2013

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be looking back on the music that inspired and moved me in 2013. I’ll do this by posting on my favourite vinyl, favourite tapes and favourite labels. Over at Bandcamp Hunter I’ll be reviewing my favourite music that I found on the blog for the year, so in between the two sites I hope to provide you with a fairly comprehensive take on what I consider the best music of 2013. This post concerns reflections on other musical events of 2013, as well as taking stock of where I’m at with this whole caper.

Formless Fields and The Record Label

I haven’t posted on Formless Fields as much as I would have liked. This is mainly due to laziness, straight up. My lifestyle is quite conducive to more frequent postings but the extra time that I’ve afforded myself is often given to less energetic endeavours, or being unconscious altogether. Discipline and motivation are things I’ve always struggled with and I don’t exactly have a healthy lifestyle. I hope to be more productive in 2014.

This said I am happy with how Formless Fields has developed, in particular the regular interviews with the good souls who run independent labels have been the source of much inspiration. As nice as it is to get positive feedback online, blogging is a very solitary practice so it’s been a pleasure to talk with people who I admire, to learn more about them and to share in their passion for music. Thanks again to everyone I spoke to this year. I know how valuable your time is.

I still want to start a record label in 2014. I hoped to be further along in the planning process by now but it is still something I have a strong desire to do and the interview series has only motivated me to do it further. I’ve gotten a lot more interested in tapes this year and this is how I see the label beginning. I’d like to release local music then branch further afield, much like my first interview subject Steve did with Moon Glyph. The combination of music and design is something that greatly interests me and I hope to make beautiful packaging to accompany whatever music I push into the world.I feel as if I’ve grown as a designer over the year and I also hope to collaborate with some of my absurdly talented friends. I also still intend on going to the USA in 2014 and experiencing different music scenes while meeting some of these people I’ve interviewed and, I’m sure, some new folks. 2014 then – the year of getting busier, making things and going places.

2013 has been pretty great, here are some reflections of my musical year in Melbourne.

Good Things

A highlight of 2013 for me has been seeing musical friends gain success and recognition. I’m not a musician myself though I understand the difficulties that come with being a full time musician – the strain it puts on time, money and relationships. It warms my heart no end to see people I know and respect achieve success while continuing to smile and grow musically, seemingly unhindered by the pressures of musician life. Specifically I’m talking about two acts – Courtney Barnett and Batpiss.

The success Courtney has gained this year isn’t surprising at all. I’ve said for a while now that she’s the hardest working musician I know and certainly this is central to her gaining such a devoted following, however there’s more to her success than just gigging and gigging (Courtney also runs her own label, the terrific Milk! Records). You can play thousands of shows, but at the end of the day you’ve gotta have the songs, man. Personal, odd and utterly infectious, Courtney’s songs have always been very likeable and this year she wrote some her finest tunes, with Avant Gardener and History Eraser being the arrowheads that hit the bullseye with many respectable music publications and sites. Her live shows are always fantastic fun and Courtney has a great damn band (enthusiastic tip of the hat to Messrs Sloane, Luscombe and Mudie) to compliment her own brilliant guitar playing. It was awesome to see her so rapturously received in the US and in Europe, and she’s returning in 2014 to conquer even bigger and brighter stages. 

The combination of clever, honest lyrics with hook filled jams is no musical revelation but in this day and age of musical saturation I think we all respond to music that feels like it comes from a real place, a real human being. Music from a person that we feel like is doing it for the right reasons, making music that’s devoid of pretension. A person who is doing it because they dig it. This is what I get from Court’s music. It’s really nice to see that a whole lot of other people get it too.

A disclaimer on the following – Marty from Batpiss is my younger brother. These words are entirely non-nepotistic.

Having built a strong rep as an incinerating live act by the end of 2012, Collingwood’s Batpiss had nothing but scorched earth before coming into their wildfire 2013. With the release of the magnificent Nuclear Winter and a live show that intensified with every performance, their following grew from word of mouth buzz to fervent cult status as the three piece maimed and slayed all that came before them. Their music is violence, it is catharsis, and it is great fucking fun. It’s three young guys expressing themselves through a relentless strain of sludge punk that is of their guts, of their place, of who they are. They’re a true band, in that each member in utterly indispensable – Pirie’s psychedelic mind molesting guitar work (plus his unmistakeable artwork that has given the band it’s distinct identity), Thomy’s roaring vocals and pulverising bass, and Marty’s intense, super tight drumming. Replace one of these guys and they are not the ‘Piss.

Batpiss are a creative melding of these three musicians, yes, but the strength of their music comes from the combining of their personalities. This is true of many bands but it’s absolutely vital to Batpiss, and it has a lot to do why so many people got aboard the searing musical juggernaut that they let loose in 2013. So much sweat and blood was shed seeing them play in 2013, with the album launch of back in May at The Tote standing out as one of my gigs of the year. An unbelievably caustic punk rock show that may well have permanently damaged my neck. But that’s what you do for the music you love. You hurt yourself for it.

2013 was a year I drew a line in the sand on seeing bigger bands in larger venues. I’ve found that in bigger venues the crowd is mostly disinterested, the sound poor and the performance lacking. I’d much rather see a band perform in a smaller space, with better sound and greater comfort. Yep I’m getting real old. So this year it was wonderful to see two of my favourite international artists Mark McGuire, Dirty Beaches and Barn Owl perform in smaller venues, at the (sadly defunct) Gasometer, The Tote and Northcote Social Club respectably. I’d had a deeply solitary relationship with the music of these artists up until seeing them perform so it was a great thrill to be immersed in their music in a more expansive environment, alongside people who also appreciated the music.

It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a list of gigs by local artists that I enjoyed the most, my memory also fails me in my latter years. However I can say that gigs by The Ocean Party, Michael Beach and a very recent show by The Stevens stand out as some of the best I saw. Then of course there was the Formless Fields launch party, a great day of music and sunshine held at my own house. Events like those are what I enjoy the most, in getting to see bands perform and meet a whole lot of folks that I’d only had online contact with up until then. I’ll be organising more shows in 2014, starting with a new series of nights that I’m organising called Formless Mondays. More about those gigs soon.

One of the great musical moments of the year was seeing one of my favourite bands of all time You Am I perform their two classic albums Hourly, Daily and Hi Fi Way at The Forum. I was wary going into this gig as I’ve become very anti-reunion/album performance shows. I’d attended a few fizzers and dislike the exploitative nature of some of these gigs, they prey on nostalgia (like much of the music industry does) and often don’t do the band justice. My apprehension was misplaced for this show however, as You Am I delivered a blinding gig and upheld their title as The Greatest Rock and Roll Band I Ever Did See. I hurt myself at this show too – strained my face from smiling too damn hard.

Sad Things

Continuing the local slant of this post and it was saddening to lose two of our best music venues in melbourne this year, The Gasometer and, just recently The Empress. The Gasso had established itself as one of Melbourne’s best local venues, hosting an amazingly diverse range of music across its two stages every night of the week. As a venue it sometimes lacked in atmosphere however I always enjoyed the gigs held within the walls of this beautiful old pub and will miss it greatly.

The Empress shut its doors just this month amid an outpouring of public grief. It’s a grand pub that had become a strong part of Melbourne’s culture, both musically and socially. People held this place dearly in their hearts, something I have not really understood until taking up employment in a similarly beloved pub in the same area. These buildings are not just about booze and bands, for many people they are central to their day to day lives and social interactions. Places to meet, talk and laugh. I had many fond memories of nights spent at the the Empress and will miss it’s red interiors, that lovely little stage and the personality of publican Sandra.

As glum as all this I have great faith in the ability of Melbourne’s live music scene to rebound from such losses. In my time spent in Melbourne I’ve seen many a venue close, only for another to rise elsewhere. These are not fatal blows. Mourn their loss but let us move on. The best way to do this is by getting out and see as much music as we can in the new venues that will inevitably take their place.

Not to long ago I was disappointed to learn that favourite local band Sandcastle had called it a day. Those who have followed my blogging for a while will know that the psychedelic marauders were a favourite band of mine, having impressed me greatly with their stunning debut EP and consistently gripping live shows. With their rhythm section dispersing across Australia the band called it quits, though frontman Max and guitarist Ryan continue to work on their own projects. The two have an intriguing new project named Conatus while Max continues in his sonic alchemist guise as Nothinge. Fruitful times ahead for them I’m sure but vale Sandcastle, and thanks for all the good times.

A Good Thing and A Sad Thing

Back in March I was fortunate enough to witness a remarkable performance by my chief musical hero, Neil Young, held as one of these “Day On the Green” type deals out on a winery near Geelong. The weather was foul that day my friends. Neil and Crazy Horse’s set was gloriously defiant in the face of howling gales and torrential rain, a stunning display of stoicism that encapsulated all I love about Neil and the music that he’s given us. His performance of Like A Hurricane during the most intense period of the storm was one of those moments that cannot be described, it was truly magical. You just had to be there.

While I was witnessing this spectacle another musical hero of mine was leaving this mortal realm. Jason Molina died that night. Molina and Young are often linked and while I feel this comparison is not always appropriate from a musical view point (I consider Jason a superior lyricist), I do consider them to be similar in being defined by their great artistic integrity. On this night we drove back to Melbourne listening to my favourite Songs:Ohia album Didn’t It Rain. I looked at factories in the moonlight, saw wires swaying in the rain and wondered how Jason was doing. Little did I know that he was dying. I’ve never been so saddened by a musicians death. I miss him every day but will always be grateful for what he gave, and am thankful that I’ll always have his music. I plan on writing a more in depth tribute to Jason, hopefully in time for the anniversary of his death in March.

I appreciate all the support you’ve given me in my blogging endeavours this year. I look forward to continuing to bring you new music and articles in 2014 while also embarking on new adventures. In closing I’ll invoke Molina and use the words he would say at the end of nearly every song he performed live : “Thank you kindly.”

CONVERSATION : PATIENT SOUNDS

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Interview with Matthew Sage of Patient Sounds


To begin with could you tell me about the various musical projects that you’re associated with?

I primarily just record and perform sound collage and ambient music as my first initial (M. Sage). Currently I am playing live with The Continent Strings — Allison Sheldon plays cello, Chris Jusell plays violin. They are featured on my new record, a 2xLP coming this winter. I also do Wellington Downs, which is my studio rock band hobby. I love multitracking rock tunes in the basement with little intention of playing said tunes live. That is fun for me. I have played in tons of projects and stuff throughout the years, but I am kinda keeping it simple these days with just these two things.

I also love recording, and pitch in on a lot of friends recordings when possible. I tracked parts on and engineered on the latest Nate Henricks tape Horseradish, and the Wylee Zephyr tape with my old roommate Alex Runge (he wrote those tunes). Both of those tapes came out on Patient Sounds.

 

How did Patient Sounds get started?

It started as a few friends working together to self-release the music we were working on in various groups and stuff. Basically it was just like me and roommates making tunes. I have always kind of driven the project and organized things, but it was more like a collective at first. Now, four years later, it is just me in a home office…me and a dachshund and a sheep dog. My fiance helps me on really hairy packing and shipping days (we share an office, she is a designer at Bonnie & Caprice) and she has a great eye for design, so she offers advice on printing and layouts. She’s the best.

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PS043 The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact – Container Ship
Limited edition of 50 double cassettes

You’re based in Fort Collins right? It seems like there’s a very strong experimental scene in Colorado, can you tell me a bit about your experience with this scene and it’s growth?

Fort Collins is secretly like a little punk rock / bar rock coven. A lot of classic 90s pop punk music was recorded here at this revered studio, The Blasting Room. There is a lot of like alt. country punk here. I made Karl Alvarez (of Black Flag, All, Descendants…) americanos when I was a barista. So, I had a lot of that influence growing up. That whole punk thing effected the ethos for sure.

Now a lot of that fuels the experimental scene, at least that’s how it feels here. There was a space in Colorado for music like this, and it naturally kind of unfolded in its own way here. I mean…I live a few-hundred yards from the high school that Aaron Warren from Black Dice went to. Goldrush Festival is kind of the long-awaited realization for the rest of the world that Colorado has good weird stuff happening, and has for a while.

The label has been around since 2009, in which time Bandcamp and Soundcloud have become very popular. Can you tell me about your experiences with these platforms?

We started primarily using Myspace, so the social media aspect has always kind of been present. I am a huge advocate for both platforms because they make sharing sounds, and hearing sounds, incredibly easy. Having said that, we are NOT a digital label. We oblige our customers for buying our limited edition tapes by providing mp3s and streaming sounds, because we know not everyone has access to cassette players or turn tables.

The digital thing is convenient, but making the objects is what matters most to us. We are glad that the artists whose work we publish can share and profit from using platforms like these to share their sounds after our editions run out. Soundcloud and Bandcamp are great, but physical media is priority to me.

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PS010 Kites Sail High – Motivated / Unmovitated

Any thoughts on how streaming sites such as this affect listeners relationship with music?

I know personally it has affected how I listen to music, and not necessarily in a good way. I think it wouldn’t hurt people to reconsider their physical relationships to the media they consume. Listening to a tape, putting on an LP, those sensory experiences are treasurable, fleeting. Alternatively, digging up some obscure mp3 and looping it on your phone for a day and then never listening to it again has a value too. It just seems like two very different ways to encounter music to me. Patient Sounds longs to provide quality physical media, which is available on the internet to facilitate awareness.

On your site you’re very clear about your label not being heavily into PR and not being all about signing and pushing bands. As someone who runs a blog and is constantly being sent lengthy, overly descriptive emails about bands I find this refreshing. Could you expand on this, perhaps by offering some insight into how you run the label and manage releases?

We are a label focused on facilitating a relationship between our artists–most of which are home recording young people with interests in both folk-way and experimentation–and our listeners. The internet’s reception of our work is pretty secondary to how we work at this point. I feel a lot of labels in this current “indie” scene are unknowingly generating content for the blogs/websites that profit from “discovering” something new every ten minutes.

Also, there are countless labels out there that are claiming DIY, or “indie” or whatever, but pay press agents to do their PR. Sorry, but you aren’t DIY or “indie” if you pay a press agent to propagate your work for you, filling email inboxes world wide with junk. We don’t want to ask blogs to write about something they don’t connect with personally… Not to say we haven’t done this; we have never payed for press, but we used to send out your typical email press release bombs, up until a year ago. But we no longer do this, because ultimately, we make things, that is what we do. If you want to write about the things we make, contact us and we will gladly and cordially facilitate a dialog. We are friendly and slightly hermetic. Email us.

 

What would you say the Patient Sounds philosophy is?

Renegade Spirit. Wonder. Anxiety.

You’ve been primarily a tape label with your first vinyl release on it’s way. What appeals to you about tapes? / Do you produce all your tapes yourself? If so can you tell me about this process?

Ultimately, making tapes is cheap, and being a believer in utility, that makes the most sense to me. I am willing to put the time in for tapes, especially when you take the labor intensive approach like I do. I order blanks, and print all our liners and j-cards at a local print shop. I cut and fold all the inserts and dub all the tapes in the office on my tweaked pile of dubbers. Every tape is a hand-crafted object in this way. That is better than a CDr and more cost-effective than a vinyl record. That benefits everyone, including me, because I get the satisfaction of pursuing my craft.

We are excited to move into vinyl…it is ultimately the medium we envisioned working with, and have waited years to manifest. This winter is the winter for records. We will of course continue to do tapes, because they are fun, and cheap, and those things are important in when the world is half-toast how it is.

You touched on the “weird” music to come out of Colorado – what do you think fosters this creativity? Cold climate? Drugs? Community? All of the above?

I definitely think the kind of ruggedness of Colorado–the weather, the landscape, the geographic isolation–has an effect on people’s psyche, and that comes through in our art. The recent legal cannabis situation has played into the image I’m sure, but I think people anywhere do the same drugs Coloradoans do, so I wouldn’t really say that is a factor in what really makes Colorado “weird.” I mean, Boulder is a weird place. The kind of detoxified hippy aura, as funded by largely wealthy upper-class consumer cesspool. BMW yoga moms. That is a huge part of what our markedly “weird” culture is. Existential confusion in the face of privilege and wilderness.

I am a proud citizen of Colorado, but ultimately most of my community for my work exists on the internet. Some of those people on the internet live in Colorado, so there is a bond there, but some live in Japan, or wherever. That idea of a community, an international and largely digital one (focused on the sharing of tangible media), is where I think “weird” music thrives. Just GO and let place be an influence, but not a defining feature.

Are there any obscure local artists (past or present) we may not have heard of that you can recommend?

Erik Wangsvick, whom I played with in Kick Majestic, is an off the map musical wonder that I think the world of weirdos is really missing out on. Erik’s music would be perfectly at home in the online noise scene, but he doesn’t have a Facebook, and only had an email address through the university here because he had to. He makes music as Wrecked, and performs in several other groups, as well as creating visual art. I put out pretty much any Wrecked material he passes to me because it is so fascinating and bizarre to me. He is an analog sound collage master. He uses hand-wired PAs and all sorts of broken electronics and stuff to generate sounds, then he makes these massive performance pieces using recordings of all this source material, as well as field recordings. When he performs them live, he plays percussion (ERIK IS A REMARKABLE DRUMMER). It is really hard to explain, and I think that suits the work. It is complicated.

Another of my favourites is Christina the Hun. She is no longer performing, but she was kind of a local legend here in Fort Collins for a few years. She was a singer-songwriter that played drums and yelped and hollered. I saw my high school physics teacher at a show of hers once and he leaned over to me and said, “She’s like Patti Smith with drum sticks!” He nailed it.

Lastly, there is this shadowy group of avant-garde folk musicians, a collective kind of, called Biota. They are based here in the Fort Collins area. I don’t really know a enough about this band to explain, but just google “biota” and learn about this group and listen. Their latest record, “Cape Flyaway” really floored me. Seriously, heads out there, just google and explore Biota stuff. I can’t vouch for all of it, but they are certainly obscure and fascinating.

 

Can you talk a little about the process of organising a release with an artist – from the initial of contact through to working with them on the release?

It is kind of different with every release. Sometimes I will pester a friend for months, in a few cases years, to release something. Other times I will just surf Bandcamp. This is a hobby of mine, surfing Bandcamp and kind of scouting for tunes, then finding something and asking the artist to make something in the future. We have only released maybe five tapes that were unsolicited demo material. It happens, but it isn’t our primary way to find material. Once we start a project with someone, I kind of outline our platform to the artist if they haven’t heard of the label. I remind them they need to have balanced side lengths on their cassette, I send them a link to a page to pick the color of their cassette shell, I ask them for album art, and then I wait for it all to pour back in. Basically, I pick an artist and kind of assign them the homework of making a release for me. Generally tons of emailing and Google chat ensues, and within anywhere from a few weeks to a few months the tape will be out.

The Kevin Costner Suicide Pact release is amazing, certainly one of my favourite albums of the year. Can you tell me a bit more about that release and your experience with the band?

I know the guys from KCSP pretty well just from being fellow Coloradoans. We spoke at Goldrush, and they informed me they had an album on the shelf at home they wanted me to listen to. We had talked about it working together before, but I could tell right away this was the one I was gonna put out. They told me it was designed as a double LP, but understood if the format was too expensive, so, I listened to it, and loved it. I felt it was really well-constructed as a 4-sided thing, so that is why we went with the double c44. They are really great guys to work with because it is just working with friends. They had it all recorded, so we just worked with the visual artist, George Ferris, to make the artwork and got it ready to release. The album is just so great, such a huge space to explore. I was really glad to add it to the canon.

 

What about the Foothills tape? I really like the music Chase Hudson makes music with 2PPM, I think he’s a really interesting musician. How did the release come about?

I started talking with Chase via a demo submission actually. I really love both the fundamentals of the Foothills project, the concerns of the project, and also the recordings are just so lush and beautiful, so it was a natural fit. Chase leads a very incredibly enriched lifestyle, and works hard for it, and I am so happy to be able to present artists’ like Chase. Melodically I think NEW WORLD is one of the most accomplished PS tapes. It is so tactile, so easy to listen to, but the compositions are challenging! I am pleased to share that there will definitely be a Foothills LP on Patient Sounds in the 2014 future.

 

Can you tell me more about Goldrush Festival? Will it be on in 2014 and if so when? I’ll need to book flights. The lineup this year was incredible.

Goldrush has really evolved. 2014 is probably definitely happening. I wasn’t involved in the first year, but 2012 was great, and this past year was really incredible. The atmosphere was really great, so friendly, really open. Ridiculous merch booth scenarios. Crawford is the man, and does so much work to make it something truly special. Lake Mary was my personal highlight this year. Also, Giant Claw was insane.

 

It seems like there’s a really strong community between many independent labels – what are some of the labels that you admire?

I feel like I find out about a new label every day, but here is a list of what I have been into lately

BATHETIC – EARN – Hell on Earth
ORANGE MILK – JERRY PAPER – International Man of Misery
SCISSOR TAIL – Bruce Langhorne – Music from ‘The Hired Hand’
CONSTELLATION TATSU – FLUORESCENT HEIGHTS – Tidal Motion
UNKNOWN TONE – DYLAN GOLDEN AYCOCK – The Blindfold

 

So more vinyl to come – what else is on the horizon for Patient Sounds?

Well, there is a move in my future (I am applying for grad schools right now, to get an MFA in creative writing & poetry). So there will be a lot of work going into that, but I plan on letting work in the grad school program influence what the label is doing, so we are expecting more poetry books, more printed matter. Of course more tapes, always tapes.

The big thing on the PS horizon; we have 3 LPs locked and on their way this winter, and 3 more to follow in the spring. Without divulging too much, the first release is a double LP of material I have been working on with the string duo. There is a huge list of collaborators on this record too, it was kind of a group project. I built all the arrangements with electronics, and then invited friends to contribute parts to songs. They sent me pieces and I edited it back together and re-arranged it into the album. There will be a deluxe version of the record that comes with a beautiful book of printed collage (by Nathaniel Whitcomb) and poetry (by Grant Souders). These editions will truly be something to behold.

 

Patient Sounds home

Patient Sounds Bandcamp

Patient Sounds Soundcloud

THIS MONTHS VINYL : PARADING

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Our Melbourne is a town that never gives you what you want. Desperate for definition as we all are, Melbourne – like any large city – defies categorisation, in both meteorological and urban terms. You can talk about how pretty the bay is on a summers day, but spend an afternoon sweating in the industrial badlands of Preston and you might not be so chirpy. Wax lyrical on the wonderful creative community that thrives in the town and I’ll suggest you walk down Swanston Street at 2am on a Saturday night. Tell me how everyone is getting along. Talk about how lovely it is outside right now and be certain that you’ll be struck by a blast of sleet within the next moment. My point being that a city is a rich and complex place, it has both unpleasant and beautiful aspects. Dark and light. Loud and quiet.

Released on ace local label Birds Love Fighting, “Swallowing A Sunflower” is a guitar odyssey that captures the contrasting sides of life in Melbourne. And those guitars are glorious. “Shoegaze” is probably one of my most disliked of all silly genre titles but it’s hard to talk about this record without dropping it in. The guitars on “Sunflower” do indeed build walls of sound and we are indeed guided into spiralling chasms of noise by these dream-like songs. The sound here tips its hat to stalwarts of late 80s shoegaze however there’s a rawness to the Parading sound that indicates their place of origin; a combining of hard edges and formless (I do like that word) noise that makes it a distinct Melbourne album.

There’s been a lot of hype about the rise of the “New Pop Underground”  in Australia recently but the last eighteen months has also been a Golden Age for heavier bands, led by acts such as Batpiss, The Spinning Rooms, White Wallls and Exhaustion, to name but a few. Parading fit somewhere between the two fields; their songs have a tenderness that sets them apart from these other high volume bands. Their sound is undeniably all about volume however and, like the bands mentioned above, seeing them perform live is the best way of experience Parading. My appreciation for this album has been heightened by seeing a few Parading gigs and they’re an impressively tight unit as a band, devoid of showmanship in their performance. What they are is assured, sharp and paint-strippingly loud. It’s the contrast between the power of their performance and the themes of uncertainty and personal struggle in Tom Barry’s lyrics that makes them an intriguing band.

Opener “Apollo” is the heaviest track of the album, a mid-tempo crusher that establishes the elements of the Parading sound : the muted, rock-solid rhythm section, those heavyweight guitars and Barry’s distinct voice.

His delivery has something of an affected slant to it – not slurred but sounding alternately like he is either entering an altered state or coming down from one. It’s a central part of the bands sound and adds to the understated quality of this album – while the instruments are often hitting celestial heights of noise, the vocals keep the sound grounded, and very human. “Apollo” also hints at lyrical themes to come in it’s fragmented, pained conversations with lovers-

You don’t come easy to me;
Thinking of how long;
We didn’t know that we was wrong

“Country Song” is a heavy one too though slightly more melodic than its predecessor, with the presence of acoustic guitar perhaps contributing to the songs title. It’s got a brighter feel to it, with a guitar refrain that almost reminds me of Teenage Fanclub’s “Alcoholiday”. The lyrics  feel conversational but that conversation is happening with just one person – an overseen diary entry of doubt and second guessing.

These dark themes take on their bleakest form in “Flying Too Low”, a song that inverses the myth of Icarus.

Please don’t turn around that’s too slow;
You’re flying too close to the sun;
I’m flying too low

The words here seem to deal with the paralysis of depression. I don’t believe it’s a misanthropic song though the lyrics reference wanting to be alone, of being repelled by society. The feeling of isolation is tangible, though as with many songs on this album the introspective moments are offset by the power of the band. It bristles with stoicism. Parading battle sadness with noise, fend off demons with jet exhaust strength guitars.

At only thirty five minutes “Swallowing A Sunflower” could be regarded as a brief album for a band with such an expansive sound but I think it’s perfectly weighted. Three instrumental tracks break up the album nicely – “Julienne” at the end of side one, “Sweet Julienne” as the second track on side two and the title track as the album closer. Wedged between the two “Julienne” tracks is a crackling cover of Springsteen’s “Factory”. At almost twice the length of the original, it’s delivered at a slower tempo and filled out with a much greater volume. That said it’s one of the more minimal songs on this album, delivered with (of course) less earnestness than the Boss to create a reflective rendition that seems to have more to do with the drudgery of working life than being a rousing working class anthem. Mostly it sounds like a band delivering an affectionate cover a song they admire, and in the context of being a Melbourne album it evokes the city’s hulking docks and factories – an aspect of Melbourne that is rarely acknowledged in song.

“Dreaming about Killing” is aptly named, its dark dreamy tone makes it the most “shoegazy” of all the songs here. A line that concerns a dream about murder can’t help but remind me of the opening line of “Via Chicago”, one of my favourite Wilco songs. And while on the Chicago band, the sound of “Swallowing A Sunflower” does remind me of “A Ghost Is Born” songs like “At Least That’s What You said” and “Hell Is Chrome” in the combining of detached vocals with cathartic guitar noise. Another big influence is undoubtedly Galaxy 500, and the albums high point “Untouched” evokes “Fourth of July” in the spoken delivery of the verses and soaring guitars.

A poignant postmortem on a relationship, it’s a terrific song that’s delivered with great power and honesty.

It was bound to happen;
They were bound to fall over just to get up again;
Two people crashing into each other;
Just to see how close they could get

In tandem with the blissful spaciousness of the closing instrumental, “Untouched” rounds off the album beautifully. Dark days have been encountered on “Swallowing A Sunflower” but it’s an album that leaves a positive afterglow.

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Like the long Melbourne winter that never seems to end, followed by the spring that never was, followed by the summer that refuses to begin, this album reflects the uncertainty of life in Melbourne but, I believe, rejoices in that uncertainty. Heartache and hardships come and go in this town, just like any other place. The Great Constant in Melbourne is the music – guitars to get lost in. Noise that bleeds the pain away. Great bands releasing great albums that become your closest of friends. Parading are a Melbourne band.

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For a limited time you can purchase “Swallowing A Sunflower” through Birds Love Fighting and receive  “Bow Down To” by Hierophants and the ‘”Fresh Milk EP” by Orbits 7″ for free.
Visit the Birds Love Fighting Bandcamp to do so.