Posts Tagged ‘Chapter Music’

Beaches

Aussie psych unit Beaches has built a carefully paced career, releasing just three albums since 2007. Doesn’t sound like much of a feat, but in an album a year environment (or five a year like some of their countrymen), the editing process doesn’t always come so naturally these days. Second of Spring plays to their strengths – atmosphere and hypnotic chug lead the way. They drop a dose of shoegaze, Krautrock, and psych in the blender then whip to a froth. The resulting double album is a hazy mountain of sound that proves to push the band to new heights.

Perhaps most refreshing is that, for a band that’s somewhat rooted in pop, this isn’t just an overstuffed collection of tracks that found their way floating to the top of the pile. They construct an arc of tonality that pushes past hooks and into using the album as environment, a larger canvass to work out their sonic swirl. They swerve through eddies of echo, with vocals so lost in the surrounding swamp they barely register. The next minute they kick up the rhythms to a motorik grind that practically pushes the angles into neon relief. Then they smack down the obfuscation altogether for a crush of pop, that’s certainly not pristine, but shining of its own accord.

The duality of shrouded vs. palpable, gauzy vs. catchy is what drives the album into psych-pop’s pantheon, marking this as the band’s best. Its no slight listen and that makes it worth going back to for repeated examinations of the elaborate folds the band pulls off here. Beaches have spent time honing their craft and it shows on Second Of Spring. If you’re looking for a breezy run, maybe hit up another Beach themed outfit, this one’s gonna make you take the climb to find the perfect wave.




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The Stevens

Sharing members with The Twerps and Boomgates puts The Stevens in good company, but though they echo traces of the current new wave of Aussie bands, the group also taps into classic leanings in a bigger way than many of their compatriots. Trading out lo-fi grit and soft focus production for a tougher skin of meaty hooks and power pop thump alongside the requisite bag of jangles, Good is rooted in an alternate ’70s where the radio eschewed the sexual sweat of blues-baiters for a good dose of post-punk and anxiety.

As with their previous album, A History of Hygiene, brevity isn’t in The Stevens’ wheelhouse. This one clocks in with eighteen tracks, though to be fair that actually pulls back the reigns a bit on the last one’s twenty-four piece spread. They make good use of the material, though, using their songs to explore corners of their sound without feeling too much like they’re in need of an editor to put the indulgences in the bin. Plus, when the band is on, they’re on, threading the needle of angst with just the right amount of brain battering earworms. A solid sophomore effort that skirts the slump and puts The Stevens up on the chain of Aussie bands to keep your eyes on.




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Beaches – “Void”

Aussie psych stormers Beaches are back after what feels like an almost unbearable hiatus (last album was 2013). Though to be fair, the ladies that make up the group have rather a lot going on, with members sharing duties in Love of Diagrams, Scott and Charlene’s Wedding and Panel of Judges among others. The group pushes the pedal down even harder on their motorik psych sound, fizzing like the ragged spirits of Spacemen 3, Neu!, Loop and Popul Vuh had all infected them simultaneously and were fighting for space. “Void” is shrouded in cavernous echo (just like I like it) and pulsating with a rhythm that all but glows. They drop in a touch of space-laced synth to keep it interesting and with that, anticipations are high for this double LP monster to drop later in the fall. Chapter Music is pushing the gems out this year, and this chalks another one up on the board.




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School Damage

Having started strong with the single “Tall Poppies,” Melbourne/Geelong foursome School Damage come even stronger with their first full length for Chapter Music. The album plays well into a type of post-punk that prized catchy swings over a full sound, often feeling ramshackle but giddy in the process. School Damage captures that giddiness bubbling in the pit of the stomach and fashions it into a kind of worming social anxiety come to life through woozy keys and sprinting drums. They find the sweet spot between The Vaselines, Kleenex and, as evidenced by their homage, Aussie footnote The Particles. They capture the austerity, sincerity and don’t give a fuck attitude of those groups and translate it into bubbling pop that’s ’80s in root but frothing with a lyrical sensibility that could only belong to present day. Somehow they make it all coalesce into sweaty charms in a mistmatched print.

There’s a delirious, but fun, edge to their eponymous LP and at its most dizzying it has the effect of riding the tilt-o-whirl on a stomach full of cotton candy. The songs are primarily helmed by Chook Race’s Carolyn Hawkins and as much as she adds to her other home in Chook, she’s clearly found her niche in School Damage. Other vocal duties are headed up by Austmuteants’ Jake Robertson, and I tend to have a hard time divorcing his voice from that group. Though, if Ausmuteants aren’t a heavy fixture in your life then the pair act as nice halves to the quiet cool/geek-rock freakout coin, alternating their turns as the wheel amiably.

Plenty since punk crumbled into even more primitive forms have found success in spare squirming, from Beat Happening and C.O.C.O. to the nervy lo-fi of Bitch Prefect, but there’s something that gives School Damage their own space in the sound. They’re perfectly pinning jangle-pop’s heartfelt bubblegum swing to the anxious bulge of early synth-punk, finding a freedom to explode in both directions at once in any given song. They even find time to slow things down from their Adderall rush to strum out a couple of Vaselines poet-souled ballads. Its a history lesson encapsulated and as a jittery post-punk primer, you couldn’t ask for much more.





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School Damage – “Tall Poppies”

This one brings together members of two RSTB faves, Carolyn Hawkins of Chook Race and Jake Robertson of Ausmuteants. The group is self-admittedly going for a Vaselines meets Young Marble Giants sound, which on paper is an excellent idea that could go very wrong in execution. Thankfully the pair has the chops to pull it off pretty much perfectly. “Tall Poppies” hews closer to the Young Marble Giants side of that axis and they capture the stark, edge of electronic/edge of post-punk feelings with a deadpanned swagger that’s studied and superb. The track bodes well for what’s to come on their upcoming full length. If they can extend the exorcism of indie’s rise out of post-punk’s bones then it promises to be an intriguing entry in not only the Australian underground but also a welcome return to a sound that’s been explored far too seldom.




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Ripley Johnson on Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music

Starting off the new year right with a new edition of Hidden Gems from Ripley Johnson (Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips). Hidden Gems explores albums that haven’t gotten their proper due over the years, as picked by RSTB’s favorite artists. Ripley selected Aussie psych duo Fabulous Diamonds’ third album Commercial Music, which was released by Chapter Music in 2012. Ripley explains why the album is such a slept on treasure and the impact its had on his own music.

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The Cannanes – A Love Affair With Nature

The Cannanes were one of those oddities of musical history that produced legends in a bubble. The band were often more popular outside of their own country than in their own backyard and they created the kind of low-key, spare and emotional, yet witty records that brought smiles to the faces of plenty of jangle-pop devotees. Thing is someone would likely have to have passed you the key to The Cannanes in a time of less information dissemination (at least here in the States), but for those that found themselves inside the subtly thrumming sounds of of the band in the early ’90s, they found a kindred spirit in their aloof but shaggy arms. The band finds some distinct stylistic lines drawn from The Vaselines and Young Marble Giants, but they push into their own personality in good time and no place is this more apparent than their standout album, 1995’s A Love Affair With Nature.

The band begins to temper their erratic lineup shifts at the time of Love Affair and that stability gives the album its consistency. The band coalesces Fran Gibson’s voacals, with their style of winking on the surface but sweetly and secretly pretty sincere. The band released the album themselves originally at home, with Chicago indies Feel Good All Over and Ajax picking up US issues. Their lack of popularity in Australia proved a sticking point and one that would eventually cause them to quit touring and throw their efforts into recording. They’ve existed in some form over the years, never truly dissolving, though sometimes working down to the skeleton crew of just Gibson and guitarist/vocalist Stephen O’Neal. This one finds its way back to a world that’s more accepting than ever, and its the kind of record that I’d think would be a welcomed treat for those tracing the lines of indie and jangle through the years. With so many bands holding on to the blueprint that The Cannanes helped cement, its time for the original to stand up once again and be counted among the essentials of the ’90s.




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The Goon Sax – “Up To Anything”

The Goon Sax’s album for Chapter Music is a jangle-pop gem and they’ve setup the title track “Up To Anything” with a fittingly faded and pining video. The song’s a face-on-the-floor depression jam, the kind of upbeat on the surface, but ultimately soulcrushing pop song that sticks in your head and then squeezes your heart. They’ve given it a treatment like a Belle and Sebastian album cover come to life and that’s probably a pretty good neighborhood for the song to live in. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the band’s full album from earlier in the year, do yourself a favor and dip in. Its one of the most winningly truthful accounts of youth out this year.

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The Goon Sax

Chapter Music pull in the youth vote with a trio of younguns from Brisbane’s The Goon Sax. The band’s ages average around 17-18 and though they seem to have absorbed en masse the jangle-pop paradigm, they still know how to keep things juvenile, in the best ways, of course. The songs on Up To Anything capture the raw nerve and jittery emotions of teenage life like a quickly snapped cell phone photo that’s candid and revelatory at the same time. The kinds of pictures that find one person staring at another longingly and a second person persistently distracted by the distance or dissonance. They pin the modern onto the universal, passing tales of anxiety, shame, annoyance and home haircuts off with a style that’s eyeing the past but nevertheless a fairly easily digestible pop for the new class. Given that they’re capturing the emotions of the day through the perpetually doomed lens of teenage life, they know how to parlay to moping when the need arises, but the jangles keep those sentiments from grinding the listener down. This one’s got legs for sure and each new spin cracks a new grin or two from their humble but honest take. Chalk up another win for Chapter music and the South Hemi pop sound.





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