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

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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

INTERVIEW: Kyle Craft

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THE SURREAL WORLD OF KYLE CRAFT

Like some kind of backcombed bird nest hairdo glam rocker from the surrealist netherworld of a bygone era, Kyle Craft burst onto the scene with his debut album Dolls Of Highland on the Sub Pop label in 2016. With a voice that resembled an over-emotive Bob Dylan or Jeff Buckley if he was raised in a carnival, Craft sounded like he’d arrived fully formed, an extravagant songwriter who had soaked up glam psychedelia, country rock, indie rock and baroque pop music, from Bowie to Nilsson.

“Even if I listen to new stuff and like it, I always tire of it and go back to Dylan, the Stones, John Lennon, Neil Young, Harry Nilsson – I always land back on that stuff. There’s a quality that I relate to in that music. That’s what makes me feel things,” enthuses Craft in his laidback Louisiana drawl. “When I was 15 I heard Bob Dylan for the first time and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I got super into Dylan and then I started writing in the style of Neutral Milk Hotel until everyone started telling me I was totally ripping them off. Then I lost both of those things. Realising that helped me come into my own in a weird way. Acknowledging that I was doing that made me stop and do my own thing,” reflects Craft. “Miles Davis said that the hardest thing to do is find your own voice. I’m getting closer, I don’t think I’m going to be taking any sharp turns, I’m doing the music that I like and enjoy.”

Full Circle Nightmare finds Craft expanding the sound of his debut, which he recorded on his own, playing all the instruments. This time around, with band in tow, he went into a studio for the first time and tried to capture the raw and magical sound of a live band. “I love doing it like that, playing with my band. I admire that old school mentality of doing it right and getting it in one take. I really like to stick to one take as much as I can, even when I’m multi-tracking. I just feel like it flows better,” explains Craft.

There’s an impressive array of characters that permeate Craft’s songs – ‘The Rager’, ‘Fever Dream Girl,’ ‘Slick & Delta Queen’ and ‘Fake Magic Angel’. He laughs when I ask how many of the personalities in the songs are drawn from real life. “If I don’t try and keep them slightly vague I might get in trouble. I was more vague on Dolls Of Highland than I am on this album.” That different perspective came from a change in his songwriting approach. “I switched gears on how I wanted to write on Full Circle Nightmare. I wanted to be clearer. Life itself was vey strange at that moment so I didn’t have to be very vague or disguise things at all. Both albums are kind of about the same things but Dolls Of Highland was when I was in it and this one is me being able to look back on it all and see it through different eyes.”

The other project that was released late in 2017 was Girl Crazy, Craft’s cover album of all-female artists. Born out of a sense of fun and studio experimentation, it quickly blossomed into a full album including songs by Patti Smith, Jenny Lewis, Cher, TLC and Blondie. “It was absolutely just for fun. I went into my buddy Kevin’s studio space and started messing around and one day I decided to record Jenny Lewis’ ‘Acid Tongue’ and within a few hours I thought it sounded good. We didn’t have anything else to do so the next day I recorded a Patti Smith song and it sounded good too so we just kept going. I showed them to Sub Pop and they really dug them which was a pleasant surprise. I had no idea they’d want to put them out.”

Chris Familton

Full Circle Nightmare is out now via Sub Pop​ / Inertia Music​.

 

REISSUE NEWS: Nocturnal Projections (2018)

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Nocturnal Projections were one of the finest post-punk bands in New Zealand in the early 1980s and now Dais Records have worked with them to reissue all of their recorded work across two releases.

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“Complete Studio Recordings” comprises the band’s three original highly sought-after vinyl releases on one record fully remastered.

Formed in Stratford, near New Plymouth, New Zealand in 1981, Nocturnal Projections was the explosive project of legendary and prolific brothers Graeme and Peter Jefferies (who would later form This Kind of Punishment before launching their solo careers), who along with friends Brett Jones and Gordon Rutherford, created some of the most energetic and influential avant-garde punk rock to emerge from the country.

Largely ignored during their tenure (but revered and referenced in the years after their breakup) and often compared to UK contemporaries like Joy Division, Comsat Angels, The Fall, or Wire, Nocturnal Projections stood well apart – never enjoying the luxuries of unlimited studio time, music videos or international fame, the NPs possessed a driven, rough-hewn serrated edge that cut through the lot comparisons to the UK post-punk exports of the era. They were ahead of their time, completely singular, and for those that had the benefit of seeing Nocturnal Projections play live – formative, with a dedicated cult following to this day.

As residents of New Plymouth’s Lion Tavern during their first year as a band, they perfected their soaring, impactful live set locally (often as the only band, without an opener and 3 hours to fill!) before heading off to Auckland in January of 1982, performing with bands like The Fall, John Cooper Clarke, and New Order at venues like The Mainstreet Cabaret, The Rumba Bar and Reverb Room. *The band recorded three EPs at Stebbing Studios in Auckland: The self-titled and self-released 7” single released April 1st of 1982, with the “Another Year” 12” EP following later that year. Their self-titled three song 12” was recorded in 1983, and released by the band posthumously that June, after the band called it quits.

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Inmates In Images pulls the best of the best from board recordings of live sets between 1981 and 1983, including the never-before-released tracks: “Blank Faces” and “Late Night”, along with unheard versions of previously released songs – and includes Peter and Graeme’s song “Walk In A Straight Line”, written in October of 1980 and originally intended for their earlier band The Plastic Bags.

ALBUM REVIEW: Jamie Hutchings – Bedsit

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It’s been seven years since the last solo album from Jamie Hutchings. In the interim he’s busied himself with 2 noisy rock records with Infinity Broke and the wonderful Down The Unmarked Road, the result of his collaboration with Peter Fenton of Crow. Now he returns to the solitude of the self with the intimate, graceful and poetic Bedsit.

This is a sparser and more delicate set of songs than those on his previous solo album Avalon Cassettes. They feel weightless, unconcerned with time and the restraints of conventional song structures. There is a fragmentary and fragile quality to the music with guitars pulling in and out of focus, with gentle augmentation from strings, harmonica and the emotive piano of sister Sophie Hutchings on Above The Rain and Shadow On The Lung. For the most part this is Hutchings and his vignettes and song poems. Opener Second Winter details a dream of waking up with blocks of ice as feet and the resulting surreal happenings. A highlight is December Park, propelled by light flurries of guitar strings, upright bass and Hutchings’ voice sounding weary like a hazy, late-night afterthought.

References to dreams, seasons and nature abound, framing existential questions and the foibles of human relationships. Centennial Park and Marrickville get name checked and it feels very much like a Sydney album, albeit a reflective, introspective and intensely personal one from the melancholic side of town.

CHRIS FAMILTON

ALBUM REVIEW: The Breeders – All Nerve

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Some bands hit the pop culture sweet spot just at the right time, igniting and reflecting the spirit of a generation before burning out and fading away. Others hang around, soldiering on with diminishing returns, a loyal fanbase in tow, cushioning their middle-aged bank accounts. There are also those acts who have that moment in the spotlight, vacate the pedestal but then re-emerge years down the track, with the essence of their creativity still intact. Bands like Afghan Whigs, Sleater-Kinney and Dinosaur Jr.

Kim Deal of course tasted the rewards of that with the resurrected Pixies but the scale and dynamics of that band clearly didn’t suit her. There were new and fairly well received Breeders albums in the interim years (Title TK, 2002 and Mountain Battles, 2008) but after reconvening the line-up from their seminal 1993 album Last Splash (Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson) for its 20th anniversary celebrations, it became clear that there was still a spark and desire to write and record new material.

All Nerve could just as easily have been titled All Verve, for it’s an album that captures the some of the joie de vivre of Last Splash, tempers it with the perspective of age and is filled with sardonic swagger, obtuse wordplay and a musical dynamism that rarely becomes anything other than pure Breeders.

The first single Wait In The Car throws a sly nod to the drum rimshots at the start of their most famous song Cannonball before being overrun with cascading guitar distortion and downstrokes. Deal sings of embracing inspiration and intuition and screw the consequences. That continues in the title track as she sings “I won’t stop, I will run you down, I’m older”, alluding to both determination and obsessive personality traits. Metagoth shifts musical gears into a world of Joy Division and Bauhaus with its brooding and foreboding rhythm section. It’s the least ‘Breeders’ song on the album but they suit it, especially given there’s always been an element of post-punk deconstruction running through their music.

The Breeders always show an ability to balance the punkish rush with prettier, more meditative moments. The verses of Spacewoman do just that with a delicacy and spaciousness that makes the crunch and stomp of the chorus even more rewarding. There are shades of Courtney Barnett’s sound on Walking With A Killer as the song meanders along, decorated with a quasi-psychedelia similar to early Smashing Pumpkins.

Archangel’s Thunderbird is a rare misfire, lacking direction and seemingly built on a drum pattern but never building on it. Relief comes in the form of Dawn: Making An Effort with its billowing, gauzy, shoegaze guitars. It’s like a lost 50’s pop song, filtered and reimagined via a ghostly transmission. Their trademark blend of heavy and raw guitars and spectral, almost naive melodies return on the monstrous sounding Skinhead #2 before Blues At The Acropolis finds Deal referencing false hero worship and perhaps bemoaning the watering down and dissipation of artistic worth.

Thankfully, quarter of a century after crafting Last Splash, The Breeders have the nerve and the creative impulse to again inject some life and imagination into rock music.

Chris Familton

 

NEW MUSIC: Tropical Fuck Storm – Chameleon Paint

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Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin (The Drones), Lauren Hammel (High Tension) on drums and Erica Dunn (Harmony, Palm Springs) have unveiled the sound of their new band Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s a jerky, catchy post-punk song that swaggers and slithers along, sounding like it could collapse at any moment. It’s a glorious collision of chaos and euphoric rock.

The debut TFS 7″ single, “Chameleon Paint” b/w “Mansion Family”, will be released on September 22 as a label collab between TFS Records and Mistletone Records. This limited edition 7” is the first of a series; each 7” featuring an original Liddiard A-side and a B-side cover of “songs we love and wish we had written”. The “Mansion Family” B-side is lifted from Melbourne band The Nation Blue, who released the original less than a year ago. Each 7” will feature phantasmagoric cover art by Montréal artist Joe Becker.

PREORDER

ALBUM REVIEW: Boris – Dear

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Boris are now 25 years into a career that has stretched from the barren expanse of doom to hazy dream pop renderings and onto avant garde soundscapes and blistering, psychedelic punk rock. They hone in on a style and explore it to its logical extreme. On Dear they again hit the heavy button but this time they go deep into the detail, exploring both heaviosity and spaciousness.

There is usually a reactionary element to the way Boris approach a new album and given that their last release, Noise (2014), blended space rock, grunge and prog it was to be expected they’d retreat into the shadows again and dispense with traditional rock song structures. Dear is post-metal deconstructed and amplified. The drums sound like they were recorded in a cavernous tomb, the guitars are distorted to the point where they sound like sonic locusts and the bass rumbles with tectonic gravitas.

Boris haven’t abandoned their rockets tendencies altogether though. ‘Absolutego’ lumbers and crashes with both punk and metal ferocity, ‘Biotope’ is weighty shoegaze not dissimilar to Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Dystopia (Vanishing Point)’ sounds like J Mascis shredding over Pink Floyd and ‘Beyond’ pushes the limits of quiet/loud dynamics. Boris are at their best in these kinds of songs, where they find that sweet spot between noise and melody and where those contrasting elements blend and overlap, combining to produce emotional and physical music.

The rest of the album is much more introspective and indulgent, albeit in a fascinating way from the perspective of sonic architecture and sound design. Thunderous and screaming chords hang in the air, crashing drums enter and exit at seemingly random moments and Wata’s lead guitar is gloriously alien in the way it is played and processed. The ideal way to experience these songs would be standing directly in front of the band’s amplifiers, all on 11, feeling the sound as much as hearing it. ‘Karego’ threatens to melt speaker cones with the density and drone of the guitars while ‘The Power’ sounds like an attempt at inter-dimensional communication with everything in the red, bristling and pushing at its digital fabric.

The human voices in closer ‘Dear’ are guttural and exultant. A primitive greeting card and the most organic moment on the record. It sounds like Boris laid bare, a monumental encapsulation of their music and given that initially Dear was intended as a possible farewell record, it’s an open-ended way to finish the album and leaves both Boris and their fans asking where the trio will go next.

Chris Familton