It might not feel like it to the band, who have been playing together for close to 2 years now, but these are the early days for Sydney four piece Wash. Contingent upon their continued existence, Wash will look back on this video and see something similar to what I’m seeing now – something protoplasmic but having potential.
The art of restraint is lost on many emerging acts, but Wash manage to pull it off on ‘Drive’. Watching this video, there’s no immediate sensation that the guitarists want to get laid based purely on the sickness of their solos, and I, for one, am thankful for their sacrifice. Frontman Anton’s vocals, whilst rough, do have a distinct character and warbling cadence that I find myself enjoying more after each listen.
The quality of the bedroom producer was always bound to skyrocket with the steady advancement of home recording and music composition technology, but back in the land before time before macbooks, where everyone wore drab shirts, wireframe glasses and seemed to enjoy office humour unironically, none of us could have anticipated how good it was going to get.
When Charlie Gradon previewed Excuses (ft. Lara King) to me, I was at once delighted and confounded. Delighted because… well, just listen to the Soundcloud embed below; if you still have questions, email me. And confounded because I realised that I was chatting with someone who was, if not already proficient, had begun to make meaningful contributions to the fields of folk, rock, psychadelica with his other projects, and now could add electronica to his laundry list of well-crafted genre ventures. His bedroom music made all the time I spent in my bedroom most likely educating others on the internet about the dangers of going outside seem like wasted hours.
Excuses ft. Lara King has a few strings to its bow that makes this electronica release as sturdy as the fabled (but as yet, unproven) cafe table that doesn’t wobble underneath the weight of food being placed on it. The vocals, chopped and changed and scattered within the piece are discerningly employed, Lara King’s saccharine harmonies serve to both guide and propel the listener through Bliss Fool’s rich instrumental. Small changes to the percussion, whilst complementary, don’t go unnoticed. Organic wooshes, clacks and tittering hi hats do well to not overstay their welcome.
Gradon has a penchant for creating an improvised atmosphere in his electronica, as demonstrated through his previous work as a member of NOWON, and revisits a similar vivid production quality here. The addition of memorable instrumental flourishes and hooks in future works will work wonders for Bliss Fool as he finds his footing as an artist, but Excuses is already demonstrating a considered sound that had got me on board with future releases.
I first saw Max Quinn perform his music around this time last year at a poetry night in Glebe. Though I wouldn’t go as far as to classify my distaste for the movement as prejudice, I’ve definitely got an active apathy towards the ‘dude with a guitar’ genre as a whole. Can you blame me? It’s a grossly over-saturated market! But Max Quinn isn’t just a dude with a guitar, I thought to myself that particular Winter evening; his wry, sardonic lyrics hit me first, his high register pop-punk vocals second, and a sturdy no-bullshit guitar backing third, by the fourth thing I was thinking as highly of Max’s music as I was of the delicious alcoholic fruit punch that helped to lubricate these thoughts that aforementioned Winter evening.
Max released a full album of these tunes back in November in last year, filling out these singer-songwriter pieces with drum machines, wailing electric guitars and MIDI xylophones to make for a hearty bedroom music debut that sounded leagues ahead of his garageband contemporaries.
Now it’s May: the leaves are turning brown, EOFYS is almost upon us, I alternate between sweatshirt and singlet more than a character on Housos, and Max has released another track to keep us at bay. Quinn’s lyrics are front and centre on Groceries and Rent, weaving the grievances of mid-20s financial mismanagement with a deft charm, dropping sleeper gems such as ‘I am Ernie in the body of Bert: a snickering dick in a plaid overshirt’. Max’s voice (which has developed quite a bit since his November release) sits steadily over a DIY power pop backing that wears a hint of mid-2000s indie rock influence, with restrained guitar solos and flashes of glockenspiel during the choruses taking me back to when the popularity of a song was measured by whether it was or wasn’t on one of those silhouetted iPod ads.
While it may not boast the sleek production of his 2014 debut album, Max Quinn’s Onomatopenis’ track Groceries and Rent is two minutes of concentrated power pop cleverness from an artist you’d do very well to keep an ear out for on the Sydney circuit.
Southes. writes his name with a period, much like Chiefly Sounds. does. Now, I’m aware that grammar nerds will be losing their minds right now, but Southes. and Chiefly Sounds. are goddamn linguistic pioneers and we won’t let something as simple as the fundamentals of syntax stand in our way. The mutual admiration stops there, however, as I have no stirring electronica releases to boast of, wheras Melbournian Lachie Anthony, well, he most certainly does. Taken from his debut EP tidal. which is due for release this week (!!!), Water’s considered production and immersive vocal work makes for a stunning track that reaches deep into your soul and plucks at your heartstrings. Presenting a voice like the venerated lovechild of Jònsi and Justin Vernon, listening to Lachie’s vocals on Water is an otherworldly experience, his stylish falsetto hitting that near-insurmountable range where many vocalists strive towards, but few reach. With simplistically emotive lyrics peppered throughout, Southes.’ track Water is a swelling debut that has more than enough dramatic appeal and contemporary production work to land on an indie flick soundtrack in 2015, but the pronounced songwriting potential to go much, much farther.
You might not know it from the opulent orchestral arrangement in the opening moments of Coda, but Samuel Dobson is a rapper, and though this fusion of symphonic sounds and rapping is completely new territory for the subgenre, this is indeed Aussie Hip Hop. Yes, the same genre that’s as dichotomising as it is currently thriving has now got another reason to expand it’s Wikipedia page. Formerly known as Shazza T, Samuel Dobson’s latest single marks a distinct change in musical direction as a platform for his poetry, drawing focus towards his vivid and emotive lyricism.
Whilst the accompanying instrumental is completely unlike the current trends in Hip Hop, Dobson’s flow is pleasantly familiar, his years of storytelling experience shining through on Coda. An insight into some of his darker moments, there’s not a single throwaway lyric in this track, with lines like ‘I’m tailspinning on failed wings and gale winds / the deal’s done and I fucked up, I’m nailed in’ demonstrating Samuel’s aptitude for accomplished storytelling. Instrumental flourishes throughout Coda keep this orchestral backing from touching the realms of novelty, the jazzy piano breaks, violin hooks and pizzicato strings all employed discerningly.
Already one of the more intriguing releases to come out of Sydney this year, Samuel Dobson’s Coda is just a single track from an entire album of orchestral hip hop that’s one successful Pozible campaign away from release. If you’re a legendface, go contribute to see this album released and to see more of Sam’s captivating storytelling heard by a wider audience.
I’ve been meaning to write on atOlla for months now. Sydney’s Matilda Stephanie and James Santos have been steadily building up their electronic music repertoire, each release without fail superseding the one that came before it. Part of this process has been trial and error and part of it has been intentional experimentation with different styles of production over the years, but on their latest track Bloom taken from their forthcoming 3rd EP Lucille, atOlla have finally hit on a perfect hybrid of synthpop and electronica, and I’m infatuated.
Hovering above the undulating synth chords, dynamic breaks and stylish ambience is frontwoman Matilda Stephanie’s elegant vocal performance, which strikes a rare blend of intimacy and authority. With a flair for narrative to back up her voice, Matilda paints rich and emotive stories with just a handful words, the result being striking lyrics like ‘Do not try to smother me / meant to be, it’s meant to be’. There’s a calculated unsteadiness to the instrumental on Bloom, with a shaky, sometimes deteriorating pitch underpinning the textured synthwork in a style reminiscent of fellow Sydney act Seekae.
Bloom is a lavish piece of synthpop that holds its own both instrumentally and lyrically as a unique and original work from this Sydney duo, and serves as a wonderful teaser for atOlla’s upcoming Lucille EP, which can’t come soon enough.
There’s nothing more Aussie than writing a heartfelt ode to our nation’s spread, Vegemite. Those marching band kids seemed quite passionate about the yeast extract back in the 1950s, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard released a wonky tribute to the spread last year, and Amanda Palmer has already recorded two songs about Vegemite to date, and lord knows she’s been trying harder than anyone to become an Australian. As true blue as wearing budgie smugglers and drinking VB, Sydney’s own BJ Smith and Davo Voglis (pictured above wearing budgie smugglers and drinking VB) are the latest to pitch in to this sporadically patriotic trend, under the name Gay Rodeo.
The opening track on Gay Rodeo’s debut EP, Vegemite is a lo-fi journey through one man’s unquestioning love for the salty spread. Front-and-centre in this track, BJ’s slack vocals are definitely a cut from the same cloth as Peter Bibby, but with a charming mix of jangly guitar chords, resonant glockenspiel hits and thin drumming, Gay Rodeo manage to define themselves independent of the Melbourne artist’s music. Mrs Williams is one minute of concentrated teenage resentment, with the band’s former teacher Mrs Williams (who, in fairness, does sound like a bit of a dickhead) being berated to the sounds of abrasive punk guitar and curt vocal delivery.
Taking a distinctly slacker rock turn, I Ain’t No Green Machine’s tongue-in-cheek criticism of weed culture has an Ocker Aussie flavour to it’s lyrics, with clever lines like ‘I’d rather drink some wine, I’d rather *sniff* do an ounce of speed’. Final track Pocket Full of Cotton follows in the longstanding tradition of Country music dedicated to the working man. With pleasingly melodious harmonica solos, a galloping drumline courtesy of Davo Voglis and BJ’s laidback voice, this closing track flaunts Gay Rodeo’s strongest songwriting so far, and a keen eye for no-bullshit storytelling that has a Courtney Barnett-esque simplicity.
While Gay Rodeo might have a little way to go yet in terms of songwriting and instrumental finesse, their debut EP is a charming slice of dolewave with overtones of country and lo-fi rock, making this two piece’s music sound about as Aussie as vegemite on toast.
An institution at their home of Northern Beaches where they reign supreme and rule with an iron fist, and a perplexing yet delightful surprise for audiences in the heart of city, surf rockers Space Monk are one of the best kept secrets of Sydney’s music scene. With humble origins as a bedroom recording project, their early demos displayed budding songwriting talents with a flair for indie rock instrumentals accompanied by frontman Lachlan Body’s sun-bleached vocals. Add to this their gratifyingly energetic live shows peppered with eccentric and oftentimes hilarious stage banter, and there’s every reason to follow Space Monk as they continue their journey from the bedroom to the (incrementally larger) stages.
Analysis Paralysis is the debut single from Space Monk ahead of their debut EP due for release later this year, and as we’ve come to expect, it’s a laid-back, mid-tempo slice of road trip paradise set to the tune of the band’s own inimitable brand of surf-y indie rock. A hearty concoction of driving drum work, understated vocals and shrewd guitar lines, Analysis Paralysis is a summery first taste from this four piece, and enough to make me sufficiently excited for a larger release from Space Monk in 2015.
The first of a series.
Put on your dancing shoes.
Don’t take no for an answer.
Paint the town red.
It’s a digital bank robbery in the heart of London; the year is 2148. The criminals are sophisticated, intelligent, and adorned with high-tech gadgets to aid their communication, and security violations. $40,000,000 is at stake here, and as the band of crooks each individually make their way into the heavily monitored building, an electronic producer in Melbourne sits and watches the unedited footage from this feature film, attentively composing a piece to soundtrack this futuristic heist.
If you told me that was how Twitch, a track by Melbourne producer KNDL, was created, I wouldn’t have questioned you for a second. There’s something really special going on in the music created by Jesse Kendal that offers a carefully crafted alternative to the increasingly oversaturated world of electronic music. As with all producers, there are distinct hallmarks of KNDL’s tunes that give him a signature sound: these include shimmering, in-and-out of focus pads, ethereal vocal samples, deep percussive bass, and of course, those glitchy percussion lines.
Of the tunes that he’s put up on his soundcloud (which he seems to be adding to every other week!), Twitch is the best example of Jesse’s work so far. It’s a moody cut that shimmies and stutters, and each change in texture leads to a wonderfully contrasting atmosphere that conjures up dense and specific images in the mind of the listener. I’ve already mentioned the percussion lines in Jesse’s work, but it bears repeating; the attention to detail given to every single clatter, clash and rattle in this track is simply astounding, and further demonstrates that his music is not one of carelessness, but one of pronounced craftsmanship.
I don’t know about you, but I’m keeping a close eye on KNDL this year. The burgeoning talent demonstrated through Jesse Kendal’s music so far puts him on a trajectory that may well make him one of the key trendsetters in 2015.