I think it’s all in the name. Having seen both artists play on their own, as well as together in this configuration, my ears want to pick out the bits that each artist contributes. Scissor Lock’s (Marcus Whale, also of Collarbones fame) processed vocal and fizzy, static laden synths are immediately obvious in ‘Cadillac’. And I can just picture Tom Smith’s (once known as Cleptoclectics) second and third fingers elegantly beating the drum pads on his Groovebox during ‘Omega’. In spite of these brief moments, though, trying to work out who is doing which bits in the ‘vs’ context proves fairly fruitless. Ultimately, Jewelz proves that the two have worked together enough, and are skilled enough collaborators, to over ride the conceit of their name.
And then the sonic rewards are many. The title track is incredible in building peaks and troughs of distorted ambience, sometimes machinic, sometimes organic. Individual elements of sound across the album are incredibly lo-fi, but they are organised with hi-fidelity precision. Many of the synths have that digital edge that most producers work hard to avoid, but the duo make a feature of them, aligning them with low frequency rumbles and sidechained compression to make them sing, holding the migraine-inducing top end shear in control, just.
One thing I’ve noticed across many repeated listens, and I’m not sure the duo would have done this intentionally at all, are the references to uber mainstream pop, albeit heavily processed, of course. This is most notable in ‘Qusqu’ whose opening half synths threatens to broaden out into U2’s ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’, or John Farnham’s ‘You’re The Voice’ clap rolls towards ‘Omega’s conclusion. Which are probably an aural equivalent of me making out elephants and kangaroos in the clouds, but it shows the lack of austerity in this music which has grown out of the noise based genre, a genre that often has trouble not taking itself too seriously. Jewelz is actually fun and it is pleasurable to have it wash over you.
New Weird Australia continues to walk a very fine and difficult line successfully, that being to uncover and release music that is simultaneously challenging yet warmly engrossing. In spite of their respective youth, Tom Smith and Marcus Whale can both be considered experienced veterans of this particular scene in Australia. And the effortless blend of beauty, ugliness, harshness and warmth across Jewelz helps confirm them as leaders in the field.