INTERVIEW: Harmony

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THE HAZARDOUS TERRAIN OF LOVE

It’s been four years between albums for Melbourne’s Harmony, with members focusing on other projects and babies entering the frame. As Tom Lyngcoln explains to Chris Familton, this time around there were changes in both the recorded sound of Double Negative and the way he approached the writing of its songs.

“Alex [Lyngcoln, drummer] and I had a baby daughter in that time so that’s where the majority of our energy has been placed,” explains Lyngcoln, as he reflects on the years since the band’s last album, Carpetbombing, was released. Away from Harmony, Lyngcoln is also at the core of The Nation Blue and recently made his first foray into releasing solo albums, while other members, such as Erica Dunn (Tropical Fuck Storm), have multiple extra curricular activities. “It’s an allocation of time for things,” Lyngcoln explains. “The band was dormant after we did a couple of tours. Everyone has been really busy with other things and Harmony has just been sitting there. It’s nice to put it back together.”

After the confessional, angst-ridden content of Harmony’s previous releases, Lyngcoln felt compelled to approach Double Negative from a new perspective and, as stated in the album’s title, he used a technique that incorporated the style of his earlier writing and cleverly reconfigured it towards a more positive outlook. “I just wanted to flip it and sing about something else. With the birth of a child you really struggle to continue putting a lot of negativity out into the world. I just found it wasn’t helping my depression and mental wellbeing singing about negative shit, so I decided to write about something more positive,” he explains. “That’s really hard to do, it’s so much easier to hide behind self-deprecation and much easier to mope than it is to celebrate. Wallowing in the crucible of grief was just something I couldn’t do for another record so we changed our focus to try and write about love, which is one of the most hazardous terrains you can enter into as a songwriter. It’s been responsible for some of the greatest music of our time and also the vast majority of the worst,” he grimaces.

“I worked my way in to it by trying to employ negative language. I looked at it through descriptors of negative things such as war. Taking the same kind of lexicon that I’ve used in the past but try to print it in double negative and apply it in a positive way. When I write a chord progression it always tends to revert to the same tricks and my vocabulary is limited to a certain amount of words that slide together. I wanted to try and refine them and use them differently.”

Previous Harmony albums have had a dense, lo-fi quality to them, and though it suited Lyngcoln’s throat-shredding howls, it often obscured the songs and lacked the warmth and nuance that Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuishe and Erica Dunn’s lush vocal harmonies called for. This time they worked with producer Mike Deslandes and recorded in a group environment at Kyneton Mechanics Hall. 

“It was recorded much in the same way as the two last The Nation Blue records. Mike has an amazing mobile studio and so we went to the same hall because it is suited to Harmony a lot more. I’d wanted to do it there for a long time. Mike recorded it and as I was recovering from wrist surgery and a hernia, I had a solid eight weeks to mix it over summer and obsess and fall in and out of love with it. I’m happy with it, it’s the best thing I’ve done recording-wise,” he proudly states. “The other records have been pieced together. This was the band playing in a room live and then each night the girls would come in and record their vocals live. They were long days. Mike would clock off recording the band and then I’d jump in the seat and start recording the girls until 2am. There are vocal takes where I’ve nodded off and they were trying to wake me up. It was probably a bit ambitious,” laughs Lyngcoln.

That ambition has resulted in by far and away the band’s best work and with Lyngcoln and family relocating to Greece for a year in 2019, fans would be well served to catch them on their upcoming tour, before temporary hibernation again beckons.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Deaf Wish – Lithium Zion

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Straight out of the gates the Melbourne quartet lock into a relentless distorted churn of guitars that sounds like 90s era Bailter Space sharing a practice room with Blank Realm. The guitars never let up but the lazy vocal smears a dull monotone melody across the surface of the song. It’s a wonderfully hypnotic and mildly unsettling start to an album that has a real sense of sonic self-determination about it. In the face of dippy psych rock and lightweight indie rock, Deaf Wish are resolute in their celebration of post-punk informed rock ’n’ roll.

Sonic Youth are an obvious touchstone and an unavoidable comparison when Sarah Hardiman intones a Kim Gordon-styled sing/speak vocal on ‘FFS’. Beneath her the guitars rip, chop and howl, combining dissonance and hook-laden melody, as they do right across the album. Things slow down with ‘The Rat Is Back’ but essentially it’s the same thing on half-speed – a pause for breath before they hurtle back into the rapid-fire dispatch of ‘Ox’. The title track best encompasses all that the band attempt to cram into their sound – the density and sonic collision of rhythm and riffs. It’s one of those songs that could easily power on for ten unrelenting minutes without outstaying its welcome.

There’s a dark beauty across Lithium Zion. Sometimes it feels impenetrable but when the songs come up for oxygen they can blossom on something as simple as an ungainly vocal line or  a melancholic, fuzzed out trail of guitar notes.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Darren Cross – 90’s High

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Darren Cross has just released his second solo LP PEACER, a 100% self-recorded and independent album that finds him balancing the day-glo deconstructed indie guitar pop of his years as the main-man in Gerling and his more recent dark avant-folk leanings.

The first single and video from the album is ’90’s High’, a song with a strong sonic link to that peaking rush of Gerling guitar shapes and dance beats but also tinged with a kind of melancholic hangover. It all amounts to a catchy and thrilling first taste of the album if you haven’t checked it out yet. For more info and to purchase the album on vinyl/CD/digital, head to:

https://darrencross.bandcamp.com/album/peacer

NEW MUSIC: Peter Bibby – Work For Arseholes

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Peter Bibby is back with a video clip for his new single ‘Work For Arseholes’. It comes from a brand new record called Grand Champion which is set for release on September 28th via Spinning Top Records.

‘Work for Arseholes’ is a song about bad habits, self-reflection and pride, for better or worse.  “I wrote it to make myself feel better about being a thirsty, unemployed insomniac whilst sitting in my bedroom in Northcote, Victoria. It didn’t make me feel that much better, however I have, for the most part, avoided working for arseholes ever since and I see that as a great success,” says Bibby of the track.

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PETER BIBBY’S DOG ACT NATIONAL HEADLINE TOUR


Thursday 4 October – Workers Club, Geelong VIC
Friday 5 October – The Curtin, Melbourne VIC
Saturday 6 October – The Waratah Hotel, Hobart TAS
Thursday 11 October – Rocket Bar, Adelaide SA
Friday 12 October – Badlands, Perth WA
Saturday 13 October – Prince Of Wales, Bunbury WA
Thursday 18 October – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane QLD
Friday 19 October – The Northern, Byron Bay NSW
Saturday 20 October – Miami Shark Bar, Gold Coast QLD
Wednesday 24 October – The Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle NSW
Thursday 25 October – The Lansdowne, Sydney NSW
Friday 26 October – Strawberry Boogie @ UOW Uni Bar, Wollongong NSW
Sunday 28 October – Transit Bar, Canberra ACT

ALBUM REVIEW: Harmony – Double Negative

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Melbourne’s Harmony have had a four year break between albums but that time has clearly been well spent with Double Negative the strongest culmination of their soulful, ragged and cathartic sound.

 Carpetbombing (2014) was a sprawling collection of songs that often sounded brittle and impenetrable, the core of the songs sonically buried beneath the surface. It still impressed but the good news is that on Double Negative they’ve tightened their arrangements and collated an economical 40 minute record that blossoms courtesy of a warm and open production sound. 

The key tenets of Harmony are the full-throated bellows and raw exaltations of singer Tom Lyngcoln and the contrasting beauty of the female-voiced avant-choir. Combined with the post-punk meets Neil Young and Dirty Three musical backdrop, it all makes for a constantly fascinating and emotionally visceral album. 

Stripping the songs of extraneous noise has provided a focal point for Lyngcoln’s songs and lyrics, where his words are carried aloft on his delivery, not relegated to just sounds and vowels. Opener ‘I Love You’ sets a high, almost attainable, bar but they consistently get close, right across the album. ‘Fatal Flaw’ has a wonderfully infectious, maudlin quality while ‘It Hurts’ is a primitive collision of astral guitar and hammering drums. 

Constantly exploring the possibilities of their sound – from minimalism to angst-ridden, inner city confessional howls, it all makes glorious sense in the hands of Lyngcoln and his existential choir.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Gorillaz – The Now Now

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Over the last 30 years you’d be hard pressed to find an artist who has equally embraced music that appeals equally to the commercial pop world and the more discerning and eclectic listener. Damon Albarn really is a man for all seasons, a polymorphic, post-modern songwriter with an insatiable creative streak that has seen him find success, primarily in Blur and Gorillaz, but also with a myriad of side projects. Album number six finds Albarn, producer and musician James Ford and assorted collaborators finding a decidedly reflective and melancholic electronic pop streak.

The guest stars are still a key facet of the Gorillaz template but there are only a few in attendance this time around. Snoop Dogg, George Benson and Jamie Principle all make strong contributions but Albarn is clearly the musical eye of the storm. His voice colours every song, draping them in that weary, wistful croon, perfectly suited to the album’s themes of finding solace in a mixed up world, the importance of living in the now in the physical world and the value of the inner soul vs the attraction of the shallow glamour of Hollywood and Instagram. Much of the album was recorded while on the Humanz tour – lyrics and beats composed on time-sapping bus journeys and in indistinguishable hotel rooms, giving The Now Now it’s personal, observational and ruminative quality.

The maudlin sound of much of the album still retains the futuristic gleam that defines the technological and graphic quality of Gorillaz. Synth washes and lush arpeggios, stuttering funk and hip hop beats blend seamlessly with piano and the iconic guitar sound of George Benson as well as subtle appearance from Graham Coxon on Magic City. With a more cohesive and consistent sound, the rewards come from the details – the synthetic folk wash of closer Souk Eye, knowing 80s Depeche Mode synth pop excursions such as Tranz, Idaho’s art pop akin to the latter-day experimentations of Radiohead and  the 21st century, low-riding electro-funk grooves that permeate the album.

The Now Now is a deeper than normal listen and a welcome balancing addition to the Gorillaz discography. It’s also, tantalisingly, the closest we’ve come to a new solo record from Albarn.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Money For Rope – Picture Us

 

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Back in 2012, Money For Rope came out of the gates with a real buzz about their live shows and their debut, self-titled album. They hit the road and apparently kept touring across Europe and the US. Thankfully they eventually got back in the studio and documented those years on the new album Picture Us.

As with that debut, the band again mix and blend genres and styles. They jam musical ingredients into a blender and end up with a sound that is familiar but never falls into a retrograde rehashing of other bands’ past glories. You can hear the ghosts of bands like Supergrass, Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays filtered through the kind of gothic-tinged garage and psych rock that the likes of The Scare and Witch Hats have dragged across these lands. Earl Grey stands out as a razor sharp example of mood and teetering energy as it shifts from a low-slung, snaking groove to frenetic sonic shakedown. Trashtown engages a wonderfully ramshackle and bluesy tone while Look lumbers along with a speaker-blowing sound akin to The Black Keys on steroids. As an example of the range of music Money For Rope explore on the album, listen to the title track. Its lo-fi, jangly quality and twists and turns suggests an affinity for the avant guitar pop of bands like Pavement and Sparklehorse. 

Picture Us casts a wide net, yet for all its variety there’s an overriding feeling of adventure and shared experiences that emanates from the restless colours and shapes of its songs.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Infinity Broke, The Tall Grass, Mark Moldre 13.07.18

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Infinity Broke, The Tall Grass, Mark Moldre @ Factory Floor, Sydney July 13th 2018

Tonight’s gig was a warm up and testing of the waters ahead of all three acts heading off on tour to France. The heavy lifting was firmly in the hands of Jamie Hutchings, drummer/guitarist Scott Hutchings and bassist Reuben Wills who played in all three bands, and though there was a degree of ironing out the creases and in some cases feeling out the songs, this was a night of diverse and engaging music.

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Mark Moldre is in the mixing stage of his new album, the followup to 2013’s An Ear To The Earth, and he gave the audience a preview of what they can expect with a cluster of new songs that showed a noisier, looser and fuller band approach. His poetic phrasing and command of melody is still at the forefront of the songs but now they appear to have a stronger rhythmic focus and draw from a wider sphere of influences with folk, junk-shop blues and esoteric rock ’n’ roll all wrapped up together. Fever Dreams in particular stood out amid the new songs.

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Peter Fenton and Jamie Hutchings’ collaborative project The Tall Grass was fleshed out to a full band when they started touring their album and now with a new rhythm section of Scott Hutchings and Wills in place for this tour, they’ve taken it to a rawer sounding place without losing any of the melodic warmth in their harmonies and guitar interplay. A quiet and attentive crowd made for some awkward silences between songs and there were some minor equipment issues and a false start but it all made for a fascinating glimpse of the newly convened lineup taking its first live steps on the eve of international tour dates. Moller hung wistfully in the cold night air, The Road Is Long dug its heels in with firm intent and The Buyer Beware showcased the duo’s wonderfully interlaced vocals before they finished with an elegant take on Crow’s Halo.

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The third set of the night for Hutchings and co felt like a cathartic release of sorts. With Infinity Broke the magic lies in the group’s devotion to rhythm, both primal and detailed, as well as an embrace of noise, repetition and sharp edges. After the softer palette of acoustic guitars and poetic leanings, the physicality of Infinity Broke felt like aural assault at first. Then the senses adjusted, audience stances were steadied and heads began involuntarily nodding. The endurance and precision of drummer Jared Harrison was hugely impressive and he provided the glue and foundation for the music, allowing the bass to sit in the pocket and hang on for the ride and enabling the Hutchings bros to embrace their inner noisenik with flailing full body feedback, angular, dissonant riffing and bent-out-of-shape rock ’n’ roll. A couple of new songs piqued the interest of those hoping for a new album, before they wound the slightly rough around the edges but wholly entertaining evening to a close with the epic Krautrock weather bomb that was Monsoon.

Chris Familton

FRANCE DATES

  • 24th July @ Le Galion-Lorient – Infinity Broke + Mark Moldre + The Tall Grass
  • 25th July Place aux Artistes-Saint-Quay Portrieux – Mark Moldre + The Tall Grass
  • 26th July Folks Blues Birthday Party-Binic  – Escape-ism + Bench Press + Infinity Broke + Mark Moldre + The Tall Grass

27/28/29th July @ Binic Folks Blues Festival-Binic

  • 27th The Tall Grass + Infinity Broke
  • 28th Infinity Broke-Mark Moldre
  • 29th The Tall Grass-Mark Moldre