, May 17th, 2013 10:22
"Australians tend to write with silence in mind," Conrad Standish told The Quietus recently. It's an interesting idea, and one that manifests throughout Deleted Scenes, an album where a sense of space and the absence of sound is just as important to the prevailing atmosphere as the music itself. Standish and bandmate Tom Carlyon have come a long way since Devastations – the PR material for this record describes this new project as "futurist dub pop," a label that's as good as any in describing Deleted Scenes' marriage of bass-heavy, faintly ominous electronic arrangements to decidedly catchy melody lines. The combination makes for a record that carries a sense of a whole lot of darkness lurking beneath a superficially glossy facade, and is compelling listening throughout.
The first thing you notice about Deleted Scenes – especially if you listen with headphones – is just how good the production is. In the bass frequencies, especially, the understated yet intricate arrangements recall the work of techno artists like Mika Vainio: there's a similar sense of sound – and the absence of it – as physical force rather than as a vehicle for melody. The instrumentation layered over these underpinnings is also often more atmospheric than melodic, and often feels like a spidery, fragile web strung across a great dark void.
(In this respect, as an aside, Deleted Scenes shares certain stylistic similarities with HTRK's excellent Work (work, work). It's an obvious comparison, perhaps, given the close connection between the two bands – Standish's wife Jonnine forms half of HTRK, and provides guest vocals on 'Feb Love' here – but both records share techno-influenced, bass-heavy arrangements and lyrics that seem to both exhort and undermine conceptions of love and pleasure.)
The lyrics mirror the sense of unease beneath a glamorous veneer – the very first line of the album speaks of "acid rain in our champagne," while 'Subliminally' references "spiders in the palm trees" and notes that "She will insist she's feeling fine... I'm inclined to disagree." Referring to things as Lynchian is very much in vogue at the moment, but Deleted Scenes definitely evokes a similar atmosphere to, say, Mulholland Drive – a feeling of cruising hot, empty nights, of hedonistic alienation, of greeting an unwanted dawn in a vacant bed in a great, vacant house. The scene related in 'Critics Multiply', for instance, is pure Hollywood: "She whispers, 'Actresses get lonely too,' washed up in the jacuzzi/ And serenades you with deleted scenes from Korean horror movies."
As with Lynch, too, there's a certain playful, surreal humor to the whole thing – any Australian could tell you that there's something inherently absurd about someone from the antipodes using the word "jacuzzi" in pretty much any context, while 'Gucci Mountain' finds Standish "chewing bamboo off the coast of Casanova" and 'Nono/Yoyo' contains some of the more outrageous rhymes you'll hear this side of Brian Molko: "You're stranded in Kyoto/ With nothing but a yoyo/ Your credit card's in Soho/ At Yamamoto's dojo." Somehow, it works.
Curiously, though, the album's atmosphere manifests most fully when the words are removed entirely. 'Industrial Resort' sounds exactly like its name, an unlikely marriage of a grinding, mechanical industrial beat with incongruously tropical flavours – a combination that recalls the work of fellow Australians Lost Animal, with whom Standish/Carlyon have been sharing bills of late. 'Acqua Valerie' is wistful and reflective, its vocal sample drifting at the back of the mix like a half-remembered dream or a distant song, just eluding interpretation and/or comprehension.
And the closing '2 1 1 2' – a collaboration with Benjamin John Power of Fuck Buttons, who was a contemporary of Standish's during his time in London – is a grinding, insistent piece that turns out the last of the lights. But then, the darkness feels pretty seductive by that point.