Melbourne musician Evelyn Morris began her musical life behind the drum kit in noisy bands like Baseball and True Radical Miracle, before metaphorically laying down the sticks in 2007 and opting for a strange idiosyncratically beautiful world created from an accordian, loops and a floor tom. That project is Pikelet, an experimental folky DIY outing that thus far has produced three albums and become a fully fledged band, culminating in 2013’s Calluses, a darker, busier, highly textured sound brimming with synthetic flourishes and an off kilter, almost woozy psychedlia. Pikelet band has had a change of members and are currently doing shows to develop material and then working towards a new album. More recently, in an attempt to redress the general omission of women from musical history and musical activities she has initiated the Listen project, an open forum that seeks contributions from a wide variety of feminists that she hopes will eventually be published as a book.
1. Catherine Ribeiro and Alpes – ‘Paix’ EP (Phillips)
This is an album that has continued to provide me with inspiration over the last five years or so since a friend introduced me to it. Catherine has a fierce voice, and when you finally get around to translating her lyrics (Which I didn’t do for a good three years because I was just happy feeling the songs) she’s also very political and very moving in her calls for peace. The band offers excellent support on this album as well, with a delicious legit psychedelic sound that many attempt to replicate but don’t do as effortlessly and seamlessly as it was done on the original psych records such as this one back in 1972.
2. Roberto Cacciapaglia – Sonanze (PDU)
Another that I was introduced to by a friend (my friends all have great taste and totally get me I’m very lucky) this is an exploration album for me. It’s got no boundaries and no reservations about being bizarre and curious. My favourite kinds of albums blend the bizarre with the human and Cacciapaglia does it with ease and infuses just the right amount of ‘creepy’ and messed-up in there too. With timpani that swell and bend upward and downward behind ethereal synth harmonies… choirs doing the most unearthly chords… and strings that take you to your favourite sci-fi novel moments immediately. A true forever record. Made in 1975
3. Laura Jean – ‘Australia’ from the album A Fool Who’ll (Chapter)
I would love to put any one of Laura’s whole albums on here, and urge everyone to check them all out. But this song in particular completely eclipses anything I’ve ever done or will ever do. It has more political resonance and social commentary nouse than anything Midnight Oil ever did… It’s raw and presents Laura in an uncompromisingly brazen and brave persona that on previous albums she’d not unleashed. The moment I heard this song I was driving my car and when it came on the radio I had to pull over because I felt too overwhelmed to drive. I still remember exactly the spot I sat in my car and cried and felt ripples of goosebumps of gratitude that someone had finally written a song like this. Listen to every lyric, and do not shy away from your empathy. It’s brutal. Released in 2011 on the album ‘A Fool Who’ll’ by Chapter Music. I’ve been playing in Laura’s band recently and constantly nag her to let us play it… but it’s also very hard for her to perform given the intensely emotional content. We’ve convinced her three times though… and every time has felt more cathartic than any punk gig I’ve ever performed at.
4. Melody’s Echo Chamber – S/T (Fat Possum Records)
This is an album that I found out much later then everyone else I think. I am a huge Francophile and also friends with some folks who are friends of hers… (Tenuous but it makes me feel special ok?) so this album really appeals to me, despite the fact that I generally don’t like revivalist psych references. Melody’s precision in her delivery of pop themes and melodies is refreshing and disarming. She references Broadcast as well and given that they’re my fave band of all time, I’d usually be critical of that as well but she does it with her own flavour. I also began my relationship to this record whilst beginning a romantic relationship for the first time since I was in my early twenties. It was a heady time full of the tumult and torment that comes along with love, and Melody’s Echo Chamber soothed me through this period of adjustment and reassured me that I would be OK and that there’s beauty in the heartache. I find romance in music so easy to shrug off generally that this makes this album also a forever album.
5. Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni (Glitterbeat)
I read about this album recently on the NPR ‘Best Global Albums’ of 2014. I utterly LOATHE terms such as ‘global’ or ‘ethnic’ or ‘world’ when referring to anything that exists outside of western white washed culture. However I still looked at this page. I’m glad I did. This is an album I’ve been dancing around to in my house, and not even being entirely sure what the rhythmic patterns are plenty of the time. Which is saying a lot … I tend to be fairly well across rhythm… it’s my thing. This album switched my brain off and made me release the cerebral thought about rhythm and just sway to it. Plus I LOVE the way that Noura Mint Seymali sings, and have been desperately attempting to replicate the pitch-bending and vocal gymnastics but she’s just too good. I am in awe of her skill. I also find her delivery moves me emotionally even though I’ve no idea of the lyrical content. I love the bass playing, it’s very minimal and just chugs the songs along in this effortless way. Noura Mint Seymali is from Mauritania, in West Africa and this album was released in 2014.
6. Soft Power – If You Come Around (All Day Breakfast Enterprises)
An album out of Brisbane released by Makeda Zucco’s label ‘All Day Breakfast Enterprises’. Definitely one of the best Australian records I’ve heard. This is also one that gets me perplexed enough to just move and dance without using my brain. Creepy at times, a bit saucy at other times… there’s wonky synths and whispered vocals and unidentifiable motives. The link above is to a video by a guy who performs under the name of Horse Macgyver and makes these incredible bent videos that I’m a big fan of also. He made one for Pikelet when we put out Calluses.
7. Julia Holter – Loud City Song (Domino)
A very quiet achiever this album… Upon first listen I wasn’t blown away. But slowly the motifs get stuck in your head and you realise just how good that dual saxophone bit is in Maxim’s I and all of the sudden you’re hooked. I had the pleasure of supporting Julia Holter when she played at The Northcote Social Club last year and was very impressed by the band’s replication of the album as well. I found her stage presence a little frustrating though… I know it’s stupid to be critical of women on stage coz we’re all under heaps of pressure. But I just thought… She’s so smart and her album is so righteous… why does she do this ‘cutesy sexy’ act on stage? I had to have a good hard look at my feminism after that. I realized that all women make whatever choices on stage that they want to… and I shouldn’t assume that she doesn’t have agency over her actions even if they seem to be playing to the male gaze. I am always learning how to be a better feminist that is open to all kinds of feminism.
Regardless of all that… This album has been a steady favourite since it first hit my eardrums. Often live experiences that don’t suit your imagining of the world created by the record can interfere with your enjoyment of the album. But it definitely wasn’t the case with Loud City Song. It’s an album full of imagination and intelligence. So much restraint and so many delicious decisions… Atmospheres and mystery… I love it so much.
8. Senyawa – ‘Aca Raki’(Dual Plover)
I have only just purchased this record, released on Dual Plover. I have been a fan of Senyawa for a year or two though, since I saw them at The Tote a while back. They have their own invented instruments, and they’re as beautiful as they are unrelentingly challenging. Not to mention fascinating to watch. That would be enough on its own but they also have an incredible vocalist that oscillates with the same ease between beauty and fragility to anguish and brutal anger. I have never seen a more fierce performance. The record also comes in this lavishly embroidered and tie-dyed fabric cover. Hailing from Jogjakarta the two members are called Rully Shabara and Wukir Suryadi.
9. Broadcast and The Focus Group – Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age (Warp)
I was lucky enough to have the biggest life-affirmation possible when I toured with Broadcast in 2010. I had been waiting for them to come out to Australia for about ten years and then when they did I got the support! I could not believe my luck. Both Trish and James were lovely people to play with as well so it was a dream come true. Tragically Trish Keenan passed away from a freaky bout of Pneumonia not long after our tour. It was very surreal having this brief moment knowing her and then knowing that she was gone. This album was one of the last releases they had, a collaboration with The Focus Group released in 2009. There was also a soundtrack to Berberian Sound Studios released after Trish had passed away, completed by her band mate James Cargill. I love both these releases for their weirdness and scary creep factor… I’ll always be sad that there won’t be any more Broadcast albums though. I will always be a huge fan.
10. Księżyc – S/T (Penultimate Press)
This is a Polish band from the 90s that was released on a label called Penultimate Press*. This band supposedly created this music when Polish first became free of Soviet governance and were exposed to things such as Steve Reich and John Cage and then created their own unique interpretation of ‘experimental music’. I love this record for its reverence and stoicism in the delivery of very inquisitive material. I relate it back to the Roberto Cacciapaglia album I mentioned earlier in terms of the category it occupies in my mind. Very refreshing, and the kind of music that creates its very own atmosphere no matter where you are listening to it. A great one to walk around and listen to on headphones.
*The label is run by ex-pat Australian Mark Harwood who I always used to be to afraid to talk to when he ran Synaesthesia Records – an experimental record store that was in the inner city of Melbourne (back when I was in my early 20s.) Even though I have always been intimidated by noise-nerds I would not have found out about this release if it hadn’t been for Mark’s label and that’s true of so many various much more strange music and sound that I’ve been introduced to by people like Mark (Sean Baxter and Anallee Koernig are two others – they started Make It Up Club among other things) Thanks to people who are obsessive about the most bizarre side of sound and music, I’ve always remained open minded. It’s utterly shaped my appreciation and involvement in music from being something rather self-serving and simplified when I was very young, to something that is about a collective investigation into humanity or a reaction to humanity… or at the very least a representation of alternatives to what people consider to be ‘normal’ which to me is a very important metaphor. Not that there’s ever any real point to music or that there needs to be any point at all… But it has certainly served to fuel my philosophical side and kept me inspired and engaged in music so that it will no doubt remain my life-long passion.