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)

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New Punk: Stations + Snotty Babies + Death Church + The SMB

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Raw, disgusting and repulsive stuff coming at you in spades:

Stations – Stations 7″

I am absolutely terrified  of Stations – scared shitless, nightmares plaguing my every nanosecond of sleep. Nothing has infected me this brutally since the first time I listened to Venom. I’d say the reasoning behind the terror is fair though – the way that Stations loom and hiss on their first ever material points to a band that will be waging war on peaceful slumber with the efficiency of Freddy Kreuger on a Ritalin binge.

This four-song 7″ showcases a lot of potential for Stations – mechanical grinding that puts a gothic spin on the chugging punk noise of Primitive Calculators. They play well with space and dynamics, shrouded under lo-fi blasts of noise and synth savagery. The package is jagged, militaristic and fucking pissed. “Hunting” and “Master/Disciple” stand out particularly, pushing Stations’ punk thrill to an overdose.

Snotty Babies – Snotty Babies

Snotty Babies are a bit of a relic from a few years back, but it’s great to finally have something physical to remember them by. And who wouldn’t want to be reminded of this? Decadent swamp rock dragged from the ditches of Marrickville, Beasts of Bourbon drunk vomiting into Kim Salmon’s tape recorder and emerging with blackened genius. “Sicko” is a  vicious, punk grimace stained with feedback, “Dead Rat” a ramshackle rock and roll high speed chase that ends up with brains splattered across the highway for 50 K, and “Death of the Party” raises itself on its haunches, “Nick the Stripper” style, wide-eyed and manic, switchblade at the ready. For a while there, Snotty Babies were essential, and its a relief that their music gets to see the light of day.

Death Church – Inside Struggle/Betrayal Demos

Two tracks, both demos clocking in at 2 minutes and 47 seconds, from a band who’s name could possibly be a Rudimentary Peni reference. Fuck, that’s just one of the many reasons I love Death Church. They’re so intense, shackled beasts ripping and tearing at their chains through bloodthirsty swipes at angular guitar. It’s a thuggish post-punk inflected snarl, similar to that of Low Life, but done with the more obvious intention of feeding the listener through the shredder a la Steve Buscemi in Fargo.

Personally, “Inside Struggle” stands out as the better of the two demos, simply because I just think that the riff in there batters the hatch of my fragile psyche a little harder, and there’s a stronger chance that listening to that will unlatch my inherent serial killing motives. That being said, both of these songs will eat your fucking face off, and I can’t recommend them enough.

The SMB – The Price of Love

Yep, that Steve Miller Band. The one that got booked for Meredith, and a whole bunch of folks thought they’d get the opportunity to listen to “The Joker”. Fuuuuck that, could you imagine anything worse? Fuck it, why didn’t they go the full monty, and grab Hall & Oates and Don Henley DJ set?

Alternatively, you could get really fucking excited about a band that sounds like the Gun Club are being given shock treatment by Pussy Galore? Lo-fi ramblings of love and lust, blasting at despicable volumes, ripe for the kids to throw back paper-shrouded longnecks and puff on cheap cigarettes to.

Album Review: Rule of Thirds – Rule of Thirds

Adelaide has always been a fixture of fantastic music that thrives on being rejected by the mainstream. From Wireheads to Bitch Prefect to Blood Plastic, if you want something that blossoms in the dark, then unleash your inner horticulture specialist, and dive into the great music that our Southern cousins have to offer.

Case in point are the deplorable sounds of Rule of Thirds. This trio must lead the lives of the Abominable Snowman/Yeti. Call it what you want, but they are freezing and terrifying. Their sound is a blizzard of gothic horror, churning, machine-laden vocals growling and alluring vocals driven along by lurching bass lines. Each second is colder and more treacherous than the one that precedes it, leaping into a blizzard of blocky, tortured goth rock.

The stuff here is powerful, there’s no doubt about that. When Rule of Thirds get evil, they get real good.  A song like “Fingerprints”, with its howling chorus that paws at the conscience, is as hard to resist as a schoolboy is to a priest. Bowing down with a Cure-esque riff that snarls and terrorises like a pit bull would outside a junkyard. There’s plenty of goodies behind that chain-link fence, oozing cool riffs that pulsate and glow, but those vocals won’t let you anywhere near. Stick a pinky in, go on. Get that little bit closer. And now you’ve lost a finger.

Same goes for “Pleasure Hive” and “Blue & Red” – baying, stretched vocals are rolled around like an endless hump of tobacco in the mouth of a grizzled soldier. It’s ghostly, creepy, a Wez Craven wet dream. The amount of hairs the spring forth from your neck when listening to these swirling monstrosities is enough to make a passerby think that Pinhead has sprung forth from Hellraiser into real life.

There’s plenty of anguish here, however, that sometimes doesn’t translate into the most fantastic listening. There’s a certain sameness to some of the album, and the aforementioned tracks are the only ones that seem to really jut out from the murk. Don’t get me wrong – the album is good to sit back and soak up. But in terms of a record that has the same sort of punch as the first Rule of Thirds 7″ did, this LP lacks that distinction. You can’t help but feel like an EP would have been more in order here to get the blistering effect that Rule of Thirds show they are capable of.

Still, the album is worth a listen to – a stumble doesn’t mean that Rule of Thirds aren’t a formidable force in Australia’s goth scene. There’s meat here, and if you like yourself some Multiple Man, Gazar Strips or GLOSS, it’s recommended that you sink into what this record has to offer.

Rule of Thirds S/T LP available from NO PATIENCE RECORDS here.

Album Review: Nite Fields – Depersonalisation

Nite Fields have always been so great. Just so, so great, always striking the perfect balance between experimental and coldly familiar, a chilly warmth surrounding their material, as few of it as there initially was. However, after two 7″s, Nite Fields made the big jump to a full LP. In the world of sending out a press release and working out a digital marketing plan for acts with only a scratchy 4 track to their name, Nite Fields putting out a fully-fledged record so quickly seems odd.

The jump straight into LP territory isn’t the only thing skewed about this band: despite being birthed from Brisbane, a place that regularly calls 30 degree days “a tad chilly”, Nite Fields have an icyness that permeates their every breath. It’s a different kind of goth music, not one that would necessarily quote Bauhaus or Nick Cave as inspirations. It’s hard to pinpoint, shying away in a corner, revolving between uncertainty and seduction. It’s very liquid and dense, with the instrumentation coming in thick and sticky.

The source behind this hijacking of the musical thermostat is Danny Venzin. He purrs and beckons, his voice a velvet monotone, droning between the angular bass and guitars, slipping away beneath the mechanic synth lines. He brings Nite Fields to a central location from where the music can spring back and forth. The whole Nite Fields gang is a bit of a dream team, actually. Liza Harvey also drums with Point Being, Chris Campion kills it on a daily basis with Multiple Man, and Michael Whitney used to play in CLEARING. Put that all together, and there’s a reasoning of how a band can come up with such a refined sound.

The dark, funeral parlour pop glimmers brightly throughout ‘Depersonalisation’. Regret, longing,and  uncertainty are all central themes to the record, and all come through in wave after wave of  droning haze. There’s a firmly alien aesthetic in place, twinkling and stretching particularly strongly on songs like “You I Never Knew” and “Prescription”. When Venzin and co. haunt at peak levels of despair, they inject a sense of dread in even the most optimistic of listeners. Even when no one sings, such as “Pay For Strangers”, or the majority of “Winter’s Gone”, a creeping doom frosts over their music.

From the death clang of “Come Down”, to the intimate duets of “Like A Drone”, Nite Fields do a fine job of making sad music. Things can occasionally simmer and linger too long, but with time, the work of Nite Fields’ debut sinks further and further into your skin. The icy tendrils get under your fingernails, unapologetic; a gothic shimmer that fits well within the current canon of unnerving post-punk this country is so capable of producing.

Nite Fields launch ‘Depersonalisation’ on Saturday 16th May at Blackwire Records w/ Seating Plan, Enderie Nuatal and Canberra’s Honey. Get their record from their Bandcamp here.

New: Tangrams – In Love/Ephemeral 7″

Brisbane is usually the go-to #hotspot for the best goth music – Gazar Strips, Bat Nouveau, Multiple Man and 100% to name just a few. But Melbourne is having it’s day in the sun, even though the perpetrators of the greatness sound like they’d much rather prefer to be in a pitch-black room, huddled next to some skull, or whatever it is post-punkers get up to these days.

Tangrams are as sinister a proposition as letting Charles Manson babsit your kids, a toxic mixture of HTRK and Gang of Four. Tangrams are a colossal drowning of post-modern noise and uncomfortable chugging that’ll make you squirm in your seat faster than your parents talking about their sex lives.

New: Rebel Tears – I Hate the Beach

“Oh, you’re from Sydney! You must go to the beach all the time!” Fuck no. I hate the fucking beach. If I wanted to get sunburnt, I’d go to fucking volcano, and dip my naked torso beneath the frothing lava. If I wanted to fill up my arsecrack with sand, I’d head to an S&M club in Jamaica. And if I wanted to fight tooth and nail for a square metre plot of land to hang out in a crowded wasteland of hopelessness with other fat, pale lards, I’d go to a Chet Faker show.

I feel like Rebel Tears understand where I’m coming from. Fuck the beach, let’s listen to depressed drum machines and morbid monologues.

Video: Rule of Thirds – Fingerprints

Part Siouxsie, part Circle Pit, and doused in a bloody, intergalactic red, Rule of Thirds announce their return with a video for “Fingerprints”. There’s a pink hue sprayed over stitched images of gothic dancing and guitars straight from Robert Smith’s darkest moments. This is The Soft Moon meeting Rowland S Howard, a perfect blending of simple melodies and droning heartache injected with morbid atmosphere. It’s creepy and endearing at the same time, like a Gremlin, and the more it plays on, the more it drags you in.

New: Buzz Kull – Dreams

Thank fuck for Buzz Kull, right? Sydney’s finest purveyors of haunting doom-laden synths have returned with a squelchy track that bludgeons the senses. It’s a blunt electronic slugging of sound, Depeche Mode as interpreted by the demons from Hellraiser. Pressing play on “Dreams” is a heavy, driving force, a metallic hurricane mowing down your mind, pulsating nihilistic sounds at an incomprehensible rate.

Album Review: Bat Nouveau – Metamorphoses

There’s this book series called ‘Animorphs’, and although you might not have read any of them, you’ve definitely seen one of the book covers. Basically, it’s an animal turning into a human being, Charles Darwin’s wet dream. Anyway, if these books got a gritty re-boot directed by Christopher Nolan, there’s no way a track from Bat Nouveau’s debut ‘Metamorphoses’ wouldn’t be included in the Official Soundtrack. Alongside stuff from Eagulls, Protomarytr and other modern bands mining their parent’s post-punk collection of records, Bat Nouveau would stride tall with their gyrating songs of sinister sneering, a gnarled cross between Slug Guts and Buzz Kull.

Like all bands that mirror and extend upon a previous historical period, Bat Nouveau pull up particularly alongside Bauhaus. This isn’t a bad thing either – Nite Fields’ latest is a dead ringer for the likes of New Order, and TV Colours’ record is an equivalent of ‘Zen Arcade’. Plying semblance of a sound from an artist you respect can show that you’re not a deadshit, and provides a base for listeners to spring from. As long as it’s not done with too much reliance, and not a carbon-copy, things work out fine. Although not entirely original manoeuvre, it’s preferable for a band to at least show recognition and stability in their early work, rather than hop on some bullshit indie-pop bandwagon, or sound exactly like The Foo Fighters.

So, whilst ‘Metamorphoses’ doesn’t exactly stretch itself into unexpected territory, there is still a gripping sensationalism. Opener “The Cry” is an enormously terrifying goth masterpiece, drooling guitar and drums that bare their fangs with the ferocity of Robert Smith on an angry acid trip. “Hung High” decimates all in it’s way, a Gang of Four song poured down the drain, and into the mouth of a gnashing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fight club. “Death Mask” also injects severe melody –  Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy in a Joy Division cover band that just discovered ‘Henge Beat’ by Total Control. It’s punk as fuck, curb-stomping guitars bludgeoning their way through a black and white monologue of strident yelling. It’s enough to make you want to invent a time machine, and set the clock for Manchester, 1979.

Post-punk is getting to a point right now where it’s seen as “HEAPS COOL, YOU GUYS, VNKOWN PLESVRES 4EVA”. An influx of bands that watched ‘Control’ and happened across a Cure record at General Pants suddenly think they’re this generation’s Ian Curtis. But the style of bat Nouveau is epileptic, one minute blinding, the next, an irrevocable darkness, and it’s hard to turn away from that. Although not a perfect album, the moments of intensity and dooming glare that Bat Nouveau so affectionately slather into their music. It has the conviction of the original shit, just 30 years later. And where there’s passion, there’s some damn fine music following right behind it.