Illustrations by Lucy Roleff
Becki Whitton is an audio engineer based in Melbourne who records under her solo moniker, Aphir. Aphir’s debut full-length, Twin Earth, was released via Provenance Records in 2017 and since then Whitton has self-released a steady stream of singles and EPs, the frequency and quality of which, highlight a restless talent with plenty to say.
Although Whitton’s music as Aphir typically leans towards the pop end of the electronic music spectrum, her most recent outings are more exploratory. Last year’s Dyscircadian ventures into more ambient territory, while Ceci n’est pas une Pop from earlier this year, is an effortless batch of smoky, downbeat electronica. Both EPs are collaborative efforts with Whitton working alongside some of her music pals including Happy Axe, KAIAR and Dear Laika among others.
Aphir’s Virtual Mixtape taps into her recent travels, including a handful of songs that would enter her subconscious while working. Over to you Becki…
“I’ve been travelling a lot this year – I’m an audio engineer and for the first half of the year I didn’t have a studio, which meant that I was often travelling to different places to record the artists I was working with. In September I had the opportunity to visit California for three weeks and there was a whole stretch of time where I was too busy to listen to Spotify, so it was really interesting to just listen to my mind singing whatever random song it reached for to suit the moment. The songs on this playlist are a small selection of those, I guess it’s essentially a travel playlist.”
Lupa J – Drift
This is one of my favourite songs that’s been released this year. It’s about hiding parts of your identity from yourself because you’re scared they might hurt you or hurt other people which, in the first place, is such a deep thing for a song to be about, and in the second place every nuance of the production and arrangement of Drift reflects that feeling so perfectly. This song has the perfect feeling for exploring a new city at night.
Freya – Cohabitation
I started getting this song stuck in my head a lot while I was staying in other people’s houses in the States. Freya’s music is amazing – her tracks sound like a five-piece band of killer songwriters teamed up with a very expensive producer but actually it’s literally just all her. She released an album called The Fifth recently and I really hope it ends up on some best of the year lists because it absolutely deserves that.
Buzzy Lee – Coolhand
I just got into Buzzy Lee this year and I really love her stuff. I met her manager by chance when I was overseas and I was so nervous that I literally asked him what his name was three times after already being told twice. I love how this song is lo-fi but in the most deliberate, satisfying way – every sound has been carefully chosen and sits in the best possible place. Listening to this song really changes my mood in the best way every time I listen to it (which has honestly been a LOT).
Eilish Gilligan – S.M.F.Y.
One of the things I’ve been travelling for this year has been to occasionally DJ for Eilish when her band can’t play a show for one reason or another. S.M.F.Y. is the song she finishes her set with mostly, and it’s the perfect way to close because it transforms this heartbreaking experience she had into a pure moment of energy and connection with the audiences she sings to. I think is one of the best things music can do, and I’ve never seen the people in the crowd not love it.
Ravyn Lenae – Spice
This song is so cute and sexy. Mostly when people say “oh that song is so sexy” (about whatever song) I don’t really relate, but I think this is my kind of sexy song because it’s also kind of weird. This is a good song to listen to after spending a whole day navigating a new place and getting super gross and sweaty, but then finally arriving where you’re staying that night – I would say listen to this song while you’re changing out of your sweaty clothes to go to some place nice in the evening.
Here’s another list to add to your…list. Following on from the self-proclaimed success of our ‘2017 in 10 tracks’ list from last year, we’ve decided to compile yet another list of tracks that gave us the feels in 2018.
Join us again in 2019 for another year of infrequent ramblings about great music.
Sarah Mary Chadwick – Bauble on a Chain
How to choose a song off Sugar Still Melts in the Rain? Probably not going to be the one that you tapped your toe the most to this year. Probably gonna be the one that still wrecks you for minutes after it finished, staring off in to space feeling that literal wrench that’s so rare in things that get called ‘heart-wrenching’. ‘Five Months’ is that song. But ‘Bauble on a Chain’ is the one I sent to people saying something eloquent like ‘FKKKKKKK!’ .It’s the best example Chadwick’s genius for capturing so much in a few biting lines, floating above this simple wandering piano line – a moment of almost lightness and total beauty.
Rebel Yell – Toxic
Rebel Yell’s other half Grace Stevenson is super prolific – this year alone she’s released an EP, a remix single, a Christmas EP, moved from Brisbane to Sydney and started a new seemingly more pop-focused project called Soft Touch. ‘Toxic’ is my favourite thing she’s done this year because she really seems to let loose – without the trademark harsh distortion on her vocals she steps into a new kind of persona, sneering at posers ‘bum-puffing durries in the line to TBC’ or buying Instagram likes. It’s an anthem for everyone who’s ever been creeped on or patronised with the chorus ‘back off don’t touch me get off my rave / back off don’t touch me get off my stage’. And, like all of Stephenson’s stuff, it absolutely rips.
Harmony – Love is a Chemical High
Harmony’s tremendous 2018 album, Double Negative, brims with a raw majesty, the songs are scrappy, vulnerable and catchy as hell. ‘Love is a Chemical High’ is quintessential Harmony, pairing stripped back guitar and drums with the band’s trademark vocal sound. The rag tag soul of backing vocalists Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuis and Maria Kastaniotis shift from punctuating oohs and aahs to devastating harmonies as the song boils over into full-blown rock catharsis.
Bitumen – Pound of Flesh
This song plays in my head every time I have to walk down a dark street late at night. It’s thrilling, it’s powerful, and it makes me feel TOUGH. Discipline Reaction was one of my favourite records of this year, and this track encapsulates everything I loved about it. The use of drama and tension is masterful, and makes the Go the Fuck Off moment at the end all the more satisfying. You can’t listen to this track online though, you’ll just have to buy the album.
Bilby – November Nights
Sydney’s own emo-rap prince, Bilby, is going from strength to strength. Kicking off 2018 with a slight left-hand turn in Walkin 2 the Lake, an EP produced entirely by U.S. artist Meltycanon, this was followed by his new full-length, Shade. The new album further hones the Bilby sound, all jangly guitar, trap beats and smooth af vocal hooks. ‘November Nights’, as the title suggests, is the perfect gateway to summer, the lazy guitar setting the scene for Bilby’s melodic sing/rap style.
Madboots – Headstone
Madboots have been one of the best live bands in Brisbane for so long, and their EP 2HARD from this year gives everyone else just a little taste of how cool their music is. It’s hip hop that sounds like you turned the radio on in 1994, with lyrics that are equally funny, dirty, sweet and tough. I picked this song because it’s about needing a huge headstone ‘Cuz I can see in the future / I’m gonna need room to / spread my legs in my tomb yeah’.
Liars – Murdrum
Now that Liars is essentially the solo project of frontman Angus Andrew, I think we can safely claim it as Australian, thus its inclusion here. After Andrew proved he could handle the weight of the project by himself with last year’s TFCF, he swiftly followed this with the companion album, TWTWF (Titles With the Word Fountain), a collection of indietronic abstractions and various musical bric-a-brac that is no less intriguing than its more fully formed sibling. ‘Murdrum’s’ propulsive beat, delicate synth arpeggios and Andrew’s unassuming falsetto are eerie and affecting, a mood captured beautifully in the accompanying video.
Tangents – Stents
In 2018 Tangents proved their breakout album, Stateless, was no fluke. Their follow up effort, New Bodies, is equally as rich while introducing new directions and elements further developing their already expansive palette.
If that wasn’t enough, they also gave us Stents + Arteries earlier in the year, an EP featuring an album cut and 2 new tracks. Opener ‘Stents’ is Tangents at their best, slowly building from drum scraps and flittering electronics, cello and piano parts are subtly introduced as the piece continues to grow before exploding in a cacophony of processed drums and whirlwind piano.
The Goon Sax – Make Time for Love / Love Lost
I found some of The Goon Sax’s second record a bit overcooked, but these first two tracks seem to hold on to some of the easy honesty that made their debut such an undeniable hit. Both songs bare the band’s early aus-jangle influences unapologetically, where in other parts they seem to be trying a bit too hard to show us something new. A classic second album thing from a young bands with heaps of ideas, but ‘Make Time for Love’ and ‘Love Lost’ appeal to me because they feel unburdened by irony or self-consciousness.
Air Max ’97 – Kermes
Elusive producer Air Max ’97 delivered on the promise of his earlier EPs with his killer debut full-length, Nacre. The skeletal percussion and capacious production result in an exciting electronic sound equally suited to the dance floor as it is to your headphones.
Illustrations by Lucy Roleff
Setec is the moniker of Sydney-based artist Joshua Gibbs, whose extraordinary new album recently made its way into the world.
Atrial Flutters (or Raise Yr Hand If Yr Afraid), the second full-length for Gibbs, is a warts and all dive into his own anxiety and the turbulent journey that led to the album’s creation. At times the music seems at odds with the candid and personal nature of the lyrics, bursting with utter jubilance but can just as quickly curl up into a tiny ball, each note exposed and vulnerable. The contrast capturing the roller coaster of emotions explored over the course of the album.
The unique way in which Gibbs uses samples in his music is somewhat of a trademark of the Setec sound. Breathing new life into dusty old samples, Gibbs takes unassuming vocal snippets and adds layers of his own voice, building choral arrangements that are nothing short of amazing. So it seems fitting that the theme of this Virtual Mixtape is ‘Found-sound and samples’ in which Gibbs discusses three influential albums from 2005.
Cornelius – Sensuous
The first time I heard Cornelius, it was all in my head. My close friend Alex had described the opening track to Sensuous to me in such detail that it existed before I’d ever listened to it. Usually that would take all the joy out of a song, like someone live-reading a comic strip or when you accidentally set the wrong audio settings on a DVD and spend an hour wondering why there’s a buttery-voiced narrator describing things that are already happening on the screen. (For reference, I eventually found out this was intended for the vision-impaired). But this time was different: there’s a mechanical and exact quality to Keigo Oyamada’s music that easily lends itself to description, and instead of rendering it predictable makes it unexpected, dangerous and exciting.
The opener and title track ‘Sensuous’ ends as one would expect, settling on the major root note of the song plucked on an acoustic guitar – but then it keeps going, with the sound of an acoustic guitar’s low E string being slowly, slowly detuned while the sound swoops left to right. It keeps descending and descending, and you can hear the slack of the steel string slapping against the wood of the neck. It continues until pitch has all but vanished and all we can hear are the raw materials: steel and wood, plastic from a plectrum. This concept was so beautiful to me. I’d heard some music before that could be classed as ‘aleatoric’, but only in a contemporary art sense. Never sewed seamlessly into what was, at its core, a pop song.
It was cheeky but also serious, playful and exacting, and that’s true for the whole record. My personal favourite, ‘Breezin’, blends shimmery synths with staccato drums, a track that should feel busy but actually sounds spacious and vibrant, like a realtor’s description of a studio apartment. It builds with a chorus of clean dry vocals across the stereo spectrum, each cooing a vowel sound and sometimes completing the other’s words. The way Cornelius gives new context to these vocal samples gave me my first ideas in production and drove me to play around with sounds before I’d written any songs. It also led to me letting the songs write themselves around particular samples or vocal snippets, rather than writing long-winded acoustic ballads with too many chords (because I wrote a shitload of those).
Also, the cover art is dope and looks exactly how the music sounds.
The Books – Lost And Safe
I’ll never be able to describe exactly how this particular album made me feel. It remains to this day one of my most listened to records, and I still find myself singing its praises to people thirteen years later. Everything about their approach felt new to me- with time I would find similar artists using similar techniques but none were as influential on me as The Books. Listening back for this article conjures more vivid and colourful memories than I can ever muster on my own.
Lost and Safe was their third album, and at the time their most accessible work. It was still dense with samples and melodic ideas, but now delivered with a patience that let the songs breathe, giving moments to quietness and pauses where they felt natural. The percussion was sparing, dropping in and out of songs like waves; instead of providing the pulse, riding the other sounds and reacting to them. Big and little slices of cello wound around the space, mingling with acoustic guitars, effected voices and chopped samples of spoken-word, converging into something like complete stories.
This music was still calculated and mechanical, but not like Cornelius – there was more room here, a sense of loose improvisation mingling with the meticulous programming. Breakout track ‘Smells Like Content’ was a perfect example: a winding, choppy percussion track looping unpredictably, slowly, underneath a floor of soft bass chords. A salvaged recording of Nick Zammuto’s brother wandering aimlessly in a forest bookends this song. “Balance, repetition, composition, the mirrors”- somewhere between serious poem and silly stream of consciousness: this was a line The Books continued to toe until their breakup several years back.
‘Venice’ is so lovely and whimsical and always makes me smile. We listen to the sounds: a jubilant reporter talking us through a street-painter giving a show of his work, throwing paint on a canvas and the press below, eventually splitting open the canvas to let out twelve pigeons who then fly away. A real special slice of life underpinned by a light, airy soundtrack of rolling basses.
Juana Molina – Tres Cosas
I mean, yeah, I’m missing half the story because I don’t speak the language. And truth be told, I actually never looked up the English translations of the lyrics. The music sounded real summery to me, and I think I just mentally attached images and colours to it in place of understanding the words. Juana was writing such gorgeous, layered music on this album. All the elements comfortably fit together, and the production just felt warm and inviting. Softly plucked guitars underpin each track, but mysterious just-so warbly synths take pride of place. There’s always a sense of the slightly detuned, the not quite but almost pitch of a bending keyboard line.
‘Salvese Quien Pueda’ has such a perfect pop melody that it floors me. It almost reminds me of a nursery rhyme, although the music isn’t childish. Synths gurgle behind this melody giving a sense of warped time. It feels dream-like more than anything, like I’m walking slow-motion in a field of heavy cream.
The ear-splitting frequencies of some of those synths threatens to pull the songs off-course, but they end up integral to the sound of the record- it’s so easy to get comfortable, and then she pulls us out of our reveries and yells in our ears.
The looped nylon-string guitars feel delicate but resonant, and I’d love to know how she recorded them. Seeing her live multiple times further demonstrated that Juana is a real master of her instruments, be they vocal, strung or pressed. I’ve seen her do things with a loop pedal that don’t start with nothing and end up with everything, which is the greatest praise I can afford an artist who works so closely with loops- not everything simply goes from small to large. Things build up and scale back, melodies come and go and are reintroduced as guests at later times.
I love ‘Yo Se Que’ not only for it’s beauty, but also because of that disgusting, jagged synth noise towards the end, rewarding our previous serenity with a new sense of unease. It hurts to listen to but I just love that idea. It’s like she’s saying “Try and fall asleep now, motherfucker”.
Atrial Flutters (or Raise Yr Hand If Yr Afraid) is available now. Check the Setec website for more details.
I never meant to make your daughter cry. I feel like a natural woman. Baby blue. How long, till I see your face?
Attempting to write a few words about a festival you know and love—but this year didn’t attend—is damn right awful. If you didn’t get along to the 12th Golden Plains Music Festival held at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, I suggest closing your browser right now, as these photos are about to pour a lot of salt into your fomo wound. We sent Tessa Mansfield-Hung along with her camera and great eye for capturing the good times in the ridic balmy sunshine. Here is our annual GP photo recap and it is better than ever, so I’ll let Tessa’s photos do the talking:
G’day! Here at whothehell we know that the days following Meredith can be tough. Chin up, take the rough with the smooth, never fear—you’ll feel human again before you know it. Though for now, to make you feel a bit better about the whole festival-hangover-situation, we bring you some snaps from the weekend that was (if these cannot cheer you up… well you are on your own).
Illustrations by Lucy Roleff
Various Asses are a force to be reckoned with. The incredible debut Loción, released via Nice Music late last year, exemplifies the self-described Body Horror aesthetic with its tough low-end, menacing samples and pummelling rhythms.
Led by Melbourne artist Raquel Solier, Various Asses is more than just amazing music. Featuring musicians, dancers, MC’s, video artists and more, the V/A family have been destroying dance floors and forging their own path with an uncompromising live show, killer film clips and a general take no prisoners attitude.
We are excited to hear that a new Various Asses EP is slated for 2018 and we can’t wait to see what else the crew has in store.
For this latest instalment of Virtual Mixtape, Raquel guides us through the diverse creative output of some of the V/A family members. Consider yourself schooled.
Meet the Various Asses family
Lakyn and Ripley are Kandere; Naarm’s most progressive and relevant hip hop act.
Lakyn’s rapping is featured on the forthcoming Various Asses EP (2018) as well as being an incredible dancer for the live V/A show.
Another family member in the Filipino diaspora making bent footwork club tracks.
Future collaboration in the works between his performance at west side clubs and hosting music production workshops.
Total badass Serwah Attafuah, vocalist, dancer, 3D modeller and collaborator tearing down white supremacy in hardcore band Nasho.
Manager, film clip director and creative collaborator of all things Various Asses.
Also a writer, bottomless pit of inspiration, commanding vocalist for Sexistential Waterfall and a name to remember.
Growing star and rapper Sophy Grophy collaborates on Various Asses’ ‘MK’94’ single.
She’s the face and voice of the next generation so we stare into her grills looking for eternal youth.
Mohini and Maia are the synth goth angels Habits.
Aside from being a banging producer, Mohini is an extraordinary dancer, social media icon and fashion designer that will make you look twice.
VR mapper, 3D modeller and video editor of our ‘Down, Down’ and ‘MK’94’ film clips, and producer and one half of dirty club act Sexistential Waterfall.