Luke Telford, Crawlspace contributor
Best set of 2012 – Sky Needle at Serial Space in Sydney (and I don’t say that lightly, given what transpired at Sound Summit, and the fact that Earth finally toured this year).
On record, Sky Needle’s sound is brittle and tense. It’s minimal, perhaps by necessity, given their primitive home-made gear, but it bristles with a single-minded confidence. Each tune drives a single chord, mercilessly and articulately, into the ground, ushered by the wordless susurrations and siren-like holler of vocalist Sarah Byrne.
Rave Cave is a great record – easily one of the best in a strong year for Australian ‘underground’ music – but it bears only the most rudimentary of resemblances to the set the group played at Serial Space in Sydney as part of the Psycho Subtropics festival.
The constructions on Rave Cave feel measured and careful – live, they careened to and fro, spluttered to near-extinction and emerged out of the muck to spar with your ears some more before evaporating altogether. Not disjointed – the group played with a near prescient cohesion – just intoxicatingly chaotic. For one, I didn’t expect to physically feel the music – Joel Stern’s homemade electronics shifted some serious sub-bass when he wasn’t pedalling away at the wind instrument he’d pieced together out of tubing and inflatable mattress pumps. At one point, the bass (?) player broke his axe altogether, only to reach for another as though the music would’ve bull-dozed him if he didn’t. In a corner of the room, a decommissioned piano was being used rather forcefully as an improvised percussion instrument. Front and centre, Sarah Byrne rocked and wailed with an alarming swagger – at once our immediate conduit for the music, and untouchably lost in it. Spectacular.
Cooper Bowman, Crawlspace contributor
As far as Australian music in 2012 goes, mentioning Negative Guest List can’t really be avoided. The label has done more in the past year for sustaining and documenting the outer perimeter of Australia than most have done in their entire tenures. NGL birthed the best domestic LP of the year, Mad Nanna’s I Made Blood Better, and the best 7” from any fuckin’ place, Meat Thump’s Box Of Wine. I tried a coupla times to write a review of Box Of Wine but found it impossible to move beyond a loaded summation of its two songs and the context surrounding its release. Eventually I realised that sometimes its better not to say anything about music that already articulates its own message with absolute conviction. Instead just appreciating it for what it is, one of the few pure records from a country increasingly producing unnecessary rubbish for a widening audience.
Steph Kretowicz, Crawlspace contributor
Living outside of Australia but frequently looking in, you get a real sense of the country from afar. It has its definite strengths, in terms of guitar music (Bushwalking, UV Race and Taco Leg) and its weaknesses in slightly impeded electronica (No Zu and Holy Balm, even Michael Ozone’s delayed foray into last year’s global trend for tech nostalgia and data mashing in the ‘Perfect Systems’ video). Then it’s the bizarre though brilliant anomalies scattered across the country, from a consciously unfashionable Fabulous Diamonds to the clueless adaptability of Perth’s Mental Powers.
Mass communication and media aside, you can still feel the distance; the Antipodean continent living up to its reputation as a cultural frontier-land, where adverse social conditions and comparative isolation means there’s no shortage of strange and wonderful mutations. While the waves of international innovation take longer to get to Australian shores, in its stead is the enormous (but not unproblematic) success of unashamed musical anachronisms Tame Impala or the continuation of a comforting regional sound in Melbourne’s Boomgates. It’s an authenticity and idiosyncrasy that this country has managed to preserve in the face of a frighteningly homogenised global culture and its held true, at least for one more year.
Here are some of my favorite tracks of 2012:
Chief Keef – ‘Citgo‘
This only just came out as I put this list together – it’s a bonus track on Keef’s debut studio album for Interscope. It has grabbed me immediately though, to a greater degree even than the similarly hypnotic single Love Sosa (and the French Montana interpolation of ‘Love Sosa’, ‘Devil Want My Soul’). Melodically this is so incredibly removed from what we might expect from the usual trap autotune hooks, and perhaps someone with more rock/band knowledge than me could pinpoint what this sounds like exactly. Keef’s vocal tone on the chorus verges on a rollicking post-hardcore chant.
Major Napier – ‘Amazing / A Tribute to Jan Zajic‘
This is from Major Napier’s ‘Major Soldier’ EP released in January. Another amazing auto-tune exploration, though in quite a different direction. You might compare it to the extended ad-lib/solo on Kanye West’s ‘Runaway’, but Major Napier channels even more emotion through the alien vocal treatment. Was amazing to see this live during one of Major Napier’s Sydney shows this year, that was probably my favorite gig of the year.
Indigo – ‘Kali‘
I don’t know much about Indigo other than he’s from Manchester. The Wake EP released on Hypercolour this year is the strongest example of noise intersecting with techno that I’ve heard, in what has been a very fruitful year for that vibe. Kali in particular is incredible. Pressurized, hulking, oscillating but not hinging on being overly abrasive.
Rick Ross – ‘Hold Me Back‘ Remix Featuring Gunplay, French Montana, Yo Gotti & Lil Wayne
Rick Ross’ Rich Forever mixtape is one of my most-listened-to albums of the year, and the official album God Forgives, I Don’t has been in quite high rotation too. This is a remix of one of the singles from that album. Rozay continues to release singles that mine the territory of BMF, though with enough nuanced changes each time that I don’t mind in the least. The most impressive verse here in this remix is in fact the new verse that Ross himself offered, in which he concocts one of the most brilliant feats of suggestion in a career full of lyrics that
rely on connotation rather than claims,
“I GOT ONE OF MY FOOLS, HE DON’T LISTEN TO RAP”
Music that is about not listening to it, and the (apparently) desirable qualities that the act of not-listening suggests of those that don’t. Watch out for that genre in 2013!
Matt Kennedy, Kitchen’s Floor
It was kind of hard to sum up the year in words. here are some lists though:
In no particular order.
Satanic Rockers – Eviction
Meat Thump – Box of Wine
Straightjacket Nation – Nationalism
Ghastly Spats – We’re Breaking Through The Hymen!
Threads – Tall Building
Nun – Solvents
Martyr Privates – Native Son
Whores – Mob Reality
Mad Nanna – I’m Not Coming Here
Scraps – 1982
Lower Plenty – Hard Rubbish
Holy Balm – It’s You
Bitch Prefect – Big Time
Rites Wild – Ways Of Being
Blank Realm – Go Easy
Mad Nanna – I Made Blood Better
Bushwalking – First Time
Sky Needle – Rave Cave
Girls Girls Girls – Borsch
Sarah Mary Chadwick – Eating For Two
Fabulous Diamonds – Commercial Music
Boomgates – Double Natural
Top Live Performances
Raw Prawn @ Maggotfest
Wonderfuls @ Real Bad Music
Mad Nanna @ Paddock Bash Festival
Housewives @ Blackwire Records
Sewers @ Terrace Bar
Fig. @ Real Bad Music
Total Control @ Brisbane Laneway Festival
Rites Wild @ Judith Wright Centre
The Lost Domain @ Real Bad Music
Gerald Keaney & The Gerald Keaneys @ Chardon’s Corner Hotel
Cured Pink @ Real Bad Music
Girls Girls Girls @ The Time Machine
Scott & Charlene’s Wedding @ Judith Wright Centre