I’ve written here before about some of the great experimental electronic music that’s coming out of Australia at the minute. There’s a scene brewing, folks, and at the start of 2012, you could do a hell of a lot worse than casting your ears in this direction.
Once upon a time, Sydneysider Tom Smith went by the name Cleptoclectics, under which moniker he released one EP, a full-length, and a bunch of remixes, all of which showed definite promise but were not in themselves particularly special. Deccan Technicolour is of a different caliber entirely. Smith’s first release since changing his handle to Thomas William, it slipped through virtually unnoticed right at the end of 2011, a fact that is particularly criminal when you consider that he’s been giving it away for free. It is, however, a top quality record: immersive; at once genuinely eclectic and totally coherent; full of far-out, lopsided beats, glitchy grooves, ingeniously butchered samples, and woozy, psychedelic soundscapes. If you’re a fan of Flying Lotus, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here, even if Deccan Technicolour is in general a more contemplative, less dancefloor-oriented affair.
Album opener “Yojimbo” kicks things off superbly with a mounting tide of whistles and chimes along with some expertly-deployed cello, before sliding on into “The Pearl,” with its strange stuttering beat, clattering cymbals, bizarro bleeps, and nigh-on-obliterated vocals. Smith’s treatment of his vocal samples is, in fact, one of the most distinctive characteristics of the record. Many seem to be of Eastern provenance — India perhaps? — but they’re all chopped and spliced so small, given so little room to breathe, that it’s hard to say with any real certainty. And yet the Eastern flavor remains: introducing what turns out to be one of the heaviest tracks on the record in “History Shock” under a dense patina of noise and fuzz; interjecting so very oddly between the descending figures of “Key Cutting.” “Clique,” Smith’s collaboration with Peon (by day, Seekae’s John Hassell) is noteworthy too for its sheer craft and structural intelligence: an electronic sonata in three minutes, seventeen. (Smith’s more recent collab with Marcus Whale — a.k.a. Scissor Lock — of Sydney glitch-pop outfit Collarbones is also well worth a listen.)
Deccan Technicolour is only the third release from Melbourne label and artists’ collective This Thing, the previous two being more hip-hop-oriented and, frankly, not quite as good. Nevertheless, it’s a strong start. Both Thomas William and This Thing are a welcome addition to what is quickly becoming a densely populated market for fresh-sounding, left-field Aussie electronica.