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LISTEN: Pleasure Symbols – ‘Pleasure Symbols’ EP

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Brisbane two-piece Pleasure Symbols (Phoebe Paradise and Jasmine Dunn) have around for a few years, and despite being one of the most exciting bands in Brisbane the entire time have only just released their first EP. And if you told me they’d spent the entire time working on these four beautiful songs day and night I’d almost believe you. This is extremely sophisticated, darkly gorgeous music.

’80s Australian post-punk meets modern electronic pop structures and hooks, but with that goth-ish edge that makes people label this stuff ‘cold’, even though it’s actually as rich and golden as anything you’ll hear this year.

Yet it’s still gotta be called bleak – maybe cause of the suburban hell landscapes of the incredible video for ‘Underneath Your Skin’. But removed from these images the track – still intense and kinda scary, has a slinky, almost groovy feeling.

Pleasure Symbols don’t rely on forced minimalism and empty space to create a cool vibe – they do it with confidence and smart layering. There’s a lot going on here; the songs are heavy with feeling, desire, spite, delicate pain and anxiety, self-destruction – built subtly in Paradise’s voice. There’s not need for theatrics, the drama is there if you care to listen. Like on last song ‘Control’, a master class in understated slow-build sexiness.

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Hopefully signing to new Brisbane label Death Valley Records means we might hear more from Pleasure Symbols before the end of the 2010s – but if not, we at least have to thank them for releasing what is probably the best EP of the year.

You can buy the record online HERE. Though if you’re in Brisbane I reckon take the train out to Morningside and pick up a copy (and a beer) from Death Valley Bar, cause it’s a cool pace and this is as good an excuse as any to check it out (also the postage is a bit spenny for locals).

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LISTEN: Hi-Tec Emotions – ‘Look Around’

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On new track ‘Look Around’, Hi-Tec Emotions are manic, un-subtle, and the most lovable form of tacky. On the music video you can check them grooving around under adornments of dollar bin Spotlight fabrics and fake flower petals. ‘Look Around’ is short and sweet: the only way is up, and Hi-Tec Emotions never really bother to slow down. Even vocalist Ema Dunstan has to catch her breath and take a sigh of relief at the end.

The whole thing is doused in this echoey production that makes it sound like you just ducked out of a gig for a cigarette, the band still freaking out just inside the doors. The bass and organ/synth leads are completely blown out of proportion, huge lumbering beasts grinding against your ears.

It’s also another great one from LISTEN Records, the fuckin’ awesome audio side of the broader LISTEN Collective. Recently they’ve been moving from strength to strength, giving exposure to the amazing music coming out of Australia’s various LGBTQIA+ communities. You’re probably also going to want to check out the shit hot roster for the upcoming ‘Feminist Futures’ LISTEN Conference.

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LISTEN: Heart Beach – ‘Brittle’

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Heart Beach

Look, I could probably just post this song with ‘Heart Beach continue to rule’ and leave it at that. If you know the Tasmanian three-piece you know they make impenetrably solid, understatedly powerful indie rock.

New single ‘Brittle’ continues the trends of much of their debut self-titled record from last year: two guitars playing the same great riff, two low-key and likeable voices working together to drive the kinda nostalgic kinda hopeful lyrics forward. A steady beat, a terrific bass hook. Maybe that sounds like formula but it’s more like direction – Heart Beach make confident music. They know what they wanna say and they say it well every time.

The emotional ‘brittleness’ of this song comes from in the tension of trying to hold it together, to look like you’re fine on the outside while inside shit couldn’t be more wrong. The measured vocals come out like a speech rehearsed in the mirror. There’s a lot going on under the surface of those fuzzy guitars, the drums constant, spare and flat. I’ll rehash the Pixies comparison cause it’s there, but without the over-seriousness that usually plagues those who try to go for the serious Pixies vibe too hard.

The more poppy elements help to offset the cruelty of the phrase ‘I can’t believe that he got over you’, so it takes a few repetitions for it to really sink in. Then by the time it does the song is just about over, and you have to play it again. And again.

 

Heart Beach have just been signed to Spunk Records, and their next record Kiss Your Face will be out later in the year.

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INTRODUCING: Golden Syrup

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Golden Syrup

Golden Syrup is the new experimental pop act from songwriter and sound artist Sara Retallick. You might recognise her sweet-toned pipes from Melbourne band Jimmy Tait, whose 2013 AMP-nominated record Golden was a favourite here at WTH.

On debut track ‘Didn’t Go Home’, Retallick takes a sharp turn from her former indie rock project. Woven out of samples, field recordings and tape manipulations, the new material is spare, sinister and oddly ritualistic. Droning bass notes and a work-gang rhythm underpin Retallick’s incantatory vocals, while shards of noise and disembodied laughter unsettle the track’s placid surface.

‘I went to your birthday party/and I didn’t go home again,’ she sings, darkly. Seldom has a song about hooking up sounded quite so creepy.

Golden Syrup’s single launch party is this Friday at the Gasometer. Moon Rituals, Time for Dreams and Superstar side project Various Asses will be supporting, plus Laura Jean will pop in for a DJ set. RSVP on Facebook.

Golden Syrup Gasometer

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LISTEN: Thigh Master – ‘Canned Opening’

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Thigh Master

People in Brisbane like to gently make fun of Thigh Master for opening pretty much any given rock show on any given weekend. But I don’t know, I think they’re the kind of band you can pretty happily see heaps of times – their sound is a mix of the familiar , catchy and emotionally affecting that’s at once comforting and exciting.

New single ‘Canned Opening’ is less frantic and furious than previous cut ‘Company’ – it’s kind of introspective but never earnest. Matthew Ford has such downer-boy vocal delivery that if the music was too over-serious it wouldn’t work at all – luckily these guys write hooks that go down easier than domestic beer, with funny little wonky pops of whammy-assisted guitar in-between.

‘Both Company’ and ‘Canned Opening’ will be released on their album, Early Times, out via new label Coolin’ By Sound in October. They’re savvy choices because they capture the Thigh Master vibe pretty perfectly: ‘I don’t like you, I don’t care for myself much either, but that won’t stop us from trying to have a good time’.

Thigh Master will be playing Big Sound next week if you happen to be heading down to that, and probably plenty more times at other places in the future.

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LISTEN: TEEF Records – Imperium In Imperio II

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Tommy Faith, founder of the always entertaining and on point Australian music blog Sound Doctrine, started TEEF Records in 2014 and has since clocked up a string of cracking releases from relative newcomers Spirit Faces, Anatole, Arthur Wimble and, most recently, Yon Yonson.

Mid-last year TEEF released Imperium In Imperio, a compilation of exclusive tracks from a veritable goldmine of local talent including Collarbones, Setec and Electric Sea Spider amongst many others. While the TEEF roster leans towards bedroom pop and electronica, the extensive list of artists featured on the compilation cover a lot of ground, stylistically speaking, without losing the sense of cohesion needed to make such releases succeed. And to top it off, the profits from the release were given to OXFAM’s Nepal relief fund, after a devastating earthquake struck the South Asian country in May last year.

Here we are a little over 12 months later, and Tommy’s at it once again with Imperium In Imperio II. Keeping with the eclectic nature of the first compilation, the 18-track second instalment features a slew of great artists with equally diverse and engrossing offerings – from the exquisitely squashed hip-hop entry from Sampa the Great, and the hypnotic warmth of Tracy Chen, to the ghostly 2-step groove of IljusWifmo. Once again the proceeds will be donated to OXFAM, this time for the Syrian refugee appeal, helping OXFAM provide food, water and sanitation to some of the 13.5 million people who have fled their homes over the last five years.

Grab this amazing compilation now and not only will you support this great cause, you will also show some much deserved love to your new favourite label, TEEF.

LISTEN: Military Position – ‘Made to Fight’

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Photo by Chloe Alexandra

‘Timeliness is for fucking NERDS’ – me to myself justifying writing about this song from Military Position (Harriet Kate Morgan, from Melbourne) weeks after it was released. I’m sure other things have come out that less people have heard of that deserve attention but are they this heavy with tension and danger and that gutsy industrial techno that I can’t get enough of right now? Nah.

There’s hints of Kirin J Callinan in Morgan’s vocals – that authoritative kind of Australian accent most of us nasal creeps will never pull of – but she’s fucking around even less. Everything here is laced with threat.

It’s the feeling of being followed, clenching your fists and standing up tall. Tick tock drum machines in the last minute making everything sound even more ominous. Whatever their counting down to, I don’t know if I want to see it.  It’s a tough fucking song that works as a response to, as well as a mirror for, masculine aggression. It’s the blood beating in your ears when you don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into. It’s sick.

‘Made to Fight’ will be out on a forthcoming release called Black Noise C30 on Trapdoor Tapes

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