Words: James Frostick
Meanjin/Brisbane-based experimental-pop troika Spirit Bunny are today releasing the second track from their forthcoming album Uncanny Valley. Inspired and informed by relentless shellacking endured during sub-tropical summers, ‘Stomping’ sees Spirit Bunny maintaining composure even as sweat drips into their eyes and over their repurposed instruments.
‘Stomping’ is a track that caught me a little bit off guard. I wasn’t surprised by the track’s quality and craftsmanship – Spirit Bunny is a known quantity to me. Plus, I think the trio’s combined pedigree (its members also perform in acts such as A Country Practice, Feet Teeth, Terra Pines and Ghost Notes) speaks to an expected standard. I mean in an immediacy sense – the track whirs to life with only a short buzzing squelch as introduction before kicking into a brisk percussive clomp. Previous single ‘Paper Handshakes’ started off the same way, so I should have known. Regardless, once the track hits its stride (settling into an inexorable plod that befits a song named ‘Stomping’) I’m able to marvel at the smaller details contained within, namely the duelling Commodore 64 and circuit-bent Casio trills, the subtle distorted mewls lower in the mix and the subject matter at hand.
As a fellow resident of Meanjin/Brisbane, I’m acutely aware of the withering effects of the local climate. ‘Stomping’ channels the feeling of being beaten into submission by hot days and sweaty nights, as well as the irritability that gradually morphs into defeated resignation. While many of the underground ensembles in Spirit Bunny’s immediate circle boast a heat-stricken character that contributes to a shared warped and elongated sonic through-line, Spirit Bunny manages to keep things clipped and concise despite placing the oppressive nature of the climate at the song’s nexus. There’s a palpable prickly frustration evident here, but even as they urgently chant “the heat, the heat, the heat, the heat / the things it does to me“, they never threaten to break rhythm under the weight of the high humidity, the blinding glare, the storm clouds perpetually looming on the horizon or the blistering sun that desaturates and dehydrates the grass underfoot. They trudge on, despite having being no breeze at their back. Spirit Bunny shapes their surroundings to suit themselves, employing a bent surrealist-pop filter to harnesses the heat and use it to power their repurposed instruments. This song makes me sweat, even in the solace of air-conditioning – a fitting track for this summer’s spiteful and elongated death spasms.