of. Roses Always Die is an album that makes you wanna be brave, to make any shame in sadness cower under that beautiful, real-shit, truth.

 

Roses Always Die is out on Rice is Nice Friday August 5.

And, if you really wanna hear some guitar, Chadwick is releasing a seven inch on a Swedish label later in the year with two guitar tracks that were cut from the record.

Sarah Mary Chadwick is touring around Australia, and will be in:

Melbourne at the Northcote Social Club on September 1

Sydney at the Newtown Social Club September 3

Brisbane at Trainspotters on September 17

WATCH: Nic Belor – ‘Bestfriend’

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nic belor

Nic Belor, a gentle, long-haired guitarist and songwriter living between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, is about to release his first solo album, Bestfriend, via Queensland-based imprint Feedback Town. Formerly of the post hardcore-influenced Wilde Child, he’s also a member of Figures, a three-piece band that pairs sweet, Teenage Fanclub-style vocals with rough-edged shoegaze.

Belor’s new material is pop music, plain and simple – an attempt to cut through the noise in a few harmonic minutes. The album’s title track and lead single is a sad-faced number with a chipper demeanour, kind of like Mac DeMarco minus the shit-eating grin. Easygoing and warm, ‘Bestfriend’ is nonetheless just a little off-kilter; its bright chords slightly detuned, twanging uncannily, while Belor croons about the one who’s left him.

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LISTEN: Two Steps on the Water – ‘God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye’ LP

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2steps

Album art by Lee Lai

God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye, the debut album from Melbourne trio Two Steps on the Water, dropped just over a week ago. Smack bang in the middle of 2016, the year of woke Facebook bubbles and a music industry that’s rolling over from it’s rock dog decades and letting diversity seep in, if it’s loud and persistent enough. Enter: June Jones. A formidable songwriter, guitarist and singer willing to unpack her transness, trauma and a raft of other internal gordian knots backed by the country/folk/punk (or emotion punk) coupling of Sienna Thornton on violin and Jonathan Nash on everything else. Both help with the vocals throughout, tempering Jones’ throttling falsetto or providing the hooks upon which she drapes delicate, devastating melodies.

Initial reviews of their debut have ranged from gentle “it’s not everyone’s cuppa” to outright “not getting it”. It’s definitely a record that requires a response, not at all something to casually play in the background. The track from which the title phrase is pulled ‘My Medusa’ turns from lulling violins turn to flamenco-y guitar to a crescendo of Jones, Thornton and Nash demanding “Don’t look me in the eyes/ I need to breathe.” It’s the early introduction to transness, anxiety and other heady themes Jones’ spits out with gripping eloquence.

It’s followed by ‘Baby and the Bicycle’: “Just leaving the house is political / baby wants a form that’s neutral.” There’s no relief from Jones’ heavy one way conversation at any point on this record, but she translates her pain and heeartache in a way that’s captivating and even funny. The density of each track makes me think we’re barely glimpsing the surface of what Jones is capable of; this bare catharsis that we have the goddamn privilege of witnessing is just a selection.

On top of the lyrical bedrock of God Forbid… is the ferocious nylon-stringed guitar that receives her anger, fear and frustration and shoots out propulsive rhythms at lightning speed. Thornton’s violin parts oversee the whole operation, piggybacking Jones’ voice with harmonies and counter-melodies. Nash covers the drums, bass and the organ that quietly backs the “relationships can get royally fucked” track ‘Ships in the Night’. The almost equal attention given to violin, guitar and voice across the album brings the lyrics into sharp focus, and the 9 minute closer ‘Words in my Mouth’ ties them all heart-wrenchingly together in an ear-splitting falsetto, a physical reaction to the pain of years past and ongoing.

Two Steps don’t write songs for the attention of straight cis (me af) music writers or ~lovers~, and Jones’ unapologetically honest account of being queer, trans, in love, healing and every space in between is exactly the kind of sentiment you should be able to wear on your sleeve as a songwriter. You could say Jones’ is mining her past experiences on God Forbid… if it weren’t so clear that she is still working through all of this every day. Just listen to every song, pay attention and take what Jones is saying to heart. It deserves your attention.

I’ve heard excellent things about the Two Steps live show, and you can catch them at the end of this month in these places:

Melbourne – August 19th

Brisbane – August 27th

Sydney – August 26th & 29th

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WATCH: Tim Richmond Group – ‘The Book’

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tim richmond

As far as your standard set-up of guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards go, Tim Richmond Group is making some of the strangest music in Australia while still maintaining a pop edge. They skip playfully across time signatures and influences on their recent record What’s In The Middle, Richmond’s warm croak of a vocal delivery holding your hand the whole way. Nowhere is this more evident than on single ‘The Book’, for which there is now a brand new video, courtesy of Geoffrey O’Connor and his studio Vanity Lair.

Within, Richmond lazes about alongside band mates Mark Monnone (Monnone Alone, the Lucksmiths) and Joe Alexander (Terrible Truths, Free Time) under some classy 80s-esque film crackle and discolouration. Check it out below.

What’s in the Middle? is out now on Lost & Lonesome. The album launch is at the Gasometer in Collingwood on Friday, 12 August, with a killer line up including Palm Springs, Roller One and Sarah Mary Chadwick, plus DJ sets from Dream Kit, Michael Goodfellow and VDKA CRSR.

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LISTEN: Tangents – Stateless

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stateless

Improvisational outfit Tangents comprises a handful of talented musicians whose combined resumes include Triosk, Icarus, FourPlay String Quartet, Spartak and Pollen Trio, amongst others. Their new album, Stateless, was recently released by Temporary Residence, a perfect fit considering the US label’s eclectic and adventurous roster, and near flawless back catalogue.

Stateless effortlessly melds live instrumentation with electronic processing and programming, striking the perfect balance between the group’s improvisational roots and meticulous studio construction. The resulting music is simultaneously familiar and unique. In a broader musical sense there are nods to predecessors like The Necks, Supersilent and Tortoise; then there are more elemental references such as the processed cello at times recalling experimental duo The Books, or the deft scattershot drumming bringing to mind the skittering electronics of member Oliver Bown’s own Icarus project. But these are merely touch points as Tangents is certainly the sum of its parts, each member bringing their own individual influences, experiences, and style to the group’s sound.

A notable departure from their debut album I, released via hellosQuare in 2013, cellist Peter Hollo states that “the two albums are almost diametrically opposed in terms of our creative workflow. I is a document of the first performance by the five of us – before Tangents existed as a group at all. Fortunately we had the prescience to record the lot, and we spent a number of sessions editing those into the album itself. Stateless, by contrast, was not performed as a quintet at all. Ollie [Bown] took improvisations by group members in solo and duo configurations, and began sequencing tracks out of these.”

The music is created by the four performing members, but largely composed from this material by Bown. Initial foundations were created, Hollo said, then additional performances were recorded on top, bringing structural clarity and helping guide each piece to its finished form.

Tangents

There is a concerted focus on space in the music, a key factor to the album’s success. Individual members’ contributions are allowed to breathe, each finding its place within the mix and not vying for the spotlight. Glitchy electronics combine with the drums to create a rhythmic backbone, the cello alternating between plucked bass lines and freewheeling bowed parts, while the piano washes over with crystalline clarity. This is certainly not music to be pigeon-holed, taking cues from jazz, post-rock, early ‘00s folktronica, drum ‘n’ bass, and so on.

The group have been playing shows in support of the album – namely a monthly residency at the Glebe Justice Centre – but due to the nature of the writing and recording process on Stateless, they were faced with the difficult task when adapting the music for a live setting. Hollo admits “It’s always a conundrum for improvised groups. What to do when you’ve recorded and released albums of material that has been shaped into consumable and recognisable tracks? We made the decision after this album came together to try to learn at least a few of these pieces… we have adapted them into something partially composed, partially improvised, with a structure that is sometimes only loosely followed. If the audience knows the album, they will at least hear familiar material appearing at times”.

Receiving favourable reviews and backed by some high-profile remixes from Four Tet, Rabit, and Bundy K. Brown (Bastro, Tortoise), Stateless is an exceptional album from a world class outfit. Be sure to grab a copy, and keep an eye out for further launch shows around the country and abroad.

Stateless by Tangents

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INTERVIEW: Chasing Paradise with Lucy Roleff

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I’ve met Lucy Roleff a little way down the road from Triple R studios. She’s finished up doing an in-studio performance of her song ‘Every Time’ on The Grapevine with Kulja Coulston and Dylan Bird, and now we’re sitting over our hot beverages of choice, picking through the last couple years of writing and travel that led to the release of her new album, This Paradise.

As someone to sit down and chat to, Roleff certainly doesn’t channel the crystal fragility that comes through on a lot of her records. Lively and seemingly constantly amused, she’s honest and self-deprecating about her musical career to the point where you could be tricked into thinking she isn’t making some of the best folk music around. She carries a small notebook and pen neatly tucked into a plastic sleeve, possibly a home for the many illustrations that find their way into watercolours and drawings on her blog, but today we’re together to talk about her new record.

This Paradise is a considered and deeply rewarding album, and while Roleff is clearly a passionate musician, a life lived through records and microphones in the traditional album cycle sense isn’t something she’s interested in being defined by. This Paradise is composed of songs of varying ages; the longest and most verbose on the record, ‘Two Children’, is around five years old, having been written around the same time as songs that eventually showed up on her 2013 EP, Longbows.

‘They just kind of trickled together over time, and then when I knew I was going to record the album that’s when I had to sit down and go, “which songs am I going to use?”. I think I had eleven songs all together…one of them was really recent; I wrote it when I was learning the harp. It was kind of a mix of years of songs, going back through the back catalogue.’

Roleff says she isn’t prolific, but later tells me a story about how she came across binders lying in some disused part of her closet, holding songs from different periods of her life. Songs about boys, ditched partly in an effort to create a stronger voice for herself, but also to stop getting teased; songs about esoteric concepts, songs about Dalmatians, even. This Paradise sounds like a consolidation of these binders (without the boys and Dalmatians, though). It skips through varying phases of life and the concerns held within. Whether or not the album is going to go the way of those dusty old binders – shuffled away within a closet, to be discovered later in life as a time capsule of these past few years – Roleff isn’t sure.

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During the recording of This Paradise, Roleff and producer Tony Dupé (Holly Throsby, Jack Ladder, Sui Zhen) made use of an old hall built off a house Dupé once inhabited. Apparently it had been used as a kindergarten at one point or another, a bathroom to the side equipped with tiny basins and toilets for the little ’uns, which Roleff described as ‘really spooky’. Over the course of three days they recorded vocals and guitars, Dupé often pausing their focus so they could go for a walk to browse the local Salvos or watch YouTube videos.

Roleff says the space itself found its way onto the recording – ‘Especially on songs like ‘Haus’ and ‘This Paradise’, which are kind of meant to be lofty and enormous. We had a lot of mics set up around the room, getting the ambience.’ The use of the hall didn’t stop there; electronic guitar and bass were pumped into the room through an old amplifier and re-recorded by Dupé.

This Paradise is, in large part, carrying on the influences established on Longbows: European art and literature have a major influence here.  Roleff says, ‘[its] the idea of tradition, I suppose. Or maybe because of my classical training I’m drawn to strange intervals or whatever. I never try, I’m never like –’ putting on her best stuffy musician-academic voice for effect – ‘I’m gonna make it really interesting and weird so people think I’m cool – “it’s so Motzartian, Wagner was a big fan of this method” or whatever’.

That European influence is homegrown, too. Sandwiched between a German dad who still bursts into operatic song at the kitchen table, and who Roleff describes as being ‘pretty damn German’, and a Maltese mother, Roleff says her upbringing in Melbourne’s Ferntree Gully didn’t expose her to the Anglo culture that dominates the childhoods of many Melburnians.

‘Growing up, family was our friendship group. My parents never really had friends outside of our family. My cousins and I are basically siblings; raised in each other’s households, that whole thing. That seems to be a European thing, especially when they’re immigrants.’

I ask whether a song off the record, ‘Haus’, is inspired by her childhood home, but its genesis was more a conceptual place than a lived one – ‘kind of the sense of being trapped in [an old house]. In the verses I talk about the decaying house and the lushness of the garden, but in the chorus it talks about there being a gate, so there’s a way out.’ Roleff’s style isn’t totally owing to Europe, though. She tells me that ‘Haus’ is also inspired by the 1977 Nobuhiko Obayashi film Hausu, a psychedelic horror freak-out in which a house tries to devour a group of Japanese schoolgirls.

Unlike her father, who still performs in choirs at the age of 82, Roleff doesn’t find herself inevitably drawn to the stage as a performer. ‘I just…don’t. I don’t wake up in the morning and need to go play a show. The music is the end goal for me. I like [performing], I definitely get a kick out of it, but I need to be pushed to do it. Maybe because I’d been doing it since I was a kid I got fatigued…When I think about that road-dog, rock-show kind of lifestyle, I get deeply despondent.’

This Paradise has roots in those burnt out and anxious feelings. On the title of the record itself, Roleff explains, ‘I went through a lot of anxiety, and when I was going through that I got confused about what “real happiness” was. The word “paradise” would get thrown around, and I would just think, “what does that even mean, I never feel that”. I think it was about touching on that and getting an idea of what it was, or a reflection of it. It’s elusive.’

 

Lucy is launching her new album This Paradise at The Gasometer Hotel on July 28th.

This Paradise is out on Lost and Lonesome Records.

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