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LISTEN: Yon Yonson – Yes No Sorry

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Sydney outfit Yon Yonson have been making music since 2010, and after a string of self-released EP’s and albums they have joined forces with local label TEEF Records for their fourth full-length, Yes No Sorry.

Continuing to mine their quirky blend of electronic indie pop, this latest effort is a joyous patchwork of soulful synth jams, funk-fuelled samples and stripped-back, contemplative ballads. At certain points the music could be placed alongside the tongue-in-cheek RnB experiments of Oscar + Martin or even Hot Chip, but just as quickly shifts into some sample-heavy mutant lounge, and it’s this effortless eclecticism that gives the music a certain charm.

There is much to love here, a personal highlight being ‘Figurine’ with its propulsive beat and infectious energy. Not to mention the killer opening line, “It isn’t easy being flesh, and piss, and blood, and spit, and ugliness, with most of the light taken out of it all”.

Balancing flippant humour with sincere introspection, the songs are at times polished and confident, at other times scrappy and vulnerable. The latter like scrawled messages, placed in bottles and cast away into the vast waters of internet music archives.

Another impressive entry from the band, and another exciting addition to the TEEF roster. Grab a copy from the TEEF bandcamp store here.

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LISTEN: Hannah Kate – Late Brunch EP

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Much like Madeleine, I’ve been somewhat caught in the throes of the debut record from Dag outta Melbourne [ml: … Brisbane first]. I know it’s strange to start off a post about one artist by talking about another, but the shambling melancholic cloud of a record like Dag’s Benefits of Solitude hangs over you with a tenacity that can only be dissipated by something as shining and delicate as Hannah Kate‘s debut EP, Late Brunch.

As something that exists solely in vibrations, music has an incredible ability to make humans want to ascribe it emotional weight and meaning. But, to me, Kate’s collection of six songs has a grounded intimacy that seems undeniable. Warbling guitar chords that float on deep inside your ears with Kate’s youthful yet retrospective lyricism and loose drums.

These songs live and die in spaces that can only ever be inhabited by one or two people at a time, the production of the EP holding everything very close together. The only thing that’s allowed to float away is Kate’s voice, twirling off within some reverb up above.

It’s a strong first effort, a nice dose of singer-songwriter focus within a wash of bedroom guitar recordings.

If you’re in Melbouren, get down to the EP Launch on Thursday March 23, with Culte and Weatherboards

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LOOK: Bent & Sydney 2000 Tour Photos

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Tristan, Steve, Skye, Heidi

Last month two of Brisbane’s best bands recently stretched their legs and bank accounts on a national tour – taking in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart (The Entire Nation) and playing with local top dogs like Primo, Parsnip, Treehouse, Sex Tourists, LA Suffocated and Dolphin.

Both bands are DIY as hell – from Sydney 2000‘s bananas stage attire to Bent‘s playful, haphazard film clips to the fact that Steve Rose from Sydney 2000 drove from city to city the entire way cuz none of the others have licenses. Glen Schenau from Bent (also Per Purpose, Deck in the Pit, Kitchens Floor) takes photos of gigs around town on disposable, capturing and documenting blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments of scrappy, sweaty beauty.

We asked Glen for some photos of the tour – which was also a kind of farewell for Heidi Cutlack, who plays bass and sings in Bent and drums in Sydney 2000, and has since moved to Japan.

(Couple of iPhone ones in here too, don’t comment)

Thanks Glen, and thanks Heidi for making your wild, cool, and uniquely lovely music in Brisbane for so long.

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Sex Tourists – Sydney

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Bent

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LA Suffocated – Sydney

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Sydney 2000

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Place Holder – Sydney

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Kitchen’s Floor (Brisbane in Melbourne)

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Dolphin – Hobart

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Treehouse – Hobart

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Sydney 2000

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Bent

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Sydney 2000

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Primo – Melbourne

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Parsnip – Melbourne

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Bent’s ecstatically sick new record Snakes and Shapes is out on Moontown now

Sydney 2000 have tape out and floating around that should be online sometime in the future. Until then, see if you can hunt it down, nestled in the fur of the meanest cat on your street, sown into the pocket of the camo shorts you haven’t worn since 2009.

Bent Facebook / Sydney 2000 Facebook 

Bent Bandcamp

LISTEN: Dag – Benefits of Solitude LP

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Dag

It’s interesting to me the way this record has been promoted as being Australian rock and roll, in the vein of The Go-Betweens and The Triffids – not cuz that’s inaccurate, but because of how those bands often seemed uncomfortable in their Australian-ness. They lived in England, they wanted to be English art-college post-punk, but the frustration of being outsiders on a far-off island prompted the melancholy isolation that became so much a part of what we think of the Australian sound.

And a couple of decades later middle-class uni dropouts broaden their accents and keep year ten English extension prizes hidden. Well, that’s the story for a lot of us. But not Dusty Mc-Cord Anastassiou, Dag‘s front man and songwriter. His takes in growing up amidst the struggle of cattle farming, moving to Brisbane and finding a new way to be lonely.

The kind of Australian young adulthood this record captures has the same isolation as those private school boys longing for fashionable Manchester squats. But in a way that seems to understand that it’s not always about the place – you can be alone and misunderstood anywhere. (Though Anastassiou has moved to Melbourne since recording this record – does that make that whole preamble moot? We’ll see).

Something I’ve noticed about when I write about records: I love moments. I love to quote poignant lines like, ‘Hey, isn’t this REAL’ or draw attention to the way a little drum fill or riff grabs your attention and makes a song special.

And there’s plenty of those in this record – like the off-kilter heartbreak of ‘Not Fine Mind’ perfectly signaled by its opening discordant brass, leading into the casual cruelty of lines like ‘I know at times I can be unkind / it doesn’t help hearing you move at the back of the house in a close friend’s room’.

Or the beautiful classical guitar bits in ‘Exercise’. I wonder why they didn’t make this a single – the mix of sinister imagery, hopelessness and relentless, jaunty beauty in the swing of the guitars and the ooooh oooohs seems like the perfect teaser to hook people in. I guess they kept it to start the record how they intended to go on – sadly lovely, full of surprises.

Or, the catches in the throat and the fingers moving on strings that bring such and intimate human physicality to ‘Company’. Maudlin violin and unsettling sounds mixed in to tighten the vice on your heart.

Then, the naivete of ‘Guards Down’; sweet and easy like love should be, sung with a smile – just the thing to break up ‘Age of Anxiety’s furious fear and the grim, classic country death storytelling of ‘JB’. ‘Endless, Aching Dance’ is a stark picture of a drought-stricken cattle farm, the demons that breed in an atmosphere as leaden with death as that one. Death is all over this record. And not in that ‘I’m a nihilist so I don’t have to care about anyone’ way, but like it’s something real, something you have to fight off tooth and nail at any moment.

But it feels like a disservice to just pull apart this record without talking about how, for all these beautiful pieces, it works even better as a whole. It’s less of a story more of a picture, when you listen to the whole thing you get a nuanced understanding of time and place where there was boredom and anxiety and depression and love and fun and a fuck load of nothing. It’s an album of beautifully written songs about strangeness and ugliness, an album about isolation that draws the listener in close. It exists, it struggles on, it says you can too.

Benefits of Solitude is out on Bedroom Suck right now

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LISTEN: Beloved Elk – Distractions LP

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Beloved Elk are a band of great focus. Whether or not you see nobility in their gaze being so consistently directed at human connections, trauma and anxiety is a personal feeling. But there’s something to be said about the boldness of duo Amy Wright and Tina Nyugen dissecting their deepest-selves on record over the course of three E.P.’s, and now their debut album Distractions.

Writing on the production of the record, Wright speaks of a healthy dissonance in the band, and discusses the influences and overall intent of the record.

“We took all of May 2016 to home record the album in the shed at my place. Most of the songs were just guitar chords and vocals to begin with and each morning we would write out new guitar lines together and Tina would come up with drum parts on the day.”

Aside from splitting lead vocals and drumming duties separately, we shared all the guitar, bass and keys playing down the middle. Kinda fighting over each instrument and picking whichever takes sounded best…. I wanted to do all the arranging from scratch and in one hit during the recording of the album itself to keep all the songs unified together in tone and feel…”

Distractions is a collection of sombre, twinkling guitars; clattering experimental drumming; and Wright’s wrenching, mournful vocals. The pieces create a sound that is absolutely sincere and melancholic, working together to form a complete, fully-realised whole.

“It was really inspired by late ’90s Modest Mouse, Cat Power and the Drones when making the album. I intentionally minimised the use of effect pedals and overdubs so it would be as raw and immediate as possible. I was feeling very courageous going in to recording it and wanted to make something that would be challenging to listen to in parts but would take risks and cut through, wanting the delivery to be bold, brave and nuanced… recording it ourselves meant we just had no personal boundaries in what we could do in the room. Even if it meant screaming til our voices were gone.”

“The album covers a lot of ground but ultimately keeps coming back to the two main themes of feeling out of place in society/cut off/not belonging — and feeling overly sensitive, having immense difficulty connecting or reaching out.”

Distractions is out now on LISTEN Records.

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WATCH: Pillow Pro – ‘Beyond the Rave’

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Pillow Pro

Melbourne two-piece Pillow Pro pull a kind of bait and switch with their new video, stunningly directed by Lara Kose. At first it’s a couple of cool girls in hoodies walking down monochrome Melbourne streets – sitting at the laundromat, looking at derro stuff etc. But then it fades into a kind of dream-sequence sun-dappled and soaked in colour.

Though the down-tempo beats and chorus of ‘Pick up your phone / been waiting / I’ve been down too long’ suggest a romantic kind of longing, it doesn’t seem much like they need anyone else. This video seems to posit that maybe all the shit you do with your best friend killing time until your lover calls you back is actually the interesting part. Especially if that shit involves dressing up in the cutest fucking cowgirl outfits I’ve ever seen (will pay any money to cop btw – madeleine@whothehell.net) and lounging on li-los with umbrella drinks and curly straws.

It’s girly, embracing all the loading bullshit that comes with that term. Its pastel-toned and pretty, wistful and sassy in equal parts. It feels luxurious, from the pristine quality of the production to the beautiful costuming and the languid slow-mo. Pillow Pro have said they were inspired by ‘90s pop videos, and this definitely comes through – though updated with all the fun and none of the daggy-ness. It’s a pure and confident statement of intent from a band who seem to have a huge year ahead.

Pillow Pro are playing at Rack Off in Melbourne on March 4th. That’s DEFINITELY where I’d be if I didn’t have to be somewhere else.

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LISTEN: RVG – A Quality of Mercy LP

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RVG

Image by Louis Oliver Roach

A Quality of Mercy – the debut album from Melbourne’s RVG, premiering here – is a collection of sharp, driving pop songs that draw equally from the goth palette of early 4AD and the literary proto-punk of Television. To celebrate its release, songwriter Romy Vager spoke to us about androgyny, emotional intelligence and The Twilight Zone.

Tell me about RVG – who’s in the band, what brought you together?

RVG Consists of me, Reuben, Angus and Marc. We’ve all known each other for at least a few years at least through playing gigs with each other in other bands we were in (I used to play in a band with Marc called Sooky La La).

Angus and I were sort of planning a record of my songs a few years ago that was was going to be a lush Echo and the Bunnymen kind of album. We made a few demos but didn’t really do anything past that. I made a little tape of songs taken from my Soundcloud in the meantime and arranged a small launch for it. I asked everyone if they’d be interested in playing a one-off gig as a band. We did it and people liked it and so we just kept going.

We like a lot of the same music, and we don’t get into those weird passive-aggressive fights that seem to happen with every other band. We all seem to be on the same wavelength about what’s a good idea and what’s a bad one. It’s weird, I’ve never been in a band like it.

Aesthetically, RVG and [your other band] Avoid are quite different (at least, one reminds me of Television, the other – from what I’ve heard – ‘Atmosphere’-era Joy Division), but they both seem to be drawing on sounds from the late 70s/80s. Is that an era you return to a lot as a listener? What music was formative for you?

I started paying attention to music in my teens, and at the time being a sensitive, gender-confused loner, I was very attracted to the androgyny of people like The Cure and Patti Smith, which was the closest thing like that for me growing up in conservative Adelaide. I saw Bowie on his last tour and it cemented the fact that I belonged in that universe. I’m still also a massive fan of The Sisters of Mercy. That band introduced me to a lot of non-music influences like T.S Elliot and Francis Bacon.

I love the emotional intelligence of that era of music. Everybody seems to know what they’re upset about and can express it to you clearly and concisely. I don’t like listening to anything that’s unclear about what it’s trying to tell to me.

Do you write songs and bring them to the others, or do you jam/write together?

I make little demos of songs and then usually put them on Soundcloud. Initially RVG was just sort of selecting songs that would work with a band, but as a band the songs come out very differently. ‘A Quality of Mercy’ was initially a half-speed country ballad. It sounded awful. Angus suggested we speed it up and turn it into more of an Echo and the Bunnymen song. He pretty much saved that song from being unbearable.

I really can’t do jamming, it makes me feel gross. I generally write the lyrics and most of the structure and the band builds around it. We only really rehearse a song a few times and then start playing it live. It never usually sounds any good if we work on things for too long by ourselves. Angus said once that a gig is worth four rehearsals and that’s become a bit of a mantra for me.

How did the LP come together? do you feel like there’s a theme?

The title track is named after an episode of The Twilight Zone. The American army has cornered these sick Japanese soldiers in a cave during battle. The soldier in charge is about to blow up the cave for no immediate reason. He gets knocked out or something and wakes up as a Japanese soldier who’s just been given orders to blow up some sick Americans in the same circumstance. The whole episode is about perspective and empathy, which is similar to the theme of that song. We decided to name the album after that single cause it felt like a bit of a mission statement. It’s a very moral and perspective-conscious album.

I think previously to RVG, I wrote songs that were mostly bombast and shallow, in which I would always be the voice of perfection – real ego driven songs. I think so much in my life has changed and I’ve been able to write stuff in the last few years that has a lot more empathy. The album feels like the shedding of some kind of old skin. I think that might be a bit to do with being trans, and maybe because I don’t take as many drugs as I used to.

Do you have a favourite track on the album at the moment?

‘A Quality of Mercy’ will always be my favourite. I was really proud of myself when I wrote the lyrics to that song, and watching it grow with the band has been really beautiful. It’s also really interesting to play the part of the second character in that song when we play it live. I really like to get into it.

RVG launch A Quality of Mercy at the Tote on 3 March w Scott & Charlene’s Wedding and Girl Crazy.

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