Friday, 1 March 2013

Lower Plenty - Hard Rubbish - Album Review [1st March 2013]

[2013.03.01] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.

Relishing in the muffled tones of guitars and the rustles of irregular percussion, Lower Plenty disguise their tight musicianship, framing their concise and impressionistic songs about failing connections in a faint, off-centre lamp; which flickers on them for a mere twenty-three minutes before Close Enough and ‘the fading of the light.’ Hard Rubbish is more of a troubled conversation between friends around the kitchen-table late at night than an album.

Isolation and loneliness become increasingly compelling topics in our times and these Melbourne musicians concern themselves ultimately to these causes here. The mix of Sarah Heyward and Al Montfort’s vocals create a tension throughout; sometimes by the juxtaposition of both sharing a close space in a song but communicating with apathetic deliveries (as Strange Beast) and at other times by solo performances articulating a character’s tormented escape (as Nullarbor).

Further developing these themes, the music is relentlessly melancholic with approximately tuned instruments throughout and estimated vocal melodies - the opener Work In The Morning laying out this ethos, and tracks like Nullarbor and White Walls stretching the limits of our taste for the unperfected. This deliberate achievement, along with shunning enthusiasm from the songs in an audience further by including rough primary captures for the album, make Hard Rubbish a depressed character in itself. Lower Plenty ask for the same effort coming to these songs as you would need to give to a troubled friend: when you offer hope by listening, they cannot or will not speak to it, and progress may not be visible to you.

This material would certainly create odd moments in live conditions. At best, the songs would create a unity between members of a crowd; audiences recognising these testing positions outlined in the lyrics. At worst, the sentiments would be lost in a dull slouching sound, unable to contribute to anything less than a completely focussed room.

It is a complicated record, kicked out to sulk through the world, lost. It requires generous listeners to invest in its small heaviness. It will not meet you half-way, but it seems for Lower Plenty, your company is not a requisite. As the mantra of their sixth track enforces, ultimately ‘Friends wait.’

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