SPECIAL SOUNDS FOR STRANGE TIMES

Over the last few months, one of the things many people have been turning to during periods of isolation during the pandemic is music. Music for distraction, companionship, solace and joy. Whatever the reason, putting on a favourite album or discovering something new that pulls you in and hits the spot, intellectually or emotionally, can be a great and wonderful experience. In this series we check in with musicians, journalists and broadcasters to see what has inspired repeat listening and provided some special sounds for these strange times.

First up is Darren Cross, he of Gerling and Jep and Dep fame who has most recently been releasing solo material as D.C Cross. Under that moniker he’s created two excellent albums (Ecstatic Racquet (2019), Terabithian (2020)) that blend American Primitive guitar stylings with arcane English folk picking and immersive washes of new age-inspired drone and ambience.

Leonard Cohen – Songs of Love and Hate (1971)

When it’s cold near/in winter time, I love to listen to depressing music. I don’t know, it’s just the way it is. One year, in the coldest house I have ever lived, Jack Elias’ Chopping Board was the winter breakfast album in our Alaskan house kitchen. A local songsmith, influenced by Cohen but even bleaker than Cohen, the half Lebanese guy Elias really hits you were it hurts.

Songs of Love and Hate has been flipped on the record player many a time during this Covid time. Its weird, I watched the Cohen documentary Bird On Wire for the first time recently. It’s about a 20 date tour that ended up in Israel in the 70’s where Cohen and his band are tripping balls on LSD and he is crying during his performance of S’o Long Marianne’ – mind blowing!

The guitar on Songs of Love and Hate is astounding – highlighting what Cohen calls “his chops” – his distinct picking style. This album is tender and angry and evil all at once… and the sentiment is perfect for a heartless winter.

Trumans Water – 10X My Age EP (1993)

When I was a wee lad in the 90’s, Trumans Water really blew my mind. Hailing from San Diego around the time Pavement appeared, (before Pavement ended up sounding like the the Verve) Trumans Water were deconstructionist – dismantling pop-grunge-math-rock that sounded like Captain Beefheart playing the angriest parts of Sonic Youth but 10x angrier, while collapsing down an eternal staircase to infinity.

I bought this 10 inch as I just had to hear these songs on vinyl. I mean one song is just a lo-fi recording of the drummer trying to learn the drum beat (bit annoying) but tracks like ‘Empty Queen II’ and ‘Enflamed’ still impress the hell out of me.

I recently found a rad doco about the San Diego punk scene called It’s Gonna Blow!!! – San Diego’s Music Underground 1986-1996 – which was unfindable online until recent times. I am pretty sure the title of the film comes from the Trumans Water anthem ‘Aroma Of Gina Arnold’ which is another of my favourite Trumans songs. Hunt this down. Such a great band. The artwork of the albums was really inspirational as well, long before collage and dadaism became a hipster staple.

Liquid Mind – Liquid Mind I : Ambience Minimus (1994)

Being a restaurant DJ and working on Saturday mornings as a thrift store sorter (go through the garbage, mould, urns of dead people, to find things to sell to rich people in rich areas) was playing havoc on my sleeping patterns. DJ’ing until 3am (playing ‘Thriller’ to 20 year olds on MDMA) then getting up to work and sort through the junk was really whacking me out (so I quit the sorting job). Not being able to sleep led me to those YouTube ambient music sets of three hours of buzzing electronic drone sounds that hypnotise you into sleepy slumberland submission. Luckily for me I really love those sounds and dug a bit deeper and found Chuck Wild, the godfather of 90’s ambient music.

Chuck Wild’s Liquid Mind I : Ambience Minimus (1994) is probably my favourite and it seemed really fitting, during these Covid times, to reach for this CD and sail away on cloud Chuck.

Chuck Wild went from doing the music composition on that crazy, ground-breaking 80’s, MTV-loving TV show Max Headroom, to a nervous breakdown where he stunningly chose meditation over medication and help invent 90’s ambient music.

The first track, ‘Zero Degrees Zero’ goes for over 28 minutes and like the most of this album, creates understated wooshes of pure 90’s ecstasy drone candy. This album has made me fell less anxious in this really weird and eerie time of self-isolation.

Coffee. Sleep. Sitting on the couch. More sleep. Trying to forget I can’t travel overseas to see my friends in Europe. Play guitar. Beer. Forgetting Covid – Liquid Mind I : Ambience Minimus – Suits my many moods. Repeat. Repeat.

NEW MUSIC: Jep and Dep – Lune Cassee Reve

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Jep and Dep have started off 2018 with a video clip for ‘Lune Cassee Reve’, the fourth single from their album THEY’VEBEENCALLED. It finds them in some kind of sci-fi noir world where sand meets sea under a cosmic moon.

Read our review of THEY’VEBEENCALLED

From rich kids drowning to a captive’s lament, a city’s cultural decline to romance in jeopardy, there’s a gothic sheen to They’veBeenCalled that both soothes and unsettles. Throughout, melodies cascade like slow rain on a window pane and as the closer ‘This Is Not The End’  dissolves into gentle static, the overriding mood that lingers is one of beauty bruised but not vanquished.

ALBUM REVIEW: Jep And Dep – They’veBeenCalled

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This is album number two for Darren Cross (Gerling) and Jessica Cassar and it finds them expanding their monochromatic and ethereal world into darker corners where mystery slowly reveals itself and both hope and despair are around every slow bend.

Their debut was clearly a interpretation of folk music but here they use even more swooning strings, piano and billowing reverb to add a ghostly and dreamy warmth to the songs. The pair share lead vocals and counter each other with some wonderfully arranged harmonies that add to the haunting qualities of their music.

On ‘Poor Little Rich Kids’ Cassar’s voice hovers in the aether behind Cross’ closely mic’d vocal. Cassar’s performance on the exquisite ‘Cruel Moon’ is reminiscent of Portishead at their most organic. Her voice is high and keening, pastoral even, when combined with Cross’ finger-picked guitar. It’s one of those sweet-sounding songs that has a dark undercurrent flowing just beneath the surface. Elsewhere, ’Helpless City’ has an ominous quality, like Nick Cave warning of approaching doom from the Bang Bang Bar stage in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.

From rich kids drowning to a captive’s lament, a city’s cultural decline to romance in jeopardy, there’s a gothic sheen to They’veBeenCalled that both soothes and unsettles. Throughout, melodies cascade like slow rain on a window pane and as the closer ‘This Is Not The End’  dissolves into gentle static, the overriding mood that lingers is one of beauty bruised but not vanquished.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Jep and Dep – Helpless City

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Sydney duo Jep and Dep are releasing their sophomore album THEY’VEBEENCALLED this week and as well as a release show last The Gaelic Club on Friday (see below), they’ve just released the second single from the album – ‘Helpless City’. Check out the impressive clip – the perfect accompaniment to a song about encroaching gentrification and what happens when the heart of a city is slowly but surely concreted over and the human spirit is dampened and demoralised. It’s all beautifully rendered in intimate and haunting reverb and an eerie mood.

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LIVE REVIEW: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks

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Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Mere Women, Jep and Dep @ The Factory Floor, Sydney (26.05.17)

Jep and Dep are on the downhill run to the release of their second LP, due for release in August, making this a chance to hear a brace of new tracks alongside songs from their debut Word Got Out. As is their fascinating dynamic, the duo exchanged barbed witty comments with each other and the audience before dovetailing into stark and dark folk songs framed by Darren Cross’ fine acoustic fingerpicking and Jessica Cassar’s high and lonesome voice which hung in the air with melancholic poise.

Mere Women are a band who’ve slowly built a strong reputation in the last few years with their three albums that showcase their engaging post-punk sound. Live they delivered and in some cases exceeded expectations. Front-person Amy Wilson is the human conduit into their jagged, coruscating sound where the drums stopped, started and tumbled, the bass provided the heartbeat and Flyn McKinnirey’s guitar created washes of sound and urgent collisions of effect-laden notes. It was a big and intense sound but one that was wholly the sum of its impressive parts.

Cash Savage is still riding high on the critical success of last year’s album One Of Us and based on this performance the songs have become even more vibrant and dynamic than when the band first toured them upon the album’s release. There was a relaxed intensity that permeated the set, the songs surging on with an ebb and flow and the band enjoying the sonic ride in their slipstream. Savage is still the focal point, that resolute stare across the audience, the clenching of teeth, stalking of the stage and slow-mo ducking and weaving like a boxer coyly sizing up their opponent. There was both a menace and euphoria to her voice as The Last Drinks traveled the length of One Of Us, drawing power and passion from Run With The Dogs, Rat-a-Tat-Tat and the album’s title track, just three highlights among many. A faultless performance from one of this country’s finest.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Jep and Dep – Cruel Moon (video)

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Jep and Dep are back with ‘Cruel Moon’, the first single from their forthcoming second LP, due out this August. Over the last couple of years they’ve developed a cohesive and atmospheric style, built on strong monochromatic imagery in their photos and videos – the perfect marriage to their sparse, sometimes lush, always compelling folk-noir sound.

Jessica Cassar and Darren Cross take a strong conceptual approach to their craft and so we chatted with Cassar to find a bit more about the songwriting and video-making process.

SONGWRITING AND RECORDING

“Like all of our songs, ‘Cruel Moon’ was a collaborative effort between the two of us. We always write our songs together. The difference with ‘Cruel Moon’ is that I sung all vocals and Darren played the guitar unlike our other songs were we might sing separate parts or harmonise. We didn’t feel ‘Cruel Moon’ needed much more that as we felt the vocals and guitar were equally strong and spoke to each other beautifully. In terms of recording, Darren produced the whole album and composed most of the arrangements, adding his signature ambient sounds. The song (and the album) has a pretty creepy vibe as we recorded it between 12-5am as Darren’s studio was wedged between a years worth of constant renovations from the neighbours. Recording at that time fucking annoyed us at first, but it actually turned into a positive and contributed to the song (and albums) overall darkness.”

THE VIDEO

“We have not collaborated too many times with our clips, partly due to finances but mostly because we enjoy making our videos. As Jep and Dep’s aesthetic is pretty strong and signature it was important for us not to compromise on that and have people understand that. Having said that, collaborating with other artists is never just about you, it’s a joint effort with many ideas coming together, so it was just as important for us to be a bit more flexible. You can see that coming through with ‘Cruel Moon’ as it takes more of a narrative and traditional flow we had not experimented with before, which ended up working well for the film-noir inspired clip the team (Isabella Andronos, director) came up with.”

THE NEW ALBUM

“We plan to independently release our second album in August, much like we did with Word Got Out. We feel this album has solidified our “folk-noir” sound and pushed us much further into a Lynchian, noir-core realm. It’s far more minimal than Word Got Out and far more haunting.”

Jep and Dep officially launch the single at Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney on May 25th.

NEW MUSIC: Jep and Dep – Honeymoon (Lana Del Rey cover)

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Sydney folk-noir duo Jep and Dep have released their first new music since their stunning 2014 LP Word Got Out. Honeymoon is a cover of the Lana Del Rey song which the pair have transformed into an epic and stirring track, overflowing with swooning heartache and lush drama. The echoes of Mazzy Star, Cocteau Twins and Julee Cruise are hanging in the air as the song slowly unveils itself in all its slowcore grandeur.

LIVE IN SYDNEY: Jamie Hutchings Solo @ Camelot Lounge

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Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss, Infinity Broke) is playing another of his solo, career spanning shows this Thursday at Camelot Lounge in Marrickville. The solo format of the evening is a great one where he takes a swing at prominent songs from his catalogue plus fan requests and a bit more insight into the songs than you might get at a regular gig.

Camelot Lounge is a great spot too, plenty of seats, food, great sound. Get along early to catch folk noir duo Jep and Dep who will be previewing songs from their upcoming 2nd LP.

Here’s our review of the first retrospective show Hutchings played at Camelot Lounge early last year.

Doors 7PM

Jep and Dep 8PM

Jamie Hutchings 9PM

Check out the Facebook Event for further details.