Throw Prince, Portishead, and Steely Dan in a blender and if you’re lucky you might get something like this. And while those are three not-too-similar artists the one thing they have in common is an exquisite attention to sonic detail. The Melbourne-based duo Standish/Carlyon are cut from the same cloth.
Here is one downtempo brooder that, to begin with, trusts in its own slowness. Listen to how even the bubbling synthesizer percolates slowly, and leaves a delicious amount of blank space in its wake. So quickly does it train us to anticipate restraint in fact that the one extra high note it hits at 0:36 gives the ear an unexpected frisson of excitement. The entire song is just that carefully and spaciously crafted. Important note: there are no hand-claps, synthesized or otherwise. (Pet peeve alert!: hand-claps in slow songs. They make no logical or aural sense. I could mention names but I won’t.) And while we are awash with reverb, the song still displays great clarity—a compelling combination. The bass, meanwhile, is played with painterly discretion, which may have something to do with the fact that vocalist Conrad Standish is also the bass player. In my listening experience, singing bassists approach their instruments differently. The best example of this song’s uncanny capacity to turn reticence into grandeur is how arresting the chorus is when it finally arrives, even as its melody is pretty much the same as the verse’s. The trick is that in the chorus, for the first time, we get the fulfillment of an uninterrupted musical line (suddenly, no blank space). Standish now flipping up into his falsetto doesn’t hurt. No idea what he’s singing about here (“I’m chewing bamboo off the coast of Casanova”?), and it’s still thrilling.
Standish and guitarist Tom Carlyon (who also handles the electronics) were previously in a trio called The Devastations, which released their last record in 2007. “Gucci Mountain” is a track from the duo’s forthcoming debut, entitled Deleted Scenes, arriving next month via Felte.