Posts Tagged ‘Chapter Music’

Chloe Alison Escott – “Stranger Than Death”

Been a fan over here of Tasmania’s Native Cats for a bit, so anything out of that camp is always highly anticipated. News came down earlier this month about Chapter Music’s upcoming compilation Midnight Meditations, designed to help listeners through long dark nights of the soul. The comp focuses on the downbeat visions of artists with a goal of providing some comfort during troubled days and nights, and this latest addition cinches its necessity. Typically Native Cats have found their niche in abrasive post-punk, so its interesting to hear another side of Chloe’s output here. Gone are the insistent rhythms and thickly muscled bass of the Cats and in place is a rainy afternoon course of quiet contemplation. Just Chloe and a piano, the track leaves little room to hide. Its a spare, open, and raw track that never hides its hurt. This song falls more in line with Chloe’s solo work and is in fact a nice precursor to an upcoming solo LP, Stars Under Contract due on Chapter later in the year.

Giving some context to the song, Escott explains, “I started writing this song when I saw heavy rain evaporating instantly on halogen lights along the Hobart Rivulet, and the rest of the lyric rolled out from there. Most of all it’s about gender transition – there’s even a quick reference to an infamous, long-discredited online test for transsexuality – but if you want to interpret it as a prediction of pandemic isolation life I won’t stand in your way.” The comp is due out this Friday, July 3rd, and features several Chapter alum/adjacent offerings from The Green Child (feat Mikey Young from Total Control and Raven Mahon from Grass Widow), Sarah Mary Chadwick, Dick Diver’s Rupert Edwards, Alex Macfarlane of Twerps/The Stevens, and Chapter’s own Guy Blackman.



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The Goon Sax

When The Goon Sax wrote their first album they were still walking the halls of high school, and that album captured the restless stakes of youth in all their impatient, unpolished glory. The record both fit with and jostled against the strain of underground indie that’s pocked the Aussie scene. It was confessional and off the cuff like many of their contemporaries, but without the day job drag and disillusioned squirm of adulthood in their bellies, it betrayed the typically shaggy Aussie brand with a bit of hopefulness and a brash know-it-all-ism that can only be captured at the height of adolescence. As the band approaches their sophomore LP two years down the road – graduated, but not ground down – they’ve had to make the choice between letting responsibilities sway their sound or keeping on with their thread of wide-eyed, emotionally bare exoticisms of pop.

Thankfully they’ve chosen to keep the faith and while they work their loose-knit pop into a bit of a polish aesthetically, they’ve managed to keep the lyrical core raw and trembling and the songwriting tipping towards twee. They’re still caught up in a jumble of jangles, but the band have moved from tripping over them like shoelaces to fencing them in with a renewed purpose. Their new production sees strings swell and horns color in the lines, but its still as human and humble an album as their first. They don’t miss an opportunity to throw in a bedroom recording between the brilliance as well, just to change the shading, but the uneven landscape works as the listener backs away to take in the album in total.

The band has grown a confidence in songwriting and execution and they tie the record together into something that far surpasses their promising debut. Where they once brought sketchbook souls to life, now they’re painting with warm colors and a steadier hand. There’s a sense that the band could tenure track this sound over the next few years into something mature and rich, but for now the immediacy of youth is doing just fine.



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Gregor – “This Heat”

Melbourne’s Gregor hit back with a new single from their upcoming LP Silver Drop. “This Heat,” despite sharing a name with the noise purveyors of yore, is actually smooth and slippery, an air-conditioned escape from the sun baked sidewalks and parched-throat bake of midday. The song melts reggae stabs around an EZ-listening lilt that lands just this side of queasy. The song’s heat-rippled rock is just the thing to stave off the unseasonable heat wave that’s gripping our country, even though their own is probably nice an temperate right about now, lucky bastards.



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School Damage

Oftentimes when a debut hits a particular sound on the head so well, there’s a nervousness approaching the follow up to see if that solid connection can be repeated when the band comes around to taking the next swing. On their debut, Melbourne’s School Damage found the woozy, wobbly ground between art-punk’s nerve-damaged tempos and the spare class of post punk that counted Pylon, Young Marble Giants and The Units as alumni. Jumping into their sophomore LP, they pretty quickly dispel any lingering worries. “Assimilate” starts off strong, but by the time they hit the carnival careen of “Psychick Damage” they’re doing laps around any band that’s attempting to wrangle up and repeat the same strand of influences.

The band’s Jake Robertson and Carolyn Hawkins have a deep bench of wobbly pop favorites in their pockets, which speaks well to the Internet’s ability to let a couple of Aussie’s get their hands on US/UK rarities with relative ease these days. Though access isn’t synthesis by a long shot, and the pair’s ability to pull from the nervy nooks of the ‘70s and addled ends of the ‘80s and kick out consistently brilliant gems is laudable. The pair still tag team the vocals and each singer lends a different shade to the record, with Robertson bringing a slightly tempered version of his cracked glass approach in Ausmuteants and Hawkins channeling a more silken cool that works well with their less is more approach to space and sound.

If anything, the record bests their debut, fanning the spark they scratched last year into a flame. A to X, gleefully explores the post-punk road less traveled. Without the sinewy shades of angst that often infect the genre, the band has time to explore the unease, anxiety and aloof discomfort of the bands that handed them down the sound. That they do it with a creeping catchiness and seemingly rapid ease makes this a record that’s impossible to ignore. If you missed their opening volley last year then catch up quick because School Damage shows no signs of slowing their domination of the itchy underground.



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Jake and Carolyn of School Damage on Tommy Jay – Tall Tales of Trauma

Though I’ve been a fan of both Jake Robertson (Ausmuteants, Alien Nosejob) and Carolyn Hawkins’ (Chook Race) individual projects, they’re often at their best when they come together as School Damage. The band embraces a raw, yet catchy form of post-punk that finds a through line from Young Marble Giants to Wire and Television Personalities. The two songwriters balance each other out in their reach for grit vs hook, so with that in mind Jake and Carolyn team up for a joint pick in Hidden Gems. The pair both harbor a love for Tommy Jay’s Tall Tales of Truama, aMidwest lo-fi treasure that’s sure to have eluded most.

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School Damage – “Meeting Halfway”

School Damage swing in with their second single off of the upcoming A to X and it solidifies this as one of the top tier releases to get excited for this summer. The track’s a Jake-led ripper charging in high on a swell of keys and backup coos. It’s proof positive that the band has wrapped up post-punk and jangle into the perfect pop package for hot weather hi-jinks. Sweetening the pot is an excellent stop-motion video that’s an aesthetic match for the song’s off-kilter pounce. Much respect to the band’s Carolyn Hawkins for the time-intensive process it must have taken to get this together. If this record isn’t on your list of pre-Fall necessities then rectify that immediately. The LP’s out at the end of August on Chapter Music.

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Little Ugly Girls – “Jimmeh”

Chapter Music are doing the world a service and giving long simmering band Little Ugly Girls their due. The Tasmanian punks were a fan favorite and tore up the ‘90s around their homeland, but never issued a record until now. Given the quality of the material here, that seems almost criminal in retrospect. Along with the electric frontwoman Linda Johnston, the band included Mindy Mapp, from RSTB faves Fur (also desperately undersung, especially outside of the South Hemi). Fans of L7 take notice, you were definitely missing out without the strained stomp of the LUGs in your life. In advanve of the the album’s release this Friday take a first listen to “Jimmeh” – a heavily fuzzed assault, buttoned and bound to break by the time it gets to the final collapse. Johnston’s laryngitis growl gives the track urgency but the band holds their own in her wake with a simmering pot of noise that can barely keep from blowing its lid. For a band that shared stages with Bikini Kill, Fugazi and the White Stripes, it seems long past time that the world gets a proper intro to these vital cuts.

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School Damage – “Assimilate”

In further proof that 2018 will be bad on my wallet, good on my ears, Melbourne’s School Damage have a new album on the way. Their sophomore LP for Chapter Music starts off with “Assimilate,” a slightly less bare bones take on their New Wave / Post-Punk bullseye that usually sees them working the wires of Young Marble Giants, Galaxo Babies and Devo into a nervy pile of art punk. The band still cuts Exacto angles out of pristine pop, tacking their guitar shards to staccato beats and pillowy synths that refuse to sit still. This time ‘round though the band is filling up every corner of the composition, fleshing out the edges with a bigger sound that’s a step removed from their brittle, yet charming debut. In particular Carolyn Hawkins (see also: Parsnip, Chook Race) fills the ‘phones to the brim with her barbed accusations and those synths buzz like a wasp’s nest rendered out of cotton candy. Can’t wait for the rest of this one to come tumbling down the line, but for now “Assimilate” and its equally effervescent collage barrage of a video are sating my need for pop wobble today.



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The Goon Sax – “She Knows”

Great to see The Goon Sax back on a list of upcoming releases. The band leaped out with a stunner of a debut that bundled self-deprecating introspection with bare and honest songwriting. They continue unabated on their first single from We’re Not Talking, thickening the aural pudding just a touch, but retaining the intimacy that made them such stalwarts of the turntable back in 2016. They make a jump to Witchita worldwide and keep things classy on the label that broke ’em at home (Chapter) growing their music to fit their widening view of early adulthood. “She Knows” catapults them from up and comers to serious threats, warbling woe with an insistent hook and an ear to classic South-Hemi jangles from the AUS/NZ music box. Can’t wait to see how this full LP shapes up if this is only the entry point.




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Montero

The first time I’d heard Ben Montero was on the epic 2012 compilation of Australian psych bands covering Nuggets-era classics. That comp held plenty of now solidified-status rockers (King Gizz, The Living Eyes, Pond) doing their best to tear up some of the most ragged bits of the famous ’60s compilation. Montero erred in the other direction however, taking on Sagittarius’ lush psych-pop number “My World Fell Down,” embracing that track’s baroque beauty but giving it some edge as well. That dedication to the softer side of psych persists on his debut for Chapter Music, a study in swoons and swells that’s dripping with glycerine dreams of psych-pop in the grand tradition of latter day Lips, Tame Impala and Mercury Rev.

The album is produced by Jay Watson (Tame Impala, Pond) and as such it reaches for the heights of those larger acts while retaining a bit of the austerity that befits his indie label status. For the most part Montero’s indulgence in the pillowed psych of ELO and Todd Rundgren works in his favor, but sometimes he aims too heavy for the pop crossover that’s favored acts like Tame Impala. While Impala’s been able to swing wide from indulging too heavily in the repetitive or cloying aspects of radio-ready pop while still courting a wide audience, there are moments on Performer that cross the line. There’s a relaxed plush quality to singles like “Caught Up In My Own World” and “Running Race,” but the refrain on the album’s title track gets to be a bit grating the more I hear it and sticks out like a sore thumb on an album that’s going for grace over hits.

That misstep aside, this positions Montero for a bigger future given his trajectory. Aussie’s have a pretty decent lock on a brand of big britches psych pop these days, with the exception of perhaps Temples and Hookworms, and Montero makes a good bid to put his name aside some of those larger acts as a contemporary.




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