The Rise of the EP: XXIX-Wafia/ODE-JOY./Vallis Alps-Vallis Alps

Australia seems to be delivering some of the brightest and newest stars in the sky of electronic music, and the rest of the planet is very, very happy about it. 2015 saw some incredible EPs released onto the scene, of which we at The Broken Chord have discovered some stellar artists such as: Wafia, JOY. and Vallis Alps. There’s nothing quite like spending time browsing the “other artists you might like” section on iTunes…am I right?

Because we love all three EPs equally, we decided to do our first ever triple album review to kick off some of your new summer music listening.

  1. Wafia “XIXX-EP” (Future Classic, 2015)

Shadowed, veiled, mysterious and reserved–just some of the tones that come through on Brisbane-based Wafia Al-Rikabi’s work on XIXX. The album title stands for the Roman numeral ’29’-referring to the atomic number for Copper, a metal always in a state of change.

The EP begins with a beautifully sombre piano-only prelude, only allowing vocals to woefully enter near the end. This sets the ghostly tone for the whole EP, and does it seamlessly. Deep synths and clean cut beats give way on “The Raid”, the popular release “Heartburn” and the brooding track “Untitled”, full of longing. Each track is a multi-layered feast of eccentric sounds and instruments, altogether captivating.  The final track on the EP “Fading Through” features fellow Aussie artist Vancouver Sleep Clinic, who has an uncanny vocal resemblance to the haunting Bon Iver (and we aren’t complaining). “I climb onto rooftops, to catch a glimpse of the moon, a fading trail of you” “Oh we’re fading through…nothing left to do, can’t you see if was all for you?” A poignant and sad track that leaves the listeners wishing the EP was a full-length album. We can’t wait for what’s next.

New works to look for: “Meet in the Middle” a track with with label partner artist Ta-ku on a new EP releasing late-June called: “(m)edian”.

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2. JOY. “ODE-EP” (Sony Music Entertainment Australia Pty Ltd, 2015)

Brisbane-born Olivia McCarthy, now Sydney-based artist JOY, has set the bar high for emerging female artists in the electronic scene (oh yeah, and did we mention she’s only 18 years old?). Her entirely self-produced EP “ODE” is fully mesmerizing, clean and smooth.

The opening track “Falling” invites the listener to wander around the dark and mournful world of the EP with contemplative lyrics and heavy bass synths. “I keep on falling–in and out of love with you. I know you’ll keep on calling, I hate the ghost you’ve turned me into”. She then ushers in the breathy vocals on “About Us” with poignantly placed harmonies that cut through us like a knife. The synth heavy “Crazy for You” is a true delight for the ears, with layers upon layers of well-executed electronic magic. The EP finishes strong with “Heads or Tails”, full of a sombre presence, well-placed guitar swells and a clean/simple beat: “You confused me from the start, then you left me all alone in the dark…when you turn to say goodnight, do you miss me by your side? Do you love me?”

We’re excitedly anticipating the next works from JOY, but have this EP on repeat in the meantime.

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3. Vallis Alps “Vallis Alps-EP” (Vallis Alps, 2015)

Hailing from Canberra and Seattle (cleverly called ‘Ameristralia’ on a triple-j unearthed interview), this duo (David & Parissa) brings a dreamy and  almost child-like innocence to the electro-pop scene. Their self-titled EP has a bright sound, but has a lingering sadness just below the surface, peeking through in the lyrics.

The EP begins with their well-known track “Young”, which has a simple and soft melody with consistent and comforting beats and well-paired guitar licks to give a smooth base for the lyrics to play out upon: “weeks went by but felt like hours”, “in the end, time forever favours the young…”. Continuing on with the track “Thru”, those buttery smooth synths and vocals guide the listener through, with playful instrumental lines taking the stage in the latter half of the song. “Oh!” is one of the more upbeat tracks on the EP, acoustic guitar driven and sunny. The final track, “Reprieve” starts with a very classic feel, sad-soaked melody lines/vocals from Parissa’s haunting voice and lyrics that present a justifiable heartache. The middle of the track sees a small lift with well-constructed synth layers that carry the song through to the end: “Just let these tunnels cave, just let this fire fade–maybe the sky’ll break. We’re just a lie away from proving to ourselves we’re not afraid”, “We’re suddenly fate’s latest casualty”.

Absolutely thrilled to hear more from this duo in the future, and happy to see that they’re out spreading the live music love on tour in Straya this summer.

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All we can say is, come to Canada soon ! Listening to all three of these EPs on repeat all summer long.

Buy Wafia’s EP here, JOY’s here & Vallis Alps’ here.

–Kalyn

 

 

Daughter “Not to Disappear” (Glassnote Entertainment Group, 2016)

Perfectly painful, acutely sombre and emotionally intelligent– just a few ways to describe the second full-length album from London-based Daughter, “Not to Disappear”.

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Elena Tonra (vocals, guitars) pulls the listeners in with her melancholic melodies, sparking them aflame with an edge of bitterness and angst. Igor Haefeli (guitars) supports Tonra’s gripping sadness with well-crafted and poignant accents on guitar, and Remi Aguilella (drums) is a strong and steady base, on which the entire story of “Not to Disappear” plays out effortlessly.

Stand-out tracks include: “Numbers”, “Doing the Right Thing”, “Mothers”, “Alone/With You” & “No Care”.

The debut single “Doing the Right Thing” reveals the grim struggle of Tonra’s grandmother dealing with Alzheimers. The song sounds like a slow burn; a controlled, yet swirling and damaging storm. Poignant and stark, the harsh realities of the disease are played out for all to feel: “When it’s dark, I’ll call out in the night for my mother, but she isn’t coming back–cause she’s already gone” ” But you will not tell me that, cause you know it hurts me, and you know you are doing the right thing…”

“Mothers” begins with dripping child-like riffs and melody lines, and once again Tonra’s sad-soaked tones are perfectly paired with a vocal reverb that acts as an echo of the pain.  The mixing on this track is beautifully done–brilliant pans and tones that float all around the listener, enveloping their senses and drenching them in sound. “I’ll stay here, the provider or that constant sting they call love”, a beautiful lyrical capture of preserved pain, like an old wound that never fully healed.

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The second last track “Fossa” is a well-crafted song, which interjects fast paced choruses into half-time feels and the circling reverb patterns in the breathy vocal lines are hauntingly piercing. And although the song is lengthy and one of the meatier tracks on the album, the heavy instrumental end portion of the song is refreshing and slightly Sigur Rós like (which is always a welcome influence).

All in all, this three-piece from London has a lot of craft to offer the alt-indie pop scene. They infuse a very stark maturity and seriousness into their work, which stands out like a weathered, but sturdy dock in the wavy sea of similar sounding indie pop acts of today. This second album sounds older and wiser, like they’ve learned from their previous painful experiences. Sophisticated and yet very simple, the layers and complexities that are offered to the listener on this album preserve the essence of all that is Daughter. We suggest turning this album on during rainy days, sad seasons and anytime your heart feels heavy. Keep the kleenex close by.

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Buy “Not to Disappear” on iTunes and on ohdaughter.com

–Kalyn