Tonight is the 26th Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Awards and not to sound bitter because we didn’t score an invite (seriously, nobody has any idea how good I look in heels) but it’s easily the most vanilla line-up of nominees yet. With everyone’s favourite boy, Gotye, expected to swoop in and mop up all the awards they neglected to give him last year when he only had a single out, the rest of the categories are littered with bad Aussie rappers, boring medium-well pop-lite bands and The Jezabels, who should win for Prisoner, but probably won’t. While this is all happening, I’ve been getting deep into the recesses of Soundcloud, Mediafire and the godsend that is FBi Radio and discovering some amazing new local music that I’ve only seen on Facebook events cooler people than I have ended up attending. This includes, obviously, The Townhouses, who are playing tonight in an Anglican Church and because I am a grandad I probably won’t make it there even though I really want to. Leigh Hannah (obviously representative of a number of townhouses, rather than merely one) has just released an entire album’s worth of goodness for free via Yes Please, the same label who look after One A Day hot picks Fishing and Guerre. As it turns out, the guy who runs that label won a vinyl from us in our recent 4th year birthday celebrations, but we never managed to get it to him. So consider this our repayment of sorts, Matt, because we seriously have no money for postage.
The style that Hannah writes in certainly isn’t breaking completely new ground, particularly since the chop-shop, pitch-bend aesthetic was popularised by Hermitude, Flume and everyone else with a working cue button on the festival circuit this year. But while those lads exercise their ability to cut up bars into schizophrenic fragments before reassembling them into an enjoyable, but ultimately jerky whole, The Townhouses are as smooth as they come. It may be the particular choice of instrument Hannah uses, a delicate glockenspiel-meets-Fender Rhodes synth vibe that just glides over the beat. It’s topped off by the gorgeous vocals of Rainbow Chan, a diverse Sydney artist who last year which allowed her to go to Reykjavik, Iceland and collaborate with local artists there. She brings a warm, vulnerable almost neo-soul performance to her part, coming across equal parts lower-octave Bjork and Corinne Bailey-Rae, which is to say that I completely love it.
Really what amazes me – and it shouldn’t, but I just forget sometimes how lazy you can be when the Internet is right in front of you – is that even while we have this huge song and dance for tattooed white rappers from Melbourne and guitar bands who don’t even live in the country anymore there’s this amazing undercurrent of truly original music happening without any fanfare at all. The Townhouses record would have been made regardless of whether you or I talked about it; the varied spectrum of sounds and cheap mode of production meaning that the regular industry grind has no bearing on its creation or distribution. But it is lush, isn’t it? There’s like twenty thousand parts ringing out among the tuned percussion family, a sort of Afro-pop meets-Tortoise groove that swells and ebbs with such calculated perfection that you can’t even tell how much work has gone into it. The turnaround at the end of every section is just beautiful, as is the a capella harmony of Chan during her second entry. By the end of the piece, Hannah has integrated the loop of her voice seamlessly into the fabric, as she becomes one with the samples and the line between real and programmed becomes non-existent. It’s a breath, a fleeting moment in time, and it’s just one of the great sounds the Townhouses has put out this month. Come and stay in one today.
The Townhouses ft. Rainbow Chan – ‘Schoenberg’