Words: James Frostick
Band image: ZK Photo
Cover art: Adam J Bragg
After a few years of inactivity, Canberra-born post-punk/noise act Agency return with a new collection of music in tow. The band’s forthcoming record Wild Possession is finally seeing the light of day more than three years after its creation. This clamorous collection of haywire sound is as engrossing as it is chaotic, and we’re stoked to be hosting the premiere stream of the full album ahead of its official release on Friday July 3.
Thanks to the gradual smearing of time, 2016 seems to me like it was here yesterday and took place an eternity ago. Compared to what we’re dealing with now, 2016 seems like a golden age – though one could argue it’s when things began to fall apart globally at an accelerated pace. At the time, Canberra post-punk outfit Agency was coming off the late-2015 release of The Stillness of Speed – a stellar record of smouldering noise-punk boasting enkindled guitars, muddy bass and impassioned vocals. Not long after the record’s release, the members of Agency convened to craft follow-up album Wild Possession, writing and recording the bulk of it in the ensuing 12-month period, while also releasing a couple EPs/digital collaborations and embarking on a tour of Malaysia.
Immediately following this stretch the band went quiet, but for good reasons. Guitarist/effects/vocalist Sia Ahmad embarked on a journey of self-discovery, coming out as transfemme and channelling the emotions and energy of this period into the stunning 2018 solo record “quiver”. Long-time drummer Josh Bates also departed the band, and Hayden Fritzlaff (Moaning Lisa) was recruited to help polish off Wild Possession at some point in 2017. Jonathan Boulet (a notable rabble-rouser in his own right with acts like Party Dozen and Arse) came onboard to oversee the record’s completion, helping Agency lock down new arrangements, strip back some electronic elements, add new wrinkles (musical contributions are made by Joel Saunders on trumpet, Hannah de Feyter on viola and Peter Hollo on cello) and foreground the raw unpolished potency of the band’s bare-bones configuration. At this point life took over once more and band members began concentrating on other projects. All the while Wild Possession was sitting in their back pockets, ready to release when the time was right.
As it turns out, 2020 is the perfect year to release a record imbued with a bit of seething energy. While Wild Possession can be seen as a time capsule of the time it was created, the record’s ferocity is perhaps better suited to today, where folks are pushing back on the status quo with greater intensity. Six tracks of system-shocking sound – just what our isolated and discontented society needs. Although there’s enough nuance and depth to each track to warrant individual inspection, Agency crafts a style of music that can be generally described by singling out a few of the band’s signature elements. Put broadly, Wild Possession is 22-odd minutes of noise-punk turbulence. There’s not much in the way of safe harbour for ears to rest while they navigate the album’s choppy sea, and even Wild Possession’s quieter moments (such as on ‘Buffaloes’) carry a sense of agitation and troubled energy. Hew Atkin and Sia Ahmad’s guitar lines skitter and careen like live wires, electrified and unpredictable. Hayden Fritzlaff’s percussive contribution alternates between rigid snap and adrenaline-fuelled palpitation. Luke Robert’s nimble and springy bass firms up and counterbalances the aural chaos created by the guitars and drums – supple tendon-like cordage tethering Agency’s spasming muscles to the bone. A chunk of the album’s tempestuous racket could be attributed to the work of Jonathan Boulet, whose affinity for rhythmic fracas no doubt played a part in helping to foment and execute Wild Possession’s barbed sound.
Interestingly, the sentiments communicated via the record’s lyrics are just as relevant as they were in 2016. Agency dissects everything from the elite’s profit-driven greed (‘Long Gone’) and the government’s largely uncaring attitude towards the needs of the population (‘Citizens Alone), to perseverance, persistence and survival (‘Sensitive’ – a spoken word piece written by Sia and performed by Tom Lyngcoln). It’s hard to say whether Wild Possession is an example of Agency’s keen perspicacity or a sorry indictment on the state of the world and its aversion to progress since the album’s conception (I’d say a bit of both), but I think having this record now can only help remind ourselves of what’s worth fighting and fighting for.
Have a listen to Wild Possession here:
Wild Possession will drop officially on Friday July 3, with all sales going directly to the Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT, Pay The Rent and Black Lives Matter. Bandcamp will be once again forgoing its share of revenue on that date, so consider purchasing on the day to ensure your money goes further to causes that need support!