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July 25, 2011 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Spotlight on Collarbones

Australian duo Collarbones are an unusual pair. Sydney-based musician Marcus Whale collaborates with Travis Cook from Adelaide by sending and resending parts of a track over the net until they are satisfied with the outcome. Their self-stylised genre ‘loser pop’ might in fact be a nod to the amount of time they spend behind the screen away from social contact in order to make the project work, but such is the life of the lowly bedroom producer, huh? Let’s call them a working long-distance internet couple, because boy oh boy, they sure make it work. (I suppose the fact that their music is computer-based may mean that long distance work relationship is advantageous, as opposed to sitting down together at a desk and arguing over slight automation differences.)

Collarbones’ March 2011 album Iconography is their most recent release. It features the track ‘Don Juan’, which immediately impressed me with its strong and well-crafted male harmonies, eventually descending into a fluttery synth. The track is a melodic and dance-y with elements of new style glitch-hop, even folk and does not solely stick to the same production techniques to generate a sound. While Baths instantly jumped to mind, Collarbones actually strike me as Toro y Moi-esqe infusion, with perhaps a nod to Boards of Canada. Their sound can be attributed to their wide range of influences, which stretch from Justin Bieber (they actually covered Bieber’s ‘One Time’ on their January 2010 remix album Tiger Beats) to Greek composer Iannis Xenakis. Don’t get me wrong I’m not actually saying I’m hearing a Xenakis bass clarinet special in ‘Don Juan’ or, for that matter, any of their other tracks – far from it – but as the pair have such a wide and diverse range of artists, I suspect that they give considerable thought to their artistic practice as they gauge how catchy their music is. I suppose this comes from being a chillwave beats-based infusion with influences from all over the show. And to be honest, I’m pretty much gonna give them brownie points managing to be in a working musical project that tours successfully as well as release albums of a high standard.

One of their first releases in 2009, Waiting for the Ghosts is similarly pop-oriented like ‘Don Juan’, but it stems from the band’s early days: think low tom and lo-fi synth, featuring a white noise interlude. The album is saturated with samples from Bjork’s Vespertine, which was perhaps an easier way of generating a range of particular timbres they wanted for their own tracks. I feel like this release was a result of the duo having big ideas and still learning how to execute it in a technical style of their own. Whale and Cook have hugely progressed since then, their tracks sound cleaner but they retain the spirit of ideas which saw Waiting for the Ghosts release. The mere fact that they’re producing music of such a standard is almost a big enough achievement, in my book. The fact that they produce tracks which rival some of the bigger fish out there in quality and could easily draw the attention of the wider alternative audience make me think that it won’t be long until they will be organising album releases outside of the kangaroo’s backyard.

Recommended Listening: Don Juan, available on their bandcamp, and their Tumblr has links to their discography. Also, you might like to trawl their record label Two Bright Lakes, which is an artist collective around the state of Victoria.


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