NEW MUSIC: Hercules & The Bricks – Gena Rowlands

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This track (named after the American actress Gena Rowlands) by Melbourne group Hercules & The Bricks, snuck up on us and burrowed into our synapses over the last week or two. There’s a post-punk cabaret vibe, a dramatic noir aesthetic that gives the song a timeless feel. It could have come out of the 80s art-pop underground yet it draws a line right through Melbourne bedsits across the decades, right up to the knowing styles of Jack Ladder and Alex Cameron. Get lost with The Bricks.

NEW MUSIC: Diana Radar – Growing

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A new track and clip from Melbourne quartet Diana Radar. ‘Growing’ is their third single this year, taken from an upcoming LP or EP from recording sessions engineered by Lachlan Wooden (Primary Colours, Archie Roach), and mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring). ‘Growing’ is a tumbling cache of sparkling and jangling guitars and melodically rolling bass. It has that New Order, Smiths kind of vibe, definitely placed in an Anglophile 80s world but also in the same orbit as Real Estate.

 

NEW MUSIC: Mantell – Lulu

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Mantell are an Australian quartet hailing from the suburbs of Melbourne and ‘Lulu’ is a track lifted from their EP thirty two which comes out tomorrow (October 5th). From the sound of this song they’ve got a firm handle on big emotive indie rock. The key aspect of this track that appeals to us is the restraint they show in not taking the song over the top into bombast. Over a rolling primitive rhythm and strong vocal they let the guitars swell and gracefully erupt in the back part of the song to great effect.

NEW MUSIC: Mylk – Your Name

 

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Melbourne alt-rock quartet Mylk released a two track EP Full Cream earlier this year and below you can check out ‘Your Name’. It’s a curious song in that it begins sounding like a Talking Heads/Vampire Weekend/Strokes-sounding slice of clever indie guitar pop before it takes flight like a lit firecracker and morphs into a bratty grunge sound. The quiet/loud dynamic works well, balancing the quirky verses with the roaring teen-styled rage of the chorus. It all amounts to a fine piece of songwriting juxtaposition.

 

 

INTERVIEW: Harmony

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THE HAZARDOUS TERRAIN OF LOVE

It’s been four years between albums for Melbourne’s Harmony, with members focusing on other projects and babies entering the frame. As Tom Lyngcoln explains to Chris Familton, this time around there were changes in both the recorded sound of Double Negative and the way he approached the writing of its songs.

“Alex [Lyngcoln, drummer] and I had a baby daughter in that time so that’s where the majority of our energy has been placed,” explains Lyngcoln, as he reflects on the years since the band’s last album, Carpetbombing, was released. Away from Harmony, Lyngcoln is also at the core of The Nation Blue and recently made his first foray into releasing solo albums, while other members, such as Erica Dunn (Tropical Fuck Storm), have multiple extra curricular activities. “It’s an allocation of time for things,” Lyngcoln explains. “The band was dormant after we did a couple of tours. Everyone has been really busy with other things and Harmony has just been sitting there. It’s nice to put it back together.”

After the confessional, angst-ridden content of Harmony’s previous releases, Lyngcoln felt compelled to approach Double Negative from a new perspective and, as stated in the album’s title, he used a technique that incorporated the style of his earlier writing and cleverly reconfigured it towards a more positive outlook. “I just wanted to flip it and sing about something else. With the birth of a child you really struggle to continue putting a lot of negativity out into the world. I just found it wasn’t helping my depression and mental wellbeing singing about negative shit, so I decided to write about something more positive,” he explains. “That’s really hard to do, it’s so much easier to hide behind self-deprecation and much easier to mope than it is to celebrate. Wallowing in the crucible of grief was just something I couldn’t do for another record so we changed our focus to try and write about love, which is one of the most hazardous terrains you can enter into as a songwriter. It’s been responsible for some of the greatest music of our time and also the vast majority of the worst,” he grimaces.

“I worked my way in to it by trying to employ negative language. I looked at it through descriptors of negative things such as war. Taking the same kind of lexicon that I’ve used in the past but try to print it in double negative and apply it in a positive way. When I write a chord progression it always tends to revert to the same tricks and my vocabulary is limited to a certain amount of words that slide together. I wanted to try and refine them and use them differently.”

Previous Harmony albums have had a dense, lo-fi quality to them, and though it suited Lyngcoln’s throat-shredding howls, it often obscured the songs and lacked the warmth and nuance that Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuishe and Erica Dunn’s lush vocal harmonies called for. This time they worked with producer Mike Deslandes and recorded in a group environment at Kyneton Mechanics Hall. 

“It was recorded much in the same way as the two last The Nation Blue records. Mike has an amazing mobile studio and so we went to the same hall because it is suited to Harmony a lot more. I’d wanted to do it there for a long time. Mike recorded it and as I was recovering from wrist surgery and a hernia, I had a solid eight weeks to mix it over summer and obsess and fall in and out of love with it. I’m happy with it, it’s the best thing I’ve done recording-wise,” he proudly states. “The other records have been pieced together. This was the band playing in a room live and then each night the girls would come in and record their vocals live. They were long days. Mike would clock off recording the band and then I’d jump in the seat and start recording the girls until 2am. There are vocal takes where I’ve nodded off and they were trying to wake me up. It was probably a bit ambitious,” laughs Lyngcoln.

That ambition has resulted in by far and away the band’s best work and with Lyngcoln and family relocating to Greece for a year in 2019, fans would be well served to catch them on their upcoming tour, before temporary hibernation again beckons.

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

ALBUM REVIEW: Money For Rope – Picture Us

 

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Back in 2012, Money For Rope came out of the gates with a real buzz about their live shows and their debut, self-titled album. They hit the road and apparently kept touring across Europe and the US. Thankfully they eventually got back in the studio and documented those years on the new album Picture Us.

As with that debut, the band again mix and blend genres and styles. They jam musical ingredients into a blender and end up with a sound that is familiar but never falls into a retrograde rehashing of other bands’ past glories. You can hear the ghosts of bands like Supergrass, Inspiral Carpets and Happy Mondays filtered through the kind of gothic-tinged garage and psych rock that the likes of The Scare and Witch Hats have dragged across these lands. Earl Grey stands out as a razor sharp example of mood and teetering energy as it shifts from a low-slung, snaking groove to frenetic sonic shakedown. Trashtown engages a wonderfully ramshackle and bluesy tone while Look lumbers along with a speaker-blowing sound akin to The Black Keys on steroids. As an example of the range of music Money For Rope explore on the album, listen to the title track. Its lo-fi, jangly quality and twists and turns suggests an affinity for the avant guitar pop of bands like Pavement and Sparklehorse. 

Picture Us casts a wide net, yet for all its variety there’s an overriding feeling of adventure and shared experiences that emanates from the restless colours and shapes of its songs.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: East Brunswick All Girls Choir – Teddywaddy

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There’s something undeniably visceral and raw about everything that East Brunswick All Girls Choir do. Exaltation and exorcism are part of their musical modus operandi, such is their commitment to making music that embraces emotion with an unflinching directness.

Teddywaddy, the followup to the acclaimed Seven Drummers, charts a course through coruscating punk-laden peaks and drifting, desolate valleys where the songs are stripped and stretched, allowing singer Marcus Hobbs voice to take centre stage. Though the dynamics and playing are excellent throughout, Hobbs’ voice is the deal breaker here. ‘Exile Spree’ is the centrepiece of the album with his voice going further and further after each breath of air. From a wavering wail to a throat-stripping howl he conveys a bucket load of emotion. It makes the languid, wandering country-folk sound of ‘Never/Never’ that follows even more effective. 

Their ability to use contrast in their songs is never overplayed, a testament to the songwriting and arrangements. Freedom of expression and restraint are both key aspects of why this album works so well, whether it be the pummelling post-punk dirge of ‘Cicada Chirps The Chicane’, the soulful gospel-tinged lament of ‘Old Phil’ that indirectly channels The Drones, or the widescreen warmth of the closing title track, the same wistful spirit runs through all these songs, making for an intense and cathartic listening experience.

Chris Familton