ALBUM REVIEW: Deep Sea Arcade – Blacklight

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It’s been six years since Nic McKenzie and Nick Weaver released their debut album Outlands. On the back of a run of singles they’d built a strong sense of anticipation about that first record and it certainly lived up to expectations. Fast forward to 2018 and how does a band evolve and change over that time? The DSA model is to essentially stick to the template with some refinement and an easing off of the accelerator.

As you’d expect with such a long gestation, they’ve no doubt rewritten and reworked tracks and that has given these ten songs a sense of calm control. The more frantic edges of earlier songs have been rounded off. This is the band sounding less indie psych rock and with more of an ultramodern sheen that embraces electronic and disco sounds as much as it distils the pop and psychedelic qualities of their past work. Mercury Rev, Spoon, Beck, The Horrors are names that come to mind, acts that all relish melodic hooks as equally as they paint in cosmic colours. 

McKenzie’s voice is shorn of some of its more nasally proclivities and is now in perfect marriage with the music. Musically, the Manchester 90s vibe is still there in tracks like Joanna with its dance-ready rhythm section. The closer Ready is a highlight of studio-polished melancholy while Learning To Fly is an absolute ear-worm of a track that uses hooks and repetition to bury itself deep. The other highlight is the single Close To Me with its loping trip hop groove and psych-soul feel that blossoms into one of the duo’s finest choruses.

Black lights are employed for artistic lighting effects as well as diagnostic and therapeutic uses and in that sense it’s a fitting title for a record that looks to combine art-pop and post-relationship dissection. There are moments when form supersedes the strength of the songwriting but overall Blacklight justifies the long wait for this second album.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Deep Sea Arcade – Close To Me

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Deep Sea Arcade have been hard at work on their new album Blacklight, their first since Outlands in 2012. We’ve heard the new album, we’ve got a review of it coming soon. The good news is that for the most part it’s been worth the wait.

This single, ‘Close To Me’, is one of the album highlights and an example of the seamless integration of indie, electronic and psych elements the duo of Nick Weaver and Nic McKenzie have put together on the new record.

LIST: DS Top Albums of 2012

2012 TOP ALBUMS

2012 felt like somewhat of a mixed bag of musical lollies with our favourites encompassing americana, power pop, 80s synth, indie and many shades of psychedelia. The only thing that tied them all together was the strong streak of melody that each was built on. Even in the case of someone like Neil Young & Crazy Horse it was Young’s incredible weaving of musical notes on Old Black that made that record such a delight. Hopefully there will be a few surprises scattered across our list which will send you down another musical rabbit hole to find out if we are onto something… Hopefully we are.

30-21

20-11

10-1

square-600-11Charlie Horse – I Hope I’m Not A Monster

square-600-16Deep Sea Arcade – Outlands

LOWER PLENTYLower Plenty – Hard Rubbish

square-600-15Dinosaur Jr – I Bet On Sky

square-600-13Lee Ranaldo – Between The Times & The Tides

UnknownNeil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill

square-600-17Lawrence Arabia – The Sparrow

square-600Lambchop – Mr. M

square-600-14Suzy Connolly – Night Larks

square-600-12Father John Misty – Dear Fun

WATCH: Deep Sea Arcade | Granite City Girls

Deep Sea Arcade round out their massive year with another single from their Outlands, a record that sounds like a whole album of singles. Granite City Girls is packed with footage from their recent tours in a suitably hazy, psych pop filtered style.

The band are about to head out on a national tour to celebrate the single release:

  • Fri 9th Nov – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne
  • Fri 16th Nov – The Zoo, Brisbane
  • Thur 22nd Nov – Uni Bar (All Ages), Adelaide
  • Fri 23rd Nov – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth
  • Fri 30th Nov – The Metro )All Ages), Sydney

2012 | Twenty First Half Favourites

We’re already half away through 2012, crazy huh? It felt like it was a slow start to the year in terms of standout album releases but slowly things have picked up pace and some (in our ears) essential purchases have emerged. Here, in no particular order are twenty LPs that have captured our attention over the last six months.

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LAMBCHOP | MR. M

This is their best since Nixon, majestic, intimate and ethereal.

NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE | AMERICANA

The long awaited return of Crazy Horse to the NY fold and they recommence work with brilliant primitive garage rock interpretations of folk classics.

EARTH | ANGELS OF DARKNESS, DEMONS OF LIGHT II

Dylan Carlson and co continue to explore parched and ghostly americana doom.

SHACKLETON | MUSIC FOR THE QUIET HOUR

This music for the head, food for the ears and possesses an astonishing range of electronic composition.

TORCHE | HARMONICRAFT

The sludge metallers continue to refine their heaviosity with their most realised collision of melody and surging heavy rock.

JOSEF VAN WISSEM & JIM JARMUSCH | CONCERNING THE ENTRANCE INTO ETERNITY

A fascinating journey into experimental post rock with this collaboration between a lutist and the acclaimed indie film director on electric guitar.

DR JOHN | LOCKED DOWN

The Night Tripper hooks up with a Black Key and produces his finest work in years. New Orleans voodoo swamp blues and jazz at its finest.

SINEAD O’CONNOR | HOW ABOUT I BE ME (AND YOU BE YOU)?

O’Connor gets personal and raw on one of her best collection of songs in years. FULL REVIEW

OREN AMBARCHI | AUDIENCE OF ONE

Ambarchi’s exquisitely recorded guitar compositions are stretched fleshed out with vocals, whirs and patter making this his most holistic release to date.

DEEP SEA ARCADE | OUTLANDS

Sydney quintet Deep Sea Arcade deserve to top charts and win hearts with this stellar collection of infectious indie guitar pop. FULL REVIEW

FATHER JOHN MISTY | FEAR FUN

Josh Tillman discards his dark stark folk and reveals an album brimming with hooks and a sharp wit. FULL REVIEW

SUZY CONNOLLY | NIGHT LARKS

An early candidate for my album of the year. Night Larks is heartfelt and mature songwriting of the highest order. This will take up residency in your heart and ears. FULL REVIEW

THE CARETAKER | PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD)

Arcane, lost and forgotten sounds in a bed of crackle and hiss. Pick the right time (night, wine and headphones) and prepare to be transported through space and time.

DAMIEN JURADO | MARAQOPA

Jurado follows up his excellent Saint Bartlett with another LP of classic troubadour songs, this time a tad more psychedelic and swirling in the hands of collaborator Richard Swift.

OPOSSOM | ELECTRIC HAWAII

Essentially the solo project of ex Mint Chick Kody Nielson, this is technicolor pop music at its finest. FULL REVIEW

THE MEN | OPEN YOUR HEART

A real mix of post punk, hardcore and indie rock. The songs tumble from the speakers leaving a trail of carefree gems scattered in their wake. FULL REVIEW

PUBLIC IMAGE LTD | THIS IS PIL

The return of John Lydon and his band of merry men and what a welcome return with this dub heavy excursion into indie, post punk, industrial rhythms and rhymes.

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE | NOTHING’S GONNA CHANGE THE WAY YOU FEEL ABOUT ME NOW

Earle is now beginning to expand his sound, taking it into Memphis soul territory with horns aplenty and a bigger band sound to match his outstanding country and folk songwriting abilities. FULL REVIEW

CHARLIE HORSE | I HOPE I’M NOT A MONSTER

A record from Sydney’s Blue Mountains that takes strong and sultry country rock vocals and marries them to some Peter Buck and Neil Young guitar anthems in waiting. FULL REVIEW

VCMG | SSSS

Who’d have thought original Depeche Moders Martin Gore and Vince Clarke would collaborate again/ They did and the results were surprisingly dark and fun on this techno collision between two stalwarts of modern electronic pop music. FULL REVIEW

INTERVIEW: Deep Sea Arcade

WATER BIRTH

OUTLANDS HAS BEEN YEARS IN THE MAKING BUT FINALLY DEEP SEA ARCADE’S DEBUT LP EMERGES FROM THE DEEP. NIC MCKENZIE TAKES CHRIS FAMILTON THROUGH ITS GESTATION.

Imagine arriving in the UK for the first time with your band, feeling jet lagged yet full of excitement at the chance to play to people on the other side of the world. Expecting to play pubs and clubs you find out you are playing a large hall and a journalist from revered music magazine MOJO is about to introduce you onstage. Would this be the dreaded empty venue dream every musician has?

“I’d seen video of Dappled Cities and Bluejuice play at The Great Escape [festival] and they were in pubs so I expected we’d be playing little venues. When we rocked up at Komedia, a massive hall, I thought “Oh God there will be fifteen people here.” We’d only got off the place 12 hours before and were still feeling terrible and after he introduced us we walked out to a full room which was really cool!” exclaims a relieved Mckenzie.

“The tour was organized really well, we serviced a whole bunch of blogs and got BBC Radio 1 airplay and got write-ups in NME so that set up the trip and made it really worthwhile. Bands can spend up to$40,000 touring over there and if it isn’t well set up it can be a real waste of time.”

That was the scenario for Deep Sea Arcade last year. After a couple of local single releases (Girls, Don’t Be Sorry) and plenty of airplay for other songs they ventured over the ocean to lay the foundations for the eventual release of their album in Europe. All the while they were still working on completing their debut, Outlands, the result of a journey of many years that has seen the songs pass through a number of hands but which ultimately sounds like a lush, vibrant and cohesive collection of recordings.

“For a debut album I think it was totally necessary to take that long. I listen to it and hear a  progression from the 60s inspired tracks which are kind of like songwriting 101 and they were the building blocks to add all our other influences and progressions. When I listen to the album I hear that, where the ideas began and the actual formation of the personality of the music happened. I think it is really important to show that progression of the music on the first album and it couldn’t have been done without taking a bit of time with it,” Mckenzie explains.

Using a number of tracking engineers (Berkfinger, Tim Whitten) and then employing separate mixers meant that different ears, tastes and opinions shaped the sound of Outlands, allowing different moods, from cinematic and dreamy to melodic and pop-heavy, to populate their diverse sound.

“We used Dan Grech-Marguerat (The Vaccines and protege of Nigel Godrich) when he initially contacted us after our manager (Andy Cassell) tried to get Godrich himself. Grech-Marguerat said he was interested in doing some stuff on the album but nothing happened for 6 or 7 months and then we heard The Vaccines record and Andy said he had contacted us so we hooked that up. His mixes really brought out the the darkness and the English vibes in those songs that he mixed – Seen No Right, Lonely In Your Arms and Girls. The other guy we used was Doug Boehm who did the Vines and mixed all the Elliott Smith records. He was someone we found out about and was on the mix list because of the Smith stuff so we hooked up with him. We were really lucky to work with those guys and we were able to get all the ingredients in there through tracking with Tim Whitten and Berkfinger and then these amazing mixing engineers came in and carved out the bits and pieces and created the soundscapes. The reason it is so cohesive is that we used the same recording methods but then the mixing brings it all together.”

The process of writing, arranging, recording and mixing has taken a further step by influencing the way the band now plays many of the songs live compared to their pre-recorded incarnations. It also gave new life to songs that the band knew were good but had never been able to find a way to do them justice onstage.

“Totally, the song Granite City was done by a remix guy who stripped all the synth parts and arpeggiated keyboards back to their bare essentials with one synth, bass line, a drum groove and vocals. Before that we didn’t play it live as it sounded too sweet without enough darkness. Richard (Norris – from Time & Space Machine) brought that song to life and now we play it the way he mixed it. In recording you tend to put so many layers on because you can and that was the great thing collaborating with great mixers. We knew what we wanted but they listened to the songs objectively and gave us their honest opinion; they killed our babies for us,” Mckenzie chuckles.

Mckenzie and bassist Nick Weaver, the core of Deep Sea Arcade, have a strong conceptual idea of how they want to present the band, both musically and visually. Mckenzie is heavily involved in the music videos and artwork and talks enthusiastically about complementing their music with other mediums.

For Nick and I the music is something we’ve got a good idea about, the universe it comes from and the place that we think it exists in. Because of the cinematic nature of it the visual representation is important too. When we get artwork right we know that is representing it well. It is important to create an identity and exciting to push boundaries and wonder what else we can make and change things up a bit. We just made a video and the concept is we are recording in a mansion but we’re not recording using conventional methods. Instead of recording handclaps we are slapping people’s bottoms. It is a bit sillier than what we normally do but it is still true to who we are. When we are involved in it we come up with ideas that might be daring and silly but it still fits with who we are.  That also then feeds back into the music and so that evolves too. People appreciate that I think, rather than just using stuff a record label pushes through. Ivy League as a label are great, they let us take the reins and let us control the way we are perceived. Sometimes we have made stupid videos and they say you can put that out but it might have these effects but then they leave it to us to make the call.”

The excitement for the release of Outlands, even after its long gestation, is obvious from Mckenzie’s enthusiasm in discussing it. “It’s a strange feeling. I sat in on the design of the album sleeve and I’m holding the physical copy now and it actually feels really special. I thought holding it wouldn’t be that amazing but it does, holding the digipak in your bands and thinking ‘Wow, this is our record!”

 this interview was first published in Drum Media

PHOTOS: Deep Sea Arcade Album Release Party (Media) @ Goodgod Small Club, Sydney (07/03/12)

Deep Sea Arcade proudly launched their brand spanking new album Outlands this evening in Sydney to an invited assemblage of media people. The band played a brief set highlighting the magic combination of pop nous, melodic hooks and swaggering beat bravado that they’ve proven over recent years on stage and with the singles they’ve released.

photo: Ernest Fratczak
photo: Chris Familton
photo: Chris Familton
photo: Chris Familton

 

 

 

 

WATCH: Deep Sea Arcade | Girls [NEW]

Deep Sea Arcade have been slowly building their garage/psych indie sound for a while now and are starting to make some international inroads with positive press in the UK. The lads have an album Outlands in the can which will see the light of day next year via Ivy League Records. Check out the video for their new single Girls and catch them  November 11th when they play the Annandale Hotel…