NEW MUSIC: Bryan Estepa – Trick of the Light [video]

In 2020, Bryan Estepa released two new songs, continuing on from the success of his exceptional 2019 album Sometimes I Just Don’t Know. The second of those singles, ‘Admit Now, Pay Later’, received a video premiere on Rolling Stone Australia, was featured on NME Australia and had strong national radio airplay – including selection as one of the featured Singles of the Week on 2ser FM in Sydney. 

‘Trick of The Light’, the second of his studio collaborations with multi ARIA and APRA award-winning Australian songwriter Josh Pyke, also sees Estepa working again with director Nicholas Banicevic (assisted by Martin Greguric) to create some swirling, psychedelic imagery to perfectly accompany the song.

Estepa has always had an undeniable ear for hooks. Combined with classic pop and rock arrangements, (like his heroes You Am I, The Beatles and Wilco) his songs always possess a timeless quality. He’s proved it over and over again across six acclaimed albums and live shows in Australia, Japan, the USA, UK, Spain, Sweden and the Philippines. 

On ‘Trick of the Light’, Estepa combines heavenly melodies and a melancholic air on this irresistible slice of indie guitar pop, singing about acceptance, letting go and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that comes out while you’re treading new waters.

As always with his songwriting, there are layered, poetic brushstrokes in the way Estepa blends and informs his songs with multiple meanings, as he explains. “I like the idea that the presence of light does not necessarily signal happiness or life but can also mean that emotions and perception can be blurred by its appearance.”

Sonically, there’s a beautiful weightlessness to the production and instrumentation that gracefully carries the song. Guitars sparkle and lightly jangle amid some sublime piano, backing vocals and percussive elements that add unique detailing to the melodic richness of the track. Alongside the studio smarts of Pyke, it amounts to yet another sublime example of classic contemporary songwriting from Estepa. 

“Bryan’s sense of melody is really strong which informs everything in his songs. His lyrics are really authentic and heartfelt and for me that’s the key of a good song. From there it’s a matter of pushing the boundaries of what the arrangement and sonics can be, to tell those stories.”  – Josh Pyke

Working with Josh Pyke, Estepa was impressed with the producer’s instinct and ability to enhance the inherent strengths of Estepa’s songs. “It’s exciting watching Josh work! You sense that his creative light is always on and he needs to get his ideas out quickly before it starts to flicker. He takes on what I think the song’s direction might be but adds a couple of detours that are normally right on the money.”

Pyke is quick to reciprocate the praise. “Bryan’s a great writer and collaborator. He’s got a classic pop sensibility but is really open to feedback and experimentation which made my job as producer really fun and free.”

“In the end, I just really want people to hum my tunes and connect with them in some way,” says Estepa enthusiastically.

NEW MUSIC: Cederick Knox – Back In The Box

Cederick Knox hits cosmic mystery mode on this new track ‘Back In The Box’. There’s a shadowy creep to the sound he’s created. Part jazz, part avant-experimentalism, initial drum tracks were recorded with cerebral palsy drummer ​​​’Spack​ ​in​ ​the​ ​Box’, on​ ​top​ ​of​ ​which​ ​a​ ​series​ ​of​ ​players (including members of Squid and Pelican Man) ​ ​were​ ​invited​ ​to improvise. These recordings were then used as raw material for the project.

You can hear the collaborative process at work, elements feeding off each other, sometimes in harmony, sometime in contrast. The end effect is a hypnotic and transfixing one that pulls the listener in, draws the curtains and frees the mind.

NEW MUSIC: 100 – Psych

“Pull your head in ya flamin’ galah” are the first words you hear on this new track from Sydney band 100. The first release on the new label Endless Recordings, founded by Bad Dreems guitarist Alex Cameron, it rips and snarls like an inner-city delinquent. Part belligerence, part studied sneer. It reminds us a bit of much missed bands like The Scare, and Witch Hats with its sonic swerves and guitar racket that’s as much alt-rock and punk as it is informed by the noisy, dissonant end of shoegaze.

“It is a sort of open letter towards the anti-social behaviour that we’ve seen on the rise in Sydney over the past 10 years” explains Jaryd Lee. He and fellow frontman Rowen Tucker moved to Sydney’s inner west after growing up in Gosford, where they met at high school.

NEW MUSIC: Leizure – Nightmare

The first thing that struck me about Danish band Leizure is how much they remind me of some Australian bands, in particular the much-missed The Scare as well as Melbourne group Witch Hats who have been pretty quiet for a few years now. Given the sound and influences those bands no doubt share, a line can be drawn through Iceage, Ought, Viagra Boys, Birthday Party, Gun Club and other gloriously nihilistic-sounding acts.

In all of these bands there’s the howl and intellectual angst of slashing guitars and primal vocals over post-punk rhythm sections and Leizure do it damn well. ‘Nightmare‘, complete with it’s skronkin’ horns, comes from the band’s excellent new album Primal Hymns which came out at the end of October on Five Foot One Records. It looks to be their debut LP after an EP and a string of singles and it stands tall as a gripping, sonically hedonistic and wild swinging post-punk/art rock record.

ALBUM REVIEW: Jessica – The Space Between

JESSICA

THE SPACE BETWEEN

INDEPENDENT (via Bandcamp)

One half of folk-noir duo Jep and Dep (also featuring Darren Cross of Gerling), Jessica’s debut album takes the sound forged from that musical partnership and crafts it into her own ethereal and immersive world. Cross is still on hand as producer and engineer but it’s clear from the outset that this is Jessica’s singular and personal vision.

Devoid of drums, the eleven songs drift and creep along like mist on a moor. Heavily draped in resonant reverb that creates an ambient, cathedral-like atmosphere, the billowing vapour trails hanging heavy in the air, shrouding her songs that explore the themes of death, loss and memory – formed from her experience as a survivor of a mass shooting in Strathfield, NSW when she was seven.

There’s a half-grasped memory quality to many of the songs, buried in a hypnagogic haze, while others such as ‘Womb Tomb’ are lifted skyward and ‘Has It Come To This’ has the DNA of a classic torch song.

Vocally, Beth Gibbons (Portishead), Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) and Aldous Harding’s early work are clear influences on the way Jessica hauntingly layers her voice. By playing electric guitar, she avoids straight folk and creates more emotionally visceral textures, bringing to mind PJ Harvey and the more elegiac playing of Mick Turner (Dirty Three). Time and the listener’s full attention are essential to fully appreciating the depth and expansive beauty of The Space Between.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: The Finalists – Learn To Live Without You

Sydney quartet The Finalists have released two singles ahead of the release of their debut album First tomorrow, on the Half A Cow label.

The Finalists’ debut single, ‘Ignore All The Hate (On Your Telephone)‘, a featured single of the week on 2SER 107.3FM, was an understated slice of melodic melancholia, draped in acoustic and electric guitars that sparkled and gently jangled. In contrast, ‘Learn To Live Without You, a concise and infectious, garage and jangle-pop guitar nugget, harks back to the golden age of the two and half minute pop song.

The song bursts into view on the back of a psychedelic intro before the drums strike a declamatory beat and 6 & 12-string guitars strum and chime in unison as Mark Tobin paints an optimistic picture of a broken relationship. The Beatles, R.E.M. and The Byrds in the Paisley Underground.

Tobin wrote most of this song in one afternoon on a 12-string acoustic guitar but as he explains, the song really came alive once they started playing it as a band. “The more we played it, the more psychedelic it became. We shamelessly channelled our heroes, The Beatles and The Byrds, and covered the song with 12-string guitars, Ringo style drums and harmonies. This song, like many others, is about the impermanence of relationships, and the realisation that sometimes there is nothing you can do to prevent an imminent painful loss.”

With a sound that draws on the group’s collective music history playing in a number of bands in Sydney, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand, they’ve concocted a blend of jangly guitar-based indie rock, with elements of psych-rock, shoegaze and post-punk threading through their debut album. 

You can hear the ghosts of Factory and Flying Nun Records, the evocative strains of The Go-Betweens and The Smiths and other Antipodean contemporaries such as Underground Lovers, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and RVG. 

First will be out via Bandcamp on Friday Nov 6th.

full disclosure – Chris Familton of Doubtful Sounds plays bass in The Finalists

NEW MUSIC: Wilding – Swipe Right

Cosmic psych pop is the order of the day on this new track from Melbourne artist Wilding. He’s got a brand new album called The Death Of Foley’s Mall out now on Half A Cow Records and ‘Swipe Right‘ is one of a series of character-study songs Wilding wrote about people who live in his neighbourhood of Coburg, Victoria.

This single has a a brilliant build and momentum through it and guitar and synth layers that fold in and on top of the track. Fizzing melodies and an infectious thread run through the song, recalling British acts like Blur and Supergrass. There’s also a jerky undercurrent that brings to mind Talking Heads.

The Death Of Foley’s Mall is out now.

AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE: The Bats – Gone To Ground

We’re excited to be premiering the brand new single/video from New Zealand legends The Bats. The track comes from their forthcoming album Foothills, out Nov 13th via Flying Nun Records.

There’s a warm and heavy-lidded dreamy quality to ‘Gone To Ground’, in large part courtesy of the use of EBow on the guitars and the way drummer Malcolm Grant gently propels the song along. A rich atmosphere pervades the song, perfectly capturing a wistful sense of retreat.

Robert Scott on ‘Gone To Ground’ — “Hide and seek, do we want to be found…. maybe not. Many people have gone to ground in these tricky times. A slight sense of unease pervades the song with the spooky strains of an E bow filtering through the trees. You could walk the marshes and go far. It’s funny how you can draw connections between a fictitious tales and present day life.”

The video clip was created by Sports Team and Annabel Kean has said on the ‘Gone To Ground’ video, “This is by far the longest we’ve spent on a video. We started about a year ago when we heard an early mix of the song, but the discovery of perpetual motion by way of spinning veges really opened a can of worms. Then it took us three attempts to pluck up the courage to light a guitar on fire.” Co-director Callum Devlin adds, “It was a total collaboration, and a very instinctive process. We wanted to try and capture what we felt listening to the song. There’s an uncertainty and a mystery to the lyrics that I feel lead us somewhere a bit more conceptual.”

Foothills is the band’s tenth album, on top of their many singles, EPs and compilation releases and over 35 years they’ve never put a foot wrong. The new album was recorded in Spring 2018 at a country retreat pop-up studio. At that time, 15 songs were captured and immortalised in the Canterbury foothills of the Southern Alps, Aotearoa (New Zealand). Only too well, The Bats know the possibilities, potentialities and sonic vistas that arise when one takes the reins for the recording process in a beautiful place that’s on home turf.

Robert Scott, on the making of Foothills has said “Time marches on… finally, we found a gap in our busy lives and chose a week to convene. We found a house that is usually inhabited by ski field workers — Kowai Bush, near Springfield about an hour west of Christchurch and of course nestled in the foothills of the mighty Southern Alps. The songs had been written, demo’d and arranged for some time, but still with a little room for trying things out in the studio. Many carloads arrived at the house, full of amps guitars and recording gear, we set up camp and soon made it feel like home; coloured lights, a log fire, and home cooked meals in the kitchen. We worked fast, and within a few days had all the basic backing tracks done, live together in one room, the way we like to do it – it’s all about ‘the feel’ for songs like ours.”