NEW MUSIC: Evelyn Drach – False Premise

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This one is for fans of artists such as Aldous Harding, Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief, Jep and Dep and Molly Burch. Dark folk-based songs that fold in elements of electronic music, with a sense of drama and an appreciation of space, poetry and tension.

With a run of individual tracks being released on Spotify, Evelyn Drach is working towards a full digital album release in 2018 with vinyl to follow in 2019.

According to her bio she is… a musician & storyteller in search of quiet truth and forgotten stories. From the funeral pyres of Varanasi to the heart of London, Drach has spent her life following stories across the world. Often this leads to living in extreme isolation. She has spent months living in a mud hut in the heart of the Amazon jungle, a year exploring abandoned houses in rural France and years working as a house clearer sorting through the possessions of those who have passed on.

From a background of fine art and dance, Drach’s work also includes experimental films and dance pieces using dance to navigate through landscapes and better understand their textures.

Her music is a journey through collective history, ancestral memory & the subconscious realm. Using sound samples, a range of live instruments and spoken word interludes, she collages sound & thought. Her music is presented in unconventional immersive settings. She wants it to be stumbled upon or uncovered like a lost memory, inviting the audience to step sideways in time into her realm which is filled with symbolism & questions.

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ALBUM REVIEW: Low – Double Negative

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Press play and the first thing you’ll hear on the new Low album is the equivalent of a digital sandstorm.

Slowly but surely, out of the static and sonic scree comes the voice of Alan Sparhawk, sounding like a ghost trying with all his might to re-engage with the physical world. It’s a fascinating way to open an album; a new approach for Low and one that sets the scene for their most experimental and strangely beautiful record to date.

There’s a strong David Lynch aesthetic at play across Double Negative. That blend of a sense of foreboding and unease mixed with tender and affecting musical emotiveness. ‘Dancing And Blood’ continues to ratchet up the tension and usher the listener further into the present. Producer BJ Burton has worked in Bon Iver’s studio and you can certainly hear elements of the creative deconstructionist approach to traditional song that has happened within those walls. Mimi Parker takes the lead vocal on ‘Fly’ and it’s a powerful moment, almost backwoods ecclesiastical in the way it billows and urges. The defiance is short lived though as ‘Tempest’ submerges their voices in grainy, almost all-consuming decay. The clouds part momentarily before the connection is again violently disrupted.

‘Always Trying To Work It Out’ is a soulful suffocated pop song while ‘Poor Sucker’ is unsettling and laced with existential dread. When ‘Dancing And Fire’ emerges with pristine, clean guitars and an unprocessed vocal from Sparhawk, it sounds positively calming, Parker’s voice acting like a tonal echo chamber. “It’s not the end, it’s just the end of hope,” they sing, and it sums up the album’s themes of standing up for one’s beliefs, the danger of losing optimism and how the negative forces in the world are warning signs to correct things before it’s too late.

Low leave us with ‘Disarray’, a robotic dance at a death disco and a plea for change; “Before it falls into total disarray, you’ll have to learn to live a different way.Double Negative is bold and powerful music, fusing the avant-garde and traditional song with both friction and harmony. It’s unnerving, visceral and wholly compelling.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Darren Cross – Sur La Vague (Drive Me Nuts)

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The sonic alchemist that is Darren Cross (Jep and Dep, Gerling) has released the second single from his new LP Peacer. ‘Sur La Vague (Drive Me Nuts)’ is a persistent ear-worm of a track. Over a Krautrock rhythm he weaves a mantra-like vocal peppered with hovercraft synths and saxophone. It’s that sweet blend of downbeat and uptempo – a kaleidoscopic, left-of-centre, pop nugget that brings to mind LCD Soundsystem and Fujiya & Miyagi. It’s also brilliantly enhanced with a suitably skewed and maniacal video clip.

For the full #DARRENCROSSPEACER experience, head to his Bandcamp page to buy the album on vinyl/CD/digital.

If you are in Sydney you can get along to Cross’ album launch at the Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Darlinghurst tomorrow night (September 6th). Music kicks off at 9pm. Entry is free.

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

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: Stuart A. Staples – Arrhythmia

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For Stuart Staples, he of the silken croon out front of UK moodists Tindersticks, it’s been 13 years since his last solo album, Leaving Songs. That record was comfortably in the same musical orbit as Tindersticks – baroque, jazz-informed and dramatic songs placed somewhere between latter day Talk Talk, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen. In the intervening years he’s continued to work on film soundtracks which goes some way to to explaining the more cinematic and experimental scope of this new four track album.

‘A New Real’ opens the album with an echo-laden primitive drum machine and a dub bass line before that distinct low and nasally coo of a voice drifts into view, questioning the shape and form of love. Slowly unfurling at a heavy-lidded pace it suddenly blooms into cascading keys and strummed guitar, the mood quickly shifting from desolate melancholy to some kind of cautious optimism.

‘Memories Of Love’ surveys similar subject matter, this time looking at love as nostalgia. It’s in keeping with the album title Arrhythmia, in this case Staples sees irregular heartbeats as being at the mercy of the vagaries of love. The song rides on nothing more than a ride cymbal and sparse, resonant piano chords before bells and other percussive melodies permeate the song in the vein of Bjork’s textural explorations. ‘Step Into the Grey’ goes deep soul on a jazzed-out breakbeat as if the band Spain were playing R&B. Staples seems to be exploring the greyed out feeling of post-relationship despair before a restrained string-led avant freakout intervenes.

‘Music For ‘A Year In Small Paintings’’ is a 30 minute instrumental track that works like a short film as it traverses multiple moods (scenes) borne from the reactions of various musicians to 365 oil paintings of the sky by artist (and his wife) Suzanne Osborne. It takes on modern classical, ambient and jazz forms with wonderfully emotive and immersive results, making this album an intimate and evocative solo release from the enigmatic Staples.

Chris Familton

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Tropical Fuck Storm – A Laughing Death In Meat Space

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Gareth Liddiard has been the most important Australian songwriter of the last 15 years, certainly within the world of chart-swerving guitar music. His strengths lie in literary lyrical astuteness, willingness to explore the sprawl and corners of his songs and the raw, unhinged and visceral quality of his performances. The Drones always seemed like the cross between Neil Young, Dirty Three and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds but by the time they hit Feelin Kinda Free (2016) their restless inventiveness had branched out into new experimental territory, the precursor to Tropical Fuck Storm.

With new members around Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, Tropical Fuck Storm have thrown away any rule book they may have had and taken an ‘anything goes’ approach, embracing dark electronic undercurrents, heavy funk and a wider palette of voices. Liddiard is verbose and incoherently eloquent as ever, this time railing against popular culture, the rise of intelligent machines, the despair of modern politics and the fear and paranoia of modern living with an apocalyptic backdrop. 

‘You Let My Tyres Down’ is pure Drones with it’s quiet/loud dynamic and beautifully weary chorus. ‘Shellfsh Toxin’ is an instrumental comprised of queasy unease, the title track is optimism short-lived, ‘Two Afternoons’ is a coruscating death disco and ‘Rubber Bullies’ suggests Liddiard has been immersing himself in Saharan desert rock. Tropical Fuck Storm are a glorious detour into deconstructed rock music, reflective of societal malaise and unafraid to tell it like it is. Qualities desperately needed in the current musical climate.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Eleanor Friedberger – Rebound

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Eleanor Friedberger was the voice of the quirky and inventive Fiery Furnaces before going it alone. Now onto her fourth solo album, she’s more than established herself as a fine songwriter and clearly decided to stretch out into some new sonic territory on the more electronically textured Rebound.

Eschewing the knotty indie guitar sound, she’s delved into a more synthetic world of drum machines, keyboards and melancholic music that references the sadder side of 80s pop but is in no way a nostalgia exercise. There’s a patina to the music whereby the songs sound lush and contemporary with one foot in simple melodic pop and the other in the art-pop world of artists like Stereolab. 

The single Make Me A Song is as catchy as anything she’s done in the past and demonstrates her playful wordplay and consistently infectious way with a chorus hook. The downbeat thrum of Nice To Be Nowhere recalls both Julee Cruise and Jack Ladder in its plaintive soft focus sway while Are We Good dances with a playful kosmiche pulse. Her use of electronic sounds add a warmth to these songs rather than colder machine-like qualities. It’s a re-housing of her songs in a new setting and she’s again matched it with sensitive and astute songwriting.

Chris Familton