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High Tension – Death Beat

High Tension are made up of great parts. But the sum? Not quite there yet.

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Comprised evenly of The Nation Blue and Young & Restless members, new Australian rockers High Tension have been given a fair amount of praise from the release of their debut 7” “High Risk, High Rewards”. Not surprisingly, the pedigree in which High Tension comes from justifiably gives them more than a leg to stand on. But after listening to their debut full length, Death Beat, you can forgive me for not entirely buying into this hype just yet.

Karina Utomo possesses a great set of pipes and belts a good one, but airs on the grating side after a while.  Through the opening tracks “Blaze Up” and “Positive”, Utomo’s vocals and the music gel quite well, owing a little perhaps, to the more uptempo nature of these songs. However, it is with slower, sludgier fare like “Without U.S.” that her vocals become really quite irritating.

Musically, if you’re a fan of the Cancer Bats or the Bronx, you’ll find some of the riffage here to your liking. But in reality, the riffs all sound a little too by-the-book and you’d probably expect more from this talented group of individuals. Nothing quite stands out just yet and perhaps, over time, they will find points of interest in their music that will distinguish them from the average fare.

A musician friend who plays and tours in bands regularly (an avid heavy music listener) weighed in with his opinion as I wanted a second look with fresh ears. And the best thing he said was, “it’s alright, lacking a bit of imagination, and some of the riffs sounds like what a 13-year old who just bought his first distortion pedal would write. But a good vibe.”

Probably sums it up.

Death Beat isn’t a bad album by any means, and it’s a solid foundation in which they can easily build upon. It is just all very underwhelming for now. However, if there is a true positive out of this, they’ve certainly got what it takes individually to prove this reviewer wrong.

(Cooking Vinyl Records)

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Hatchie – Keepsake

Keepsake, the debut album by Brisbane dream pop artist Hatchie is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars

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Hatchie Keepsake

Brisbane indie-pop artist Hatchie (known to her friends and family as Harriette Pilbeam) is in the envious position of being a pop artist unspoiled by the many trappings of what it is to be a modern pop artist. Unlike some of her contemporaries who craft music by committee or with Sheeran-like self-importance, Hatchie is as of now, unsullied by the pressures of the cookie-cutter pop machine. Hatchie’s debut full length is a showcase for a talent who is supremely confident and composed in her abilities, and Keepsake is musical luminescence that can only be described as music written for the stars. The album is also a wonderful throwback to pop’s dreamy 60s influences that shuffle in and out of this delirium while working alongside distinctly more current musical touches.

There is the lush dream pop sounds of “Without a Blush”, taking cues from the best of what Stars and Goldfrapp conjure but heaping a tonne of Pilbeam’s charisma on it. Like her vocals, “Without a Blush” has this elegance that has the ability to elevate songs from being beautiful to grand. It is the kind of vocal elegance that really shines through on songs like the skittering, beat-driven “Obsessed” and the alternative, guitar-fuelled (yay!) “When I Get Out”. Indie/electronic closer “Keep” is a wonderful end to proceedings.

However, the great strength of Keepsake is not just its composure in how all the songs have been put together. It is also this genuine, natural-sounding quality that permeates the album- nothing overly written, overly produced or put together by research groups or music analysts. It just sounds like talent. We can argue that much of pop music is constructed to appease the moment- designed to grab as much attention as possible in an A.D.D. world. And sure, that can be said about almost any kind of music, but the resulting aural tone of Keepsake is anything but transient or transparent.

The best way to combat tepid chart-topping music is to write better pop songs. Songs like “Her Own Heart” and the disco-toned “Stay” are examples of pop music that come across as timeless. We are moved by the songs found on Keepsake when we listen to them today. And I suspect that in 10 years time, or in 20, we will most likely feel the same. It is rare to find the sort of ageless beauty you find on Keepsake.

(Heavenly Recordings)

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