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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.

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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.

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.

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.

The Bear Hunt: Fallen On Deaf Ears

Article originally appeared on The Music Oct 13th 2017

The obvious problem with The Bear Hunt’s new EP is that it’s not an LP. Any issue you have beyond that should evidently be with society, because Fallen On Deaf Ears doesn’t actually feel like an EP so much as an open letter to the See You Next Tuesday’s of the world. There’s an unrequited rage seething inside every chord, vocal or otherwise, a furious and frenetic yet thoughtful rhetoric delivered with percussive punch and incisive timing. It’s the audio equivalent of winning an argument you didn’t start and never wanted. Here’s hoping the world keeps sucking enough to get a full-blown album soon.

Ibeyi: Ash

Article Originally appeared on The Music Sep 25th 2017

Singing in mixed English, French and Yoruba, Ibeyi have a unique voice, but their position as a potential voice for an ostensibly outsider perspective and the dignified potency they wield it with makes them distinct. Ash is both persecuted and powerful in equal measure, something that feels less like balancing than soaring. Sparse and otherworldly percussion interspersed with found sounds and hypnotic harmonics, it’s sonically sumptuous but thematically sharp enough to cut you from the first chord. This isn’t just good music, it’s important.

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.

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.

Deafcult: Auras

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 27th 2017

Auras is full of melodic drone, flecked with classic rock, sort of like listening to another band through a few sheets of gauze. While it might set a shoegaze pace, it’s often far more proactive, peppering each track with catchy little hooks and alluring deviations, subtle traces of ’80s electronica or an off-kilter country refrain, slipping in and out of the swelling grit that permeates their sound. It’s vaguely hypnotic – after a while, everything starts to fade away and you’re left floating inside someone else’s dream, like being trapped on an ice floe watching the Aurora Borealis shimmering faintly overhead.

Melvins: A Walk With Love And Death

Article originally appeared on The Music Jun 28th 2017

A two part, two hour, concept album-soundtrack hybrid, A Walk With Love and Death is a strange schismatic mess, purposefully abrasive, lashingly discordant and, in its way, a straightforward vanity project delivered with avant-garde disdain… typical Melvins really. The soundtrack portion, Love, consists of layers of aural antagonism, like listening to the inner thoughts of a Lovecraft protagonist in the last chapters of madness. The LP portion, Death, while being expectedly dark is unexpectedly lacking any of the hellish erraticism that saturates not just the first half but their entire career, yet it’s still some of their finest music to date.

Shrimpwitch: Eggs Eggs Eggs

Article originally appeared on The Music May 11th 2017

Shrill, fierce and loose, living in the vein of Bikini Kill, Shrimpwitch is ripe with classic riot girl motifs and a distinctly Aussie twang and colloquial quirkiness. Shrimpwitch’s debut EP is the best ten minutes of thrashed out sentiment on the scene, and it hits like a shot of vodka with a face slap for a chaser. Although it’s missing a bit of the personal charm and banter captured on their Live At The Tote recordings, it’s not lacking any of the bracing ferocity or frenetic energy of those performances. With two main ingredients and four hot tracks, Eggs Eggs Eggs is a simple but delicious recipe.

Spirit Bunny: Spirit Bunny

Article originally appeared on The Music Apr 21st 2017

To get a feel for Spirit Bunny, put your hand on a Tesla ball and tell your hair not to stand up. Spirit Bunny almost crackles with that same electronic frisson, yet it feels, if not contained, then channeled into an amazingly precise conduit with clear purpose. A feather-light mesh of synth, key, repurposed rustic-tech, and coordinated percussion that’s as meticulous as the other elements are gritty and distorted. Battles, the second track on the album, is the audio equivalent of Ghost Dog nodding to RZA in the street, an understated acknowledgement of peers on different missions. It could be pure coincidence but it seems more like well deserved confidence.

El Michels Affair: Return to the 37th Chamber

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ Apr 24th 2017

Back in 2009 Leon Michels, le titular the in El Michels Affair, put together a collection of funk riddled neo-soul renditions of Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The original being an inarguably seminal album, certainly sacrosanct to some, Michels efforts were met with both derision and celebration. Seen by some critics as poorly sketched shadows of their inspirations, and by others (Raekwon included) as interesting extensions of source material, obviously the best thing to do was wait almost a decade then try the same thing all over again.

Where Enter the 37th Chamber was a more straight laced piece of interpretive derivation, Return to the 37th Chamber offers a much more oblique approach to appropriation, with far less Wu-Tang touchstone moments than the 2009 offering. In the intervening years acts like Vulture St Tape GangKerbside Collection or BADBADNOTGOOD have done a lot more to reshape the territory, El Michels Affair seems almost tawdry in its ministrations now, a little late game Mrs. Robinson play.

The whole thing would have been better served without the immediate affiliation, the ghost of the Clan hovers over this, and not completely in that pleasant Patrick Swayze way. Standing alone these could have been a brace of largely instrumental curios smattered with surprising vocals, a handful of interesting thematic deviations and a benignly upbeat disposition, making your toes take note to tap later. So you know, all in all, good, good, not bad.

That’s what a Return to the 37th Chamber feels like, really, not exactly fresh and not exactly stale, a state of fresh-yesterday forward thinking nostalgia that feels like a score to an unwritten movie you’re sure you know you saw, which, if you wanna talk appropriation, is like a stalker becoming their own victim by wearing their parents’ clothes. That’s not how identity theft works.

The Meltdown: The Meltdown

Article originally appeared on 4ZZZ April 6th 2017

Who would have thought there were so many Australians with soul. It seems like every week there’s a new quartet, collaboration, ensemble or collective, crooning their way to success with brassy aplomb, most of them with more instruments than a hedgehog has quills. It’s almost enough to make you want to have a meltdown, until you actually have one. Which leads us here, either a humorous segue or grim portent depending on your narrative lens.

More than just an unfortunate spillage in the dairy isle and a six month ban, The Meltdown in question here are a seventeen piece funk, country, soul, guitar, synth, posi-goth, hyphen behemoth. Scratch that, they’re actually just a modest eight piece of Melbourne based Soul/Jazz/Blues. Brought to you buy the purveyors of the finest radioactive gospel.

They’re really good at what they do too, managing to make a forty minute record play on long past any real sense of time, and the tongue-in-cheek decision to put long winded country blues ballad Forever And Always before Don’t Hesitate’s alt-gospel proselytism of positivity is just one of many master strokes of ironic cohesion. Swaying between bouts of mild-tempo’d pain and moderately paced pleasure, big-brass spear and backup vocals at hand, un-derisively self-titled is an album poised to leap into the roiling fray of the fatted music industry midriff.

We live in tumultuous times, and having something familiar like this to fall back on can be a great relief. So, imagine the comfort of slipping in and out of genre tropes like trying on the guests’ coats at your parents’ key party, this one a little George Clinton and that a little Marvin Gaye, all of them still super-cozy despite or because of being so big you’ll never touch the sides. In this way, The Meltdown are a misnomer made balm and prescribed against their moniker. Keep rubbing it on and surely you will find relief.

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