With a bold opening groove underpinning a killer melody line, this song grabs your attention and white knuckles it for all three minutes. Every few bars a new element is added to maintain interest, be it a (very) interesting vocal harmony, a glitchy synth line or an acoustic guitar. It is the greatest kind of sonic mash, one that assumes the best from us; that we can handle it.
Sparkle Gang is Mel Stringer, and not much is known except that she wrote this song on the 22nd floor of a Surfer’s Paradise apartment building, has buckets of talent, and a unique taste in album art. The tune is out through ZZAAPP Records, the Darwin-based project of Kris Keogh (who interestingly enough put out an incredible ambient album a few years ago with New Weird Australia that involved processed and cut-up harp sounds. It was great then, and it’s aged as well as a 1959 Penfolds Grange).
This release is more interesting still because they’ve included Mel’s original stripped-back acoustic demo for the track (which is stunning, incidentally) and comparing demo to final product really serves to highlight how much a song can evolve during the recording process. Like language, music isn’t static but alive and mutating constantly n dis iz wat makes music heapz gr8 lol*. There’s a soundcloud full of her very, very, very pretty acoustic wares that you should spend a while involved with.
*[Editors Note]: Sorry
As soon as you hear the first chants of “Kobe Kobe” you recognize that this is going to be a basketball song. “Chase your dream” croons Yeo, early in the piece. It’s hard to tell at this point whether the song is written to Kobe Bryant or from the point of view of Kobe Bryant but it becomes apparent at the 1:53 mark with the line “Summer heat on an empty street”. In that moment it suddenly blooms like a spring orchard and you know, you just know that this is Kobe dissing Lebron. Heat on an empty street? Oh no he didn’t.
(Yes he did.)
It’s hard to imagine Lebron letting this one slide and we’ll probably see him shoot back, maybe through a song by Gossling or Panama, though sources say he has some tendrils in the Saskwatch camp. This is the first time we’ve seen an NBA player commission a song from an independent Melbourne artist and given the profile of the player this might set a precedent we’ll see followed many times over upcoming season. It’s also interesting to see Yeo moving in this direction given the sentimentality of his previous gendered anthem ‘Girl’. That song managed to cultivate some audience for Yeo and this one is a strong followup for an artist who has been more active over the past few years than you may already realize. ‘Kobe’ features the same rumbling bass sound in the verses that was present in ‘Girl’ but the chorus is a far brighter synth overload. It’s right on the verge of over-polish but retreats before vertigo sends the whole thing plummeting into unlistenability. What we’re left with is a legitimate pop song cloaked in the greys and browns of an independent Melbourne production. Strong song Yeo, strong song.
So you may not realize but you know all these laptop DJs making huge cash money while perpetuating extreme digital beats? Well, that whole gag is actually more difficult than it looks. In the late 90s it was as easy as plugging in the right numbers and generating a track based entirely on an algorithm. Artists like The Chemical Bros and Prodigy were actually just fabrications of big business music moguls who were ready to cash in on current trends using prepared equations. They didn’t even exist as musical entities and their music videos were generated entirely using CGI to give the illusion that there were actually human faces behind the music. The scary reality is that all those songs were simply the output of a supercomputer that became known as Pilcrox-II from 1991 onwards.
Sadly, sometime during the 2005 pop-punk resurgence, the technology was lost. Guerilla organisations stole the powerpoint charger for Pilcrox-II which was only available at [the now defunct] Games Wizard in Chatswood which effectively heralded the end of electronic music as we knew it.
These days it takes a lot more work for our “computer music” friends to craft their songs but there is one has never stopped fighting the good fight. He is Tim Shiel. I’m contractually oblige to tell you that Tim Shiel is actually so good at using these modern computer software systems that he actually delivers webinars to underprivileged bedroom producers (many of whom don’t even have bedrooms) to give them the skills to pay the bills or at the very least, score a whole bunch of plays on soundcloud. In Tim Shiel there is hope that maybe we can still excavate some of what was lost in that golden age of electronica. Timothy’s most recent full length body of work is the Duet Soundtrack. This series of songs was designed to be heard interactively whilst playing the IOS game of the same name. It’s hard to say whether the game or the soundtrack is stronger which is testament to the quality of the both.
As if that weren’t enough, the whole entire damn thing has been handed over to some of Tim’s friends who have obliged him with shifty new takes on those thrumming originals. Actually that’s not quite right, these affairs are more than just remixes, extending into the realm of collaboration- taking and reshaping the fabric of the originals. Listen to this record from start to finish twice because this package shifts and changes and develops your mind with each submission. If I had to offer a complaint, and contractually I do have to offer a complaint, it’s that I would have liked to see a Shiel joint layered with some scuzzy vocal work over the top so as to take the recontextualising even farther. Not that this missing piece in any way damages these new incarnations which compile a diverse and interesting release and stand a bold contrast to the direct and focused work that was the original soundtrack. If I had to pick a favorite (and I do, contractually) mine is Clue To Kalo’s work on Pachinko. The guy has brought in a nod to videogame history by injecting a bassline akin to the Mario pipe segments, then pushed and pulled the beat around the song and thrown in a sub-continental vocal section.
I am also acutely aware that for a guy who claims not to enjoy remixes I’ve been writing about an awful lot of remixes these past few weeks. Forgive me my inconsistencies.
You might be wont to assume that the ‘holy triumvirate’ (as i understand the Sound Doc writers are now being collectively referred to in hushed tones by ‘music types’) are living in the glamorous world of the media. Feted constantly by champagne breakfasts, press releases, promos and interviews inhabited formerly only by the likes of Pitchfork and Dolly Magazine*. The reality of the situation is that this couldn’t be further from the truth, there are no press releases, interviews or feting – there is no champagne, there isn’t even any breakfast. Reggie Maurice doesn’t even have a home, he writes all his posts tapping McDonalds wi-fi sleeping at highway truck stops. He’s a really lovely guy though, don’t forget that. Rather we grind our grubby little noses around the far flung corners of the internet in search of “that sound”.
It was on one such journey deep into the heartland of soundcloud that we uncovered the impossible to google Problems Music. Problems music has evolved out of the Adelaide bedroom of Justin Walkden, initially a solo project before expanding to bring in Shane Lock on vocals. They’ve released a handful of tracks onto soundcloud ahead of an EP coming later this month.
The pieces we have so far show us glitchy loop based pop, covered in wavering vocals. The sort of music that soundtracks the scenes of expectant hope just before the climactic scenes in indie dramas. Across their soundcloud’s content you’ll hear fingerpicked moments and sitar meanderings spliced among flittering synth and what to me sounds like a pair of vocalists rather than just the one piper as listed. Beneath it all the more drawn out synth chords recline, pretending the part of a string section. Sink your teeth into it today, and wait for more tomorrow.
*[Tommy: This is actually an accurate summary of my own side of things, there's just no flow through on the Sound Doctrine income streams so...]
D.D Dumbo is older than the earth itself, an institution that was birthed into life amid lashing tongues of flame and ash, tendrils of smoke oozing from the ground as titans fought over right of ownership while empires rose and fell in earnest and heated defence of the Dumbo moniker. His hands have healed the ailments of the lame, dictatorships have been crushed under his heel and his lips peel back in condemnation of humanity’s inequity. His 2012 EP broke most olympic records in the fields of athletics, aquatics, equestrian, shooting and deadweights while his Who The Hell photo essay won the 2013 world press photo. Each and every visual representation (including the video below) contains constant and exclusive use of the divine section while mathematically speaking, all five songs from his EP demonstrate the same golden ratio. Many have put down his extreme sonic expressionism to an absence of both sweat glands and tear ducts and theorise that it’s merely a case of his body finding the best way to dispense of excess fluids.
Castlemaine – New recordings on the way – Destroyed SXSW