Archive for the ‘News’ Category

December 12, 2019

Touring: Sheer Mag

artwork: George Gillies

SHEER MAG TOUR DATES:

SYDNEY: Wednesday March 25 @ Red Rattler Theatre. Tickets on sale now
WOLLONGONG: Thursday March 26 @ La La Las. Tickets on sale now.
BRISBANE: Friday March 27 @ The Zoo. Tickets on sale now
MELBOURNE: TO BE ANNOUNCED.

Are Sheer Mag the rock’n’roll saviours this planet needs right now? Just named as one of the great rock albums of the year by Rolling StonePitchforkNPR to name a few, and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders chose their worker anthem “Expect the Bayonet” at his New York campaign rally.

“Five years since the lower-than-lo-fi underground hit “What You Want” shook some action on the dance floor, Sheer Mag has toured like maniacs, upgraded to well-respected studio engineers like Arthur Rizk and become the denim-and-leather-jacket-wearing standard bearers of truly independent rock and roll. A Distant Call refines the Philly band’s roots — Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Blue Öyster Cult, Cheap Trick — with a bottomless well of hot licks and ripping guitar solos, brawny call-and-response and Tina Halladay’s soul-cleansing howl. Leaning into its signature sound, but adding unexpected textures here and there, Sheer Mag’s worker anthems and brokenhearted rock ballads fist-pump just as hard, but maybe a little more tender” – NPR

Sheer Mag’s dizzying rise initiated in 2014, when the Philadelphia band self-released the first of three 7-inches and started playing the Northeastern DIY circuit. Ironically, the music stood apart because it sounded so familiar. Indebted to ‘70s arena rock, power-pop, and proto-metal, Sheer Mag’s songs reminded a lot of us of the music we grew up with, but maybe couldn’t relate to because it was big, brash, and unapologetically macho.

Sheer Mag reclaimed some of that energy without perpetuating the toxicity. On their debut album, Need to Feel Your Love (2017), the band surveyed their contemporary political landscape through the lens of history. Singer Tina Halladay transported herself back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots, denounced redlining practices that undermine the popular vote, and paid homage to White Rose activist Sophie Scholl. On paper, it’s a mouthful, but accompanied by guitarist/lyricist Matt Palmer, guitarist Kyle Seely, and bassist/producer Hart Seely, those songs became hook-laden rallying cries.

Two years later, Sheer Mag returned with their sophomore album A Distant Call. They’re still writing about surviving our current hellscape, but this time around, the politics get extra-personal. The album verges on being a concept piece, and the protagonist resembles Halladay herself. The songs document a particularly alienating time in her life when she was laid off from a job. Broke and newly single, her father (with whom she had a fraught relationship) passed away, leaving her with more wounds than felt possible to heal.

October 29, 2019

Touring: Hand Habits

artwork by George Gillies

HAND HABITS TOUR DATES:

WOLLONGONG: Saturday February 29 @ Farmer & the Owl. Tickets on sale here.
BRISBANE: Sunday March 1 @ Nine Lives Festival. Tickets on sale here.
BRISBANE: Monday March 2 @ The Junk Bar. Tickets on sale here.
SYDNEY: Wednesday March 4 @ Enmore Theatre w/ Aldous Harding. Tickets on sale here.
CASTLEMAINE: Thursday March 12 @ Bridge Hotel w/ Grand Salvo. Tickets on sale here.
MELBOURNE: Saturday March 14 @ Estonian House, Brunswick Music Festival with June Jones + Grace Cummings. Tickets on sale here.

Mistletone proudly presents Hand Habits on their first Australian tour.

Meg Duffy grew up in a small town in upstate New York and they cut their teeth as a session guitarist and touring member of Kevin Morby’s band. The Hand Habits project emerged after Meg moved to Los Angeles; it started as a private songwriting outlet but soon evolved into a fully-fledged band with Meg at the helm.

pic: Graham Tolbert

Hand Habits’ debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), was released by Woodsist Records in 2017. The LP was entirely self-produced and recorded in Meg’s home during spare moments when they weren’t touring. This lush, homespun collection of folk songs that found Meg in an exploratory state as an artist moving out on their own for the first time. Two years later, Hand Habits returned with the stunning album, placeholder, released locally by Milk! Records.

Wildfires raged in Southern California when Meg wrote the bulk of placeholder, and the anxiety that came with living in L.A. during that time exposes itself throughout these songs. “Fire is such a powerful symbol. It’s destructive, but it’s also generative,” Meg says. References to that particular mindset abound on placeholder, most notably on the stand-out track “wildfire,” but it creeps into other songs, too. Separating side A from side B is a MIDI interlude titled “heat,” which finds Meg repeating, “Heat beyond the lines of passion,” a line borrowed from Jeanette Winterson’s novel The Passion. Later, on the sweet and yearning “what lovers do,” Meg likens desire to a glowing fire in a cadence that recalls Sharon Van Etten. 

Meg recently announced a “wildfire covers” EP (available via Bandcamp) with five covers of “wildfire” by Angel OlsenTara Jane O’NeilLomeldaJohn Andrews, and Kacey Johansing, with proceeds going to toward the Amazon Conservation Association. In a statement, they said:

“Being a touring musician eight months out of the year, you are exposed to a lot of varying degrees of climate change effects in a short period of time. From the gasoline that’s used to fuel touring vehicles, to the massive amount of plastic waste at the end of every show, to the carbon emissions released into the air by all the travel, it’s often not the most environmentally conscious career. I wanted to contribute, even if in a small way, to the efforts at work by the people at the Amazon Conservation Association for being dedicated to preserving such a vast and heartbreakingly crucial part of our ecosystem that has been threatened by wildfires, deforestation, and the effects of climate change. 

“I believe that writing and performing music can be a healing force, used for good, and not always for capitalizing on emotions and commodifying a personality or lifestyle. People need to be able to relate to each other, in times of joy, and especially in times of sorrow or struggle. The Wildfire Compilation, in partnership with Bandcamp and Saddle Creek, will be donating all of its funds raised to the ACA in hopes to lend a helping hand to those on the front lines of fighting climate change in places that may seem inaccessible to those of us unable to travel at length. I chose five artists, Tara Jane O’Neil, Lomelda, John Andrews, Angel Olsen, and Kacey Johansing to interpret and cover my song “wildfire” that I wrote during the California Wildfires in 2017. All of these artists are dear friends and have all taught me a lot about the complexity of emotions in music.”

To make this album, Meg chose to work in a studio and bring in collaborators, entrusting them with what had previously been a very personal creative process. Over the course of 12 tracks, Meg emerges with new confidence as both a bandleader and singer. placeholder is as tender and immediate as anything Meg’s ever written, but it’s also intensely focused and refined, the work of a meticulous musician ready to share their singular vision with the world. 

The name placeholder stems from Meg’s fascination with the undefinable. Their songs serve as openings –carved-out spaces waiting to be endowed with meaning. As a lyricist, Meg is drawn to the in-between, and the songs on this new album primarily confront the ways in which certain experiences can serve as a stepping stone on the road to self-discovery. “A big aspect of my songwriting and the way I move through the world depends on my relationships with people. The songs on placeholder are about accountability and forgiveness,” Meg says. “These are all real stories. I don’t fictionalize much.”

placeholder opens with the title track which on its surface is about a breakup. “Oh but I was just a placeholder/ A lesson to be learned,” a scorned Meg sings over a lush bed of twangy guitars. The blame quickly shifts, though, as Meg begins to take on partial responsibility for the partnership’s collapse: “Oh but now you are just a placeholder/ Blinded by desire/ Oh now you’re just a placeholder for someone wasting time.”

Nothing in Meg’s world is as simple as black and white, right or wrong. An openness to nuance drives revelation in these songs. “I value the closeness I share with my chosen family and I’m interested in queering relationships in my music. The relationships in my life expand my capacity to love because the lines between romance and friendship are often blurred,” Meg explains.

The bonds Meg addresses on placeholder extend beyond the bounds of romance. On “can’t calm down,” Meg contemplates inherited trauma and questions whether it’s possible for someone to upend patterns of familial suffering. Relatedly, the closing track, “book on how to change part II,” refers back to Meg’s mother, who died when they were young. It’s a simultaneously aching and reassuring song, buoyed in part by a saxophone and Meg’s pointed harmonies that bring levity to painful subject matter.

The flames that fuel placeholder occasionally billow out, but most often these songs are warm and comforting –a space listeners can return to again and again when theoutside world starts to overwhelm. Meg describes these songs as their most direct to date, crafted with clear intention. “It’s less of a submerged landscape and more a concise series of thoughts,” Meg explains.

Instrumentally, placeholder can be situated alongside some of Meg’s folk-adjacent contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Big Thief, and the guitar work on this album proves that Meg continues to be one of the finest young musicians working today. placeholder is another entry in the Hand Habits songbook, but it’s also a valuable testament of our time. While placeholder inspires a sense of ease, simple questions rarely beget easy answers and Meg honors the indescribable joy and profound sorrow that comes with figuring things out, one step at a time.

October 18, 2019

Touring: Holly Herndon

Mistletone proudly presents Holly Herndonwith her PROTO ensemble, performing at Mona Foma in Launceston, where she will also present an Artist Talk, and her first Melbourne show at Melbourne Recital Centre. 

HOLLY HERNDON TOUR DATES:

LAUNCESTON: SATURDAY JANUARY 18 @ MONA FOMA (performance). 
Tickets & info here.
LAUNCESTON: SUNDAY JANUARY 19 @ MONA FOMA (artist talk). Tickets & info here.
MELBOURNE: TUESDAY JANUARY 21 @ Melbourne Recital Centre. Presale: Mon 21 October 10am here (promo code: HOLLY). General on sale: Wed 23 October 10am, here.

Trailblazing electronic musician Holly Herndon presents her vision of a digital future, exploring technology’s potential through artificial intelligence, vocals and visuals.

Holly Herndon lifted the lid on the creative process of her latest album via Birthing PROTO, a 6-minute documentary directed by Theresa Baumgartner and Zoya Bassi:

Filmed in Holly’s home studio and at Volksbühne, where Herndon headlined recently with her vocal ensemble, it offers an insight into the making of third studio record PROTO and translating their extraordinary work to the live stage. 

Technology empowers creation of all kinds. By way of modern advancements and innovations, new artforms prosper, life expectancy extends, and artificial intelligence gains awareness. The capabilities of such developments should be explored, employed, and embraced. Rather than dimming and darkening the future, they burgeon and brighten it. 

Case in point, Holly Herndon operates at the nexus of technological evolution and musical catharsis. On her third full-length album PROTO (4AD / Remote Control), the performer and composer fronts and conducts an electronic pop choir comprised of both human and A.I. voices over a musical palette that encompasses everything from synths to Sacred Harp stylings. 

“Our vision of technology is that it enables relationships and liberates us to be more human together, which it so often is not designed to do” she exclaims. “There’s a pervasive narrative of it as dehumanizing. We stand in contrast to that. It’s not like we want to run away from technology; we’re very much running towards it.” 

Since her arrival in 2012, Holly has successfully mined the edges of electronic and Avant Garde pop and emerged with a dynamic and disruptive canon of her own. Her musical palette started to expand as she utilized the laptop as “the most intimate instrument,” cultivating live voice processing systems and eventually developing custom vocal patches to construct experimental pieces to be performed in real-time.

As she researched platform politics for her phD at Stanford, she assembled her 2015 sophomore offering PlatformPlatform closed out 2015 by gracing year-end lists from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, and The Wire. In the aftermath, Radiohead handpicked her to open up its European tour.

Along the way, she quietly pieced together what would become PROTO alongside cohort Matthew Dryhurst. In addition to assembling a Berlin-based “ensemble of vocalists,” Holly and Mat “gave birth to an A.I. baby” affectionately named Spawn—who also joined the fold. 

Housed in a souped-up gaming PC, they set no learning parameters for Spawn. Instead, custom converters warped openly available machine-leaning programming to push code to actually manipulate sound. As a result, Spawn learned on her own from Mat, Holly, and collaborator and developer Jules LaPlace. Holly and Mat hosted the other ensemble vocalists at their home during weekly “learning sessions.” They served soup, improvised, and sang as their synthetic child mimicked. 

“We wanted to put together a community of artists for this,” she goes on. “There’s no escaping the hours in front of the computer, but we also craved a very physical in-person sound and the experience of music-making. Choosing to work with an ensemble of humans was a statement of principle that also relates to A.I. I don’t want to live in a world in which humans are automated off stage. Spawn was an ensemble member. Everyone was unique, but could work together as a unit. The meetings created a baseline trust, so they’d be willing to try something seemingly crazy,” laughs Holly. 

October 18, 2019

Touring: Tim Hecker

Mistletone proudly presents a Sydney headline show by TIM HECKER & THE KONOYO ENSEMBLE, playing The Factory Theatre on Friday, January 17. Tickets on sale now.

“Foreboding, abstract pieces in which static and sub-bass rumbles open up around slow-moving notes and chords, like fissures in the earth waiting to swallow them whole” – NEW YORK TIMES

Canadian composer Tim Hecker comes to Sydney’s Factory Theatre to present his ninth and tenth official full-length albums, Konoyo (‘the world over here’) and Anoyo (‘the world over there’).

Both albums find Hecker continuing to challenge the boundaries between noise, dissonance, and melody. Largely recorded during several trips to Japan in collaboration with members of the Tokyo Gakuso ensemble, the albums features Hecker’s signature manipulation of source material — keening strings are stretched into surreal, pixelated mirages; woodwinds warble and dissipate as fractal whispers of spatial haze; sparse gestures of percussion are chopped, isolated, and eroded, like disembodied signals from the afterlife.

Tim Hecker is an extensive, vigorous live performer, and the immense power and menace of his live shows makes him a contemporary master of volume and texture. Performing with a three piece ensemble of Japanese classical gagaku musicians, this show is a powerful ceremony, suffused with profound ritual.

from SPIN magazine;

Two winters ago, Tim Hecker traveled to Japan with fellow composer Ben Frostto record what would become Konoyo, his ninth album. A far cry from the heady fog of 2016’s Love Streams, Konoyo plays with a lighter, more crystalline side of drone, in relatively uncrowded soundscapes. The music is informed by gagaku, a type of Japanese classical music relying heavily on the use of ancient instruments; the rigorous formalism of the style is undone over the album’s 59 minutes, thanks in large part to Hecker’s penchant for electronic manipulation. It’s a wholly anomalous take on gagaku, and on Hecker’s own sound, with instrumentation that constantly clashes and interlocks with itself in new and interesting ways.

In an interview with The Japan Times last September, Hecker hinted at the idea of doing a second record—less a companion piece than a new, “naturalist” approach to the material from the Konoyo recording sessions. Anoyo, released earlier this month, is just that. Doing away with much of the inscrutable electronics that characterized KonoyoAnoyo keeps moments from the original recording sessions largely intact. When I spoke to him about the album last month, he told me about the cold November days spent on the floor of a temple on the outskirts of Tokyo, recording with Tokyo Gakuso ensemble and listening to the birds outside the sliding wooden doors. There’s an existential chill running throughout Anoyo that calcifies in the shivering strings of the opener,“That world.” Towards the middle of the track, individual instruments meld into something approximating the Arctic mist of Ravedeath, 1972 before eventually detangling, and reverting to a more natural state.

In his approach to the new work, Hecker detailed the specific engineering challenges inherent in musical translation, involving different tunings in Eastern and Western music. Bringing different tunings together without adjustment, he says, “just sounds like the worst dog screeching, and not in a good way.” He also discussed the Cube Earth aesthetic of Anoyo’s album art and its relationship to the sound, along with the relative emotional index of his new music. With Anoyo, Hecker pulls back on digital manipulation in favor of something starker, and often more momentous; with all the majesty of a freezing Japanese November, Anoyo feels like a bold new statement from an artist who, 15 years into his career, remains dead set on evolution.

October 16, 2019

Touring: Weyes Blood

WEYES BLOOD TOUR DATES:

PERTH: February 23
@ Perth Festival. [tickets]
BRISBANE: February 25 @ The Zoo. Presented by Jet Black Cat Music. [tickets]
MELBOURNE: February 26 @ Melbourne Recital Centre. [tickets]
MELBOURNE: February 28 @ Zoo Twilights with Julia Jacklin.  [tickets]
WOLLONGONG: February 29 @ Farmer & the Owl. [tickets]
SYDNEY: March 3 @ Factory Theatre. [tickets]
HOBART: March 4 @ Odeon Theatre.  [tickets]

ADELAIDE: March 5 @ Adelaide Festival. [tickets]
CASTLEMAINE: March 7 @ Theatre Royal.  [tickets]
MEREDITH: March 8 @ Golden Plains. Ticket ballot here.

It’s been three years since Weyes Blood stepped foot in Australia, and a lot has changed. After signing a worldwide record deal with Sub Pop, Natalie Mering (Weyes Blood) disappeared from the road to write and record her next album. The result, Titanic Rising, is Weyes Blood’s most stunning achievement to date and has received sweeping critical acclaim.

MOJO ★★★★★        The Independent ★★★★★        Rolling Stone ★★★★ Record Collector ★★★★★ The Guardian ★★★★         The Times ★★★★ Q ★★★★        NME ★★★★ Evening Standard ★★★★
Pitchfork  “Best New Music”        Uncut 9/10 PASTE  9.1/10 The Line Of Best Fit   9.5/10

The live show is also spectacular, currently stunning crowds all over North American and Europe.  Playing sold out venues in both continents, Weyes Blood has elevated her live show since her last trip to Australia and will be bringing her full five-piece band. Adorned in a tailored white suit, Weyes Blood is eager to return to the southern hemisphere.

“A set somewhere between alien and angel, an ornate, cosmic tangle of Laurel Canyon wistfulness and her rich, velvety voice” – ACL LIVE

“Stirring yet serene. Joyous yet plaintive. Ethereal yet earthy. Optimistic yet doom-laden. Soft-spoken yet golden-voiced. Natalie Mering, aka Weyes Blood, is a bundle of contradictions, a spirit of balance. Her voice is a shining beacon that breaks through the melancholic fog that shrouds her poppy arrangements” – NORTHERN TRANSMISSIONS

“Natalie Mering’s multitude of fans know that spending time with her music brings exquisite reward. Its buoyant beauty would be welcome at any time in history, but it arrives like sweet nectar roundabout now. 
She is Weyes by name, and wise by nature. She sings of earthly devastation and the human condition with a canny kind of knowingness that leaves you wondering if maybe the end won’t be so bad after all.
This year’s Titanic Rising is her finest, most expansive work to date. It is immersive, beautiful music. Timeless in that classic American-songbook type of way, yet speaking from a very present time and place on planet earth. It follows her breakout record, Front Row Seat to Earth, and psych-pop gems with Drugdealer. Weyes Blood is as comfortable writing hooks as prying into gnarliness.
Sunday afternoon. Serenity now” – AUNTY MEREDITH

October 9, 2019

Touring: Ryley Walker

artwork by George Gillies

RYLEY WALKER AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES:

FREMANTLE: Monday December 16 @ Mojo’s Bar with special guests Fall Electric + Rabbit Island. Presented by Cool Perth Nights. Tickets here.
MELBOURNE: Wednesday December 18 @ The Curtin with special guests Leah Senior + Andrew Tuttle. Tickets on sale here.
BRISBANE: Thursday December 19 @ Junk Bar. Tickets on sale here.
SYDNEY: Friday December 20 @ Petersham Bowlo with special guests Darren Cross + Andrew Tuttle. Tickets on sale here.
WOMBARRA: Saturday December 21 @ Wombarra Bowling Club. Tickets on sale here.

Mistletone proudly presents Ryley Walker, journeying back to Australia for a spell of intimate solo shows. Tickets on sale now!

The wildly talented Ryley Walker is one of modern Americana’s hardest working artists, known for his creativity, curious spirit and righteous guitar skills. With several fine, impressionistic solo albums to his name – most recently, the much-acclaimed Deafman Glance, co-produced with Wilco’s LeRoy Bach – Ryley has collaborated with fellow Chicago musicians such as Bill MacKay, Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas/Cave) and free-jazz drummer Charles Rumback.

Last seen opening for Joanna Newsom at Sydney Opera House and sharing the stage with Kurt Vile at Mistletone’s Summer Tones party in 2016, Ryley Walker draws deeply on distinctly American traditions with a masterly guitar playing that is as arresting as his freewheeling performance style.

Ryley’s Australian tour will come hot on the heels of a new collaborative album with Charles Rumback, their second release together as a duo after 2016’s Cannots. Little Common Twist compiles eight instrumental pieces and will be released November 8 on Thrill Jockey. Together, Ryley and Rumback – a pillar of the second wave of improvisers in a scene first shaped by the legendary players like Sun Ra and the AACM – find common ground in their kinetic, intuitive playing and yearning creative outlook.  Listen to “Half Joking” below.

As Ryley elaborates below, Deafman Glance is the second Ryley Walker album produced by LeRoy Bach and Walker himself. It was largely recorded at the Minbal (now JAMDEK) Studios in Chicago. Some later sessions also took place at USA Studios and in LeRoy’s kitchen. Cooper Crain (Bitchin’ Bajas, Cave) recorded and mixed the album, as well as adding his shimmering synths all over it. Ryley plays electric & acoustic guitars and was joined by long-time 6-string sparring partners, Brian J Sulpizio and Bill Mackay, who both play electric. LeRoy Bach also plays some electric guitar, whilst adding all piano and other keys. Andrew Scott Young and Matt Lux play bass – Andrew supplying some double-bass, both of them played electric. Drums / percussion are handled by Mikel Avery and Quin Kirchner. Topping off this list of notorious Chi-Town players is Nate Lepine, who added a lot of flute and a little saxophone too.

It’s a good record. But I can’t really listen to it anymore. It kind of broke my brain. It took a year, and there were a lot of times I thought it was going nowhere, a lot of botched sessions. It was all my fault, no one else’s. I was just totally unprepared. I went in with over-confidence, I went in there like ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go!’ but I was just kind of bullshitting. I went in expecting to make a fucking masterpiece, but I kept hitting a brick wall. 

I was under a lot of stress because I was trying to make an anti-folk record and I was having trouble doing it. I wanted to make something deep-fried and more me-sounding. I didn’t want to be jammy acoustic guy anymore. I just wanted to make something weird and far-out that came from the heart finally. I was always trying to make something like this I guess, trying to catch up with my imagination. And I think I succeeded in that way — it’s got some weird instrumentation on there, and some surreal far-out words.

And it’s more Chicago-y sounding. Chicago sounds like a train constantly coming towards you but never arriving. That’s the sound I hear, all the time, ringing in my ears. Everybody here’s always hustling. Everybody who talks to you on the street’s always got something they’re coming at you with. It’s the sound of strangers dodging one another. And landlords knocking on doors to get rent that people don’t have. But it’s eerily quiet at night. This record is the sound of walking home late at night through Chicago in the middle of winter and being half-creeped out, scared someone’s going to punch you in the back of the head, and half in the most tranquil state you’ve been in all day, enjoying the quiet and this faint wind, and buses going by on all-night routes. That’s the sound to tune in to. That’s the sound of Chicago to me.

Chicago. More than ever I’m just finding little details about it that I love. There’s so many weird twists about it: the way that street lights look here is really peculiar, and a really bleak sense when you walk around. It looks gray, there’s not a lot of color, and I find a lot of radiance in that. And oh man it smells like diesel. And garbage cans. And in the summer when it really heats up it’s extra garbage-canny. And everything here looks like it’s about to break. It looks like it’s derelict. But that’s what I’m used to, that’s what I like. The amount of imperfection in this city is really perfect. 

So I’ve fallen in love with Chicago pretty hard over the past year, despite crippling depression. I’ve realized I can’t not be in a city. I appreciate nature, I appreciate driving through nature, but you put me in a campsite for more than two days and I’ll flip the fuck out. I need to hear people outside of my window trying to buy crack. I need to be able to buy a taco at two in the morning. I need to hear the neighbors yelling really fucking loud at each other in the middle of the night. I need people. I need people really fucking bad. 

You have to find calm in the city. You actively search for it. It’s not a la carte like it is in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. Which are beautiful, they’re one of God’s finest creations — I’m not talking shit about the Rocky Mountains. But in the city it’s like scoring drugs, you’ve got to score your tranquil situations. And that’s the sound of Chicago to me.

The songs don’t really deal with any political or personal or social issues at all. Mostly it just comes from being bummed out. And there’s not a lot of musical influences on the record. I wasn’t even listening to music when I made it. Last year was probably the least I’ve listened to music in my adult life. I mean I was listening to stuff in the van — I listened to a lot of Genesis records. I got really into Genesis. But there’s nothing else I could point to. Maybe I’d say it’s a record for coming up or coming down. It’s not an album for the middle of the day. It’s for the beginning or end of it.

I quit drugs and booze recently. I got sick of being a party animal — I don’t want to be 19-gin-and-tonics-Ryley anymore. My brain is working a little better now, but man I was just going at it pretty wildly, and then trying to make a record while I was drinking, it was kind of like torture. 

We all had no idea what was going on, every song we’d be like ‘What is this record?’ Because every song sounded different. In a way this record was working with everybody that I’ve worked with for years, and it wasn’t like a Fleetwood Mac thing where everybody fell in love and divorced or anything, but a lot of times we were butting heads in the studio. 

I hadn’t played any of the songs live ever, whereas with my earlier records I’d play the shit out of them live and then go into the studio when they were totally cooked up and ready to go. But these songs were all half ideas and riffs I had on my mind, so that held things up for a while.

Being meticulous and being deets-oriented is not my thing at all. I’ve never been like that. I’m kind of like go go go! Making a quick record is not hard, it’s the easiest thing the world, so working in this time frame, over a year, made me go kind of nuts and… oh, tortured artist bullshit, blah blah blah. But then last summer we started playing songs back to back and finally we started to hear a common thread running through the record. 

I’m lucky enough to have some people who are playing on it who had a big part in shaping the songs and writing with me. Cooper Crain, the guy who engineered it, and played all the synthesizers. And when the flute guy, Nate Lepine came in, that was really something that made it special. The producer was this guy LeRoy Bach. I love LeRoy, he’s a really talented guy. He did the last record too. 

The last record was cool but I was still figuring out what I was good at. But I’m fucking 28 years old, I’ve got to figure out a sound, figure out something that I enjoy doing. So this record is a little bit more grown up. Ol’Ryley’s just workin’ on bein’ a better Ryley.

I think more than anything the thing to take away from this record is that I appreciate what improv and jamming and that outlook on music has done for me, but I wanted rigid structure for these songs. I don’t want to expand upon them live. There’s a looseness to some of the songs I guess, but I didn’t want to rely on just hanging out on one note. It’s so straight-forward that I can see a lot of people really not liking it to be honest. But I’m so happy, I’m happy that it’s completely different and unexpected.

But I know it’s divisive. It’s hard to talk about. It’s a weird record.

Ryley Walker was in conversation with Laura Barton.


September 26, 2019

Touring: Steve Gunn

STEVE GUNN – AUSTRALIAN TOUR DATES

Saturday 16 November + Sunday 17 November – Mullum Festival, Mullumbimby
Tickets

Monday 18 November – Junk Bar, Brisbane
Tickets

Wednesday 20 November – AltarHobart
w/ Andrew Tuttle
Tickets

Thursday 21 November – Theatre Royal, Castlemaine
w/ Tiny Ruins + Andrew Tuttle
Tickets

Friday 22 November – Melbourne Music Week / State Library, Melbourne
w/ Tiny Ruins + Grand Salvo
Tickets

Saturday 23 November – Coalchella @ Wombarra Bowlo, Wombarra
Tickets

Sunday 24 November – Red Rattler, Sydney
w/ Tiny Ruins + Andrew Tuttle
Tickets


Mistletone proudly presents Steve Gunn, returning to Australia this November for a run of headline shows in SydneyBrisbaneHobart and Castlemaine, as well as appearances at Mullum FestivalMelbourne Music Week and Coalchella. Full tour dates and ticket links above.

For over a decade, Steve Gunn has been one of American music’s most pivotal figures — conjuring immersive and psychedelic sonic landscapes both live and on record, releasing revered solo albums ranking high on in-the-know end of year lists, alongside exploratory collaborations with artists as diverse as Mike Cooper, Kurt Vile, and Michael Chapman (whose most recent studio album he produced).  Supremely gifted at the guitar, Gunn’s career has been steadily blossoming over the past decade, his virtuosic fingerstyle playing and ruminative sound making recent room for unfeigned, glowing vocals.

Gunn is known for telling other people’s stories, but on his breakthrough fourth album, The Unseen In Between, he explored his own emotional landscapes with his most complex, fully realized songs to date. The lyrics evoke voyages, tempests (actual and emotional), and a rich cast of characters met along the way — the work of an artist finding a place of calm in the midst of a storm.

Steve Gunn will be joined by New Zealand’s Tiny Ruins for three co-headline shows. For almost 10 years, Tiny Ruins has been the vehicle Hollie Fullbrook’s intimate songwriting. In the wake of the release of Olympic Girls Solo, an acoustic recording of her widely acclaimed third album on Milk! Records, Hollie joins Steve Gunn for co-headline shows in MelbourneCastlemaine and Sydney, in rare solo performances reflecting the sparse beauty and intricate guitar playing of her earliest work.

Grand Salvo (esteemed Melbourne artist Paddy Mann, who was recently shortlisted for the Australian Music Prize for his masterpiece Sea Glass) will open the State Library event in the Redmond Barry Reading Room; an invitation to drop into a place of stillness and attentive listening. Acclaimed Brisbane maestro of banjo and resonator guitar Andrew Tuttle will open in Castlemaine, Sydney and Hobart.

artwork by George Gillies.

August 27, 2019

Touring: Cate Le Bon

Mistletone is excited to present the great Cate Le Bon, touring Australia with her brilliant band and playing songs from her intoxicating, Mercury Prize-shortlisted album, Reward (out now on Mexican Summer via Rocket). Tickets on sale now!

CATE LE BON TOUR DATES:

PERTH: Monday December 9 @ Rosemount Hotel with Nicholas Allbrook. Presented by Cool Perth Nights. tickets on sale here.
SYDNEY: Wednesday December 11 @ Factory Theatre with June Jones. tickets on sale here.
BRISBANE: Thursday December 12 @ The Foundry with The Goon Sax. tickets on sale here.
CASTLEMAINE: Friday December 13 @ Theatre Royal with June Jones. tickets on sale here.
MEREDITH: Saturday December 14 @ Meredith Music Festival.
MELBOURNE: Sunday December 15 @ Croxton Bandroom with June Jones. tickets on sale here.

“Surrealist, tactile, against the grain… Welsh polymath Cate Le Bon keeps a steady, curious hand. “A ringleader who’s prepared to stake out uncertain territory”, she walks the tightrope between krautrock aloofness and heartbreaking tenderness; deadpan served with a twinkle in the eye” – AUNTY MEREDITH

It was on a mountainside in Cumbria that the first whispers of Cate Le Bon’s fifth studio album poked their buds above the earth. “There’s a strange romanticism to going a little bit crazy and playing the piano to yourself and singing into the night,” she says, recounting the year living solitarily in the Lake District which gave way to Reward. By day, ever the polymath, Le Bon painstakingly learnt to make solid wood tables, stools and chairs from scratch; by night she looked to a second-hand Meers — the first piano she had ever owned — for company, “windows closed to absolutely everyone”, and accidentally poured her heart out. The result is an album every bit as stylistically varied, surrealistically-inclined and tactile as those in the enduring outsider’s back catalogue, but one that is also intensely introspective and profound; her most personal to date.

Grandfather-clock-like chimes occupy the first few bars of opener ‘Miami’, heralding the commencement of an album largely concerned with a period of significant personal change. Not only is the city of the song’s title the location of a seismic shift in Le Bon’s life, but it is also, she suggests, faintly ridiculous for someone from a small town in Wales to be singing about cosmopolitan Miami; a perfect parallel to the feeling of absurdity which can accompany a big life change. Such changes demand adjustment, she muses, punctuated by the continuing chime of the synth and a smattering of sax; Never be the same again / No way / Falling skies and people are bored…Oh, it takes some time / It hangs in doors.

From there, into the early morning mist sprouts gently-wrought first single ‘Daylight Matters’. Its persistent I love yous, voiced over a subtly disorderly arrangement, are not, as they may at first seem, an outpouring of affection, but rather a luxuriation in the deliciousness of self-pity; the product of time spent alone “enforcing an absence in order to mourn it” as opposed to an out and out love song — although, Le Bon adds, “love is always lurking, I suppose.” Hot on the heels of the first is melancholic second single ‘Home to You’, at once a new sound for Le Bon and yet still identifiably hers; exemplary of Reward‘s shift away from the more classical-sounding keys 2016’s Crab Day, and a lilt towards the electronic in its predominant use of synthesiser. But despite this stylistic departure, the ghost of the Meers lingers; that Reward‘s ten songs were conceived alone at a piano remains evident not by their literal sound, but rather by the feeling of closeness that they convey.

This sense of privacy maintained throughout is helped by the various landscapes within which Reward took shape: Stinson Beach, LA, and Brooklyn via Cardiff and The Lakes. Recording at Panoramic House [Stinson Beach, CA], a residential studio on a mountain overlooking the ocean, afforded Le Bon the ability to preserve the remoteness she had captured during the writing of Reward in Staveley, Lake District. Though a stint in Los Angeles to try and finish some of the songs didn’t last long (“it just didn’t work…it was just too hectic, everything seemed a bit more fragmented and people were coming and going, as opposed to it being this closed off to the world-ness that I think I really seek when I’m recording”), Le Bon and co-producer and engineer Samur Khouja took to the Joshua Tree desert. “We barely saw other people and it was conducive to finding our feet with the record again.”

Over this extended period a cast of trusted and loved musicians joined Le Bon, Khouja and fellow co-producer Josiah Steinbrick — Stella Mozgawa (of Warpaint) on drums and percussion; Stephen Black (aka Sweet Baboo) on bass and saxophone and longtime collaborators Huw Evans (aka H.Hawkline) and Josh Klinghoffer on guitars — and were added to the album, “one by one, one on one”. The fact that these collaborators have appeared variously on Le Bon’s previous outputs no doubt goes some way to aid the preservation of a signature sound despite a relatively drastic change in approach.

Be it on her more minimalist, acoustic-leaning 2009 debut album Me Oh Myor critically acclaimed, liquid-riffed 2013 LP Mug Museum, Cate Le Bon’s solo work — and indeed also her production work, such as that carried out on recent Deerhunter album Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?(4AD, January 2019) — has always resisted pigeonholing, walking the tightrope between krautrock aloofness and heartbreaking tenderness; deadpan served with a twinkle in the eye, a flick of the fringe and a lick of the Telecaster. This skilful traversing of apparent contradictions continues to make itself known on Reward, where, from the lamenting bones of ‘Home to You’ springs ‘Mother’s Mother’s Magazines’, a song derived from “being around a lot of really fed up women” which in its loose twanginess of composition and playful lyrics, calls to mind DRINKS — the side-project which Le Bon co-parents with Tim Presley (of White Fence). Glimmers of the biting, tongue-in-cheek and often surrealist imagery found scattered throughout Le Bon’s previous works rear their heads once more on ‘Sad Nudes’ (Pick up the phone / Take the call from your mother / She really wants you to answer) and the pulsating, cascading ‘Magnificent Gestures’ (I was born with no lips / Drip drip drips). Though things take a turn for the pessimistic on third single ‘The Light’, (Mother I feel the crowd on the turn / Took out the windows / Moved the stairs / And I don’t see the comedy / Holding the door to my own tragedy / Take blame for the hurt but the hurt belongs to me), it is not without an underlying sense of humour, as Le Bon cynically ponders Where would he go for fun in this town? And after all, the light that eventually seeks her out offers the lonely artist salvation.

The multifaceted nature of Le Bon’s art — its ability to take on multiple meanings and hold motivations which are not immediately obvious — is evident right down to the album’s very name. “People hear the word ‘reward’ and they think that it’s a positive word” says Le Bon, “and to me it’s quite a sinister word in that it depends on the relationship between the giver and the receiver. I feel like it’s really indicative of the times we’re living in where words are used as slogans, and everything is slowly losing its meaning.” The record, then, signals a scrambling to hold onto meaning; it is a warning against lazy comparisons and face values. It is a sentiment nicely summed up by the furniture-making musician as she advises: “Always keep your hand behind the chisel.”

July 11, 2019

HTRK: Venus In Leo


HTRK photo by Kate Meakin

HTRK TOUR DATES:

  • SYDNEY: Friday August 16 at Red Rattler with Tralala Blip + DJ Nat James. Tickets on sale now from Eventbrite.
  • MELBOURNE: Saturday August 17 at Geddes Lane with James Rushford (also appearing at Supersense) + DJ Moopie. Tickets on sale now from Moshtix.
  • BRISBANE: Friday August 23 at The Foundry with Andrew Tuttle DJ Danny Venzin. Presented by Jet Black Cat Music. Tickets on sale now from Oztix.

Venus In Leo by HTRK is out on August 30 on Mistletone Records (Australia + New Zealand) via Inertia, and Ghostly International (rest of world). Pre-order Venus In Leo on limited edition clear vinyl, here.

“You Know How to Make Me Happy”, directed by Antuong Nguyen:

It’s been ten years since HTRK released their breakthrough first album, Marry Me Tonight. The band has undergone profound changes, with the first two albums released amid the deaths of close friend and collaborator Rowland S. Howard and HTRK co-founder Sean Stewart. Psychic 9-5 Club set them on a path of self-discovery, and Venus in Leo marks a spirited new chapter by one of the most distinctive bands of the past decade.

Over the soft strums of acoustic guitar, the album’s introduction,“Into the Drama,” posits a theory that “what was once considered self-sabotage could be revisited as being under the influence of Venus in Leo,” Standish explains. Fingerpicked guitar loops rise slowly and fall over a cold, brittle beat.

Previously released lovesong “Mentions” finds Standish exploring the lack of physical intimacy in the social media age. Elsewhere, there are emotional highs, like on the kaleidoscopic single “You Know How to Make Me Happy,” which details a suspended state of ecstasy, Standish commending her partner’s conscious efforts to prop her up with compliments.

“NewYear’s Day” traces a flimsy resolution to get healthier, instantly busted by an evening of debauchery, recalling “the worst possible start to the year with bad friends and bad behavior.” The silver lining is the sunrise: “pink, red, orange, white, peach” Standish repeats as the track laps with a velvety, hypnotic refrain.

Archetypal themes emerge as the band explore the makings of personality. Standish revisits her childhood home in a recurring dream (“Dream Symbol”), a doomed first kiss (“New Year’s Eve”) and high drama (“Venus in Leo”). Recorded more or less live in HTRK’s home studio in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, the album’s simple production reveals gorgeous, toned-back arrangements and an evolving, idiosyncratic songcraft.

Venus In Leo Tracklist:
01. Into The Drama
02. Mentions
03.Venus In Leo
04.You Know How To Make Me Happy
05. Dream Symbol
06. Hit ‘Em Wit Da Hee
07. Dying Of Jealousy
08. New Year’s Day
09. New Year’s Eve

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 sound system. 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. 

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 (to be re-released on white vinyl by Fire Records on September 27, 2019). From the off their sound was raw and visceral, with distorted guitar pedals caking Standish’s vocals in sonic grit.

The band followed up Nostalgia with 2009s 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 bands 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 bands sound as they continued to experiment with synthesizers and drum machines. Recording sessions at Netil House in London Fields led to the third HTRK album, Work (Work Work), released in 2011.

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. Intense and leaden with texture, Work (Work Work) is a sonic monument to Sean that explores the body’s reaction to personal loss, using humour and sex drive as lyrical themes, with pools of murky noise suffocating the guitar and bass, creating an overwhelming atmosphere that is at once malevolent yet seductive. 

Standish and Yang decamped to the Blazer Sound Studios in New Mexico to work on their next record Psychic 9-5 Club with Excepter’s Nathan Corbin called on to produce. Material dipped headlong into some of the things that make humans tick: love, loss, and desire. Released in April 2014, the collection presented a more tender and polished version of HTRK, the flesh stripped from their sound, the focus placed on naked arrangements and minimalist sound design.

HTRK re-emerged in 2018 with a set of singles exploring themes of power, mind games, and intimacy in the social media age. While not revealed at the time, these were the first suggestions of Venus in Leo, the fourth full-length and a spirited new chapter for the band. Recorded more or less live in their home studio in the Dandenong Ranges outside of Melbourne, the album features much-loved HTRK hallmarks — the combination of space and intimacy, the unmistakable interplay between Yang’s guitars and Standish’s vocals — while differing markedly in its energy, returning to the duo’s underground rock past with the stylistic playfulness and variety of a modern mixtape. It sees release on Mistletone / Inertia on August 30, 2019.