Album of the Week
Erika de Casier
February 23, 2024
Much has been made of the revival of 90s UK dance music and 2000s RnB within modern pop music, occasionally veering into cheap nostalgia or bandwagoning of 20 year cycle trends. What Erika de Casier understands in her own exploration of this sound is the high level of detail and fidelity consistent across music from the turn of the century; the advent of the digital world bringing a thrilling new sandbox for producers to play in.
Still, like her previous two records, is a frissionary experience, bursting with creativity but restrained and deliberate in execution. It almost feels a disservice to not listen on the best speakers or headphones possible, with each piano chord, guitar line or punctuating synth placed meticulously in exactly the right place.
Breakbeats are used tastefully, subtly apostrophising a kick drum or languidly keeping time. When breaking out into more up-tempo drum and bass, de Casier doesn’t hold back: the break on Lucky churning so rapidly it sounds like it might implode in on itself. No one does percussion like her. It’s the smallest moments – the subtle twist of a hand shaker, a cascade of twinkling bells, or the rattle of an empty drinking glass.
There’s an overarching coolness to de Casier’s music, helped foremost by her vocals: hushed, but never unconfident, inviting you to listen deeper. Her songwriting is as delicately constructed as her production, a skill that led her to co-write most of New Jean’s debut EP in 2023.
On the first half of Still, de Casier’s usual rainy RnB develops a heavier humidity. She has always borrowed creatively from hip hop, often using harpsichord sounds reminiscent of G- funk; similarly, ‘Test It’s synth line sounds like it could’ve been cooked up on a Minimoog in a 90s LA studio. Other tracks lean towards the low-end drive of southern hip hop: ‘ice’, with guest verses from Tampa rap duo They Hate Change, could easily have been a bonus track from Outkast’s Stankonia.
As much as Erika de Casier draws on a Y2K-esque sense of digital freedom, her music is simultaneously also a portrait of the anxieties of living in the new millennium. Each quivering string flourish underscores a sense of dramatic fatalism, particularly across Still’s second half, as de Casier navigates a haze of complicated relationships or just tries to find enough time to unwind and do laundry.
As pop continues to borrow from genres past, a new appreciation has arisen for the performers, songwriters and producers and of this era, with respect earnt for their craft beyond just commercial success. Still proves that Erika de Casier belongs in this league, a force in all these aspects and one of modern music’s great creators.
February 16, 2024
The Butchulla people have lived as owners of K’gari for over 5000 years. In the 20th century, their language almost disappeared forever. Government reserves and missions across the ‘Fraser Coast’ forbid the use of Butchulla language in attempts to wipe out knowledge and culture.
Fred Leone is one of three living Butchulla Songmen, a keeper of language and songlines of the Butchulla people, performed through song and dance. It’s a position of deeply important cultural custodianship, continuing the precious work of Butchulla generations past to who kept these songlines alive, saving crucial histories and connections to the land against all odds.
Yirinda, the debut album between Fred Leone and contrabassist and composer Samuel Pankhurst, is itself an act of preservation. Songs and stories once performed are now embedded as recorded, arranged pieces of music.
Every track on Yirinda is a vivid imagining of different Butchulla songlines, each in conversation with the stories and meanings of each. Some songs are minimal in construction, featuring just Leone’s Kuluru, (didgeridoo) or Bargain, (boomerangs). Sometimes only Pankurst’s yearning orchestral arrangements and drones accompany Leone’s singing, creating an aching, soaring soundscape.
Thrillingly, Yirinda is never static in sound. Other tracks venture into polyrhythmic free jazz, with plucked strings, trumpets and glitch giving an improvisational edge. And while some of the songlines themselves are thousands of years old, others are newer: Ba Gi Lam (Fighting) is a battle song against colonisation of K’gari.
In Butchulla, ‘yirinda’ means ‘now.’ As much as the record is an act of documentation, it’s also a continual re-living; a new representation of old knowledge, an enshrinement of something new, something special.
It Must Be Strange to Not Have Lived
February 9, 2024
Metallica’s fifth, self titled record, commonly referred to as The Black Album, was a major turning point for the band. Citing feelings of ‘musical insecurity’ towards their trademark maximalist, thrash sound, the band moved towards one that was more polished, with a focus on melody and production. The Black Album was both bold in direction yet, in the eyes of many fans, disappointingly ‘safe’ sonically, as Metallica were launched into stratospheric new commercial success.
Teether’s fifth solo record, It Must Be Strange to Not Have Lived, described by the rapper as his ‘own Metallica Black Album’ shares that record’s desire for metamorphosis. But while Metallica’s record pushed the band and the metal genre towards a more radio- friendly sound, It Must Be Strange To Not Have Lived is Teether burrowing deeper into his dark, hazy universe, cementing his place at the vanguard of underground hip hop.
A ‘young elder’ of the local scene, there’s both a weariness and wisdom to Teether across the It Must Be Strange…, each word doled out in a careful meter, as if to be considered with utmost importance. Through vivid imagery and black humour he provides an insight into his inquisitive mind, constantly weighing scattered observations and interactions, searching his way through a foggy path.
Playing guitar on most of the tracks, and sampling on Roland SP-404, Teether chops and screws sounds from across his deep discography and range of musical projects. Genres like metal, dub and footwork are scattered across the sludgy, scuzzy world of It Must Be Strange and resurrected as a new, unique soundscape. It both perfectly encapsulates his trademark, discombobulated sound, and allows him to chart new experiments in song structure and vocal melodies.
Speaking about the record, Teether says ‘No one but the traditional custodians and First Nations people of Australia have any real connection to this place…I think we have to represent that sense of disconnection in the music we make.’ It Must Be Strange To Not Have Lived is the sound of an artist on the true cutting edge, in deep consideration and conversation with his place in the world around him.
February 2, 2024
Small touches weigh heavily on Astrid Sonne’s Great Doubt. Across a minimal yet piercingly effective soundscape that constantly teeters between slight anxiety and nostalgic longing, Sonne ruminates on love, parenthood and the future.
While it shares a kindred spirit with the asymmetrical pop sounds of artists like Tirzah and ML Buch, Great Doubt is uniquely infused with Astrid Sonne’s compositional ear for classical arrangements. More than anything she understands how to use space and silence: when to punctuate it with flashes of cello or quivering drone, and when to let the song breathe with a single, affecting chord or arpeggio.
Astrid Sonne’s vision of bedroom pop is one where all instrumentals and touchpoints are on the table, whether it be deviations into spoken word, instrumental trip hop, or lumbering RnB. For an album built around uncertainty, Great Doubt is undoubtedly assured.
Shoelace & A Knot
January 26, 2024
Shoelace & A Knot, the debut record from Los Angeles band Yungatita, is a tightly constructed piece of punky, bright power pop. Fronted by multidisciplinary artist Valentina Zapata, the band evokes sounds familiar to lovers of 90s alternative and 00s indie: memorable hooks, creative tempo changes and gratifying emotional crescendos.
At times glistening and introspective, Shoelace & A Knot nevertheless keeps a satisfyingly gritty edge that emerges at the record’s most cathartic moments. It feels almost indelibly tied to youthful summers of days past; the sticky, stifling heat, the turbulence of friendships and relationships, the hopeful promise of never-ending sunny days. It’s an impressive debut from a band with an exciting future.
January 19, 2024
The latest release from MALI JO$E, El Niño is a product of community and intentional, thoughtful collaboration. Across 13 tracks and split into two sides, the mixtape is layered with incredible features – Tasman Keith, SHADOW, xmunashe, IJALE, to name only a few of the talented many – that make the record a holistic and varied release.
El Niño is unmatched in its production, featuring the talents of not only MALI JO$E himself but also Percy Flint, OJC43, The Alchemist and so many more. Tracks including ‘operation highjump’ and ‘afreeswan’ are textural experiences that weave together tender and clean cut samples with beautiful resonant instrumentals and smooth lyricism. The mixtape is in touch with its medium – both ‘Intro’ tracks are used as an opportunity to breathe, building scaffolding into the otherwise loose and atmospheric tracklist.
El Niño is inspired and courageous to say the very least, urging for creative and emotional freedom of expression as a path forward.
WARRIOR POUNDS THE MORTAR
December 15, 2023
WARRIOR POUNDS THE MORTAR is the latest album from Melbourne rapper and producer, Chef Chung. Across the record’s sixteen tracks, Chef Chung seamlessly drifts between jazzy and soulful samples, icier cloud-rap-inspired tracks and even the occasional RnB jam.
It’s a sound that could easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder with alternative rap peers like Ratking or sLUms. Similar to that alumni, Chef Chung is authentically personal, wearing his heart on his sleeve in his lyrics across the record. It’s his unique voice that ties the album together; hushed but confident, hazy and layered like smoke drifting through the air at dusk.
This tension between easiness and intensity makes WARRIORS POUNDS THE MORTAL so compelling – one minute a laidback car ride, the other a scrupulous investigation of Chef Chung’s mind. It’s an impressive release from one of the most exciting voices in the Melbourne underground.
December 8, 2023
On Acopia’s self-titled sophomore release,, they are sombre and yearning, tracing sketches of relationships with renewed retrospection. A collaborative project between Kate Durman (Purient), Lachlan McGeehan (Liluzu), and Morgan Wright, Acopia melts together with each member bringing their own expertise to the record.
On their first record Chances, Acopia established themselves as ones to watch, fronting Melbourne’s DIY electro and dream pop sound. On Acopia, they further follow through, embracing an evolved blend of immersive trip hop, pop, and post-punk. Vocals are sustained, synth-like and haunting, weaving between stripped flickering drumline textured keys and percussion.
Acopia successfully orchestrate a beautiful record, marrying each song to one another both sonically and thematically. Acopia is a universal album, relevant to any listener through the familiar feelings it explores – an album that’ll hold your hand. As a natural continuation for the band, the record is varied, consistent and progressing all at once.
BAYANG (tha Bushranger)
December 1, 2023
Antarctica is the culmination of a big year for the Sydney rapper BAYANG (tha Bushranger). Its his debut mixtape, but it feels less like an introduction and more like a victory lap – a toast to the vivid musical scope and love for collaboration present throughout his music.
Many of the themes that have characterised his work are present throughout: working class grind, the contradictions of music as a passion and as a career, the sometimes oppressive nature of Sydney city. But Antarctica filters these ideas through a new lens, thawing the fiery rage of REDBRICKGOTHIK (BAYANG’s album with noise group Bract), into a frostier, at times more melancholic sound.
A star-studded line up of producers help shape this vision, including Ninajirachi, Grasps and Ryan Fennis, bouncing BAYANG between glitchy cloud rap, plugg and drain. The feature list is similarly stacked: Sevy, FRIDAY* & Lil Pixie & stealthynoob are some of the many talents BAYANG taps on Antarctica, giving it the feel of an exclusive, leaked hardrive of late night studio sessions and off-the wall ideas.
It’s a show of BAYANG’s unending sense of community, conscious of and eager to build the ecosystem of both local and interstate talent. Antarctica is proof of BAYANG (tha Bushranger) as a musical project that’s chameleonic in all the best ways; never one note, complex and always authentic.
Dry Peel Crack
November 24, 2023
On their debut album Dry Peel Crack, Beryl emerge as one of Sydney’s most impressive indie rock acts. On it, duo Gabriela King and Alex Jasprizza construct songs that are both intimate and emotionally charged.
Dry Peel Crack builds on the folk sound previously developed on their debut 2022 EP, Keeping Score, but with an even richer soundscape. Dense layers of saxophones, flutes and clarinets add atmosphere and, at times, a quiet intensity to the personal ballads across the record.
But it’s Beryl’s newer forays into indie rock that sets Dry Peel Crack apart from earlier releases. Tracks twist and turn in unexpected directions, with skillful rhythmic flexibility. They’re also dynamically inventive, fluttering between softer and louder moments, or devolving into occasional noisy crescendos.
What makes Dry Peel Crack so compelling is the uniqueness of Beryl’s songwriting. Confident in their distinct vision, it’s a launching pad for what’s hopefully many more releases to come.