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A Few Short Words

Dense not thick

Jordan Rakei: Wallflower

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 18th 2017

If you’ve woken in a sweat worrying about Jack Johnson putting down his acoustic and picking up a Korg, don’t worry, Jordan Rakei already has you covered. After shedding his debut, Cloak, Rakei has picked up a collection of sensitivities to add to his soul style, steering away from the rougher auteur elements that originally endeared or intrigued – ambient deviations and break-beat constructions – sliding instead into an introspective funk. Rakei’s rhythms are skin-rakingly soothing and his voice is anachronistically attenuated to an evaporated era, singing Wallflower as a shy piece of work, a current-smoothed river stone sparkling in a bed of thousands.

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Monogamy

You know how when someone you love, someone you’ve shared everything with and you trust and respect and have complete faith in but also enjoy that passive acceptance bred out of total familiarity, when someone like that says I love you and you say I love you back in a totally rote fashion, not disingenuous but so automated through fidelity that it becomes an ignorable key structure in your day to day? You know that feeling? That voice tells me I deserve to die and I always say, of course I do, in a totally rote fashion, of course.

Kedr Livanskiy: Ariadna

Article originally appeared on The Music Sep 7th 2017

Where last year’s January Sun carried strange warmth wrapped in cold Siberian grit, Ariadna radiates light without giving off heat. Kedr Livanskiy’s latest is dangerously indistinct at times, walking you through a synth-based tundra where any distinguishing landmark is a meagre joy celebrated simply for being distinct in its surrounds. The halfway mark holds a small spoken word beacon that hasn’t respite, revelry, or revelation but is rather a reminder you might want to visit more hospitable climes. Maybe it takes patience to traverse, though there doesn’t seem to be enough payoff for it to matter unless your desire for indecipherable Euro-gaze pop is unusually high.

Dialectics

I want to talk with you about you but that’s not how this works is it. Fuck, I wish we were objective. I get, I hate talking too but then you scratch up questions like prying scabs. I put down the marks, I’ll pry the scabs. Can’t you let me not hurt you? Bad enough I break myself without you snapping off pieces of yourself to stab me with. I wish I loved me how you wanted so I could love you how I’d like. I want to talk to you about it but you make it about me.

Subsumption

The beach has always been cold to me, no matter how I’ve loved it, but I go there often and take my loves with me. Like Caleb, confidant and strong with beautiful form and numbing passion. ‘You can’t help me,’ he said, stripping to skin, ‘even if I’m struggling,’ and walked into the waves without hesitation. I’ve always respected the tide and its wishes, the soft inevitability and reassuring repetition of predictable chaos. So I sat above the water line with the prickled edges of pre-glass sticking to my flesh, thinking of love and watching while Caleb drowned.

Mapping

We take no direction. Driving deep into the bush where the sunlight chokes on yarra pine and canopy sprawl defines the sky. Little lights do break inside the cabin, though, and mingle with the motes; seed, grass, ash-fire, water, grease, precipitation, machines in nature. We wind the windows down and force the forest air to flow. I can feel her smiling on my skin, the warmth and promise. We hold hands between stick shifts and watch the road ahead, summer-crisp anticipation fuelling our desires. We take no direction and feel free to be lost with each other.

Isolation

Suicide sticks his finger in my beer, swirls it around, then pops it in his mouth down to the last knuckle. I motion to the tender for another and we transact without incident. ‘I fucking hate you,’ Suicide says, ‘even the worst of them are better than you by an immeasurable margin.’ I just want to drink in silence, sit in silence, live in silence. Suicide looks at the decor and snickers. ‘Drab isn’t it?’ I don’t say anything, he knows what I’m thinking. ‘Maybe on the way home I’ll push you into traffic.’ I wish he was dead.

Sharing

Because Sarah never knocks she walks in on me and freaks out but I think the worst part was how she looked at those bloody towels, like I was why she couldn’t have nice things. Later, after clean up and calm down, we sit at the table for a long time and say nothing over instant coffee. I scratch at the bandage. She won’t hold my hand. I needed to know how much I could hurt myself before it meant something. ‘And?’ I guess I still don’t know. ‘And me? How much should I hurt before it means something?’

Nadine Shah: Holiday Destination

Article originally appeared on The Music 18th Aug 2017

Taking us on a tour through human atrocity as guided by thoughtful earworms, saying Shah’s Holiday Destination is politically charged is like saying batteries hold electricity – true but meaningless unless that energy is channelled. Once again, Shah shows her greatest strength is an ability to craft pieces that float high ideas above grounded musicianship without sacrificing the merits of either. Like a nightingale floor, it’s a tightly constructed artefact full of traps for the careless and meaning for the wary, an album that delicately balances its rhythmic joys against dark purpose developed in a complex climate.

Envisage

The pressure drops and I have the painful sensation of wind over wet ears. ‘You’re more when you’re around other people,’ she says. More what? ‘I don’t know… just, more you. It’s like you become some hyper realised version. I wish you got like that when you talked to me. Why don’t you?’ Because that’s what they want, I tell her, a fictional model full of charm and eloquence, twisted to sate their tastes. ‘So, what? You don’t want to be better for me?’ I thought you liked me for me, I say, but I’ll change if you like.

Inclination

I lean in quick and kiss her unevenly, a grossly affine plane. Pull back and make eye contact and feel like I know less than ever. ‘Are you going to do it again,’ she says. Standing in her pupils, I tell her, I’d like to, and touch my own face lightly. Her patience extends into the street, mingling with the fog and neon city vapour. ‘Will you do it again?’ I lower my guard and let the back of our hands dance at waist height, seasoned amateurs practicing excitement. I will, I tell her, I’m pretty sure I will.

Devil Electric: Devil Electric

Article originally appeared on The Music Aug 11th 2017

Devil Electric are dark in the same way that Venetian blinds block out the sun – it works but there are pitch black solutions out there you may prefer. Positioning themselves as purveyors of a profound doom, the songwriting is more syllogism than soliloquy and sits on a platform that panders to whatever derivation of “Put a bird on it,” plays in the monochrome twilight. They’re much more engaging when they lean into the rougher riffs and grit. Oh sure, they’ve got licks for days, and they’re very happy to show them off, but it’s more slideshow trudge than triumphant spectacle.

Parables

This time it was a bee with a broken wing doing tumbles on my patio, trying vainly to make flight. I told myself it was a sad metaphor for the world so I could feel bad, emotional colony collapse. It’s bullshit of course, not every broken thing has purpose and meaning is a monocular myth we spend entire generations failing to prove. Tumbling and stingerless, it’s poignant to a point and obviously sad, though its wrongness is utterly wrong. They’re meaningless, all these melancholic analogues, but I can’t help it, I desperately want to be miserable for a reason.

Credulous

I put my arm into a bucket of needles because it said Prizes in glitter on the side. My fingers probed the corners, scraped the bottom, contracted around nothing. Though, in retrospect I should have known, it seemed to take months before I felt the first pricking and longer still for suspicion to congeal into knowledge. Even then, with a thousand undeniable sharpnesses embedded in my skin, I kept standing there, honing my dull bewilderment like a cactus growing peyote. I couldn’t believe it, the bucket had said prizes, had promised fulfilment. I was meant to be a winner.

Agape

We pull into a station and I think, maybe I could kill myself, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad. The family a few seats up and over the aisle chatter over each other with the high pitched nasal wonder of northern tourists. I wish I didn’t care. My body starts feeling conspicuous so I wrap an arm across my stomach and say an invisibility prayer. If I don’t look I won’t know if they don’t see me. Somewhere past central I stop not crying and ready myself for the end of my trip. Maybe it won’t be so bad.

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