Words: James Frostick
Band image: Olivia Trevor

Following on from the August release of ‘Deadlands’, the title track of their forthcoming third LP, Shining Bird are releasing a new single called ‘Strange Land’. Set to a backing of melodious and slightly melancholy indie Australiana, ‘Strange Land’ sees Shining Bird reckoning with a growing unfamiliarity with their home – the subtle changes that are  shaping it into something foreign and socially inhospitable. 

Look out further there’s a new wave coming / took a while to realise what it was”

Although sparse on language, Shining Bird’s new song ‘Strange Land’ manages to convey plenty. The Austinmer-born experimental-indie septet’s latest offering is a suitably calm and languid composition – a combination of introspective acoustic strum, incandescent guitar shimmer, sombre sax and delicate percussive patter, all assembled with poise. The band’s sonic aesthetic manages to encapsulate the rugged beauty of its geographical origins, yet although the sedate tempo keeps things at a measured clip the gentleness masks a mounting unease that’s couched within the song’s economical vocabulary. By my reckoning, vocalist Dane Taylor is remarking on a mounting wave of change that is impacting the country’s landscape and social mindset, perhaps alluding to looming environmental disaster, the spread of anti-intellectual sentiments and the oppressive systems continuing to operate, despite mounting outcry. I know – it’s a lot to assume given a limited amount of detail, but when have I been shy of jumping into the deep end. Perhaps I’m projecting, but it feels as if the country Shining Bird sees around them now strikes them as alien, inhospitable and strange.

The clip for ‘Strange Land’ – filmed and edited by percussionist James Kates – blends the track’s disquieted observations with fragments of footage from miscellaneous travels around the country and recently shot imagery of the band in their home town of Wollongong. While on the surface it’s a beautifully crafted and nostalgia-inducing visual accompaniment, there are some aspects of the clip that harken back to the unsettling characteristics our country is slowly taking on. Spliced between shots of bucolic vistas, mountain ranges, desolate rural spaces and sleepy suburban communities are snippets of bushfire-stricken landscapes, roadkill and toilet-block graffiti declaring that “5G kills“. These interjections are subtle, only imperceptibly shifting the tone of the video, but hint at the changes in our national consciousness that are similarly imperceptible and hard to perceive. Dane Taylor also subtly implies these realisations are coming too late (“Took a while to realise what I lost“). If the visuals for ‘Strange Land’ makes to appreciate what we have, let the message remind you of what’s also at stake.

Watch the clip for ‘Strange Land’ here:

Deadlands will be out out later this year via Spunk Records. The date is still TBC, so keep your eyes on the label’s feed for more info.