Monday, 18 January 2016

Badaboum In The Vacant Valley

Happy New Year! Thought I would do the whole two birds/one stone thing on the first day of 2016 and talk about Vacant Valley and Bruit Direct Disques releases...

Let's start with Bruit. I posted about some previous releases the other week (The Frightening Lights and Wonderfuls), but the current release is the 1st LP from French all-girl outfit Badaboum. It's a hard one to describe without getting your ears dirty and diving right in. It's eerie - high-pitched, elongated, distorted vocals that play with and subvert several languages, mournful B-movie organ, percussion that goes from wind-chime irregularity to tropical punk insistence, deliberately swerving from any given holding pattern. Imagine if Trash Kit took a bunch of sweltering Quaaludes while holed up in an Alpine chalet against their will, listening to the B-52s while listening to a cassette language translator on a Walkman with the batteries dying, with dwindling food and water - and maybe Badaboum would be the result...maybe.  The bizarre thing? The shifting veils of madness are hypnotic and ultimately a lot of fun. I'm getting my head around it - you should too.

Australian champions of the damaged sonic underworld, Vacant Valley, are priming for another large, eccentric year, so before we unveil their undertakings in the upcoming months, I thought I would shine a sickly light on three of last year’s releases that deserve further scrutiny (and you can get all three here).

In chronological order, we have Melbourne solo artist Squirrel Pancake (AKA Jen Tait of Go Genre Everything amongst other acts). She has taken a fuzz-fucked approach to askew song structures, giving semblances of convention before blasting it with overzealous strumming, flailing distortion that is shaking under its own dereliction, and capsizing the ship with bolts of guitar shredding in the more literal sense. Every song seems to have been edited to frustrate – the long songs far too long, the shorter tracks dissipating before they really dig in. In some ways this is the charm – a fever dream that traces over and eradicates the skeleton, a double-vision of perceived and actual happenstance. Deconstruction as destruction. ‘Wigs & Ruffles’ sits best with me – this is no-wave meltdown, 80s Gordon/Moore style – but the rest sits precariously in that nether region between art and artifice. It stays on the right track almost by sheer will – Squirrel Pancake maintains an obtuse animosity that manages to perturb, staving off the apathy enough to be something worthwhile, even if it’s in your dreams/nightmares.

Brisbane has had some garrulous member in the VV stable (Per Purpose, Psy Ants, Cured Pink), and Bad Intentions now joins them. Everybody’s Doing It showcases the warping talents of Nicola Morton (Club Sound Witches, ) and Rebecca Hlodich. The cassette is made up of recordings from two performances at the sadly now defunct Real Bad Music space (which Morton co-ran), one of the last bastions of outlier music left in Brisbane, back in 2013, and it is two sides of a sonically fractious coin. ‘She’s Onto It’ is a metallic industrial lullaby, distorted lyrics coming through a distorted Dynamike (so it sounds), astral projection into the very outer limits, that invariably starts to fray and unravel, spluttering to many false stops before sifting the corrosive layers away, leaving low-level murmuring (from the crowd) to slowly replace the space. ‘Don’t Take It Personally’ is even less constructed in some ways (a misnomer as both sets seem to be largely improvised), guitar and drumming so out of sync (not just with each other but what equates to actually playing) that what starts out like two musically-base children strapping into instruments at Allen’s Music for an eighteen minute flurry of hands and feet, making noise because, becomes a little more – almost an epiphany just before it fully forms, a realisation dawning – the Moorooka Mile equivalent of the monolith scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, perhaps? It’s something that doesn’t hang as well as the first half, but posits that the physical experience would have been far more rewarding.

Finally we have Kompact Development. It seems Adelaide bands don’t like their C’s (another band from this crowd is Kash Konverters). The outlet for Freya Adele (from the aforementioned band as well as Theta and Botox) ​is both the most abrasive and cohesive of the three releases, an industrial Commodore-64 space battle within the blood. What? ‘Harr’ opens up and stretches for over twenty minutes, spraying a trancelike sonic adhesive over you, captivating in its stuttering remnants of a synthesised kosmiche march, tape-coiled bleeps and Cold-War computer code rolling forth in two-dimensional industrial theatricality. It manages to sound like the beats are the only constant, traversing time, space and variable technologies, warped and manipulated wherever it lands before scurrying through another wormhole to another time/head space. I actually thought this was brilliant – and seeing as the month has been top-loaded with (admittedly excellent) guitar pop for me, such a jolt of decomposing electricity was a pleasant shock. The other three, much more digestible yet still cold and anarchic tracks follow in its stead – ‘Cole’ is a robotic Goth Wave shudder, crudely executed, the vocals called spectrally forth with deadpan ice; ‘Diet’ is a metallic, eye-popping nightmare, a hyper-industrial fever with Pazuzu appearing in blocked, excruciating increments; ‘Nore’ a dot-matrix-and-internet-dial-up annihilation of nerve endings.


  1. quaaludes don't swelter! ;)

  2. No, true, they don't - but I have SEEN them swelter, and it's the same thing in that state!