New Music

Listen: Four Door – Meeting Rooms


Four Door is the duo of Jonathan Hochman from Holy Balm and Matthew Hopkins of Naked on the Vague and Half High. Together they create drowsy, uncomfortable techno that deals with “workplace relations, taxation, policy and procedures, and various other civic banalities”. The fittingly titled ‘Meeting Rooms’ does sound very grey, but it’s infused with a kind of workaday surrealism – the inherent strangeness of banal processes, the illusory concept of freedom. Indeed, the locked 4/4 rhythm here is very functional and plain, proceeding at a serviceable and unobtrusive tempo, but the modulating synths and submerged vocals offer a kind of drowsy menace. Stare at the grey wall inside your cubicle and realise why you’re really here, and why you’ll never leave.

Four Door’s debut 12 inch will release soon on Nihilistic Orbs.


Half High – Suspension (CD-R/CS)

halfhighsuspensionStare at the fuzz of an empty television frequency for long enough, and the distortion will take on illusory shapes. Stare at it further, and it may appear there is a transmission struggling to manifest. That’s what Half High’s debut reminds me of. It reminds me of how that transmission would sound had it the strength to broadcast with clarity; were it truly something inanimate stirring into life.

Horror isn’t a satisfyingly precise descriptor, but as a genre it fits this record okay. A duo comprising Lucy Phelan and Matthew Phelan of Naked on the Vague, Half High generate the sensation of being privy to some dreaded, arcane knowledge that is (and always has been) there, despite our refusing it. Substantial, irrefutable evidence of some truth we don’t want validated, buried and strenuously forgotten, newly exhumed. Analogue synths, tape manipulations and drowsy vocalisations mark proceedings, but none of these elements ever sound like they’re being “played”. This music is an ancient presence.

There’s a complete absence of violence and/or event here, yet Suspension places us right in the thick of something strange and threatening. The horror just is. It’s all around you. This is the calm amid the storm. In a brief Q&A last year, Hopkins noted the “almighty existential horror” of clocks, and the power they have to govern virtually all of humanity. Much of Suspension sounds like some kind of system or mechanism lethargically processing itself into actual consciousness through sheer force of repetition. ‘#10’ comprises two penetrating tones that modulate with little interference, until finally a warped, baritone voice mutters something indecipherable, conjuring the cold conveyor-tied repetition to life. It’s a newly sentient system neither malignant nor friendly, just horrifyingly – and impossibly (!) – alive.

Don’t be led to believe Suspension is an impenetrably dark album though, because sometimes it’s very beautiful. If the bulk of the record trades in horrific miniatures, ‘#9’ pans outwards to take in the chrome green impression of everything operating at once: distant gaseous and amorphous textures politely interfering and blending with the whole. The closing synth modulations on track three would be threatening if they didn’t lure the listener into an uneasy, narcoleptic calm.

We’ve heard hints of this before. Hopkins’ early solo projects – Bad Tables and Lamp Puffer – were both reminiscent of slumbering techno-apparitions showing slight evidence of movement. Phelan’s early Knitted Abyss project was more organic, yet it drifted and undulated in a similar fashion to some of the tracks on Suspension. What results is a record that may surprise even longterm Naked on the Vague fans, not because it’s intrinsically better or unexpected, but more for its impressively careful awakening of that other. Here they untie, rather than wrest. The sledgehammers have been forcedly removed. Stare into the void, watch it come to life.

Label: Self-released
Release date: December 2012

Suspension is available at Repressed Records and Pigeon Ground in Sydney, and Wooly Bully in Melbourne. You can order through Albert’s Basement, or email the band directly at matthewphiliphopkins [at] gmail [dot] com

New Music

Listen: Half High – #6

halfhigh1As we pointed out back in August, Half High is a new project for Lucy Phelan and Matthew Hopkins of Naked on the Vague. The duo released a promo video earlier this year which showcased their newly tense and eldritch synth compositions – accompanied by haunted visages of a very malevolent looking clock face. The duo has finally released a CD-R independently called Suspension, and yes, the clock track features on it (it’s the opener) but today we’re going to show you something new from the disc, which was recorded in Gent, Belgium and then compiled back in Sydney.

We’ll be back with a proper review of this debut so we don’t want to waste too many of our precious similes and adjectives, but on first listen the album’s sixth track (the tracks are nameless) stood out the most. The track puts me in mind of some of Mordant Music‘s Tower recordings, and relatedly, the three-disc Thanet album Receiving Calls from a couple of years back. But vague comparisons be damned, this is just beautiful. Haunted secret gardens and the brambled cliff faces that wall them in.

The CD-R will soon be available at Repressed Records and Pigeon Ground in Sydney, and Wooly Bully in Melbourne. You can order through Albert’s Basement, or email the band directly at matthewphiliphopkins [at] gmail [dot] com .

In related news, Lucy from Half High is playing a show in Sydney this Friday night alongside Michael Ozone, Matthew Brown and Pettigrew. The night after, Matt’s other duo Four Door (with Jonathan Hochman of Holy Balm) will play Goodgod Small Club with Catcall and Model Citizen.

New Music, News

Half High: New Naked On The Vague Related Project

Half High is a new project by Matthew Hopkins and Lucy Phelan of Naked on the Vague, and right at the bottom of this text is a short promo video to give you an idea of where they’re heading. Curiosity piqued, we got in touch with Lucy and Matt to get some more information about the new project. We’ll speak to these guys in greater depth once they have a release out, which is likely to happen by the end of the year.

If you want to see Half High playing, you can see them at Sound Summit next month, or you could go see Pete Swanson at the Red Rattler on Friday night. Maybe you could even do both.

Why did you form Half High? What were the circumstances.
The idea for Half High arose out of some jams Lucy and I did years back which were abstract, ambient-type soundscapes. These pieces had a similar sound to some of the stuff NOTV had done such as the Mickey Mouse tape, and Twelve Dark Noons soundtrack, but seemed to suggest something different somehow. Whilst we were both living in Belgium earlier this year we decided to revisit this sound, and think about how it could evolve into an audio-visual project.

What is the difference between this and NOTV?
Basically we wanted to work on a new project that wasn’t limited to being a ‘band’ in the strictest sense. We wanted to explore sound making that could have a number of outcomes such as recordings, video, installations etc. Half High uses a much different set up to NOTV – more tapes, electronics, ambiance, and room for improvisation work to create more of a damaged new age kind of sound.

Is NOTV still operating?
Not at the moment. We’ve been on an extended break for about a year now.

You guys seem obsessed with clocks. Why?
Clocks are incredible devices if you think about the power they have in governing our lives. There is an almighty existential horror to this fact. But they are also just lumps of wood and plastic with printed numbers and ticking parts, [so] why do we rush around like they are ‘real’? Measuring time is essential I suppose, but it’s so absurd that we somehow manage to mechanically monitor such a mutable, abstract thing.

The duo also played live to air on a Belgian radio station back in May. It’s spooky.