Evil Enya: Kahli Carter interviewed


Photo: Erin Tyrrell

The first time I met Kahli Carter we were in a friend’s kitchen. She was baking an upside-down pear cake, deeply lost in her cooking as an overwhelming symphony cranked through the speakers of her red portable radio. She gave me a quick hello and continued measuring flour and meticulously slicing pears in concentration. I noticed that she would smile, knowingly, every time a new song was announced on Classic FM. When the cake came out of the oven she left the room to let her confection cool. When I finally had a slice it was the best cake I’d ever eaten.

Kahli Carter is the bass player in Grotto – a celebrated scum-punk band from Melbourne with very little online presence and a solid following. She’s also in Cop Date, a grindcore and self-defined cop crust band who wear police outfits and throw donuts at their audience while blasting fast paced songs about Tinder dates with cops. I’ve seen Grotto in a squat and Cop Date in an abandoned sewer. Both times I smiled and pushed, lost within the catharsis of the pit, thinking about that upside-down pear cake.

One night, trapped in a Soundcloud vortex, I came across Kahli’s personal project. Coming from a background of heavy and industrial bands including Caught Ship and The Angel and Baby Chain, I was expecting discordant overtones or foreboding industrial noise. Instead, I found melodies: soothing waves of symphonic virtual pianos, an array of synthetic instruments weaving elegant arrangements, and a song labelled ‘#evilenya’. Kahli’s songs are impressive compositions that feel intricate yet simple, graceful yet obscure. Seamlessly, her music feels youthful and modern, despite drawing on both new age and classical music.

Originally from the Sunshine Coast, Kahli was captain of her school’s band throughout high school. She wagged most subjects to play the clarinet, oboe, and to teach herself the flute in the music block. After high school she moved to Brisbane where she joined Caught Ship on synths. In 2009 the band moved to Melbourne, where they produced the album Symmetricult before Kahli left the band. Now residing in West Footscray for the past four years, Kahli welcomes me into her sun-lit house to talk about her work.

Grotto. Photo: Christina Pap

Grotto. Photo: Christina Pap

What’s the intention behind the compositions on your Soundcloud playlist “To Sleep To” (#DeepSleep) ?
The sleep project came about three years ago. I was in between musical projects and I wasn’t participating in anything exciting or challenging at the time, so I decided to tackle Logic and create something that I would like to listen to. This was also a time when I was having a lot of anxiety issues and problems sleeping, I was awake at all hours. I knew a lot of my friends were going through similar problems including panic attacks and insomnia. I mainly wanted to make music with the purpose of creating a relaxing environment for myself and others. I wanted to create melodies that were not catchy – nothing that would get stuck in your head because that’s not very relaxing.

How do you go about creating melodies that are not catchy?
I keep it quiet and watch the dynamics – nothing too peaky or harsh to the ear. I try to make a nice, big, calm, floaty wave that’s a simple A B A structure. A wave with a soft resolution that leaves you in the same spot where you started.

Is your emotional drive when composing often derived from anxiety, sadness or exhaustion?
No. It’s purely melody-based. The writing process starts when I have a melody pop up in my head and re-appear whenever I pick up an instrument. Sometimes I stew on it for a month or for years, but eventually I need to get it out of my system – the melody, not so much the emotion. I guess I generally can’t see the emotions behind the songs until much later down the track when I re-listen to a song. When I listen to the Sleep tracks I immediately remember the times I was smoking a lot of weed and taking a lot of dexies. I can listen to it and remember exactly how I was feeling, how long I was awake for, how erratic I was. I don’t think of emotions when I compose, but it’s easy to see them in retrospect.

I guess – since your music is about creating a solution for anxiety, rather than directly expressing anxiety – it is important to keep emotions at bay.
I don’t know if I see it as creating a solution. My objective is to not cloud people with my emotions, I want for others to have the ability to think for themselves about how they feel. If anything, I want to create the background for them to be able to figure out what’s going on in their lives, I don’t want to put my shit onto others, really.

Your compositions have strong new age and classical music connotations, yet they feel very modern – how much of this is a conscious effort?
It comes naturally. I’ve never really considered my music to be ‘new agey’ but I suppose it is. I guess it doesn’t bother me what my songs are labelled as. You can play my stuff in a yoga class if you want to, that would be lovely. I mean, it’s never really going to sound old because I don’t use traditional instruments, I use my computer. Except for a song where I play the flute, I only use soft synths and I try to make it sound as organic as possible while using computer-generated sounds of violins, choirs and pianos. Part of me wants it to sound as organic as possible but then again I like synths so much I always add a touch of purely digital sounds.

Synth compositions and heavier music– what’s the best part about each of them, for you?
In terms of performing in Grotto and Cop Date I like to actually play instruments live and I like yelling. The nature of my personal compositions doesn’t really allow for a live show because it’s meant to be listened to at home, with your headphones on. There’s no point in going to a live show to feel sleepy or to calm your anxiety. Playing in bands also means that no matter how bad a show goes you have your bandmates to support you and this ‘team spirit’ also applies to the songwriting process. With my personal compositions I like that they are my own conceptions, they are often melodies that I’ve had inside my brain for a long time so each song feels like a little melody child.

Cop Date playing in a sewer. Photo: Jah Maskell

Cop Date playing in a sewer. Photo: Jah Maskell

Do you choose to play bass in grind and punk bands because of the live aspect?
As a musician I need to wag my wiggles out somehow. I need to have some form of physical expression when I perform my music. I don’t know what I would do with all my energy if I couldn’t play live in grind or punk bands. It’s definitely the live aspect that I find wholly satisfying. If it’s not about the live aspect of those genres then what’s it about? You can listen to punk or grind on your iPod or at home but it’s not the same as watching it in the flesh. I mean, the crowds that go to those types of shows will want to fucking move and see you move, they will want to see your energy throughout your short 15 minute sets. They are not there to sway, they are there to feel a sense of catharsis through movement.

Punk and grind definitely have a better guarantee that your audience will physically engage with your show. How did it feel to play in a band like Caught Ship, which was more experimental?
With Caught Ship it was a Russian roulette – you never really knew which nights the crowds would engage and which nights the crowds would be dead. The thing is, if the crowd is silent and still then it’s too daunting for you to move as a musician, you just freeze – you are afraid of being judged. I also think an important aspect from my time in Caught Ship is that I was playing the synths, not the bass. When you are playing synths you are much more restricted in terms of motion and your performance is limited. You can’t really move the instrument with you, you’re sort of stuck in place.

It wouldn’t be as liberating to play a gig where you don’t know if the crowd will positively engage or be dead quiet, particularly if your motivation is physical expression.
For sure, being too cool to move is endemic in a lot of capital cities, I’ve noticed. It happened [with Caught Ship] in Brisbane when we lived there and also in Melbourne when we moved here. In retrospect, I was never really comfortable on stage when I was just playing synths for Caught Ship or The Angel and Baby Chain, but that was also influenced by the fact that I wasn’t fully comfortable in my own person. I have gradually become more confident in my own skin and as a musician – I guess it all works collectively in that respect.

What other genres would you like to explore in the future?
I want to branch out and do more beat-driven music. I feel like this means that I would like to do more pop-driven compositions, which would be a huge challenge because of its structure but I’ve always wanted to write pop music. I don’t know, really. I’m going to move to Mexico soon and I’m only taking my drum pad with me, so I feel like what will end up happening is that I will write mostly dance-y stuff. I would love to do that.

Photo: Dominique Elliott.

Photo: Dominique Elliott.

New Music

Listen: Legendary Hearts – Acceleration

artworks-000086898834-12c4zg-t500x500After a period of quiet, Melbourne duo Legendary Hearts has a new cassette releasing August 19 through Not Not Fun. The sound will be familiar to anyone who enjoyed the 2012 release Music From The Elevator, which we unhelpfully described as “patently pleasant music losing its will to pleasure”. More telling is that this is the combined effort of Angel Eyes‘ Andrew Cowie and Superstar‘s Kieran Hegarty. Describing Legendary Hearts as an instrumental mix of these groups is pretty accurate, though ‘Accelerate’ seems to indulge in the dubbier end of the spectrum.


Room For Error: Ill Winds interviewed

image Born in Berlin, Jack Dibben and JF (Ill Winds) have been making music together since their respective moves to Europe in 2011. Calling on sombre sounds from the Belgian coldwave fold of the early ’80s spliced with hints of the Neue Deutsche Welle, Ill Winds’ music is both uniquely electrifying and terrifyingly isolating.

Despite being largely comprised of old material, Ill Winds’ latest cassette release on Hidiotic Records represented a maturation in sound for the former duo, now trio. Adding a synth to their new recordings brought a new element to their sinister brand of post-punk and signified a willingness on songwriter Jack Dibben’s behalf to embrace electronic sounds and instruments. Now situated back in Australia after a 3-year stint abroad, Jack Dibben discusses the musical landscape of Berlin and the future of Ill Winds.

When and how did Ill Winds come about?

Ill Winds came about at the beginning of 2011. At first we were going under the moniker 3D Meat, but we changed it pretty quickly. JF and I had just moved to Berlin under completely unrelated circumstances; JF in pursuit of his studies and myself in pursuit of an Austrian woman who happened to be moving to Berlin to undertake studies. My eldest sister knew JF, twigged and sent us on a blind date. It all followed from that. Marijn (Denegaar, synth) came into the picture later.

Much like the Post-Punk and Coldwave of Belgium and Germany in the early ’80s, Ill Winds music sounds similarly sinister with analogous music arrangements. Did you find that you were better placed in Berlin/Europe musically?

Well yes and no. I found a lack of band culture in Berlin and Vienna particularly. In that sense it’s pretty different from London, Barcelona, Melbourne and Sydney. It seems like everyone in Berlin is making or listening to techno, and that’s where the vast majority of the musical energy is channelled. It’s like at some point in the ’90s most Berliners decided that actual instruments were archaic and moved into the electronic/digital realm, never to return. However Berlin is certainly much more strategically located and in that sense more conducive to playing in a band. The geography of Europe and the ease of getting to so many major cities naturally lend itself to touring and thus opportunities to play with and to different people.

Do you feel the city influenced or shaped your music in any way?

Naturally, being in Berlin shaped my music; that’s the nature of music, it’s shaped by your surroundings and state of mind. The weather, the feeling of being a part of something bigger, political tension, culture shock, living day-to-day, no security, the threat of having nowhere to turn. It also very much instilled a love of techno. I was hesitant for about two years, attending the odd CTM Festival event, trying to keep an open mind, but really just turning my nose up at a majority of what I heard; possibly based on the on the precedent that it was electronic. Just dipping my foot from time to time. Then out of nowhere; BAM. I was at Berghain every other weekend. Shirt off, cap backwards, pumping my fist and losing brain-cells.

Many artists/musicians move to Berlin to hone in on musical pursuits. What’s the city like in terms of a musical community? Could you rely on the support of other bands for gigs and such?  Do you feel Berlin as a city lives up to its romantic ideals?

It’s odd. Berlin doesn’t really have a music scene like what exists here in the big Australian cities. But this Argentinian band Mueran Humanos – who, from what I could tell, were one of the only worthwhile bands based in Berlin – always encouraged us in a positive way. Our good friend, life coach and guru Olle Holmberg, who produces music as Moon Wheel, has also been closely involved in everything we have done, from putting on shows to recording. We were getting gigs from our either our label Noisekölln, other club or party nights or shows that we’d put on ourselves or through friends who just liked the band. And there was always an interesting touring act from one place or another that was mulling around looking for a show on their way through which I could pick up. Regarding romantic ideals: God no. I urge anyone with any romantic ideals regarding this place to dispel them unless they constitute any or all of the following: ubiquitous expat culture, 30¢ beers, good cheap beer, techno, 6 months of grey skies and dull weather, seasonal affective disorder, Currywurst, Käseleberkäse, scrimmaging through abandoned buildings, East German and Nazi memorabilia, “street art”, FKK (naked Germans), Schlager, etc…

It seems as though Ill Winds shows are few and far between. Do you enjoy playing live? How do you feel the recordings translate into a live context?

We love it. But it can be tricky. There’s not that many parts to the whole band, and in my mind’s eye that should make it all easy to execute, but when push comes to shove is proves exceedingly tricky at times. We all live in different cities these days as well, which doesn’t make it any easier to organise and play shows.

You’ve just released a tape on Hidiotic. Most of the songs on the tape are old songs that have been recorded a few times. Do you feel as though these tape versions are the perfected product? Have you written new material?

We released a cassette in 2012 with that Berlin label Noisekölln, which was limited to a run of 50 copies. 30 of which were sent magazines, a handful of which we got reviews from. However I feel that these latest recording are for that matter much more true to form, or moreover ideally what we’d like to sound like live. If what you’re getting at in the second part of this question is trying to ask me why are the older songs on here all I have to say is I have no idea in slightest. Stupid ain’t it? JF and I are working on new material and a new release at the moment, which will not include any of the older songs. I swear it.

There is some great synchronization between bass and drum machine, coupled with interesting guitar interplay and synth layering. What does an Ill Winds songwriting session usually consist of? Is it a solo venture or does JF weigh in too?

The thing that I’ve found with song writing is that it’s always different, so that’s almost impossible to answer. I never know where the idea is gonna come from, and rarely where it’s going to go, at least initially. I have to just go by gut instinct. But this is most definitely a band where everyone gets to contribute to the composition of a song. Everyone writes their own parts, but at the same time everyone gets their say whether those are used or not.

A lot of the songs on the tape feature a repeating lyrical phrase or motif. Is there any unifying theme/s or notions that runs throughout the lyrics in your music?

To start: hysteria, anxiety, solitude, occultism, paranoia, ideology, iconography are all themes that come to mind.  We might jam and I might just chant this mantra of whatever would come to my head or notes I had made over whatever we were playing at the time. However this was an experiment for me when I started doing it or at least as experimental as I was willing to go at that time. I didn’t care so much about the actual contents of lyrics themselves, rather it was just another instrument, and that repetitive nature became a stylistic motif in what can only be called our “sound”.

Tell me about your new project ‘Subterranean Rain’. Does it provide a different outlet for you than that of Ill Winds?

Yep. And I think that it’s solely for that purpose. I tried making JF play ideas I would come up with in my own time. And it’s not like he would outright refuse. He just wouldn’t play them. Ideas I might add that that I enjoyed the idea of working on. So i just kept working on them and over time it has become a distinct project.



Beautiful Error States: Soft Power’s If You Come Around reviewed

soft-power-if-you-come-aroundThere is no room on this Soft Power record; it is thick and overripe. It feels like these songs have sat in a moist basement for a long time, and through doing so grown larger, furier and more complicated.

Andrew McLellan, Joel Stern and Josh Watson are all involved in this. All featured in Greg Boring, and there is a fair bit in common between the two entities. Soft Power is softer and less wacky, but it’s also stranger than Greg Boring. This is no small feat because Greg Boring seemed to pride itself on being strange. Instead, it was wacky. I’m sure you appreciate the difference.

Soft Power has the clarity of pop music thanks to the vocals of Sophia Brous, who is the fourth member of the group on this record (Soft Power is usually just McLellan and Stern). I suppose that is why the group is called Soft Power: its pop veneer appears eager to please at first but there are less scrutable motives at play. A macabre streak underpins these bright synths and illustrous vocals, undermining the pop elements in an unusual way. ‘Siren’, for example, seems to break apart at times. The effect is like textures in a virtual landscape wavering, and the song resembles a beautiful error state. Brous sounds like she might belong to another song altogether.

That is what’s interesting about Soft Power. The music seems poised to illustrate a particular kind of 21st century technology anxiety, but it does so in a more subtle way than most. It seems to relish the minutiae of strange systems by humanising sonics we’re used to hearing in more sequenced, rigid environments. It is strange to hear a song like ‘Wundering’, with its drowsy synthetic pulses, and notice the imperfections: how the tempo shifts upwards or down accidentally at times, or how a note will fall out of step with the rest. These lapses breathe life into cold systems.

Soft Power’s songs sound like they have been tampered with. They sound as if they are functioning despite data corruption. Maybe instead of locked in a basement, these songs have sat on an old PC for years, across the fragmented blocks of a hard drive touched by an old virus, absorbing the surrounding data. During a year which has seen several overtly dark synth pop records (Nun, Mob), Soft Power is frightening in a more fascinating and inadvertent way, but it is also very beautiful.


Soft Power’s If You Come Around is available through All Day Breakfast Enterprises.

New Music

Listen: Power – Serpent City

Power are a relatively new three-piece to arise from Melbourne, a city decreasingly home to solid rock bands. Power’s members have a pedigree comprised of some of the better punk outfits of the last few years – Soma Coma, Dribble, Gutter Gods and Kromosom among ‘em. They play a kinda stomp that calls to mind the intuitive riffage of the Young brothers all while maintaining a steady boogie stomp not unlike Coloured Balls, who they all obviously have spent some time with. ‘Serpent City’ opens with a deranged mess of feedback before picking up steam as Nathan Williams’ caterwauling vocals are introduced.

I played a show with these guys the other day and can honestly say they are the best live band I’ve seen in an age, revealing a more psych-fucked edge than the two tracks on their promo cassette betray. A 7” and LP are in the works, also on Cool Death, for later this year/the next. Lobby would be proud.


‘Serpent City’ is one part of a two-track promo cassette available through Cool Death Recordings.

(Featured Photo: Sigourney Ormston)