Sure, we live in a drought-stricken plateau of heat and coexist with creatures that transform people into obituaries. But hey, at least Australia is actually the unspoken bread and butter of math and experimental music. Here the array of complex chord progressions, twisted song structures, quirky jazz and disjunctive noise runs deep. So this week, I teamed up with Simeon Bartholomew from SEIMS fame, and we’re tipping our hats to a swathe of Aussie bands we think you should, you know, know. Our list is non-exhaustive, focusing on bands that are typically left out of conversation, have been lost with time, or are brand spanking new and we are damned excited about them. We also recommend you check out our Australasia math rock compilation and World Of Math map for even more Aussie suggestions.
I had the pleasure of first experiencing this band supporting Battles on their first Australian tour back in 2007 – and they were a huge eye-opener to me in the world of ‘dynamic’. Their live soundscape was the absolution of drone and minimum. Conceptually – it’d seem a challenge to “develop” their unique flavour further, but they did, with Little Joy (2011) being an absolute perfect progression of this from start to finish (an album I still spin regularly and easily sits in my top 10 records of all time). Severe followed in 2015, and yet again, the band have progressed their signature bleakness even further – creating beautifully hypnotic, rhythmic pieces – born from monotony and restriction. SB
An Australian math rock gem. Colditz Glider was started in 2003 by Melbourne music students Lynden and Caley, and Ben, who ran a cafe called Good Morning, Captain (psst, Slint fans).Properties of Light is their 2004 ground-shaking EP, boasting supreme musicianship, unhinged guitar-work and drummer Olie Williams’ experimentation with Afro-Cuban rhythms. Colditz unfortunately disbanded rather abruptly two years after their inception. As such, Properties of Light is a rare sight on the interwebs, having not quite coincided with the advent of the digital age. It’s a precious artefact of Australiana. NH
Making are a band well associated with the post/hardcore scene of Sydney, however musically, they lean much more to the post-industrial and drone world of My Disco; capitalising on their minimal vocals, abrasive ‘aluminati’ riffs, and hypnotic, tribal drumming. Littered with gorgeous moments of serenity and chaos amongst their counter-rhythms and irregular bar measures, ‘Amazon’ and ‘Highlife’ demonstrate their brilliant crafting abilities on contrasting ends of the spectrum. Check out ‘Dream Job’ from the album High Life, which is a total wet dream job. SB
Perth experimental two-piece Mudlark mixes uber-angular chord progressions with dreamy soundscapes, producing a deliciously bizarre arrangement of psychedelic musical textures. Their most recent effort Zimdahl is a beautifully minimalist journey with heavy experimentation with musical space. The interplay between reverberating guitar and rolling percussion has the echoes of the great Cheval de Frise. Get lost in it. NH
With two sterling releases added to their ouevre in the last two years, Adelaide’s Sparkspitter has gone from strength to strength. 2014’s TECHNE remains their tour-de-force: a hypnotic fission between math and kraut rock. The style and scrupulous orchestration of TECHNE, and subsequent satellite EP DOXA transformed the music into a compelling poetry, an art piece that was rich and cerebral. This is intelligent and emotional music at its finest. NH
Brisbane’s Superfeather are a relatively new set of hombres on the scene, offering a complex array of instrumental jazz and fusion with a psychedelic backbone. Their first single, ‘Bassekou’ is an absolute knee jerker, beginning with jiggy fusion and ending in an impetuous frenzy of Zappa-savvy madness. We’re super psyched to see where this band goes. NH
Hailing from down in Melbourne, OOLLUU combine bass, drums and synths to cook up a fury of high-energy electronic rock. The band have been posting a string of live videos from their upcoming sophomore album II. As you can see from their latest single ‘Attitude’, the album is likely to fucking rip. NH
This band is a compositional nightmare – they’ve “out-mathed” every math-rock band that springs to mind, and still manage to create music that is genuinely enjoyable to listen to. There’s method to their madness – intentionally trying to out-do each other and create seemingly unplayable music that still carries a groove (and is extremely catchy). Featuring an underground all-star lineup including Plini/Helix Nebula bass player Simon Grove; Kurushimi/Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt/SEIMS drummer Chris Allison; and guitar virtuoso Simon “Thanks” Dawes at the helm of their self-proclaimed mess. Incredibly entertaining live – especially since they perform their entire set seated. SB
Kurushimi is led by Serious Beak bass player Andrew Mortensen, with the basis of his improvisations formed on the Violence In Action manual (an avant-garde musical movement akin to John Zorn’s ‘Cobra’ – I’m sure we’ll address this in another article further down the track…) Featuring members of Instrumental, adj., Violence In Action, and conducted by Godswounds’ frontman Lachlan Kerr, this cross section of black-metal meets free-jazz is an intense listen – and thoroughly rewarding with every succeeding repeat. The soaring saxophones are an incredible textural device (and what astounding musicians they all are), and the live offering is a completely different experience with every gig (especially if the conductor is feeling a little adventurous that night…). Sounds like Naked City and Pig Destroyer fighting over a donut. SB
For those looking to dissociate from their surroundings and enter the bludgeon dungeon of noise, Sydney’s Serious Beak are more than ready to drive you there. Ankaa remains their magnum opus, a cascade of distortion-heavy post-metal, Voivod-esque prog metal and ornithology (yes). There’s no meticulous recurrent musical motifs being followed, just dudes playing multifarious heavy noise. It’s dirty, jagged, and disjunctive album from start to finish, like an intentionally butchered paper people chain. Go get your bird on. NH
Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt
Keeping with the noisy factor, Fat Guy Wears Mystic Wolf Shirt deliver a lurid excess of noisy and abrasive post-hardcore. Combining the mathy noisy elements of The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch, and Daughters; the powerviolence of Iron Lung, United Nations and Infest; and the good cheer of a drunken cow, you may have something that approximates their latest effort Accord/Dance. NH
With song names like ‘Margaret Thatcher’s Dream Catcher’, ‘Hodge’s Sex Palace’, and ‘Kony 2012’, this is clearly a band with a sense of humour. Based out of (semi) small-town Wollongong, these gents have mastered the balance of complex compositions with their blend of post-hardcore and math-rock; meaningless yet meaningful lyrics, supported by their hilarious stage antics (all whilst still maintaining flawless musicianship throughout their entire set). They don’t take themselves seriously, and they don’t need to. They just want to play entertaining music and make sure the entire room is having as much fun as they are. SB
Be sure to check out some of Australia’s other great acts like Tangled Thoughts Of Leaving, Dirty Three, SEIMS, The Helix Nebula, Plini, Captain Kickarse And The Awesomes, Dumbsaint,; and of course be sure to download our free Australasia compilation on bandcamp. Be sure to also hit us up in the comments section with your favourites…
Featured image: SEIMS, courtesy of Malcolm Katon.