LISTEN: Aussie Music Half-Year Round-Up
, July 27th, 2015 15:54
As we pass the half-way mark of 2015, Kate Hennessy takes stock of the year in music so far down under
Last week I ran into a guy who owned a really nice jam space in Sydney. He shut it down a few weeks back. He’s a pastry chef now. “There’s just not as many bands,” he said, though he didn’t seem convinced. It reminded me how hard it can be to see the hard outline of a music scene when you’re in its hazy middle.
Warranted or not, there is a pervasive sense of marginalisation in independent Australian music communities. Particularly in Sydney, where live music has developed a survivalist instinct in the face of seemingly endless threats. Sometimes, it works in our favour, as it did about six years ago when the city’s industrial outskirts bloomed with fun-as-hell warehouse spaces.
Sometimes it just gets tiring, like when I see my inbox crammed with the names of all the salaried industry middle-men and middle-woman. At times like that, a column such as this one – collecting a bunch of excellent Australian tracks – is a fortifying exercise in remembering how good local music remains in Australia, despite the odds.
Speaking of the middle-people, very few of these artists were delivered to me via formal promo channels. I contacted labels, friends (and friends of friends) and rummaged deep in the bowels of Bandcamp. Then again, I did that last year too and still managed to miss a dank post-punk tape from Sydney’s Ill Winds, the disconcerting loops spliced with obscure Japanese 7 inches of Brisbane’s Pale Earth, the Asian-influenced garage pop of Melbourne’s Empat Lima and Robert Curgenven’s epic field recording project from across 30 locations in Australia.
So for every song listed here, assume I’ve missed another. That’s what keeps things fun; that’s what keeps us looking.
High Tension - 'Bully
“Show you how it’s done, bitch”. Frontwoman Karina Utomo spits and snarls through an all-female fight club, fat with stoner-rock riffs.
Rand and Holland - 'Old Crow
Brett Thompson has journeyed to folk and back to his heavier roots, as does this song. Pulverising outro.
Russell Street Bombings - ‘Homicide Club’
Low-fi meanderings a la Velvet Underground from duo also of Total Control and Lower Plenty.
Cosmic Psychos - ‘Better Not Bitter’
Bogan grog rockers for 30 years and counting. This video was filmed on singer Ross Knight’s farm in rural Victoria. Cameras were reportedly returned sticky with fake blood.
Lucy Cliché - ‘Drain Down’
Ex-Naked on the Vague, Lucy’s now making dystopian synthy techno that works great played to dark dancefloors really late.
Briggs feat. Gurrumul & Dewayne Everettsmith - ‘The Children Came Back’
“I'm everything you can't be, I'm the dead heart’s heartbeat.” This slow-burner from indigenous Victorian rapper Briggs lists aboriginal heroes past and present. It brims with hope and pride for all Australians at a time when cops are high-fiving racist activists in the street.
Housewives - ‘Brown Out’
Punk to remind you it needn’t be anything more, or less, than this. Addictive too.
King Parrot - ‘Home Is Where The Gutter Is’
Filthy Melbourne metal that veers from death to thrash.
Bushranger - ‘Dry Creek Bed’
I’m bloody partial to ambient tracks “feat.” raucous Australian birds. Are you?
Monica Brook - ‘Werteim’
Droplets, rivulets, rivers then a great gushing flood. The kind of piano composition you succumb to, rather than listen to.
Horsehunter - ‘Stoned to Death’
Monstrous stoner doom with vocals reminiscent of Om singer Al Cisneros. No surprises, none needed.
Rites Wild - ‘No Where’
Burial-esque bass from Adelaide’s Rites Wild - ends way too soon.
Nadir - 'Left Hanging'
Harsh electronic noise spat out by a modular synth and processed via laptop improv.
Superstar - ‘Folding Gold’
Warm, enveloping, swoony, guilty.
Making - ‘Come To Me’
Sydney My Disco-esque band make a video about self-surveillance and modern paranoia. Suits their vibe of uber-masculine precision.
Cured Pink - ‘Essential’
Experimental dubby post punk. Flinty and sharp amid the reverb and delay.
Daughter’s Fever - ‘The Green Window’
Gripping collaboration between peerless folk singer Grand Salvo, drummer Joe Talia, and trumpeter Peter Knight of the Australia Art Orchestra.
Ghastly Spats - ‘Obsessed’
From R.I.P Society label head Nic Warnock: “This record is a monster - dense and disorientating, a calculated cacophony.”
Fair Maiden - ‘Poison’
Romantic 60s-style pop. The band playing in the other bar in the woods in Lynch's Twin Peaks.
Hope Drone - ‘Every End Is Fated In Its Beginning’
The title tells you right that it’s post-metal but it’s not afraid of double kick and the darkness.
Reuben Ingall - ‘Microwave Drone Ritual’
Ambient track made cooking a meat pie in a microwave in our nation’s capital, Canberra.
Royal Headache - ‘High’
Sydney garage band in fucking ridiculous form right now. If they come to your town, SEE THEM.
Jonny Telafone - ‘Inferno’
Label Chapter Music calls Jonny an “R'n'B man-myth” and this song a “gleaming fatalist epic”. Let’s go with that.
Exhaustion with Kris Wanders - S/T
Collaboration between Melbourne’s bleak rockers Exhaustion and Dutch saxophonist Kris Wanders. Difficult in (most of) the right ways.
Alyx Dennison - ‘Triptych’
An episodic journey from earthbound to celestial. Truly inventive.
Hierophants - ‘Nervous Tic’
A bit of 60s psychedelia, a bit of early Eno, and a whole lot of Devo.
Sarah Mary Chadwick - ‘Aquarius Gemini’
Sadcore, slowcore and croaky core combine in the redemptive power of wallowing.
Dick Diver - ‘Year In Pictures’
Deceptively casual for the year-thus-far’s most perfect happy-sad pop song. Nice swing action too.
Circular Keys - ‘Baby (Lite)’
I'm bowing out. Everything I write sounds lame. Well done Circular Keys.
Workshop - 'Purity Exhibition'
Brisbane sister duo who pull off Ladytron with aplomb.
Cassius Select - ‘He Ain’t Worth’
Hip hop beats and samples sliced and skewered by Sydney producer Lavurn Lee into something immensely restless and uncategorisable. Dancer in video is incredible.
100% - ‘Sour’
Kind of like a lo-fi Austra. Just listen.
Alessandro Bosetti and Chris Abrahams - 'EYE (excerpt)'
Italian composer and Australian pianist join in unsettling incongruity
Pearls - ‘Pretend You’re Mine’
Pretension and costumes are a good thing in music, remember.
T. Morimoto - ‘Supernatural’
Hypnotic end-of-times Basinski-esque loop with video care of Sydney’s excellent Rainbow Chan.
Tom Ellard - ‘Rhine’
Founder of seminal Sydney electronic act Severed Heads has come over all Boards of Canada.