“Down There is shimmering, cerebral pop, all the way from the swamp floor” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
“Obsessive and engaging, this fucking rules” – TRIPLE J MAG (8 out of 10)
“A low-key album full of hidden charms and delightful touches” – RAVE MAGAZINE (4 stars)
“Tare has bared his niggling neuroses to the light, with results that are oppressive, introverted and weird. Highly recommended” – THE BRAG (4 stars)
“Melds breathy voice with ambient tones and looped, echoey notes, all delayed, all distorted. It’s warm and it’s deliciously cavernous” – BEAT
“A record of subtle and quite beautiful charms” – BROADSHEET MELBOURNE
“Overflowing with musical ideas and sound scapes… don’t resist. Let your ears go for a dip” – TWO THOUSAND
“There’s something simultaneously stupid and dementedly genius about the way the tunes are put together, and this is what is so great. There are no precedents. This is the way a solo album from Animal Collective should sound” – INPRESS
Down There is the incredible new solo album from Animal Collective member Dave Portner a/k/a Avey Tare, out now on Mistletone Records through Inertia.
Dave Portner AKA Avey Tare was born in Baltimore County, Maryland on April 24th in the year of 1979. He moved to New York City in 1997 where he resides to this day (in south Brooklyn).
Though he spends most of his time writing songs and producing sounds (usually in the group Animal Collective) he also is an intense record collector, film fanatic, book head, friend, and traveler. It’s from these things primarily that Mr. Portner gets his inspiration, still striving to blend sounds and discover musical territory that seems unfamiliar.
His favorite animals are the otter and crocodile. The later has played a big role in his newest record.
Down There is a world of nine new songs from Animal Collective’s Avey Tare. His first official solo full length carries you through a murky world of sound, an alien death world of soul grooves that is both honest and otherworldly.
Wait for sundown and turn it up loud. Take a ride on this haunted boat and let yourself be guided through deep sloshy rhythms, waterlogged bass, and moonlit breaks in the canopy that reveal a crisp crystalline pop buzz.
Down There was recorded in the month of June by old friend Josh Dibb (Deakin) at the Good House, an old church in upstate New York, surrounded by The Great Swamp and visited regularly by monks, white widows, and groan toads.
Tracklisting: 1. Laughing Hieroglyphic 2. 3 Umbrellas 3. Oliver Twist 4. Glass Bottom Boat 5. Ghost Of Books 6. Cemeteries 7. Heads Hammock 8. Heather In The Hospital 9. Lucky 1
Animal Collective are proving to be indie music’s own Wu-Tang Clan. Universally worshipped as a collective, the members still manage to carry unique artistic identities reflected in mindblowing solo outings.
While, until now, it’s been Panda Bear’s game-changing solo work that has soaked up majority of the attention, it seems Avey Tare (aka. Dave Portner) is about to give his bandmate a run for his money with forthcoming solo record, ‘Down There’.
Out 29th October via our buds at Mistletone, the album is a strange, haunted odyssey. Not surprising really, from a guy who appears in his press shots dressed as a crocodile (his favourite animal, apparently).
The first track to emerge from the album, “Lucky 1″, is available as a free mp3 below and should give you an idea of what we’re all in for. The instrumentation splits and mutates like alien bacteria. The vocals prance across the dusty landscapes of distant moons.
It’s bizarre. It’s beautiful. It’s soulful.
Wait. Do crocodiles have souls?
The music of Bachelorette (AKA Annabel Alpers) is what might happen were you to toss 70s psychedelia, 80s electro-pop, 90s shoegaze and 00s electronica into a blender and turn it to ‘high’. A strange, enveloping tangle of synthesised melody and claustrophobic texture built around Alpers’ raw and endlessly multi-layered voice, Bachelorette will take you on a sonic journey to a universe sustained by the logic of androids, cities, waveforms and love.
Bachelorette, the third album by New Zealand’s Annabel Alpers, aka Bachelorette is out now on Mistletone Records / Inertia. Bachelorette is available on Mistletone mail order, together with Bachelorette’s previous albums My Electric Family (2009) and Isolation Loops (2007). Listen here to Blanket, the first single from this amazing album.
“Playful in parts, solemn, and sombre, this is a deep, dense weave of rich psychedelic pop… Alpers closes the book on Bachelorette at the height of the project’s powers” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
“Bachelorette is its own universe… the whole package is pulsing with life.“ – MESS +NOISE
“Infused with the radiophonic experiments of the 60s & the synth innovations of the 70s and 80s and a distinct interpretation of pop classicism that is Annabel’s alone… This self-titled work represents in some ways a culmination of all the Bachelorette material recorded to date; a brilliant balance of consonance and dissonace the lingers in the imagination and demands repeated listens.“– TRIPLE R Album of the Week
“There’s always been a peculiar warmth to the analog synths and the drowsy, shivering harmonies, but there are more frequent bursts of humanity when xylophones, guitars and whistling filter through the radiophonic state” – BEAT
“A swirling mix of folky introspection, driving, Kosmische repetition, and undulating drones. The constant throughout is Kiwi Annabel Alpers beautiful voice, an otherworldly croon that’s gospel-like in its devotion.” – TWO THOUSAND
“Alpers is making music like few others, a one-of-a-kind blend of electronics and folk lyricism” – DRUM MEDIA
“Few exponents of electronic pop create albums as original and enduring as (Bachelorette)… a refinement of her already prodigious talent for vocal harmonies over infatuating synth hooks” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
We visualise the music of Bachelorette beaming through distant star systems, gliding and bouncing through a matrix of coolly illuminated neural pathways. Yet, all the songs on her new album were written on Earth: Radley, UK; Tripoli, Libya; Millwood, VA; Brooklyn, NYC and back home in NZ. Annabel Alpers (the heart behind Bachelorette’s machine) is no sky-bound jet-trash. Her new, self-titled album has a corporeal, sensual tangibility. If you were a fan of Isolation Loops (2006) and My Electric Family (2009), you will be touched and torched once again by her deep-space solitude and the soulful ache that radiates from her best songs.
Annabel Alpers dreams the trappings of her electro psych pop – melody, minimal lines of synth and harmony vocal ‒ and then brings the complex shades of this vision into our world through her music. Changing geography doesn’t actually change the conditions that we live in. Wherever you go, there you are, right? However, everywhere is somewhere, and all the traveling done in the last year or so of Bachelorette’s life has to seep somehow into her rich-toned amalgamation of sounds. When organic waves enter her work ‒ as cathedral chimes did in Oxford – they return swathed in a lunar halo.
Bachelorette is epic from its very genesis. Hovering over a fluttering blanket of voices, a ghostly vision of the future is distilled with the same seductive inevitability of a Greek oracle in “Grow Old With Me.” With the controls to her destiny thus programmed, Annabel gestures toward an alien visitation ‒ or is it an all-too- human introspection? Her metaphors are a strong tonic, entertaining with their surfaces while the sounds race to your heart. Bachelorette’s great triumph is that her abundant pop melodies displace any hesitations incurred by such a complex undertaking. Whether wandering through the labyrinth of your own consciousness or embarking on journey through some segment of this terra, you will feel a kinship.
Recorded around the world and mixed with Nicholas Vernhes at Rare Book Room (Animal Collective, Baby Dee, Dirty Projectors, et cetera) in Brooklyn, the tracks of Bachelorette are built on buzzing synth grooves, folky guitar strums, and the occasional snap of drums and percussion ‒ aided and abetted by a whimsical, searching sense of instrumental color. We are guided through the darkness of infinite space by Bachelorette’s luminescent lead vocal. Sing along!
Drum Media interview:
PRAISE FOR MY ELECTRIC FAMILY (Mistletone, 2009):
“A wonderful surprise… Though Bachelorette has a clear lineage with Dunedin bands such as Look Blue Go Purple and The Clean, her modern style is thoroughly her creation.” – THE WEEKEND AUSTRALIAN **** four stars
“My Electric Family is the sound of spring. Completely uplifting, it is bright and it is beautiful, without downplaying any of its intelligence. Just glorious.” – DRUM MEDIA
“A second album that is truly ready for the limelight… My Electric Family is about as refreshing and full of ideas as they come” – INPRESS
“Shimmering new album… adds a new warmth, dynamism and depth to her once lonely sound” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
“Her songs remain as intimate, charming and innovative as ever” – BEAT
“Bachelorette’s sonic landscape is rich, dense and fulfilling… just gorgeous “ – RAVE
The Bats return with a brilliant new album, The Deep Set, out January 27 on Flying Nun Records. Mistletone has previously released a split 7″ by The Bats and Boomgates, plus albums Free All the Monsters and The Guilty Office, available on mail order.
THE BATS TOUR DATES:
MELBOURNE:Saturday 28 January @ Northcote Social Club. The Deep Set album launch. Tickets on sale now from NSC.
SYDNEY:Sunday 29 January @ Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival. The Bats perform The Deep Set in full, followed by a “greatest hits” set. Tickets on sale now from Sydney Festival.
“Four decades into their career, The Bats continue to produce sparkling and chiming pop that sounds as fresh now as it does when David Lange was New Zealand’s Prime Minister” – NOISEY
Legendary Flying Nun flag-bearers The Bats prove their everlasting songfulness with a brilliant new album, The Deep Set (out January 27 on Flying Nun). The band has shared the soaring first single, “Antlers”, and announced an Australian tour, performing The Deep Set in full at Sydney Festival with a string section, plus a Melbourne album launch at Northcote Social Club.
Listen to “Antlers” below, via Noisey:
Five years after the release of their last critically acclaimed album, The Bats return with album number nine, The Deep Set. With the title conveying the long established and firmly embedded, it’s notable that it’s 30 years since The Bats began recording their debut album in the living room studio of a friend of a friend in Glasgow. This time around they recorded in The Sitting Room, the studio-sleep out-garage next to Ben Edward’s house in Lyttelton, New Zealand; following in the footsteps of Marlon Williams, Nadia Reid and many others.
With Ben Edward’s help, The Deep Set continues The Bats’ 21st century resurgence. Yes, this is The Bats so the chords still chug, the guitars chime, ring, and jangle, the melodies are clear and memorable, the rhythm section is unstoppable. But the band mines the darker, deeper sound that 2011’s Free All the Monsters revealed.
The songs remain reflective but that oft-expected sweet folksiness pops up less frequently. As the title suggests the music is richer, expansive, deeper. In their fourth decade as a band familiarity has come to mean a more careful treatment of each song. Is it maturity? It definitely translates into more depth and complexity but hey the songs are still as catchy as all hell. And as a lyricist, Robert Scott continues his mastery of the personal and pastoral, the landscape and longing.
As always the key to The Bats is the emotion that their (seemingly) simple songs carry. They continue to mine that Mainland melancholy; the kind that somehow never risks being depressing. But of course that means there is lament and nostalgia, even if it’s only for last night. Taking us from the sun of Otago’s Taieri River to darkest Durkestan and apparently ending in the midst of contemporary New Zealand politics, The Deep Set continues the composed confidence of their recent albums with one of The Bats’ strongest sets of songs, fueled by ever-more powerful guitars.
If you grew up with The Bats their early recordings will always pull at your emotions but while less vulnerable and immediate than on their classic debut album, The Bats of the 21st century somehow manage to be more intimate and urgent.
THE BATS: A SELECTED DISCOGRAPHY
And here is…’Music For The Fireside’
Made Up In Blue
The Law Of Things
Compilation of early EPs, 1990
Fear Of God
Spill The Beans
Afternoon In Bed
Thousands Of Tiny Luminous Spheres
Beach House devotees everywhere were set swooning with the surprise release of Thank Your Lucky Stars — their sixth album, and the second album for 2015, following the rapturously received Depression Cherry. Thank Your Lucky Stars is out now on CD, digital and on vinyl on Mistletone Records with CD and Loser vinyl editions available from Mistletone mail order – while supplies last!
A note from Beach House:
Thank Your Lucky Stars is our 6th full length record. It was written after Depression Cherry from July 2014 – November 2014 and recorded during the same session as Depression Cherry. The songs came together very quickly and were driven by the lyrics and the narrative. In this way, the record feels very new for us, and a great departure from our last few records. Thematically, this record often feels political. It’s hard to put it into words, but something about the record made us want to release it without the normal “campaign.” We wanted it to simply enter the world and exist.
Thank you very much, Beach House
And Beach House’s glorious Depression Cherry is out now on Mistletone via Inertia and comes packaged in a sumptuous red velvet sleeve in both CD and LP formats; with a precious few Loser edition clear vinyl LPs left in Mistletone’s mail order store.
Depression Cherry, the band’s fifth album featuring the highlights ‘Sparks’, ‘Space Song’, ‘PPP’ and ‘Days of Candy’, was produced and recorded by the band and Chris Coady at Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana.
“Beach House’s ascent into unexpected commercial success — 2012’s Bloom debuted in the US Top 10 — has come seemingly at odds with their music. The Baltimore duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally makes slow-burning music, building melancholy songs from droning organ chords and dangling slide guitar. Their fifth album, Depression Cherry, stays true to their sound while sounding undeniably bigger” – THE BIG ISSUE AUSTRALIA ★★★★
“It starts with opener Levitation, all floating organs, arpeggiated synths, and Alex Scally’s guitar pealing skyward. “There’s a place I want to take you,” Victoria Legrand sings; Beach House’s music, as ever, heading somewhere beyond words, or, on its best pop song, Beyond Love“ – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD ★★★★½
“Songs that have simple, deeply embedded melodies are given room to bend and warp and decay in beautiful anti-Lynchian soundscapes. Not as cinematic and accessible as Bloom, it’s a much stranger, much stronger record” – THE MUSIC ★★★★
“We can’t figure out what makes Beach House so alluring. But Depression Cherry just makes us love them more” – DOUBLE J FEATURE ALBUM
“With every album, someone observes—rightly—that the band has never sounded exactly this full and soaring before. From their muted first two records, into their Sub Pop debut Teen Dream and then Bloom, Beach House always seem to be just leaving the ground as we catch them. It’s a trick of the light, and it speaks to the sadness that makes their music linger” – PITCHFORK 8.4 BEST NEW MUSIC
Mistletone is proud to have been Beach House’s Australian label and booking agents since 2006. You can order Beach House’s previous releases from our mail order store.
photo by Shawn Brackbill
About Beach House:
Beach House is Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. We have been a band for over a decade living and working in Baltimore, Maryland. Depression Cherry is our fifth full-length record. This record follows the release of our self-titled album in 2006, Devotion in 2008, Teen Dream in 2010, and Bloom in 2012. Depression Cherry was recorded at Studio in the Country in Bogalusa, Louisiana from November ’14 through January ’15. This time period crossed the anniversaries of both John Lennon’s and Roy Orbison’s death.
In general, this record shows a return to simplicity, with songs structured around a melody and a few instruments, with live drums playing a far lesser role. With the growing success of Teen Dream and Bloom, the larger stages and bigger rooms naturally drove us towards a louder, more aggressive place; a place farther from our natural tendencies. Here, we continue to let ourselves evolve while fully ignoring the commercial context in which we exist.
Here are a few quotes that we feel relate to the feeling and themes of this record:
– “I’ll never be able to be here again. As the minutes slide by, I move on. The flow of time is something I cannot stop. I haven’t a choice. I go. One caravan has stopped, another starts up. There are people I have yet to meet, others I’ll never see again. People who are gone before you know it, people who are just passing through. Even as we exchange hellos, they seem to grow transparent. I must keep living with the flowing river before my eyes.” – from ‘Kitchen’ by Banana Yoshimoto
– “We inhabit a world in which the future promises endless possibilities and the past lies irretrievably behind us. The arrow of time… is the medium of creativity in terms of which life can be understood.” – from ‘The Arrow of Time’ by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield
– “Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things” – from ‘Parerga and Paralipomena’ by Arthur Schopenhauer
– “Hark, now hear the sailors cry, feel the air and see the sky, let your soul and spirit fly, into the mystic…when the fog horn blows, I want to hear it, I don’t have to fear it” – from ‘Into the Mystic’ by Van Morrison
Here is the track listing with selected lyrics.
1. Levitation – “The branches of the trees, they will hang lower now, you will grow too quick, then you will get over it”
2. Sparks – “It’s a gift, taken from the lips, you live again”
3. Space Song – “What makes this fragile world go ‘round, were you ever lost, was she ever found?”
4. Beyond Love – “They take the simple things inside you and put nightmares in your hands”
5. 10:37 – “Here she comes, all parts of everything, stars in the motherhand”
6. PPP – “Did you see it coming, it happened so fast, the timing was perfect, water on glass…”
7. Wildflower – “What’s left you make something of it”
8. Bluebird – “I would not ever try to capture you”
9. Days of Candy – “I know it comes too soon, the universe is riding off with you…… I want to know you there, the universe is riding off with you.”
For us, Depression Cherry is a color, a place, a feeling, an energy… that describes the place you arrive as you move through the endlessly varied trips of existence…
Mistletone is truly thrilled to welcome the mighty Cash Savage and The Last Drinksto the family. Cash’s much-awaited third studio album, One Of Us is out now on Mistletone Records via Inertia Music. Pre-order LPs or buy CDs here; all mail orders will receive a signed CD or LP, while stocks last. Watch the video for “Falling, Landing” above and watch rollicking on-tour footage in “Rat-A-Tat-Tat”, below:
ALBUM OF THE WEEK – 3RRR, 3PBS, RTR-FM, Beat Magazine
“There’s a pain that rattles the core of Cash Savage’s third album… full of blues grunt and country groove that holler badass one minute and banjo tinged mellow the next” – THE AGE 4.5 stars ★★★★☆
“Savage comes at us with gruff, dirty-fingernails country-rock like her life depends on it” – HERALD SUN ★★★★
“Will make you want to dance, cry and croon all at once. It’s damn good value in our books” – FRANKIE MAGAZINE
“Rat-a-tat-tat might be unmatched as the best Aussie single of 2016. Savage gloriously steers a charged vocal ensemble into the next world” – THE BIG ISSUE ★★★★
“One Of Us is a particularly apt title for an album which grapples so thoughtfully and skilfully with questions, cares, ideas and experiences known to all humanity. Cash Savage is recognised for her supreme storytelling skill, and across this new collection of songs recounts certain peaks and lows of the past year, always with compassion and humour, wisdom and insight. The potent lyrics are matched by equally impassioned musical performances: a clear, indomitable spirit” – TRIPLE R ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“A big step beyond its two excellent predecessors, (One of Us) is layered with confidence, attention, ease and cohesion. It packs a big sound… It’s Cash Savage as we know and love, with modern menace from The Last Drinks” — 3PBS-FM (Feature Album)
“There is a mixture of dark and light on One of Us…. Do You Feel Loved breaks from memory into frenetic celebration, My Friend is equal parts sincerity, sadness and love and Song For a Funeral is so heavy it buckles your shoulders and breaks your heart” – BEAT MAGAZINE ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“One of the most respected songwriters in the Melbourne underground, Cash Savage has forged a reputation for gritty, raw, and Australiana-tinged storytelling; a vivid depiction of highs and lows” – FASTERLOUDER
“Cash Savage is a unique figure. She looks like the love-child of Chrissie Amphlett and Rock Hudson, has the low notes of Concrete Blonde’s Johnette Napolitano but uses them like Angel Olsen… an excellent balance between the hideous power of gothic country, folk and blues and a band that can really pack them in the aisles” – 4ZZZ
“Low down and dirty and in thrall to the kind of bygone era country-blues that liked the dark and didn’t bother with a porchlight… With her hard-swingin’, hard-twangin’ band The Last Drinks, (Cash Savage’s) latest howling missive One Of Us often sounds as though its main influence was whiskey. Gloriously reverb-sodden, it has the same kind of lurch that marked Nick Cave’s early work and Savage has taken the mercy seat all to herself” – 2SER
Ask Cash Savage how last year was and she’d tell you: “it was fucking awesome, but fucking hard”. It’s a statement that’s been instilled into the Melburnian’s growling alt-country for years, but never so strongly as on her newest album, One Of Us. In it, Cash Savage explores beauty, freedom and the darkness that seep into even the supposedly safest of realms: family, friendship, sleep and love. One Of Us is a record of duality, one that marks another stage of growth for Cash Savage and the Last Drinks.
The ecstatic highs and devastating lows of 2015 would shape One Of Us, Cash Savage and The Last Drinks’ debut album for new label, Mistletone Records. There was her marriage, a European tour and the loss of a few close friends and family to suicide. After a long spell from writing, allowing these emotional events to sink in, Cash Savage grabbed a six-pack, headed off to the studio, turned her guitar up to 12 and began composing the songs that would form One Of Us. Produced by Nick Finch and recorded by Nao Anzai at Head Gap in Melbourne, One Of Us follows on from 2013’s critically acclaimed, The Hypnotiser and is packed tight with the kind of well-crafted, country and blues ear candy the band has become known for.
Cash Savage opens One Of Us with “Falling, Landing”, a song of appreciation, with a lingering vision of potentially having been reduced to nothing. “Run With The Dogs”, “Sunday Morning” and “My Friend” continues to explore the reality that falling hard – both in love and in loss – demands a whole-world understanding that includes our darker sides. By the end of the record, on title track, One Of Us, Cash faces the actuality that even though we are together, ultimately we’re always alone.
Influences beyond loss come in the form of bizarre occurrences, like “Do You Feel Loved”, which recounts witnessing a go-go dancing class in a local pub one rainy night and the insomnia tainted “Rat-A-Tat-Tat”. “Empty Page” comes from a long bout of writer’s block, while the hymnal ache of “Song For A Funeral” is where we find Cash’s ability to craft devastating honesty with her growling vocal exemplified. The Last Drinks added a multitude of instrumentation to the record, fleshing out Savage’s original compositions; Cash’s astonishing and confident vocals allow the musicians around her to flourish. Joe White provides soaring guitar work; Rene Mancuso contributes drums and percussion; Chris Lichti adds bass; and Brett Marshall lifts numerous songs with banjo accompaniments. Finally, Kat Mear on violin brings to light the eerie cadence and dramatic swells of the album’s dark side.
In the end, Cash fulfils the promise many heard on the first two albums and brings her most realised effort of song-writing and lyricism to fruition. The songs on One Of Us reflect the grieving that comes from loss and embrace the new road ahead. This new effort is bound to be regarded as Cash’s most intricate work to date.
CASH SAVAGE & THE LAST DRINKS: ONE OF US ALBUM TOUR DATES:
Sat. July 9 – Darwin, NT @ The Railway Hotel [tix]
Sat. July 30 – Adelaide, SA @ The Jade w/ The Hushes [tix]
Sat. August 6 – Sydney, NSW @ Newtown Social Club w/ Jep and Dep [tix]
Sat. August 13 – Melbourne, VIC @ The Croxton Band Room w/ East Brunswick All Girls Choir & Leah Senior [tix]
Released on vinyl only in the US by White Denim (excellent indie label run out of Philadelphia by Matthew K of Pissed Jeans), All Hell is out now in Australia & New Zealand on CD, vinyl and digital by Mistletone Records / Inertia. You can mail order the CD here.
“Philadelphia singer Daughn Gibson was once a truck driver. It’s a biographical detail that informs All Hell’s odd brew of country croon, plinking saloon piano, evangelist Christian interludes and tales of good families gone bad: a patchwork of influences you could probably only encounter zig-zagging across interstates from sea to shining sea, probably on the radio, probably late at night. Lookin’ Back on ’99 is a slinky slice of noir pop while Dandelions makes bedfellows of Johnny Cash’s croon with Dan Deacon’s deranged electronica. Gibson’s baritone steals the show, most often reminiscent of Stephin Merritt of Magnetic Fields or Sydney’s Jack Ladder but most beautiful when he channels Arthur Russell’s fey wonderment, as he does on the tear-streaked Tiffany Lou.” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (4 stars)
“Daughn Gibson’s debut album is a rare hybrid of experimental pop and traditional Americana. With a resonant vocal style, Daughn crafts concise narratives with memorable melodies. Musically All Hell draws upon shadowy country rock and southern gothic elements, and interpolates them into spacious, minimalist electronic arrangements. Lee Hazelwood and Burial, Nick Cave and Nicholas Jaar, are equally applicable reference points for the album’s surprising, and engaging sound.” – 3RRR ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“Pennsylvania native Daughn Gibson is an artist who has seemingly appeared fully formed out of nowhere. The most unique thing about his debut album is the way it morphs between different styles, often from quite different realms such as country and soulful electronica, yett it somehow all hangs together wonderfully. As a result Gibson paints himself as a fascinating, chameleon-like musician. Possessing a deep and defiantly masculine voice, Gibson has the ability to frame it in rather sensitive surrounds. On opening track, Bad Guys, he is the outlaw country crooner, almost Elvis-like in the way he curls his baritone vowels. In The Beginning brings to mind our own Jack Ladder while Tiffany Lou has a distinct English bent, akin to the artful indie guitar pop of Wild Beasts. The unifying factor is of course his voice and he isn’t afraid to experiment with it via the stuttering effects on Tiffany Lou or lay it open and bare like Johnny Cash on the late-night jazz intoxication of A Young Girl’s World. There isn’t a weak track across the 30-minute album and squeezing such a wide range of songs onto it is a major achievement. Lookin’ Back On ’99 sounds like a lost Depeche Mode gem with its wobbly trip hop bass, while Gibson introduces more experimental touches with static interjections on Dandelions and the screaming-in-your-face dynamics that kick off the closing title track. It sounds like Jim Morrison duetting with a goth band circa 1984. As far as debut albums go this is up there with the best and though distinctly different it feels like an introduction to a impressive new talent, in much the same way Bon Iver appeared with his debut” –THEMUSIC.COM.AU
“Daughn Gibson started plying his trade as part of a stoner-metal trio, yet in solo form he rides a horse, albeit a forlorn, skeletal one. In monochrome. In a rustic steampunk Western desert. In a parallel universe. So is the reaction of his debut All Hell that it can’t be helped but to think that Gibson is fucking with us. Starting out with the low, brow-beaten country of Bad Guys, All Hell changes tack considerably from the heavily sampled and eloquent croon of In The Beginning. It is the distorting and elongation of the vocals on tracks such as Tiffany Lou that evokes darkwave terrain, a windswept number that wouldn’t be out of place scoring an attempt at a love story by David Lynch. Rain On A Highway seems disingenuous, like Johnny Cash recorded on a green screen. The Day You Were Born is Tom T Hall, slowed by 200%, on peyote. Nothing is at it seems – yet this is Gibson’s world, and he’ll be damned if he’ll construct something that’s easy to take part in. The scary thing is, All Hell is actually very good. Despite its scattered, disparate elements, Gibson infuses it with so much of his own personality that there are commonalities that exist that allow these tracks to hold sway, gelling together in a cohesive way that on paper is inconceivable. All Hell isn’t likely to take the world by storm, yet – just like compatriots King Dude and, to a lesser extent, Aussie Jack Ladder and his latest opus Hurtsville – he has painted a niche that is infinitely interesting despite its genre trappings.” – STREET PRESS AUSTRALIA
“The words ‘sample-based’ and ‘country’, at least in a musical context, don’t sit together easily on paper. But a good deal of the charm of All Hell, Daughn Gibson’s début solo album, is how effectively and easily he charts a course between these two musical poles. Gibson – of on-again off-again Pennsylvania stoner metal bros Pearls & Brass – crafts a kind of dissolute narrative-focused music by singing over looped snippets of sampled country tunes. In terms of aesthetics, this is actually a genius call: Gibson can take the best parts of country music while dodging its clichés. Sonically, there’s an odd tension between the analogue nature of the source material – rich and warm with layers of vinyl crackles and 78 RPM shellac scratchiness – and the digital artefacts introduced by the sampling process (listen to the stretched-out splash cymbals of opener Bad Guys, which sound ready to burst apart and dissolve into the ether). Gibson deserves credit simply for avoiding All Hell descending into a hot mess. He achieves this partly through his vocal versatility – on In The Beginning his vocal performance ranges from cheesy Elvis-lite baritone croon to ‘80s pop-rock mellifluousness. Another selling point is his instinctive grasp on what country music offers its listeners – his songs are about the losers and the unlucky ones, those stuck in dead-end situations or crushed by their futile attempts to escape them. It’s a weird, hermetic musical universe that takes some effort to crack, but there are riches inside for those with the patience to look.” – RAVE MAGAZINE
Imagine if Nicolas Jaar edited together a cocaine-country album, with a crooner somewhere between Lee Hazelwood and Roy Orbison on the mic. You know how James Blake brought R&B into the post-techno age? That’s what Daughn Gibson is fixing to do with country.
Shades of Arthur Russell, Scott Walker, Magnetic Fields and Matthew Dear might pop up here or there, but this is a work unlike any other.
Daughn Gibson’s debut album All Hell is one of the catchiest, most infectious Mistletone releases to date; a spooky, atmospheric slice of electronically enhanced backwoods creepiness. Surrounded by echoed electric guitar, sinister rhythm patterns, and cutting synth, Daughn unfurls his unsettling, elliptical tales in a gritty baritone.
Street Press Australia Feature: Cult Classics
Erstwhile truck driver Daughn Gibson tells Doug Wallen he wanted to make country music, but things got weird along the way
It reads like the setup of a failed joke: What happens when the truck-driving drummer of a stoner band turns to country? Not only is that premise real, but Pennsylvania’s Daughn Gibson spun his circumstances into a head-turning, genre-fusing debut with All Hell. Bringing together his love of country songs with his natural baritone croon and a stack of samples from op-shop religious records, Gibson has made his very own strain of R&B-twisted outsider music.
Not that he set out to do that, exactly. “I always wanted to do straight country,” he confesses. “In a small way, this was my attempt to do it. It just came out weird. If you want to be in a country group, you need players. And nobody I know really wants to play that kind of music. So it forces you to figure out a new way.”
Gibson turned to the sample-based electronic music he’d always tinkered with on the side, using those resources to flesh out his ostensible country project. Without a proper band, he casually grabbed drumbeats and bass lines from old vinyl. The results are just as organic, from the forlorn twang and tentative rhythms of opener Bad Guys to the poppy loop anchoring The Day You Were Born. Even with his froggy voice and dark country themes, the album is quite accessible. Especially the deceptively hooky In the Beginning, with its female vocal sample lifted straight from the record bins at a Salvation Army store.
“A lot of them are Pennsylvania Christian records. Some reverend’s recording studio,” he muses. “There’s a certain feel that’s so interesting. It’s like a church basement. I’d say 90% is garbage, but then you spin one and it’s so bizarre and totally captivating. That sample was just another in a stack of family gospel. Those girls sound like aliens. There’s a weird alien/cult thing going on with all those records. They breed out of isolation, so you get really fucked-up things.”
Having grown up between Philadelphia and New York City in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, Gibson now divides his time between Philly and Carlisle, a humble uni town where he’s lived with his wife for about six years. “She’s from Carlisle,” he explains, “so we came home to visit. I was like, ‘This is a great town. Let’s move here.’ That’s it. There were really no jobs here.” Laughing, he continues, “It’s just a good area: nothing goin’ on, and I like it like that. I think the college keeps the town from looking like other Pennsylvania towns. [Most] Pennsylvania towns, it’s like industrial fallout, unless you’re near Philly or Pittsburgh.”
While he’s had his commercial driver’s license for a decade, Gibson doesn’t drive trucks fulltime anymore. But he still picks up the odd driving job when he can, and that line of work is where he nurtured his fondness for country music. That includes the kind of character songs echoed in his own tunes Tiffany Lou and Ray.
“Country music, to me, was the one genre that focused on that stuff,” he argues. “I like to read, I like stories. This is the best of both worlds: you get to listen to somebody’s account of either themselves or somebody else, put to melody. They have to get their character portrayal down in a couple lines, so that makes more of an impact because you’re not hearing all these fine details. You’re just getting the meat and potatoes of what makes a person awful or heroic or sad.”
Now that his on-off stoner band Pearls & Brass is more off than on, Gibson is developing a live setup for his solo work. So far it’s a duo with him on keyboards plus a guitarist. While he hopes to tour Australia someday, all things in due time. “The plan is just to grow and have fun and get other people in,” he says simply, “but at our own pace.”
Harrowing small-town tales from a Pennsylvania punk-turned-crooner, by Larry Fitzmaurice
There are moments of genuine noise and terror on singer-songwriter Daughn Gibson’s debut solo LP, All Hell, but not of the devil’s-horns kind. Instead, the 31-year-old Carlisle, Pennsylvania, resident fashions ghostly, haunting country-ish ballads out of Christian gospel samples and looping audio software while his rich baritone narrates small-town tragedy.
Gibson’s affinity for country music– as well as the genre’s cherished storytelling tradition– began when he started driving trucks for a living nearly a decade ago. “I started listening to country when there was nothing else to listen to on the radio when I was driving,” he says. “I started liking the stories, no matter how absurd they sounded. I liked that they were portrayals of people, or scenarios, or nostalgia.” To this day, he’s still working in the trucking industry, as an HR representative.
Years before going solo, Gibson took up the drums as a pre-teen after “staying up and watching Metallica and Guns N’ Roses videos.” He played in bands with names like Nokturnal Acid and Natal Cream throughout high school and eventually joined up with childhood friends Joel Winter and Randy Huth in the stoner-metal outfit Pearls and Brass, which presently operates as an on-and-off concern.
Gibson was inspired to explore the dusty, lonely, electronically decayed sounds on All Hell after moving further into central Pennsylvania, where there weren’t as many like-minded musicians to start a band with. With the moral support of Pissed Jeans‘ Matt Korvette, whose White Denim label is releasing the album, Gibson pieced the record together over the course of 2011. Later on this year, he’ll be touring with a band setup, too.
“Any parent would have reservations if their kid came home dressed like a skinhead, but mine understood that punk kept me focused on something when so many of my friends were out robbing 7-Elevens.”
Pitchfork: What was it like for you growing up in small-town Pennsylvania?
Daughn Gibson: I was into punk, but I didn’t go whole-hog. A lot of kids who grew up in small towns that were into punk music went the “safe” way– not doing drugs, being straight edge. But I definitely straddled the line and hung out with high-school dirtbags. I’d tell my parents I was spending the night at my friend’s but actually go to Philly and see a show at Starlite Ballroom. I would drink and do all that stuff, but I didn’t set any barns on fire.
I grew up in Nazareth, Penn., which was an hour and a half from New York, and an hour and a half from Philly. So bands that were touring came through one way or another. We got to see stuff people in other small towns didn’t, like Wesley Willis. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to grow up and be into music.
Pitchfork: How did your parents feel about you being into loud music as a kid?
DG: When I started getting into punk, they had reservations about it– I think any parent would have reservations if their kid came home wearing suspenders and was dressed like a skinhead. But they understood that it kept me focused on something when so many of my other friends were out robbing 7-Elevens or being pieces of shit. When I would bring certain things home from the record store, like Dayglo Abortions’ Feed Us a Fetus CD– which had Ronald Reagan and a fetus on a plate on the cover– they were like, “What the fuck? You’re 14, why are you listening to this shit?” I told them it was a joke and they took it pretty well, but I can empathize. If I had a kid and they came home with that, I would probably be like, “Whoa.”
Pitchfork: Are any of the stories told on All Hell based on real-life occurrences?
DG: They’re not necessarily true, but they definitely could be true. The song “Tiffany Lou” is based on a girl who keeps seeing her dad on “Cops”– I know that there’s a dad out there who’s been on “Cops” multiple times, and they have a family who probably sees them and feels shame. To me, that’s kind of hilarious, but also totally sad. “Ray” is about a terrible son whose mother has died. He comes home drunk and his dad is like, “Come on, man, can you please get it together?” I would say that every other household on my block probably has a situation close to that.
Pitchfork: All Hell is a pretty drastic departure from your previous work as a drummer. Outside of country music, what were your influences in making such radically different music?
DG: There were a couple of electronic artists that really shocked me. Demdike Stare did that for me– they’re just dark enough, but also oddly humorous. They made me think there was a whole different way to play music but still sound organic and emotional. Burial does that, too. So does Scott Walker. You can’t quite believe what you are hearing– and it’s not necessarily something that you can listen to all the time because it’s too intense– but it changes the way you go about making music.
Pitchfork: Lastly, do you have any crazy stories from your years truck driving?
DG: For my first experience driving, I got asked to do a load to New York. And if you ask any driver about their first trip to New York, it’s always crazy. I had a load in Brooklyn, so I dropped it off and started to head home. This was before GPS, so I get on the Belt Parkway and because it’s an expressway– and because I am a dumb shit– I didn’t realize that trucks can’t be on there. So I was driving along and cars start honking at me like, “What the fuck are you doing, get off the road!” Then, up ahead, I see an overpass that’s, like, 12 feet, eight inches tall– and the truck’s 13 feet tall. I’m like, “Fuck me, what am I going to do?” I’ve got white knuckles, sweating. There was nothing I could do but just attempt to get under it, so I basically scraped the shit out of the bottom of the overpass and the top of my truck. I probably cried a little afterwards.
‘I’m A Peach’ by Early Woman video made by Geoffrey O’Connor at Vanity Lair (Indie of The Week on rage, ABC-TV).
Early Woman‘s debut single, I’m A Peach b/w Feathers, is available on 7″ vinyl and digital release via Mistletone/ Inertia. Click above to purchase via iTunes or buy the 7″ via Mistletone mail order.
“Proving not only that there are still plenty of good band names out there, but that there are still great supergroups left to come out of the Melbourne music scene, Early Woman dispatch any notions of slick professionalism within moments. Flaunting their gold lame and wandering vocal melodies proudly, singer and guitarist Hannah Brooks (Young Professionals, St Helens) and keys hammerer Bjenny Montero lead the band through a captivating set… I’m a Peach is a standout, but closing song RoadKnight (named for singer Margaret Roadknight) is the clincher” – THEMUSIC.COM.AU
“I’m A Peach is dreamy — as is its B-side, a raw yet classically pop tune called Feathers. While the former is a pleading, foot-stomping and swaying rock song, the latter is a Phil Spector-esque tender track with a Californian glam heart. They’re each other’s anti-thesis but they’re both really good. – OYSTER MAGAZINE
“Early Woman’s sound is something that is timeless; call it dream pop, stripped back rock n roll or whatever you want, it’s the kind of sound that will never be dated” – AAA BACKSTAGE
“Wonderfully ramshackle pop” – TRIPLE R Local &/or General, Favourite New Local Acts of 2013
Early Woman is an improbable collaboration between two individually unique artists and musicians, Ben Montero and Hannah Brooks. Infamous comic/ poster artist Ben Montero and journalist/documentary maker Hannah Brooks began working on music together in mid 2012.
Coming from polar opposite musical backgrounds – Brooks in bands such as Young Professionals, Spider Vomit and St Helens; Montero in Treetops, The Brutals and his current eponymous project Montero – yet occupying a similar Scorpionic frequency, they started writing, using the few instruments that they had; a piano that came with their apartment, and a guitar Brooks borrowed from her mother.
Fragments of each other’s songs became their songs. Seasoned enough to know what they wanted and headstrong enough to question each other’s convictions, they brought out the best in each other; stripping away each other’s shields, heroes, egos and pasts, creating something distinctly their own. Disparate pieces synchronising. Kismet!
Raw, yet aspirational, Early Woman’s songs are carved from another time, roughly chiselling away at vintage forms and classic pop/rock’n’roll tropes. Sad, sensual and dreamy, the songs reverberate with a primal sincerity and an undeniable melodic authority. Less than a year since forming, Early Woman have already made a bold mark, playing shows in Melbourne and Sydney with esteemed acts such as Beaches, Scott & Charlene’s Wedding, Lost Animal, UV Race, Darren Sylvester, Super Wild Horses, Love of Diagrams & Peak Twins.
With three part harmonies and cello by Jessica Venables (Jessica Says), Feathers is dreamy and tender; part California folk-rock, part Spector. It’s a dreamy drivein makeout anthem recalling the loneliest echoes of sixties teen music. I’m A Peach is the musical antithesis of its B-side; a supplication, alternating between hurt and hope, throbbing with raw rage and desperation, whilst yearning for salvation.
SYDNEY: Wednesday February 15 @ Oxford Art Factory with special guest Donny Benet. Tickets on sale now.
MELBOURNE: Thursday February 16 @ Howler with special guests Sui Zhen + NO ZU DJs. Tickets on sale now.
MELBOURNE: Friday February 17 @ NGV Friday Nights. Tickets & info available from NGV.
PERTH: Saturday February 18 @ Perth Festival with Skinnyfish Sound System. Tickets on sale now.
A favourite with Australian audiences, El Guincho has transformed huge crowds into ecstatic tropical dance parties at Meredith Music Festival and Laneway. Emerging from a five year break, Canary Islands-born Pablo Díaz-Reixa — or El Guincho, as he is known and loved — shared a new album, HiperAsia, earlier this year.
Released locally via Mistletone, HiperAsia is another enormous musical leap for El Guincho, inspired by a chain of Chinese bazaars in the outskirts of Madrid where Pablo now lives, having written, recorded and produced the album in studios and spaces throughout Spain; in the Canary Islands, Barcelona and finally Madrid, in a chaotic period for Southern Europe. The music that has emerged is immediately disconcerting; prickly, bright and uncompromising and demanding, it has resonated with a whole new audience of El Guincho fans.
Ever the innovator, El Guincho is reinventing music distribution, having launched his HiperAsia collection with wearable tech which comes with NFC (Near Field Communication) technology and an animated Vaporwave short film. El Guincho changed the face of music videos with his viral hit “Bombay” (over 2.3 million hits), which echoes in his wild new videos for “Comix” and “Pizza” (see bel0w). He has recently been nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video for “Comix”.
“El Guincho’s most resolutely electronic work yet, Hiperasia buzzes like an ice-cream headache (and) reaches frequencies most indie-electronic fusions never knew existed” – PITCHFORK
“A vivid, feverish soundworld of Auto-Tuned vocals, idyllic electronics and machine beats solid enough to stand alongside the best US R&B currently has to offer” – THE WIRE
Click above to watch the Latin Grammy-nominated video for “Comix” feat. Mala Rodríguez by Barcelona-based film collective CANADA, the good folks who brought you now-legendary “Bombay” clip.
Pablo writes about HiperAsia:
“HiperAsia is a chain of enormous chinese bazaars in the outskirts of Madrid. My engineer took me to one of them when buying tools to build our new studio, back in february 2k15. I fell in love with the building and their products, sui generis takes on western brands, often more interesting than the originals. It was a good starting point for the record. I thought: how could I translate this whole business structure into sound aesthetics, a mixing concept, a song idea, etc. For sound I used the experience of walking around the corridors as inspiration. HiperAsia is an industrial plant with high ceilings, packed with so much stuff there’s actually way less echo than you´d imagine. Illumination isn’t very sophisticated either, which brings out the truth of the objects in an aggressive manner. So, I would use no reverbs, no echoes, reduce bit depth of sounds and use distortion as a way to separate the elements. For the mix I used their product placement, Unexpected, undivided, packed with data, and the customers walking around and experiencing it. The individual would be the mono signal, keep it simple, naïve, almost no effects, a little beat on the 808 or a bass line and some vocals, that’s it. I’d use the stereo to corrupt that and constantly renew the way you listen to the song. Breaks, other song ideas that pop in and out, abrupt silences, vocal processing as a way to separate thoughts, etc. And for song ideas I used their fake brands, their ability to create something fresh out of a very specific interpretation of an existing item. Songs would be my foreign takes on genres I’m not familiar with or usually dislike. Tv news music goth intro + synth gospel on ‘Abdi’, 8bit wavy confessional hh finesse + jazz fusion keys on ‘Rotu Seco’, purpleized neo soul imaginary pizza chain song wrote by a coke addict creative director on ‘Pizza’. I would write these genres down on a texted file and record songs to match those descriptions, keeping it as analytical yet innocent as possible. Whether I succeeded or not, this is the record I’ve enjoyed the most writing, recording and producing. Hope u feel it too” – Pablo Díaz-Reixa, 2016
Below, watch a trailer for HiperAsia, The Animated Lyrical Adventure directed by Manson:
What is Hiperasia? Hiperasia is a chain of Chinese bazaars in Madrid and its outskirts. In the words of Pablo Díaz-Reixa: “I discovered them on a trip with Brian Hernandez (El Guincho’s sound engineer), we were looking for a whiteboard for the studio back in February of 2014. I was blown away, entirely fascinated by the place. After that I discarded almost all the material I had composed and started from scratch with the premise: how would that place sound if it were music?”
And so Hiperasia is, too, the highly anticipated third album of El Guincho, marking the return of one of Spain’s most noted producers after achieving international recognition with his first album Alegranza (2007) and his sophomore mega hit Pop Negro (2010). “I started Pop Negro in 2008….. I’ve even forgotten some of the lyrics! Things have happened to me since that record which have left more of a mark on me than that album….. everything I record gets released, and it’s been that way since I was young; I’m lucky of course, but it also enslaves you”. The immediate impression on the listener to Hiperasia is its abrupt, almost violent, enhanced, futuristic sound. ¨I thought of making music that pushes itself. I like music that seems to move inwards, from its sides towards its own centre. As if it were actively trying to become mono but some force, which is usually something prominent like a 808 or a voice, expands to push those sounds sideways¨. Thus from a simple song based around one or two ideas, you will find intrusions – “Tutti frutti”, as Pablo explains: “We can throw bombs in, firecrackers – sounds, other songs which poke through for a moment…. whatever you want”.
Though there are skeletons and scraps of songs recorded in Gran Canaria, Diaz-Reixa’s home island, during the recording of web-only El Guincho release, “Trances”, in 2012, and time spent in La Floresta in the outskirts of Barcelona during 2013, Hiperasia was mostly written and recorded at El Green, between February 2014 and June 2015, a studio that Pablo and Brian (Hernández, engineer, sound technician and right hand man to the project), pulled together with their own hands (including electrical circuitry) in an empty storage space above Everlasting Records in Madrid.
“It was a scruffy space but I felt potential, working with natural light. Brian and I put it together – we brought the recording equipment to the space, cabled it up, installed a mini golf. We call it El Green”. “Hiperasia is Madrid in macro. Las Tablas, China City, the M-30, Dalian Wanda Group, the Edificio España. It means me adapting to a new and exotic way of life. Experiencing more the city, spending more time in its streets, an experience much less private than Barcelona¨.
Discussing the radically different lyrical content of Hiperasia, Pablo examines the function of the words in his music.
“I always use lyrics tactically. When you’re making pop music, you usually try to convey yearning. So in Pop Negro I was aiming for common ground, unrequited feelings, situations which are within the possibilities of your imagination…. ideas which fix the listener’s ear on the music. And so the kinds of rhyme used, the structure of the syllables, the very length of the words used – all these things tend to define the genre. Hiperasia is something else; the texts denote a different kind of person, a worse kind – more like the person I really am; destructive desires, individualism, a disdain for my very profession. Even in moments of defeat like Rotu Seco or Pelo Rapado, there’s a brashness, an absence of affectation. I wanted to create a distance, which is there in the production of the voice. The works which move me most include this breach; a hole which you have to complete and which makes you active, a participant, as the listener”.
As far as the references to markets, production processes and capitalism go, “I’m not fascinated by or judging these themes. It’s more the sounds that inspire me – the noises of the stock exchange, the panelled walls, the wood floor, short, abrupt sounds, the music of money…. there are some field recordings included in tracks like Muchos Boys, or Hiperasia”.
Discussing the mixing process , Pablo goes deeper: “Brian and I mixed this together, right hand to left, face to face. In a mix you’re always orbiting an abstract idea which you can never quite attain. And to that you have to add your perception of yourself and your own music – which you must discard and attempt to approach as if unaware, your own incomplete ability with the tools, mad fan input from your record label…..but the focus was clear. We tried to create the style of the record in the mixing process. They are far less classical mixes than Pop Negro, less stereo, less three dimensional…. I got tired of that sound, I feel it softens the listener’s ear, makes her lazy. I like to find depth in another way, through parameters of compression, different types and ranges of distortion. So we didn’t use long effects, there’s barely reverb, just variation in delay times and saturation. You create an illusion of sincerity by different means. It’s tricky putting things so up there, so in your face but if you get it right, it freshens the music”.
THE HIPERASIA COLLECTION
El Guincho has conceived a collection of wearable items that give unique access to the Hiperasia universe.
Hiperasia is a virtual world, the universe behind El Guincho’s new album.
Hiperasia is a unique place, accessible only to those who possess a piece of the collection.
Hiperasia is conceived as a wearable item; an initial collection of wristbands and sweatshirts will connect its users to a secret universe with exclusive content hosted specially for fans.
By simply placing a mobile phone close to the NFC chip integrated in these items the user is directed to a secret website where, through a user and password, they will discover a unique universe with ever changing content like extra songs, video premiers and other details that will be unveiled gradually.
The Hiperasia Collection is born from the collaboration of El Guincho with creative duo from Madrid: Wellness.
Pablo explains this need for releasing a new format:
¨I started turning this idea over in my head after collaborating with Björk on Biophilia. It wasn’t just the format, I was thinking about understanding records as evolving projects, rather than as fixed capsules of a moment. You work for two or three years on something that you then imprison on a 16 bit CD, so you kill off a third of the data. Why do that? It’s cheap. The format explains the music it carries too, so it has to be equally exciting.
I’d been thinking about a chip that would direct the user to some kind of mutant version of the project, a richer and more intricate reality. This virtual space would be a sort of sub scenario where projects would exist only there, alternate versions of the songs – sometimes better than the originals -, 3D interactions, videos, a tv channel, etc. All this can be overwhelming so I felt the necessity of taking that experience to a more common, everyday experience.
It was then that the question hit me; what is the most intimate and inventive action that we share with everyone on a day to day basis? The gesture. It is essential to our identity, it’s loaded with symbolism, it generates questions and excites us. We don’t carry cassette tapes or CDs a friend burned for us anymore, we carry our cellphones. so the gesture had to be related to the mobile phone. Nowadays we can observe two popular…. and slightly annoying….gestures with the cellphone; the first one, when we take a picture, we are projecting the gesture outwards, towards the world. And secondly, the selfie, where we push the phone so far away we’ve come to the point of acquiring and carrying around long, ugly sticks that are annoying to carry. So I was attracted to an opposite gesture then, one that would generate that magical interaction bringing it closer to the body and linking it to the other great way we project ourselves socially; through fashion.
I met Wellness through Yago Castromil and Adriá Cañameras. When Adriá explained the idea to Yago he said “I’ve got your allies”. We met up, they showed me their “Salud” and “Image Identity Program” collections, and I knew. Andy and Mou get it – they get the codes, they’re awake, they understand texture, they were completely motivated by the project from the word go. Along with Yago and Toni Porteiro, they’re the most inspiring people I’ve met in Madrid.
HIPERASIA TRACK LISTING:
1. Rotu Seco
2. Cómix feat. Mala Rodríguez
5. De Bugas
6. Parte Virtual
7. Stena Drillmax
9. Muchos Boys
11. Pelo Rapado
12. Mis Hits
13. Zona Wi-Fi
It’s been nearly six years since HTRK debuted with Marry Me Tonight, the first and only album written entirely by the band’s original lineup. The trio’s record is rife with breathy and caustic pop mutations, co-produced by Rowland S. Howard before his tragic death the same year it released. Originally available only on digital and CD formats, Marry Me Tonight will be issued on vinyl for the first time via Mistletone/Inertia on April 24 in Australia/NZ and on Ghostly International on April 28 in the USA. Pre-orders available here.
HTRK’s revitalized debut will be available on standard black and translucent magenta vinyl, with both versions featuring a 20-page booklet of photos and liner notes. Among the many contributors are Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, Angus Andrew of Liars, producer Lindsay Gravina, Danielle de Picciotto, and Genevieve McGuckin, to name a few.
Like all three HTRK albums, Marry Me Tonight is singular in sound and circumstance. It’s the only album the outfit recorded from start to finish as a trio, and it’s the only HTRK record that bears the co-production stamp of Rowland S. Howard. Breathy, caustic and rife with contradiction, Marry Me Tonight took the raw material recorded on 2005’s Nostalgia and transformed it into a pop record—pop that buckled and warped beneath the glare of Howard, fellow producer Lindsay Gravina and the HTRK trio: Jonnine Standish, Nigel Yang and Sean Stewart. Howard died at the end of 2009; Stewart died the year after. Things would never be the same.
Marry Me Tonight, which originally came out on Blast First Petite digitally and on CD, will receive its first full vinyl pressing accompanied by a 20-page booklet of photos and liner notes written by people who were around at the time of its recording and touring—Conrad Standish, producer Lindsay Gravina, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, Angus Andrew of Liars, Danielle De Picciotto, Genevieve McGuckin—and others for whom the record holds a special significance, like Jim Haynes and Regis (real name Karl O’Connor). There will be two versions, one pressed on translucent magenta vinyl and another in standard black.
“HTRK possess an originality and mystery worthy of obsession and scrutiny,” writes Zinner in his liner notes, “for their beautiful and damaged sound is truly, and thankfully, their own.”
Marry Me Tonight: Vinyl notes
Standard weight transparent magenta vinyl is limited to 500 copies worldwide
Standard weight vinyl inserted into black paper dust sleeves
2-panel art sleeve printed jacket with 5mm spine on glossy stock
Features 20-page booklet with liner note essays and photos of the band
Click below to watch the clip for Mika Vainio’s remix of HTRK’s “Poison”, directed by Turner Prize winner Laure Prouvost:
HTRK’s exceptional album Psychic 9-5 Club is available now from Mistletone mail order on CD and deluxe vinyl, and in all good record stores via Mistletone/Inertia.
“The only way for HTRK (pronounced Hate Rock) is up. On 2011’s acclaimed Work (work work) the Melbourne/Sydney alternative duo of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang made modern machine music, with eerie synthesisers and deathly whispers. Their new album pulls out of that emotional nosedive, embracing a strikingly poised sense of renewal. Psychic 9-5 Club is a ghostly reflection of immaculate 1980s pop productions such as Sade’s Diamond Life. “This time, I’m gonna love you much better”, Standish sings on the opener Give It Up, with the sparse arrangements finding traces of optimism via dub-inflected basslines and the dawn-like warmth of the vocals. Menace still lingers on the likes of Soul Sleep and Wet Dream, but the intimations of hope are often tantalising. Forget easy listening, this is uneasy listening. The record grapples with love, giving the term an emotional clarity as it represents both self-esteem and a desire for a connection with others. HTRK’s triumph lies in their powers to concentrate a mood into the specific. The songs reveal pocket universes, but barely a note is extraneous” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD **** four stars
“Cryptic lyrics drifted like smoke within shimmering, skeletal beats, creating an album that was sexy, brooding and addictively dramatic” – # 2, RESIDENT ADVISOR Top 20 Albums 2014
#3 BOOMKAT 100 Favourite Albums of 2014
# 7 MESS + NOISE Critics Poll 2014
“Transient, temporal and completely hypnotic” – SPOTIFY AUSTRALIA Favourite Albums of 2014
THE AGE / SYDNEY MORNING HERALD Top 20 Albums of 2014
Psychic 9-5 Club marks the beginning of a new chapter for HTRK. It’s an album that looks back on a time of sadness and struggle, and within that struggle they find hope and humour and love. It’s Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang’s first album recorded entirely as a duo—former band member Sean Stewart died halfway through the recording of their last LP, Work (Work Work) (Mistletone, 2011).
Though the record is instantly recognisable as HTRK — Standish’s vocal delivery remains central to the band’s sound, while the productions are typically lean and dubby — they’ve found ample room for exploration within this framework. Gone are the reverb-soaked guitar explorations of 2009’s Marry Me Tonight and the fuzzy growls that ran through Work (Work Work). They’ve been replaced with something tender, velvety and polished. This is HTRK, but the flesh has been stripped from their sound, throwing the focus on naked arrangements and minimalist sound design.
The album was recorded at Blazer Sound Studios in New Mexico with Excepter’s Nathan Corbin, who had previously directed the video clip for Work (Work Work) cut “Bendin.” Inviting a third party into their world was no easy decision, but in Corbin they found a kindred spirit. The LP was then refined and reworked in Australia at the turn of 2013, before the finishing touches were applied in New York during the summer.
Of all the themes that run through Psychic 9-5 Club, love is the most central. The word is laced throughout the album in lyrics and titles—love as a distraction, loving yourself, loving others. Standish’s lyrics explore the complexities of sexuality and the body’s reaction to personal loss, though there’s room for wry humour — a constant through much of the best experimental Australian music of the past few decades.
Standish explores her vocal range fully — her husky spoken-word drawl remains, but we also hear her laugh and sing. Equally, Yang’s exploratory production techniques — particularly his well-documented love of dub — are given room to shine. They dip headlong into some of the things that make humans tick — love, loss and desire — with the kind of integrity that has marked the band out from day one. Psychic 9-5 Club is truly an album for the body and for the soul.
TRACK LISTING: PSYCHIC 9-5 CLUB by HTRK
1 Give it Up
2 Blue Sunshine
3 Feels like Love
4 Soul Sleep
5 Wet Dream
6 Love is Distraction
7 Chinatown Style
8 The Body You Deserve
HTRK photo by Robert Bellamy
HTRK’s music is not a quick-fix for restless, impatient minds; it needs to absorbed, contemplated and revisited. Listen to one of their records and you’ll find yourself slipping deep into their sound world, where the cavernous reverberations of dub techno are mixed with frosted post-punk motifs and the gravelly imperfections of industrial, reimagined in the setting of a dingy basement.
Their music is layered with enough subtle cultural reference points to attract critical dissection, raw enough to appeal to beer-swilling live crowds, and visceral enough to make sense throbbing out of a club soundsystem. Throw together the core influences of HTRK and you’ll find David Lynch’s unsettling surrealism next to Bill Henson’s industrial landscapes, with Mika Vainio’s minimal compositions alongside the malfunctioning synth-pop of Suicide. It’s a potent concoction.
Formed in 2003 as the duo of Nigel Yang and Sean Stewart in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs, the band soon welcomed vocalist Jonnine Standish into the fold, before self-releasing their debut EP, Nostalgia, in 2005 (re-released by Fire Records in 2007). From the off their sound was raw and visceral, with distorted guitar pedals caking Standish’s vocals in sonic grit. The band swapped Melbourne for Berlin in 2006, arriving in the German capital unsigned. There they remained for a year, rehearsing in the next room to Einstrzende Neubauten, hungrily soaking up the city’s revolutionary musical heritage that can be traced from cabaret through to the birth of krautrock, and Tresor and Berghain.
Jonnine and Nigel moved to London in 2007 – Sean adopted the city as a part-time home along with Berlin – and soon the band began to develop a reputation for incendiary live shows. They performed a memorable set at Corsica Studios in 2008, and appeared at the legendary Optimo club night in Glasgow back when it was a weekly Sunday night affair, perhaps the ultimate seal of approval in underground musical esoterica (Optimo’s JD Twitch recalls the gig being “rapturously received”).
The band followed up Nostalgia with 2009’s Marry Me Tonight, an LP co-produced by Rowland S. Howard, founding member of The Birthday Party and a towering figure in the Australian music scene. Marry Me Tonight was in many respects a neo-pop opus, with the band’s homespun sound now developed into something more spacious and immersive; tracks like “Disco,” which sounded like a club anthem anaesthetised and played at 33rpm, and the narcotic, shamanistic rhythms of “HA” cemented the band as a formidable outfit. In 2009 Howard died of liver cancer, but not before he had left a deep and lasting impression on the band, as both a mentor and a friend.
It was around this time Sean met Mika Vainio: Stewart, along with Yang and Standish, greatly admired the revered Finnish producer, and the rugged electronics dabbled with on Marry Me Tonight seeped further into the band’s sound as they continued to experiment with synthesisers and drum machines. Recording sessions at Netil House in London Fields led to the third HTRK album, Work (Work Work), released on Mistletone in 2011, a gloomy masterpiece whose resonance only becomes truly apparent after repeated listens.
The band’s world was turned upside down when Stewart committed suicide halfway through the album’s recording. Standish and Yang finished the album as a duo, locking themselves away from the world and finding the ultimate catharsis in the studio. Work (Work Work) is intense and leaden with texture, a sonic monument to Sean that stands as one of the most underrated LPs of recent years. Thematically it explores the body’s reaction to personal loss, using humour and sex drive as lyrical themes, with Standish’s vocal delivery remaining strangely detached, her emotions severed and numb. It remains the band’s strongest work to date, the pools of murky noise suffocating the guitar and bass, with an overwhelming atmosphere that is at once malevolent yet seductive, drawing you further down the HTRK wormhole.
Both Standish and Yang returned to Australia in 2012, the former to Melbourne and the latter to Sydney. They decamped to the Blazer Sound Studios in New Mexico to begin work on their new record Psychic 9 to 5 Club, with Excepter’s Nathan Corbin called on to produce; the American struck up an immediate kinship with HTRK during their time together. Psychic 9-5 Club is out now on Mistletone/Inertia (Australia/NZ) + Ghostly International (USA).
PRAISE FOR PSYCHIC 9-5 CLUB (Mistletone, 2014):
“An impressive distillation of, and extension on (HTRK’s) previous albums. The sparse melodies, languorous tempos, precise percussion, dub effects and Jonnine’s distinctive vocals all combine to produce an entrancing collection of new material” – 3RRR ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“Midway through Feels Like Love, HTRK give listeners something unexpected: the sound of Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang laughing. The Melbourne duo’s music – all drum-machine plod and dead-zone vocals – has long sounded depressed, especially on 2011’s Work (Work, Work), the LP made in mourning for bassist Sean Stewart and producer Roland S. Howard. Whether piping in chuckles is enough to convince listeners Psychic 9-5 Club is joyful is questionable, especially given its snail pace and droll lyricism. But the set’s dubby effects and watery synths lend the LP a warmth of tone, if not of spirit” – THE AGE (4 stars)
“Standish and Yang have become masters of minimalism, turning the emptiness in their sonic landscape into a defining trait” – STACK (4.5 stars)
“This is the sound of a band who’ve picked up the pieces and found a new, exciting beast in their hands. HTRK remain the brilliant and confrontational group they’ve always been, they’re just navigating a strange new world” – THE MUSIC (4 stars)
“HTRK’s new album elevates both the lyrics and outside influences to the surface while embracing a lustrous minimalism” – MESS + NOISE (“On Rotation”)
“Shuddering synths, throb-step, real talk… HTRK always have something to say about the state of this decaying, fraying planet” – HERALD SUN
“The extraordinary globe-trotting Australian duo HTRK – pronounced Haterock – are in so many ways an art piece rather than two musicians. They are an installation. The music is sparse and often difficult electronica but it is also ringed by incredible halos of beauty. The humans within all this seem incidental and occasionally quite separate from the music. What they do is beautiful, if it is beauty you can see in the solemn and the profane” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
“Downcast, dark electro, a clinical, beautiful mess of textures and buried words that avoids noise for the sake of it but extends known ideas of rock and electronics into new netherworlds.” – THE AGE MELBOURNE MAGAZINE
“Work (Work, Work) finds its claustrophobic structure in layered synths, indistinct and evocative lyrics and skeletal drum machine patterns.” – TRIPLE R ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“HTRK have created a piece of art that is dark and disorienting; dense velvet curtains used to hide any signs of light, while cigarette smoke clouds the air and your head.” – BEAT ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“The overt sexuality of a Berlin brothel… laced with heartbreaking and distressing emotion” – THE BRAG ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“A beautiful, disturbing and ultimately heartbreaking record… A compelling and brutally truthful experiment in downbeat atmospherics without peer” – INPRESS
Work (work, work) by HTRK (Mistletone, 2011) is available on CD and deluxe, limited edition coloured vinyl on mail order.
SAT DEC 12 – MEREDITH MUSIC FESTIVAL, VIC. Meredith subscriber ticket ballot open now.
SUN DEC 13 – DISCONNECT FESTIVAL, WA. More info and tickets here.
The incredible self titled debut album by California singer/songwriter, Jessica Pratt was released in 2013 on Mistletone Records and is available on mail order. Her amazing new album, On Your Own Love Again, was released in early 2015 via Drag City / Spunk Records.
We want scribes and songbirds to tell us so—and sometimes they do and then it is. They point their pens and focus their lens where they will and surprise us to our soul. Jessica Pratt’s On Your Own Love Again (Drag City / Spunk) is a record that does it to us, with songs from a spine-thrilling new place and a gifted young singer with her own musical logic.
Jessica Pratt’s self-titled debut (Mistletone Records, 2012 — mail order here) has been much-murmured about in the time between yesterday and today. People respond to the austere, pristine clarity of the performances, the gentle strength, marveling at how much comes from so little: just a voice and a guitar or two! They remark on the timeless nature of the songs and the voice, scrupulously informed by the folk-rock of ages past, but sung without bags (none in hand, nor beneath eyes). They speculate on just who is the personality behind this Jessica Pratt? It is hard not to respond to the sound of her music, not to want more right away.
Two years on, Jessica’s On Your Own Love Again plays her further adventures in different pastures. If they feel removed from the first songs, it may help to know that the recordings of the first album were made some years back with no expectation of making an album. They sat quiet on the shelf for a long time, appearing on the internet eventually. It all seemed harmless, but when Birth Records honcho Tim Presley rolled up in his long white limousine and began to spin tales of folk rock glory, who was she to say no? Sure, Mr. Presley, fence me a record!
The nice part about learning that people dig your sound is that it gives you the chance to think of what else you’d do. After deep consideration, Jessica found new songs within her and an urgency to make another record, marked with a strong sense for rendering it exactly the way she heard it in her head, spending time with her tunes and crafting the smallest details. In this way, she truly was able to inhabit her own skin as a singer of her songs.
Jessica Pratt’s songs ripple beneath the surface with lyrical details that morph almost subliminally from the personal into fantasy. When Jessica’s playful nature bubbles up, she sends her voice traveling into strange places to see what it finds there. The music too is deceptively accomplished, providing subtle hallucinatory nuances to the tunes. The orchestral organ stop working in the shadows of “Wrong Hand,” the reverberant percussion floating through “Game That I Play,” the clavinet panned out on the side in “Moon Dude,” Jessica’s sudden vocal dip into her lower register on “Greycedes”— all pull at the ears, highlighting her unique pop sensibilities with craft and humor, giving the album’s inherent romance a greater heft.
Perhaps most significantly, On Your Own Love Again was recorded at home — at places in Los Angeles and San Francisco. This process sands the surface of her more active multi-tracking approach, allowing a sound as delicate and singular as her former recordings. On Your Own Love Again Jessica is fully alive in a space all her own; with isolation in the breeze, the sound resonant in the natural light and a gauze of clouds in the sky, under which she can relax, unwind and let herself be.
“It’s hard not to get swept up in the Technicolour splashes, wonky, broken beats and heart-melting, sun-drunk harmonies that entangle Twirligig. The debut joint from Sydney wunderkind Jonti is about as happily heterogenous as records get, mining laterla hip hop (Cyclic Love), retro synth palettes, Beach Boys harmonies and more. But while this record’s joyous disposition evokes hours of fun in the sun, a deeper listen reveals a level of compositional awareness and astuteness and acumen as rare as hen’s teeth. Few others can even touch what Jonti has in spades” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE (4.5 stars)
Jonti’s debut album Twirligig is out now on Mistletone/Inertia in Australia/New Zealand, and Stones Throw Records in the US.
“When I think of how to write about Jonti’s music, I don’t feel like writing at all. I feel like drawing a picture, with watercolors and maybe crayon – colorful, abstract, youthfully curious and open to interpretation. Maybe then I’d staple, glue or nail some found objects to it, recontextualising their intended purpose into something strange and beautiful.” – Jeremy Sole (Radio Host, KCRW Los Angeles)
Jonti may not be a familiar name just yet, but that’s no reflection of his resume. Multi-instrumentalist, arranger, producer, and vocalist, Jonti, began assembling music after his departure from South Africa to Australia. Spending countless hours studying records like they were books, processing each song, this became Jonti’s music school, testing his theories on a four-track recorder.
If you love music, eventually you meet others who do too. In the past year, through different projects, Jonti has recorded with Mark Ronson, Santigold, Sean Lennon and the Dap-Kings, as well as producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile). Ironically, for Jonti’s solo album, he decided to purposely go the opposite route, doing everything himself, start to finish.
Sometimes it feels like you’re not even moving and then one day it’s done and the madness is like a fading dream. That fading dream left behind two albums, Twirligig and its brother album TokoRats.
Twirligig draws inspiration from many of Jonti’s favorite artists, Madlib, Stereolab, Free Design and The Beach Boys. But Twirligig‘s main inspiration came from cartoonist/ filmmaker Norman Mclaren. Jonti explains, “His films are complex, but they’re still fun. You can feel his enthusiasm for techniques and experimentation. I try make simple pop songs with that same mentality.”
Jonti recently became the first Australian artist to sign to visionary US label Stones Throw, and although Jonti describes his music as simple, Stones Throw label head Peanut Butter Wolf sees it as anything but that. “I understand the pop references because his music is so catchy, but the arrangements blew me away”, says Peanut Butter Wolf. “I couldn’t figure out how the hell he did what he did. That he did it all on his own at such an early age kinda scared me. I knew right away I needed to add him to the roster.”
You will soon understand why Mistletone is proud to present its first Sydney signing Jonti as a new member of the family.
The Magic Place by Julianna Barwick was released in 2011 on Mistletone/Inertia. You can hear the sublime title track on the Mistletone Soundcloud and purchase the CD via mail order here. Mistletone also just digitally released The Matrimony Remixes EP by Julianna Barwick, featuring remixes by Diplo and Lunice, Prince Rama, Helado Negro, and Alias Pail. Get it on iTunes and listen to the incredible Prince Rama remix Prizewinning on Mistletone Soundcloud.
“Barwick constructs opaque audio atmospheres from swarms of heavenly harmonies and cloudy drones, making music equal parts canonical and environmental” – THE AGE (4.5 stars)
“So beautiful it might indeed reach the ear of heaven” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (4 stars)
“A strange and beautiful album from a unique voice. Literally” – INPRESS
“Diplo described Julianna Barwick’s music as ‘like Care Bears making love’. Who knew the colourfully fluffy fellows had such a commanding awareness of the vocal arts? Barwick’s ornately crafted The Magic Place takes the singer/producer’s ethereal, church choir-bred voice to new heights. Built around intertwining a-capella loops and piano/guitar fragments, this stunning work skirts avant-classical and pastoral folk like it was meant to be.” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
Julianna Barwick‘s experimental soundscapes are in part informed by her experience growing up in Louisiana and Missouri, singing weekly with her church congregation and school choirs. Her loop-based compositions replicate the soaring textures of a large choral group using only her voice, a loop station and some occasional instrumentation.
Julianna starts her songs quietly, usually with a single refrain, and then builds the pieces up until she’s created a complicated, weaving sonic architecture. Her extraordinary range and vocal technique propels the music into a variety of different emotional spaces, from feverish to tranquil.
Her Mistletone debut The Magic Place (released in the US on Sufjan Stevens’ label Asthmatic Kitty), is a nine-piece full-length album of magic and solace, bursting joy and healing tones. Julianna’s mostly a-capella music is built from her voice multi-tracked through a loop station. It’s the layered fragments and pieces that become an intricate pattern through technology; it’s the sound of a rising thing, a big group harmony as a splash of sunlight through a car window, a sound that feels like hope and ascendance and patience and intimacy.
Julianna’s inspiration is the church hymns she grew up singing; the way a roomful of diverse voices can join together to fill up a space. Says Julianna about her church singin’ days: “You could really hear all the layers, harmonies, rounds, the men and the women, the claps… everything. Some of those hymns are so beautiful.”
The Magic Place is named after a real place: “The Magic Place was a tree on our farm,” Julianna says. “It was in the back pasture. It was one tree that grew up, down and around. You had to crawl in and once you were inside, it was like there were different rooms, and you could actually lay in the branches. We named it ‘The Magic Place’ because it really was magical—especially for a kid… and that’s how I feel about my life right now—without trying to sound too hippy dippy or cosmic, this year has definitely been a magical one.”
Like Sigur Rós’s ethereal glossolalia, there’s a very particular joy in listening to Julianna’s music. Free of the constraints of narrative and traceable language, it’s the same joy in giving yourself over to opera in a foreign language, of letting go of your pesky rational mind and allowing the feeling to come through in the voices and performance.
Meet The Magic Place. It’s a great place to be…
“Barwick layers and processes and twists her utterances into figures that can alternately be described as familiar, soothing, alien, and tense. She might bring to mind the bright harmonies of Panda Bear or the mystical invocations of Elizabeth Fraser, but her approach is her own…It has the feel of a modest classic of post-millennial ambient music, the kind of record that sounds gorgeous and immersive on first listen and never loses its sparkle.“ – PITCHFORK BEST NEW MUSIC (Rating 8.5)
The Age review (4.5 stars):
Singing in church choirs while growing up in rural Louisiana, Julianna Barwick loved how it felt to be in the middle of the chorus: in harmonious unity, swallowed up by sound. Her music attempts to recreate that sensation solo by using a loop station — an effects unit that layers sounds infinitely — to become a one-woman choir. Her ambient music is peer to fellow loopers such as Animal Collective bro Panda Bear and somnambulist droner Grouper but it’s very much its own thing. Barwick constructs opaque audio atmospheres from swarms of heavenly harmonies and cloudy drones, making music equal parts canonical and environmental. After two records testing these waters (2007’s Sanguine and 2009’s Florine), Barwick is the master of her idiosyncratic domain on The Magic Place. Named after a childhood birch, in the branches of which she would retreat into fantasy. The LP taps into imagination and escape, its rapturous suite of tone-songs — with apt names such as Envelop and Cloak — suggest cinema, the subconscious, transcendence, the firmament, heaven and any other realm of mystery and mysticism.
– ANTHONY CAREW
Sydney Morning Herald review (4 stars):
Though Bjork, Cocteau Twins and Grouper are all legitimate touchstones for Julianna Barwick’s debut album, The Magic Place nonetheless distinguishes itself thanks to Barwick’s feat of creating most of the music using only her voice. Saturated in reverb, repeatedly looped, and scrupulously layered, her singing grows into a one-woman choir that does not employ actual lyrics, but instead uses a language of sounds that communicate through the emotion of their delivery. Piano, guitar and electronics do participate, but receive treatment so similar to Barwick’s voice that the effect simply buoys her singing even higher. Raised in Louisiana, and a weekly participant in church choirs, Barwick has conceived a form of Glossolalia (speaking in tongues) so beautiful it might indeed reach the ear of heaven.
Julianna Barwick, whose latest album The Magic Place, looks to the heart, not the heavens when making music.
She may sing by herself but Julianna Barwick makes up an entire choir.
JULIANNA Barwick is routinely described as a ”one-woman choir”. The 31-year-old Brooklyn-based singer’s music is almost entirely built from reverb-doused vocals, which she adds on in manifold layers, harmonising endlessly – and chorally – with herself.
It’s music inspired, suitably enough, by Barwick’s childhood in rural Louisiana and Missouri, which found her singing a cappella in church.
”I don’t think I’d make music like I do had I not been exposed to that music my entire life and grown up singing that way,” Barwick says.
”I really love that sound: layers of vocals, lots of reverb, that kind of decaying sound that rings in the architecture; that’s the way I’d always sing in church, that’s the music I have an emotional connection with.”
Though Barwick had been singing all her life, she only began making music in 2005, when a friend fortuitously loaned her a loop pedal, allowing Barwick – who’d never found straight ”songwriting” particularly fulfilling – to create huge walls of sound, solo.
”That changed everything,” Barwick recalls. ”I was really familiar with harmonies and rounds, choral sounds, and when I started playing with the loop pedal I was able to create those on my own. Music making became really exciting for me then.”
Barwick started performing around New York and slowly made her name in underground circles, releasing two small-run records, 2007’s Sanguine and 2009’s Florine.
Her latest LP, The Magic Place – issued by Sufjan Stevens’s Asthmatic Kitty label, released locally via Mistletone – has served as her breakout. With songs fittingly titled Envelop and Cloak, it’s a work of pure ambience: a suite of audio atmospheres, songs as whole ecosystems.
The Magic Place is, effectively, an abstract-impressionist album: its cloudy cuts never clearly defined, ”about” anything that a listener brings to the table. ”My music obviously lends itself to other people’s own personal interpretations,” Barwick says. ”I get tons of these long-winded, descriptive reactions: ‘it sounds like you’re standing in a field in Ireland and the wind is coming over the grass.’ People love to tell me I sound really sad. Or that my music is like a choir of angels. Or a dolphin love-song. [Diplo] said that it sounded like Care Bears making love. That one was pretty memorable.”
The singer herself ascribes no particular meaning to her own compositions. ”When I’m making music, these feelings are coming through me but I’m not thinking or analysing what they are,” Barwick says. ”I’m not necessarily trying to communicate anything in particular. I will just plug in all of my stuff and start singing. It’s very on-the-spot, whatever pops into my head.
”I really love to make beautiful sounds and what I make ends up being … well, I want to stay away from the word ‘spiritual’. Maybe more just from-the-heart. Really emotional. But it’s never about one particular feeling and I’m never trying to get listeners to feel a certain way.”
Why not ”spiritual”? Isn’t that fitting for music that sounds near-canonical? ”I just don’t feel like it fits,” Barwick says. ”I’m not trying to make spiritual music; I don’t want my music to be emotionally manipulative in any way. It’s not like I feel sad so I want to make music that’s sad, or feel elated so I want to make music that’s elated. It just comes out the way that it is. It’s really an off-the-cuff, improv experience in the beginning; I’m just searching for sounds that feel good that moment they’re coming out of me, that come together magically.”
Barwick has spent most of this year touring, something she’d done little of before. She’s played in 12 European countries, opened for Esben and the Witch and Okkervil River in the US and is planning her maiden Australian tour this summer. And she’s done it travelling solo: no crew, no management team, no backing band. For Barwick, the identity of one-woman-choir runs deep.
”I have no interest in having a band,” she says. ”That doesn’t feel like a progression for me. I know other people start out working by themselves and then add other people but that’s not what I will ever do. I really enjoy doing everything on my own.”
Black Brown Green Grey White is the most recent album by Kes Band in their incarnation as a trio, featuring Kes (Karl Scullin), Lehmann B Smith and Julian Patterson. Recorded by Nao Anzai, Black Brown Green Grey White is a yin-yang dichotomy, juxtaposing contemplative, melodic beauty and inward-gazing ballads with jerky dischord, banshee yells and whirlwind anti-rock riffs.
PRAISE FOR BLACK BROWN GREEN GREY WHITE:
“Karl Scullin is a genius. A dead set, one off. His main musical obsession, Kes Band, have produced four varied, weird, always wild records. And, as the Kes Trio, he’s pulled off his best yet. This is widescreen music… One of the local releases of the year.” – RHYTHMS MAGAZINE
“One of the most exciting, progressive pop-rock acts going around in this big brown dust bowl” – TWO THOUSAND
“A chameleon whose every transformation somehow feels as perfect and true as the last” – CITYSEARCH
“There’s just no painting Karl Scullin into a corner. Under various incarnations of Kes, he’s done the solo acoustic thing, the full band thing, the instrumental thing, and now the harsh rock thing with Kes Trio’s new album. Punctuated by screams, Black Brown Green Grey White also offers beautiful singing, playing and production. It’s not schizophrenic so much as restless, jumping from one bold tangent to the next with freakish precision. Backed by Julian Patterson – Scullin’s bandmate in the reportedly defunct Mum Smokes – and Lehmann Smith, Kes Trio proves worlds apart from the five-piece heard on last year’s marvellous Kes Band II. There’s preening art-rock and unhinged madness sitting hand-in-hand. Self-aware without being awkwardly meta and adventurous without being pretentious, it’s utterly Kes.” – MESS + NOISE
“Progressive rock with panpipe-type organs, moments of pure pop whimsy, and piercing screams. Multiple P-words of musical greatness, all packed into Kes Trio‘s heavy and light-footed long player Black Brown Grey Green White” – THREE THOUSAND
“Yet another sidestep in an uncannily accomplished career” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
“A triumphant mash of kitsch and dissonance, where dreamy ’60s melodies drop off in a wail and every twang of guitar ends in a crackle. There’s something vaguely Lynchian about it – beautiful but creepy.” – BEAT
“Utterly wonderful… Addictive, even.” – THE BRAG INDIE ALBUM OF THE WEEK
PRAISE FOR KES BAND II:
“Wordlessly stunning. Although the spectre of the Dirty Three hangs over the album (Biddy Connor’s violin is more elegant than ferocious), there is so much beauty on display, so much space and atmosphere, so much complexity and grace, that it is truly a record in its own class” – THE SUNDAY AGE **** four stars
“A delicate gentle sonic feast… The themes of each composition are beautifully explored and expanded” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
“This might just be the finest work Karl Scullin and crew have produced… Reserved and passionate, abrasive and sweet, epic and miniature, I’m running out of superlatives” – MESS +NOISE On Rotation
“A slow-burning collection of bush-bashing post-rock and ethereal wind-driven waltzes”– mX NEWSPAPER **** four stars
“Music so unique and wild, you get high listening to it.” – RHYTHMS MAGAZINE
“A labyrinth of surprises” – THE AGE
“A beautiful listen” – INPRESS
“Veers off into darker, deeper territory, with some remarkable results” – THE BRAG (Album of the Week)
“The aural manifestation of a dream, one that’s wonderfully different for everyone and on every listen” – TIME OFF (four & a half stars)
“Kes Band II defines Kes (and Kes Band) as one of the most intuitive voices in music, and solidifies the beauty that lies in a unique musical vision.” – BEAT (Album of the Week)
Kes Band II is an all-instrumental album which reveals some resonant new exploratory dimensions of Melbourne’s much acclaimed Kes Band.Voiceless lyricism and a flair for the transcendental, richly beautiful string arrangements and delicate playing reverberate with almost visual joy and sorrow. Masterfully recorded and produced by engineer Simon Grounds with additional recording done by Neil Thomason at Head Gap Recording Studio.Kes Band II is at once an intriguing mood piece of strangely moving atmospheric music that sweeps through and around the listener; it is also a dense slice of rewarding cerebral music, full of fertile ideas which reveal and fulfill themselves over time.
Within the refined walls of the Melbourne Arts Centre Fairfax Studio, KES Band launched their album, and were supported by Anthony Pateras & Robbie Avenaim, and Free Choice.
Kes Band II Launch review from Beat:
There’s a preciousness and a fragility to Kes Band II (Mistletone) which is understated yet still reconciled. Tonight, part of that dichotomy between the replication of and the unrepeatableness of art were explored, and vented successfully. What am I talking about? Kes Band II, the album, is possibly the only artefact that will survive Kes Band II, and for this alone we are all lucky, the reason being that as a collection of songs or pieces of music, Kes Band II; the collection of musicians as ‘corralled’ by Karl E Scullin, may never group together again to expel these mind-bending tunes. So tonight was a rarity, a one-off, an event. And it was an event. Missing Jarrod Zlatic’s Free Choice duo, I sort of ‘walk in on’ Anthony Pateras and Robbie Avenaim, who are at the tail-end of their set; the ‘dug-out’ room in The Arts Centre almost full and seemingly transfixed by the jocular touch of Pateras on piano grand and Avenaim on trap-set, sporting a frenetic touch and not less than 4 kick-drums, seeming set off by that man through some home-made contraption of wiring and steel arms. The result is schweppervesence; Pateras on the piano is a mad-man; from the side of the stage he is either playing the piano keys or pounding them mercilessly into their timber bed. Musically it’s rhythmic and dynamic and spontaneous. When the duo finish, both pause momentarily. The crowd wonders, ‘will they dive back into it?’, and the answer is no, when both rise and gesture to one another before they depart the room. Generous and warm applause begins.Due to the uniqueness of the Kes Band II’s performance of Kes Band II, and the fact that the space amplifies each and every small sound and detail, the audience is patient and appreciative of the chance to refrain from applause and murmur, nestling into their while Kes Band II step carefully through the tracks from their recently released namesake album.Additional players associated with Kes are on hand to add sound and timbre to these pieces, and their fingerprints on the performance are important to mention. Julian Patterson looms intuitively on drums and bell, Laura Jean slinks around running from bass to guitar to piano and sundry percussion, and there’s Oliver Mann on piano, percussion, harmonic, and even bull-roarer. He and clarinet player Tarquin(from Bum Creek) provide a moment of wonder as they swing bull-roarer’s over their shoulders to create that most minimalist of sounds, a sound that one can not mistake for anything else except a windstorm. And this is indicative of the event; Kes Band II did not overlook any of the nuances of their record; inviting opportunity and chance to present something which was a perfect representation of the album in its intent and its aesthetic. At another point, 6 of the 8 players including ‘string section’ Biddy Connor and Nick Venerables, appear with small hand chimes which when shaken deliver a subtle resonant bell. When triggered, that resonance disperses a tiny drone for just a few seconds. When played in tandem, these instruments emitted a little patchwork: ‘suns of sound’, if you will, that created a segue from the wonderful twelve minutes of opener Doors Open Doors Close and into the next piece. Golden. All of this playing is glued together by Karl Scullin; subdued in tan but glowing a little more than a little from the revelry of this Kes Band performance.Pretty much the entire album is performed, the tracks closely resembling their original album form, but the spontaneity of Kes Band II and their incredible musical capacity and tempered performance leads to an indelible dusty soulfulness and spindly tenderness. The venue itself is responsible for exquisite intimacy of sound. The combination led to at least one tingling spine.Steve Phillips.
The all-instrumental ‘Kes Band II’ proves that you don’t need to speak or sing to produce the sublime, writes LAWSON FLETCHER.
It almost seems bland on paper: an instrumental follow-up album simply called Kes Band II. Don’t let the modesty fool you though, this might just be the finest work Karl Scullin and crew have produced, with intuitively weaved-together songs as delicate as spider’s silk, yet so texturally dense and compositionally complex you’ll find yourself taken in by them over and over.Take 10-minute opener ‘Doors Open Doors Close’, for example, a sweeping emotional suite so intimate and detailed that it sets your heart soaring. Commencing with a pretty, lyrical string and guitar duet, gentle incursions of musical buzz and errant cymbals subtly motion to the chugging drone storm that swallows its midsection. The duet is later reprised in the coda, but this time as a more melancholic waltz. Such rise and fall, instrumental juxtaposition and just brilliantly refined musicianship defines what’s to come.Forgoing the often unbridled exuberance of Kes Band’s freak-outs, these musicians have channelled their energy into less assuming, but no less affecting compositional refinement. These are swirling, intricate arrangements that are by turns pensive and playful, gentle and lush; an utterly beautiful journey.I say journey quite deliberately, because the album suggests a unifying, if unspoken narrative as much as it explores a series of moods. The meticulously sequenced tracks are like little scenes of a play about a boy lost in the outback – feelings of loss, regret, hope and ultimately redemption – and the cast of characters are the instruments, who move about one another with actorly grace, in a display of finely staged and effortless precision.
“Singling out highlights here, judging who plays the best, really isn’t what this album asks of you – it’s like trying to pick out the best colour on a Monet painting.”
Kes Band II never once feels like an indulgence, or worse, the product of a jam. Even if songs like ‘Trees Fall’ invite jazzy experimentation within the crevices of a repeated guitar peel, every moment of improvisation is integrated into the broader tapestry. Similarly, it’s a struggle to name a standout contributor. Every musician shines – from the yearning evocative viola of Biddy Connor to Julian Patterson’s perfectly applied drumming, whether delicately measured or brightly disjointed.Or how about that special moment, the one that every great album is in possession of, like the inspired switch from pining dustbowl pitches to a wind-up blues slide in the coda to ‘Outs’, metamorphosing a country dirge into a brilliant classic rock stomp? Or the tongue-in-cheek tussle between a smiling violin and the mashed low-end of a piano on the playful ‘The Leyden Experiment’? Singling out highlights here, judging who plays the best, really isn’t what this album asks of you – it’s like trying to pick out the best colour on a Monet painting.Maybe that’s a good metaphor for Kes Band II, because it really is a fucking work of art. With a mostly softened palette, the band daub and mix tone and textures within and between tracks, often reprising particular motifs later so a kind of circular pattern forms across the album. They progressively flesh out moods and ideas until they arrive at a transcendent, richly beautiful canvas whose whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts.But if all this seems a bit formal, a bit writerly, then it’s only because as a critic, my analytical lens will always fail to capture what makes this album truly good. Because not once does Kes Band II seem only a compositional achievement, it’s driven by an overarching purpose: to be beautiful, to be inviting. I hesitate to invoke The Dirty Three – even if it flickers with the more haunting, softer moments of their post-rock, it’s never quite as exhausting to listen to.Reserved and passionate, abrasive and sweet, epic and miniature, I’m running out of superlatives. It all falls away in the end, though; you don’t need to speak – or sing – to create the sublime.Sunday Age review:
Kes is like one of those special dreams you don’t often have where everything is awesome and where even days later you’re still wishing you could go back to that place – so far and foreign from your real world but filled with a mysterious air of distilled emotions.Well, Kes Band II really truly is the aural manifestation of a dream, one that’s wonderfully different for everyone and on every listen. A leap of sorts for the man behind the acronym, Karl Scullin has from his early recordings often been defined by the unique and haunting voice that swims from his head. With this, his fourth Kes album, he (and his bandmates Laura Jean, Julian Patterson, Biddy Conner and Lehmann Smith) have left behind the road signs of lyrics and consigned to us ten instrumental pieces of pure abstract beauty.Built upon the equally unique and vivid pictures Sculin paints with his guitar, these songs transform themselves as though they were one 40-minute story – ‘Treesfall’ and ‘Patterson’s Curse’ are reminiscent of the lost, transcendent journeys that define The Dirty Three. ‘Doors Open Doors Close’ and the shorter ‘Jessica Braz’ are filled with the shape-shifting guitar of Sculin that sings like a siren’s voice off in the distance, while the effortless gallop of ‘Outs’ and lurch of ‘The Leyden Experiment’ cast long shadows of unease across a dusky landscape.Kes Band II is filled with all the beauty of previous albums, even though it is unlike anything Kes has done before. It’s a wondrous album that constantly flicks lit matches into the kindling of your imagination and while it’s not telling you what to think or what to feel it will give you an exquisite world to escape to and play within.Alex Gillies
The Brag review (Album of the Week):
Its slap-dash cover art may bear a lazy title, but the new Kes Band album successfully builds a few layers onto the quintet’s established sound as it delves into the complexities of its voiceless compositions. Kes Band II features the same line-up as the previous album: Karl Scullin, Laura Jean, Biddy Connor, Lehmann and Julian Patterson. One of the most distinctive things about the band is Karl’s vocal, and his kooky coo adds a light touch to proceedings. Without it, the band veers off into darker, deeper territory, with some remarkable results.Perhaps the most eye-opening track is 10-minute opener, Doors Open Doors Closed, which is defined by its menacing drone of a midsection. Songs such as Trees Fall and Outs recall the dark mood and epic structure of Dirty Three, while The Leyden Experiment initially soothes before dragging us down into a black hole of discord. There’s another variation on One Seventeen and it’s as maudlin as ever.
While there’s nothing as accessible as Gentle Elf or View You, the collection is interspersed with lighter, two-minute tracks that prevent the album from being too heavy an experience. These form some of the album highlights, namely the simple piano melody of B.P Grimaud and the viola-driven Amelia Airheart. Still, it’s hard to single out individual tracks on an album like this, which is best taken as a ten-track run.Kes Band II is more than just an instrumental companion piece to its predecessor. Kes Band offered Karl a framework to capture his open-eyed musings, whereas the latest album puts each band member front and centre, and then plunges them headlong into the unknown. Perhaps Kes Band III will be an amalgam of these two styles. Or, more likely, they will throw out the rule-book and surprise us all yet again.
The shadowy sway of this record is its heart, that and its subtle languidity. These elements feel and sound sentimental, sentimentality not being a sense we’ve found too often on Kes records past, at least not in such any pronounced fashion.Ten instrumentals, Kes Band II is claustrophobic from the outset in the form of opener Doors Open Doors Close, yet it is also indelibly personable (The Leyden Experiment), always intricately executed (B.P Grimaud, Patterson’s Curse) and even sweeping at times. There’s a visual aspect to the pieces here that imply a certain reference to colonialism, but far from being distinctly remote the vibe is more homely and narrative. This forms the aesthetic connection, one which I was not expecting, to seminal Melbourne outfit Hungry Ghosts, particularly through Doors Open Doors Close which evolves gracefully and beautifully into something utterly textural and ambient.B.P Grimaud tinkers sweetly like a minuet written in the 19th century, and Trees Fall oozes Free-jazz tones and shapes; drummer Julian Patterson channeling Jim White’s shuffling beats, and somehow it is this track which congeals the intentions of Karl Scullin’s vocal-less approach on Kes Band II.Here even the playful is sublime. Musical intensity resonates throughout but seldom overwhelms; Scullin and Kes Band taking the listener into dark corners, to view through windows the daylight as it creeps towards the horizon-line, and to lie underneath the stars. Outs continues with the same evocative, sparse arrangement and expands upon it through dewy guitar notes. The ‘recurring’ motif One Seventeen is incredible; mesmeric, creepy, and cavernous. Things shake, burn, glow, and ring out, whistling drones haunting the corners and permeate into the atmosphere.Kes Band II defines Kes (and Kes Band) as one of the most intuitive voices in music, and solidifies the beauty that lies in a unique musical vision.Steve Phillips
Mistletone is mega proud to release Music For Listening To Music To by La Sera, a bobby dazzler of a record by Katy Goodman (with whom we had the privilege of working with, back in the Vivian Girls days) and her guitarist/co-writer/new husband Todd Wisenbaker. Music For Listening To Music To is out now on Mistletone via Inertia.
Ryan Adams joined the dynamic duo to produce the fruit of their union, Music For Listening To Music To —La Sera‘s first live-recorded analogue album, featuring 10 tunes about good love, bad love, dead men, and confused kids.
In Ryan Adams’ own words: This album is a stone cold classic buzzy pop love neu romantic soundscape of just classic tunes and shiniest guitars since Louder Than Bombs. This is music that’s good for you. This is sonic orange juice. I love them.
The album title says a lot by saying so precious little: Music For Listening to Music To. So, in other words, “music.” After the punky heft and wildness of 2014’s Hour of the Dawn, an LP that thrashed against expectation, Katy Goodman returns with a set of songs that double down on solid simplicity — the power of wry lyrics, glorious guitar, driving backbeat, and the occasional pump organ groove.
Music For Listening to Music To opens on “High Notes,” where rollicking guitar and punk drums chugga-chugga beneath Goodman’s assured coo. Her lines deftly wrap the snark of Morrissey inside the sneer of Johnny Cash, and if you ask her what her favorite parts of the new album are, she’ll tell you it’s the scrappy stuff. “Time to Go,” which hurdles out the gate on a rocket of slide guitar and elastic bass, is another one aimed at settling old accounts — just ’cause our heroine is happily married doesn’t mean she can’t take swings at those who came before.
For a glimpse at the album’s genesis, though, pull up duet “One True Love.” When it came time to write her fourth full-length, Goodman wasn’t sure where she wanted to take the music. One night she and Wisenbaker (a Jenny and Johnny touring alum who joined La Sera in 2012 and produced Hour of the Dawn) did something they’d shockingly never done before: wrote a song together. That upbeat jangle-pop cut was the result, and the rest poured out. Wisenbaker sings on two others as well — the coiffed malt shop blues of “I Need an Angel” and bittersweet rocker “Nineties,” which features synth by Adams and Greta Morgan (The Hush Sound, Gold Motel). Nate Lotz (Halsey, Madi Diaz) drummed for the weeklong PAX-AM studio sessions.
As a testament to the chemistry that happened in that space, Music For Listening to Music To spawned another fruitful relationship: Adams and Wisenbaker hit it off and decided to start their own band. Instead they wound up recording a bunch of Taylor Swift covers, which became the 1989 album. These days Wisenbaker’s doing double duty — you might’ve seen him backing Adams on Jimmy Kimmel or The Daily Show.
Goodman says Adams’ excitement about taking La Sera into the analog realm inspired her to embrace the back-to-basics approach. Considering that, it’s the slower, more spacious tracks — like the spare and moody “Begins to Rain” or the grunge-kissed closer, “Too Little Too Late” — that best illustrate how far La Sera’s come since 2011’s self-titled bedroom-pop debut and 2012’s brighter (if still emotionally overcast) Sees the Light. Goodman’s knack for swoon and gloom, first heard via Vivian Girls, is only enhanced by the addition of Wisenbaker’s voice. As she sings on “A Thousand Ways,” arguably Music For Listening to Music To‘s dreamiest song, “Love can do all of these things.” Knowing Goodman there’s a sly wink in there, but it’s easy to imagine, if only for a beat, that the carefree flame of the oldies La Sera hold so dear still burns here.
“As you’d expect from a country record, La Sera’s fourth album is full of love. This love includes good and bad romances, adoration of Johnny Marr’s guitar playing and classic songwriting, but essentially it’s in love with the redemptive power of music” – THE LINE OF BEST FIT (8 out of 10)
Mistletone is thrilled to release Michael, the debut full-length from Les Sins, the dance project of Toro Y Moi’s Chaz Bundick, out now on Mistletone/Inertia in Australia & New Zealand and on Chaz Bundick’s own label, Company Records, in the USA.
Click above to hear disco don Morgan Geist (Environ Records boss and one-half of fabled Brooklyn house/nu-disco duo Metro Area)’s remix of “Bother”; “a soul-lined, percussion-heavy production in its original form. Geist strips “Bother” down to a more efficient effort, hanging a series of sharp synth patterns from the remix’s crisp rhythms, while sneaking in a particularly bouncing bassline underneath the procession” (XLR8R). Click here to purchase on iTunes.
Inspired by cartoon and movie soundtracks, this largely instrumental album explores classic dance and pop music traditions. Catchy, repetitive vocal hooks gel with beats and synth work influenced by house, techno, French electronic, and ’90s hip-hop production. Chaz Bundick made the album over two years and recorded everything in his home studio.
The funky “Why” features vocals from Berkeley, California singer-songwriter Nate Salman asking “Why you wanna go and do that?” “Bother” holds down a head-bobbing, body-moving groove until a stunning hallelujah moment straight out of a sci-fi version of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. While there are no concrete themes associated with the album, Chaz says he can imagine all of these songs playing in the middle of the brilliantly lighted and busy Ginza district in Tokyo.
Touchstones like Timbaland, Mr. Oizo, and Daft Punk, and contemporaries such as Motor City Drum Ensemble offered inspiration, but most influential on the making of the album was the sage advice of a design icon. “My favorite graphic designer, P. Rand always said, ‘Don’t try to be original, just try to be good,’” Chaz says. “When making this record that was/is my mantra—it was just constantly looping in my mind. I believe ‘good’ is timeless and once you can recognize that you’ll see the world in its fullest.”
Michael follows a 12” on Carpark Records and two singles for Jiaolong.
ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DOUBLE J, ABC RADIO NATIONAL, 3RRR, 2SER SYDNEY, RTR PERTH
“The awaited second album from Luluc is rich, spare, subtle and striking. It’s a glorious artistic achievement from a band with a highly considered songwriting approach. It’s about six years since Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett released their debut ‘Dear Hamlyn’, and the intervening years have seen the two refine their craft even further. Basing themselves in Brooklyn, they’ve worked with Aaron Dessner who helped produce the new album. Luluc’s gently orchestrated folk arrangements carry great emotional weight, and their lyrics linger with a rare poignancy” – 3RRR ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“A restrained collection of tender songs… The darkness of the duo’s music is where much of the beauty is, and it gives these songs layers; there’s more to them than a casual listen may suggest” – DOUBLE J FEATURE ALBUM
“Pure folk beauty… Resisting the urge toward studio trickery in deference to the pure strength of song they possess. With the subtlest of adornments, theirs is immaculately played, dyed-in-the wool old-school folk, hinging on the ebb and flow of Steve Hassett’s beautifully picked guitar buoying Zoe Randell’s stunning voice” – 2SER NEW MUSIC
“Passerby sounds eerily timeless, nodding strongly to the English folk tradition of the late 1960s (think Fairport Convention and Pentangle) without feeling dusty or dated” – MESS + NOISE
“A quaint and blissful record that shows that sometimes less truly is more” – TONE DEAF
“This is a small record. But don’t mistake its simplicity for lack of power. Passerby might not grab you by the scruff of the neck, but once it gets hold of you, it doesn’t let go” – STACK MAGAZINE ★★★★ 4 stars
“In a country so politically polarised, it’s hard to imagine a record marked by such tender regard for Australia could come from any artist actually living here. Folk duo Luluc, however, left Melbourne for Brooklyn four years ago and succumbed to a productive nostalgia for the “shimmering heat of a bold hot sun”. With her voice a paradox of spring-water clear yet shyly opaque, singer Zoe Randall reflects, mainly, on the unique bitter sweetness of never quite finding one’s place making you wonder: without her muse of transience, what would she sing of? It has been six years since Luluc’s last release but their patience has paid off on Passerby. Released by Sub Pop in North America and Europe, Luluc’s profile has also been boosted by a tour with the National and the playing and production work of the National’s Aaron Dessner. Frontman Matt Beringer’s declaration that “for months [Passerby] was the only album I wanted to listen to” probably didn’t hurt either” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD 3.5 stars
“I think Zoë’s lyrics are remarkable and together, she and Steve make musical magic. She has that kind of voice that, when it’s wrapped around the right words, can make you cry. It did me” – LUCINDA WILLIAMS
“Luxuriant vocals…emotionally compelling” – MOJO
“Gorgeous and refined…timeless” – Rolling Stone
“This year’s most addictive record to date…5/5” – Bust
Passerby, the sublime album by Brooklyn-via-Melbourne band Luluc, isout now on Mistletone Records via Inertia in Australia/NZ, and via Sub Pop in the rest of the world, and available on CD or limited edition clear vinyl LP (while stocks last) via Mistletone mail order.
“Small Window” by Luluc. Directed by Nacho Rodríguez.
“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” —Molière
“The strongest of all warriors are these two — Time and Patience.” —Leo Tolstoy
“Said woman, take it slow / and things will be just fine / You and I’ll just use a little patience.” —Axl Rose
In a world where instant gratification is the norm, patience has become a rare commodity. But for Zoë Randell and Steve Hassett, who make up indie-folk duo Luluc (pronounced Loo-LUKE), letting things unfold in due time not only defines their career trajectory, it also works as a pretty good description of their approach to making music. Music that Sub Pop co-founder Jonathan Poneman describes as “bracing, subtle, tender and magnificent”.
So while it may seem like Randell and Hassett’s history is littered with all kinds of good luck—from their initial meeting to their relationship with The National’s Aaron Dessner to their deal with Sub Pop to grabbing the attention of Nick Drake’s producer—being in the right place at the right time isn’t just about fate. It’s about knowing when something feels right and having the confidence that people will respond when they’re ready.
There’s no question that everything these Australians (who split their time between Melbourne and their adopted hometown of Brooklyn) have done in their lives has been leading up to Passerby, their second album overall and first available worldwide. Co-produced by the band and Dessner, Passerby shows off all of Luluc’s best qualities, retaining the gentle beauty of the duo’s debut, Dear Hamlyn, while adding extra textures built with the assistance of a cadre of impressive players. It’s the trophy celebrating Luluc’s airtight case that good things—no, make that great things—really do come to those who wait.
Exhibit A: A number of years passed between the duo’s introduction and their debut album
The first bit of kismet in Luluc’s story placed a couple of young Australian musicians, fresh off the breakup of their respective bands, halfway around the world in Scotland. Randell arrived first to work at the Edinburgh Festival, and after mentioning to her London cousins that she was in need of a guitar, they hooked her up with a friend who was headed in that direction. Hassett showed up to the Spiegeltent where she worked with a copy of Huckleberry Finn in one hand and a guitar in the other. They hit it off right away.
“As soon as we sang together, we looked at each other and went, ‘Holy shit, that sounds really good,’” says Hassett.
“It was just a remarkable blend harmonically,” agrees Randell. “Steve started harmonizing with this idea I was showing him, and the blend was absolutely amazing.”
But as has become standard operating procedure for the duo, they didn’t rush into anything. After returning to Australia, the pair got jobs, continued their studies, and separately played in other bands. But after her father passed away, Randell began reevaluating her life, eventually coming to the conclusion that it was time to focus all of her energy on music. In time, songs started flowing out of her and eventually she and Hassett (who she likes to call her “editor in chief”) recorded 2008’s Dear Hamlyn, a tribute to Randell’s dad.
The starkly simple yet dramatically moving work slowly but surely began to make waves in Australia and beyond, thanks in part to opening slots with artists like Lucinda Williams, Fleet Foxes, and José Gonzàlez.
“It was an interesting time, because obviously it’s very hard to lose someone so significant as your father,” says Randell. “But at the same time, I’mpleased that I was able to take that experience and turn it into something very meaningful for me, and that people have responded to the music so positively.”
Exhibit B: Some of their biggest fans found out about Luluc long after they formed
Randell and Hassett aren’t the kinds of people who name-drop, but to skip over the notable members of their fanbase is to ignore yet another remarkable part of Luluc’s journey. Because with just a single self-released disc, they’ve made pretty rabid fans of some marquee names, all of whom discovered Luluc years after they released their debut album: People like The National, Nick Drake producer Joe Boyd, and No Depression cofounder Peter Blackstock, who not only called Dear Hamlyn “the most beautiful record I have heard in 10 years,” but also put the band in contact with Sub Pop cofounder Jonathan Poneman, who just so happened to be in Brooklyn when he got the email. He was immediately won over, arranged a meeting, and signed Luluc.
Though the band had been urged for years by an Australian promoter to reach out to Boyd, as Luluc’s music bears more than just a passing resemblance to Drake’s, they’d been scared off by the assertion in his memoir that he no longer listens to “WPSE’s,” a.k.a. white people singing in English. (“A category we are most definitely in,” laughs Randell.) But she eventually gave in and sent him a copy of Dear Hamlyn, and soon after they were contacted by Boyd, who was later quoted as saying, “I played it in my bedroom one night when I was reading and I thought, ‘Oh, that’s nice.’ And I played it again the next night, then I played it again the next night, and finally I was like, ‘Who the hell is this person?’”
Boyd asked Luluc to take part in the Australian edition of his Nick Drake tribute tour, which was just around the corner—oh, what timing!—and last year he released a Record Store Day single of the band’s live version of “Things Behind The Sun.” That track, along with their take on “Fly,” also ended up on the tour’s soundtrack, Way To Blue: The Songs Of Nick Drake.
Lucinda Williams is the rare big name to have recognized Luluc’s magic early on, and she invited the fledgling band to stay with her for a while in Los Angeles. But instead of trying to push them forward, it’s like she inherently knew this was a band designed to take one thing at a time.
“She was sort of comparing Zoë with the way she felt when she first started trying to get her music out there, that no one really understood her,” says Hassett. “She was in her own category, and said that people aren’t going to get you straight away. She said words to the effect of, ‘Someone will sign you, but it’ll take time because you’re not in the box.’”
Exhibit C: After the initial Passerby sessions in Australia didn’t feel right, the band decided to start the whole process over again 10,000 miles away
Of all famous fans, The National have arguably become the most important, thanks to Aaron Dessner’s work on Passerby. But, as usual, it was a relationship, and then an album, that needed time to be fleshed out.
After an aborted attempt to make the record in Melbourne, they were introduced by a mutual friend to Dessner, whose garage studio is located in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park, one of the neighborhoods where Randell and Hassett had lived since first moving to New York in 2010. Though they were still happy writing songs as a duo, for their new album they wanted to open themselves up to new ideas and expand their sonic palette. Duly impressed with Dessner’s résumé, the band asked if he was interested in working on Passerby. He gave them the keys to the studio and told them to start while he was out of town.
“We recorded all of my guitar parts and vocals and sent that to Aaron while he was away, and he wrote back and said he could definitely work with us,” says Randell. “And pretty much the email that he wrote to us about how he would produce it was what we would have written to a potential producer, so we were pretty blown away.”
The result of their collaboration is a gorgeously crafted 10-track album full of beautiful, slow-burning melodies and delicate harmonies, which drip out of their mouths like honey. The attention to detail is unmistakable, and highlights like “Reverie On Norfolk Street” and “Early Night” are as haunting as they are hummable. Like Dear Hamlyn, unadorned guitars and voices make up the bulk of the dreamy sound, though the power of the added instrumentation can’t be overstated, with well-placed piano, percussion, double bass, sax, trumpet, trombone, and more adding color to the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Band favorites like Simon and Garfunkel and Gillian Welch (and, of course, Nick Drake) can be felt throughout Passerby, while the poignant restraint aligns them well with labelmates Low.
Lyrically, traveling and observing the world around her—windows show up on the album a few times—set the scene of Passerby, which finds Randell embracing new experiences that further enhance her appreciation of familiar people and places. Some characters in her poetry are real while others are imagined, but all of her emotionally charged words ring true with universal themes of love, longing, and loss. Though it would seem difficult to follow up an album as personal and thematically focused as Dear Hamlyn, Randell wasn’t fazed by the challenge. Besides, her dad can still be found all over Passerby, both directly—check out “Gold On The Leaves,” “Star,” and the title track—and in spirit.
With their trust in Dessner secured from the outset, Randell and Hassett were comfortable with him flipping through his mental Rolodex to find the right guests to help make the record. He invited members of The National’s touring band as well as guys who have played with Bon Iver, Beirut, and Sufjan Stevens, and Dessner himself contributed heavily to Passerby, adding guitar, bass, percussion, piano, synths, and harmonium. In essence, he became the unofficial third member of Luluc, and together they worked diligently to make sure their collective vision became a reality.
“Steve and I have similar intuitive taste,” says Randell. “We work together so confidently and compatibly that it was kind of remarkable how well Aaron was able to fit in. He really felt like part of our creative brain.”
And lest you think this matchup was one and done, the bond was further strengthened when Luluc recently opened a string of dates with The National in Australia and New Zealand. And there’s more: Hassett can be heard singing backup on “Lean,” The National’s entry on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack.
With the release of Passerby, it appears that the stars have aligned for Luluc. They may have taken the long road to get here, but everything Randell and Hassett do ends up feeling perfectly timed.
“None of it seemed particularly slow for us,” says Randell. “We were never going to put the record out until the songs were recorded the way they needed to be. This was about getting the music right and the songs right, and making sure that they’d found their proper voice.”
The wait is over. The world is ready to hear Luluc quiet and clear. Passerby by Luluc is out now via Mistletone / Inertia in Australia, and Sub Pop in the rest of the world.
Listen to “Without A Face”, the lead track from Passerby, below:
Christmas is Mistletone’s favourite time of year but it ain’t so rosy for the rest of the animal kingdom, so profits from Mistletonia will be donated to a local animal shelter.
Mistletonia Track Listing:
Evangelicals, The Last Christmas On Earth 4:10
Barrage, Xmas in July 3:12
John Maus, This IS The Beat 2:29
High Places, New Grace 2:12
Ned Collette Band, Christmas Song 4:14
The Sticks, Santa’s Fucked 2:10
Kes Band, Gentle Elf 5:12
Pikelet, Let the Tree Be 2:40
Francis Plagne, Krampus with Scale by the Moon 2:32
Grand Salvo featuring Oliver Mann, I Sometimes Wish 2:16
Ross McLennan, He Seems To Think We’re His Family 3:36
Hands On Heads, Witches & Lightning 2:44
Jack Ladder, All You Get’s a Song 3:52
Right or wrong, we’ve all come to expect something familiar from these annual Christmas compilations. Either square old standards, Phil Spector soaring, punk piss takes, indie rock noodling or non-ironic standards redux, when you put on an Xmas comp of any ilk, you kind of know what you’re getting into. So the enigmatic nature of this Australian label’s holiday collection—which can be ordered here in the States via their website—gets points for being unpredictable in a most predictable genre. Mistletonia begins with soon-to-be buzz band Evangelicals on the best song of the comp. “The Last Christmas On Earth” is a spacey sleigh ride up to outer space as the reindeer hoof-gaze with the guitars while pilot-to-NASA sound bites stumble in, making it a perfect statement about fleeting warm ‘n’ fuzzy Christmas feelings that this comp is probably aiming for. Then “Xmas In July” is nifty, skritzy futuro-pop, though not about Christmas really. As the record goes on, it paints a pretty post-modernist post-mortem picture of the holidays at best. John Maus’ “This Is The Beat” is a goofy, lite-industrial ’80s clunker. High Places and the Ned Collette Band’s tunes go ’80s too, with Bananarama-ready, island rhythm candy pop. It takes until the seventh tune to get to a wintry-mood piece (“Gentle Elf”), albeit not a very good one.
But sift through the yellow snow and you’ll find chestnuts like the clomping sludge-abilly instrumental, “Santa’s Fucked,” that feels like a spiked egg-nog walk through Santa’s workshop around 4 a.m on Xmas Eve, well before the elves cleaned up the discarded deformed doll heads. Pikelet’s “Let The Tree Be” is a spooky siren song, like Perry Como’s lobotomized back-up gals trying to find their way back to whatever white-bread holiday variety show they drifted away from. And Ross McLennan’s “He Seems To Think We’re His Family” is a sullen, strumming tale about a lonely soul on the big day, lamenting that “the teenagers have outgrown Santa’s sleigh,” not unlike most of the artists on Mistletonia. This might be the most non-Christmasy Christmas comp you’ll come across this year. But maybe it’s time for some new yuletide templates.
Christmas is like the only time of year where you are encouraged to fit another piece of pie in, so for pie lovers it’s a hoot, yet for many of God’s creatures, Christmas is pure hell. Turkeys run gobbling for their lives as buckshot fills the air. The immeasurably sad sit on suicide hotlines until the queues become unbearable – they throw themselves out the window. In the CBD, escaped lunatics man the suits at Roger David, much to the chagrin of paying customers who would prefer to get fitted correctly. Dads get tangled up in old faerie lights with the wiring exposed just as their kids come running into the lounge carrying egg nog. “Don’t run in the house!” yells Dad. Too late. The kids hit a carpet snag and the egg-nog goes all over Dad who then explodes into a fountain of sparks. Meanwhile, all over town, the radio regurgitates Jingle Bells for the 122nd time.
Perhaps in response to Christmas hell, the fine folk and tastemakers at Mistletone have created a remedy, a utopia of merriment, zest and appeal, ample good cheer, tailored fits and supreme kissability. It’s called Mistletonia. To celebrate, they’ve assembled a starry ensemble of diverse acts on CD, beginning with the Evangelicals, who take Rudolph the Red-Nosed Radiohead out with their sweeping yuletide quadrophonics (The Last Christmas on Earth). Barrage comes next flexing his deceptively tiny arms for some Dark Star big-beat (XMAS in July). John Maus busts out some hilarious, symphonic rock that sounds like a joyously funny meeting between Ariel Pink and Wendy Carlos (This is the Beat). High Places bring bass-heavy, clattering exotica reminiscent of The Blow (New Grace). Local Tarzan Ned Collette evokes a jungle Christmas via Jethro Tull (Christmas Song), while Kes cutely enlightens a Gentle Elf to the teachings of Aztec lore. Pikelet talks to Christmas trees in her dreamy way (Let the Tree Be) and that astonishing anachronism Oliver Mann sings a heavy tune backed by his bro (I Sometimes Wish). The relentlessly melodic Hands On Heads’ pinch a Killers’ vocal hook while pondering Witches and Lightning, and in an example of pop that presses all the right buttons, Ross McLennan sings He Seems To Think We’re His Family and I swear its power of compression rivals poetry. Mistletonia, memorise it, analyse it, exercise it, advertise it, legalise it, colonise it, civilise it, yeah.
Just as Christmas crystallizes forever as a crushing, final symbol of avarice and greed, along comes Mistletonia – a sundry new collection of yuletide songs instigated by the ever-surprising Mistletone Records. After an astounding year for the Carlton-based indie, during which they released the likes of Black Dice, Panda Bear and Dan Deacon locally, the label has seen fit to celebrate, releasing the album they ‘were always meant to make’ in a genuine spirit of family festivity and merry-making. Like Scrooge’s series of transformative visions, these thirteen songs’ honest sense of generosity will leave you feeling cheerful, benevolent and ready to meet the parents.
Thankfully, Mistletonia sounds both pro- and anti-Christmas by turns. Tomorrow’s best gothic pop proponent, John Maus (USA), offers a hyper-tense keyboard sleigh-chase soundtrack, and Brighton, UK’s guitar weirdos The Sticks make drunken outbursts at the end of Christmas lunch. Closer to home, Ned Collette Band’s inspired cover of Jethro Tull’s ‘Christmas Song’ subtley warns against festive gluttony with breezy lap steel and a wry, vocodered lyric, while Kes presents a clear-eyed glimpse of proceedings with jaunty, self-reflexive wonderment.
“December is almost here, so we’re going to roll with some more Christmas tunes today. The excellent Australian label Mistletone (they released Beach House, Black Dice, Dan Deacon, and Panda Bear down under this year, so you have to give it up) has just issued a holiday-themed compilation called Mistletonia, which includes this candy-striped confection from Brooklyn-based dream-poppers High Places. A sort of dubbed-out half-cover of “Iko Iko”, the song talks about enduring months of crushing gloom, though the music is much more cheerful. According to the label, all profits from the sale of the record will be donated to an animal shelter.”
More Pitchfork love for the Evangelicals track:
The apocalypse is a popular choice this holiday season. We already posted soft, light Southern California popsters the Softlightes‘ cheery “Last Christmas on Earth“, but Evangelicals’ song of almost the same name sounds a bit more like its title. The Norman, Okla., indie rockers opt for endlessly reverberating, blockbuster-climax bombast on their “The Last Christmas on Earth”, which you can download on the band’s MySpace page or pick up on Australian label Mistletone‘s holiday-themed Mistletonia compilation.
Evangelicals sound more Arcade Fire than Christian Coalition, more Jeff Buckley than Mike Huckabee, when songwriter Josh Jones’s vibrato-filled tenor calls out to the rafters for Jesus. “You can hear the lovers crying in the street,” Jones sings, as a deeper voice harmonizes, bringing to mind that gravelly-voiced muse of Buckley and so many others, Leonard Cohen. The humming feedback and cavernous percussion help avoid the usual Christmas carol production clichés; I think there are some jingle bells in there, yeah, but there’s also a helicopter sound at the end. Much more of this holiday doom ‘n’ gloom and I’ll start stressing about Dec. 25 the way some people worried about Y2K. (Pitchfork Media Dec 6, 2007)
“Montero paints pictures in bright colours… The world created is fantastical, filled with notions of healing and love” – THE MUSIC
“Exciting, eccentric songwriting that nods to early Eno and current Ariel Pink” – BEAT
“A hazy swarm of emotion; an acknowledgment of the complexity of the simplicity of romance” – THE THOUSANDS
“A soft-rock inspired epic in the vein of Ariel Pink or MGMT’s Congratulations. It’s heavy on hazy organs, abounds in the chorus/reverb combo and major chords with the brilliance of the desert sun… This is an album for journeys” – HAPPY
“It’s fun to imagine Montero, a lyrical proponent of love and peace and magic and self-belief, as some behind-the-scenes Beefheart; the three-year genesis of The Loving Gaze not due to bouncing between studios and engineers (and beginning work as a musical based on the life of the late Wheel of Fortune starlet Adriana Xenides, from which ‘Adriana’ is on loan), but monomaniacally chasing elusive perfectionism. He already scans close to Brian Wilson in this regard: ‘Clear Sailing’ catches waves and ‘Mumbai’ begins with “Life’s a beach,” only Montero himself is – like Wilson – scared of the water; summoning imagery of shore and ocean so as to tap into their totemic power. ‘Mumbai’ wasn’t written in India – more fertile foreign soil for artistic and/or self-reinvention by barefoot pilgrimage – but during his 40 days in the Calexico desert, the first song for his new project. He summons an imaginary fantasia (“They’ll be dancing already in Mumbai/with a pocket of confetti/and a whole lot of crazy new sounds”) where he’s free to scatter his creative seed. These aren’t songs about Mumbai, but the Mumbai of the mind; not the sea, but the sea inside. Montero is an artist authoring audio daydreams, then bending reality to fit the self-made myth” – MESS + NOISE
“This dreamy, harmony-soaked debut sounds like the kind of treasured ’70s LP that has been part of your many hauls from group-house to group-house; the kind of album that would always end up on the record player on those lazy Sunday afternoons when you dragged all the loungeroom furniture out into the backyard for an impromtu BBQ amongst the waist-high weeds, uncut grass and the graveyard of rusting art-school sculptures and wax-covered candelabras. It may well be influenced by The Beach Boys, but you’ll also hear echoes of The Carpenters, Jobriath, The Dragons and possibly a few glam bands, in its sunshiny soft-rock, romance-speckled goodness” – 2SER FEATURE ALBUM
“With the radiance and benevolence suggested by the title, Montero’s debut album offers a generous and open-hearted collection of glam rock jams and triumphant, transcendental synth-psych nuggets. The project of multi-disciplinary artist Ben Montero, his band also features the talents of local music luminaries Guy Blackman, Geoffrey O’Connor, Cameron Potts, all united in a shared celebration of emotive pop and power balladry” – 3RRR ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“Dreamy Melbourne soft-rock band Montero have enjoyed hype from their debut album The Loving Gaze this year, and we’ve got dibs on the new video ‘Dead Heads Come to Dinner.’ It’s a doozy. The clip is directed by Michael Leonard from the Beg, Scream and Shout collective and it’s a trippy treat. The video is so weird that the plot is up for interpretation but basically these red and blue Homer Simpson-looking creatures find their way out of the water and the sewers to meet these purple gals who are hula hooping and doing some pretty serious interpretative dance routines. Ribbon vomit, jellyfish and scary baby dolls’ heads also feature” – Oyster magazine
“This gloriously psychedelic video is the world premiere for “BC,” a new song by Australian musician/comic artist/animator/ renaissance man Ben Montero, and the first single from his upcoming debut album The Loving Gaze, which is out on September 20 via Mistletone. The song is an ode to the power of music — as Montero says, “Romantic pop songs can be your life coach. Healing and trusting music. Don’t be afraid to use all your power and magic and don’t let the cynicism of others get into your bloodstream.” The video, meanwhile, is the work of Christian J Peterson of Seattle-based studio I Want You, and is just as gloriously warm and colorful as the song itself” – FLAVORWIRE
Mistletone is honoured to release the debut album by Montero, The Loving Gaze, out now on vinyl and digital release only via Inertia, and available on mail order.
Since the release of The Loving Gaze (album bio below), Montero won Album of the Week on 3RRR, 2SER and SYN-FM, a feature On Rotation review on Mess + Noise, and glowing praise abounding from appreciators near & far. Montero counts Ariel Pink, Sonny Smith (Sonny & the Sunsets) and Kurt Vile as fans, and will support Kurt Vile on his forthcoming Australian tour. Other marquee moments for Montero so far include supports for Yeasayer and Models, and knockout performances at the sold-out Opening Night of Melbourne Music Week and Goodgod’s 5th birthday celebrations in Sydney.
FROM CYNICISM TO BELIEF. From the negative to the positive. From weakness to strength. From black and white to full colour. Montero’s debut album The Loving Gaze holds out a hand to you, the listener; inviting you on a journey that’s both expansive and inward, ever inward.
The masterwork of habitual Melbourne dreamer, iconoclast, enthusiast, songwriter, comic book writer, visual artist, animator and frontman extraordinaire Ben Montero, The Loving Gaze is a willing escapade from the everyday. This timeless album is an embracing of “bigger day” daydreams and sonic ambition, with a grasp on 1970s auteur rock classicism that’s rarely seen. Yet this is not a retro album; it’s entirely of this moment. Warm and cyclical. Kaleidescopic, rich and strong, yet still containing the roughness of instinct.
The inspirations Montero drew upon include late 1970s Beach Boys and Dennis Wilson, The Carpenters, Burt Bacharach, Eric Carmen, The Association, California sunshine pop, power ballads, 1980s TV theme song melodies, obscure psychedelic pop discoveries and the Brill Building songwriters who started looking inwardly for inspiration. Ben also credits contemporary kindred spirits such as Destroyer, Ariel Pink and John Maus, not as musical influences, but as role models for “letting the colours out”; growing into your inspirations and true loves, and realising your powers, without regard for outside opinions.
Montero’s own musical metamorphosis — from a self-doubting 20-something, whose gifts were perfectly manifest in the imperfect vehicles of his early bands (Treetops, Holiday Maker, The Brutals, The TM Band), into the strength and surety that entering your 30s brings, the ability to convey and express your inspirations with authority and conviction — is gloriously apparent in the synthesis of day glo melody, musical depth and imagination on this stunning album.
But lest you think this epicness emerged fully formed, it came after many years hidden away in bedrooms with an acoustic guitar and a Tascam, filling up garbage bags with tape after tape. Ever uncomfortable in repressive band circles and writing for other people and not truly for himself, Ben hid behind a fringe, a bass guitar and cynicism. These songs were written when Ben got through a difficult time by visiting a local church drop in centre, where they allowed him to play piano for people having recovery meetings. With no-one else around, Ben played with melodies and chords and began to write songs purely for himself, letting go of the idea that being in band was the only reason to make music.
With the newfound confidence to be a leader, not a follower, came a band with the smarts and sensitivity to realise Montero’s visions. The luxury of beautiful vocals to be heard on this album (and in Montero’s celebratory live performances) come from years of harmony singing between Montero and longtime collaborator Gerald Wells, who also plays synths. With Chapter Music founder and solo balladeer Guy Blackman on piano, Cameron Potts (Ninety Nine, Baseball) on the drumkit, local producer Robert “Bobby Brave” Bravington (Early Woman) on bass and Geoffrey O’Connor (Geoffrey O’Connor, Crayon Fields) on guitar, Montero is a powerful, sensual supergroup. So don’t be shy. Raise up your eyes and accept The Loving Gaze.
Soft-rock shaman Ben Montero leads his eponymous band into audio daydreams and self-made myth on this ambitious debut, writes ANTHONY CAREW.
The inexplicable persistence of religion across the post-Enlightenment centuries is couched in the same Hollywood logic that promises us a Spider-Man reboot per decade: people love a genesis myth. Rock ’n’ roll, like any religion, boasts bountiful origin stories: vice-soaked tales in which the macho heroes of the stage earned their superpowers in garages, gutters, and dive bars.
Self-actualising meta-conceptualist that he is, Melburnian soft-rock shaman Ben Montero comes to the party prepared. In the ‘Artist’s Statement’ that accompanies the release of Montero’s first full-length, The Loving Gaze, he details a “complete mental/psychological meltdown” whilst in California, which lead to wandering (barefoot?) through Mexican deserts and along the El Camino del Norte, a pilgrim seeking penance for the unforgivable sin of having been in Treetops.
Upon returning to Melbourne, Montero was no longer just another mop-topped sunshine-pop fop in a local scene in which every second dude seems to be named Ben, but now the Nordic-sounding Bjenny, a Viking warrior (in “brand new foreign uniform”) in pursuit of some soft-rock Valhalla, ‘Clear Sailing’ his longship towards those endless horizons where 10cc and Christopher Cross once piloted their yachts. There’s probably some Dave Grohl-esque, tried-and-true rock ’n’ roll folktale that Montero’s bassist-to-frontman switch could be compared to, but this wasn’t a lateral move, stepping over one spot on stage. Instead it was a reawakening, a way of liberating the songwriter from the prism of the rock band, the artist dreaming of turning himself into a “human power chord.”
In rebellion to Melbourne’s pub-rockist orthodoxy, Montero may have been playing the iconoclast, but the trail he set out on came pre-blazed; this path seeming, these days, as well-trodden as that to Santiago de Compostela. As much as it’s the smooooth operators of AM radio yore that serve as Montero’s patron saints, he’s really legging it after new-millennial spirit-guides Bobby Conn and Ariel Pink: willingly confusing notions of good and bad taste, and using the currency of decay to stage a conversation on pop-cultural time travel. Putting his own name in the band name, and then recruiting a shit-hot backing band to aid his vision quest.
And, so, aeons after all the psychological-meltdown/spiritual-rebirth stuff, and three years after first rolling tape, The Loving Gaze finally arrives with Montero meaning both Man and Band; the leader of this eponymous project and the six men who commune under its name. The presence of Chapter Music bossman Guy Blackman, Crayon Fields frontman and passive-aggressive solo performer Geoffrey O’Connor, and Animal-esque drummer Cameron Potts (of Sandro, Ninetynine, Baseball, Cuba is Japan, etc.) has even found Montero dubbed a ‘supergroup’. But – as students of rock mythology will attest – the notion is misplaced: Montero isn’t a collectivist proposition of shared celebrity, but pure cult-of-personality; a leader and his followers.
“Sing your loudest harmony/Visualise the sky with me,” Montero wails on ‘Taste the Carbonation (Monkey Outta Me)’, commanding his ranks with the language of the Dear Leader, be it of well-drilled combo or New Age-y be-in. The fact that the tune was written to “test the abilities and muscle of the band” makes it all the more apt.
It’s fun to imagine Montero, a lyrical proponent of love and peace and magic and self-belief, as some behind-the-scenes Beefheart; the three-year genesis of The Loving Gaze not due to bouncing between studios and engineers (and beginning work as a musical based on the life of the late Wheel of Fortune starlet Adriana Xenides, from which ‘Adriana’ is on loan), but monomaniacally chasing elusive perfectionism.
He already scans close to Brian Wilson in this regard: ‘Clear Sailing’ catches waves and ‘Mumbai’ begins with “Life’s a beach,” only Montero himself is – like Wilson – scared of the water; summoning imagery of shore and ocean so as to tap into their totemic power. ‘Mumbai’ wasn’t written in India – more fertile foreign soil for artistic and/or self-reinvention by barefoot pilgrimage – but during his 40 days in the Calexico desert, the first song for his new project. He summons an imaginary fantasia (“They’ll be dancing already in Mumbai/with a pocket of confetti/and a whole lot of crazy new sounds”) where he’s free to scatter his creative seed.
These aren’t songs about Mumbai, but the Mumbai of the mind; not the sea, but the sea inside. Montero is an artist authoring audio daydreams, then bending reality to fit the self-made myth.
ARTIST STATEMENT BY BEN MONTERO.
The title The Loving Gaze came to me in a taxi in Los Angeles. I decided that’s what my first album will be called, and didn’t stop to think of what it meant. I was travelling alone across America and into Mexico on an ancient yellow school bus. I’d always felt like I’d been running on two cylinders, when I should have been running on as many as I had.
The metamorphosis came, like it traditionally does, through complete mental/psychological disintegration. A meltdown while touring California with a previous band (where Mumbai was composed, on the road) that broke up the idea of doing things the way they’d been done before.
The transformative powers of travelling; a need for peace, a prayer for clarity. Walking the El Camino Del Norte, six weeks through the mountains from France and across northern Spain. Free of other egos and just supercharging my own.
The Loving Gaze: The look of love, Strength, warmth of the sun, Nothing can break the comfort of that zoned out stare, The unfocused stare that brings perfect clarity.
It’s what I do when I draw and don’t have to think about anything, just let the true subconscious come to the fore.
The Loving Gaze is about freedom, beauty and confidence.
The Loving Gaze is the gaze of oneself at oneself … gazing inside yourself and feeling at one.
1. Adriana The most recently written song, taken from the Xenides musical project still under construction. It’s about Baby John Burgess trying to express to Adriana that she should stay alive because people love her. It’s also about finding a romantic equal.
How could she be?
So beautiful and so complete to me
So ethereal and so unique to me
I could watch her comb her hair for hours
Doing her eyes, her prayer to higher powers
She melts me down
I could carry her into the wind
Using my faith
My arms, using my wings
She melts me down
I’ll take good care of you
I’ll take good care of you
You’ll never be alone at all
You’ll never be alone at all
2. BC Romantic pop songs can be your life coach. Healing and trusting music. Don’t be afraid to use all your power and magic and don’t let the cynicism of others get into your bloodstream.
Your cloudy rouge
Our landing in a well-worn trap
No fleur de luge
Here comes the huge
Feather blowing thunderclap
A dull mirage from your corsage
I’m eager to leave the room
That’s one way of honouring the moon
3 is for leaving
4 for believing
And one is forgiving
And one is for living without
One for holding
One for sharing that is why
We give it everything we’ve got
We give it everything we’ve got
No small refuse no vinyl clues
No terror in a warm collapse
The fading hews the morning blues
The leather and nether strap
Dramatic sigh we both know why
I’m eager to leave the room
That’s one way of honouring the moon
3 is for leaving 4 for believing
And one is forgiving
And one is for living without
One for holding and
One for sharing that is why
We give it everything we got
We give it everything we got
3. Dead Heads Come To Dinner Don’t buy into myths about creativity and self destruction. But at the same time it’s going to happen so just hold on tight and it’ll be alright. This genre is Ice Pop.
I was looking for a little bit more
I was thinking about a boy next door
and how we never made it back together
Carving you into my totem pole
Waking up in your breakfast bowl
I was only 21 and counting
But no one’s a winner
When the deadheads come to dinner
The appeal was always way too strong for me
I was in a melting mode
Had an urge to feel the heart explode
I was on a higher plane of purging
Shaking my fingers down
It was all I could to touch the ground
I could feel the magic power surging
But no one’s a winner
When the deadheads come to dinner
The appeal was always way too strong for me
Pulling up a chair
I notice you’re not there
I become aware
I become aware
Lady boy is back I heard he’s running like a marathon
Get your dead head into your deadheads
4. Mumbai Wanting to be in a beautiful place where everyone is loving and always celebrating. I don’t like the beach that much and I don’t enjoy the pressure of having to go swimming, so it’s about a place where you can do whatever you want. Also that the ocean isn’t that scary, as there’s an ocean inside of you.
Life’s a beach
I never leave
Don’t like swimming
Lungs won’t breathe
Breathe deeper than the ocean
Life is cruel
You’ve gotta commit
You’ve gotta stay focused
You’ve gotta think quick
When you are at the ocean
But in Mumbai
They’ll be dancing already in Mumbai
with a pocket of confetti and whole lotta crazy new sounds
coming over the airwaves
Life’s a pit
Keep circling it
You’ve gotta stay heavy
You’ve gotta think quick
When you are at the ocean
But in Mumbai
They’ll be dancing already in Mumbai
With a pocket of confetti
And a whole lot of crazy new sounds
Coming over the airwaves
Calm Blue Ocean
5. Opening Night Evoking the anticipation and the feeling of a new romance musically, but really about struggling and staying true to your vision and that whatever you want will come sooner or later.
I’m without a clue
I’m anxious to meet you
So I arrive with orchids
I’m all for moving forward
I’ll be your honored guest
At home in your tiny chest
Captured in the weaving
Arrive in your believing
That’s why we ride
Back and forth
Until we get it right
Names are taken eyes are big and bright
Doesn’t have to be tonight
Comb away a lock
Turned death grey from the shock
A love like Hiroshima, legs like ballerina
Banish all control
Let’s vanish down the hole
I arrive with organs, violas, and contortions
That’s why we ride
Back and forth until we get it right
Names are taken eyes are big and bright
Doesn’t have to be tonight
No it don’t gotta be tonight
No it don’t gotta be tonight
No it don’t gotta be tonight
No it don’t gotta be tonight
It doesn’t have to be tonight
6. Momia Juanita A healing semi-instrumental with Days of our Lives style piano chord changes and gentle prayer harmonies. The name Juanita came from an admired Melbourne musician named Janita. Written at a church drop in centre.
Juanita Juanita Juanita
I need a little
7. Clear Sailing / Alpha World City The first song recorded for Montero, and almost the signature song for this album. Based on the 70s idea of sailing as freedom that was used by many bands at the time. The rhythm is a sailing- on-the-ocean rhythm. Realising new ways to live and work and create, by staying away from the negative energies of unsatisfied people. “Guantanamera, things are getting better now we’re travelling.”
Now that we’re clear travelling
That’ll be all that’ll be me unravelling
my brand new human power chord
and all I have to do is keep awake
Now that it’s clear sailing
that’ll be you looking for me
Unveiling my brand new foreign uniform
and all I had to do was keep awake
and away from the action
I’m catching the action here at home
I’m building a curtain of my own
I’m finding for certain here at home
Whether it’s here or in hiding
Some disappear some never need inviting
and many have an urgent friend to call
but all I have to do is catch a wave
and await the reaction
I’m catching the action here at home
I’m counting contractions on my own
I’m building the tension here at home
Guantanamera things are getting better
Now we’re travelling
catching all the action at home
8. Passions A slightly darker undercurrent, a lustful detour to more neurotic aspects. Obsession and schadenfreude.
Nobody does it to you quite like baby does
Joined at the hip she puts on her lipstick and you shave off all your fuzz
Destined to repeat our history
That’s how we’re been keeping the mystery
It’s no wonder that he left you it’s no wonder at all
Random cruelty ambiguity no way to win a war
Destined to repeat our history
That’s how we’ve been keeping the mystery
She would get all the luck
It would happen every time
I’d go out for a duck come back with no closure
no peace of mind
till I pull the shade
and you pull the blind
It’s too late for baby
It’s too early for work
9. Taste the Carbonation Soft rock surrealism. A four part journey through the surface aesthetics of soft rock/soft metal and funk. A recently written song just to test the abilities and muscle of the band and the voice.
Picture two diamond heads colliding
Imagine me bursting out of the flames
I’ll be the cavalry arriving
To break the chains
Driving through the ice and rain to arrive
Wrapped in yak and naugahyde
Let a wave wash over me
Sing your loudest harmony
Visualise the sky in me
I could try to be good
You could knock on my wood
but you’ll never make a fool out of me
You’ll never make a monkey outta me
Picture a powder keg exploding
Imagine me bursting out of the flames
I will survive the night eroding into charred remains
Exploding into burning flames
Well I ride
Wrapped in yak and Naugahyde
And I’ll be crying like a newborn baby
Rhyming like a Chinese lady
Thinking like an only child
And every night another high class lady
Rubs you on the back and says baby
Can we have a Roman child?
I could try to be good you could knock on my wood
But you’ll never make a fool out of me
You’ll never make a monkey outta me
Tough guy from Stuttgart
From this altitude
I get a lot of strange vibrations
but you don’t know the combination
you can really taste the carbonation
really taste the carbon
Guess who’s going home alone
Guess who’s going home to get the doctor
10. Glam Campbell A wave to the non believers and those who are jealous. A fiesta is thrown when you are proven right.
Just another kid in a candy shop more like a jewelry store
Working every day of the week until you can’t get your bearings on your
Bearings no more
Well I’m not trying to put down the rest of the gang
But they’d have a hard time taking the yin with the yang
Well they huff and they puff and they blow
But they can’t get inside of my door
Don’t you know I was built to survive?
I’m the only queen bee in the hive
Hear them moan
Just another fish in the tank going blank
Staring straight out into space
Forgetting everything I was taught
Well I’m not trying to put down the rest of the gang
But they’d have a hard time taking the yin with yang
Well they huff and they puff and they blow
But they can’t get inside of my door
Don’t you know I was built to survive?
I’m the only queen bee in the hive
Hear them moan
Hear them cry
Hear them groan
Hear them sigh
Hit ’em high
Hit ’em low
Hit em out of the ballpark
and into the cold
BC: Filmed live by Noisey at St Michael’s Uniting Church for Mistletone’s 5th birthday celebrations Melbourne Music Week, 2011.
PRAISE FOR RAINMAN / MUMBAI:
“It’s little wonder this is one of the year’s best debuts” – INPRESS
“Montero have set a new Australian benchmark for slow, anthemic ballads that simply float across the grooves of the 7” that they’re pressed on“ – THE THOUSANDS
“Montero is a smooth sailing slow-wave group from Melbourne who like to rock, softly. Described as lounging somewhere between Ariel Pink and 10CC, Montero walks a soft-rock/romantic-prog path that few dare follow. With high-pitched male harmonies and new-age synths, they construct vibrational treatises for the cosmic and sensitive 21st century man” – VICE (watch the Noisey documentary)
“Back in the heady 2000s there existed a psych-pop band in Melbourne called Treetops… Treetops are long gone but main songwriter/peace-slinger Benny Montero still writes a mean tune (if lovely, soft and nature-laden is your idea of mean” – THE BRAG
“So… ten years ago I was playing a show. The support band was a bunch of cute kids. They blew my mind. Some of kind perfect, sweet, Byrdsian jangled out of its mind, rush of joy. And love. You know what? That’s it! They felt like they had so much love in them and when they played you felt it. They were called Treetops. They almost made it big. But didn’t. Ben Montero was a member. He’s kept popping up as the years go by. Everything he does is amazing. But his new project, MONTERO, goes beyond amazing to some super spiritual world of completed unbridled musical heaven. A place where melody is king. And pop is king. And feeling good is king. And being cynical is not gonna fly. This man is unsung. Please give him a moment of your time, I swear it will turn into many hours of happiness.” – BEN MICHAEL, RHYTHMS MAGAZINE
“Melbourne’s The Orbweavers have dealt in delicate, lilting indie folk for years and their output has always been great. But Poison Garden is a new level” – BEST NEW MUSIC, DOUBLE J
THE ORBWEAVERS TOUR DATES:
Thursday, November 19:“Deep Leads” @ ACMI for Melbourne Music Week; a cinematic collaboration with Berlin-based Australian artist, animator and award-winning music-video director, Lucy Dyson. 7:00PM, ACMI CINEMA 2. Tickets on sale now from ACMI.
Monday January 4 @ Northcote Social Club with The Weather Station (Canada). Tickets on sale now from the venue. Presented by Triple R.
Much adored Melbourne band The Orbweavers have unveiled their new single “Poison Garden”, an intoxicating lullaby for spring nights and relaxing times. “Poison Garden” is out now on digital release on Mistletone Records via Inertia; to buy on iTunes, click here. The Orbweavers album Loom is also available on mail order.
“Poisonous plants have contributed to the development of essential medicines used for heart conditions, pain relief, in ophthalmological preparations, as antidotes, cancer treatments and more. This is a song about the astonishing power of common plants we grew up with” — Marita Dyson & Stuart Flanagan, The Orbweavers
“Stay away from the Oleander!” a constant warning through our childhood, all the more ominous because it seemed every suburban yard we played in possessed one of these attractive and deadly shrubs. And so, our education in the poison garden began. Next on the banned list were angel trumpets, their heady fragrance wafting through open windows on hot summer nights, spent blooms devoured by a swooning pet dog lolling on the lawn. Soon we learned the berries of the meila tree, and jaunty foxglove borders held hazardous potential. This led to a lifelong interest in the properties of toxic and medicinal plants: beauty and power in the most ordinary places.
“Poison Garden” is released with a vivid, technicolour botanical video by Berlin-based Australian artist, animator and award-winning music-video director, Lucy Dyson. Lucy has produced and directed music videos for artists including Gotye, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Gemma Ray, Giant Sand, Ray LaMontagne and more.
Stills from Lucy Dyson’s “Poison Garden” video:
The Orbweavers – mesmerising, haunting and heartwarming. Drawing on a love of history and science, The Orbweavers have charmed audiences with evocative songs of creeks & quarries (Merri), greyhounds (You Can Run – Fern’s Theme), volcanoes (Japanese Mountains), textile mills, historic sewerage pumping stations (Spotswood) ,and industrial landmarks (Match Factory). Dark and dulcet melodies, chiming guitar, violin and trumpet meld to hypnotic effect, recalling reverberant ghosts of places past.
Garnering Triple R Melbourne Album of the Week (Loom – 2011), national and international praise, The Orbweavers have performed at ABC TV studios, ABC Radio National, Melbourne Music Week (2011 & 2012), National Gallery of Victoria, Brisbane Powerhouse, and supported international artists Beach House, Cass McCombs and Julia Holter. Most recently they released a double single, Ceiling Rose / Match Factory, and performed showcases at BIGSOUND in Brisbane, AWME – Australian Worldwide Music Expo, and national touring dates including festival performances such as Meredith Music Festival and Port Fairy Folk Festival. The Orbweavers are fast drawing a devoted following of their spellbinding sound, and are preparing their next album for release later in 2015.
On Remembrance Day 2014, The Orbweavers released “The Distant Call of Home”, the evocative theme song for ABC-TV’s dramatised four-part documentary series, “The Distant Call of Home”; click here to purchase “The Distant Call of Home” via iTunes.
The Orbweavers were a prominent part of The War That Changed Us; the theme song, “The Distant Call of Home”, was written by The Orbweavers (Marita Dyson and Stuart Flanagan). Fans of The Orbweavers instantly recognised Marita’s exquisite voice singing the theme song, as well as a number of old songs from the World War I period, such as “‘Sing Me To Sleep”, “Good-Byee” and “Oh! It’s A Lovely War”.
The Orbweavers agreed that working on The War That Changed Us; learning and recording traditional World War I songs for the soundtrack, and then writing an original theme song, has been an extraordinary experience for them as musicians. “To write the theme song, we searched for a connection between people of the past, who experienced the war, and the present”, Stuart Flanagan said.
‘Themes of time and distance became our focus”, explained Marita Dyson. “We thought about the rising of the sun in Australia signalling nightfall in trenches across the other side of the world; the sun as a link between people and places, thousands of miles apart.
“We stood at the gate of our house and looked down the street, imagining what family or a loved one would have felt in the same place, 100 years ago, waiting for news”, Marita remembered.”We thought about the Australian landscape of home, the sound and light – a tangible environment across time.”
“It’s directed with a kind of cinematic lushness that brings it all to life in a way that is often surprisingly evocative — all tied together by the mesmerising, haunting voice of Marita Dyson and her song The Distant Call of Home, her whispery vocals capable of bringing tears to the eyes” – THE AUSTRALIAN
“Particularly impressive is the use of music. Along with the haunting title track, Marita Dyson also reinterprets the popular songs of the day and tonight the contrast of her tinglingly pure voice, the ironically jaunty melodies, and the macabre lyrics packs a huge punch” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
“A stunningly beautiful song. That is poetry, pure and simple” – JON FAINE, 774 ABC
Video: Ceiling Rose by The Orbweavers. Director: Noko Washiyama, DoP: Brian Cohen.
PRAISE FOR THE ORBWEAVERS:
“A particularly special Melbourne band” – THE AGE MELBOURNE MAGAZINE
“An hour spent with The Orbweavers is a thoughtful conversation about spirit, adventure, home and history, not to mention the great music” – THE MUSIC
“Spine-tingling stuff” – 4ZZZ BRISBANE
“If Alice in Wonderland were ever to be filmed in the desert against a modern backdrop, then the soundtrack really ought to sound like this. File under ‘sublime and rewarding’” – TERRASCOPE UK
“Everything about The Orbweavers is effortlessly charming” – BROADSHEET
“By the time The Orbweavers came on stage the Northcote was at full capacity, which for a Sunday day show on the same day as St Kilda fest is no easy feat. However, from seeing them live it’s of no surprise at all” – FASTER LOUDER
“A gloriously dark folk outfit that has the perfect ace up their sleeve, lead guitarist Stuart Flanagan” – TONE DEAF
“Loom is a rare blend of fine evocative storytelling coupled with beautifully constructed songs, whispery vocals, inspiring vivid imagery of historical sites in Melbourne and makes one want to know more about their city’s forgotten past. The songs become more potent and powerful with every listen and the melancholy tone tugs at the heart strings” – THE AU REVIEW
“The deft guitar of Stuart Flanagan and trumpet of Daniel Aulsebrook lets their dark country balladry soar and linger beautifully. In their succession of quiet achievements, tonight is another win” – 2011 MELBOURNE MUSIC WEEK REVIEW, ANDY HAZEL
“The best song written about Melbourne since Paul Kelly’s From St Kilda to Kings Cross” – BEN ELTHAM ON SPOTSWOOD
“This song is so beautiful it hurts” – PAUL KELLY ON SPOTSWOOD
Tomboy is out now on Mistletone Records / Inertia and available on mail order.
“Swirling, intoxicating and dense” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
“Lennox returns to claim his throne as king of the washed-out beach” – THE BIG ISSUE (4 stars)
“A surprisingly cohesive side project that fans will be all over” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE (4.5 stars)
“Brightly coloured rhythms and hum-along melodies” – THE SUNDAY AGE (4 stars)
“Utterly compelling” – RAVE MAGAZINE (4.5 stars)
Best Album of the Month – VICE
“Awestruck aural vistas of exploration and adventure” – TIME OFF
“Panda Bear has achieved a kind of sonic perfection on this record” – THE BRAG (4 stars)
“Calls ‘win’ on the bedroom copycats by being bigger, weirder and warmer” – INPRESS
“Sweet, soft, dreamy vocals, Beach Boys melodies and a lovely loping moment in song. It makes me feel all woozy” – ZAN ROWE, TRIPLE J
ALBUM OF THE WEEK – FBi Radio
“Tomboy stands on its own, as intricately interesting as its predecessors” – SYN FM ALBUM OF THE WEEK
“Precisely composed & executed, Tomboy plays like an eternal sunrise” – TWO THOUSAND
BOTH AS A MEMBER OF ANIMAL COLLECTIVE and as the solo artist Panda Bear, Noah Lennox spent the aughts helping redefine the aesthetics and methodology of experimental and independent music. With work ranging from splayed but lyrical noise, florid acoustic arrangements, and guitar-centric psychedelia, he and his bandmates have covered a vast musical territory that blurs the line between pop and experimentalism. But while Panda Bear and Animal Collective have garnered acclaim with each successive sonic venture, their music really started to take hold when they began working with electronics.
The milestone Person Pitch (Mistletone, 2007) was a mélange of loopy samples, ethereal textures, and dubby echoesall bound together by his soulful tenor. Hailed by many as an instant classic, the album’s influence was almost immediately recognisable. He continued work with Animal Collective, releasing another landmark album Merriweather Post Pavilion in 2009.
While the interval since Person Pitch has seen plenty of work from the Animal Collective camp, Panda Bear activity has been rare. He has toured sparingly, done intermittent remix work, and appeared on a few peers’ releases while rumors circulated about his next full-length, Tomboy. The second half of 2010 saw the record’s first offerings: a string of 7″s containing tracks from the album, each released on a different label, which have revealed Tomboy’s palette while helping Lennox gauge his progress and focus on individual songs.
Recorded at his studio in Lisbon, Tomboy sees Lennox stepping away from the sample-based parameters of his previous record and incorporating more guitar and synthesizer. Still prevalent, though, is the interest in texture that made Person Pitch such a dense record; crashing waves and cheering crowds bounce against the gurgling arpeggios and give the tracks an immense sense of space. Soaked in reverb and punctuated with inflections of delay, the album’s drums reveal a dub influence which gives them a visceral punch that lingers after each hit. Lennox’s lofty, self-harmonizing vocals smooth out the songs, and Sonic Boom’s mixing gives the work a large dynamic range.
With Tomboy, Lennox has created a more plaintive atmosphere, but in accordance with the conflicting image of its title, the highs of the album balance out its lows. The record, massive in its span of emotion, genre, and sound, is the welcome return of one of the most prolific and consistent audio pioneers in recent memory.
Tracklisting: 1. YOU CAN COUNT ON ME 2. TOMBOY 3. SLOW MOTION 4. SURFER’S HYMN 5. LAST NIGHT AT THE JETTY 6. DRONE 7.ALSATIAN DARN 8. SCHEHERAZADE 9. FRIENDSHIP BRACELET 10. AFTERBURNER 11. BENFICA
Panda Bear Bio:
Panda Bear (a/k/a Noah Lennox of Animal Collective) is about to release his fourth full-length album, Tomboy. To say the disc is highly-anticipated would be a slight understatement. After the crowning glory of his previous solo album, 2007’s Person Pitch (which not only topped Pitchfork’s Album of the Year charts but also ranked in the top ten of their Albums of the Decade), Panda Bear reconvened his Animal Collective brethren and followed it up with 2009’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, which also found its rightful place atop innumerable magazine and blog polls come year’s end.
Through it all, Lennox has remained resilient in following his singular vision and voice. “I’ve definitely traversed some kind of mind field the last year or so and it hasn’t always been pleasant or easy,” Lennox says. “But it’s been more a positive irritant than anything else.” Tomboy proves, above all else, that he’s risen to the challenge and surpassed (as well as sidestepped) all expectations. And in following up Person Pitch, Panda Bear has again taken to releasing the album as a batch of separate singles first, for labels like Kompakt, Fat Cat, Paw Tracks, and Domino. “Doing the singles helps me focus on every song and also helps me move along in the process.”
Also part of the process was moving past the gear that informed the dense sonic tapestries of Person Pitch and MPP: “I got tired of the severe parameters of using samplers. Thinking about Nirvana and the White Stripes got me into the idea of doing something with a heavy focus on guitar and rhythm.” Favoring a darker, more-streamlined sound on Tomboy, Lennox went for a more visceral and direct approach, though that rock tendency was offset by another old influence on Lennox: “I’m definitely reliving middle school and all the Baltimore R&B radio we used to ingest.”
It lends itself to the paradox of the title itself. Lennox explains: “A lot of the songs are about something that’s in conflict with itself, so the image of a ‘tomboy’ has become the overseeing figure as far as the group of songs go.” It might even exemplify the conflict of Panda Bear himself: underground and experimental in his approach to sound, he also strives to craft gorgeous pop for the widest audience possible. With Tomboy, he’s attained his greatest balance between the two extremes yet.
The Big Issue review (4 stars):
Animal Collective boy-wonder Panda Bear —fringey 32-year-old Noah Lennox— authored an unexpectedly influential LP with 2007’s Person Pitch; his mix of watery electronics, reverb-riddled Beach Boys vocals, and hazy summery nostalgia inspiring not just imitators, but an entire new genre, chillwave. Four years on, with Animal Collective having gone from cult act to festival behemoth in the interim, Lennox returns to claim his throne as king of the washed-out beach. Tomboy even boasts a jam named Surfers Hymn, where dizzying, hyper-speed electronic blips are a babbling ocean behind the echoey chants and island-ish hand percussion. This, here, is essentially Lennox’s working-way: dense slatherings of strange sounds (decaying tape, fried digital glitches, saw-tooth synth buzzes) fused into songform, then turned into pop by his loud, layered-on voice. The long-form trance-outs of Person Pitch are gone, but there’s shorter, more forceful works that live up to past greatness: You Can Count On Me Lennox’s devotional valentine to his daughter; Alsatian Darn self-critical confession turned into an anthem; Last Night At The Jetty a lament in warped, tape-wobbling Brian Wilson-isms.
Tomboy is the fourth solo LP from Animal Collective member Noah Lennox, following on from 2007’s sublime Person Pitch. The string of limited 7-inch singles released in the lead-up to Tomboy make up the first half of the album. The album versions of these tracks are much more fully realised, with production treatment from Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom (AKA Peter Kember). Even seemingly minimal tracks such as hymn-like opener You Can Count On Me are richly textured. Slow Motion and the title track find Lennox trying out more focussed, beat-driven pop structures, some distance away from the hazy sampling and Beach Boys-oriented pop of Person Pitch. Alsatian Darn is one of the album’s finest moments, dropping unexpectedly into a powerful second phase where Lennox sings in circles “Say can I make a bad mistake / Say what it is I want to say to you.” Scheherezade is simultaneously gorgeous and chilling, a wintry soundscape populated by Lennox’s voice and isolated piano notes. Friendship Bracelet doesn’t quite find traction, but those missing the hypnotic jams of Person Pitch will be sated by the pulsing Afterburner. Tomboy doesn’t particularly cater to expectations. You won’t find the sunny, acoustic brilliance of Person Pitch and you certainly won’t find anything like My Girls or Brothersport, but Lennox’s unique vocal style and unassuming songwriting remain utterly compelling. Panda Bear continues to forge his own path and it continues to be a wonderful path to follow.
Back in 2007, Person Pitch – Panda Bear’s third solo record and big sloppy hug to the world – won accolades aplenty, while steering the band from which he was moonlighting (a little thing called Animal Collective) onto the sampler-laden trajectory that produced the exploding star highlight of 2009, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Panda Bear has a new album now. It’s called Tomboy. It’s very, very good.
Gone are the samples and random snippets that punctuated Person Pitch; the haphazard-collage-of-sonic-elements kind of approach is ditched, supplanted by lushly-rendered monolithic blocs of vividly shimmering texture. Similarly, the DJ and techno influences that riddled his previous album (particularly its sprawling centrepiece ‘Bros’) have been submerged within the pop structure that defined the songs of Merriweather Post Pavilion.
But Tomboy is certainly not MerriweatherMK II; Panda Bear, AKA Noah Lennox, squeezes an extraordinary range of sounds out of his machinery, forsaking the samplers in favour of a simpler trick; playing his guitar through a synth module. ‘You Can Count On Me’, a message from father to newborn son, provides an intimately heartstring-tugging prelude, before the record is kicked off in earnest with the thundering anthem of ‘Tomboy’. A regal air is struck with the leisurely stroll along the promenade of ‘Last Night At The Jetty’, while a soft climax is reached with the wind chime-laden dirge ‘Scheherazade’, in which Lennox’ tendency towards minimalism reaches its apex with gently lulling style.
Panda Bear has achieved a kind of sonic perfection on this record. The oft-made comparison to Brian Wilson has never seemed more apt, with his opulent sound achieved through an apparent compulsion to create Phil Spector-ish levels of production flawlessness.
Water On Mars by Purling Hiss is out now on Mistletone / Inertia.
“Struts into the party like Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson character in Dazed and Confused – beer case hoisted on shoulder and feedback blaring” – THE THOUSANDS
“A fair touchstone would be current indie/rock/noise/country stalwarts The Men. Like that group, Purling Hiss move in and out of the red, showing that restraint can convey just as much power as relentlessness” – THEMUSIC.COM.AU
“All the great elements of psych, pop and garage rock to produce an album that embraces all the greatness of 90s guitar music from Nirvana to Dinosaur Jr to The Lemonheads” – DOUBTFUL SOUNDS
Purling Hiss are three men from the caves of Philadelphia, banging tough on the shredding, fractal-sound visions of guitarbro (or mo-fo, you choose), Mike Polizze. The shit totally rips, but before you can bleed out, its harmonic hooks will symbiotically clamp down deep inside you, sustaining your quivering life with tuned up choogla-riffage.
The swirling sound of Purling Hiss is a half-corroded, screaming roar of high-end guitars crushed together, obliterating vocals and drums with their singular assault. With Water On Mars, Purling Hiss have broken out of the basement, run through the bedroom and are now loose, out in the streets, blasting a great guitar album.
Water On Mars is Purling Hiss‘s first recording outside the fuzzy confines of Mike Polizze’s inner rock utopia, where the first three albums and EP were constructed in solitude with a home-recording setup. Over the past couple years, Mike’s been working with a band and fine-tuning new songwriting ideas while playing shows all over the place.
Now there is a center to the Hiss maelstrom, with Mike’s guitars slugging, sizzling and spiraling their way around the rhythm throb, singing disaffected in shifts both aggro and slack (and around to the back) through the course of a song, with production highlighting the schiz by buffing the raw power into a streamlined blast. If that doesn’t rattle your caveman/woman brain, nothing will!
Purling Hiss have a deeply satisfying way of drawing from the red, white and blue wells of 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s rock to inform their own sound, giving things a retro ring while doing what they do in the Philadelphia of today – and no other time could apply, really. So bring your neanderthal face out to space, grab a glass, and prepare for a pour from Water On Mars, out now on Mistletone / Inertia.
Purling Hiss is known, in the circles that it is known, for its caveman anger rock, drenched in psychedelic noise, all coming from one man, Mike Polizze. For this fourth album from the ‘band’, Polizze recruited a handful of friends to round out the sound. But did the sound even need rounding out?
Lolita certainly has the band in full-on blues punk mode; fuzzy, down-tuned and pedal-effected guitars belt out simple riffs over a pounding rhythm section and under passionate, guttural snarl-come-croon vocals. The fact that the song manages to be poppy enough to warrant a suitable “oooh, oooh, oooh” backing vocal refrain speaks volumes of the group’s songwriting chops.
The tone doesn’t stay here though, with the subsequent Mercury Retrograde and Rat Race seeing the group in a slower, more relaxed state of mind. Not that they don’t still bring the fuzz; it’s just now present with a more sensual and laidback edge. In fact, this makes highlights Lolita and the seven-minute, noise rock-influenced Water On Mars even punchier.
A fair touchstone would be current indie/rock/noise/country stalwarts The Men. Like that group, Purling Hiss move in and out of the red, showing that restraint can convey just as much power as relentlessness. Not that Water On Mars is destined to propel Purling to the inner sanctum of critical adoration in which The Men presently reside, but the album does manage to come damn close. Water On Mars is a brief, to-the-point record made with equal parts sugar and vinegar, worth a place on any modern hard rock collector’s shelf, even if they do dip into calmer waters a little too often.
Another step in Michael Polizze’s evolution from abrasive DIY bedroom shredder to… well, a more polished classic rock shredder. On Water on Mars the Philadephian (who, as Purling Hiss, has released four albums in five years – this his first in a studio) seamlessly blends the squall with the shine.
‘Lolita’ struts into the party like Matthew McConaughey’s Wooderson character in Dazed and Confused – beer case hoisted on shoulder and feedback blaring. Closer ‘Mary Bumble Bee’ has a slowed-down country buzz that wouldn’t be out of place on friend and collaborator Kurt Vile’s next album.
In between, Polizze – steeped in rock classicism – taps into J Mascis territory with ‘Rat Race’, softer homespun acoustic cuts in ‘Dead Again’ and ‘She Calms Me Down’, and flat-out snarl on ‘Face Down’. The University of Indie Rock (major in loud guitar) reading list includes Mudhoney, early Lemonheads and, yes, Dinosaur Jr but Polizze also brings his own class to the class.
It’s cleaner but no less compelling than his much praised 2010 record Public Service Announcement. Credit here must go to co-producer Adam Granduciel of fellow Philadelphia band The War On Drugs, who helped retain the grit. But in the end it’s Polizze who is the star.
“There’s something icy and inviting on this mellifluous, mischievous album by Caroline Polachek (Chairlift), like riding a gondola over the clouds. Proudly recorded without other hands, it captures the empty yearning then resolution of an unrequited crush on Backwards and Upwards, a hiplashing inertia-defeating number that will be in your head by the end of the hour. That cut lumbers along on a bassline and digital arrangement that sounds like Dave Sitek turning his hand to a forgotten Motels B-side. It sees Ramona Lisa lying on a hospital bed while nurses chatter above her “It burns but it cleans”. Purgery! Slowed-up Kraftwerkian stretches and ambient wiggles link with “cha cha chas” and bolder numbers Lady’s Got Gills, Dominic and Izzit True What They Tell Me carry a sense of distant intrigue” – HERALD SUN **** 4 stars
“At times abstract, at others specific and concrete, the project’s textuality largely revolves around love (ex.Dominic) and nature. It is a collection of ‘Pastoral Electronic’ fonts which does never get monotone as Ramona Lisa’s sultry voice enlightens as it layers itself to the smooth, aleatory synths” – RTR FEATURE ALBUM
“A magical, nature-filled bunch of ‘pastoral electronic music’, as she calls it. The first single should have been enough of an induction that this record would be great, but it’s greater than we expected. Hard to believe that something that sounds like Fellini feels, was made entirely on a laptop with no instruments or external mics” – OYSTER
“Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek dons the exotic mystique of her Ramona Lisa alter ego for the release of her first solo album. Reportedly created on the road with just a laptop, Polachek has created a heavenly, dreamy album of fluid, organic electronica with symphonic aspirations. It’s against her pastel-coloured arrangements that Polachek drops her distinctive hazy out-of-focus vocals, which move from delicate melodies to multi-layered abstraction. Arcadia lets listeners daydream as they drift across Polachek’s luscious ambiences. Gaga might think she’s peddling art pop – this is undoubtedly the real deal” – THE MUSIC **** 4 stars
Arcadia, the magical debut album by Ramona Lisa, alter ego of Caroline Polachek (Chairlift)is out now on Mistletone Records / Inertia.
Over the past year, Caroline Polachek has been performing as Ramona Lisa in New York unannounced, incognito, with fully choreographed and costumed sets. Arcadia is Polachek’s first self-produced solo record. Completely composed in MIDI, it is a concept album of love songs that are nature allegories, and vice versa, which Polachek calls “Pastoral Electronic Music”.
The making of Arcadia was a year-long process that began and ended in an empty studio in Rome’s Villa Medici and while on tour with her band, Chairlift. The record was made entirely on a laptop without instruments or external microphones — all vocals were sung directly into the computer, making use of hotel closets, quiet airport gates, and spare dressing rooms.
Although the album was created on a laptop, the result is a lush and uncannily tangible world of warm textures, reminiscent of analog tape processes rather than a hard drive. Virtual oboes and organs interweave with synthetic insects and quivering sine waves, animated by Polachek’s vocal at its most delirious and intimate yet.
Ramona Lisa and the world of Arcadia have been more fully realized in vision through a pair of music videos and a handful of intimate live performances. On film, we see a solitary girl, lost in flirtation with the chaos of nature. Cicadas and alligators, with tough exteriors representing the masculine, stalk the fair-skinned maiden. On stage, the story is conveyed through movement. Polachek initially began performing solo but hadn’t managed to bring the visual element to its fullest. She’s now accompanied by a pair of backup singers, identical in dress with fringe wigs and facepaint. They wear sets of false eyes on cheeks and fingers, likening the masquerade to an evolutionary defense mechanism found in certain species of insects and fish—predator deflection. “It’s hypnotic,” she says. Polachek explains that together, the trio is akin to a musical chord: a harmonic set of three that the audience experiences simultaneously as one. The triad represents the full manifestation of Ramona Lisa’s spirit.
“The alterna-pop album of the year… Beautiful, beguiling and mysterious” – RHYTHMS MAGAZINE
“Scott does one thing and he does it well: writes beautifully crafted, folk-influenced pop songs.” – THREE THOUSAND
“Surprisingly diverse, lush pop… Anyone who’s heard Scott’s contributions to another famed Flying Nun band, the Clean, knows he’s a versatile player and songwriter both, but Ends Run Together is proof positive.” – CITYSEARCH
“Introspection and nostalgia rendered through lush arrangements and glistening melodies” – MESS AND NOISE
“Dunedin’s Robert Scott is an increasingly rare quantity in this day and age… the definition of reliable quality and a timeless pop sensibility” – TIME OFF (four stars)
Mistletone is proud indeed to release Ends Run Together, the brilliant new solo album by Robert Scott.
Robert Scott’s list of music projects over the years reads like a who’s who of alternative New Zealand rock for the past three decades. As well as his main role as bass-player, song-writer and non-Kilgour in legendary New Zealand noisy jangle-pop pioneers The Clean and as singer, guitarist and songwriter for his equally enduring band The Bats, Robert Scott also helmed the acclaimed Magick Heads for their brief but productive time on earth in the 1990s. In amongst those commitments he’s fronted a bewildering variety of less well-known groups from the long running family & friends cassette band Electric Blood to the short-lived Gina Rocco & the Rockettes, while contributing to various Flying Nun Records super-groups like The Weeds along the way and drawing or painting the cover art for many memorable Flying Nun album sleeves.
It’s hardly surprising therefore that Robert has found little time to pursue many solo records. But songs – lovely, glorious, subtle, mysterious, sad, questioning, dramatic, simple, transcendent, perfect songs – pour out of Robert Scott constantly, collected in exercise books and on cassette tapes over the years. Unbelievably, some of those brilliant songs don’t find homes on albums by The Clean or The Bats. Here, then, is a collection of those songs Robert Scott wants the world to hear.
Rather than present them in the low-key way of his only previous solo album – the largely instrumental, experimental The Creeping Unknown (2001) – Robert has taken the uncharacteristic step over the last few years of surrounding himself with some of the talented community of musicians in his Dunedin, New Zealand home, handing the production reins to local recording guru Dale Cotton (HDU) and giving these 13 sublime tunes the space and attention to grow into fully-realised classics.
The result is an outstanding album of 13 engaging songs, as likely to appeal to any fan of great alternative pop as much as to those already familiar with The Bats and The Clean (and the Magick Heads for that matter). To Robert’s guitar and voice (which has never sounded better than it does on this album) are added the talents of Don and Ants from Dunedin noise-rockers Onanon, the gothic angel choir of Haunted Love’s Geva and Rainy (who contributed the glorious backing vocals to The Clean’s recent album Mr Pop) and the ubiquitous Allan Starrett on strings and other strange old instruments. Miraculously, even Lesley Paris (Look Blue, Go Purple) has been coaxed back onto a drumkit for some of the songs.
The biggest treats on this album, apart from the consistent quality of Robert’s song-writing, jam-packed full of pop hooks, are the varied moods and intelligent arrangements confidently presented here. There have been hints of the diversity of his talents on his contributions to recent albums by The Clean but nothing quite prepares for the rich treasury of songs on Ends Run Together. The album features everything from layered, squalling guitar rock (On the Lake, Too Early and The Rising Tide), dreamy pastoral folk with washes of subtle electronica (Carmilla, Days Run Together, Some Other Time and Messages), driving krautrock-ish pop (The Rising Tide, The Moon Upstairs and Daylight), right through to the gloriously lush orchestral epic centre-piece Born in a Tent.
In a world of ambitious pretenders, the ever humble, obliging and low-key Robert Scott is the real deal and Ends Run Together is as fine a tribute to his colossal talents as you could want.
Ends Run Together by Robert Scott is out now on Mistletone Records through Inertia and available on mail order for $20 including postage worldwide.
The Bats do what they do so well – steady guitar jangle, tight rhythm section, pensive vocals – that no one really expects more from them. It makes the second solo album by their singer/guitarist Robert Scott all the more surprising. His voice may still tug with vague pangs of sadness and romance, but Ends Run Together is like a mixed bag of treats. There’s gauzy spoken-word on ‘Terminus’, noisy psych on ‘Too Early’, and a Krautrock chug to ‘Daylight’ – and that’s just for starters. Tempo and volume rise and fall, guests come and go, and yet Scott maintains the low-key presence that has held together so many Bats records over the past three decades.
Scott’s willingness to experiment was matched by engineer Dale Cotton, a fellow Kiwi who’s also set to helm the next Bats album. Cotton worked closely with Scott to tweak and transform songs, teasing out lots of fresh ideas in the process. Under this anything-goes premise, friends were brought in to contribute drums, accordion, saw, and more. Cotton himself lent guitar, keys, and, um, “stone”, while Scott got to play around with piano, bass, different guitars, xylophone and even handclaps and a turntable. Thus his delicate, atmospheric songs are alternately bolstered and stripped bare, whether it’s David Kilgour – Scott’s bandmate from The Clean – lending a bit of guitar or members of Haunted Love providing a choir to a mournful swell of viola, violin and cello. Or no one at all. The stirring instrumental ‘Tuscan Nights’ is the work of Scott on his lonesome.
In a recent interview, Scott cited John Cale’s Paris 1919 as one of his favourite albums. While Ends Run Together is a much more modest undertaking, it shares a sense of introspection and nostalgia rendered through lush arrangements and glistening melodies. It’s hard to view this album outside the context of Scott’s extensive work in The Bats and The Clean, but for anyone who feels intimidated by the sheer bulk of that influential back catalogue, this is a nice place to start.
by Doug Wallen
by Doug Wallen
Over the last three decades, the Bats have relied considerably upon word-of-mouth support to build and sustain a cult fanbase. Today, not so much. Urged on by the Melbourne label Mistletone, which released last year’s gorgeous The Guilty Office, the influential Kiwi quartet played Melbourne twice in the past 12 months. Both gigs highlighted the renewed Australian interest in music released by the Kiwi label Flying Nun. Now Mistletone is releasing a solo album from Bats frontman Robert Scott, who’s doing a single solo gig to mark the occasion. To lift a phrase, it sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“It’s easy to sit at home and not do anything,” ventures Scott, “but we had a great time. With Mistletone doing the album, that’s provided impetus for a lot more activity in Australia. We’ve established ourselves a bit and reconnected with our audience.”
As for his solo gig, it just happened that Scott and his wife were planning an Australian holiday around the time his solo album, Ends Run Together, would be released. The timing worked out perfectly for a low-key appearance to promote the album, which sounds as much like the Bats at times as it doesn’t at other times. It’s clearly Scott singing – complete with his nasal voice and sharp accent – and yet the familiar palette of intense guitar jangle and a hard-driving rhythm section has been exploded. Instead are quiet, open-air songs that flirt with blissful strings (Born In A Tent), sublime guitar work (The Moon Upstairs), thoughtful keyboards (Tuscan Nights), and some Krautrock-worthy jamming (Daylight). There’s even a bit of spoken word on the closing Terminus. It’s a widely varied baker’s dozen, united by Scott’s intimate delivery and haunting imagery.
“That was slightly conscious,” he confesses. “I just wanted to try a few different things and take a few chances.” As for the romantic lilt of certain songs, he elaborates, “One of my favourite albums is Paris 1919 by John Cale, and that’s quite lush and orchestrated. So I guess I like sweet-sounding melodies. But having said that, I didn’t want to make it all like that. I wanted to break it up with a bit of light and shade. By having different things interspersed, you make those things even more melodic in the process.”
For the solo album – only his second, following 2001’s esoteric The Creeping Unknown – Scott enlisted a handful of Kiwi musicians and producer Dale Cotton, all of whom recorded in his home in Dunedin. His method of songwriting was the same as with the Bats, but the project’s solo nature meant that many songs changed quite a lot over time. Too Early lost a chorus, Born In A Tent couched half its drums for dramatic effect, and The Rising Tide saw its focus swing from heavy guitar chords to its yanking bass line.
“That’s one of the fun parts about doing a solo album,” says Scott. “You don’t have to worry about whether you can do it live. You can do your own thing.”
The thing is, Scott will be performing these songs live. Some of them, at least. A few friends will accompany him at his Melbourne gig for three songs off the album and some well-known Bats tunes. Scott will also play a handful of the songs on his lonesome. But lest we imagine the solo bug has truly gotten to him, he assures us another Bats album is already in the works with Ends Run Together producer Dale Cotton. It will be the band’s eighth studio album, and only its third since 1995. That makes it almost as special an occurrence as Scott’s solo album.
“I’m actually writing it at the moment,” he confirms. “We’re hoping to start that before the end of the year. The last album did well and got good reviews, so it feels like we’re on a bit of a mini-roll.”
BEAT INTERVIEW by Patrick Emery
Robert Scott, bass player with The Clean, guitarist and vocalist with The Bats, and protagonist and participant in a host of other semi-legendary New Zealand independent outfits (Magick Heads, The Weeds, Electric Blood) has just returned home from his other job, teaching music to primary school children. “It’s pretty much immediate and – I’m not sure if there’s actually a word – ‘intuititional’,” Scott explains, when I ask him what his technique is for teaching music. “The kids will give me words they’re leaning, and I’ll come up with some chords to go with the words, and I’ll ask them the vibe they’re looking for,” Scott says. Every now and again Scott’s students gain a glimpse into his internationally renowned music career. “Occasionally they’ll dial up a song, and they’re quite intrigued by my other life,” Scott laughs.
Scott has been playing and recording music for the best part of 30 years, becoming one of the key figures in the Flying Nun community. Along with David and Hamish Kilgour, Scott formed the axis of cult noise-pop band The Clean; in between his periodic commitments with The Bats, and the occasional fringe activity, Scott released a solo record in 2001, The Creeping Unknown. Almost 10 years later, and Scott has released a second solo album, Ends Run Together.
“I’m pretty much writing all the time,” Scott says. “I have more songs than I have an outlet for releasing them.” The songs on Ends Run Together were conceived originally in 2009, with Scott finalising the tracklist in what he says was “a pretty short space of time”. Ever the eclectic performer, Ends Run Together ranges from lush orchestral pieces to electronica to classic Dunedin pop. “In putting the album together I was conscious of wanting a bit of variety,” Scott says. “I was trying to put a bit in for the different types of fans, and I wanted to mix it up a bit,” Scott says.
Scott isn’t sure exactly what distinguishes a Robert Scott song from a Clean or a Bats song, apart from the other players who are performing the songs. “There’s a lot in common with them all, “ Scott says. “I think it’s to do with how the band treats the songs, and attacks them. But there’s certainly a lot of cross-correlation between Bats and Robert Scott songs,” he says.
As a songwriter, Scott’s quest is to improve his approach to writing songs. “A lot of time it’s about trying to get better at the process – trying to better what my last tune was, “ Scott says. The process is simple: “Often I’ll overhear something that’s been said, and it’ll inspire me to write a song, “ Scott says. “I might start with a guitar or a keyboards, and get the chords or a melodic line and build it up as it goes along,” he says.
For Ends Run Together, Scott called upon various friends and contemporaries in the New Zealand independent scene, including Allan Starrett, Lesley Paris and Don and Ants from Dunedin band Onanon. “They’re pretty much all friends I play with or have a drink with, “ Scott says. Once in the studio, Scott found many of his early compositions underwent reinvention. “Daylight changed a lot, and Rising Tide started as a guitar song,” Scott says. “We ended up stripping away the guitar and it became focused on the bass line. Too Early originally had an entirely different chorus. Sometimes you can start out with a song, and end up with a piece of music that you didn’t expect to have at all, “ Scott says.
In the 1980s the so-called Dunedin sound dominated the New Zealand independent scene; 25 years later and Scott says it’s still vibrant, if not quite as vivid as days of yore. “There’s been a resurgence in live music – there’s a really good venue near when I live in Port Chalmers, “ Scott says. “The scene here has moved on a lot from the 1980s, but there’s still plenty of reference points back to the 80s that are made by musicians or critics, “ he says. At the end of the day, the same basic conundrum – how to attract an audience to live shows – remains. “It’s still a case of trying to get people to come to shows,” Scott says.
As the interview concludes, I ask Scott if he’ll be returning to Australia with The Clean. The signs are positive. “There’s a very strong possibility we’ll be coming over in March,” Scott says. “Something will be confirmed one way or the other”. In the meantime, however, Scott has more pressing concerns – like transposing his new record into a live format. “I’ve just got to work out how to play the songs on the record live,” Scott laughs.
CASTLEMAINE: Saturday April 18@ The Bridge Hotel – Ross McLennan & The New World plus special guests Howl. Doors open 4pm, tickets $15 at the door.
MELBOURNE: Sunday May 17 @ Post Office Hotel, Coburg – Ross McLennan & The New World Strings plus special guests Slow Galo. Doors open 4:30pm, free entry.
The magical new single from Australia’s most astute songwriting auteur, Ross McLennan, “General Singh“ is on digital release on Mistletone Records via Inertia. Click above to purchase on iTunes.
“This song certainly is an intriguing piece of work, starting with a series of moody, minor-chord observations of the eponymous General and the world he inhabits — ‘Carnival rides/ Hawking sights of forgotten machinery… an array of B-film scenery’ — before erupting into a brass-led chorus that finds McLennan imploring Singh to ‘sing… sing well’” – FLAVORWIRE
A fictional character embodying the anxieties of our time, “General Singh” is someone isolated from their fellow humans as a result of trauma. “I wander lost in public space”, sings Ross McLennan, and we envisage General Singh sitting on a train in dissociative state, wearing clothes that someone has provided. General Singh is about to embark on a regimen of weekly therapy, and worries that a string of miscommunications may lead to disappearing completely.
As Ross McLennan cryptically explains, “Crimes they have witnessed and in truth have themselves committed have led them to believe that happiness is not appropriate. The shit is really hitting the fan.”
Since disbanding Snout, his iconic indie-pop band from the 1990s, Ross McLennan released the AMP-shortlisted Sympathy For the New World album, followed by last year’s equally impressive The Night’s Deeds Are Vapour. “By name and mercurial nature, The Night’s Deeds are Vapour is about the thrilling transience of impulses and ideas, from eerie woodwind that slides around tonal certainty to lyrics seemingly on their own journey of discovery moment by moment”, enthused the Sydney Morning Herald.
PRAISE FOR THE NIGHT’S DEEDS ARE VAPOUR by ROSS McLENNAN:
“By name and mercurial nature, The Night’s Deeds are Vapour is about the thrilling transience of impulses and ideas, from eerie woodwind that slides around tonal certainty to lyrics seemingly on their own journey of discovery moment by moment” – THE AGE
“These unapologetically wayward songs are top heavy with canny wordplay, sharp hooks and subtle menace… McLennan resembles nothing less than a black-clad Burt Bacharach” – ROLLING STONE
“Bubbles over with the Snout legend’s droll delivery, biting lyrics and snuggly, quirky, softly embellished psych-pop… The album ranges from the rock ‘n’ roll homage ‘Get This!’ and the orchestration-flooded lead single ‘Clarity’ to the world-weary yet puckish yarn ‘Sunkissed’ and the whisper-from-the-next-pillow finale ‘Travel Arrangements’ – all of it imbued with the man’s sleepy wisdom.” – MESS + NOISE
“McLennan can engage with his voice alone, but again surrounds himself with lush orchestration and a choir. The best songs start simple and then let the backing vocals play a key part in reaching a joyous peak” – BEAT
“A one-man pop factory… McLennan has got his own glorious thing going on” – STACK
“The wordy songsmith has established a back catalogue that represents a level of quality rarely rivalled in the Australian musical landscape” – INPRESS
“(The) much revered Ross McLennan (is) back after five years with a new solo album of intriguing widescreen pop . . . A unique take in the Australian suburban experience” – 2SER
Songwriter of uncanny depths, Ross McLennan is a quiet achiever on the indie-rock landscape. The former front-man of Australian 90s indie-pop band Snout brings his soft, drawly, breathy vocals and clever melodic hooks to create and intriguing daydream of sound sequences. Delving into the most vexed and heartbreaking issues of our time, Ross McLennan delivers live performances that are both rare and riveting.
The great Ross McLennan, formerly of Snout but now recording and performing as a solo artist, has a new single by the name of Get This! taken from the recently dropped The Night’s Deeds Are Vapour LP. It’s a killer tune and today we are pleased to report it comes with a killer film clip! McLennan dug through some of his cousins’ old film archives to unearth pictures of those who McLennan holds dear; his parents, uncle, aunts and sister. It’s a great little cut of vintage film to go with a great song. Check it out below:
Aptly described as a “chamber rock auteur”, Ross has earned the highest accolades for his solo career since disbanding Snout, one of a few Australian indie pop bands from the 1990s who are remembered both for their popularity and their creative depth. A revered songwriter, Ross creates intriguing daydream sequences in his music whilst engaging deeply with the most vexed and heartbreaking issues of our time.
The Night’s Deeds Are Vapour is every bit as impressive as its predecessor, Sympathy For The New World, which was shortlisted in the 8 finalists for The AMP Australian Music Prize 2008. In the past few years Ross has performed a handful of times, at Melbourne Festival, Brisbane Festival, Queenscliff Music Festival, Brisbane Powerhouse and other discriminating venues. Accompanied by his ensemble of strings, woodwind and a choir, Ross McLennan’s rare live performances are richly orchestrated, lush, complex and simply breathtaking.
SLAM DAY: ROSS MCLENNAN
THE FAMOUS SPIEGELTENT
23 February, 2013
It’s hard to describe a musician without also alluding to the ways in which they are ‘like’ someone else, or ‘are influenced by’ some other musical genius. But in the case of Ross McLennan, this musician stands on his own splendid pedestal. As he appears on the Spiegeltent stage, the audience is unaware that he’s arrived until he intones wryly, “Most inauspicious entrance to the Spiegeltent ever.”
As the applause starts after the first song, McLennan poses, rockstar-style: arms in the air, his fingers forming two ‘V’ shapes in the air. He’s got the true essence of indie pop running through his veins, and this SLAM gig lets loose his unique discordant melodies. It’s raw and brash, but underneath an unpolished lushness shines, producing a slightly unhinged brilliance.
The full ensemble of strings, woodwind and powerhouse rhythm section is creative and surprising at every turn. The lyrics are as important and inspired as the music, its registers roaming from rocking highs to soft mellow lows to a gorgeous melding of emotion and melody and pure feeling. It’s great to see such a full turn out for a 5pm show, and as smiling audience members file out, McLennan can be seen packing up guitar leads and lugging amps off the stage – the unceremonious duty of this one-of-a-kind musician.
Exploring new musical vistas, Ross McLennan continues to surprise.
The ever-creative Ross McLennan. Photo: Maria Poletti
THERE’S a portrait of a ”National Geographic Mexican” behind Ross McLennan’s kitchen door. Under the paint, several older works are lost forever, including the colourful carnival of stoats that graces the cover of his new album, The Night’s Deeds Are Vapour.
”I was spewing I painted over that cause it was the best painting I’d done for a long time,” he says, ”but I wouldn’t have painted it if I thought I was going to keep it.”
If that sounds odd, wait until you hear the album. The former Snout tunesmith has followed his stream of musical consciousness into new vistas of choral/orchestral abstraction beyond his AMP-shortlisted Sympathy For the New World album.
”I have poor boundaries. I just meander,” he says of his process, which has occupied four years between his backyard studio and the church at Sydney Road Community School where he is a teacher’s aide.
”I’ve been reading home recording magazines about wearing too many hats in the studio, how to stop yourself drifting off and concentrate on a good, strong song. It’s good advice but maybe the industry perspective of a good strong song is not all that important. It’s not important for me to make albums quickly any more. I like to drift …”
McLennan makes no secret of his attention deficit issues. His studio is an explosion of half-unpacked possibilities. A solitary ”ironic” egg carton is glued to the wall. Odd wooden objects – he has a box of them – act as random acoustic diffusers.
By name and mercurial nature, The Night’s Deeds are Vapour is about the thrilling transience of impulses and ideas, from eerie woodwind that slides around tonal certainty to lyrics seemingly on their own journey of discovery moment by moment.
”That’s what the recording process is like,” he says. ”It’s what reading a book is like, for me. It just exists on this ‘now’ line, where the moment is all there is. It’s not actually a positive thing, because you don’t really have any perspective on anything.”
What you do have are albums that sound like nothing else and demand a unique approach to performance. The New World is an 11-piece choir and orchestra that McLennan hopes to keep busier after four years in pieces.
”It’s just incredible, the focus I’ve got for the next album,” he enthuses. ”It’s funny, I keep thinking I want to get more out-there sonically but I keep coming back to this Kinks kinda stuff. In my mind I feel like I’ve hit on something for the next one where it’s all going to knit together beautifully.”
PRAISE FOR ROSS MCLENNAN’S SYMPATHY FOR THE NEW WORLD(SHORTLISTED FOR THE AUSTRALIAN MUSIC PRIZE 2008)
“There is genius among us” – MUSIC AUSTRALIA GUIDE
“Ross McLennan excels with this stream of musical consciousness, forging a new strain of languid psychedelia from off-kilter strings and spidery guitars, all spilling harmonic colours outside the lines” – THE AGE A2
“Like Beck, Brian Wilson or Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner, McLennan’s musical vision is unimpeded by predictability or tradition… As time passes, McLennan asks more of his listeners but all parties can take that as the highest compliment.” – THE AGE EG **** four stars
“If you want an Australian album that will still be causing you glee and aural wonderment in 2050, hunt down this gem” – HERALD SUN **** four stars
“McLennan’s voice is like a lone man walking through the night with a lamp, so it doesn’t tread heavily but it does find a way to inveigle you along. This is an album in the mould of Scott Walker but with its pop heart as valuable as its head.“– SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
“A sweeping vision… one of the finest local albums this year” – DRUM MEDIA
“With Sympathy For The New World McLennan announces himself once and for all as one of the few truly original pop songwriters in the country, and trust me, you’ll be hard pressed to hear a better album all year.” – BEAT
“A bit of a masterpiece, frankly” – MESS + NOISE
Sympathy for the New World is the AMP 2008 (Australian Music Prize)-shortlisted album by Melbourne’s home recording pop pundit, Ross McLennan. This stunning record charts Ross’s dizzying artistic progress following his post-Snout solo debut Hits From The Brittle Building, and delighted his many fans as well as turning a new generation of listeners on to his twisted pop precocity. The CD is available on Mistletone / Inertia and on mail order.
Written and recorded entirely in his home studio in the quietude of an inner-north Melbourne suburb, Sympathy for the New World is an accomplished production. A dozen finely crafted songs open up labyrinthine worlds of meaning, association and possibilities with every listen. Ross’s quizzical and playful lyrical and melodic smarts place him firmly in the league of other such idiosyncratic musical brains as Todd Rundgren, Kurt Wagner (Lambchop), or Stephen Malkmus – another artist who has arguably done more weighty and intriguing work after breaking up his band and retreating to his home studio.
The sophisticated production values and rich orchestration add dark soul textures and grandiose alt-rock flourishes to Ross’s sometimes witty, sometimes melancholic songs. Amongst the special guest appearances, Rebecca Barnard contributes ghostly vocals on the majestic closer, Welcome To World’s Fair, and a rousing choir of illustrious dozens from the Melbourne music community can be heard on the symphonic Sceptre Glove.
Sneakily spectacular, introspectively epic and inevitably classic, Sympathy For The New World is a must-hear. Ross is currently working on the follow up album due in 2010.
Beyond the din of popular music, the chimes of artistic freedom can be heard. Michael Dwyer meets some of those putting meaning to melody.
No matter which way you read it, Bob Dylan’s honorary Pulitzer Prize of April just didn’t scan. To those long hip to his revolution, it was a lame apology for a sustained and deliberate insult from the American literary establishment.
Besides, what do songwriters have to do with that world any more? It’s 40-odd years since Allen Ginsberg drew fleeting academic attention to Eleanor Rigby and Subterranean Homesick Blues. Popular song has long since resumed its lowly status in the public imagination, a village idiot to the educated society of art and literature.
That perception is based, of course, on the overwhelming audibility of the lowest common denominator. Where is the legacy Bruce Springsteen identified when he inducted Dylan into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame 20 years ago? “Bob freed the mind,” he said, “the way Elvis freed the body.”
Gone to ground, is the short answer. The genie Dylan let loose can never be rebottled but, from an industry viewpoint, it’s obvious that the body remains the more attractive dancing partner. Art is ballast for music tragics while cheaply synthesised froth rises ever more thickly to the top of the charts.
If there is a silver lining to the global freefall in CD sales, it’s the palpable ascendancy of this kind of thinking in a new generation of independent musicians. Cheap home-recording facilities, the new MySpace democracy and fading prospects for mass-market penetration are redrawing aspirations at a grassroots level.
It’s not likely to be a rebirth of Forster’s “golden age of songwriting”, in which the inner monologues of Dylan, Lennon, Morrison and their ilk briefly intersected with the appetites of the commercial mainstream. But the collapsing pop market may slowly clear the air for less calculated, more individualistic voices to be heard.Melbourne auteur Ross McLennan (no relation to Grant) hasn’t been anywhere near the ARIA Top 100 with his latest home-recorded opus, Sympathy For the New World, though it has been lavishly praised by critics. Comparisons to unstable pop geniuses Scott Walker and Brian Wilson are apt: there is a kind of madness in McLennan’s motivation and process.“I guess it quietens my brain down,” he says. “I start off angry and confused and upset about something and when I come out the other side, when I have one of those moments that I consider magic, when I’ve nailed exactly what I wanted to say, even if it doesn’t make sense, I’m very happy and relaxed at the end of it.”His new album’s impressionistic theme is of a world unhinged by fear, dogma, greed and other seeds of destruction. Welcome to World’s Fair is its dramatic culmination. Its rolling rhymes and half-spoken, free-metre form recall Beat poetry, one of his recurring influences.
a solitary soul surveys the paucity of potential suitors pushes past her fellow commuters looks around and sits down next to the guy with the brown tie and the laptop computer the heavily coutured strain under the weight of their creations their postures wear the gravity of their special situations and the doors groan open for the latecomers come one, come all comers take a seat, welcome you are all frontrunners
The trip winds on, morphing into a metaphor for social hierarchy and aspiration, until haves and have-nots reach their mutual destination in the fire of a terrorist’s bomb. Only in the indescribable shock of the explosion does the song spiral out of literal narrative into what McLennan calls “magical thinking”.
the 8.15 rounds the corner past the everyday people suddenly swirling up around the synagogues, minarets and steeples a traditional lament that travels by world’s fair encoded in its resonant machinery cats’ whiskers and leg hairs laid flat like the scenery and it tolls as it tears flesh and sprung fit panels it tolls as you scan the shortwave channels it’s kept burning in trapped flame a crucifix filament its pealing hand is dealing to the guilty and the innocent and people forget that people are born people forget
Again, meaning and emotion soar beyond the realm of poetry. Lugubrious horns play the desolate traffic, sliding strings infer the slow outward pull of camera perspective. Rebecca Barnard’s husky chorus vocal is the broken mother’s plea while the narrator’s tone mirrors the short journey from boredom to confusion, disbelief and devastation.
Speaking about his influences, McLennan mentions novelist/philosophers Kurt Vonnegut and Albert Camus before John Lennon and Ray Davies, but “Dylan’s always there,” he says. “I remember reading . . . about the madness he went through when he was writing Chimes of Freedom. I feel a sympathy for that type of mind.”
It’s that type of mind, rather than anything you can notate, record and take to the bank, that defines Dylan’s legacy among his golden-age peers and countless subterranean acolytes. Maybe it’s neither pop nor poetry they’re writing but something with no practical use for a shelf label at all. It was only ever popular by default, after all, when the auteurs of the ’60s briefly took control of the vehicle and leapt the rails of teenage heartbreak and euphoria to cruise the labyrinth of imagination.
The often-asked question of whatever happened to the great songwriting visionaries is easily answered. They were simply sidelined by an industry with no time for mind games and a greed for instant gratification. Who can even wonder why pop idols are now fine-tuned on TV by expert panels and SMS voters? Commerce demands vast committees that overrule all but the most obvious keynotes of heartbreak and euphoria in songs we already know by heart. These are the tunes that play best in the mall.
“We’re not making wallpaper for people,” says Ross McLennan. “When people go shopping they want wallpaper. That sounds misanthropic; I don’t mean to be. Maybe it’s just rare these days to find intelligent people wanting to pursue pop music as their favourite thing.”
One suspects it will take more than one Pulitzer Prize to change that, but at least the chimes of freedom are still tolling out there for those with a mind to listen.
Steve Gunn’s new album, Way Out Weather, is a radical widescreen evolution, featuring a larger band and lusher arrangements, this is the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s career-defining statement to date. Lightning changes things; the soul burns. Out now on Mistletone Records, via Inertia Music.
“A panoramic effect that speaks of an unbroken horizon and the hypnotic rhythm of a car being driven towards it… (Gunn) delivers hard earned wisdom with a poetic precision” – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (★★★★ 4 stars)
“MERCURY RISING: Former Kurt Vile compadre completes full transformation into majestic American singer-songwriter” — MOJO ★★★★★ [5 stars]
“How does a questing psychedelic guitarist transform themselves into classic singer-songwriter? By compromising, in many cases. Brooklyn’s Steve Gunn, however, is managing the transition with uncanny elegance” — Uncut [8/10]
“Way Out Weather marks the completion of Gunn’s transformation from a master guitarist into a songwriter who can trust in his own voice and arrangements as much as his spectacular fretwork. He’s thrown open the windows and let the light in, as he embraces pristine, lush production that makes guitars sparkle and drums crack.” – NPR Music
“ALBUM OF THE YEAR” — STEPHEN “THE GHOST” WALKER, 3RRR-FM
Steve Gunn is a New York-based guitarist and songwriter. With a career spanning nearly fifteen years, Steve has produced volumes of critically acclaimed solo, duo, and ensemble recordings. His astounding solo albums, as well as his work with GHQ and longtime collaborating drummer John Truscinski, represent milestones of contemporary guitar-driven, forward music. A voracious schedule of international performances has cultivated a fervent fanbase for Steve Gunn’s music throughout the world. These days you can find him playing with his band as well as sometimes serving as guitarist in fellow Philadelphia-bred troubadour Kurt Vile’s band, the Violators.
Mining the catalogues of Basho, Bull, Chapman, and Sharrock, among other titans of stringed-things and record-session royalty, Steve has steadily processed these inspirations into a singular, virtuosic stream. Friendships and collaborations with Jack Rose, Tom Carter, Meg Baird, Mike Cooper, and Michael Chapman colored the disciplined evolution of the discursive, deconstructed blues sound, at once transcendent and methodical, that is now Steve Gunn’s signature. Close listening reveals the influence of Delta and Piedmont country blues, ecstatic free jazz, and psych, as well as Gnawa and Carnatic music, on the continually unfolding compositions.
Steve Gunn’s 2009 solo album for Three Lobed Records, Boerum Palace, demonstrated a fully realized power for songcraft; Steve started to sing more and developed a commanding vocal style equal to his guitar practice. His acclaimed instrumental duo recordings with Truscinski, Sand City (2010) and Ocean Parkway (2012), cemented his place among the top of his peers, both present and past. These documents display Steve Gunn’s compositional penchant for charting musical travelogues that ramble through city and wilderness alike. Dispatches home are not merely descriptive but corporeal; the evocative, rhythmic power of his writing and phrasing carries the listener along bodily. Steve builds songs as exploratory vessels, opens them up for mechanical tinkering, and lives in them through ceaseless improvisatory permutations.
In 2013, the excellent North Carolina-based indie label Paradise of Bachelors released Time Off, his first album as leader of a trio including longtime friends John Truscinski on drums and Justin Tripp on bass, and a record on which Steve’s compelling singing features more prominently than ever before. The album features his oblique character sketches and story-songs about friends, acquaintances, and denizens of his Brooklyn neighborhood, using the trio band format to launch his compositions into new, luminous strata. This is Steve Gunn at the top of his game, writing his most memorable tunes and lyrics, utterly unique but steeped in traditions both vernacular and avant-garde.
A heady and elliptical travelogue, Way Out Weather demonstrates a radical widescreen evolution, featuring a larger band and lighting out for lusher, more expansive, and impressionistic territories than Time Off. This is the virtuosic guitarist and songwriter’s career-defining statement to date, a self-assured masterpiece.
“It’s impossible to just talk about Steve. He’s too good! He’s so good; just listen to him. What can I even say about him that touches that? I just want to listen to him. I remember I was so excited when I discovered Jack Rose, someone living in my city who had caught the torch from John Fahey. Hearing Steve, I immediately received that same deep appreciation and was completely blown away, beyond. Just growing up with ‘roots music’ (so to speak) and immediately seeing something that was real and totally pure, no gimmicks. But he takes it further, and on his own terms, and all the while it sounds old, and new, and timeless. Dude’s a head, what can I say? It made me want to be a part of it myself” – KURT VILE
“Luminous, blooming, meditative chants. Just beautiful. I can’t really think of anyone who wouldn’t be into this excellent album” – JAMES McNEW, YO LA TENGO
In Donald Barthelme’s 1982 story “Lightning,” the narrator, a journalist investigating lightning strike survivors, reflects that “lightning changes things; the soul burns, having been struck by lightning.” He wonders about aesthetic (and supernatural) dimensions—is “lightning an attempt at music on the part of God?”
Three decades later, as the catastrophic effects of climate change encroach upon the realms of science fiction, how might our communications and social conventions change, becoming correspondingly weirder and darker? Weather is, after all, both a formulaic conversation starter across cultures and a shared condition that connects us experientially. So what happens when “How about this weather?” becomes a less banal and much more compelling, and dangerous, question?
While ecological unease worries at the edges of Steve Gunn’s bold new full-band album Way Out Weather—the breathing sea of the billowing title track, the bad wind and moon over “Wildwood,” the polluted pyramid and blue bins in “Shadow Bros,” the desert heat sickness of “Atmosphere”—the resonance of the title is primarily metaphorical and oblique. Written largely while on tour, the record is an elliptical but seductive travelogue, more engaged with navigating foreign (“way out”) emotional landscapes, and with grasping at universal threads of language and narrative, than with bemoaning rising sea levels.
Despite the album-opening lyric to the contrary, “Way Out Weather” is an uncommon song in Steve Gunn’s discography. Sonically and lyrically the album demonstrates a radical evolution, lighting out for lusher, more expansive, and impressionistic territories; it’s his first major work as an artist for whom the studio provides a critical context. A more enigmatic and elevated affair than its predecessor, Way Out Weather completes Steve Gunn’s satisfying transformation into a mature songwriter, singer, and bandleader of subtlety and authority. It ranks as most impressive and inviting record yet, an inscrutable but entirely self-assured masterpiece.
The critically acclaimed Time Off (Paradise of Bachelors, 2013), his first full-band album highlighting his vocals, represented the culmination of Steve’s steady fifteen-year migration from the frontier fringes of the guitar avant-garde, where he is regarded as a prodigy, and toward his especial style of more traditionally informed (albeit deconstructed) songcraft. Those songs developed from years of woodshedding and performance, offering a linear, local narrative that mapped the contours of Steve’s Brooklyn neighborhood and a matrix of musical friendships, earning him a broad new following.
Less patently intimate, Way Out Weather angles for something far more cosmic, dynamic, and widescreen in sound and sentiment. In contrast to the interiority of Time Off, these eight decidedly exterior songs aren’t grounded by the specifics of geography, instead inhabiting headier, more rarefied altitudes (see in particular the ethereal “Shadow Bros,” “Fiction,” and “Atmosphere.”) They step beyond home and hover above horizon, unmoored from immediate circumstances and surroundings. Here, Steve Gunn’s discursive, mantric guitar style, at once transcendent and methodical—and as influenced by Western guitarists such as Michael Chapman and Sonny Sharrock as by Ghanaian highlife, Gnawa, and Carnatic forms—maintains its signature helical intricacy and mesmeric propulsion, while buoyed by a bigger crew of musicians, a wider instrumental palette, and higher production values than ever before.
Belying their ambitious new scale and scope, most of these songs arrived at Westtown, New York’s scene-seminal Black Dirt Studio as skeletal solo demos. An enthusiastic and generous collaborator—recently he has partnered with Kurt Vile, Michael Chapman, Mike Cooper, the Black Twig Pickers, Cian Nugent, et al.– Steve assembled an accomplished group of comrades to flesh out the full arrangements, trusting the germinal songs to an instinctual process of spontaneous composition, transposition, and improvisation.
The WOW studio band comprised longtime musical brothers Jason Meagher (bass, drones, engineering), Justin Tripp (bass, guitar, keys, production), and John Truscinski (drums), in addition to newcomers Nathan Bowles (drums, banjo, keys: Black Twig Pickers, Pelt); James Elkington (guitar, lap steel, dobro: Freakwater, Jeff Tweedy); Mary Lattimore (harp, keys: Thurston Moore, Kurt Vile); and Jimy SeiTang (synths, electronics: Psychic Ills, Rhyton.)
This preternaturally intuitive and inventive band allowed Steve to sculpt the album as a composer and colorist as well as a player. The cascading runs of “Milly’s Garden,” the menacing urgency of “Drifter,” and the alien, galvanic syncopation of album closer “Tommy’s Congo” (the latter unlike anything Gunn has heretofore recorded) display a thrilling mastery of heavier, increasingly kinetic full-band arrangements. His vocals throughout are more present, commanding, and refined, revealing a restrained but highly nuanced baritone capable of remarkable grace.
Way Out Weather is Steve Gunn’s career-defining statement to date. Lightning changes things; the soul burns.
All-female, all-awesome, Brooklyn-based TEEN remain true to their progressive indie-pop roots in their newest single, “Big Talk”, out October 8 on digital release via Mistletone / Inertia.
Written and recorded during the “Carolina” EP sessions, with support from producer Daniel Schlett (DIIV), the track is a catchy and polished successional release.
“Big Talk” glows as it incorporates Teeny Lieberson’s glassy vocals set atop the song’s tight yet buoyant arrangement. The finish is a reverb-drenched instrumentation that channels a classic psych-rock vibe.
Refining the psych-pop nuggets of their debut LP, In Limbo (Mistletone 2012), TEEN’s Carolina EP (Mistletone 2013) is a stepping stone in the way that all good extended plays are. The band — lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Teeny Lieberson, keyboardist Lizzie Lieberson, drummer Katherine Lieberson (the three are sisters), and bassist Jane Herships — recorded the five-song record with producer Daniel Schlett, who recently worked on DIIV’s Oshin, at Strange Weather studio in Brooklyn.
While In Limbo‘s songs have many layers and effects, TEEN intended Carolina to be a more natural affair, with the band only playing what they could physically perform in a live setting. Teeny sings in a higher register here, inspired by Kate Bush and Al Green.
“Our music in the past was so about interweaving melodies, creating movement by syncopation, and simple chord structures,” Teeny says. “It felt like the next step forward would be to take a more simplistic, live approach, play lines in unison and create a different kind of conversation between the instruments.”
Watch the video “Circus” below, shot at Brooklyn’s Union Pool during a recent show. Like its namesake, the song is bright and a little chaotic, heavy on the keys with a moody rhythm section, but made buoyant by Teeny’s vocals. “I should find that daunting,” she sings. Clearly, she doesn’t.
PRAISE FOR IN LIMBO BY TEEN (Mistletone, 2012)
“(TEEN) revel in euphoria and exploration that brims with joyous confidence… living in their psych and New Wave-inflected world is heavenly” – DRUM MEDIA
“A dark, delay-draped sound indebted to cosmic synth music, psychedelia, and dream-pop; and taken to even more experimental ends by working with Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember, that one-time Spacemen 3 reprobate and recent Panda Bear collaborateur” – THEMUSIC.COM.AU
Watch the official music video for “Electric” by TEEN, from In Limbo, below (directed by Sam Fleischner & Megha Barnabas):
Brooklyn’s TEEN came together when Teeny Lieberson left her post in Here We Go Magic to make music with her sisters Katherine and Lizzie and their longtime friends, Jane Herships and former member Maia Ibar. Forgoing girl-group gimmickry and fervor, the band’s digital-only debut EP Little Doods fleshed out a sound of languid, lo-fi psyche pop redolent of Paisley Underground bands like Opal and Rain Parade. Since releasing the EP in April 2011, they have steadily honed their sound around New York and readied their first long-player, In Limbo.
TEEN’s lead singer/songwriter Teeny Lieberson had been playing in bands around New York City since 2002, eventually becoming the keyboard player for the Here We Go Magic in 2008. During a hiatus from the band in the winter of 2009, Teeny wrote the five songs for Little Doods, the foundation of TEEN’s full-length, In Limbo,oand recruited the other members of TEEN to expand the sound from four-track/lo-fi to a fully fleshed out sound.
TEEN spent the summer of 2011 recording In Limbo in Maia’s family barn in rural Connecticut, engineered by Jen Turner of Here We Go Magic. In Limbo was mixed and produced in collaboration with producer Pete Kember, a.k.a. Sonic Boom, who first heard the band via an early video while he was mixing Panda Bear’s Tomboy at Blanker Unsinn studio in Brooklyn, and after hearing some demos, signed up to produce a full LP of their material as soon as possible. Sonic Boom’s influence and guidance is subtly evident throughout, adding sympathetic undertones and ambience to the band’s well defined and inspiring songs. Further work was done at MGMT’s Blanker Unsinn facility with the final mixing and mastering taking place in the UK at Sonic Boom’s New Atlantis Studio.
In Limbo puts TEEN’s pop and tribal elements to the fore. Opener Better is a Suicide-esque march toward euphoria through repetition. Sleep in Noise comes on like a neo-psychedelic tribal stomp with a Spector-esque drive, while Unable, an all-but-shapeless mass of organ swells and tremolo synths provides a loose structure for their transcendent vocal acrobatics. The density and layers of the band’s morphing keyboards, driving synths and jungle drums let their finely arranged vocals sit gloriously on top, each member’s contribution shining through.
TEEN’s sound relies heavily on its vocal arrangements and harmonies. The music is strengthened by the flawless vocal connections between family and friends. The songs on the album are a reflection of change and loss – loss of loved ones, loss of relationships and sitting in the space of the unknown – in limbo. They reflect on how times such as these can give birth to powerful creative moments, and also solidify bonds in relationships between friends and family. The songs are mysterious and dark, exploring the many sensitivities and emotions that a person endures during these critical and life-changing experiences.
The band’s live shows have so far been mainly around New York City, where they have played consistently since Winter 2010, including performances at a number of CMJ showcases, and as well as shows with Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Purity Ring, War on Drugs and My Best Fiend.
Maia Ibar has now left the band, leaving the lineup as follows:
Few words have as much cultural weight as ‘Teen’, yet the band that has —in the vein of Girls, perhaps— called themselves aren’t out to evoke all that baggage. Instead, they merely took the name from their leader. “Everyone calls me Teeny,” says Kristina Lieberson, the former Here We Go Magic keyboardist who broke out with her own band, and invited her sisters along. “I’m so used to being called Teen and Teeny that I didn’t actually think of how other people would see [the name] until recently.”
Recently, TEEN turned out their debut album, In Limbo, a set produced by Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember, that one-time Spacemen 3 reprobate and recent Panda Bear collaborateur. Though their music doesn’t play on the thematic mythology of the American teenager, if it did, Lieberson would have some fine stories to draw on. The daughter of a composer father and singer mother —hence the musical chops instilled in the siblings (Teeny, Katherine, Lizzie) that make up TEEN’s core— Lieberson’s youth was filled with music and rebellion. “I was always a troublemaker,” she recalls. “I went to a performing arts boarding school for two years, which was great in so many ways, but it was also very strict. That didn’t suit me too well.”
Lieberson was her boarding school’s bad seed, the ringleader of a set of stoner miscreants. “One night I snuck out, took another kid’s car, drove without a license, pretty sure we were stoned, went to a store and was stealing hair dye, and we got caught,” Lieberson says. “Luckily, the people at the place didn’t report me, because I would’ve gotten in so much trouble for so many reasons. Driving without a license at eleven o’clock, I would’ve been kicked out of school for good.”
Lieberson had been focusing on theatre at boarding school, but decided to study jazz in college, figuring it was the only way she could study music in a tertiary setting. “I failed miserably,” she laughs. “I got kicked out of my program because I was just a maniac my first year of college. I didn’t go to school. Partied way too hard. Kind of lost my mind.”
Lieberson would eventually find her mind amidst the touring grind; when she buckled down and became a member of Here We Go Magic in its early 2009 transition from Luke Temple bedroom project to functioning rock band. After nearly three years in HWGM, she left to devote more time to her own band. “It was definitely a tough decision, because I love those guys, and I love making music with them, and their last album is amazing, but it felt like it was just time for me to do my own thing,” she says. “I knew that if I stayed in Here We Go Magic, I wasn’t going to have time to do anything else.”
TEEN found the three Lieberson sisters all picking up new instruments —Teeny had never played guitar before— and fashioning a dark, delay-draped sound indebted to cosmic synth music, psychedelia, and dream-pop; and taken to even more experimental ends by working with Kember. “Pete takes a lot of the lower end, and the bass and the drums, and he takes it almost entirely away, so everything ends up almost floating,” Lieberson says.
They recorded In Limbo late in 2011, during a month long break between Here We Go Magic tours, and once it was done, Lieberson was done with her old band, and committed to her new one. A band called TEEN, a band of women, and all the assumptions that brings up.
“I know that we’re all women, and that’s just a fact. But does it have to come up in every review?” Lieberson sighs. “That’s frustrating. I think people assume we’re going to make a certain kind of music just because we’re four women, and because we’re called TEEN. Everyone thinks we’re going to be some garage-rock band or something. So we have to prove them wrong.”
Mistletone proudly presents the return of Toro y Moi.
TORO Y MOI TOUR DATES:
ADELAIDE: Friday, March 3 @ Adelaide Festival. Tickets on sale now.
PERTH: Sunday, March 5 @ Perth Festival. Tickets on sale now.
SYDNEY: Thursday, March 9 @ Oxford Art Factory with Felix Lush + SKULL AND DAGGER. Tickets on sale now. * SELLING FAST!
BRISBANE: Friday, March 10 @ The Zoo with S>c>r>a>p>s + Spirit Bunny. Tickets on sale now. * SELLING FAST!
SYDNEY: Saturday, March 11 @ Days Like This Festival. Tickets on sale now.
VICTORIA: March 10-13 @ Pitch Music & Arts. Lineup and tickets info here.
Born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, Chaz Bundick unveiled his Toro y Moi guise in 2001, channeling a wide swath of stylistic influences from indie rock and ‘60s baroque pop to ‘80s R&B, French house and underground hip-hop. By the time he graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2009 in graphic design, Chaz had refined Toro y Moi into a captivating project, his hazy recordings touted as the sound of summer. His Mistletone-released debut album, Causers of This, followed in 2010 and garnered high praise from NME and Pitchfork. Chaz has proven to be as prolific as he is diverse, always pointing Toro y Moi in new directions while never sacrificing his melodic sensibility or keen ear for arrangements and texture. With 2011’s Underneath the Pine, he delivered a set of motorik space-age funk; his Freaking Out EP brought ‘80s-inspired R&B, freestyle, and quiet storm soul, and 2013’s Anything in Return effortlessly glided between smoky 4/4 house-tinged pop, electro-funk and late-night electronic soul. What For? captured the feel of a rock band playing together in the same room with members of his touring group as well as guest musicians like Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s Ruban Nielson.
Last year Toro y Moi released Live From Trona, filmed in the middle of the Mojave desert; an entire concert album recorded live beneath the geological wonders known as the Trona Pinnacles. With a spectacular natural environment that feels otherworldly, the film pays homage to rock films of a previous era. As the sun sets behind the pinnacles, which formed thousands of years ago in what used to be a prehistoric lake, the supernatural setting weaves seamlessly together with 13 psychedelic tracks. Live From Trona offers viewers a surreal concert experience, placing them front row at a private Toro y Moi show.
Toro y Moi pic by Jordan Blackmon
Given the state of modern music and its fabricated pop icons, what Chaz Bundick Meets The Mattson 2 achieves is a collective music victory in a new era of progressive soundscapes. Chaz has teamed up with the psychedelic-jazz grooves of The Mattson 2 for an album that unifies a trio’s creativity into a refreshing project of unhinged sonic originality.
Oddly enough, this collaboration may not have happened if The Mattson 2 hadn’t forgotten a drum throne at an Oakland performance in 2014. The twin’s longtime friend and photographer, Andrew Paynter, came to the rescue and called his friend Chaz to ask about borrowing the throne. Jonathan, the Mattson drummer (who’d also never met Chaz), accompanied Andrew to Chaz’s home in Berkeley where they were greeted by Chaz with a warm smile, a drum stool in hand, and Michael, Chaz’s dog (which his Les Sins record Michael is named after).
The next day Andrew and the twins met Chaz at a cafe in Berkeley to return the gear. Over coffee they waxed about music, design, furniture, and skateboarding. After a series of hangs with Chaz in the Bay Area, the crew decided to join forces and schedule studio time for their newfound trio. And the rest, as they say, is intergalactic, mega-creative history.
In February of 2016 the relationship was officially christened the night they finished tracking their new record. And to tie the knot with flare, they scheduled a secret show at the Battery and a historical public show at the Starline Social Club in Oakland, where the trio performed all new music from the project for the first time live.
The group and the album, Chaz Bundick Meets Mattson 2,explores psychedelic, jazz, and improvisatory influences ranging from Afrofuturistic Sun Ra, to electric Miles Davis, to groove-fueled Serge Gainsbourg and The Zombies. Grounding the album are break-beats, synthesizers, acoustic strums, and guitar fuzz reminiscent of David Axelrod and Arthur Verocai. With cosmic structures, timeless influences, rich harmonies, and melodic interplays, the trio brings an intergalactic edge to both their live shows and an album worthy of repeated visits.
The debut album by Melbourne’s Wintercoatsis set for release in 2016. In the meantime, there are very limited quantities of the Sketches 12″ vinyl remaining on mail order. For iTunes, click on the link below.
A master of ethereal delicacies, Melbourne’s Wintercoats aka James Wallace combines his chameleonic compositional talents and profound arrangement dexterity to create aural artworks of fragility and grandeur.
Wallace’s work is rich in symbolism; narrations of unwanted and uncontrollable realities, but ideologically hopeful, optimistic and confident, seamlessly weaving violin, glockenspiel, piano and a plethora of other instruments into a glorious yet unmistakably poignant artistic vision, fortified by haunting and cavernous vocals.
His debut self-released EP Cathedral adventured through sweeping and idyllic vocal harmonies underpinned by brash and heavily reverbed string loops. A search of his rawest emotions; through the endurance of despair, Cathedral was the idealization of tension and tranquillity, a release of inhibitions and a philosophical exploration of love, lust and social complacency.
Sketches takes Wintercoats’ vision to new heights, combining the natural sounds of a white-washed shoreline with plucked strings, boyish vocals and lifting, moving dynamics.
Truly one of Melbourne’s most talented and promising solo musicians, already widely celebrated within the underground community and having supported the likes of Beach House, Tune-yards, Sarah Blasko, MONO, How To Dress Well, Julianna Barwick, Mirah, Cass McCombs and Xiu Xiu, we expect further immense feats and achievements from one of our most humble, gifted and opulent prospects.
PRAISE FOR WINTERCOATS:
“Reflecting the prominence of both loop-driven contours and vocal-less passages of soundtrack-y beauty, it neatly encapsulates what manages to sound like an entire universe over just six songs. And yet there’s nothing unfinished about Wallace’s work. An eerie merger of classical flutters of piano and violin with shoegaze-worthy soundscapes, it feels complete and immersive” – THE MUSIC
“Melbourne-based ambient, post-rocker Wintercoats (aka James Wallace) makes intensely physical music. Not in the sense that you can dance to it (dancing to it is pretty much impossible unless you’re doing a Kate Bush-style interpretive dance). It’s physical in the sense that if you clamp on some decent headphones and listen to his new EP Sketches with your eyes closed you feel as if you’re standing on a cliff with the wind in your face thinking profound thoughts about love (while wearing a fantastic winter coat of course).” – THE THOUSANDS
“Nothing short of incredible… mixes intricate orchestral arrangements with a pop sensibility” – SYN-FM FEATURE ALBUM
“Armed primarily with a singular violin, Wintercoats utilises loops and pitch shifting pedals to generate aural magic… Sketches looks set to propel Wintercoats from the rank of unassuming and underappreciated bedroom project to one of the brightest shining forces in contemporary Australian music.” – BEAT