Words: James Frostick
Band image: Stapled Together
Two years on from the release of its debut LP A Handful of Ash, scintillating Boorloo/Perth-based post-punk quartet New Talk is back with ‘Amytis’, the first taste from the band’s sophomore long-form effort Time & Memory. Coruscating in sound and tone, ‘Amytis’ touches on displacement of culture, alienation and isolation, and a longing for home – drawing influence from a legend from the distant past to underscore the societal issues permeating the present.
Before I get into the nitty-gritty of New Talk’s new single ‘Amytis’, it’d probably help to get a brief history of the song’s namesake. According to my admittedly cursory online research, Amytis was member of the royal bloodline of the Median monarchy who was married off to King Nebuchadnezzar II in order to solidify the alliance between Babylonian and Median empires. Legend has it that Amytis’ longing for her homeland was what led to the construction of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were built help to soothe her feelings of displacement and aloneness in a foreign country. Her story serves as the inspirational force driving New Talk’s bracing work, which draws parallels between Amytis’ solitary sorrow and that of the First Nations peoples of Australia and the migrants who have made the country their home in the centuries following the first colonial incursions.
On ‘Amytis’, New Talk (formerly known as Rag ‘n Bone) use the power of atmospheric and elemental post-punk to convey a multitude of emotions intrinsic to the issue at hand. The song boasts a weighty undercurrent (courtesy of Sara McPherson’s bass and Jamie Gallacher on drums), choppy central heft and lofty arcs of iridescent and icy sound floating above (Axel Carrington delivers a killer performance on guitar here) – a mixture that allows the track to deliver with blunt-force power, while echos and reverberations of the impact linger long after it lands. The song’s building tempest mirrors the feeling of heart-wrenching discontent that no doubt wracks the souls of this country’s original inhabitants – those who have been displaced and subsequently seen their land snatched from their grasp and mistreated. It also echoes the anguish of those who relocated to so-called Australia based on the promise of a better life, only to be the victim of xenophobic behaviour (which, at its worst, results in forced into detention). Both groups are left viewing “our boundless plains to share / in a holding cell” – imprisoned by the colonial complex that takes and rarely gives. Kiera Owen’s near-operatic vocal delivery soars above the mix, artfully illustrating the destruction of land, abuse of natural resources, harm caused to the continent’s original inhabitants and the cruel withholding of support. Over Axel’s writhing riffs Kiera hints at our country’s potential to become a welcoming and home-like oasis (“And there can be, a hanging garden / For all to see”), but also how this vision will remain a pipe-dream that withers and dies unless meaningful change is enacted (“But, you can’t plant a prayer, And hope is not a seed“).
Listen to ‘Amytis’ here:
Time & Memory will be released in February next year – keep your eyes on the horizon for more from New Talk.