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

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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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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.


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.


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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Isn’t it cool when someone who you really love from their mad funny Facebook presence and their anxiously magnetic live shows releases something that’s more than the sum of all those adjectives? I love Scraps (Laura Hill, from Brisbane) cause she’s been making synth pop music in Brisbane since way back when everyone else was still doing the Ty Segall thing. TTNIK (uh, said ‘Titanic’ obviously), Scraps’ third LP, is a fun record that’s brave enough to be kind of naïve and guileless in parts – you’d have to be real committed to your unimpressed vibe not to wanna move around to songs like the whispery and scattered ‘Touch Blue’ or sleek new-wavy ‘She Devil’.

It’s also got those slowed down interludes and random talking parts that mean they could put it under the ‘weird’ tag on Bandcamp. I get it – even though it seems kind of lazy to call songs like ‘Relate to You’ weird or unsettling: anything with out-of-sync piano will always sound like it’s straight of a ‘hysterical woman spirals into madness’ movie. But there’s still something about the rave-y drum machine over the spacey vocals singing ‘You feel so good in my mind / I wanna relate to you’, trying to reach out to the listener through the effects, that creates kind of a desperate and dangerous mood.

‘Harlequin’ is the necessary counterpoint to ‘Dreams’, the LP’s hopelessly romantic opening track where everything’s a little too good to be true. Here the vocals are buried; the drums plod forward. Nothing’s effortless anymore and the sad beauty of her voice sometimes strains and cracks with feeling. It’s probably my favourite track on the record.

There’s a great focus to TTNIK – there’s heaps of stuff going on here, but it flows smoothly and moving from one beat to the next is never jarring. That might be ‘cause Hill recorded and produced it herself – this is what happens when an artist gets to represent their own vision from start to finish. It just works.

TTNIK is out on Moontown (that Canberra label that seems to love snaking Brisbane’s most interesting releases) right now. If you’re lucky enough to also live in the New World City, Scraps is playing on Friday at The Haunt with our favourite Tasmanians Treehouse, and well as Brisbane big dogs Per Purpose, Brainbeau and Amaringo.

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WhoTheHell-2 600

Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

There is a timeless quality to the music of Lucy Roleff. Relishing the time-honoured tropes of contemporary folk music, Lucy’s music wouldn’t sound out of place if it had been released at any time over the past 60 years.

Her delicate melodies sit atop elegantly restrained accompaniment, allowing the songs to carve their own path, like water gradually eroding jagged rock into polished smooth surfaces.

Following her acclaimed 2013 EP, Longbows, Lucy’s debut full-length, This Paradise, is set for release on July 15th via Lost and Lonesome. Recorded with Tony Dupé at his home studio in South Gippsland, the album is a gorgeous, intimate affair, a record of understated beauty with universal appeal.


Considering the aforementioned timelessness of Lucy’s music it seems fitting that the theme for her Virtual Mixtape is ‘Five favourite female voices from the past five decades’, giving us some insight into the varied influences both past and present.


Sally Oldfield – ‘Answering You’ (1979)

I’m a sucker for a 1970s folk compilation and so I had heard a couple of Sally Oldfield’s songs here and there but hadn’t thought to look further into her work. At work, my boss had one of her albums on a playlist and I was immediately drawn to her beautiful and interesting melodies. Sometimes I feel like her songs are about to topple into the terrain of Schlager music (which I have a wary relationship with from childhood) but for the most part, I think her song writing is brilliant and her singing so pure.

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Saâda Bonaire – ‘Invitation’ (1984)

Stefanie Lange and Claudia Hossfeld are the voices of Saâda Bonaire but the story behind the duo is kind of complicated as apparently the act was the brainchild of some German DJ guy, despite them being sold more as a duo. Anyway, I think this song is so sexy and icy cool. Kind of like Nico with a bit more pizzazz.

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Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) – ‘I Wear Your Ring’ (1990)

A few ladies have been compared to Elizabeth Fraser over the past few years (actually I think I even got the comparison for my stuff with Magic Hands) but I don’t think anyone can touch her. She manages to pull off unusual and striking melodies without sounding like she was trying to be clever. Effortless and elegant. When I first heard this song, I played it on repeat over and over and wanted to find a way to cover it but wasn’t sure how to best go about it – I think, with much of her work, the magic is in the interplay of the vocals.

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Oumou Sangare – ‘Wele Wele Wintou’ (2009)

I just love this music video. There’s so much going on. Oumou Sangare is a very inspiring Malian musician – An accomplished singer, she is also apparently something of an entrepreneur and advocate for women’s rights. The political issues in Mali have come to prominent attention in the west with documentaries such as “They Will Have to Kill Us First” which I highly recommend to everyone. The fighting power and spirit of these musicians who have been threatened and exiled from their homes is incredible to witness.

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Allysen Callery – ‘It’s Not the Ocean’ (2016)

I have followed Allysen’s career for some time now and was very excited to hear her new album “The Song the Songbird Sings.” It certainly did not disappoint. The first song on the album “It’s Not the Ocean” is probably my favourite of her songs. She has a great knack for describing small, domestic moments and I love the line in this song “we’re out of sugar, I’m not shopping anymore.” Beautiful music and to top it all off, she’s a lovely person!

This Paradise is due out on July 15th via Lost and Lonesome. Lucy launches the album on 28 July at the Gasometer in Melbourne.

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LISTEN: Carbon + – ‘Reaction’

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At Bigsound last year I used the term ‘coldwave’ in front of a Melbourne music writer and he told me we’re ‘not saying that any more’, so I immediately stripped it from my vocabulary. But, passé-ness aside, I think it was a silly term anyway, cause a lot of the stuff that gets called cold and dark and moody is actually fun post-punk hiding behind some standoffish press shots and vaguely goth cover designs.

Like, I’m having a great time listening to this track, the first single from Canberra two-piece Carbon +’s debut cassette. Listen to that sharp plinky synth, that jaunty shoulder-bobbing bass, those anthemic vocals very concerned about nothing in particular. I’m gonna be singing ‘man copies man / man buries man’ in my head all day.

Though, ok, the rest of the record is pretty dark and more blatantly post punk. It gets ah, colder, as it goes on – sounding maybe a little too familiar to fans of the slew of HTRK inspired Melbourne and Brisbane bands to retain the excitement of the first single. On ‘A New Grey Area’ the guitars start to swamp everything else and become the most important part, foggy and immersive, but after that the minimalism comes back and stays.

Also, after ‘Reaction’  the vocals change markedly to become all sultry and earnest. it’s not bad, just a little unexpected. While nothing else really grabbed and held me as hard as that first track, the three atmospheric instrumental tracks that close out the record are compelling for their oddness as well as their sombre kind of beauty – why just decide, at the end, to give up all pretence of a pop record? But then, why not?  Carbon + is definitely worth a listen, and marks another interesting partnership for Dream Damage – a label that’s proved its considered, bankable taste again and again.

You can buy the cassette right here, right now.