Hira Hira – Seasick

28 12 2010

ALRIGHT! I’m going to try to overcome my (currently quite strong) Starcraft II addiction and begin to write about music again. Accordingly, this is a short one – mainly a tip-off to those who don’t already know that the Hiras have put up an unmastered version of a new song, Seasick, for streaming over on their bandcamp.

Seasick continues to mine the more melodic vein the band first opened up on their split with Little a, albeit with much thicker, shinier production. It sounds a little like the band are aiming for bigger venues – their familiar rolling three-four jaunt  is gaining something approaching grandiosity here.  Adam and Kris trade vocals and a big “holllld on!” hook.

This’ll be on the split with To The North that’s coming out next year – consider me excited.


I return!

20 11 2010

So. Right now I am drunk-ish. But I am posting here to signal my intention to resurrect Arbitrary Lines, give it a makeover and update it more regularly. Artists I’m planning to write about include:

  • Mere Women
  • Absolute Boys
  • Let Me Down Jungleman Gently
  • Aleks and the Ramps (again)

The Weight And The Sea: Australian slowcore

21 03 2010

‘Slowcore’ is one of those fairly silly genre names that people laugh at me for using. The thing is, as with all silly genre names, the term wouldn’t have passed into what for my purposes I’ll call common use if it wasn’t so damned useful. And, as I always point out when protesting my innocence, I didn’t make it up.

Despite the ‘core’ in slowcore being something of a misnomer – not having anything to do with hardcore punk, as one might infer – it’s a pretty amusing and efficient way of describing a certain subset of indie rock artists that play particularly, consistently, relentlessly slow music. Going with this patch of musical territory are arrangements that are by necessity subtle, sparse affairs. Chords and notes are left hanging in space. You can hear the restraint in the drumming. And there’s occasionally a country and western influence (often so slight as to be barely discernible).

What I want to explore here is a history (not necessarily chronological) of some of the slowcore music to be produced in Australia. Even though, as far as music criticism goes, the Australian landscape in song is a slightly tired area of discussion, I do believe that Australian landscapes, both physical and cultural, lend themselves to slowcore’s forms of expression. At a basic metaphorical level you can see how a musical genre where relatively fewer notes are strung out across large, mostly deserted stretches of time can be compared with a country where relatively fewer people and settlements are strung out across large, deserted stretches of land.

In fact slowcore’s adeptness in describing or harmonising with Australian psychogeography has led to a certain amount of its influence passing into popular Australian alternative rock. And more importantly, when I hear this kind of music, I can mostly tell, on some irritatingly ineffable level, which bands are Australian and which are not. Here’s a selection of Australian songs that loosely fit within the slowcore category, which I will proceed to ramble about.

Read the rest of this entry »


28 02 2010

I once saw Kirin J. Callinan (solo artist, former guitarist with now-defunct hype kids Mercy Arms, and contributor to messy Sydney supergroup/collective Fashion Launches Rocket Launches) perform this song at Decolonise Festival on Invasion Day 2008. Love/Delay is a really beautiful piece of music. Forgive the drumming screw-ups in this version and I think you’ll agree with me.

Final Ghosts Of Television show tonight

18 02 2010

There’s a good chance that if you’re reading this you already know, but Sydney’s cult post-punk antiheroes Ghosts Of Television are performing for the final time tonight at Oxford Arts Factory in Darlinghurst. It’s a late show, with Dominic Talarico kicking off proceedings at 11pm. Get down there and witness the end of something amazing.

In other news, forgive my lack of posts – I haven’t had the internet at home and it’s been doing me a world of good. However the next feature is coming soon and a couple of reviews and things are in the works as well.

Recent History: the post-punk revival (pt 1)

24 01 2010

Running across an Expatriate album on a friend’s iPod the other week got me thinking about the rash of bands that sprang up in Australia (particularly in Sydney) between 2004 and 2008 in the wake of the success of Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Interpol, The Rapture and the like. For lack of a better term the bands playing music in this vein were variously characterised as being part of ‘the post-punk revival’, the ‘new-wave revival’ or as playing ‘dance-punk’, ‘indie-dance’ or, somewhat erratically, ‘nu-rave’.

Anyway, it struck me that so many of these bands are defunct, broken up or otherwise faded into relative obscurity. And it’s quite eerie to consider that this was the first musical movement that I feel I’ve closely observed from rise to fall, having moved to Sydney at the beginning of 2006 when the city was fully in thrall to the glamour of the post-punk revival. “Modular Records,” a new friend told me at the time, “think they own this fuckin’ town.” Much the same could be said of promoters like Boundary Sounds and Popfrenzy, both of which arose around the turn of the century and came into their own organising ‘crossover’ nights where indie bands and DJs co-existed in harmony. This was a fairly big deal at the time – as recently as the late 1990s many Sydney bands were directing antagonism towards DJs for contributing (along with poker machines) to the death of ‘rock venues’ by filling dancefloors for a fraction of the space or cost of hiring a band.

But circa 2005/2006 you could wander down to the biggest nightclubs in the city (notably HOME on Darling Harbour) – massive clubs in other years reserved for mainstream pop-house DJs and rarely for bands – and dance to bands made up of dudes in skinny jeans playing wiry four-to-the-floor post-punk stuff with lyrics yelped in British accents. The scene was marked by its overt debt to the 80s and its strong connections to the fashion world – designer jeans label Ksubi (then Tsubi) were prominent and Cut Off Your Hands’ Blue On Blue EP was released by Levi jeans’ short-lived Levity record label. Another feature was the extreme ambition of bands whose hype outweighed their actual output. People really believed they were going to get famous and end up on the cover of the NME.

The musical trend has certainly moved on – skinny jeans and disco-beat high-hats are no longer in favour quite as much, at least. What exactly has taken its place is harder to quantify – in Sydney there’s been something of a counter-push by psychedelic and shoegaze bands like The Laurels and Warhorse, an upsurge of bands taking cues from the swampy, bluesy punk of The Birthday Party, and a wave of ‘experimental pop’ groups like Ghoul, Kyu, Seekae and megastick fanfare.

In any case here’s a sample of some of the bands that exemplified the trend in Sydney and Australia. I still feel like many of them were entertainingly addictive and maddeningly arrogant in roughly equal measures.


The Valentinos – Man With The Gun

Later on these guys had to change their name to Lost Valentinos, but as The Valentinos, this was their ubiquitous early single. As Jonny Polaroids writes:

During a brief period of Sydney music, when you couldn’t swing a Candy’s Apartment without hitting a skinny jean cunt dancing to a Kings Of Leon disco remix, The Valentinos ruled this town.

That said, it took them until 2009 to actually put an album out. Having looked this up on YouTube I’ve also just noticed that the description of their clip for 17 Deaths, a tacky horror-movie thing, somewhat tastelessly makes a point of mentioning that it was shot in the same national park where Ivan Milat tortured and buried seven backpackers.


Starky – Is This How It Ends?

Sydney band Starky occupied something more of the celebratory, major key territory of the genre. They started out on Laughing Outlaw Records, were later signed to Universal but broke up after leaving a few decent singles like this one as well as Hey Bang Bang and Me Michelle.


Damn ArmsTest Pattern

In much the same way as Brisbane band The Saints pre-dated The Sex Pistols, Melbourne’s Damn Arms pre-dated British nu-rave hype kids Klaxons by about six months. I loved this song when I first heard it (as an next Crop mp3 download from Triple J) and learned the bassline. This song and that Death From Above 1979 album are still the only reasons I’d consider buying a bass fuzz pedal. Test Pattern actually achieves the frantic, buzzing energy that makes this kind of stuff worth doing, and I think it’s because Damn Arms formed from the ashes of Snap! Crakk! who played house shows with hardcore bands in Adelaide. That is, they didn’t start out playing in nightclubs with expectations of fame, like a few other bands in this genre did.


More soon!


14 01 2010

For those who asked, Arbitrary Lines is still going, I’m just attempting to work out how best to structure the next series of articles I want to do, which will be concerned with gender in pop and indie.

In the meantime, have a read of this review I wrote in 2008 for a ‘Music & Popular Culture’ elective at UTS.  I didn’t pay any attention to Alps who also played on the night in question because I was already well over the word limit for the assignment. I regret this.

This review was also written before I really knew the residents of MGTVLE, and the bands that played there – so forgive the flippant, critical tone, I was really just trying to do my best Simon Reynolds impression for the tutor.

MGTVLE was shut down by Marrickville City Council in mid-2009. Consider this a farewell/retrospective thing.

Cities only reveal themselves to you achingly slowly – this is something I have learned. Read the rest of this entry »