Dunedin and indeed NZ music royalty The Bats have been pretty busy of late. They released their new LP Foothills last year, to wide acclaim, and earlier this month they also intriguingly released an instrumental version of the album on Bandcamp which gives a really interesting twist on the songs, allowing the rhythm section of perpetual motion and those sparkling guitars to take centre stage.
During the pandemic, Bassist Paul Kean and guitarist Kaye Woodward have formed a humble supergroup of sorts by teaming up with Alec Bathgate (Tall Dwarfs, The Enemy) and Hamish Kilgour (The Clean) to record a couple of songs of darkly hypnotic, underground psychedelia. Hopefully more recordings are on the way!
Robert Scott always seems to be working on something new and he’s teamed up with Dallas Henley to release Level Four, an album of low-key, mostly acoustic songs that wind through some lovely melodies. The 14 tracks feature bass, Omnichord, guitar, vocals and keyboards.
The EP, featuring covers of iconic songs by Wire, XTC, The Comsat Angels, The Korgis and The Passions is out now via Basketcase Records/Redeye Worldwide
Australia’s favourite jangly guitar/paisley popsters Ups and Downs return with this five track EP of covers of much-loved new wave and post punk tunes from the ’80s!
They say the past is ‘another country’, and it is well worth revisiting as Ups and Downs lovingly reclaim alternative classics by XTC, Wire, The Passions and The Comsat Angels.
One of the EP highlights is the band’s gorgeous take on The Korgis hit ‘Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime’ (written by James Warren). They perfectly capture the swoon and melancholic sway of the song, treating it with a gentle strum and shimmer. The icing on the cake comes in the form of legendary Australian-expat Rick Springfield who contributes a beautiful and yearning psychedelic guitar solo that adds a classic Beatles-esque feel to the recording.
Elsewhere the group convey the melodic rush of Wire’s infectious classic ‘Outdoor Miner’ with spirited headiness, they make XTC’s ‘Are You Receiving Me’ one of their own, find a tough-edged drive to The Comsat Angels’ ‘Independence Day’ and apply a darker and warmer moodiness to The Passions’ ‘I’m In Love With A German Film Star’, with sublime results.
The EP cover artwork has a fascinating back-story, as Darren Atkinson explains, “The girls on the cover were fans of Ups and Downs back in the late ‘80s and used to follow us around to gigs and send us presents. On one occasion they sent us a package that had photos of them dressed up as us, taking the piss out of various official promo shots,” he laughs.
(1) Are You Receiving Me – (XTC, 1978) “XTC have influenced all of us over the years. Are You Receiving Me is a classic exploration of isolation and breakdown in communication. We kind of slowed it down and twisted it around a bit.” – Alex
(2) Independence Day – (The Comsat Angels, 1983) “It’s one of those touchstone songs that helped the band define its sound in the early days. It’s been part of our repertoire since just about day one. Its dark and angular nature continues to cast its shadow over what we do.” – John
(3) Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime – (The Korgis, 1980) “It’s a beautifully sad song that continues to haunt me to this day. We’ve even iced the cake by getting a bona fide rock star, Rick Springfield, to play lead guitar on it. Rumour has it that Ups and Downs are Rick’s second favourite band after The Church and I’m OK with that.” – Greg
(4) I’m In Love With A German Film Star – (The Passions, 1981) “We were early Passions fans and used to play this song live regularly in the 80s. We even used a photo of their album cover in our psychedelic live slide show. It’s a song that still moves me nearly 40 years after first hearing it.“- Peter
(5) Outdoor Miner – (Wire, 1978) “We started playing Outdoor Miner live in the late ’80s. I have no idea what the lyrics are about, yet the song is almost heartbreakingly melancholic. Wire have always been able to find beauty among the noise and chaos.” – Darren
Darren Cross returns with a new album called Keeping Up? In recent years he’s explored folk noir with Jep and Dep, his own eclectic solo albums and a pair of instrumental acoustic folk albums under the moniker D.C Cross.
Here he orbits planet Gerling closer than he has since the band split back in in the late 00s. It’s still a totally different musical creature but the synthetic/humanistic/subtly anarchic blend that band explored at times is still rippling through Cross’ DNA.
There’s a cosmic nostalgia at play. Dreamy, fragmentary and hypnagogic in the feelings it portrays and the visage it conjures up, this is Kraftwerk disconnected from their machines and cast into an interstellar dream state. Hi-brow, lo-fi – allowing the machines to wonder and reflect. There’s a sense of suspended reality, a remove from the chaos of reality, pressing pause on the VCR, cleaning the hard drive, looking for a way to process and cope with the avalanche of data we consume and are unwittingly fed with each day.
Drum machines are treated like arhythmic heartbeats, lazily loping along with a melancholic funk in their step. Synths wash and cascade like ultra slo-mo and woozy waterfalls. There’s an overwhelmingly immersive quality to the music. Drug-like, womb-like – that intrinsic memory of holding your breath underwater as a child and feeling at peace in the aquatic cocoon.
Keeping Up? is a battle for optimism in the face of decreasing digital odds. It’s a non-smoking area for mental health and a dystopian glance back at the malaise of the industrial age.
Jessica (one half of Jep & Dep) has just released her brand new debut album The Space Between on Bandcamp and ‘Pictures’ is the second single from to be drawn from what is a beautifully ethereal and immersive collection of songs.
‘Pictures’ rides a hypnotic guitar line reminiscent of Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood before Jessica’s vocal takes centre-stage, unfurling and overlapping with itself as she wanders a shopping mall before taking refuge in a dreamy and futuristic karaoke bar.
We’ve got a full album review coming soon but for now, dive in for yourself over at Bandcamp.
A steady chiming guitar sets the scene before Rhiannon Back’s (The Gaze) hypnotic and melodic incantations enter the fray on Sydney songwriter and Peabody frontman Buddy Glass‘ new single, the second taste of his forthcoming album Wow & Flutter.
As a primitive Mo Tucker-indebted percussion joins the procession, there’s a clear nod to the Velvet Underground and their droning pop nuggets. While Glass’ first single ‘Wasted Habit‘ was a frantic, frayed-nerve dispatch, ‘If You Sail Out‘ is all about a controlled and dreamy mood amid questions of context and perspective on one’s life.
“If you sail out past this story, you’ll see your life in all its glory. If you sail out into the darkness, you’ll see your life in all its starkness.”
Ambient and (neo)classical compositions can often tread a fine line, evaporating into the ethereal realm or overstating their grandeur. Both extremes lack the required balance of satiating the heart and the mind. In the hands of auteurs such as Nils Frahm, Brian Eno and Harold Budd, music of this ilk can blossom and sway with the most subtle of transitions and adjustments – and it’s those qualities we’re always looking for when we’re hunting out new artists and compositions.
Tom Ashbrook, a British composer, fulfils and exceeds the criteria on this new track ‘Oaktrees’, the third single released from his new EP Sensibus. You can hear the mechanics of his playing and the surrounding sonic detritus in the air. Soft synth pads widen the textural qualities of the piece and summon both the immersive sensation of being underwater and in space. Drift and a poetic sense of flotation being the common factor.
IDLES have released ‘A Hymn’, a new single and accompanying video clip from their forthcoming new album Ultra Mono, set for release on 25 September 2020 on Partisan Records.
The music video features the band driving with their parents through their hometown streets to the shops, providing a grey window into suburban English life that matches the song’s heavyhearted churn.
Frontman Joe Talbot says of the song: “‘A Hymn’ is a hymn that rejoices in the sinister flesh-eating virus of the pedestrian. It sings the tune of normal’s teeth sinking into your neck as you sleep stood up with your eyes open. Amen.”
I want to be loved Everybody does I find shame in the crack-like corpse un-cadaver reign I want to be loved Everybody does I find shame gripped tight like your withering fame We made it Shame.
Hot Zumba classes at the new church I lost ten pounds for the wedding I played happy til my teeth hurt Sofa surfer extraordinaire Lambert’s ash in my falling hair, yeh.
I want to be loved Everybody does I find shame cuts rips real nice as we change lanes We made it I want to be loved Everybody does We made it We made it
Teletext has a place in my heart Ten percent discount, I’ll show you how Gregory’s birthday in a placid town, wow Janine held the flag with white knuckles I’m burning the Astra til the wheels buckle, yeh.
Sydney songwriter Buddy Glass (Bruno from Peabody) is back with a brand new single and video, his first since he released his self-titled solo album in 2014. ‘Wasted Habit’ comes from his forthcoming new album Wow & Flutter, due out September 4th on Glass Half Empty Records.
‘Wasted Habit’ is a hard-strummed acoustic and densely fuzzed out electric shakedown. There’s desperation and anxiety in the frantic twitch and thrash of its sound, like clinging on for dear life as you hurtle towards the inevitable.
“I recorded the vast majority of the album on 4-track cassette in the back room of my house in Marrickville, in between dogs barking and babies crying – but this track was done on a digital 8-track machine I’ve had for over 20 years.”
Buddy Glass on ‘Wasted Habit’:
“It’s a song about knowing the outcome of a situation before it happens, but nothing you try to say or do stops you from taking the steps necessary to fulfill that outcome, even when that means a raw deal for everyone involved. It’s like being in a car crash but also witnessing it from the outside. It’s essentially about determinism over free will. The video clip features me flailing and dancing around in a cat mask in a David Lynch-style room. My friend said it was like Ian Curtis trying to dance like Peter Garrett. I hope that’s accurate.”