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INTERVIEW: Biscotti’s Carla Ori & Alice Hutchison

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Neon Parlour, Thornbury

 

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.

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‘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.

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‘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’.

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‘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.

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‘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.

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‘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…

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‘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.

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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.

So they went and had a sook to 3AW.

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’.

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Biscotti’s debut album Like Heaven In The Movies is out now through LISTEN Records.

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

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WATCH: Forevr – ‘Petrichor’ Video

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forevr

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.

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LISTEN: Orion – ‘Execution’

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Orion

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.

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WATCH: Chelsea Bleach – ‘Shedding Skin’

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Chelsea Bleach

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 Chastity Belt, 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.

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If you’re in Melbourne go and check Chelsea Bleach launch this thing into the stratosphere with Cable Ties, Palm Springs and kandere @ The Tote on January 20, Facebook event here.

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The History of the Avalanches (In Five Deep Cuts)

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The Avalanches

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.

Electricity EP

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.

‘Everyday’

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.

Pious Faults – ‘Pious Faults’ EP

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pious-faults

Pic by Glen Schenau

There was a while there when it seemed like every time you went out to a rock show in Brisbane you knew everyone in the room. And that’s sick for a while. But slowly whispers crept in: where are the kids. Where are the young punk bands starting out? Did everyone just wanna be a DJ or a singer-songwriter? There were the Goon Sax yeah but they seemed so mature, so Chapter Music ready after just like, 6 months, that it almost didn’t really count.

Pious Faults aren’t the first in the movement of younger aggressive bands pushing their way onto lineups again, but they’ve turned heads the quickest. Exciting enough to convince Tenth Court to release this tape after just a couple of shows, they make fast, grim, serious music. At just a bit over 5 minutes, it’s an intense, pressurised experience. Though ‘Our Comfort’, an opus at 1:34 minutes, shows they can make, you know ‘songs’. This is confident, self-assured stuff – sure, sing a song in French why the fuck not. These guys, by virtue of being relatively new to the scene as I know it (though at least a couple have been in other bands), are free from the ubiquitous forced irony of Brisbane rock and roll. From the underlying unspoken rule that sure, you can make punk music, but it’s got to be funny. You can’t really mean it.

Still, it makes me slightly uneasy that one of the most exciting bands I’ve seen in Brisbane recently is four dudes playing music reminiscent of ‘80s East Coast American punk. A scene of almost entirely self-serious dudes that set the blueprint of how we think of punk music until too recently- as a bunch of skinny white men singing vicious, purposefully unfeminine music. All under a guise of progressiveness because hey, it’s not ACTUALY masculine or aggressive, because they’re not big enough to ACTUALLY beat anyone up. Probably. This isn’t the bands fault. It should just be about the music. If only I could stop noticing this shit.

I got off track here. I like this record a lot – I wanna see a Brisbane punk band not shoot themselves in the foot with a lack of self-confidence and ambition. And from lines like ‘we no longer adapt to our surrounds / we now adapt our surrounds to us’  and the general manifesto-like feel of the record, this doesn’t seem like an issue for these guys just yet. I also wanna see young kids getting angry about the right shit, I wanna hear fuck-off tough riffs and someone do something interesting with fast guitar music – and that’s all right here on this tape.

But I also wanna believe that it’s not just young dudes who are allowed to do it. And that this is the beginning for punk kids in Brisbane, with more diverse bands hot on their heels with even more ferocity. I want to believe that a smart label like Tenth Court – one of my favourites – doesn’t have almost exclusively mostly-male bands on their roster on purpose, that they’re just as desperate for some different voices as me. I don’t wanna give up on guitar music because the real innovators moved on to pop and dance a long time ago. And I’m gonna keep writing about this stuff because I can’t play guitar and I don’t know what else to do. This is a good record.

Pious Faults is available via Tenth Court here

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