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LABEL PROFILE: Provenance Records

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Stu Buchanan has been a staple of the Australian music community since emigrating from Scotland in 2003. He wasted no time in immersing himself in the local Sydney scene, launching the lauded Fat Planet program on FBi Radio later that year. According to Stu, his time at FBi gave him ‘a quick education in terms of what was going on’ and allowed him to become heavily invested in the scene.

The award-winning and far-reaching New Weird Australia project followed in 2009. A multi-faceted endeavour, it produced compilations, live shows and a long-running radio program on FBi. NWA highlighted Stu’s ear for interesting and unconventional music across all genres, as he scoured the country for emerging talent and provided a platform for their music to be heard. The project also birthed the netlabel Wood & Wire, which focussed on releases from individual artists. It clocked up some 37 releases in total, from the likes of Kučka, Pollen Trio, Setec and Fatti Frances, to name just a few.

After such a successful and prolific period, Stu made the decision to retire the NWA and Wood & Wire projects – firstly due to the energy and focus required to maintain such high levels of output. And secondly, he felt there were more ‘great writers, radio shows, websites and gig series, all promoting similar artists,’ which gave him the peace of mind to bring these platforms to a close.

Never one to rest on his laurels, though, Stu recently launched brand new label Provenance Records. When asked about the origin of the label, Stu notes that first signing, Medicine Voice (aka Sar Friedman), was in some ways responsible for him setting up the label. ‘Sar sent me the album I And Thou a couple of years ago and asked if I wanted to release it. I adored it, to me it sounded like Bat For Lashes backed by Sunn O))) – a beautiful combination. But I had already wound down NWA and didn’t have a record label, so I declined. Another year went by, and Sar asked me again. I thought, “If no one else is going to release this, I’ll just need to start a label and release it myself.” And here we are.’

Although Stu cites the huge output of his previous projects as a reason for their ultimate conclusion, Provenance has certainly picked up the mantle, already responsible for 8 releases in 2016 alone. Working with both new and familiar artists, the Provenance catalogue is forging its own eclectic and challenging path – from the lo-fi psych-folk of outsider artist Paneye and the dark pop balladry of Lovely head, to the electronic abstractions of Canberra’s Spartak.

Due to the idiosyncratic world which Provenance inhabits, Stu admits that ‘sometimes you can feel like you’re pushing shit uphill and getting nowhere, but then sometimes people surprise you. Some places that I thought would be into it have been unresponsive, but the converse is also true. Which is frustrating and validating in equal measure. So it’s been a process of recalibrating my own expectations. It’s a weird fucking time to be releasing music. People don’t “buy” music the same way they did even a year or two ago, so every release involves some kind of adjustment.’

In addition to new albums from Aphir, Kris Keogh, KAIA, and Sensaround due in 2017, Stu is also considering hosting live shows again. This time around he wants to go beyond the conventional ‘gig’, instead looking to combine multiple artistic mediums in interesting and unpredictable ways. Reminiscing about the first event he ever staged, Stu says, ‘I miss those kind of unexpected happenings – where the audience doesn’t necessarily know what’s going to occur next, where no one feels safe. That’s the kind of shit I want to do next.’

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EVENT: Bedroom Suck End 2016

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If there’s anyone who deserves to celebrate a job well done this year it’s Bedroom Suck. They’ve put out some of our fave stuff of 2016 from Lower Plenty, Dag and Scott and Charlene’s Wedding. Also every day I wake up and high five myself because it’s another day closer to the Dag album coming out in Feb next year on BSR. YES! SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR!

These generous angels also know how to put on one hell of a show, and on Saturday December 3rd at The Curtain they’re doing it one last time for the year, with a lineup that seems designed to make me and anyone else living outside Melbourne fucken weep into our Baileys. Sarah Mary Chadwick (Album. Of. THE YEAR.), Hobart wonders, the intense, frantic Treehouse, Adam Curley (Gold Class), Terrible Truths, No Local and Summer Flake and Dag (full on sobbing now), will all be there, some playing their songs some CAROLING. Like in the movies. And you probably won’t even have to put up with anyone asking where that one dude you brought home for Christmas three years ago is. HE’S GETTING MARRIED, GRANDAD.

To get into the spirit we asked a few of the acts playing to tell us some of their fave Christmas songs. Also a little treat at the end from us to you, because I know sometimes it’s hard to show it, because this is a blog and not a person, but we’re so proud of you for making it through another year on this rusty bus to hell we call a planet.

Dan Oke (Jarrow)

Wham – ‘Last Christmas’

I always hear this song on the radio around Christmas time, but I never actually listened to the lyrics until the other day. George Michael, are you ok? Do you need a hug? You don’t need to think about them anymore, just try and enjoy Christmas you’ll do just fine my man.


Adam Curley (Gold Class)

Darlene Love – ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)’

Phil Spector’s approach to pop music seems perfectly suited to Christmas: filled with bells and chimes to mask the inherent loneliness. Maybe ‘mask’ isn’t the right word, because the bells and chimes have their place. This year I’m having an orphan’s Christmas and I’m sure there will be some dancing and crying and generally feeling verklempt to Darlene Love.


Joe Alexander (Terrible Truths, Bedroom Suck)

Bootsy Collins feat. Snoop Dogg – ‘Happy Holidaze’

Very fitting – we are in Matsumoto in Japan, and the first snow of the year has fallen! We are sitting around the table inside, drinking coffee and watching the streets become white outside our window.

Good picks from these boys but this is all moot because I assume they haven’t seen this video of Kate Bush performing ‘Christmas Will Be Magic Again’ with the exact choreographed dance of joy I do when that pav gets put down on the table.

Kate Bush – December Will Be Magic Again (bongo version) from December Willbe on Vimeo.

More info on the event here. Bedroom Suck are also doing a big vinyl sale on their website now – you’d be a fool not to buy they out of Lower Plenty records IMMEDIATELY.

LISTEN: Sweet Whirl – O.K. Permanent Wave LP

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The first time I listened to this tape my friend played it to me and I had to resist the urge to tell him to shut the fuck up multiple times over the next 40-odd minutes. O.K. Permanent Wave is one of the most solitary records I’ve ever listened to. It’s not lonely, the alone-ness is just a fact to be explored and examined, not judged. But that does make it weird to listen to with anyone else around. Hearing these songs is a deeply private experience.

Sweet Whirl is the solo work of Esther Edquist, vocalist and keyboardist of Superstar, but you won’t find much of the sunniness of that band’s floaty long-afternoon guitar music here. Edquist uses just her voice, an evocative electric bass sound that takes root deep down in your body, and occasional atmospheric recordings and room sound to create quiet, moving intimacy.

Gently clouded in echo, Edquist’s voice has a smoky impenetrability that’s kind of like Cat Power, and a bit of the understated sensuality of some of the more low-key parts of PJ Harvey’s Stories From the City… This might not be music for fucking but it could be music for thinking about making love. It’s obviously a total cop out to compare any female artist to such obvious touchstones but there’s something so serious and immediately classic about this record, and Edquist’s confident position in the centre of it, that it feels fitting to me anyway.

Individually the songs are hard to get a hold of, structures are suggestions to be considered, verses slip and slide past each other with rare repetition. The kind of thing that encourages total immersion rather than deconstruction or any kind of critical thinking. But I grab snatches of detached lyrics that hit home like the spectoral advice given in Girl, U or Magic Realness. These are stories told with the benefit of hindsight – she knows what can go wrong because she’s lived it. But we’re really the ones who benefit, from this beautiful bummer of a record.

O.K Permanent Wave came out as part of a series of 6 tapes from Melbourne label Nice Music (still working my way through them but I can tell you Various Asses’ tape is just as mad and cool as I thought it would be).

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LISTEN: Heart Beach – Kiss Your Face LP

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When people say things reflect ‘romance in modern times’ this is usually code for ‘depressing and heartless as fuck’. Hobart three-piece Heart Beach’s Kiss Your Face is, if not the antidote to all that (cause there’s a lot of it), at least a convincing counterpoint.

In relationships or friendships or whatever there’s always points where you have to decide if you’re gonna be openhearted about your feelings, or stay detached and guarded to possibly save yourself some humiliation. Kiss Your Face sounds like the best version of the former. It’s all here: thin walls of share houses, the giddy breathless feeling when you feel like you’ve lucked onto someone special, the woozy guilty feeling of getting blackout drunk a bit too much to deal with whatever, the small moments of doubt when you start to see how it might all fall away.

Heart Beach themselves have adopted the ‘scuzzy’ descriptor with enthusiasm, I assume cause it’s funny to say, and there’s definitely the right amount of cheekiness behind this record and their vibe in general. But to me that word also implies a bit of slackness, or half-heartedness maybe, that you’d struggle to find anywhere on Kiss Your Face. The guitar is fuzzy, distorted, but also tight and pointed. The angsty ‘Record’ shows they can write a big simple riff just like all the good pop punk bands, but then the intricate guitar of ‘Milk’ or jangly-country closer ‘Summer’ are as smartly pretty as anything you’re likely to hear from more overtly sophisticated Australian bands. ‘Summer’ is the euphoric ’80s Aus alt rock anthem we need for these times – I’m shouting along even before I’ve learned the words.

Kiss Your Face is warm and sweet record that stays grounded in its indie rock roots, with sneaky moments of heartache like slow burn epic ‘Sleeping’. That song’s maybe my favourite, huge in emotional weight, a spacing echoing gaze held for just the right amount of time. Having Jonathon and Claire McCarthy sing together across every song is a lovely move – clinging together against the often starkly open production of a lot of the record. This is a sweet record with no sugar high, just the sustained, unexaggerated niceness of love – and all the trouble that comes with it.

I just read that both McCarthys are moving to Canada next year – you gotta make this record huge so they come back.

Kiss Your Face is available through Spunk now.

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LISTEN: Lower Plenty – Sister Sister LP

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Lower Plenty are my favourite band that I almost forget exist all the time. Except when you occasionally see them pop up in an FB event as second support for some EP launch at a bowls club on a Wednesday or whatever and I shake my fist at the sky shrieking “MELBOOOOOURNE’, then quickly look at flights, then remember that going to rock shows in Melbourne is the easiest way to make me question if living is really all it’s cracked up to be. And then, I don’t know, I cry.

By playing and recording so infrequently, they’ve taken the pressure off and given themselves the room to make music of low-key genius – fans will wait because it’s worth it. Sure the whole ‘recorded-on-one-cold-afternoon-in-a-Collingwood-kitchen, before they got into their Commodores and sped off through the fog in separate directions not to speak for another year’ mythology touted in the press-release (… ok, I made some of that up) for this record does play into certain ideas of what makes music authentic in Australia – but hey, it’s true. They can’t help it if it’s a good story as well.

Maybe because I know that story it’s easy to imagine a kind of coziness and familiarity to this record. Also cause at this point listening to Al Montfort’s voice is like settling in for a few wry, beautiful stories with a mate on the back deck over a – fuck I’m doing the mythologizing now. But if there’s a less trite way to say it I can’t think of it. He always sounds so breezy, which might be kind of difficult when you’ve got something serious to say. But here he pulls it off. The dry melancholy of ‘All the Young Men’ is thick with a resigned hopelessness, and he’s maybe delving a bit into the way we (underground music people/people who wanna be cool generally) glorify irony and a lack of sincerity in ‘Bondi’s Dead’ ‘I was the best at undermining civil unrest / I was the king / of keepin’ it all in’. We’ve probably also got him to thank for the fissures of atonal jazz that pop up through Sister Sister – I haven’t listened to much of the Snake and Friends stuff but from what I understand it’s a bit like that.

Mostly this record still leans more on country and folk styles than the punk and post punk and techno punk of some of the member’s other bands. Though they still manage to subtly unsettle you at every turn with some creepy, occasionally abstract sounds (What is that? A kind of weird sounding flute?). This sense of foreboding is present, too, in the way the olden times Irish folk singer prettiness of Hayward’s vocals is used in songs like ‘So It Goes’ with its chugging, ominous percussion and ‘Ravesh’, which sounds like confidently striding into insanity, all imagery and symbols and looming saxophone circling like a vulture overhead.

The contrast between Hayward’s vocals and Jensen Tjhung’s is interesting– they’re archetypal feminine and masculine, spectral beauty and down-to earth gravelly earnestness, but all the wistful sentimentality comes from Tjhung’s songs. Montfort’s and Hayward’s duet ‘Shades of Lawn’ feels romantic but the lyrics are someone who’s had it up to here; ‘You wouldn’t be grinnin’ / if you weren’t winnin’ / take that smile off your face / get your shit out of the place’. Hayward’s song are the freakiest, like ‘Ravesh’ or closer ‘Treehouse’ with its thin spooky violin or the taunting of ‘On Off On Off’.

There’s balance in everything Lower Plenty do – they can delve into dark areas but keep everything moving forward, touching on sadness but never dragging you through it. I think they pretty much perfectly captured it on the title track of their last record Life / Thrills when Tjhungs sings ‘What have I got? Heaps. / What have I lost? Heaps.’ That’s the line I think about when I think about Lower Plenty, the clear eyed self-knowledge, the willingness to sacrifice and move on. It’s what makes remembering them every couple of years such a delight, and means we’ll continue to wait as long as it takes every time.

Sister Sister is out on Bedroom Suck for you to purchase and enjoy now.

LISTEN: Bilby – Botanicals LP

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Bilby is the musical alias of Sydney artist and self-proclaimed emo-rap prince Harry Moxham, whose latest album, Botanicals, has just been released via Yes Rave.

Botanicals is a refreshing take on Australian hip hop, combining the lazy guitar of early Real Estate or Canberra’s Fossil Rabbit with sleek vocal hooks, trap beats, and infectious raps delivered with an adolescent exuberance not dissimilar from Yes Rave label founder Simo Soo.


The understated execution and casual local references give it an authenticity absent from a lot of modern hip hop. Lyrically Moxham glides from poignant social commentary (“He wouldn’t shake my hand because I’m wearing pink, but you wish he could think as good as he can drink”) to jokey, endearing couplets (“Catch me Sideshow Bobbing with a rake. Catch me Apple bobbing with your date”). He tackles misogyny, bigotry, and the everyday pressures faced by young people today. All with a playful nonchalance that feels nothing if not honest.

The perfect soundtrack to be bumping this summer. Grab Botanicals as a ‘name your price’ download from the Yes Rave bandcamp store here.

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