New: TEEF Records Presents Imperium in Imperio II

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There are so many blogs on the Internet, and there’s maybe a dozen who are actually worth following. Soundly Sounds sure as shit doesn’t fall into the latter category, but Sound Doctrine certainly does. Run by Tommy Faith, the ol’ SD has been a permanent fixture in my browsing history. Here’s Tommy’s secret – he reels you in with the spilled VB tinnie and fluffy koala graphics, and then keeps you transfixed with tale after tale of incredible Australian acts that you wouldn’t possibly know about otherwise. I have Sound Doctrine to directly thank for the discovery of gems like Spirit Faces and Reuben Ingall, amongst many others

That penchant for discovery courses through Tommy’s own label TEEF Records. They’ve got some stellar releases under their belt, but it’s the compilations that I always look forward to with mouth-watering delight, because there’s a huge cast of unknown superstars spilling out of TEEF’s Bandcamp page. Following on from last year’s Imperium in Imperio compilation (which featured the likes of Electric Sea Spider, Setec, and Collarbones), TEEF present their sophomore mixtape, and fuck me sideways if it isn’t ripe with the goods.

Right off the bat, you’ve got a new one from Tracy Chen, the super quiet Adelaidian who makes music to cry by yourself to. Sparse, minimal and incredibly gentle, James Blake wishes he could’ve made a song as moving as this. And then there’s IljusWifmo – it actually annoys me that I can’t pronounce the name, because for the next week (at least), I’m going to be going up to people on the street screaming, “Hey there’s this amazing producer who makes this thrilling, sci-fi soundscape and their name is *mumbles incoherently*”.  Oh, and you can’t forget Ribongia’s “Dreams”, which forgoes his usual club thump for something a bit more surreal.

AND HOLY SHIT THAT’S JUST THE FIRST HALF! A brand new group called H/R have somehow managed to turn the most despised squadron of office life into a tantalising vortex of lush synth work and hushed vocals. Sampa the Great proves why she’s the most talked about artist of the year with an exclusive track of pulsating music that raises the bar of local hip-hop several levels. And FISHING return with “Energy Drone”, a throbbing pupil-widener of constantly shifting parts and parcels that sounds how a Rube Goldberg machine operates.

I have barely scratched the surface on all the incredible artists awaiting to be discovered on this mixtape – if I went into a detailed description of every song on here, this article would end up several thousand words. In summary, let’s just call TEEF Records’ Imperium in Imperio II an absolute barn-stormer of a mixtape, packed with tracks custom made for the moment when you need to show off something cool and new that can be unanimously hailed by the crowd as a masterpiece.

Oh, fuck, that’s still not good enough? Well, how about the fact that all proceeds raised from this mixtape go towards OXFAM’s Syrian Refugee appeal. Listening to good stuff, and doing good stuff at the same time? 2016 truly is the year of miracles.

Head to TEEF’s Bandcamp here to cop the comp. And make sure you visit Sound Doctrine regularly – seriously, that place is stacked with the best o’ the best. And it’s waaaaaaaaay better than this blog.

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Album Review: GL – Touch

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Every now and then, I get asked to DJ. It’s always heaps of fun for me, but it also sucks for everyone else there because they have to suffer through a ginger kid awkwardly fading between The Replacements and Dinosaur Jr. for hours on end, complete with long and arduous gaps of silence between each song as I attempt to figure out how the CD-J’s work.

The saving grace for these poor bastards locked in a room with me has always been GL. When all hope seems lost, and even half-priced rum ‘n’ cokes aren’t enough to enthrall even the most sturdy of boozehounds, I’ll drop some “Won’t You See” or “Grip”. Instantly, the room is a flourishing wetland of dancing figures and people that suddenly don’t hate my guts. They might not know the songs, but fuck me if folks can’t resist cutting shapes to GL. And who can blame ’em? This is boogie music, through and through!

After a few years of EP’s and singles, the duo of Graham Pogson and Ella Thompson have released their debut full-length. Never before have slap-bass, trickling synths and a drop-dead gorgeous voice been combined so effectively before – each song hits like a speeding train of propulsive rhythms and deadly pop.

The instrumentation of Touch sparkles with crystalline production, each synth burbling with a joyful soul and the bass riffs squelching with particular enthusiasm. Every time another bass slap rockets through the speakers, you can’t help but let out a little involuntary ‘Ooo!’!

However, the star of the show has to go to Ella Thompson’s vocals; her voice acts as a beacon amongst the thick production, summoning from the dance floor, a battle cry for the good times you risk missing out on if you ignore the call. Thompson has proved herself one of the best vocalists, doing time with everyone from Dorsal Fins to AXOLOTOL, but with GL, she delves into a well of talent, unleashing a full-blown pop powerhouse on songs like “Grip” and “Number One”.

There’s a reason why the music of GL goes off so well at my otherwise uneventful and uninspired DJ sets – they just know how to make really great pop music. This duo from Melbourne just ‘get’ it, the same way that Cyndi Lauper and Whitney Houston and Prince ‘got’ it. To do anything but allow yourself to become an obsessive disciple of their music is to deprive yourself of the best local pop band going around right now.

Touch is out now through Plastic World and Midnight Feature. Catch GL when they play Newtown Social on September 17th!

Album Review: Zone Out – Transcience

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Zone Out has been kicking around Melbourne for a few years now, mainly centred around the gorgeous vocals of Ashley Bundang. For their debut album, Zone Out have stripped back to the two piece of just Bundang and best mate Dove Bailey (Scotdrakula), and let me tell ya, the result is nothing less than spectacular.

To describe Transcience in one word is to call it ethereal. Sure, seems like a bit of a buzz word for lazy writers, and although I demand to be referred to as such, Zone Out really do tick all the boxes for the ‘ethereal’ tag. The album strolls but never meanders, each track gentle and warm, like Bjork in animated suspension. There’s an otherworldly quality to the way Zone Out produce their songs, each one lush with detail that’s spread peacefully throughout. Nothing seems rushed or stretched, it’s just a record that you can sit down with and enjoy washing over you.

Transcience’s standout comes from the previous 7″ track “Inside”, an intimate song that features some delicate guitar work from Bailey. It’s a warm blanket of a track, one that is all too easy to bury yourself under when all the stresses of the outside world become a bit too much.

Indeed, “Inside” works as a great encapsulation of the record as a whole: a beautiful and instantly familiar retreat from everything. Transcience is a simple pleasure, but one that will deliver as a sturdy companion for years to come. Even when the vinyl is scratched and dusty, this album feels like one that can be relied on for some time.

Transcience is available now on Deaf Ambitions. Grab the vinyl or digital download from Bandcamp here.

Since Dove has gotten married (YAY DOVE!) and moved overseas, Zone Out will be completing their album tour as a solo show. Catch Ashley playing at the Union Hotel on Friday June 10th. It’s a free show, Ciggie Witch will also be launching their great new record on the night, and Greenwave Beth and Black Springs will be along for the ride as well.

 

Album Review: Police Force – Formula 1

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Punk rock and the police are intrinsically linked – from the early days of cops breaking skulls at Saints’ shows, to classic track after classic track after classic track about the punks’ and pigs’ mutual respect for one another – the embrace between the badge and three chords is a strong one.

Brisbane’s Police Force don’t explicitly state anything about coppers on their tape, but I like to reckon that they’re reflecting the seedy underbelly and corruption of a modern day police force in the way they make music. The scuzz that coats this tape is filthy and repugnant (read: 10/10); the sneer that marks their voices drawls with acidic vigour. In songs like “The News” and “Freaking Out the Squares”, there’s the same kind of blind red-misted fury that you’d see in the eyes of a cop about to beat the living shit out of some 16 year old trying to have fun in a backyard. Only this time, the roles have been reversed – now, it’s the musicians deploying their seething vitriol, using instruments instead of batons and pepper spray.

Simply by utilising what sounds like a few synths, a drum machine and some guitar, Police Force’s  Formula 1 delivers raw and dirty punk, stuff that seeps into your skin and lays a few eggs. 1977-era Martin Rev and Alan Vega would have fucking loved this record. Actually, scratch that – modern day Martin Rev and Alan Vega would fucking love this record.

Formula 1 is out now on Tenth Court Records. Grab it through Bandcamp here.

Album Review: HANNAHBAND – Quitting Will Improve Your Health

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If you’re going to come out of Retirement, it better be for a damn good reason. But hey, I reckon giving your album a title like Quitting Will Improve Your Health will suffice. After reading that title, I rolled around for a decent twenty seconds before my smoker’s cough came through and sent me into a fit of weezing. Is that ironic? Ah, who gives a shit, let’s get onto this album!

There’s a significant step up in the recording quality of Quitting… as compared to HANNAHBAND’s previous albums. Each song sounds a bit more rounded, and the tape hiss that swarmed around their previous releases is less apparent, maybe even completely absent. At first, it’s kind of weird – that radioactive glow gelled so well with their songs! But then, you get warmed up to the high-fi step up, as the songs on Quitting… push through with extra force and spit than ever before.

Opener “Burn It Down” is a perfect example; the vocal push and shove between Nathan Martin’s guttural diatribe against Marnie Vaughn’s soaring chants of “Burn It Down” makes for anthemic listening. Second that motion with the likes of “Bath Arms”, “Grave Semantics” and “29er”- short, sharp and direct tracks that draw equally from Shellac as they do Break Even. The songs wrestle on a bed of throat-burning screams, arse-clenching guitar, and stomping drums that threaten to split open your skull. Each snare is one step closer to a permanent migraine, which is really the only way a drum kit should be played.

Although HANNAHBAND have evolved from their smaller mom + pop operations of before, and transformed into something even more brutal and thrilling, it doesn’t mean they’ve completely left their emotionally raw roots behind. Simply put, they’ve brought those intimate moments to the forefront and then shredded them to pieces through the most exhilarating and howling music that they’ve prepared yet. It makes Quitting… a tight and succinct record, with plenty of punch and drive to see you through multiple listens within the same sitting.

Quitting Will Improve Your Health is out now via Blackwire Records and their own Bandcamp (name your price download) Also, if you haven’t seen ’em live yet, do it. Actually, it’s kinda hard to believe that anyone in Sydney still hasn’t seem HANNAHBAND play before, because they’re essentially the Blackwire Records house band. Anyway, if you’re on of these miracle people that hasn’t had their mind blown yet, HANNAHBAND will be launching Quitting… on the 4th of June. Support comes from Nervous Habit, Canine and Snape, AND the whole evening doubles as a sixth birthday party for the world’s greatest venue!

Album Review: Spookyland – Beauty Already Beautiful

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The first time I heard Spookyland, I didn’t get it. Weird voice, skyrocketing guitars, overtly epic atmosphere – why is everyone losing their shit over this? Spookyland was the sort of band that folks were going out of their way to tell you about, regaling you with tales of this skinny Sydney lad sporting high cheekbones and a heavy leather jacket, who could hold a crowd in the palm of his hand. I’d chuck on “The Silly Fucking Thing”, and I couldn’t see it.

Then, after one fateful night at The Lansdowne, it clicked. Whatever piece was previously missing snapped into place for me, and I was on board the Spookyland bandwagon. It was the same phenomenon that had occurred with some of my favourite bands like Radiohead and The Birthday Party; one second, you’re pissed off that none of it makes sense, and then the band manages to inject something that allows you to immerse into the crowd of believers, the cult of Good ShitTM.

For me, what it comes down to is the power that Spookyland exude. It’s not the same sort of power that’d you’d get from a Stooges or a Metallica record, but something more sophisticated. It’s thought out, developing over the course of a song, so that by the time Marcus Gordon and co. hit their finale, your spine is bent permanently out of place. It’s the way that voice twists and turns, reverting from mourning to triumphant in the space of a verse and chorus; how the guitars crash and burn like the sea in the grips of that 1000 Year Swell that Patrick Swyaze always spoke about.

There’s a nice range on Beauty Already Beautiful, but Spookyland always manage to retain a definitive style. They range from the cymbal-crash, lip-curled country swagger of “Big Head” and “Can’t Own You”, to the more poignant moments of “True”, to the glowing anthems of “God’s Eyes” and “Champions”, which show off Spookyland’s strength in holding their strengths to their chests and picking the absolute right moment to unleash hellishly good moments. And let’s not forget about the fucking one-two-fuck-you of “Bulimic” that doesn’t just knock you out cold, but pummels you into the dust. Two – read it, fucking TWO – minutes of unrelenting shredding, each note reaching right through your soul and individually tugging at the hairs that course your body in an effort to say, “OI, ARE YOU LISTENING TO THIS!??? HOW GOOD IS IT!????”

Spookyland have got their signature style down to a T. It’s delivered in a spectacular and unique fashion, and when they reach that bit further, you’d be hard pressed to find a dry eye in the room. Don’t be a fool – if you don’t get it, don’t wait around like I did for these blokes to come around and smack you in the face with the Good ShitTM. Sit down, put the headphones on, and make sure that this band rattles your being to the core like I know they can.

Also their highly recommended live show is coming to Sydney and Melbourne, with the extra punch of YEEVS opening both shows. Spooky land play the Newtown Social Club tonight (11 May), and tomorrow at Shebeen.

Album Review: Big White – Teenage Dreams

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Dulwich Hill is renowned for…fuck. I have absolutely no idea, hey? Does it have nice parks? A decent pork roll shop? Or is it like Macdonaldtown, a place that’s technically on the train line, but you’ve never actually been there, or know anyone who lives there.

Nah, but the old D-Hill actually does lay claim to  The Surgery, a share house full of art school students that feels like its churning out all of the hits lately. Its a bastion of skewed pop productivity, from the looming post-punk blast of Den, to David Byrne’s latest project FLOWERTRUCK. But sitting high and mighty at the top of the soon-to-be Brill Building 2.0 is Big White, a five piece that Creation Records would have sliced throats to sign back in the day.

Their debut Teenage Dreams was recorded in Berlin a few years back, and fuck knows why its only getting a proper release now. Oi, knock knock, record execs, don’t ya know a hit when you see one? It’s called “You Know I Love You”, and it makes the feet split apart and engage in the sort of toe-tapping hi-jinks that only Kevin Bacon used to be able to summon. Or hey, if that doesn’t tickle the soles of your feet, how about a helluva romp like “Dinosaur City”, which has allegedly cause ruptures in the Earth’s mantle from all the stomping that accompanies every Soundcloud play. Hey Japan, guess what, there’s another 9.0 headed straight for you, courtesy of those no-good pop enthusiasts.

Look, here’s the deal. Big White know their way around a pop song, that much is glaringly obvious; but that’s not what makes Teenage Dreams a jaw dropper. The full spectrum covered by Big White makes this album the one that you want to tell all your friends about, even the weird ones on Facebook that probably added you for identity theft. Take the title track that hits a little to close to home for those going through their quarter life crisis and manages to put the words “Pingers” and “Nickelodeon” together. Or the glistening epic “American Twins”, a song that makes you want to lounge in bed, drink cheap red wine and watch old Steve Buscemi movies simply because the song name checked him and you forgot how great he was. And “I Can’t Tell”, a song that pairs depressing and brilliant in a riveting parallel – how can they sing “I can’t tell whether my girl cares if I’m dead or alive,” yet make you want to shimmy like you’re in an Outkast video?

If this is your first interaction with Big White, make sure it’s not your last. This is only the debut from these guys, and it’s pretty phenomenal, hey. Now they’ve finally got the ol’ record contract locked down, expect MORE, MORE, MORE hits for many years to come. If you’ve already heard about Big White…fuck, you read a fair few words just to have your opinion of “Yes, Big White are one of the best pop bands going around” vindicated.

Teenage Dreams is out now, and you can grab it here.

Album Review: AUSTRALIA – Portraits of Places, People and Movies

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1983. Australia. Fuck yeah. According to Wikipedia, some real crazy shit went down ’round this time: Jonathan Thurston was born, Parramatta romped the Eagles in the finals, and Bob Hawke went on national television and told everyone to get drunk after we won a boat race. Also, some of the all-time singles this country has ever produced were birthed during this period. “Rain”, “Reckless”, “I Hear Motion”, and this absolute national treasure. The kind of songs that you’ll scoff at from your hip share house, until it’s 3am, the pub’s run dry, old mate’s kicking you out and you’ve got your arm around someone you met thirty seconds ago screaming, “THROW DOWWWN YOOUUUURRR GUUUU-UUUNS”. 1983. Australia. Fuck yeah.

It’s this precise time period that AUSTRALIA (the band) are attempting to encapsulate, that golden era of pub rock when this country really struck a musical identity. It’s a brave move – right now, most bands in this country are either making plaintive guitar pop, or garagey punk. No one has thought to hark back to a phase that is often ridiculed, unless it’s during the aforementioned gloriously drunken hour of 3am. But AUSTRALIA succeed because they don’t just emulate the music that they likely grew up with, but actually understand its simple pleasure: to get people to dance, instead of mosh, to guitars.

Sure, their debut still carries the trademarks of their forbearers: Aussie Crawl, Midnight Oil, The Models, and Goanna all pop up as obvious soundchecks in AUSTRALIA’s music. Shit, the record even evolves in the same way you would expect an 80’s No.1 Album would: Hit, Hit, Mega Hit, Introspective Ballad, Fodder, Fodder, Absolute Belter, And A Big Sweeping Gesture to Close.

But when you hear a song like “Wake In Fright”, or “Breathe In”, there’s that something there where you know it ain’t mere replication. It’s the sharp stabs of guitar, the warm, encompassing buzz of synths, the baritone bellow that stirs you equally in the heartcage as it does the feet. It’s the anthems paired right next to the songs you’d love to listen to roaring down the highway, alone after a breakup. It’s the way that if you close your eyes, AUSTRALIA catapult you decades before you were born, to the seat leaning against the Lansdowne bar, stuffing spilling from the soiled seat cushion, jukebox blaring the soon-to-be classic “Who R U?”. The place stinks of piss, someone’s chucking up in the alley outside, and the pub is heaving with dancing bodies.  Fuck, it feels good.

Portraits of People, Places and Movies has its weaker moments, but as a whole package, its a record that delivers something that shouldn’t be feasible in 2016. Why the fuck would the kids want to listen to the music their parents forced on them? Because AUSTRALIA’s making that music, goddmit, and it sounds good. Who knows? Maybe thirty years from now, someone’s gonna come stumbling out of the bowlo, air guitar in hand, barking, “LOVE! IS BETTER! COME TAKE ME UNDER THIS WATER!”.

Portraits of People, Places and Movies is out now, grab it here. They’ll be playing the ‘Gong on April 1st and Brighton Up Bar in Sydney on the 2nd, both shows with YEEVS (!) and Phantastic Ferniture (!).

Album Review: Wild Honey – Wild Honey EP

EP Cover ArtPersonal anecdote that almost no one will find appealing: I used to work alongside Thom Moore from Wild Honey. And by work, I mean, I did about 3-4 days of work experience at Mojo’s, the record store/bar in Wynyard. After two weeks, my Mum told me that I had to stop going to Mojo’s because I needed to concentrate on my HSC. Even though that was a bit of a lost cause  (the mystery mark speaks for itself), I had fun flipping through records in a basement. A huge shipment of LP’s had come in at that time, and Thom specifically asked that if any surf records came through, I should throw them his way. After finally getting to hear Wild Honey, the craving for these surf records all makes perfect sense now. I mean, there’s a goddamn beach on the front cover, in case you’re bad at picking up subtle hints.

This EP is a strong fever dream of adoration for late 60’s rock and pop, particularly Love and The Velvet Underground. The hallmarks are there, from harmonica solos, to languid guitars, and lyrics that reach to the sort of eternal summer that only exists in the universe of Grease Lightning. Wild Honey work well with a pop-rock that isn’t just summery, but puts the writers behind the Coke jingles to shame. A song like “This Time” works as a cool down just as well as wiping a VB on your forehead, and “Coming Home” sounds less like a desire to go to one place than to be entirely transported to 60’s era California. “Eye to Eye” stands out particularly, as just being an on-point pop song. It’s well-written, catchier than one of Ben Lee’s diseases, and its got a ripper video about aliens and murder, so everyone’s a winner, right?

Although only four tracks long, this EP shows a lot of promise for Wild Honey. The songs are unforced and come quite easily, something a lot of bands who try and re-create songs removed multiple times from their generation can struggle with. Owning a collection of surf records that could kill someone when toppled over surely doesn’t hurt. For a day like today, in which a step outside turns your face into the Red Skull, maybe sit indoors and enjoy Wild Honey’s debut.

Wild Honey play tonight at The Union Hotel, a free show with Bearhug and Shining Bird.

Album Review: Little Desert – Saeva

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Sit down. Don’t bring anything with you, you won’t need it. Just the bare essentials. Strap yourself in. No, really, ground yourself so that you are physically unable to move. Get comfy, you’ll be in this position for precisely 35 minutes and 29 seconds. That’s how long it takes for Little Desert’s debut album to wash over you. Peaks, troughs, all of it – it’s a musical lobotomy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-style. It’s the most brilliantly theatrical album of 2015, and you heard it here first.

After gently teasing this album for the past six months, with the two singles “Captive” and “Resurrection” causing a bit of a stir, Little Desert have finally dropped Saeva, and it’s fearsome. They could coat the album in serrated blades loaded with disease –  one prick and you’re a dead man – but it wouldn’t make the record any more dangerous. It rears and plunges, shakes its mane, refusing to be anything less than an immersive, devouring work of art.

The first thing to notice about Saeva is how ghoulish this thing is. And not in the sort of Addams Family, jokey way; boo, gotcha hahaha. No, there is the definitive scent of a corpse that haunts this album. The next noticeable aspect is that Little Desert prove they are the lords of the crescendo, continually building songs from rubble into spectres that chase the viewer into dark corners. The ghosts are there, hammering on the doors to come out; they’re embedded in the cries of Esther Rivers, the panicked guitar stampedes, the tense synth riffs. Everything is buckling under pressure, running at a desperate pace, trying to escape. Take “Captive”: it rises, slowly, slowly, begins to scurry, in a zig zag, menacing repetition one moment, blistering guitar solos the next. It reverts back and forth, dizzying and demonic; by its finale, Little Desert have you begging for mercy AND more.

That intention of crescendo is present in almost all of Saeva. It’s not always the threatening blare of “Captive” – “Sinner” and “She’s Alive” wander into murder ballad territory, whilst “Soothsayer” contains a psych tint. But when Little Desert hit their grim stride, that’s when they’re at their peak. Take “Resurrection”, which marches from a funeral pace to a gallop, led by the charging Rivers. Her bellow stands commanding, directing the frantic synth arpeggios, and diving boulders of guitar into the a finale even better than Hellraiser, and that movie had hooks ripping off every bit of a guy’s flesh!

Little Desert have always impressed with their boldness, and they haven’t disappointed with Saeva. It’s tense, and tragic, and when they scratch their nails across the whiteboard, Little Desert light up, especially when Rivers’ thundering roar takes centre stage. It’s theatrical, huge and dense, a record you can be suffocated and squashed by, and not mind in the slightest.

You can grab Saeva from the it Records Bandcamp here. Little Desert are doing a few launches up the East Coast real soon: Saturday, 21st at The Tote in Melbourne (w/ Teuton, Mollusc and Half Mongrel), the 26th at Blackwire Records (w/ Ela Stiles and Whitney Houston’s Crypt) and a hell of a party in Brissy at the Crowbar on the 28th (w/ OCCULTS, Last Chaos, Pleasure Symbols and Death Church)