KUCKA – S/T (EP)
KUCKA’s EP boasts a heartwarming maturity for a debut. Its sound isn’t tailored towards being commercially viable or “cracking the Js,” and it’s not aping some internationally trendy aesthetic, but nor is it knee-jerk avant-garde. It’s pop music you can sink your teeth into, borne of the same refreshing “if it sounds good, it is good” attitude that I’d imagine spawned the likes of Melbourne party boys Eddy Cuz (even if, to the ears, it’s tremendously different). So what DOES it sound like? People have been saying Bjork, which is fair enough – Laura Jane Lowther does affect some kind of Arctic Circle vocal inflection throughout. Whatever the influence, I really feel like this record could only have been made in 2012; from the polymorphous percussion programming to the sweet milky synths to the now-in-3D hip hop infusions, it just sounds relentlessly new. Everyone is losing their shit over Kimbra – who I won’t deny is talented – but as far as loop-driven, vocal-thick post-pop ingenuity goes, this is miles ahead, and deserves whatever accolades come its way.
GOAT – SIGN OF THE DEAD (EP)
I listened to GOAT’s newie straight after I listened to Kucka’s, and I gotta say it proved to be the perfect foil to the latter’s complex, cerebral beauty. This is opposite – simple, visceral ugliness (but with a heart of gold). It’s stoner rock through and through – I could liken it to Queens of the Stone Age or Sleep, but hey you know what stoner rock sounds like. DOES IT GET THE THUMBS UP THOUGH? Yeah, it’s solid, and for a two piece the sound is huge – the guitar’s appropriately doused in lava, the drums are hulking and just a little bit sloppy when they need to be. The vocals are lacking in grit – sometimes almost pretty – but this quirk actually makes the songs more interesting, rather than emasculating them. ‘Bury The King’ is a nice bit of Sabbath homage, while “Melting In The Rain” pulls back into melodic semi-acoustic territory, and almost gets away with it. If you’re a long-time sludge fan, this EP will offer nothing new per se to your sphere of listening, but it will certainly scratch that itch for Homme-type fuzz riffery.
THESE SHIPWRECKS – RAW POWERLESS (LP)
Back when THESE SHIPWRECKS were doing the rounds as a live entity, they were one of the most gooey, immersive, bliss-inducing acts you could hope to see on a Friday night. With one-time members now separated by countless lines of latitude and longditude, the project endures via central dude Nathan Savage, now residing in Berlin. That said, “Raw Powerless,” is not the sound of Savage gone solo; the album is actually a previously unreleased recording from 2009 (I can’t be sure, but I suspect the title refers to it being captured at the ‘Power Out’ gig at Spectrum Project Space). It’s rough around the edges, occasionally featuring snippets of mid-jam conversation (“What are we doing now?”) but it’s a great aural document, dense and silky as ever, and its acoustic nature is testament to the fact that psychedelic vibes come from the heart, boy, not from them fancy delay pedals and flangers you gone done bought. (NB: I would never ever suggest that you refrain from chucking a shizload of delay on your shiz. It’s the spice of life).
SMRTS – HAVE FRIENDS AND VISIT THEM AT NIGHT (LP)
Despite recently becoming a dad and having to get all responsible n’ stuff, Serbian-Australian guitar-warrior PREDRAG DELIBASICH is still hitting the strings with the gusto of the most bushy-tailed twanglophile. In fact, fresh off a national tour and soon to celebrate the release of smRts’ “sophomore LP”, it seems he’s going harder than ever. “Have Friends and Visit Them at Night” is a more polished and cinematic effort than smRts’ first album; it seems a little more time has been spent capturing a heap of distinct moods through vignettes of wondrously curious sound. From the discombobulating disco punk sneer of “Balga Promenade” to the 3-legged horserace that is “Born With Torments,” or the Ventures-esque “A Very Human Landscape,” this records still sounds like the smRts we’ve grown to love, but it feels like we’re taking our relationship to the next level. And don’t it feel good. Alright now.
TOMAS FORD – AN AUDIENCE WITH TOMAS FORD (LP)
TOMÁS FORD continues to creep everyone out on his new record “An Audience with Tomás Ford.” Opening tune “Nice” is built on quite a subtle an pretty bit of electronic production, but Ford crooning with a clownish grin overhead makes the whole thing a pretty unsettling affair, particularly because it’s recorded with all the crispness of college radio rock, so you’re denied the compulsion to file him under “lo-fi bedroom faux-freak.” At times you’re not sure if he’s screaming “nice” or “knives,” but you begin to suspect the two are interchangeable in Tomas’ world. The album compiles old and new tracks, from classic “Bash Myself” to the more recent Peaches-tinged “I Feel Dirty,” and its retrospective nature makes it a pretty swell introduction to Tomas’ weird and wonderful fluorescent cabaret nightmare. For me Tomas Ford is a live experience, and the tunes are just one (albeit central) component of that experience, so the audio-only version may always feel somewhat incomplete. Luckily, the more eccentric moments on “An Audience With…” go a fair way towards distilling the delighfully abraisive idiosyncracies of this bewildering Perth performer.
FROZEN OCEAN – SNOISES
‘Snoises’ came out a while ago now; I ran into Peter Bibby at Billy Lee’s one night and he handed me a copy of it and said something along the lines of ‘review this!’ Being a soulless bastard, I never did. So here we go, atonement: ‘Snoises’ is totally bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s, boasting 16 fat tracks including some of the band’s total live rip-snorters (the “snack songs” – “Bizkits” and “Cordial,” as well as “Drivin’” and “Daniel McGregor” and loads more). It opens with the folksy, late-night blues singalong “A Dark Jangle” which wails some bold declarations (“I’m never gonna smoke a cigarette”) over a melodic, woozy progression, but if you think the Frozo Bagginses have gone soft, then here: have “Lose Control” to rip your face off with the enthusiasm a rottweiler whose bum you’ve been prodding with a stick for the last half hour. There are the frenetic math-rock type diversions (Kuskusko) and tunes that explore dynamic extremes at a slower pace (Eerie). The production and mixing here transforms this from being a shabby collection of great songs into a great record: it’s lo-fi, sure, but not unnecesarrily so, and the drums and guitar are balanced perfectly in the aural space. The contrasts between the aforementioned ‘A Dark Jangle’ and the psuedo-blackmetal fuck-off ballistics of finale ‘A Darker Jangle’ give you an idea of the scope of the album. It’s a great distillation of what makes Frozen Ocean such an effortlessly awesome band. If someone asked you to convince them that Western Australian music kicks arse, you could do a lot worse than to plonk ‘Snoises’ in the palm their hand.