The Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of...
When the FUNK Met PUNK The mind boggles at what the crowd would have been like, but would be a good reason to time travel.
Diplo has gone and given Lorde’s ‘Tennis Court’ the Andre Agassi remix treatment. Don’t worry, It sounds a lot better than it looks.
Unanswered Questions - A Conversation between Wax Volcanic & Hopium
PART 1 DOES JIMMY PAGE HAVE AN INSTAGRAM?  ”Why’s that interesting?” Acton Bell demands, leaning away from his long black, looking just past me. George Sand, the second member of Hopium, is smiling across the narrow wooden table at Bell, a hand planted under his cheek and a grin splashed broadly between both ears. Hopium are an electronic two-piece wreathed in mystery, unwilling to give up their identities and unrolling their wounded, undulating pop just one song at a time. The second song, ‘Dreamers’ (featuring Phoebe Lou), has just dropped. It already looks poised for explosion, with 20,000 plays on its first day and climbing the Hype Machine charts with meteoric speed. The question Acton Bell has swung towards me at head height is in response to their public invisibility…and my enthusiasm towards it. So why do I find an intentionally low profile so interesting? Is it because of the dramatic tension the preservation of the secret bestows upon its keepers? Because I can mould the shadowy forms in an image of my choosing? Is it because a riddle is like an extended hand, further inviting me to engage more deeply with something I don’t fully understand? I don’t think/say any of these things. Instead I mutter something along the lines of identity subsuming musical quality, of personalities being more prominent than the music they’re supposedly recognised for. ACTON BELL Oh you mean the managing of celebrity? GEORGE SAND That’s always been rock and roll… WAX VOLCANIC Uh yeah… but maybe in increasing volume these days… ACTON BELL Would Jimmy Page have an Instagram? People over-share so bad these days. Like everything. I guess I’ve read some books on Led Zeppelin…I probably did want to know. The anonymity of Hopium is less about the cult of personality culture in the music industry and more because the music is their only real interest, their only true focus. "We almost couldn’t be bothered thinking of a name. Everything seems trivial apart from the music" Bell remarks flatly. But where sought-after music is concerned, the planless has a way of becoming the plan itself. "We haven’t really thought about the long term at all" Sand admits. "The ‘anonymous’ thing was [because] we don’t have a plan and then someone was like: ‘that’s a really good idea, you should make a thing out of that’…"  PART 2 HAVE YOU EVER CHEATED? GEORGE SAND Have you ever cheated? [Long break, like a pause riding atop a small silence] WAX VOLCANIC On someone? Yes. [Internal Monologue, WV] Okay, this was a very long time ago. I’m a scumbag for completely different reasons now. I’m trying to be way better. I’m polite to baristas, I let people pull in front of me in traffic, I give up my seat on the tram. I have perfect feedback on ebay. Gimme a break. ACTON BELL We’ve got you on record. [More double-stacked pause, mingled with uneasy smiles from WV] We’re talking about the band’s first single ‘Cut’, a frigid, desolate and utterly benighted electronic gem, dripping in an almost masochistic loyalty. Lines like: “I’ll cut off my legs so I can never leave you/I’ll cut out my tongue so I’ll never deceive you” betray an oceanic sense of guilt, a dark tone garnished perfectly with a video completely comprised of steam and human form in monochrome silhouette. George Sand admits that the ‘conundrum of commitment’ in the song is “a combination of both of our experiences”.  Hopium’s newest single, ‘Dreamers’ is quite different, thematically and sonically. It’s brightened with pop flourishes, high, euphoric synths and vocal lines/loops that tattoo themselves instantly onto the listening brain. There’s also a lot more hands in the mix, with M-Phazes thickening the track with additional beats and the glassy voice of Phoebe Lou (from beloved Melbourne band Snakadaktal who suffered an early extinction this year) shimmering over the top. The duelling vocals ghost each other, chime in almost to the point of interruption, and it works. Perfectly. I”m going to use the words ‘pop gem’, the phrase ‘catchier than bird flu’. PART 3 'THE TRAP'  Both members of Hopium have spent years in bands, playing music utterly unlike what they are making together under their shadowy new moniker. But Hopium wasn’t simply a reaction against the band scene they’d spent so much time in, it was more of an expedition, something to refresh their sense of discovery.   “We just thought it was interesting I think” George Sand yawns. “Because we hadn’t really done it before so we have been learning the whole time…I think [‘Cut’] was one of the first beats we put together…” And it’s clear, even after only two songs, that Hopium are evolving. ‘Cut’, despite being a brooding, sparse electronic jam, had exactly zero synths on it, (besides a Moog Minotaur which acted as a bass). “All the chords were made up of samples and vocals” nods George Sand. But even ‘Dreamers’, despite being notably more synth-friendly, still is peppered with strange treatments and interesting arrangements. Again, the chords that fill the bulk of the songs verses are vocals, cut and filtered. And despite the sonic breadth and emotional magnitude of ‘Dreamers’, we’re still spared huge synth builds. There are none of what Acton Bell refers to as “overdone filtering whoosh whoosh synths”, the song’s epic quality distilled in just four or five colourful, reverb-drenched stabs (of what sounds like a Korg Monopoly). But despite the colour that is steadily leaking into their sound, all of the music Hopium has made so far, has been made without the same historical conventions surrounding electronic music. And whether it was because, as they admit, they “didn’t know what [they] were doing”, or because they deliberately wanted to defy genre conventions, they avoided some of the platitudes that stagnate so much modern electronic music.      “Every genre has its rules” Acton Bell enthuses, “but also every instrument has the Trap…but then I started to realize that computer music meant that you could do absolutely everything…” PART 4 SO YOU HAVEN’T HEARD ANYTHING? THERE HAVEN’T BEEN ANY LEAKS? HAS ANYONE HEARD ANYTHING?  GEORGE SAND I’ve played in a few bands. I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne with a band, with my high school buddies…Adelaide is a bit of a backwater place so it’s kind of the suburban thing, you just listen to pop punk and emo and shit, then that’s the world…I feel like I’m still trying to figure out how to make good music. Because I made a lot of bad music. ACTON BELL I actually met George when he was in a band and I was supposed to record them, remember? But then it just never happened As people who have both spent much of their previous musical careers on stage, it’s mildly surprising that when asked about if they’d thought about playing live, George Sand’s response is a lethargic: “Not really…” But conceptually they’re full of ideas, and all ideas very in-step with the Hopium way. Their ideas favour “heaps of visuals, projections and lights”, keeping their music disembodied, faceless. “We want to develop a way of making music live in the same way that you make it in a studio, which is more of an experience. We don’t just want to play a CD” Acton Bell states coolly. But these ideas are, of course, all conjecture. Who truly knows how Hopium will continue to evolve. This is part of the joy, part of the magnetism of Hopium as a project. The mystery isn’t purely manufactured. These guys actually seem to be making it up as they go along. “There is a lot of unanswered questions” Bell admits. “Every time we have gone to answer these questions we realise we don’t have the music yet, so we just go back to the music.” And their focus is gratifying. That fact that Bell emphatically feels like Hopium “can’t be too easy…can’t just be one sound that anyone else could have done” means that progress is slow. But it’s also deliberate. Bell’s own band motto of “the strangest way you can get to a sound, the better” is part of the reason that ‘Dreamers’ has wrapped the blogosphere in a sudden fever. Bell’s half-mocking plea of “So you haven’t heard anything? There haven’t been any leaks? Has anyone heard anything?” It’s more than a little fitting that Hopium’s own name means, basically, a vested interested capitalising on illusion or rhetoric. But Hopium the band, thankfully, aren’t sophistry without substance. Their mystery and slow careful output are very real, even to Bell and Sand. And more important than their anonymity, than their planlessness and sideways-approach to electronic music, is their material. Whatever may happen in the smoky fringes of Hopium, the songs, few as they are, speak for themselves. For Cool Accidents
Wishful Thinking
There is nothing not to love or even adore about Viv Albertine’s book Clothes Music Boys. Nothing from its oh-so-perfect title (more of a life manifesto for a generation) to its perfectly formed little vignettes of 1970s pre-punk life. I love how she divides life and years into the key elements – what she was wearing, who she was seeing, and what she was listening to. It’s a brilliantly natural filing system for music fans. Albertine (for those of you who don’t know the self-taught guitarist with seminal all girl punk group The Slits – one of the earliest of all Punk Groups in the wake of the Pistols, and a very important moment in women in rock. Check their seminal Peel session of 1977 for a flavour of recording as perfectly formed chaos ) tells the story of how cutting edge punk rock was through tales of everyday life for two thirds of the book, and humanises people who have become so iconic as to be almost caricatures. So we meet Rotten (crap blow job), Johnny Thunders (heroin sleazebag), Sid Vicious (just nice actually and sad for it), Nancy (tried to shag the singer first), Adam Ant, Siouxsie, Vivienne (Westwood) & Malcolm (McLaren), Mick Jones (wore girls clothes), Keith Levene (taught her to play like herself), Don & Neneh Cherry as they were – not as history has cast them. [above is a bunch of them together in the shortlived and un-recorded band The Flowers Of Romance: Marco (later Adam & the Ants), Viv, Sid V, Siouxsie, Severin] She is always humble and self-effacing – never more so than telling how The Slits supported The Clash on the White Riot tour and started with a 1,2,3,4 in pure tribute to The Ramones without realising that was the time signature … until Mick Jones said they were all supposed to stop in time too! But best of all she talks about the role music and musicians played in her life and growing up, and it’s incredibly powerful: “Musicians are our real teachers. They are opening us up politically with their lyrics and creatively with experimental, psychedelic music. They share their discoveries and journeys with us. We can’t travel far, no one I know has ever been on an aeroplane. We can’t meet the Maharishi, but we learn about him through music. We can hear Indian influences by listening to George’s Harrison’s sitars, discover Timothy Leary, R.D.Laing, Arthur Janov and “the Primal Scream”, acid, California, Woodstock, riots .. whatever they experience , we experience through their songs. It’s true folk music – not played on acoustic guitar by a bearded bloke – but about true life experiences”. I don’t know if it will work this way now, or ever again, in the age of streaming, instant access to media, and so many other sources of inspiration. It is hard to imagine it in a chart full of Pitbull, Flo Rida and Redfoo. But you can see why it mattered to her and her generation so easily, and where the rebel yell came from. And if you cross your fingers and wish hard maybe it could just happen again?? -TH [Further reading - When you’ve finished with Viv try bandmate Tessa’s version which is very inspiring too]
Support Your Local
When was the last time you bought an actual record from an actual record store? We highly recommend giving it a go if it’s been a while… It really is good for the soul… or rock… or pop… or alternative… or electronica… or hip hop… or classical… or country… or dance… or folk… or heavy metal… or jazz… or (insert weird sub-genre here) or world.
Get On The Goodfoot (Straight Down To Hoyts)
There was a time (see what we did there) when James “GodFather of Soul” Brown was just about ubiquitous, and I mean EVERYWHERE. Pretty much every hip hop record had a JB sample on it (or how about this 4 and a half minutes dedicated to the boss by the original sample kings themselves - Double Dee & Steinski), and if not the man himself then one of his many brilliant productions. And of course Black Caesar was still around and touring. It was a crazy parody show, but it was still good. And sometimes Maceo even turned up to join Pee Wee Ellis. And he even had his own hits like Living In America (power ballad funk) and Unity (dope collab with Afrika Bambaataa). And then it went a bit quiet… But maybe not for long. With this is due to open in August - JB gets the Brother Ray treatment. He had a good story and it should be fun(k) to watch. And surely everyone will realise just how great THE FUNK was. Can We Count It Off? He’s back – watch yo’ bad self.
Weekend Calling.
This week we can’t get over how good the track below actually is. I don’t know if you’d call it funk, but its fucking funky. And I’m not sure if its alternative, but it’s alternative to most other things we listen to nowadays. It’s not electronic, but it sounds like it might be modulating everywhere. And the two alternating tone notes (drones?) are either white noise or modern composition. Like Fela Kuti met Can “Hallelujwah” to play a Terry Riley composition and Boards of Canada remixed it… And sort of made whole by this Paul Simenon (The Clash) quote: “We knew by the time the mid 70’s arrived that we were fucked. Doomed. England was a wasteland in those days. We were destined for the scrap heap unless we could figure out an escape from the mundanity. I got a job in a factory when I was fifteen, but all I cared about was playing guitar. There was a lot of noise in the factory — white noise and wall to wall sheet metal din. A constant hammering; an ambience of industrial noise all the time” Let’s just call it 12 minutes of awesomeness.
Shlohmo & Jeremih
If you’re partial to a little slow jam action, then you NEED to be getting all amongst the new Shlohmo & Jeremih No More EP like RIGHT NOW. Even better, it’s FREE… Yep, your new soundtrack to hold hands, kiss and make babies to will cost you nothing but your email address. Ever since the duo teamed up for the Songs From Scratch series a year ago and delivered the ultimate musical aphrodisiac Bo Peep (Do U Right) the anticipation of further collaboration has been high and rumour has it the world’s population also saw a spike. The 6 track package includes the above as well as a couple other joints that have already existed on the internet alongside a few new ‘after the hotel lobby’ anthems including a joint with CA fave Chance The Rapper. The project is presented by The WEDIDIT Collective and they did it so you can do it so get to it…
Meanwhile In Japan...
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi modeled a kayak based on her vagina and found herself up shit creek without a paddle after being arrested for sending out 3D printer data of said vagina to fans from the crowd sourced initiative. Igarashi was quoted as saying “I wanted to make p***y more casual and pop.”… As Madness used to say “Fuck Art, Lets Dance”… they just didn’t mean it literally.
Choice Cuts
Feature track
The Kite String Tangle
Feature video
Golden Features - Tell Me Ft. Nicole Millar - Official Music Video
Golden Features