Ballarat’s Mark with the Sea excel at the type of Australiana that Paul Kelly, Crowded House and The Gin Club churn out in their sleep. Songs are filled with plenty of space for deliberation, with it all rooted in a specific time and place that could only be the best friggin’ country in the world. Opener Bows & Arrows is an immediate classic with a tight, moody grip and menacing guitars suggesting a threat just below the surface. Type Bows & Arrows into YouTube if you’re tickled by the idea of a grown man dancing senselessly in his jocks and I’ll wait here. Adding members and filling the sound out more since 13 Years (2013) suits them well, as the group are at their best when they use the whole band and deviate towards the sinister, as the aforementioned Bows, Kind of Girl and Who Will Watch Over You will attest. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ll Be the Artist and Go to Sleep have a calming and sweet veneer. They could be lullabies, if your kids aren’t old enough to clock the existential dread contained within. LaLoveLosLost is another potential single; both an upbeat and unsettling excursion that concludes in Los Angeles, with the listener not certain if this is he idyllic place of palm trees and sunshine or the unseen and dark side of the American Dream described in Nick Toshes’ Dean Martin biography Dino. Great care has been put into this album, and like all your favourite stuff, it sounds way better on headphones.
Heads are a relatively new band receiving quite a lot of attention recently for their self-titled debut LP, due out in Australia this Friday from newly formed and equally well-hyped Ballarat indie label Heart of The Rat. A collaboration between former Melbourne musician Ed Fraser and two friends from his new home in Berlin, Heads play heavy, noisy, and identifiably Australian music that should be enjoyed by fans of sludge-infused Australian noise rock like Zeahorse or Narrow Lands. It’s no surprise that Heads are touring with Metz. The two bands seem to making a similar sort of sound: passionate, heavy guitar rock influenced by post-hardcore and noise. But is it interesting enough to justify the hype?
First track, A Mural Is Worth a Thousand Words, sets the tone for the rest of the album, with a heavy, layered guitar sound similar in violence and intensity to the latest release from Metz. But while Metz are all about the power and the speed, Heads run at a comparatively languid pace, allowing you to pay close attention to the intricate compositions they’ve used to create their sound. They’re also a lot more fun than Metz, showing something of the self-aware Australian sense of humour that made Narrow Lands’ Popular Music That Will Live On Forever so novel and appealing back in 2013. From the bong rip breakdown in the first track, to the title of track two, Chewing on Kittens, you get the sense that Heads are a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously. That, and the undisguised accent to the vocals, lends the album a sense of personal authenticity. It gives a human touch to the otherwise flawlessly controlled sound of the album. They don’t just seem like a band who’d melt your face off at a concert, but one who’d be a lot of fun to drink with afterwards. It makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.
It’s easy to be suspicious of releases like this one, that come from nowhere with a strong amount of promotional attention, but in this case, the hype is entirely justified. From the droning, evolving hardcore of Skrew, to the immersive psychedelic narrative of Black River, or the cataclysmic, discordant rumblings of Foam, it’s the perfect mixture of evocative song-writing and emotional intensity. If you’re into heavy music, or any of the artists I’ve mentioned, you will adore this album. Heads have created a stunning debut that should not be missed.
One Australian that was fresh off the plane from Australia, with the sound of a former band disintegrating still ringing in his ears, vocalist and guitarist Ed Fraser set about finding new collaborators. One German, The Ocean‘s bass player Chris Breuer was seeking new creative outlets; and another German, Hamburg-based Peter Voigtmann, on drums. That’s why HEADS. was formed last year. Just a group of like-minded individuals, drawing inspiration from the same filthy pools.
Fast forward for today and we’re proud to bring to you the premiere of the self-titled debut album of this power-trio. Recorded by Jonathon Nido of Coilguns, and taking their cues from Steve Albini’s school of thought, the band recorded live, getting down 13 tracks in three days – including a guest appearance from Louis Jucker of Coilguns – which have been whittled down to 6, this debut is rock ‘n’ roll to the fuckin’ bone. An amazing display of a feature often forgotten: it’s freakin’ visceral. It spits in our face, without even thinking about apologizing, and in the end just thrills and excites. Welcome to the lovely filthy world of HEADS.
Berlin trio Heads. is going to release their vinyl debut this spring on 8th May via This Charming Man Records. Band draws it’s energy from 90’s rock, postrock and shoegaze. And the fact that Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna took care of mastering the piece is a guarantee of high quality stuff.
Album was recorded live in heritage-listed hall Bikini Test in the Swiss Alps which added a natural warm feeling to the record. You can really tell there’s something different right after you hear the first few seconds. It greatly adds up to that dark atmosphere of this mysterious record. Band recorded 13 track in three days and picked 6 of them for their upcoming EP. (Interesting numbers right ?!)
Simple sludgy and hard hitted bass that was burried in bogs deeper than black coal supplemented with drums that draw shady echo from their surroundings. Melancholic yet disturbing guitar calms you with distant yet close vocals just to rip your head apart in the following moments. I found it interesting that sometimes the rest of the band can change the character of a whole song while the bass doesn’t change a thing and sludges its way through no matter what. And those are the things that I expect from a noiserock band. These guys made no mistake. Album ain’t too experimental (I could use a bit more of that) but on the other hand it’s going to be “listenable” to more people that aren’t always that fond of experimentalal. All what’s left to do now is look forward to 8th of March.
It’s no surprise to learn that HEADS. will be going on tour with METZ in June and any other bands who like writing their name in capitals only. HEADS. are 1 Australian and 2 Germans making stripped-to-the-bare-bones noise rock that in places, gives a nod to that 90s grunge sound, alongside a gnawing, low-end scrape of disgruntled darkness. Similar to soon-to-be-touring-mates METZ, HEADS. are uncomfortably raucous in their dishevelled and somewhat nonchalant approach to creating sounds that can be reformed into music.
Opening track, A Murial Is Worth A Thousand Words, can barely stand up. It’s staggering about everywhere, sloshing beer in every direction – utterly legless. The bending, grumble of crunching bass and steely drum patterns keep it upright, whilst vocalist Ed Fraser’s Australian drone channels a Cobain-esque “don’t fucking look at me” attitude. He’s not quite at the point of seething, but there’s a nastiness there and he wrestles strangulated chord after strangulated chord out of his guitar with menacing frustration. “How’s about, I’m getting off my face…” he croons on the bizarrely titled Chewing on Kittens. He sounds beyond ruined as this dreamy-haze of throaty, rhythmic psychedelic rock pushes at your senses, scrambled guitar lines cutting in and out (think ‘68 and their turbulent efforts at keeping to any kind of formula) over the unsettling caterwaul.
Moving on, and Fraser can barely contain his disdain on Skrew – his sneering yelp almost forms a corporeal entity in the room, such is its presence. This off-kilter Drive Like Jehu scribble of indignant noise-punk is harrowing and bleak in its twisted and revolted drone and is absolutely thunderous to boot. It’s the sound of waking up from a 24 session and realising that you’re still drunk and trying to frantically piece together the ‘scenes missing’ from the night before.
HEADS. are uncomfortably raucous in their dishevelled and somewhat nonchalant approach to creating sounds that can be reformed into music..
There’s an almost southern-rock twang to Fraser’s voice on the moody-shift of Black River. His unusual drawl is laced with smoke and that harsh burn of a fine malt, whilst the post-punk sprawl of grinding bass, clattering cymbals and wailing guitar shred all remind you where the loyalty towards jagged, scratching noise really lies. A somewhat quieter and less vicious track, Black River relies on minimalist interjection from the bass, drums and guitar for the first part, only to clatter home in the song’s noisy and choking coda Harvey Milk-style misery and loss. The crackling guitar creek of Foam, coupled with the huge-bass drum stamp brings to mind Dublin’s Girl Band (who incidentally, would make fine touring partners with HEADS.) in all their discomforting glory.
“Where’s Jim? Buried deep under somebody’s driveway…” opens final track, The Voynich Manuscript setting the fear bar at an appropriate level. Poor Jim – he’s pushing up the daisies and will never hear this ode, which is a scrawl of mangled, bass-heavy noise in the similar vein to Girls Against Boys – fractured, broken and slovenly garage rock that punches an amp-shaped hole in your stomach.
You need HEADS. This Australian-German three-piece are a bitter, discordant snarl that may just surprise you along the way. Catch them on tour in Germany with aforementioned noise-punks, METZ.
The Dead Salesmen are one of our country’s musical treasures. The revered Ballarat group deliver profoundly affecting songs; articulating the deepest of sorrows while offering a life-affirming sincerity through shimmering, stirring melodies. In a special partnership with Heart of the Rat Records, The Dead Salesmen’s brilliant 1998 album, Amen, will be reissued on limited edition deluxe vinyl. What’s equally exciting for devoted followers is the band will perform together for the first time in 13 years to launch this special vinyl reissue of Amen.
“Sonically, it’s definitely the best album we ever produced,” says bassist Patrick Bath, “and thankfully it was recorded on big two-inch tape, so it’s got a very nice, warm analogue feel, which lends itself very excellently to being on vinyl.”
For Bath, The Dead Salesmen’s three albums – Jealousy (1993), Bluestoned (1995) and Amen (1998) – capture three distinct periods in the band’s existence. “The first one was very much a youthful album; it’s a lot faster and it’s got a lot of exuberance and energy about it,” he considers. “The middle album is our dark period and that’s where we’re getting a little bit grungier… The third album has a real beauty to it… There’s a maturity and intelligence to the lyrics.”
Although the bulk of Amen will be performed at the launch, the band will also play numbers from Jealousy, Bluestoned, and possibly some off their EPs. Bath has been making albums since he was 16, but knew very quickly that The Dead Salesmen represented something he wanted to be a part of.
“When the Duo [singer Justin ‘Hap’ Hayward and guitarist Justin Ryda] got together and wanted to make their first recording, I was helping to produce and we made a tape and sold it ourselves at record shops,” he relates. “I had my own funk band… [But] I was so immensely impressed with the songs that the Dead Salesmen duo were coming out with that I was extremely happy to let go of that band and become a member of The Dead Salesmen.”
Julitha Ryan – who joined the band for the recording of Amen and their Only Fire EP – will be on stage with Bath, Haywood, Ryda and drummer Len Hyatt for the vinyl launch. Despite playing their last show together in March 2002, they’re all closer than ever. “We played very solidly for around ten years and we were living in each other’s pockets,” Bath recalls. “I dearly love all the members of the band.”
Across their career, The Dead Salesmen always maintained their integrity, sincerity and artistic ideals. “When you’re in a band, it’s like you against the world,” says Bath. “At the time we were together, we really believed – and still do – that we were something really genuinely special. So that in itself led to us wanting to maintain this integrity and I even think when we finally split up, it was partially that if we can’t be as great as we possibly can be… if we can’t live up to our own ideals then we didn’t want to do it anymore.”
The special reissue of Amen on deluxe vinyl is selling well, so Bath hopes to, ultimately, reissue all their albums on vinyl. “That would be my dream and then launch all of them,” he enthuses. “There is a bunch of songs we wrote that never ended up on an album and I would love it if we actually got together to record those last few songs. It would be a question of us all being able to find the time and being able to really commit to doing it with the same authenticity that we did everything else with, so as long as we felt we were in a position to do that, I think we could possibly do it.”
Gliding into my earphones with a healthy mix of noisy electric guitar is the opening track ‘Bows & Arrows’ from Mark with the Sea’s new album When the Blood Runs Dry. With the rollicking trashing cymbal crashes and Hammond organ tumbling along, although I haven’t had the opportunity to see Mark with the Sea live yet, they will definitely be on my list to see this year.
Marc Oswin is one of the locals that has been playing around the Ballarat scene for many years now in different projects and bands, but by far this is the most exciting thing he has ever done. The second release from the band and the follow up to 2013’s 13 Years, the choruses of the tracks that make up this album are catchy and something that if you listen to this album a couple of times, you will be singing along in no time.
Regarded as a poetic and literal songwriter, the lyrics that make up this album are both intriguing and enjoyable to listen to. One of the highlights of this album is ‘Fractured Parts’. From the reverb guitar lines and the soft acoustic tones, this tune has many layers to the sound producing something that is a new discovery every time.
Having played in Geelong at the NightJar Markets recently, Mark with the Sea is set to play a few shows over the upcoming months so make sure that you catch them and pick up this tremendous local release whilst you are at it.
Written by Tex Miller
Oh hell yes, this is my sort of music. Distil the syrupy sound of the melvins, throw in the squally punk attitude of McLusky and stir it all up with a magic pinch of anarchy and you’ll have the Recipe for Heads, the Berlin-based band who are responsible for this debut release. Perfectly mixed by Coilguns lunatic Jona Nido and beautifully mastered by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna), this self-titled LP is a stunning example of what the underground can achieve and it is a must have for anyone who worships at the altar of disaffected noise-mongers like the Melvins, Jesus Lizard and Sonic Youth.
The album opens with the sludge-bass groove of ‘a mural is worth a thousand words’, a menacing, skull-flattening piece of work that recalls Mclusky’s wonderful ‘…do Dallas’ album with its sneaky guitar lines and half-spoken, half screamed vocals. As an album opener it’ll either have you hooked, and ready to worship at the band’s collective feet, or running a mile. Guess which side of the fence I’m on. Next up is the brilliantly titled ‘chewing on kittens’ which sounds like a cross between ‘night goat’ and Tom Waits. It’s fabulously dirty, suspiciously groovy and delivered like the last will and testament of a disillusioned preacher on the run with a bottle of whiskey and a lascivious nun. Throughout the guitars spit and burn, the drums are a disturbing rumble and the vocals whisper uneasy thoughts deep into your conscious, leaving you broken and confused. Now thoroughly locked into your brain, the band continue their mission to diminish your soul with ‘skrew’ which sounds like Nick Cave at his most intoxicated fronting Oxbow. There is little in the way of redemption here, just a gaping crimson vortex leading to the underworld beckoning, always, for you to follow. So much for the first side of the album, if you’re listening on vinyl, as it spins to its end, you’ll be lucky to still have your sanity.
‘Black river’ is a song with a lighter touch, and the first one to lead with guitar rather than bass (not that the band’s cruelly distorted bass monster isn’t lurking around, just waiting to tear into you) and, with its dark lyricism and drawled vocals the track recalls a mix of Rollins Band, Nick Cave and QOTSA. It’s the sound of fatigue given its own unique sound, and the somnambulant drums which power the track keep the pace hypnotic rather than hyperactive, always sucking the listener further into the Heads’ pool of sludge. At six minutes, the real trick that Heads pull off is keeping the interest whilst delivering a musical arrangement that is Spartan to say the least. What is important here, however, is what the band don’t use and the spaces between notes speak volumes in the parched dry, bleached-bon desolation the band evoke. With taught percussion and some truly bowel-destroying bass, ‘Foam’ is an album highlight that is somewhere between Grinderman and Rollins band and which never fails to hook you in. The album ends, all too quickly, alas, with ‘the voynich manuscript; and you can only hope that the other seven songs recorded during the session will see the light of day sometime. ‘The voynich manuscript’ is a five minute exercise in subtle horror, as filthy as a blood-spattered basement and yet devoid of the adrenalin pounding horror of a madman with an axe (or a rock band, for that matter) with guitars largely employed in adding texture and atmosphere rather than flaming riffs.
Heads are clearly not a band for everyone. Those who are familiar with Coilguns will be surprised at the band’s comparative subtlety and deeply, deeply impressed by Jona Nido’s stunning production job. What we have here are a band who look back to the art metal of the early nineties and crossbreed it with the maniacal fervour of Nick Cave and Tom Waits to create something uniquely malevolent. It’s hard to imagine another band who sound like this, but if, like me, you miss the days when bands were able to craft something truly unpleasant without resorting to either massive riffs (although plenty abound when the need arises) or harrowing screams, then this self-titled little beauty will be right up your alley.
Melbourne Musician Ed Fraser moved to Berlin a year and a half ago and started the band Heads, with two Germans. The band has since signed to This Charming Man Records in Europe and the US.
The band has released a preview from a track off their upcoming LP which was recorded in a heritage listed building called Bikini Test in the Swiss Alps in September. The LP is due out early next year.
Ed describes it as “90s-ish and heavy: somewhere between Shellac, The Jesus lizard and Young Widows“.
Check it out and support an international band with an Aussie independent heart.
Your holiday’s over – deal with it. To help you get your nose back to the grindstone, here’s the grinding debut track from HEADS. “A Mural Is Worth A Thousand Words” is post-hardcore in search of a genre description to better describe its low-slung mélange of “Nick Cave ‘off heroin’, Shellac and My Disco” with shades of The Jesus Lizard and Quicksand. The two-parts German, one-part Australian HEADS. tracked their upcoming LP in a heritage listed building called “bikini test” in the Swiss Alps and mixed with Magnus Lindberg of Cult of Luna, so we’re expecting monumental things. No pressure, guys!