[Vacant Valley; 2017]
While VV label runner Peter Bramley’s PBS show Club it to Death continues to exhume the mummified hand of the late Australian and New Zealand noisy underground, the label trims its roster from the same crypt. For its first release of 2017, the label have found ideal compatriots in No Sister and Bitumen – two bands blazing a similar trail of Nosferatic post-punk hiding behind The Birthday Party’s total solar eclipse. And while the bands are unabashed in their affections, they distil their influences with authenticity and intelligence.
One of the more formidable live acts to devour the Melbourne pub circuit, No Sister (formerly – partly – from Brisbane) have translated their cacophonous live show into a lean double A-side. Though it doesn’t necessarily indicate a new direction for the band, ‘Score’ and ‘Perpetrate’ are well ventilated to give the vocals a lot more breathing room. The spider web guitar harmonics and the morse code shifts from staccato to legato are still omnipresent, but relieved from an oppressive wall of feedback they converse more distinctly with the vocalists and the band’s razor sharp rhythm section.
For this split Mino, who held down vocal duties for the lion share of the band’s self titled debut, passes the torch to bassist Siahn (‘Score’) and guitarist Tiarney (‘Perpetrate’). Sharing vocal duties might ordinarily portend a creative shift, but here the consistent MO of No Sister’s vocalists – insistent, erratic but not abstract – reveals a striking simpatico amongst the four-piece. As such the band feel less like a group of musicians with predetermined roles and more like a flock of acolytes trading satanic verses over a pentagram.
Although the medium typically denotes a sense of rapport between the artists featured, both No Sister’s and Bitumen’s separate releases can be viewed as more companionable than this split. And where Bitumen’s self-titled release last year had its sleazier moments indebted to the junkie punk reverberating through the alleyways of mid-eighties Australia, ’Honey Hunter’ leads the cassette into colder territory. On this cold-wavier turn, the drum machine ticks like a manic clock as vocals drip stalactites over foggy reverb from dual guitarists Sam and Bryce.
If ‘Honey Hunter’ felt too impressionistic, the band lob a brick with ‘Winter Swimmer’. With all the fury of Savages’ heavier/proggier material from last year, the bared teeth of a Tracy Pew bassline and squealing feedback herald the circular mantras of vocalist Kate, spurring the band into a towering climax. It’s a triumphant turn from Kate, whose cold wave-via-Nick Cave incantations have never sounded more forceful, and it stakes fertile ground for the band’s future.
’No Sister/Bitumen’ sees the two bands continue to mesmerise with demonic grooves and refreshingly unironic gusto. If that’s your ointment you can see them at the Tote this Saturday. Grab a cassette and, more importantly, see the bands.