In the second edition of our series of “International Acts You Should Be Excited About,” we discuss artists from Australia creating all sorts of interesting sounds, from jangling indie-pop to experimental psych-rock.
Castlemaine native Oliver Hugh Perry, a.k.a. D.D. Dumbo, released his debut, self-titled EP last October (The Blue Rider / 4AD). A wealth of styles seem to impact the five tracks, each one showcasing another way in which he has taken these influences to create a sound that is distinct, powerful and entirely his own. The guitar work on lead single “Tropical Oceans” and closing track “Alihukwe” are an amalgamation of the dark, impassioned blues of America and Africa, with the heavy use of effects pedals and a twelve-string guitar throwing an Eastern tinge into the mix. The desert-drone is lifted by tribal-esque, pounding drums that open the EP, adding ferocity to the expansive melodies and to Perry’s soaring vocal work. Couple all of this with a cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” — it sounds like a defeated love cry from the gutter — and the stomping groove of “Dinghy” and we’re left with an EP that promises nothing but an exciting future for the ‘loop-pop,’ one man band that is D.D Dumbo.
Formed in 2006, Melbourne’s Big Scary is the indie-pop brainchild of Tom Iansek and Joanna Syme. Their stream of releases has earned them a loyal fan base and well-deserved recognition for 2013’s Not Art, earning the duo the 9th Coopers Australian Music Prize. Not Art, which was released in the States on Seattle’s Barsuk Records, somehow managed to sound both stripped back and wonderfully layered. Iansek’s careful piano and guitar melodies are complimented by Syme’s tasteful drumming and the occasional electronic loop or drum pattern. Their vocals are nothing short of pure emotive sincerity, tiptoeing the line between confidence and hesitance and often delivered in smoky and hushed croons on tracks like “Harmony Sometimes,” “Lay Me Down” and, album highlight, “Twin Rivers.” That’s not to say that Big Scary can’t pack a punch. Album opener “Hello, My Name Is” is an explosive and cathartic opening statement of crushing guitars and drums that proves that, despite appearing delicate, the band is a force of nature. They recently re-entered the studio to begin work on their third LP, fresh on the heels of Iansek’s 2014 experimental solo release under the No.1 Dads moniker, About Face (a personal favorite), whatever Big Scary come out with next will surely pluck at our heart strings, demanding to be heard.
Including Alpine in this list seems like cheating. Even though the group, formed in 2009, are based in Melbourne, they are almost certainly from a world more magical and sparkly. Comprised of Phoebe Baker and Lou James on vocal duty, with Ryan Lamb, Christian O’Brien, Tim Royall and Phil Tucker handling bass, keys, guitar, and drums, Alpine create music so crisp and layered that it is hard to accept that it has been crafted by mere mortals. Their 2012 debut, A is for Alpine (on Sydney record label, Ivy League), contained a collection of twelve tracks that took themes of love, loss, and fear and turned them into infectious indie-pop/rock tunes. Opening track, “Lovers 1,” offers a perfect summation of the band’s goals: to make you dance while simultaneously feeling something. The track begins with a smooth, simple, plucked guitar line accompanied by the airy, resonant vocal harmonies that define the album. The track builds with layers of distorted keys, twinkling bells and a controlled, yet powerful drum beat. The record flows into tracks such as lead single, “Hands,” with its haunting harmonies and addictive groove, and “Gasoline,” with its bubbly guitar lick and a chorus you’ll be humming for days. They have been teasing fans with social media updates regarding the progress of their next album, anticipated to drop later this year. With any luck, the album will be supported by expansive touring and an increased fan base in the Northern Hemisphere. Expect more dancing, more harmonies, and plenty more catchy choruses. In the meantime, let’s all just anticipate Alpine’s return and let them take us to their otherworldly realm of music.
Other Worthy Mentions:
Airling: Down-tempo, emotive, warm electronica by Brisbane singer, Hannah Shepherd. Her debut EP, Love Gracefully, is available now.
Pond: This experimental Psych-Rock group has links to fellow Perth rockers, Tame Impala. Recommended for fans of colorful guitar playing, expansive soundscapes and relentless groove. Their new album, Man, It Feels Like Space Again is out on Caroline Records.
Jonathan Boulet: The style of this Melbourne DIY rocker has varied over the course of three albums from uplifting, chant-heavy, epic indie-rock to a far more monstrous rock and roll sound (see: 2014’s Gubba). Boulet is an understated master songsmith.
Caitlin Park: Sydney based folktronica artist whose 2014 LP The Sleeper is a trip well worth investing in. Sounds like a combination of the gutsy folk of the likes of Laura Marling and Lucy Rose and the weird and wonderful experimentation of now disbanded ‘found-sound’ crafters, The Books.
Next up: we’ll investigate some of the best music Scotland has to offer.