Owing to my inability to settle on just one thing to write about, here's a whole handful of short-form releases out of Perth that caught my ear this week. Some of these tracks have been kicking around for a month already, while others (like the JCAL number) are hot off the press. Either way, I hope you find something to tickle your tympanic.
1. Diger Rokwell - We Can Ride
Diger Rokwell is etched into the Perth psyche for his psych-ey, sample-driven instrumental hip-hop - and he’s found plenty of room to spread out within that niche. But recent years have seen the Community Records labelhead explore even further afield, and ‘We Can Ride’ is the latest case in point. It’s spritely funk laden with airy vocoder, interstellar synth and pumped forward with rubbery boogie-bass. Probably Rokwell’s most gleefully retrofuturistic effort to date, its vivid palette bodes well as a new facet of the Diger sound.
2. Bahasa Malay - Inmates
Inmates is framed as a “mini-EP” - comprising two tracks and a total of seven a half minutes. Despite its brevity, this Bandcamp release exemplifies many of Nora Zion’s musical strong suits and condenses them into two of her most resolved tunes yet. ‘Trust’ begins as pulsating synthwave pop, strewn with eastern string samples and Zion’s ever-understated vocals. By its end, the tune has twisted itself into a toothy dancehall experiment, bristling with joyous hi-hats and painting concentric circles of synth melody.
‘Getback’ launches with the semi-dissonant chord shapes endemic to underground house and techno, and a tooth-chattering percussion line. We fall into a sanguine dance floor groove, helped along by spring-loaded bass, 808 claps and a playful spoken sample (“what is this?”) In between denser interludes, Zion’s voice gets plenty of space, and everything rushes to a conclusion with a teasingly fun synth-horn.
Experimental yet focused, atmospheric yet consistently dance-inducing, this is Bahasa Malay at her best.
3. JCAL - Come up (ft. Chiseko & Toyotomi Hideyoshi)
There’s a new wave of Perth-based hip hop on the rise and I feel like any minute now it’s gonna blow up and freak everyone out in the best way possible. Groups like Boogie Nights Media and Four AM Collective are flying the flag; JCAL’s latest, ‘Come Up,’ is a perfect example of why it’s so exciting. This is hip-hop borne of the internet age, of an open and globally-minded movement that’s got little to do with the predictable and parochial Oz-hop of yore. Admittedly, it’s a bit disheartening hearing Australian rappers deliver their lines with American accents, as if cultural cringe finally won. But the net result is a worldly and moody track with neither MCs nor producer missing a beat; something recalling the likes of Clams Casino and Kendrick.
4. Senate - Filibuster 12”
The impatient kick in the eponymous A1 track billows like a big black parachute. The synth chords come at you fast like jagged knives. But it’s not as sinister as the similes would have you believe; each emphatic musical gesture carries a penumbra of jazzy warmth and funk generosity. Archetypal canned claps and clipped snares guide you through the flickering dark. You feel good.
‘Fumble in the goal square’ reveals the duo’s football sympathies but more importantly gives a slew of thick, cross-hatched hats a big sweaty workout - occasionally bringing in warped vocal and modded-out bass for additional inspo. ‘Glimmer’ is somewhat deceptively named, ‘cause it focuses on the squelch, although there’s a healthy modicum of high-altitude mist. Aggressively panned tintinnabulations and bold breakbeat detours. Very cool. ‘Straight from the Islands’ might be my favourite Senate track to date: it feels truly original to me. Violent syncopated kicks… melodic chord swells gliding over jacking degradations and a contemplative bass vamp, plus really special see-sawing, jacket-zipper percussion. All arranged in a way that feels both surprising and necessary.
5. Yomi Ship - Subi’s Voyage
I’ve yet to see instrumental rock band Yomi Ship live, which I want to remedy soon, but their one-take live-in-the-studio records are sick. This latest one to hit Youtube (with some fun found footage collaged by Imogen Lau) is a real beauty, striking up a satisfying balance between math-rock austerity and emotive, empathic melodics. A few years ago it seems there were more bands doing this kind of stuff, especially in Perth, but few were doing it as well - or with as much admirable restraint - as Yomi Ship.
6. Demon Days - Lost In Translation
One of the most undeniably listenable singles to emerge from Perth in a while, I reckon - red-blooded bass and offbeat electric-piano semiquavers holding it down under Bella Nicholl’s velvet voice. There’s a bit of a braziliano lounge flavour under all the swagger, which isn’t my go-to sound, but it’s actually really refreshing to hear that infused convincingly into a local soul groove. In any case it’s just a hell of a good song, expertly arranged and delivered, clocking it at a humble 3:09, tempting you to flick on the repeat button. This Freo crew is young but already discernibly wheat among the global chaff - I wouldn’t be surprised if the next few years see them blow up big-time, like their (somewhat similar) East-coast elders Hiatus Kaiyote.