Saturday, May 31, 2008

Review: The Cannanes

Do you know that feeling, the one that you get when you are totally sure that there is something happening, but not only that, but that also the something that's happening has maybe been happening for quite sometime, that there are peole who have known about the something (and they didn't tell you--why didn't they tell you, what did you do wrong?) and that the something has been really interesting and possibly really beautiful too; and all this time, maybe since about 1984?
I've been having that same feeling lately!!! Ohmigod!

This feeling has been centered around a band from Melbourne, Australia (this of course is not that new; everyone who knows me is well (and occasionally painfully) aware of my complete and utter dependence on antipodean music). This band, however, has been around since the aforementioned year, and I've only just (a couple weeks ago) become aware of them. They are The Cannanes.
They have produced over forty albums. They have appeared on dozens of compilations. They have never ever (like, not once) appeared on any mix tape that has been given to me. And at the moment I feel a little stung.

The Cannanes slipped onto my radar quite by-the-way, when two things occurred. The first (chronologically) was that I came across the Dark Beloved Cloud website while I was trying to track down anything by The Magick Heads. As far as I am aware, only Flying Nun and DBC have put out TMH releases, so I was super stoked to find them. I have mentioned before (and will undoubtedly do so again) DBC, and how great their catalogue is, and  it made me join their Singles Club (see below for more). Well, one of the mini-CDs that was due to be released was one by The Cannanes, and while it didn't actually mean anything to me at the time, the name found its way into my head. I placed my order with DW and eagerly awaited my treasures.
Meantime, Stewart from 555 Records sent out a note about the Boyracer/Mytty Archer/Cannanes 7"-split, which I was apparently one of twenty-five people to subsequently order. Seriously, people, go to 555 and buy some gorgeously lo-fi indie-punk records. Right now; did I mention the hot-pink Boyracer vinyl?
Anyway, due to obsessions with other bands I found myself unwittingly targeted by two releases by The Cannanes.
Then I followed the link from Stewart's myspace to the Cannanes myspace and listened to the smattering of songs therein esconced, and fuck, i was smitten. I then became very eager to receive said parcels.
So then within a couple days I got the packages in the mail.

CANNANES/MYTTY ARCHER/BOYRACER split 7" (55548/7JF05; (I have #11))
For those unfamiliar with Boyracer and Mytty Archer, they are both Stewart Anderson and Jen Turrell (who are also married, and who are also 555 records, etc etc,), except that sometimes Anna Winfield plays for Mytty Archer (for whom Jen writes) and sometimes Boyracer (which is, essentially, Stewart) has contained one or some of its forty-plus former members. They share one side of the split, with a pretty, breathy, Mytty Archer song, "Too many lovers" starting slow and mounting to a frenzy of drums and buzzy fuzz before plumetting down to a simple guitar line and Jen's whispered vocals. "Supremer Queener", a more frenetic number by Boyracer comes hard and fast on "Too many lovers"'s heels, with furry staticcy tone and tortured high notes riccocheting off a meaty drum and vocal pop arrangement.
Then the needle abandons its groove, you get up, slightly dumbfounded, and walk over to your turntable, where you turn over the record, drop the arm down again and, if you're like me, you've put the record on before reading the inner sleeve, and so you are surprised by the familiar, if gentle, strains of the Blue Oyster Cult. With nimble guitars and a smoky trumpety thing that sounds like it's being piped in somehow from another time and place, possibly by TARDIS, and possibly from the never-was Paris of Jean-Pierre Jeunet (although it is actually a pump organ played by Stephen O'Neil). The song rambles on from melody to discord and back again, veering into feedback, zagging off the fragile vocals of Frances Gibson, dueting with herself and an eery tenor recorder. 

THE CANNANES, Grassy Flat mini-CD (DBC250)
I got this four song EP from Dark Beloved Cloud, and so it is only 3x3 inches in diameter, and while it has a pretty scribbly line drawing of birds on the disc, there is no track listing. There is however, a sweet collage of string, dinosaurs and giraffes, made by Brittany (with a heart at the end) that serves as the cover.
So "track 1," as I shall settle for, kicks off with a pounding drum beat, and you're like "oh, shit!" After about a couple seconds , though, this winding gorgeous tone (like a melodica or a recorder maybe) starts looping around the place and we're off, with lovely vocals and various winds playing tag over a driving bass and subtle guitar track. It's a really beautiful song, and I really should email DW about getting a track listing, but since I'm me, i'm thinking that now in the middle of my post. Oh well.
Track 1 slowly grinds to a halt, and the mood shifts to Track 2 with a residual twang against steel strings being replaced by a pipe organ drone that seeps into the ears. The lovely vocals slowly and sadly add themselves to the mix and then are joined by a haunting echoing trumpet. Frippering around the peripheries of your audible range come the tinkles of a glockenspiel or xylophone or something, gently lightening the heavy brew stewing in your head. Track 2 drifts and swells through layer upon layer of reverb and drone and loop for over eight minutes (and actually feels a little like some of the more desperate songs on The Magnaetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, particularly the one's sung by Claudia Gonson--except wayyyyyy longer than a typical Stephin Merritt composition).
One feels lulled by Track 2, and the synthetic beat that kicks off track 3 comes as an awakening (whether rude or not would depend on an indivual's mood, i think). The plaintive vocals and simple chords (and eventually the ubiquitous trumpet) set up a great little set-piece of indie recording that harkens to early K records stuff, The Weakerthans, Destroyer, the Dunedin sound, whatever. It finishes off with a meandering bass line and twinging on the guitar strings until it flops down in a heap.
The final track (Track 4) is a snappy jazzy number that definitely recalls Calvin Johnson in the Beat Happening-era, as well as other indie duos like Auckland's The Brunettes, and the Holly Golightly - Dan Melchior Desperate Little Town album. The rollicking little finale barely breaks a minute-and-a-half, but it's a tonic to the longer dirge of Track 2, and creates one more character in an ensemble of very different tracks.

Now I have to track down more of this stuff.


brittany said...


I made your cover art. thank you for mentioning it. I am really glad you liked it.

babyracer said...

Hi Matt! This is Jen from Mytty Archer/Boyracer. I just wanted to recommend that you get The Cannanes 'Communicating at an Unknown Rate' cd. Or the vinyl picture disc if you can find it. Also, the song 'Frightening Thing' on the CD Arty Barbeque is probably my favorite Cannanes song ever. They're the best band in the world! And some of the best people in the world too. You should also check out David Nichols' various bands after he left the Cannanes, like Huon, Crabstick, The Grey Tapes and Fog and Ocean. Stew's put out several on 555 as well as various Aussie labels. Hooray for AU and NZ indie! Love, Jen

matt said...

hey jen, i do actually have both the cd and picture disc for that! since that post i've accumulated quite a bit more cannanes material. love 'em. you wouldn't be recommending that one in particular because stew's on it, would you?? x/matt