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INTRODUCING: Fonz Whaler

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Fonz-Whaler

Snubbing out lyrics ain’t such a bad thing when you have bands penning medleys about religious icons and shrines to fruit. Tom Kakanis is Fonz Whaler, a Brisbane guy making instrumental music out of his “brain oven” – which I’m sure is how all this fiddly ambient loitering incubates in the first place.

Fonz Whaler’s debut EP is a smoggy recount of solitude – fuelled by playful melodies, bow-legged instrumentals and every weird conversation you’ve probably had with yourself after 2am. This EP reminds me of some of Lalic‘s more downtempo tunes. And like Lalic’s work, there’s something special about lo-fi recordings like this which still cut clean sounds without suffocating in distortion or crying about the suburbs ’cause it can. 

Kakanis does attempt vocals on a few tracks, but it’s his instrumental-only version of events that do best. ‘Milestones’ kicks off with a succession of peppy guitar pluckings, the sort Andrew Bird would mount in his trophy cabinet, maybe on a Christmas album. That glorious treble guitar continues to bubble away in ‘Projections’. ‘Life on the Mandoline’ could be the motion picture soundtrack for a ridiculous coming of age biopic set in Crete, but it’s most definitely a song about a glorified fruit slicer.

You know, whether this is a baked dribble for soundscapes or vita C for the imagination, it’s been a nice way to kick off my leisure time. It’s all yours for $3, right here.

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INTRODUCING: Fortunes

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If you’ve ever listened to Usher’s ‘Climax’ you’ll understand the vocal gymnastics involved. For Fortunes’ Conor McCabe, this wasn’t an issue. He hit every single note. That means he hits two full octaves (Usher ranges from Eb3 to a falsetto D5). He did this when Fortunes opened during Oscar Key Sung’s residency at Melbourne’s Hugs & Kisses. It was one of those moments that slaps you in the face—much like discovering Banoffee’s vibrato, or the first time somebody demands you listen to D.D Dumbo. In McCabe’s case, his falsetto will keep ringing in your sleep.

Fortunes are McCabe and Barnaby Matthews, a Melbourne-via-Auckland duo. You can’t really separate these two from their origins once you’ve seen them live a few times. The first thing you notice is McCabe’s Kiwi twang. The Melbourne in them a lot harder to discern, given the subtle cultural differences between these two cities. Melbourne’s a city composed of villages—we let others know who we are and what we’re about.

Fortunes cut through this bullshit. Auckland breeds minimal fuss because (a) there’s not enough of a population base to generate microscenes and (b) its mainstream doesn’t see indie/hipster culture as something exotic to consume.

So enter Fortunes’ Hoodie EP—a ridiculously tight compilation of four tracks, to its last ounce oozing contemporary RnB and highlighting connections between NZ and Melbourne. Auckland’s Louie Knuxx features on ‘Communion’, for example; a steely, stripped-back affair done in the fine tradition of cinematic hip-hop storytelling.

The EP’s narrative is strongest on ‘Paper Thin’, a track rich with metaphorical flourishes. It initially tos-and-fros around the lyrics, “I’m grabbing papers to roll up and light up and spell out and (write up) / the lines they don’t line up”. It’s a slow burn building to a subdued chorus: “the line is paper-thin / it’s rippin’ / it’s rippin’” – a brooding moment where you can almost picture a spliff being stamped out on a bluestone laneway.

Throughout this release Hoodie’s sense of place grips you firmly, whether it’s signposted through McCabe’s Kiwi accent or through its noir-esque imagery. This is an assured, confident record that distils honest memories, not just trends.

Though it clocks out at 16 minutes, rest assured that won’t be long enough to absorb everything Hoodie packs in.

Image: Ben Clement

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WATCH: The Gooch Palms – ‘Trackside Daze’

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It is a sad, sad day for Australian music indeed. Loveable ruffians/serial nudists/one of Australia’s best bands, The Gooch Palms are relocating from humble Newcastle, to USA. Everyone’s favourite twosome named after the bridge between two genitals are waving goodbye to the home. It’s not that Newcastle has ever been short of amazing acts – Bare Grillz, King Single and a lil’ band called Silverchair all call the ‘Steel City’ home. The Goochies’ relocation means adieu to arguably the best mullet in NSW, no more covers of Twisted Sisters’ ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’, and less of the usual shenanigans that will be spoken of in slack-jawed awe.

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The Gooch Palms have made a huge impact with their sweaty and chaotic bubblegum punk. However, there is always a silver lining – they’ve released a crazy new video for their latest jam, ‘Trackside Daze’. Besides being a funner than a night out with the Kardashians, the clip is a visual smorgasbord that defies rhyme or reason. It’s like Tumblr got hacked by Anonymous. It also contains lots of sexy neon undies. Enjoy.

The Gooch Palms are playing their last Australian shows for a while. The band just played MATES Festival on the weekend, with a tour to follow in February. Make sure to check out the dates here and buy tickets for all the looseness that will inevitably ensue.

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INTRODUCING: Donny Love

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The Gold Coast is producing some quality songs as of late – there must be something in the water. Not to pigeonhole every coastal band as some variation of surf-rock, but many of the quality outfits coming from the GC sound as if the sun and surf were as much a part of the band as any of its members.

Donny Love is an up and coming four-piece that recently nabbed a support slot for The Growlers when they meander through Queensland, so now is as good a time as any to put the word out about ‘em. Take this following track for example: slinky smooth guitars, a shimmying swagger, a freaky funkadelic bounce, a quietly confident attitude – this song has the right elements to make the heat seem a bit tolerable. Donny Love are effortlessly cool in their musical mannerisms, and I’d hazard a guess that they know it. It’s all a part of the charm.

Donny Love will be playing with The Growlers and fellow supprts, The Babe Rainbow, on three of their Queensland dates at the end of January. Catch them at The Cooly Hotel on the 22nd and at The Triffid on the 23rd.

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Who the Hell’s Guide to Sugar Mountain

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Sugar Mountain comes to us revamped this year, after a 12-month hiatus. It has a new location at the VCA Southbank campus, where the extra space has allowed for a bigger line up than ever before. The festival’s profile is also at its highest level, with a push from the promoters at Mushroom Group, Sugar Mountain’s new partner in crime. This good fortune is well overdue for Sugar Mountain, which for years has been curating the most exciting set of acts of any festival in Australia, whether blockbuster or boutique.

While the Big Day Out flailed around trying to please everyone from Metallica fans to the triple j set and Laneway slavishly booked every band with a ‘Best New Music’ accolade, the closest thing to a ‘white whale’ that Sugar Mountain has bothered with is ESG – a cult act from the no man’s land that was South Bronx in the 1980s. Instead, these guys have displayed an adventurousness and a consistency of vision that’s brought  acts like Sun Araw, Prince Rama and John Maus together on the one bill.

This year is no exception, despite the event now catering to a larger audience. As if the promise of Swans, Nas, iceage and a Boiler Room stage weren’t enough, there’s also a huge array of local talent on the bill. These are some of the artists we’ll be going to see.

NO ZU + Sal P (Liquid Liquid)

Melbourne septet NO ZU have been bringing together cowbell, saxophone and happy pants in a frenetic post-disco amalgam for quite a few years now. On Saturday they’ll be joined by spiritual forebear Sal P of no wave legends Liquid Liquid in what’s bound to be an interesting collaboration.

Terrible Love feat. Kirin J Callinan

Kirin J Callinan has already caused his fair share of trouble for Sugar Mountain. A set at the 2012 event saw audience members streaming from the auditorium in confusion and disgust as the boundaries between concert, performance and reality dissolved. It was probably the best thing I saw all day. This time Callinan’s teaming up with Terrible Records, a US imprint founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor. I have no idea what’s going to happen here, but the teaser is promising:

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GIVEAWAY: Baro + Milwaukee Banks

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Baro and Milwaukee Banks are Melbourne acts that have performed the minor miracle of creating Australian hip hop that actually sounds contemporary. Milwaukee Bank’s gauzy, sputtering production calls to mind A$AP Rocky’s debut LP – if you substitute MC Dylan Thomas’ good humour for Rocky’s gaping vacuity – while 17-year-old Baro’s jazzy beats reflect the current preoccupation with boom bap shared by young rappers like Joey Bada$$ and Earl Sweatshirt.

Baro and MB are playing a double headline show tomorrow night at Melbourne’s John Curtin Hotel, with rising producer (and Grimes lookalike) Stax Osset supporting. We have two passes to give away – email editors@whothehell.net for your chance to win.

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WATCH: Total Giovanni – ‘Can’t Control My Love’

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The video for Total Giovanni‘s ‘Can’t Control My Love’ is a pitch perfect Gen Y nostalgia epic. A coming-of-age story shot through a VHS filter, it’s packed with the little details of a 90s childhood – Mambo tees, flannel shirts, Nintendo, BMX and Vans. Moreover, with its disco trappings, prepubescent hero and the band’s own appearance as benevolent boogie demi-gods, the video’s also a pretty clear rip off of a certain 1998 French house hit. But cheesy homage is precisely the stuff that Total Giovanni is trading in; it’s what makes the band so much fun. So check this little dude out as he liberates his masculinity, wins love and conquers his enemies, all through the power of dance.

Total Giovanni will be performing shamanistic rituals at the Workers Club on Australia Day eve alongside HTML Flowers and Douglas Fir.

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