Music is strange when it’s broadcast from a distance and misshapen along the way. Recent anecdotal example: the other day a North Sydney office building hosted a charity sausage sizzle on the sidewalk of one of the business precinct’s busiest streets. The stand had a huge set of speakers blasting chart pop, and from my perch ten stories above, behind heavy-duty plate glass and the dull ambiance of an office, it sounded totally different. Ke$ha’s brash rave arpeggios, blunted by the distance into chime-like celestial shapes, sounded immensely beautiful to me. I’ve no bone to pick with up-close Ke$ha, but far away Ke$ha was a true revelation. It seemed important to me.
Reared on barely listenable AM transmissions in the deepest Central West of New South Wales, this sense of music having travelled long distances is very appealing to me, especially when it sounds like it has picked up cosmic artefacts and refuse along the way. There’s a threshold between actual sonic phenomenon and your own imaginings which pleasingly blurs. Primitive Motion’s debut record sounds exactly like this threshold: it’s full bodied from a melodic and songwriterly point of view, but it makes a science of simulating the eerie pleasure of mishearing.
This is probably what people mean when they describe certain types of pop music as dreamy or heavenly. Both are reasonable enough descriptions, but they also connote shoegaze and all the dreary guitar-with-lite-electro dabblings that came in its wake. There’s also a case to be made for Primitive Motion as an evolutionary leap for hypnagogic pop, itself a reference to the half-dream state which blurs the lines between wakefulness and sleep. This is fine, but it’s important to note Primitive Motion’s uncomplicatedly pop approach. Like that Angel Eyes LP from earlier this year, Worlds Floating By initially sounds like an exercise in building ecstatic textures, but it eventually rewards you with the gratification of song: structures and movement, eventful landings, solid unchanging milestones within the illusory fog.
Primitive Motion’s half heard world seems unique, because it’s not tethered to a sense of remembering. The apparitional vocal samples in Burial sound like distant nightclub emanations from a specific era in UK dance music, and similarly, James Ferraro’s mid-2000s noise albums were like listening to ‘80s sci-fi action flicks from a bunk bed in the next room. These associations are sometimes central to the appeal of these artists, at least from a critical perspective, but with Primitive Motion no such references really exist. Instead, the distance implies an origin that neither time nor location can lay claim to, but nonetheless you see it. You visit there. There’s very distinctly a world inside, but it’s only fleetingly recognisable.
Strangely though, for a gorgeously smeared pop record with all the colours of the rainbow – Casio, flute, humungous vats of reverb and echo, vocals bellowed from the clouds – it’s this implied distance that renders the whole operation obliquely sad. Through conjuring a sense of somewhere else, Primitive Motion glazes your actual lived experience with a sense of lost opportunity. It’s so exceedingly… so preciously beautiful and treasurable (!), that you just about want to give it all in. Here’s an instance – a rare instance – of pop music as heavenly. It transmits from a distance and is immeasurably affecting, because its relationship with the grit and smoke of your lived experience is nil. And yet, you still find tiny traces of yourself in there, usually the parts you feel are fading away, or that you want to protect. The parts life persists in conditioning away. It’s a desire to actually visit some physical version of this world.
And it’s because Worlds Floating By gives you the space to imagine inside. As close as you may be, you need to prick your ears to hear its whole. It guides you calmly but lets you stray. If there’s any record that will compel you to close your laptop and stare into the middle distance for 40 consecutive minutes, this would be it. Seven songs only just coming into focus, beckoning you to peer.
Primitive Motion’s Worlds Floating By is available through Bedroom Suck.