Terminal Longings: Primitive Motion’s Worlds Floating By reviewed


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.

New Music

Listen: Fig. – Here Comes the Bird

Fig. Live at Real Bad

It’s a bit of a golden era for anyone interested in post-Deadnotes, post-The Lost Domain weirdness from Brisbane. Fig. consists of Leighton Craig,  Eugene Carchesio and Sandra Selig. Craig and Carchesio have both played with the Deadnotes and The Lost Domain, while Craig and Selig only last week released an excellent debut LP as Primitive Motion, which is out now through Bedroom Suck.

‘Here Comes the Bird’ will feature on a forthcoming 7 inch due through Eternal Soundtrack later this month. It’s the first for Matt Kennedy’s label, which also doubles as an online store. On the evidence of this track and what I’ve heard before (ie, the trio’s contribution to this Brisbane tape), Fig. specialise in a skeletal and technique ambivalent post-punk. It sounds a bit loose at first but the organ eventually seizes on a pattern when the vocals kick in and Fig.’s ability to pen a decent half-tune becomes apparent. It’s harried and colourful; manic rather than menacing. The 7 inch will be a run of 50, so pre-order at Eternal Soundcheck if you’re keen.

New Music

Watch: Primitive Motion – Small Room

Primitive Motion is a newish Brisbane duo featuring former Deadnotes members Leighton Craig and Sandra Selig. They’ve got a handful of forthcoming releases – an LP on Bedroom Suck and a cassette on Soft Abuse – but this comes from a new cassette on Room40 sub-label A Guide To Saints.

‘Soft Room’ is a short spiraling drone piece, poised uncomfortably between pleasant and downright frightening. The accompanying clip is an excruciatingly gradual sweep of a tower block at night. The audio accompaniment works in such a way that you start to wonder who lives behind those illuminated windows, and what horrid secrets they may be hiding. Or maybe they’re just watching archival VHS tapes of It’s A Knockout. You’ll never, ever know.