New Age Unicorn Crystal Balls: Descriptive Beyond Belief.

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Is it just us or are there a lot of junior bedroom laptoppers channeling something between Enya and the love theme from Titanic just now? 


Beautiful enough but bang to rights Enya in the middle 8. Busted, Mr Wallpaper. And you are guilty too Oliver Tank.

For us, if there is one bin in any record store that is guaranteed to FUCK YOU OFF (!) it’s that one called “New Age”. Sometimes it comes with some other really annoying title like “Nu-Conciousness” or “Spiritual” or “Third Eye” or some other quasi-cosmic nonsense. And every album in it looks like shit (both design and content wise). Here is one album from that bin that’s almost guaranteed to make you reach for the submachine gun.

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and here’s another…

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Sorry to be haters but that’s just the way we feel. We don’t need “sound medicine” (whatever that is), I don’t care what you listen to whilst doing that Hot Yoga thing and “serenity” just makes me think of this scene from “The Castle” and as for the Relaxation Company – that sort of makes you yearn for major record companies to come back in and save you with “real pop”.

So it Is with some disgust that we report to you that New Age music is sneakily becoming cool.

Starting with the brilliant compilation of the “jazz flute” mood music of IASOS which needs no other introduction than this image -

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but if you get past this and try it out, it turns out not to be (just) post-hippy drivel (despite the artists brilliantly vomit inducing introduction here) but a sort of synth ecstacy that clearly would have Daft Punk & Air in “virgin suicidal” raptures.

Or you could try this psych-synth fest – from the appropriately New Age-ily named Dolphins Into The Future (you have to ask what did dolphins do to deserve their association with all things new age – we have posted on dolphin rage before and they just aren’t that mellow people)

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it will hardly surprise you to find this is listened to on the Chris Robinson Brotherhood head shop tour bus… 


Trippy, but it features on Balearic Ibiza mix tapes too.

Or this one from the vaults of Japan and featuring new age wizard Keitaro on synths -


Far East Travelling band on a mellow conga fuelled post krautrock synth trip out. Phew! But it kind of dances! Thanks to our man Montero for finding this gem.

Maybe even better is this private press new age compilation of music made by really strange people who really make for a liner note worth reading -

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But which touches a sort of mellow cosmic spot. There’s a strange fascination to be had going from track to track and realising its not utterly awful. Buy it and share the joy.

And that compilation in turn introduces us to the tuned percussion meanderings of Laraaji, whose “cosmic tape experiments” are at once psychobabble and a bit of a jam at once -


As if to prove that there is a fine line, Laraaji has made an album with Brian Eno (Ambient 3: Day of Radiance) and also contributed to the brilliant FRKWYS series that gave us last years brilliant Sun Araw/ Congos collaboration which was an album of the year. Here he is from that one with Blues Control on a dubby trip of a thing called “Awakening Day

If you throw in about half of this brilliant “Influences on French Electronic Music” compilation from our friends at Because, there is starting to be a slight feeling of acceptance based primarily on open eared digging.

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And then add in the awesome Seahawks mix we recently featured and we are all the way there – the mix even has a rather funkily cool track by the above ridiculed Steven Halpern to show he’s not all bad.

Alas I cannot excuse the fact that there is a Laraaji track called Unicorns In Paradise (?!)

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Which still makes us reach for the shotgun and/or laugh at this scene simultaneously, but we have to admit we are rehabilitating. Or is it that we’re going mentally soft in our old age?



-TH

Sable x Wax Volcanic

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One human is occupying a brand new leather recliner, arched over a Cuban Mahogany floor and pulled to face the double-glazed bay windows that open up to a wraparound terrace looking over West Broadway, New York City. Another human is occupying a form-mesh office chair in 40-degree West Australian heat, leaning forward in concentration to catch the intricacies of the sound that’s pouring out of a pair of studio monitors and spreading over the postered walls and unmade bed of his teenage bedroom. The first human is Justin Timberlake. The second is John Dewhurst, better known to Australian music fans as Sable, the young bedroom producer who recently doused Timberlake’s ‘My Love’ with his own gleaming brand of what’s becoming known as the ‘Australian sound’.


There are no real borders anymore. It doesn’t matter what continental plate an artist is sitting on, connections through music are increasingly lateral. The old days of musical feudalism, of artists clawing vertically towards cavernous recording studios and huge advances are over. Records are being made with a laptop, a soundcard and a microphone, re-edits can be done on a whim, acapellas can be scooped out of the Internet at will.

“Yeah” Dewhurst agrees, “The new way makes so many more things possible with so much less. In terms of resources, you can sit in a bedroom and if you’ve got a decent mic you can make a full album for any genre you want…”

This accessibility is the engine propelling the Australian sound around the globe. Recently Harley Stretten, better known as Flume, roll-called a list of Australian EDM acts as if listing columns in a gathering army. And maybe his fervour isn’t entirely misplaced, particularly if his own fame is anything to go by. The phalanx of Australian electronic acts is indeed gathering and proliferating. Sable is a good example. In just 18 months, Sable’s reached number 2 on triple Js most played, is the first signing to Pilerats records, has received almost 200,000 plays on Soundcloud for his main single ‘Feels So Good’ and is now embarking on a national tour.


“I suppose from the outside perspective it seems really fast” Dewhurt admits, “but I have been working on it for a few years now. A lot of groundwork was done locally and I just wanted to make sure everything was good first. Then Pilerats hit me up to play at Circo festival…” And so it went. But like he suggests himself, Dewhurst has a long timeline is buried beneath his 18 month rise to acclaim.

Through high school playing in punk and hardcore bands formed Dewhurst’s formative musical experiences, and to this day “still thinks of things in terms of how a 4 piece hardcore band would sound”. The connection between dance music and punk music is an interesting one. An entire dynasty of American electro seemed to come from punk or rock bands (Steve Aoki, Bloody Beetroots – by way of Italy, MSTKRFT etc). Then there were European acts like Simian Mobile Disco and 2ManyDJs who effectively dissolved their bands in favour of purely electronic music. But the interesting difference here is that in all of the acts above (with the possible exception of SMD) the influence of rock/punk music on the sound of their dance music is pretty clear. With Sable, there’s almost no way to tell. The soaring, glittering synth, slowly blooming arpeggiators and snatches of euphoric vocals are about as far from hardcore as I can imagine. But the hardcore influence comes out in mysterious ways. One of the most notable features of Sable’s music, is his ‘drops’. Dewhurst will build his songs by rolling up cutoff, pitch and sustains, and then a naked sound effect like a squeak, waterdrop or clap will fill one or two beats before the beat returns. It’s a clever dynamic tool and one that Dewhurst describes as “a Metalcore thing”. He alleges that a lot of Metalcore songs will “have a crazy build up and then just ride cymbal hit on the bell of the cymbal”. And it works.

But, despite some direct translation, Sable didn’t go straight from hardcore to the club. He cut his teeth making some “terrible EDM” before listening to Burial and Bonobo and deciding to recalibrate the outlook and his own execution of electronic music.

“When I listen to Untrue by Burial and Black Sands By Bonobo, [I found that] all the songs weren’t structured to any particular formula and they tried new ideas [that] completely worked. So I thought maybe I could start just doing things that I think would sound cool, and why didn’t I try that before with dance music?” Sable’s earlier catalogue is directly reminiscent of this sonic exploration, of languorous, nebulous songs, more evocative than his more recent work. Some standouts are the Studio Ghibli inspired ‘Haku’ and ‘ChiChiro’, released on Diehigh records.

But gradually, Dewhurt has bent his music towards the club. His beats are thicker, his sounds sharper, dragging with it the gallop of Jersey Trap, the Euphoria of Minimal House, all of which (as is so often the case) seems paradoxic, given that Dewhurst is fresh out of school, and has had somewhat limited opportunities to actually explore clubs.

“Yeah I think a lot of producers are like that” Dewhurst offers, a pause lingering on the line. The pause is long enough to sift through my mental Rolodex of producers – most of which are music heads, rather than club kids. The most notable for me is A-Trak— producer, DJ extraordinarre and owner of Fool’s Gold records. A-Trak openly admits (despite worldwide acclaim as a DJ and producer) that he doesn’t know what to do on a dance floor. This is a guy who has never taken drugs but who signs acts like Bath Salts, Danny Brown and does collaborations with rappers like Juicy J who have made hedonism into a multifaceted art form. A producer (and DJ’s) role in so many ways is reading people, reading what people are listening to, what they want. Maybe this distance from the dancefloor is what makes really good producers. They’re like satellites, collecting information from the periphery, relaying it to the stage and beaming it onto the audience. Finally Dewhurst continues.

“Yeah unless there’s something I’m really vibing on…” Dewhurst continues, I’m never up the front in the crowd, that’s a real fan thing. I like being there and enjoying the music if it’s good. Put it that way…”

But the club is definitely something he’s about to be very well acquainted with, as he plays clubs all over Australia, and seems pretty grounded about the whole thing. When I ask him about the vocal cut from ‘Feels So Good’ (“Feels so good up in the clouds”)  and the unspoken transaction between the DJ and the audience wherein the DJ/Producer is responsible for the provision of euphoria and what I like to call ‘Forever Moments’ which simultaneously melt an existing reality away and promise something endless, something impossible, Dewhurst just pauses and yawns: “The only reason mine sounds like that is because I only write that stuff when I’m happy…And its got a summer sound cause I wrote it during warm summer times…”  Whereas Dewhurst’s slightly older, darker and slower ‘Hypercolour’ EP sounds comparatively woven from shadows. Unsurprisingly, he wrote it during winter.


The unconscious, seasonal transience of Sable could end up being a hidden asset in an industry and genre where things are changing so quickly. It’s a world where the celebrity in his Soho Mews apartment in New York City and the bedroom producer in Perth are able connect in some way, a world of almost infinite limits. But of course this has it’s own cost. The flood of accessible technology has caused young music producers to become ubiquitous, and the musical landscape to become fickle. And Dewhurst knows it.

“Music these days is definitely more transient” he declares coolly,  “because its quicker to produce…But now that you can make music, well made music, completely mastered in a week, people are expecting more and they want more so its harder to make something that sticks around…”


The Australian Sound is becoming the fastest way for Australian producers to collect passport stamps. But this is, of course, only the first half of a cautionary tale. These strident labels turn very quickly into mortuary toe tags. Dewhurst identifies with the term, conceding that it’s “pretty on point right now”, but while he possesses songs crafted in vogue he also possesses an awareness and a musical dexterity that will more than likely see the name Sable outlive the label of ‘Australian Sound’

You can catch Sable live in action on the dates below.

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And cop the Feels So Good EP NOW thanks to Pilerats Records.



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For Cool Accidents

Girl From Belgium Likes Girls In Hawaii


One of the limitations to backpacking is the ability to hear about new music especially in SE Asia where I currently reside. Fellow music loving backpacking compatriots seem few and far between out here but right now I want to tell you of an exception to this trend thanks to a young lass from Antwerp who introduced me to a Belgian group by the name of Girls In Hawaii. She couldn’t have done more to convince me to give their latest album a go, and as ashamed as I am to say it; whilst this girl from Belgium may have come and gone these Girls In Hawaii are here to stay.

Everest is a collection of some of the finest song writing I’ve heard in a long time simply unblemished by anything whatsoever. Climatic indie pop at its greatest, ebbing and flowing between sexy European accent and downright hooky vocals.

Album reviews really don’t agree with me but as far as a full LP goes, this beaut takes home many an award from me. Most definitely one of the greatest under the radar records of last year but hey I only just discovered it so there could still be time? I guess it’s up to the good people of Belgium to keep on spreading their legs the word.



-Stan R

The Only Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram for Rap Beefs You Will Ever Need

via Grantland


Before this starts, know this: We — we as in HUMANS — are on the cusp of a moment. A moment that, should it occur, should even a glancing version of it occur, will produce a reverb that will demolish the lithosphere into, oh, I don’t know, about 10 billion pieces, if I had to guess.

Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Aubrey “Drake” Graham, the two most visible rappers on planet Earth, have almost inexplicably and without (at least publicly knowable) reason ended up on the precipice of an interstellar rap battle.

Drake, horns-of-fire eyebrows and all, called Jay-Z’s art-reference rap “corny” in an interview. Jay-Z, especially offended and surprisingly charged by the accusation, swooped down from the ionosphere on the back of his sun dragon and, eager to smite, fired exploding chain saws at Drake in a verse on a song called “We Made It.” Here they are:

Sorry Mrs. Drizzy for so much art talk
Silly me rappin’ ’bout shit that I really bought

And so now the world waits.

Waits for Drake’s response.

Waits for Jay’s response to Drake’s response.

Waits for Drake’s response to Jay’s response to Drake’s response.

We wait and wait and wait.

We’re still waiting.

Because we are on the cusp of a moment.

♦♦♦

Every year for the last decade during the days between November 11 and December 20, I have attempted to teach middle school ESL students about all of the whole of the everything of the entirety of outer space, from its birth to its (hypothetical) end. This, as one would expect, is a bit of a task.

Sometimes it’s for reasons you expect (because that shit is hard, bro). But sometimes it’s for reasons you do not. The best: One particularly enjoyable student asserted that, given that our understanding of the cosmos beyond Mars is almost entirely theoretical, it was irresponsible of me to completely disregard the plot of Killer Klowns From Outer Space, a movie on Netflix about aliens who look like Earth clowns and wrap people up in cotton candy and then suck their blood. “If nobody knows what’s out there, how can you say with certainty that there isn’t a planet dense with a population of clowns that want to murder me?” is a polished version of her position. “Well … it’s just … I mean … I don’t know, man” was my exact rebuttal. (I watched Killer Klowns From Outer Space. It’s terribly creepy. Don’t watch it.)

Still, during that segment of the curriculum, the one thing we go over that every kid learns is something called the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Here is the exact one I have for them in class:

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A general explanation: The H-R diagram plots stars based on brightness vs. heat. There are four main groups: the supergiants, which are the biggest and, on average, the brightest stars; the giants, which are a little smaller though still impressive; the main sequence stars, which are regular, ordinary-size stars; and the white dwarfs, which are just remnants of stars and not real actual stars anymore.

Now, in class this particular discussion would be followed by an activity in which the students are given characteristics of stars found in the known universe and then asked to place them where they belong on the chart. But since this is not class — this is Grantland — I present a variation.

It’s the Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram for Rap Beefs:

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It’s the same as the normal one, except it’s different.

Instead of the brightness on the y-axis, we measure how interesting each rap beef is. And instead of the temperature/color on the x-axis, we measure how real-life dangerous each rap beef is.

Important: The beefs listed here are not all the beefs that have ever existed in rap, same as the H-R diagram doesn’t plot all the stars that have ever existed. The charts are used as reference, a guide for you to refer to when considering the parameters of, say, 2007’s Gillie Da Kid vs. Lil Wayne debacle and how it measures next to, say, 1992’s P.M. Dawn vs. KRS-One shenanigans.

The numbers scattered in the H-RDFRB correspond with the faces underneath it, and the faces represent the winning side of whichever beef it was that he or she was involved in. Explanations:

1. Drake vs. His Feelings: Top tier. Probably the most interesting rap battle of our generation, which, depending on how you process the world, is something you will consider very advanced or very disappointing.

2. Lil’ Kim vs. Foxy Brown: Lil’ Kim wins this one because I actually had to Google “is Foxy Brown alive” while researching this. (She’s alive, FYI.)

3. Kanye West vs. 50 Cent: The two released albums the same week in 2007 and so they were arguing over who was going to sell more. 50 was like, “If Kanye outsells me, I’ll retire.” Kanye outsold him by more than 200,000 units. 50 was like, “LOL I’m just kidding I’m not retiring.”

4. Nas vs. Jay-Z: (1) Yes. Jay-Z won. Shut up. (2) I will never not use the hyphen in “Jay-Z.” His mama named him “Jay-Z,” I’mma call him “Jay-Z.”

5. Ice Cube vs. N.W.A: They argued over money. Ice Cube recorded “No Vaseline.”

6. Eminem vs. Benzino (and The Source): This one almost certainly would’ve fallen into the the supergiants category in 2002. But Eminem the brand has swelled to such an alarming size that his moves are barely even interesting anymore and Benzino is Benzino, so this one plummets down into the cellar.

7. Nelly vs. Chingy: Mostly because I just wanted you to have a good baseline for what a very, very, very bottom-level white-dwarf rap beef looks like. (Note: In 2004, this beef was definitely a main priority for me. I’m saying, do you even know how many times I watched the “Batter Up” video, bro?)

8. This is when Ludacris went at it with T.I.: Ludacris won that one. This is not when Ludacris went at Drake and Big Sean. Nobody won that one. Not one single person.

9. Nicki Minaj vs. Gucci Mane: This one rates this high on interest because Gucci was on Twitter telling everyone he had sex with Nicki Minaj and that he had proof of it and for just a few moments somehow it kind of seemed like he was telling the truth. Know this: If Gucci Mane ever in any capacity proves that you had sex with him, he wins. That’s the most vicious blow. One time, one of my sons uppercut his twin brother in the wiener. This would’ve been worse than that. If he would’ve actually somehow produced a video or even a picture of him and Nicki Minaj engaging in intercourse, we would’ve had to put her in a rocket ship and shoot her toward a corner of outer space.

10. 50 Cent vs. Ja Rule: What many consider to be the greatest takedown of the modern era. It was definitely in the supergiants category while it was happening, but it falls out here because 50 is probably, like, only the 40th most popular rapper right now.

11. Papoose vs. hahaha psych just kidding Papoose never won anything LOL.

12. Gucci Mane vs. Face Tattoos: To crib a line from a 2004 Demetri Martin comedy special: This is a good example of how you can be a winner and a loser at the same time.

13. Common vs. Drake: “You a bitch because you cling like a bitch that’s 18 / Can’t say my name but rap about a n—-’s wife / You so black and white, trying to live a n—-’s life / I’m taking too long with this amateur guy / You ain’t wet nobody, n—-, you Canada Dry.” —Common

14. Kendrick Lamar vs. All the Guys He Mentioned on “Control,” But Mostly Drake Because Drake Was the Only One With a Higher Perch: Oh, man. Rap nerds had hella boners when this song came out.

15. Tupac vs. Biggie: Dang.

:(

♦♦♦

Five New(ish) Beefs That Belong on the Diagram

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Snoop Dogg vs. Bob Marley’s Ghost (supergiant):
Snoop’s gotta stop. Someone please tell him.

Lil Wayne vs. Metaphors (main sequence): If Tha Carter IV has fewer than 200 of those stupid “I got presidential concentration / Call that a Ford Focus”–style lines, then that’s a win for Wayne.

J. Cole vs. J. Cole’s Face (white dwarf): He’s losing.

Nas vs. Evolution (giant): Has any rapper ever gripped more desperately to a time period, to what he or she at one point represented, than Nas? Nas is a total bore now. His fight against evolution is history’s longest war.

Wale vs. Everybody on Earth, I Guess (white dwarf): I just don’t get it. Wale seems like a decent (albeit tightly wound) person. Why does everyone hate him? I interviewed him at a concert once. He was nice. T-Pain was there. I talked to him, too. T-Pain is way more of a dick than Wale.



-Shea Serrano

Shea is a writer based in Houston. He has written for MTV, XXL, Vice, Complex, Myspace, and other outlets. He recently published his first book, Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book.

Parental Advisors - Mark’s Story

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I remember so clearly, the day I discovered music. At the age of 3 or 4 my parents divorced. A confusing time for a wee little chap. It was strange visiting my father, who at the time was living in a caravan in the backyard of his friends place. I was also terrified by a Boxer (canine) called Ugly that lived in the backyard that patrolled the perimeter like a brutal guard in the Gulags. It was only temporary lodgings but those strange things stick in your mind.  

A few years later, when I was 6, my Mother had met a new fella and he was moving in. A pretty big thing in both his and my life you would imagine. Sensing his eagerness to please his new ready made family, I would confidently flip through his records without fear and asked a million questions about them. I had never seen so many. Close to 500 I would say. I was also intrigued by the beautiful Yamaha YP-D6 Direct-Drive Turntable. A thing of beauty with its matte silver hardware set off by wood paneling on the lower half. This thing was exquisite, built like a tank and is still in perfect working order to this day. I had to know how to operate this perplexing solid yet delicate machine.

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I remember asking/telling this new fellow that now lived with us: I want to learn how to use this machine with these delicate black discs. Now, this is when it happened, this was the moment that I fell deeply in love with music and records. I was allowed to go through the collection and pick out the ones I either liked the look of or had enjoyed listening to. I was shown how to hold them, clean them, put them on the platter and gently move the headshell over and drop it gently on the lead out groove. I loved playing records so much. I loved the artwork on the sleeves, the liner notes, the slips inside. Most of all I loved the tunes… Here is the selection from that day. 


The Cars - Candy O

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While there are some killer tracks on this record, (I actually prefer their eponymous debut album) I think it was the cover art that had the true magnetism. The  Alberto Vargas painted ‘pin up’ on the cover is something to truly behold! An education at a very young age. Interestingly, 16 years later I would sign a recording contract with the very same label (ELEKTRA) that this album came out on*

 

Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lover – Rock and Roll with The Modern Lovers

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I don’t know why but I have always just loved Jonathan. At an early age I guess the naiveté of his childlike lyrics and catchiness of his songs appealed to me. I still listen to his music almost every day.


Max Romeo and The Upsetters

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This is probably one of my favourite albums of all time. I was lucky to discover it as a kid. One the truly great records from Black Arch Studios.


The Beatles – Revolver

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No need to go on too much about this one. It’s very interesting to play Please Please Me and Revolver back to back and marvel at the fact that there is only 3 years separating them.


Ian Dury  - New Boots and Panties!!

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I remember hearing the bass drop on Wake Up and Make Love With Me (Song 1 Side A) and loving it. I also remember thinking Billericay Dickie was funny because it was aped by a rather well known domestic cleaning product commercial around the same time.


***Honourable Mention***  

Derek and Clive – Come Again, Ad Nauseum, Derek and Clive Live

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I crossed paths with these records slightly later in life, around 11 or 12 years old. If you are even slightly familiar with its content you will know that that’s probably a good thing. These were bona fide, Mum’s out of the house records… Pete and Dud in their finest inebriated foulmouthed form.



Thinking back to that day and remembering what I picked out of the wall unit that was buckling under the weight of all these treasures. I have noticed a few interesting things. The first being that all of these records have strikingly simple artwork. All (except the hand written Derek and Clive live and the bag of vomit on Ad Nauseum)show pictures/drawings of people posing in some way. I feel that this doesn’t happen so much these days. I’d like to see more.(the White Stripes carried the torch for posed sleeve photos in my most recent memory). Secondly and most importantly, I still listen to every one of these albums to this day. I’ve actually gone and bought my own copies on vinyl since leaving the parental nest many moons ago. I wonder if there is a deep neurological attachment to these albums, whether they helped my fledgling brain create synapses and thus their melodies are trapped deep in the grey matter somewhere?? Could Jonathan Richman be in my brain someplace??  Or are they simply great albums?   



-Mark Wilson (*Mark played bass in a little band called Jet)

She Thought She’d Found a Plane…

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And now it looks like she might’ve just gone and found herself.

Gesaffelstein - Sounds As Good As It Looks


Being a cool fucker, French and a DJ means you have an unfair advantage in life. So does having your own label with your mate (Bromance).

It also doesn’t hurt having a killer debut album (Which Aleph totally was) as part of the repertoire.


When you are also a ridiculously good DJ it helps. So watch this and be convinced even more because it’s one of the best sets we’ve heard in a minute.

*here’s an alternate soundcloud link complete with a free download of the whole darn thing.


And if that gets you excited, you’re in luck because he and Brodinski are here for Future music in a week. And keep your eyes peeled for some little tastemaker side shows.

-TH


[as an aside due soon a Bromance sampler to introduce their other talent – watch out for the brilliant Club Cheval who contribute 3 tracks there]

Cool Accidents - Sydney Sessions

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Soundcloud is an absolute goldmine for finding jams from a whole host of up and coming as well as established artists and we’ve decided to highlight our faves on a city by city basis.

First up is ol’ Sydney town and although we probably could have filled it up entirely with Future Classic tunes, we put our collective Cool Accidents heads together and after taking inspiration from the stunning pic above came up with a selection of smooooth beats and other business that fit the vibe.

We’ll be enlisting the curating skills of some talented peeps to help us out with the next cities in the series so stay tuned to Cool Accidents for that and more but in the meantime get all up in this mix below…
 


Pic by @chrismphillips

Parental Advisors - Leilani’s Story


When I was growing up, I thought it was normal for your dad to wear make-up, dress up as a woman, and mime along to some very, very cheesy songs with all the other dads every now & then.

Nope, apparently, not so much.

Every year, my primary school would manifest a very dramatic mime cabaret, with the parents as the actors.  Both my parents would dress up in horrifically OTT costumes and mime-perform a comical act to either a classic tune, or a really silly one.

Picture this. Your 5ft 5”, very straight, average-guy dad wearing metallic green knickerbockers, a frilly shirt, a pirate hat, and a whole lot of eyeliner, playing the er, different, pirate in Ray Stevens’ The Pirate Song;


or my mum strutting around on a stage with all my friends mum’s in nothing but a body towel and a hair towel singing along to ‘I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair' from South Pacific; or both of them dressed in drag for an Australian classic: a Priscilla: Queen of The Desert number, ‘I Love The Nightlife’.


Then there was my year 6 teacher, a huge man usually seen sporting footy shorts and a beer belly, dressed up as Dolly Parton in ‘Nine to Five’, using bent arms under his shirt to mimic her rather large chest. As a 7 year old, this was rather outrageous, and severely traumatic. 

Having experienced said trauma, however, they did introduce me to some great music that I still have nostalgia for now. Whilst there was definitely too much ABBA used, the Beach Boys, Queen, Billy Joel and Madonna featured prominently. It was all cheese, but hey, it’s lovable cheese.  The problem is now that whenever I hear any of the featured songs I am forever stuck with the image of my parents acting like children in front of a few HUNDRED PEOPLE at a very IMPRESSIONABLE AGE. Scarred MUCH…!

Besides the pop-cheese learnt at my primary schools’ self proclaimed “Great Night Out”, it was all Ray Charles, Nat King Cole & The Beatles at home; at least a slight kicker higher in the what-parents-taught-their-children awards.

THANK YOU FOR THE MUSIC PARENTAL ADVISORS.



-Leilani Williams

UNDERTOW

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For the second time in three days, Grant Hutchison, drummer in Scottish rock band Frightened Rabbit, was about to step onto a boat that aimed to take him nowhere. In Sydney two days ago, Grant had furnished himself with trappings from a Navy supply store before rolling around Darling Harbour at a stately pace with members of Chvrches, Haim and Daughter. Lorde couldn’t even swoon her way aboard. I imagined Grant had fond memories of being conveyed around the harbour, inhaling sparkling wine and watching the gentle wake of passing ferries unroll in long, white scarves as he drifted with the Laneway elite between Sydney’s harbour-side monuments of global renown. His memories must have seemed especially fond as he stood at the brink of Studley Park Boathouse dock two days later, listening to some tiny rowboats creak in front of him, probably thinking “why did he just tell us that Collingwood has the highest concentration of Tiger snakes in the world?” or “Why did he go on to mention that they can swim?” But it was too late to turn back. Scott and Grant Hutchinson were already in orange lifejackets, about to glide over the Yarra river, the river that a previous Scottish traveller in 1890 had called “the filthiest piece of water I ever had the misfortune to be afloat on.”

But despite the danger I had assured them, the brothers from Frightened Rabbit seemed to sink fairly comfortably into the drowsy, midday heat. After considering the condensed and slippery schedule of the Laneway Festival, a boat ride—regardless of venue and possibility of snake bite—was still fairly ideal.

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"The whole routine thing [on the Laneway tour] is just gone because sometimes you’ve got a 5am lobby call to get to the next city, then you’re on at 3 in the afternoon and you’re drunk at 8 at night…" Scott lamented with a weary smile. And on occasion, as was the case the previous morning, the Hutchison brothers were still drunk at 8am. Co-hosting the Triple J breakfast show, Scott and Grant matched the youthful clamour of hosts Alex and Matt by remaining slightly inebriated for their duties behind the mic.

"He was more smashed than i was actually" Scott admitted, tilting his head towards Grant. "We were only meant to be in for half an hour…" But the brothers were on air for over an hour, providing the morning show with some anomolously entertaining banter and derailing any attempts at routine even further.

During their turbid on-air conversations, the brothers fielded a call from a listener called Sally, which was more telling than any of the album-cycle or touring-schedule type questions so popular with breakfast radio. Sally had seen Frightened Rabbit 8 times in 10 months over 2 continents. And I highly doubt that Sally’s fervour is an isolated statistic. Frightened Rabbit capture an emotional extremity in their music that makes it fertile for obsession. By his own admission Scott invests “a lot of [him]self lyrically” in the songs of Frightened Rabbit, groaning about loss, lies and the sickening way humans behave towards one another.

Word clusters like:

 

produce a thematic gravity that pulls particularly hard on the young. Such gravid themes provide what, in my youth, I called the ‘Radiohead Function’, of revealing something dire and personal to which the listener can tether their malcontent.

"Yeah, i remember reading a quote from Michael Stipe" Scott nodded, "he said ‘if you felt something, then there’s a really high chance that someone else in the world has felt it too…" Scott Hutchison studied art for four years in Glasgow and learned early on the importance of creating access points into personal ideas. "Otherwise it’s just going to be for you" he explained, "and is ultimately a selfish act". But most interesting about the ‘Radiohead Function’ is how these bands of emotional extremity and thematic gravity almost always become the bands to which we are most attached. Are the reflective, arcane truths these bands whisper to us while we’re at our lowest what makes them most dear to us? Is our emotional response tantamount to the measure of love we feel for music? Is it impossible for bands to both make us happy and be among our most treasured? Do we enjoy misery? Scott Hutchison didn’t necessarily think so. He drew more conclusions about the unshakability of a fan’s belief from the musical honesty of the act in question.

"We’ve never really been a buzz band, and I’m happy with that…[there’s] an endless supply of young guys with the right haircuts who can play those drop key guitar chords". But they don’t last. They don’t become the kind of acts that grow old with their audience.

And growth is something that is foremost on the minds of the Hutchison brothers. Despite the successful universality of Frightened Rabbit’s woe, Scott Hutchison has increasingly tried to avoid making his songs “feel like a diary entry” and on their latest record, Pedestrian Verse, attempted to plunge even deeper into the pool of collective experience.

"I think i wanted to be a little bit more cinematic in scope with the writing" Scott explained, "I use songs to process events but i was kind of externalising my viewpoint a bit more…" A mild but palpable vexation was passing through our small rowboat. The brothers seemed quietly confounded, their brows knotted beneath their sunglasses, listening to the hiss and flam of the small wooden oars being rinsed through the cool brown water. It was clearly hard for them to locate the exact point of genesis for their change in approach. Which made sense. Even without their initiation, change had found them. Frightened Rabbit were playing in larger venues, changing record labels and touring with bands they admired, all of which, according to Grant "changes you as a musician, in a natural way…" but something that was—Scott impressed—"more subconscious". For Frightened Rabbit, such change provided a key to the very survival of their band.

"I would like to treat our fans like they are intelligent people because they are". Scott was looking directly at me, propelling his words slowly and deliberately, for maximal force. "Treat your fan base in the way that you would like to be treated by your favourite band. Expand and adapt. Try a new way of expressing yourself."

But despite the enforced creative flux of Frightened Rabbit, the brothers Hutchison are careful to keep the band’s core intact. They won’t be:

1. Replacing all of their guitars with keyboards. A move that, to the brothers, “sounds like bullshit”.

2. Laying strings over everything. Which, instead of making a song bigger, creates something that “doesn’t sound big” but instead just creates “a mush, a saturation point”.

3. Playing a very particular drum line, “the scourge of all indie rock” according to Scott, which goes something like: “choo-do-do-choo-do-do-choo-do-choo-do-do-choo-do-do-choo-do” (think ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay).

 


As our boat continued its haul through the full sun at a stately pace, long, creaking bird calls rippled out from the banks.

"Did you see that duck?" yelled Scott. "It just went under the boat." Frightened Rabbit may have been demoted in regards to boating experiences, but in a musical sense, they are very much becoming. They have played sold out nights at the prestigious Barrowlands in Glasgow, a stage they played with varying degrees of nerves and disbelief and where they witnessed the seminal rock shows of their adolescence. And more recently Frightened Rabbit have not only played increasingly large festival stages around the world, but also toured the US with indie rock luminaries and defacto band mentors, The National. But despite being able to grasp the milestones that most rock bands only dream of, Frightened Rabbit’s dreams are far more insular.

"I think i’m more interested in creative milestones" Scott mused, "because that’s what ultimately people remember and so it’s the records for me that have the most importance…" Not to mention the personal milestones that the band have their sights set on. In 2014 Frightened Rabbit’s touring schedule is due to relax. Scott is moving to LA to live with his girlfriend and Grant is looking forward to spending some time in the apartment he spends money on but barely lives in. The constant tow of band and life has been a long one. And in 2014, the change in Frightened Rabbit’s focus and expanse looks poised to mirror the change in its members’ very lives.

"You sacrifice a lot over ten years of trying to make something of a band" explained Scott as we edged slowly back towards the dock. "And this year we’ve all decided that we’ve done that for long enough". They’ll still write new record, they’ll still play some shows. But in 2014 Frightened Rabbit will largely stay grounded, and presumably on dry land; mining even deeper into their ever-changing lives for our musical benefit.

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