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A Few Short Words

Dense Not Thick

Donny Benet: The Don

Article originally appeared on The Music Apr 6th 2018

Don’t despair, Donny Benet’s latest album contains the same mix of self-deprecation, satire and synth you’ve come to expect – sort of like the soundtrack to an ’80s summer coming of age comedy at the intersection of arpeggiation and assonance – but over the course of four albums Benet has polished his shtick so much that it’s almost impossible to hold on to.

Most of Donny’s charm comes from his simplicity and sincerity, the anachronistic auteur delivering droll woes over dubious loops. But there’s only so much mileage you can milk from the sad-boy romantic sound before the appeal starts to droop and Donny seems more like a Reddit brand ‘Nice Guy’ than a stand-up comedian with a backing band.

Maybe the world has changed in the four years since we spent the Weekend At Donny’s or maybe Donny hasn’t. All the tracks on The Don are individually bouncy things, rife with potential giggles and nostalgic beats, all delivered with an oddly well-kempt joie de vivre. But it’s a little too clean and manufactured, a bowl of refined sugar where one or two spoonfuls might be nice but anything more than that and you’re probably doing yourself a damage.

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Jaala: Joonya Spirit

Abridged article appeared in The Music (April 2018)

Jaala’s Joonya Spirit feels like a concealed middle finger held in the pocket of an oversized op-shop jacket worn by someone much cooler than you. There’s a prickish quality that’s intriguing rather than alarming, even if you know getting close might hurt a little. 

Tempos flare between slam dance, soul, and social dissonance. Tracks are quickly irreverent and seditiously relevant, bounced along by Cosima’s quirky delivery and salty, kawaii-killer attitude. It seems sort of grubby and immediate, but wipe away some of that oddly glamorous grime and there’s a thousand facets to be seen. Most of the song are restless with purpose, the sort of cohesive flux brought out in zoetrope, and it makes the schismatic timing all the more admirable for the cohesion it brings.

More Mangelwurzel than Hard Hold, Joonya Spirit manages to straddle both scenes, splicing the saccharine with the incisive. Schofield’s new synths slot seamlessly into the existing synergistic dissonance Moles and Jaala create together, adding a pop-ish quality akin to an unexpected balloon explosion. The overall effect is a compelling kind of propulsion, jagged and smoothly erratic.

Innocently itself, cool without care, Joonya Spirit is a confident release that deftly sidesteps the second album slouch.

Mirth

It wasn’t the knife or the way she held it that scared me, it was years of experience and the absentminded way it undercut her words, waiving it limply along like a conductor‘s baton on a broken wrist. ‘Did you lie to me because you’re an asshole or because you thought you’d get away with it?’ Neither, I say. A bad answer for a worse question. She had me backed into an actual corner. ‘So, what, you just did it for fun?’ I felt the absurd teeth of semantics closing on me and nearly laughed myself to death.

Evelyn Ida Morris: Evelyn Ida Morris

Abridged article appeared in The Music (April 2018)

Evelyn Ida Morris’ debut step away from Pikelet fame invokes an incalculable amount of things; Amanda Palmer’s piano, Nick Cave’s film scores, a score of Guillermo del Toro films, classical parlour performances, performance art; punctiliously avant-garde and profound, most notably it is and isn’t any that, hewing closer to the calm heart of a maelstrom in the eye of a needle, something almost impossible to see and almost certainly unheard of.

In (re?)claiming Evelyn Ida Morris as an artist and not merely a member of a growing concern, Morris has dived directly into the heart of individualism in a frankly startling and perversely intimate way. It’s welcoming yet obtuse and certainly not for everyone, which is subjectively the heart of it and the gnawing appeal it wields. 

Every piece carries something cascading and desperate. A haunted timbre like an infectious susurrus blowing through the eaves. Everything is tuned to a maddening key, somewhere in the range of knife sharp, and the percussion does pierce but it’s the occasioning of Morris’ voice, dabbed selectively throughout, that truly captivates.

Evelyn Ida Morris has made something starkly, unexpectedly special, a melodious manifesto  that offers an unadulterated glimpse into a single soul.

Flowertruck: Mostly Sunny

Article originally appeared on The Music Mar 12th 2018

Flowertruck hauls around a pretty particular kind of sensibility. Something not quite akin to irreverence or satire, it’s a brand of impassioned nonchalance that has less to do with apathy and more to do with a sort of lackadaisical confidence drenched in a summer pop malaise that feels just as Australian as lead vocalist Charles Rushforth’s Strine patois.

The group’s debut LP seems to have grown directly from their first EP Dirt, deploying the same mixture of buoyant melodies and melancholic deliveries, but the overall sound is fuller and more mature without losing the seed of what made it worth cultivating. Mixed and mastered with a light touch by some notable names, the compositions are polished but not overproduced, allowing every element a chance to shine, whether that’s a kicking snare, banging tambourine, or lyrical bon mot.

Starting with Enough For Now – a song that can be summed up as saying “you’ll do” (in the best possible way) – and winding up with Come Across, a cheeky self-deprecating treatise that has the band apologising for itself with a smirk and a wink, Mostly Sunny feels like some bloke you know spinning a year’s worth of yarn.

Clear, confident and considerately paced, Mostly Sunny is the start of a bright future.

Ideation

James lay on his back, writhing, and wondered if life was hell. He had eaten part of a page of a Kafka novel and thought it might mean something. It did not. Expelling his supply of futility in parallel with his desperation, James writhed some more and snagged a mesothoracic leg on a linoleum knot, leaving it detached and autonomously alarmed at his side. He couldn’t feel its absence and was shocked at the hole that made. Midst thorax contractions came fatuous lucidity. I should have eaten Joyce, James thought, it might have changed something. It would not have.

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Traversal

‘Like eighty percent of what I say just comes out as ash and lands at my feet so you can kick it around and complain about choking on the dust.’ Sometimes while Jo yells I like to trace the path of my life. I picture little stones placed on a sea of fog and I tiptoe over them, making light little leaps where necessary and cooing at the ruined splendour lurking in the haze. Nothing we tell each other will build me a stable path. ‘Well fuck that,’ he says, ‘don’t light a fire and bitch about the heat.’

Divination

Are you seriously asking me if I’ve heard about god? Have you heard of the fucking internet, of art, of television, of books, of fucking humanity? People have been batting that shit over the net for as long as we’ve been scared of the dark. Yeah, I’ve heard about god, and his miraculous cuckold baby. If they have a plan for us all, for me, and it includes the devil and all that rapture battle crap, then it definitely includes me being miserable and screwing up and sinning like, well, every other damned human since the apple was bit.

Subjection

The streetlights and stars swap their places like cards on a con-man’s table while the bitumen trickles up as hourglass sand back to black the sky. I turn to Damian, now no longer in existence, and say, Hey, did we really take that stuff or was it fake too? Damian nods slowly, the skin on his face sliding down with each bob, dropping the dermis into flaccid folds so that he looks like one of those gourmet wrinkle dogs. He barks through the flaps in his face. That’s what I thought, I say, and watch the world dissolve.

Lowtide: Southern Mind

Article originally appeared on The Music Jan 15th 2018

Lowtide’s latest is a feet-first affair, like a few crushing seconds of free falling stretched into an afternoon of self-reflection.

Gabriel Lewis’ chords burst into the atmosphere with cotton-wool softness, simultaneously surrounding and supporting Anton Jakovljevic’s almost-absentminded percussion and Lucy Buckeridge’s languid strumming and wistful incantations. Full of more body and texture than a luxury latte, Southern Mind is outwardly facing shoegaze at its finest, even if that feels like staring through a foggy window.

Much like meditation, it’s not about turning the volume up but rather turning everything else down and, consequently, it carries some of the same pitfalls for the perennially restless.

Swearing

I never told you I was good, I guess that’s the difference between being a shitty person and a really shitty person. ‘Is that,’ Laura closes her eyes and does that cliché brow rub thing, ‘is that your excuse? I should’ve known you’d be a prick because you never promised to be nice?’ She grabs the nearest thing, a dollars worth of Ikea plate, and flings it past me to land on the couch with the apathetic thump of an empty threat. That was sorta shitty, I say. Sasha weighs another plate, ‘I never promised to have good aim.’

Ayla: Let’s Talk Monday

Article Originally appeared on The Music Jan 12th 2018

Welcome to Ayla, the Sunshine Coast sequel to Lorde and Florence Welch (sorry, but the comparisons are going to get made). Ayla exhibits one of those classically expansive voices that seems to reach five years deep into the solar plexus.

For her second EP, Ayla has revisited two of her earlier tracks and brought forth four more. Experimenting with new recording techniques, there’s salon-style volume added everywhere but most of the compositions are not rudimentary exactly just discreetly layered and somehow demure, consistently yielding to their mistress’ voice. It’s perfect in a supplicating way, set dressing for soliloquy, but it means the instrumentation never quite feels like an equal partner.

Ayla’s voice is always centre stage, yet each of the tracks has its own set of supple hooks, literal and figurative, and searches endlessly for a way under the skin. Particularly, the balladic quality of New Furniture provides some meaty emotional resonance by leaning a little into country composition and Porcelain Doll displays a cascading and hypnotic choral lilt.

Like the ball that hops across karaoke script, Let’s Talk Monday is a fun and bouncy little distraction, but no matter how high it bounces you always know where it’ll land.

Roused

Waking might be the end of me. It’s the moment a balloon breaks, slowed to a handful of agonising frames. Stretched beyond the tenable, then shredded by tension, a normally elastic composure separates into disparate shards. If you pause in that moment you lose all catharsis, it becomes the overwhelming evisceration of one element over another, pressure versus restraint, but if you press forward you lose both forces. One freed by its molecules, one bound by them, equally stripped of purpose by form, one dissipates and the other dies. All of this happens before I even open my eyes.

Communication

It actively hurts to love you, I say, I wish it didn’t, but your presence has become the biggest part of my day. I feel like I’m throwing chunks of caring down a well, breaking off hulking parts of my compassion and trying to catch a ghost with the remains. I miss you and I love you and it hurts so much to feel those things in your shadow. I wish you still loved me, though I hope that you’re happy, I say, I hope that you’re having fun and living your best life. My phone says nothing back.

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