With winter now in full swing, chances are you’ll be spending some time as a hermit soon. When that happens – either through a cold or simply warm bed addiction- you’ll need somewhere for you mind to travel.
Here’s where you’ll find your next favourite band – a little sprawl on one of our favourite Aussie labels, Hidden Shoal.
After grabbing your favourite pair of headphones, Hidden Shoal Recordings should be your first destination. They’re a Perth-based label offering what they describe as a “remote” musical experience; a collection of music from composers and bands which all offer a respite from the noise pollution most of us are surrounded with. Each track in their catalogue is a new step in a sonic journey, and as long as you’re not headed for the dance floor, no destinations are off limits.
For the genre buzz-word fans, the label has released work ranging from neoclassical and ambient to indie rock, with almost every shade in between. Standout releases of 2014 include The Cogent Sea, an EP from Chicago producer Slow Dancing Society, and The Wooden Heart, from Dutch-American singer-songwriter Kramies. In their own ways, both albums combine the ambient sensibilities of Brian Eno with the emotional, texture-building drive of bands like Explosions in the Sky.
The Cogent Sea offers tracks like Pull, which starts small and builds up to a thick wall of sound built of Hammond organ, synthesizers, and melancholy piano chords, punctuated by a lyrical electric guitar improvisation. This floats on a reverberant rhythm of pulses and clicks, which feel like the echoes of your own footsteps as you stroll through the rich sonic environment.
In The Wooden Heart, Kramies’ voice and acoustic guitar work like punctuation to anchor drifting, dynamic instrumentals, produced with the help of Todd Tobias and Jason Lytle, of Grandaddy fame. In The Clocks Are All Broken (above), Kramies’ intermittent, multi-tracked vocal lines blend perfectly into the instrumental landscape, a symphony of analogue synthesizers, guitar feedback and chamber strings. In this way Kramies sings the story of a place where time stands still, while at the same time forming part of its scenery.
While Slow Dancing Society and Kramies may have the current spotlight, the international artists only form the tip of the Hidden Shoal iceberg. Over the past eight years the label have also signed an impressive roster of artists from Perth and Australia-wide. A lot of this music is now being re-released on Soundcloud, and listening through their current stream you’re able to view a snapshot of the diverse Perth music community since Hidden Shoal’s inception in 2006. The track list ranges from the spacious indie rock sound of Umpire to the experimental duo Gilded, whose album Terrant contrasts minimalist piano improvisation with layers of percussion, cinematic strings and field recordings.
It is somewhat telling that Hidden Shoal also has a large part of their catalogue available for film and TV licensing. Much of the music on the label has a cinematic feel that I could easily imagine being set to sweeping shots of rolling hills in a nature documentary or a viral motivational video. At the very least, this music provides the perfect soundtrack for a winter weekend in.
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