Words: James Frostick

Last year Jay Cruikshank and Yuta Matsumura teamed up to create an album of offbeat winners called Condemned Compilations under the banner of Jay & Yuta. The unheralded effort is being given a second life this month with a brand-new vinyl release via Research Records. To celebrate, Jay & Yuta are dropping the visuals for stand-out track ‘Mysterious Flaws In The House We Built Ourselves’ – a unique piece of sound composed of oblique rhythms.

The 2019 release of Condemned Compilations flew under my radar. Initially given a very limited cassette run via Little Winners, only a lucky few had the chance to pick up what Jay Cruikshank and Yuta Matsumura were putting down. Thankfully I’m getting a run at it now thanks to Research Records, which is giving the release a comprehensive re-release later this month. As notable Sydney/Warrang-based noisemakers, this pairing should pique the curiosity of anyone who has a release from The Rangoons, Orion, Oily Boys or Low Life in their collection, although it should be noted that Jay & Yuta sit at a vastly different end of the music spectrum to all of the aforementioned. Inorganic synth-pop is the racket here – not a guitar in sight, just an assemblage of superannuated gear wielded by capable hands that specialise in crafting cold (but never boring) sequenced sound. ‘Mysterious Flaws In The House We Built Ourselves’ is a highlight track, one that showcases the duo’s knack for putting together irregular-yet-engaging synth-pop that is delightfully weird and charming in its ramshackle nature.

The foundations of ‘Mysterious Flaws In The House We Built Ourselves’ are cobbled together using tinny drum-machine percussion, a rapid and robotic synth prod, a droning undercurrent and twinkles of icy white noise filling in the gaps. Jay and Yuta share vocal duties, with Jay’s emotionless spoken-word delivery running through a checklist of building faults, including an electrified water supply, clocks that can’t keep time, a roach infestation and mysterious houseguests. Yuta’s chorus delivers the track’s more dramatic pop moments, with a chilling vocal delivery that washes in and over the song’s rigid computerised substructure.

While the song seems to be about a surreal DIY construction job (one boasting anomalous properties that can’t be explained away as a byproduct of inexperienced engineering), this surface-level interpretation fails to grasp the subtext. I like to think the house in question is an allegorical stand in for a relationship – one with flaws unique to its composition. The house’s occupants (the figures in said relationship) exist in a space that is fundamentally broken and uninhabitable, continuing to call it home even as it deteriorates around them. Both parties haunt the space, but separately – conflict having split the two into opposing factions despite their proximity. Perhaps I’m wrong here, but there’s a humanity underpinning Jay & Yuta’s computerised sound that resonates. If you think this kind of music has no soul then you’re not listening hard enough. Much like the ‘house’ at the heart of the track, Jay & Yuta’s sound does away with regulation. The two are perfectly content with building the composition without adhering to any stringent construction code. The end result doesn’t sound tumble-down or flimsy like that would suggest, rather its perceived spontaneity creates an energy that permeates the album as a whole. Condemned Compilations’ informal debut might indicate it being a low-stakes release, but don’t mistake that to mean low effort. You’d be hard-pressed to find more striking and irreverent example of synth-pop elsewhere in Australia’s underground milieu.

Have a listen to ‘Mysterious Flaws In The House We Built Ourselves’ here:

Condemned Compilations will be released digitally and on vinyl through Research Records on July 31. You can pre-order a copy right now by heading to the label’s Bandcamp.