When the words ‘music’ and ‘Perth’ are uttered in the same sentence, the first name on everyone’s lips is Tame Impala - and why wouldn’t it be? The four-piece emerged from obscurity (even in Australia) and to quickly became the country’s best-known export. Well, since that time Gotye made that song, and stayed at number one in the U.S for basically forever.
Despite their high profile, there’s far more to Perth than Kevin Parker; even ruling out the main Tame Impala side projects like Pond, who are also making their own major waves worldwide. Even though most East-Coast dwelling Australians - hailing from Sydney, Melbourne, and other sunshine coast cities - will speak highly of their respective scenes, there’s something special about the music community in the country’s most Western, isolated capital city.
Its not just psychedelia, kraut-rock or distorted pop bands that pump through Perth’s veins. There are musicians creating anything from hip-hop infused electronica, to classic surf-rock garage, to driving house beats and right back to psychedelia again. They’re all waiting to push beyond the barriers that Perth can set. Here are just a few worth marking down for future success.
Ta-Ku - real name Regan Matthews - is probably Australia’s most underrated producer. While contemporaries like Flume smash across the globe, Ta-ku has been working steadily behind the scenes with everyone from unknown locals, to Chet Faker, to bloody Jaden Smith (yep, actually happened). Mostly instrumental releases, his beats are full of emotion and touch on deeper content. His hip-hop influence is clear through a percussive and bass-heavy focus, and his instrumentation and sampling is dark and brooding. After almost six years out of the spotlight, Ta-Ku is finally pushing his silky productions outside of Australia thanks to institutions like Boiler Room and Red Bull Music Academy.
One of the more recent Tame Impala side-projects to make its mark, Gum is the solo project of Jay Watson (he’s in Pond, too). His debut self-recorded LP is full of “paranoid pop songs, mostly about falling in love, and all of the things that he thinks are going to kill him” – according to Watson himself. This paranoid pop sounds distorted, and distinctly reminiscent of a soundtrack to some kind of intergalactic voyage. Vocals are warped, guitars are fuzzy and organs are skewed. You could pretty much call him Perth’s David Bowie.
R.W Grace began her career as Grace Woodroofe, dropped her last name to become Grace, and now she’s ended up at R.W Grace. Albeit sounding like the name of a Legal Firm, it’s fitting as her material has matured into simple and structured pop - a distinct change from her over-thought, frantic earlier releases. Taking cues from the popularity of electronic elements that acts like Purity Ring and Chvrches have owned, Woodroofe brings those influences back into an organic soundscape, alongside her absolutely stunning vocals. There is a serious juxtaposition between her powerfully uplifting voice and the harsh, dark tones of the instrumentation. It’s this kind of union that pop has been searching for.
Mei Saraswati is a Perth favourite, but that’s not to say that she’s topping any charts. Whether it’s filling a slot on a bill, featuring on someone’s track, or repping a label – Mei has done it all. It certainly helps that her creations are incredibly eclectic. There are lo-fi recordings of vocal loops, oozing dark synths and collections of beats all over her two personal SoundCloud accounts. Each track is filled with the groove and soul that could match any of R&B’s biggest players, yet it all feels experimental in nature. Even though it’s rough around the edges, Mei’s soaring vocals allow her to fit into any genre seamlessly.
Speaking of rough around the edges, that’s pretty much the Modus operandi of Braves. Drowning in their own distortion, there’s a healthy mixture of punk, garage and silky lo-fi guitars buried beneath the fast paced, energetic, untidy melodies – a deliberate move, of course. Plus almost every song references the beach; you can’t get more surf-rock - or Australian - than that.
It may sound like a slightly combative name, but Grrl Pal are anything but. They’re a duo utilizing the sharpest production to back angelic and melancholic vocals. Some tracks have an air of Grimes meets 80’s analogue synths, while others are straight-up trap-styled pop offerings. They’ll be releasing a track every month for the rest of 2015, so there’s plenty to come from these two.
It’s impossible to leave out a band that is literally named after the city behind this piece; luckily they’re a super talented instrumental experimental four-piece. There are hints of electronica, shoegaze and psychedelia, all meshed into intense build-ups, washed-out vocals and heaps of Explosions In The Sky-level of emotion. Even with plenty of minimal moments, the haunting loops and walls of sound will drag you into the riptide of their cinematic world.
Brand new to the scene, Tenru hasn’t really had much of chance to show off his live skills yet, but on record he brings smooth beats that drip of a Bonobo influence. That’s not a bad thing either, wearing this kind of influence on his sleeve, Tenru is one of only a few Australians meshing down-tempo house with clean, trip-hop beats. When the East-Asian sampling and blissful washed out tones come together with sharp percussion, it feels like travelling through Japan on the Shinkansen with rolling hills out the window. Seriously.
This list needs an injection of serious soul, so Savoir is a perfect place to conclude. Bringing together tribal rhythms, jungle beats, groove-driven bass lines, warm keywork and vibrant, sweeping vocal melodies – the soul is overwhelming. Of course with such a worldly direction, house and dancefloor songwriting is something these guys have been honing for some time and it’s on show through every track. Soul music for the 4am revellers.
So, there it is, a Down Under rummage into the treasure trove of music that Western Australia’s capital has to offer. Tame Impala and Pond are just the beginning. From the wonky pop of Grrl Pal to the horrendously underrated production of Ta-Ku, there’s plenty on bonza music to throw on the proverbial musical barbie, and get your teeth into.