New Music

Listen: Vodka Sparrows – Nestle Up To Me Dear Fool

Vodka Sparrows is the duo of Anthony Guerra (Love Chants) and Mark Leacy (Castings, Hour House). This cassette, entitled Nestle Up To Me Dear Fool, was originally recorded in 2005 but hasn’t seen the light of day until now.

Listening to the excerpt below, it’s easy to identify the Love Chants connection. It’s sad, deep night instrumental music with a slightly dark edge which isn’t present on the two Love Chants EPs. The tape is available through Alberts Basement.


Beautiful Decline: Hour House’s Stroke reviewed


The facts: Hour House is the work of two former members of Newcastle group Castings, specifically Mark Leacy and Sam Kenna. They’re now based in Melbourne. Stroke is their first proper cassette release as Hour House, though they have also released music as Motion (Sic). Cooper Bowman, who runs the Altered States Tapes label, also features occasionally.

It’s hard to avoid drawing parallels with Castings, but one factor stands in contrast: I was surprised by this tape because I expected something far more fiddly and tentative. Castings always sounded tentative: a gathering of sounds which struggled captivatingly to transcend their beginnings. These occasionally erupted into moments either ugly or darkly beautiful, even both of these things at once. Stroke, on the other hand, sounds like a narrative. It sounds impeccably structured. It also, mood wise, feels like a decline. Several discrete declines contained inside a much larger one.

There’s a funereal atmosphere to Stroke. The empty frequency mourning at its beginning gives way to a warm glow part way through the cassette’s A-side. A fog of synths flag slowly at their edges, like heat on tarmac, and the melodies sound at the verge of disappearing. When this passage evaporates an ugly tape loop marks a more pure form of degradation. This theme of decay is apparent all the way through Stroke. Its containing world circles a drain. The A Side is a bleak, shallow ascent and then a long nauseating descent into death.

Its B-Side is different. A choral sample declines slowly, soon replaced by a sampled voice demanding it be allowed to sing in the background, to which another replies: “alright, but sing waay in the background!”

This is very funny, but Hour House is never at any other point funny. Listening to Hour House can sometimes feel like slowly going insane. All of its parts – the synths that struggle for brightness, the torpid washes of soft noise, the menacingly circular samples – achieve a state of mild, despondent paranoia.

Maybe this sense of mental unwellness is what naturally occurs when heavily treated and looped samples are allowed to sustain for too long. Or maybe it’s chemistry.  Afterall, there’s no doubting that much of the B-side here is reminiscent of The Caretaker’s productions, a project which deals solely in austerely manipulated source materials. But in the end, Hour House is focused on a more gruelling, less diagnosable and more personal trajectory of degradation. These sides are marked by glimpses of uncomplicated, fraying beauty which serve to make the bleaker parts all the more barren and unsettling.

Stroke is available through Altered States Tapes.


Castings @ The Pharmacy, Newcastle (September 2012)

Some people have Black Flag, others Velvet Underground or The Stooges. I have Castings. I’m not sure that I can objectively write about the band that changed my life, but I can give it a shot.

Before hearing Castings, the appeal of noise’s unending static had been totally lost on me. When Nick Senger handed me a CD-R of Punk Rock is Bunk Squawk when it was released five or six years ago, it was a game-changer. I’m not saying Castings are noise – that idea is so stupid I won’t even bother going into it. What I mean to say is that it opened my ears to what music could and, more importantly, should be. Punk Rock’s disparate combination of ethereal beauty and abject repulsiveness immediately hit me where it mattered. It was weird, unique, and completely devoid of the pretension I later found was synonymous with most ‘experimental’ music. People I knew and could relate to made it, and it helped blow out some of the garbage I’d been infecting my ears with up until that point. Castings led me to reading and ultimately writing for Negative Guest List, Brendan Annesley being possibly the only other person I know who shared my devotion to them. They shaped the way I hear and think about music. I owe everything to them.

2007’s Punk Rock is Bunk Squawk

Yvonne Ruve, Castings’ former venue and rehearsal space in Hibernian House, Sydney

When the possibility of them playing during Sound Summit was mentioned to me a while back, I was filled with equal parts anticipation and apprehension. Knowing the band’s tumultuous history and propensity for collapsing live, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, or if it would even materialise at all. Well, they did play, doing so unannounced at a re-purposed pharmacy (The Pharmacy) on the wrong side of the tracks to a room full of mates, smoke and well-dressed types alike. They didn’t collapse, but instead they bloomed into the towering monument of honest communication that I’d hoped and knew they were. Castings were what some of their well paid contemporaries from out of town playing across the road should have sounded like: a sprawling psychedelic mess of electronics and bad drugs.

Melted from too much booze, time in the sun and social contact, I’ve retained only vaguely illuminated impressions of their set. The equipment and approach of the members had changed since last time, but the sound that was created was undoubtedly still them. Simultaneously melancholic, transcendental and just plain fuckin’ weird, Castings is the seminal music of Newcastle. Their thirty or so minute set took on several manifestations, significantly driven through several of them by Dale Rees’ recently assembled modular synth abomination, which coloured it with a distinctly electronic haze. This transition from the organic defectiveness I mostly associated with their previous output to an almost dependable electronic backbone initially came as something of a surprise, but quickly made absolute sense once it sunk in. Castings is six people, but it is also one heaving, living totality with its own course. It’s not always gonna be pretty, but it will always be the sum of its parts and nothing else.

This may have been the last live collective breath of Castings, and if so then I’m glad I was there to hear that they didn’t go out with a fart. I could say more, but any other impression I had of their set was a personal one and would probably be lost on anyone who wasn’t there or mates with the people involved. For everyone who wasn’t or isn’t, there are some recordings of it floating around, maybe they’ll surface outta the smog eventually. If not, you’ll just have to wait for the hologram tour in 2080.


If you haven’t heard Castings, head over to their Soundcloud page or visit their Tumblr for info on releases. For an overview of their work, read this feature at Cyclic Defrost.

New Music

Listen: Orinokoflo – Arnica

Castings were one of my favourite live bands, so it’s comforting to know several members are still active in the form of Melbourne’s Orinokoflo – namely Mark Leacy and Sam Kenna, in addition to Cooper Bowman, who writes for this site sometimes. ‘Arnica’ is vaguely reminiscent of Castings, except this is an entirely synth and tape based affair and, if you listen all the way to the end, you’ll notice the group lift out of the initial suffocating fog into something that is almost… cheerful? Whatever the case, the opening tumult recedes about halfway through and a bass lead stickies everything together. You can bob your head to it.

They’ve tagged the track “shonky electronics” on their Soundcloud page, which sounds very fitting. There’s also a live recording of a recent Gasometer gig, which is a lot looser than ‘Arnica’.

Orinokoflo have a tape coming out soon according to their Facebook page. They’re also playing at the Altered States show in Newcastle next month, which is part of Sound Summit.