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Pikelet: Goodbye

Article originally appeared on The Music 18 March 2019

Dissonant, diffident, euphonic, euphoric and mildly infuriating all at the same time, Pikelet has been unclassifiable but hugely successful since the release of debut record Pikelet in 2007. Still, since the project’s progenitor Evelyn Ida Morris’ self-titled album last year, it seems like time to say Goodbye to the moniker.

Maybe moreso than ever, Goodbye is very much a Pikelet album, literally its final form. Winsome and vaguely choral vocals, found sounds, and made noise mixed with layered loops all cascade together into an incomparable harmonic maelstrom. Numerous small moments that highlight Morris’ ingenuity, ability and breadth — a subtle ’60s refrain, cascading drum scale or guttural piece of bass funk — are bracing, and make you wonder what Pikelet might have sounded like if they’d hewn to genre or sonic convention, but then the actual effect is so captivating that normalcy wouldn’t be good enough anyway.

The six tracks on Goodbye feel almost exasperated, the sort of farewell you might throw out when walking away from an argument. It’s the sound of a door slamming, both cathartic and shocking. This is a delicious end to Pikelet, though hopefully not the last we’ll hear from Evelyn Ida Morris

Little Simz: Grey Area

Article originally appeared on The Music 28-Feb-2019

UK rapper Little Simz has spent her career building a reputation for fleet-footed lyricism layered over thrumming beats and conceptual leanings that flirt heavily with the surreal. But after diving into the otherworldly oddities of Stillness In Wonderland, and grappling with the weight of self-made success, Simz has decided to explore the grittier side of her own life’s Grey Area.

Weaving soul rhythms with lo-fi leanings so that a jazz flute can somehow thrive alongside bass that could burn a discotheque, Little Simz’ latest is immediately enthralling. Produced entirely by Inflo, Grey Area has the authenticity of a garage auteur and the feel of a seasoned studio master. Going into the recording with little pre-made material, Simz embraces a sense of therapeutic freeness that brings the tracks to some dark and brutally honest places, yet her swift lyrical delivery means nothing gets bogged in reflective territory. The whole album is relentlessly deft and punches harder than a prizefighter fending off personal demons.

Grey Area is intense, inventive, and earnest, a rare rap album where bluster gives way to bluntness and bravado isn’t bragging but actually brave. Little Simz deserves her self-proclaimed place among the greats.

Tiny Ruins: Olympic Girls

Article originally appeared on The Music 31st Jan 2019

Touring the world with names like Fleet Foxes, Beach House and Calexico, while featuring a line-up that shifts more than the tectonic plates under her New Zealand homeland, Hollie Fullbrook has built a solid base for herself out of Tiny Ruins. The latest album, Olympic Girls, is full of the finger-plucked guitar, homely metaphor, and low-key lyrical delivery that Fullbrook is known for.

Compared to the full-on three weeks it took to record Brightly Painted One, Tiny Ruins’ third record Olympic Girls was drawn over a full year and, while that fact can be seen in the polished production, it feels as though this additional time led to each track being forgotten before she recorded the next – on a cursory listen, there’s little to distinguish them. 

Fullbrook’s vocals are beautiful and full, blooming out over the instrumentation in an encompassing way that feels oddly devoid of emotion despite the wistful sombreness of the lyrics. The overall effect is a little too perfect, like a rock wall that’s been filled with resin and buffed smooth – getting a handhold is all but impossible.

Olympic Girls is a tender feat of musicianship that politely asks you to listen rather than begging to be heard.

Thom Yorke: Suspiria (Music For The Luca Guadagnino Film)

Article originally appeared on The Music 24 October 2018

A soundtrack is a tricky thing to enjoy; supposed to augment, supplement or transcend its accompanying art, but taken out of context it can sometimes feel inadequate. Thom Yorke soundtracking a Suspiriareboot is so incredibly difficult to decouple from context, it’s hard to say if it can stand without the weight of the movie or the man.

Some parts scream Yorke, or rather, Yorke laments across them in a vaguely hallucinogenic way, while other elements list from faintly eldritch to outright sinister with the help of synth stabs and Gregorian chants delivered with the guttural malaise of noise-rock in a foley room. It’s a lattice of semi-irrelevant ambience and isolated SFX that gives Suspiria a disconcerting feeling like it’s the ghost of Radiohead rattling chains on a haunted house tour. Though deliriously long, it is a wonderful tour punctuated by some suspiciously charming songs that wouldn’t feel out of place on a The King Of Limbs successor.

Overall, Yorke’s take lands on a softer side of psychedelic than Goblin’s original, for better or worse, featuring far less saxophone and its own diffident kind of flamboyance.

Last Dinosaurs: Yumeno Garden

Article originally appeared on The Music

Last Dinosaurs have always had the sort of sound that feels like bubbles floating through a picturesque car commercial, clean, soapy, and hard to connect to without bursting the veneer. For their third studio album, Yumeno Garden, the Brisbane boys have done little to alter their output.

Erring on the pop side of rock, the album is full of velcro hooks and circular choruses that do an admirable job of lodging in your brain, but barring one or two slow dives everything proceeds at a predictable, albeit enjoyable, tempo. The overall effect is one of mild homogeneity, with individual songs not selling themselves so much as painting a sonic spectrum. This staid approach to songwriting leaves a catalogue of tracks that could be easily shuffled between albums with little to no consequence. 

The production itself shows an interesting trend towards the sort of under-blown yet encompassing back end prevalent on most vaporwave masters. While intriguing and expansively lush, any subtleties are quickly engulfed like cookie crumbs falling on a deep plush carpet.

Yumeno Garden is bound to be well received and will certainly make a fine addition to any cafe soundtrack, but for a band edging up on its first decade it shows surprisingly little growth.

Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood: With Animals

Article originally appeared on The Music Aug 21st 2018

Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood have circled each other for over a decade, with Garwood’s guitar strung across both Gargoyle and Blues Funeral, yet, this is only their second double billed album.

Following on from the five-year-old, Black Pudding, the pair have created something a little lighter on the palate, let’s say white souffle by way of the bayou, but that doesn’t betray its density.

For fans of their equally extended careers, there’ll be some retread, though it’s less like local streets and more akin to visiting cemetery kin. The new ground covered is fresh and dirty as turned earth.

Inherently touching and darkly familiar, With Animals dulcet batch of misery is a slow-motion gut punch — the sort of thing that might slip out of a whiskey bottle onto a dusty old porch, staining a permanent lineament. There is so much gravel washed sadness you’d be forgiven for missing the slight social commentaries embedded in Lanegan’s lyrics. The title track’s knife-like chorus, “Girl, you are a murderer,” serves as an ode to meat consumption and also a wonderfully anti-romantic diatribe — combined with Garwood’s cutting compositions, their songs have a tendency to stick in your soul.

The Gametes: The Astronomical Calamities Of Comet Jones

Article originally appeared on The Music Aug 7th 2018

Exploding onto the scene in 2017 with all the velocity and cult acclaim of a popped pimple, The Gametes have been enjoying something in the field of meteoric success.

If you imagine Mr Bungle and the descendants of Devo shouting from the shores of The Lord Of The Flies, you might begin to imagine how unpredictable their sound can be. Simultaneously whimsical and dire, they flit from surf rock to gothic faster than you can sing space opera and with far more dramatic flair. After displaying a penchant for narrative songwriting on their debut, The Sweat Tapes, they’ve dove directly into the concept for their follow up.

A sci-fi leaning story about a lone space traveller, the underlying problem with The Astronomical Calamities of Comet Jones is that the narrative isn’t overly interesting or conceptually original but the execution is definitely both. Outrageous and eclectic, each track does an excellent job of showcasing their eccentric ideologies.

Like your favourite director’s worst movie, the album loses gravitas even as its narrative seeks to build mass, and yet, it is utterly, indefinably loveable.

Tape/Off: Broadcast Park

Article originally appeared on The Music Jul 12th 2018

Broadcast Park is gritty, raw and thick, full of misleading lulls presented here as potholes on a dirt road. It’s really quite excellent if you’re in the mood for being thrashed about.

A vocalisation of manifest injustice, this is the bang and the whimper, the burning of the straw man in variegated and at times atonal intonations that flux from sombre to manic without diverging from a brand of beat delivery that feels as jarring and unacceptable as its subject matter should. And yet, it’s so authentic, so immediate, grounded and familiar that it’s like listening to your down on his luck mate air his grievances. And good on ’em, good flipping on ’em, because it’s taken years for this LP to arrive and you’d have to wonder if there were no frisson at this point then why make anything at all? Thankfully we have fragments here that are over four years old and are hitting home in ways that are more relevant than ever. Things are not going well and it’s a great time for people to hear why.

Tape/Off have put forward something that says, this is Australia, this is modern life, this is malaise meets rage at its most percussive and poignant. This is the sound of someone who’s finally had enough and is ready to speak up.

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