Archives for posts with tag: Melbourne
Bitumen in Melbourne Town Hall – photo by Matthew Ellery

Continuing our soundtracks for escaping Dystopia theme a bit longer… “Out of Athens” is the churning first single from the upcoming second album from Melbourne, Australia band Bitumen:

Bitumen craft their swirl of noisy futuristic industrial pop music from the shadows of dark and heavy post-punk. Their sound lives up to their name; a black viscous mixture somewhat reminiscent perhaps of the likes of Clan of Xymox, and also Skeletal Family in their Gothic majesty perhaps, if you remember (or have revisited) that far back to the 1980s.  

Their new album “Cleareye Shining” is released 26 November on Heavy Machinery Records, who say “Lyrically, Cleareye Shining sees shadowy figures in the throes of loving, lusting, plotting and fantasising. The result is 80s maximalism meets 90s industrial-electro. Robocop meets Basic Instinct. Always intense, always dramatic, and always demanding of your attention.”

Mess Esque is a new collaboration between Mick Turner (of The Dirty Three), and Helen Franzmann, who releases music under the name McKisko. The duo’s album “Dream #12” was recorded remotely between Naarm (Melbourne) where Turner lives, and Meanjin (Brisbane) where Franzmann lives, over the course of 2020. The first track shared ahead of the 2 April release is the transcendentally sparse and beautifully fractured lullaby “Big Old Blue”.

“Dream #12” by Mess Esque is the 6th release in a series from Bedroom Suck Records featuring limited LP runs of music made in isolation during the various Covid19 pandemic lockdowns in Australia during 2020, which shut down music performance and collaborations for much of the year.

Mick Turner was writing music that he felt needed lyrics, and the pairing with McKisko (Franzmann) provides the perfect lyrical and vocal foil for the loose tangle of lightly strummed and picked notes of Turner’s typically understated guitar playing style.

It’s possible (or perhaps unavoidable) to imagine Franzmann’s late-night (quite literally) vocals as a hushed and intimate vocal take on the kind of emotionally-charged melodic flight that Warren Ellis’s violin would take were this a Turner tune for The Dirty Three.

“Big Old Blue” takes the combination of guitar and voice and adds further subtle layers of keyboards, minimal drum pulse, and a bit of brass and woodwind relish. It all adds up to something special that is at once low-key and sleepy, while also quietly euphoric, heavenly and moving.

While you are on McKisko’s Bandcamp to listen to Mess Esque, it is well worthwhile exploring the McKisko catalogue too.

Back to Melbourne for some melodic, wistful, and gently sublime guitar pop goodness from Low Key Crush, a duo that has just released a 4th single, “Been Waiting”:

“Been Waiting” is an existential reflection about life and love. Waiting – and that sense of boredom but anticipation – is a universal existential theme, even more so in this year of lockdowns, forced isolation, lives on hold, uncertainty… and especially for Melbourne, and state of Victoria residents in Australia right now.

Low Key Crush is Tim Haines (vocals, guitars) and Taycian Lord (drums), who have been playing together since 2018.

“Been Waiting” is not like most of the guitar pop PopLib features from Melbourne, which tends to the more ragged garage rock/ so-called “slacker” guitar pop. This is a subtle, and – yes – low-key contemporary take on classic Australian shimmering melodic popcraft (thinking of the likes of The Stems, and The Someloves in the late 1980s in particular) but with a bit of more recent US West Coast guitar pop in the mix.

It’s the kind of song that bears (many) repeat plays, and if you are looking for more of that contemporary classic Australian guitar pop on Bandcamp from unfamiliar names, check out Sydney’s Allan Smithy as well.

Halfheads_LiveHalfheads are a Melbourne band returning after a decade-long hiatus to deliver three digital singles in quick succession in 2020. “Diamonds” is the most recent, from July.

It’s yer classic Australian guitar pop. It’s too frenetic to be called ‘slacker’ but does feature that glorious ramalama strum of almost-in-tune guitars, a growling bass, thumping drums, and yelping vocals.

“Diamonds” is cultured stuff though, re-purposing a bit of F Scott Fitzgerald imagery to describe a dandruff problem, throwing in a reference to Aussie basketball legend Andrew Gaze, and generally reflecting on the vicissitudes of the middle years of life.

Or, in Halfheadspeak: “Born among a rubble of red cans in North Melbourne circa 2009 and emerging from a mist of vase smoke and dirty nappies a decade later, the Halfheads are twitchy middle-age spread rock gone sour. Teeth rotten, cruising for a bruising and thinking about what is for dinner, the band recorded a handful of cracking songs in a Brisbane basement in 2019.”

Onya, mate.

Parsnip 2020

Continuing with our theme of celebrating Melbourne musicians in lockdown who could probably do with a bit of Bandcamp download appreciation is pop-tastic Parsnip.  Parsnip released a 4 song 7″ EP called “Adding Up” in May and it’s a keeper. Here’s the scrumptious “Treacle Toffee World”:

“Treacle Toffee World” is a delightful contemporary re-imagining of the kind of whimsical psychedelia usually associated with Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, with a bit of The Creation‘s fuzzy guitar style thrown in for good measure. [post-script: it’s a cover of the b-side to UK psychedelic band Fire‘s first 1968 single… pays to read those Bandcamp release notes very carefully rather than skim-reading them as PopLib is prone to do.]e. 

Each of the songs on the EP takes a different approach to quirky rejuvenation of 1960s psychedelic garage pop, mixed with a bit of 80’s New Wave edge, all made from simple ingredients – guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and voices – and assembled with winning melodies and a bucket-load of off-kilter charm.

Dave Graney mistLY

Recidivist Melbourne rock and roller Dave Graney and multi-instrumentalist Clare Moore have carved out careers as musicians over 4 decades, with The Moodists, Coral Snakes and beyond. “We Need a Champion” is from a recently released live album recorded on a 2017 UK tour where they played with Georgio Valentino on bass and Malcolm Ross (Josef K, Orange Juice) on electric guitar. We all need a champion right now.

Graney and Moore were in Melbourne “garage jazz-punk” band The Moodists from 1978 to 1986. The Moodists also included Mick Turner (subsequently The Dirty Three) and moved to London around the same time as fellow Melbourne band The Birthday Party.

Line-up changes saw Graney and Moore joined by two former Orange Juice members (David McClymont and Malcolm Ross) before The Moodists split, re-grouping as The Coral Snakes in London and back in Melbourne from 1987-1997.

Following the Coral Snakes came the Royal Dave Graney Show and Lurid Yellow Mist, subsequently abbreviated to the mistLY… which brings us up to date, and to this song, “We Need a Champion”, which was originally released on the 2012 Dave Graney & the MistLY album “You’ve Been In My Mind”.

[As an aside, Ross and Moore here also appear in Kylie Minogue’s band on Australian TV when she was promoting her “Impossible Princess” album. They play on this clip of the Kylie-does-“Madchester”-“Baggy” single “Some Kind of Bliss”]

Keep listening after “We Need a Champion” for a version of the classic louche lounge rock of “Night of the Wolverine” too, the stone-cold fair-dinkum Coral Snakes’ classic Australian rock’n’roll song. Graney’s a storyteller and an entertainer, his songs often inhabited with characters and detailed retelling of incidents, imaginary or true.

Another more recent favourite is “Everything was Legendary With Robert” (from his 2014 “Fearful Wiggings” album) introduced with the warning “It’s got nothing to do with Robert Forster of the Go-Betweens OK. I don’t want to hear anything more about them, alright?”

Graney and Moore are working musicians, frequently on the road, playing here there and everywhere. The COVID19 pandemic has clipped their wings, but they have managed to maintain a live schedule of sorts with performances every Thursday 8pm AEST via Stageit.com

Sui Zhen

Sui Zhen (pronounced Sue-ee Chen) is an experimental pop and performance artist based in Melbourne, Australia.  Becky Sui Zhen Freeman’s music, videos, and performance art explores the intersections between human life and technology – how to exist in the digital age, and the ways in which we risk losing true sight of ourselves in the process. “Another Life” is the opening track of the album “Losing, Linda” released in September last year.

“Another Life” is a soulful slice of experimental electronic music full of subtle dub effects, setting out aspects of the sense of dislocation of human experience in a digital world. During the COVID19 pandemic lockdown people experience the world and connections with other humans remotely through digital devices via the internet, so this ‘new normal’, makes the story told throughout the uneasy futuristic emotional and musical landscape of “Losing, Linda” even more relevant.

 

Mikey Young

With Melbourne recently going into full pandemic lockdown again I figured PopLib should be focusing on some Melbourne artists. There’s plenty PopLib has featured over the years. Most seem to be recorded and/or mastered by Mikey Young (Total Control, Eddy Current Suppression Ring). So I had a look to see if he had any solo music on Bandcamp. Not sure what I was expecting but was pretty certain it would be some kind of guitar-based garage rock, not an album of synth instrumentals. It’s great, so here’s “Socks”:

Young is a keyboard and guitar player and Total Control are a kind of lo-fi-ish synth-punk band (in a kind of Gary Numan meets Swell Maps kind of way) so the synth pop vibe of his solo album isn’t too out of character.

There’s another solo Mikey Young release on Melbourne Label Hobbies Galore called “You Feelin’ Me?”, which is a bit more guitar-based and a grainy collection of lo-fi ambient instrumentals, kind of like an op shop Eno.

To find out more about Mikey Young and his recording and mastering approach there’s a highly entertaining Tape Op interview where you will find gems of wisdom like this:

“I always thought that if you can’t record the song well that you want to record in three goes, then you shouldn’t be recording the song. Especially for a kind of garage rock song. You don’t even want to get it perfect. It hardly gets any better after the third take.”

 

 

Thibault 2020[Photo by Jamie Wdziekonsk]

 

“Centrelink” is the first song shared ahead of the release of the first album, called “Or Not Thibault” by Melbourne’s Thibault.

The album isn’t out until September, which is a couple of months away yet, pandemic allowing, but you can pre-order the LP now. I did, in an instant. Not really an impulse buy, more just decisive common sense based on what “Centrelink” offered and the track record of the musicians involved in Thibault.

Thibault is made up of Nicole Thibault and Julian Patterson, who were both part of ‘lo-fi jazz pop’ band Minimum Chips, one of the most wonderful and under-recognised Australian bands of the past few decades, along with Rebecca Liston (Parsnip) and Lachlan Denton (Ocean Party). All those bands have been featured on PopLib in recent years so it only took a few seconds of this one song to know that this was an album worth committing to early on.

When I first heard Minimum Chips, through a song on a Chapter Music compilation, I wrote in a PopLib post that the song: “seems to me to transcend ‘indie-pop’ whatever that is, although it is clearly independent and clearly pop. It is the kind of thing you might imagine in a fever dream involving members of Stereolab and Broadcast forming a secret group and releasing a single on Sarah Records or some other equally unlikely kind of musical fantasy in an alternative universe.” 

Thibault’s “Centrelink” also fits within that musical fantasy. Harpsichord introduces this tale of dignity-crushing humiliation of the Australian unemployment office – the despised Centrelink of the title. But for something with so much sadness at its core, it is an exultant escape and triumphant overcoming of life’s set-backs, with a glorious brass and 12-string guitar instrumental passage reminiscent of the bold instrumentation and arrangements of John Barry’s 1960s film soundtrack music.

Minimum Chips released one highly recommended perfect studio album “Kitchen Tea Thankyou” and there are other collections of their early EPs which, at their poppiest offer a more fragile and subversive experimental lo-fi DIY Melbourne take on the  kind of odd-pop that the likes of Stereolab and then Broadcast were exploring in the UK and Tokey Tones in New Zealand.

 

 

Primo

Primo! hail from Australia’s capital city of underground music – Melbourne. Here’s “Perfect Paper” from their second album, called “Sogni”, due out later this week on Anti Fade in Australia and Upset the Rhythm in the UK.

The original trio of Suzanne Walker (drums), Violetta Del Conte-Race and Xanthe Waite (guitars) has been supplemented by Amy Hill (bass) for this second album.

“Perfect Paper” sounds like it could be a primitive garage rock take on that esoteric Stereolab pop sophistication, which is an unusually great combination of elements.

The other two tracks streaming ahead of the release though indicate strong Post-Punk discord-pop oddness in the music of Primo! which makes me very keen to hear the rest of the album.

There’s a vinyl release of “Sogni” providing a choice of digital or physical album acquisition. It’s never been a better – or more essential – time to support the future of underground music, bands like Primo! and labels like Anti Fade and Upset The Rhythm.