New Music

Listen: The Backstabbers – 2002

From the Backstabbers – a duo of Dick Diver’s Rupert Edwards and School of Radiant Living’s Amy Hill – comes a band that creates hypnotic investigations of simple formulas. With the absence of a drum kit or protective coat of mid-song wig-outs that usually accompanies their songwriting in their respective bands, The Backstabbers brand of folk becomes quite stark and unforgiving. Despite this, they still deal with surface humour, labelling themselves “the king and queen of dole rave,” even though the winner of those titles hasn’t been announced yet.

‘2002’ is from The Backstabbers’ recent cassette ‘SHAME,’ released on tape label Hideotic. Some of the songs seem forgettable at first, but are almost always emotionally striking by their end. That’s not to say they’re inherently emotional though. On the embedded track ‘2002,’ Edwards doesn’t get around to saying anything at all really. You tend to fill the spaces with your own experiences. Other tracks on the tape like ‘Internet Friends’ dabble in a strange ’60s lounge vibe. They could just as easily accompany a lonely shot of Peter Falk considering his feelings on an episode of Columbo.

Acoustic/folk bands don’t seem to be on the agenda of most people interested in underground music (unless it’s written by reformed punks in the case of someone like Lower Plenty). Maybe because it’s not as blatantly confrontational or enjoyable as something with intended gusto. I feel like this straight-out expression of ‘feelings’ that The Backstabbers convey here is more confronting than having someone yell in my face for half an hour though. The Backstabbers sound more likely than anyone to play unsettlingly to an empty room.

The ‘SHAME’ cassette is out now on Hideotic and is available for purchase from the Eternal Soundcheck and Distort distros (and record stores as well.)


Just Your Average Bloke Next Door: Snake Cassette Reviewed


At a recent Dick Diver show in Sydney, Al Montfort’s on-stage appearance felt like that of a sitcom character as received by a live studio audience. He would smile wryly, and before he had spoken, the crowd would meet him with whoops and hollers. I found it unsettling that an audience could so outwardly and unquestionably enjoy a moment that hadn’t happened yet, but I supposed that was the strength of his charm. If Al Montfort has the ability to turn a crowded room into a canned laugh track as part of Dick Diver, then he has let that slide for his solo tape. On the Snake cassette, there’s very little to laugh along with.

Snake was recorded by Montfort both on his travels in India and on his return home. On it, songs are written around any one of a saxophone, guitar, organ, drum machine or – more unexpectedly – Eastern instruments like the Sarangi and Assamese buffalo horn. The tape sounds very insular (as you’d expect from a bedroom/dorm-room recording), but that feels like a requirement. It explores ideas that would probably be rapidly vetoed by a group, and it’s those undesirable sounding concepts that are so deeply affecting.

Culturally and emotionally, this tape is flooded with loneliness, and Montfort drives at feelings of alienation via two approaches. One is to mindlessly wander over a foreign instrument as a backdrop; the other is to tunelessly narrate wayward thoughts over cheap, conventional instrumentation. There are also meditative moments subtly disguised as drawn out lyrics. It’s a travelers tape, and the feelings of culture shock, confusion and neurotic personal explorations won’t be lost on anyone who has ever walked down a foreign street as the lives of strangers played out unsettlingly.

In looking at these ideas, Snake doesn’t force the point. There are no over-literal stories or blatant musical moments of East-West fusion, just backdrops and vocal snippets left to be read into. He hums “I can’t help you” over the toy tones of a drum machine a few moments before a Sarangi takes over. He repeats the panicked line “What’s he laughing for?” as foreign sounds interject. Later, he mutters “The world is made for two, I don’t think that’s true, but hell I’m glad I found you,” through lazily filled silences. These feelings of re-filed personal philosophies and self-assessment permeate slowly, but always strongly.

Snake leaves me feeling insignificant and unsettled in the same way that I have felt when I’ve travelled and returned to social circles that carried on unaffected. It’s also surprisingly good company. When the tape ticks off abruptly at the end of each side, I find the ensuing silence as affecting as anything that has actually been recorded.

It takes the wind out of my sails when I listen to it in the morning and it leaves me restless when I listen to it at night.


Released by Hideotic, the Snake cassette is available through Distort and Repressed.