Words: James Frostick
Artist image: Louis Oliver Roach
The world keeps spinning, as does the Australian underground music scene. Volume three of Brief Breakdown features an eclectic mix of new music, including Time For Dreams’ warped electro-pop, bruised and boozed rock’n’roll from Knifer, an energetic exercise anthem from Hearts and Rockets, brutal hardcore from UAV, dystopian techno pop from Mahne Frame, dilapidated improvisational noise from Deepfake, experimental electronica by Bridget Chappell and soothing psych-pop from Muma Ganoush.
Time For Dreams (VIC) – ‘New Conflict Dream’
The tandem of Amanda Roff and Tom Carlyon are back with a pristine piece of glossy electro pop that channels the creeping desperation and claustrophobia of suburban living into something that sounds wondrously free. Amanda’s suspirations of youthful spirits trapped in cul-de-sacs (sharing fence lines with those that have long since settled into an ordinary rhythm while vultures encircle the withered dreams of bygone years) fill me with a clawing unease, but the accompanying fantastical groove – chic, timeless and perpetually cool – stir up a sprightly essence I sometimes feel I’ve lost. It reminds me of a time when possibility and potential lay in my hands, making me feel like there are still opportunities yet to be seized. The song will feature on the duo’s forthcoming sophomore record Life of the Inhabitant – due to arrive in early 2021 via It Records.
Knifer (QLD) – ‘In The Gutter’ / ‘Centre of a Flowers Stem’
Meanjin/Brisbane-based wrecking crew Knifer will soon be dropping a new album of mutant and menacing rock’n’roll called Electric Songs – a co-release between WA’s Televised Suicide and local label Tropical Cancer Rort. As a taster they’ve put two markedly different tracks live up on their Bandcamp. ‘In The Gutter’ is a weighty chugging monster that gives no quarter. A noxious guitar spray and gravelly utterances give an air of sweaty aggression, like if Power moved north, were slowed by heat stroke and took up drinking dark liquor to excess. ‘Centre of a Flowers Stem’ is a more melodic and nuanced piece – mournful sax and a malleable musical backing make for a contemplative listen. Even the torn larynx vocals take on a bruised bluesy hue, giving the track a beautiful juxtaposition of tone. If ‘In The Gutter’ is the late-night rage, ‘Centre of a Flowers Stem’ is the early-morning dejection. Both are individually great, but hint at a potentially revelatory album to come.
Hearts and Rockets (VIC) – ‘Workout’
I won’t go as far as to say that Hearts and Rockets’ new single ‘Workout’ is the Australian millennial punk scene’s answer to Olivia Newton John’s ‘Let’s Get Physical’, but I’m comfortable saying there’s a shared aesthetic DNA. Sonically, H&R’s in-your-face synth-punk maximalism is a far cry from the glitzy mainstream 80s pop of ONJ – here the bassy thrum, wired guitar scuzz and clipped drum-machine beat make for a suitably frenzied backing to Kalindy Williams’ compelling instructional commandments. The duo are urging us to get up and expend some energy via vigorous body movement, which isn’t a bad idea as most of us likely have some pent-up frustration we need to express in a healthy way. If Hearts and Rockets are petitioning to host Aerobics Oz-Underground Style, they’ve got my full backing. ‘Workout’ will feature on a forthcoming double A-side 7″ – due on Halloween.
UAV (VIC) – Self-titled tape (Sexy Romance, 2020)
I’ve been meaning to write about this one for a little while (it dropped back in September), but, as is always the case with me, it didn’t happen – at least as intended. A shame, because this speedy slab of hardcore from Geelong’s UAV is worth a bit of attention. Five dudes evoking the aggression of fifty – this tape is a brutal compendium of hard-hearted and barbarous clonk, relentless in execution and precise in its impact. There are seven tracks here, and it’s all over in ten minutes. Listen to this if you’re into the kind of pandemonium peddled by the likes of Rapid Dye.
Mahne Frame (NSW) – ‘SOMETIMES I TRY NOT TO CARE’ (ft. Tohji)
This month’s dose of subterranean thump comes courtesy of Mahne Frame – a producer and multi-instrumentalist who splits time between Warrang/Sydney and Tokyo and crafts terrifying industrial-techno pounders that come laced with flashes of hyper-colour pop. If Mahne’s music was an animal, it’s one fed a steady diet of dystopian paranoia, apocalyptic imagery, and a toxic stream of digital information. ‘SOMETIMES I TRY NOT TO CARE’ is a bruised muscle rapidly pumping polluted and adrenaline-fuelled blood, illuminated by pulsing phosphorescent veins that inject trace amounts of kaleidoscopic ecstasy into the circulatory system. As Mahne drawls along with the beat (“Sometimes I try not care about getting out of bed / about the issues in my head“) we get a sense that all they want is to switch off and ignore the world crumbling around them. Mahne Frame’s bloodshot eyes are affixed to screens and newsfeeds, wishing all the while for a chance to disconnect and relish some sweet numbness. Mahne Frame’s music is the furthest thing from numb, though – it heightens feelings and emotions to their absolute peak, a truly enlivening listening experience. Expect more from Mahne Frame’s forthcoming album MAD WORLD.
If you’re after something truly out of left field, I think this is just the ticket. Deepfake is a new (maybe) experimental trio that has crafted a 40-minute set of corrupted, junked and dilapidated noise punk of the improvisational variety that will be out soon on cassette via Urban Cowboy Records. The lead ‘single’ called ‘Garnabash’ is a crumbling amalgam of feedback squalls, stumbling percussion, bizarre synthetic noodling, dissonant warble and incoherent vocalisations (I think I’m being threatened?). It reminds me of something that might feature on a Breakdance The Dawn CD-R, so if that description tickles your fancy then today is a good day to be alive.
Electronic composer, sound artist and cellist Bridget Chappell (who also operates under the Hextape moniker) is the latest artist to produce some new work under the Heavy Machinery Records umbrella. Where the likes of Sarah Mary Chadwick, New War and Naretha Williams have utilised Melbourne Town Hall’s grand organ as part of their compositional framework, Bridget is using the Federation Bells as well as contemporary and historical data of local water management sourced from the Naarm/Melbourne’s Open Data Platform as the foundation for new album UNDERTOW. ‘Freshwater Falls’ is one of the album’s four tracks and it exemplifies Bridget’s sonification of the data to explore the idea of water colonisation. The track itself boasts both a clanging resonance and percolating undercurrent, like fluid burbling through steel water pipes that reverberate as if they’ve being struck. The Federation Bells ring out while smaller bubbles of synthesised sound trickle all around, offering a robust percussive display underpinned by an urgent ripple. ‘Freshwater Falls’ is a masterclass in utilising outdated musical artefacts in a contemporary context. Great experimental electronica from an artist that has been making the most out of 2020.
Muma Ganoush (VIC) – ‘Early Light’
I reckon this piece of crisp psych-pop from Naarm/Melbourne trio Muma Ganoush (an A+ band name, for sure) is some needed aural aloe vera for anyone left kind of raw by, well, everything. It’s hard to really pinpoint what’s great about ‘Early Light’. Perhaps its the track’s measured but active pace, or the compositional quirks of the band’s chosen dream-pop-turned-scratchy-freneticism, the nimble guitar work, the world-weary vocals, or all of the above. Shelby Wilton’s shagged soliloquy about the late-night band life colliding with the early morning hospitality slog is all too relatable to anyone in the creative fields. An easy and relatable listen is a real treat these days – something to soothe our sorrows as we massage the bags under our eyes. ‘Early Light’ will feature on Muma Ganoush’s forthcoming album The Big Beam, out in November via Marthouse Records.