For Fans Of
‘Auras‘, the emotionally touching and beautifully engrossing debut LP from Brisbane shoegaze outfit, Deafcult, is – according to the band and their PR – a record about dreams.
“Auras is a record about dreams: the ghosts of people, the places and situations from the past that haunt your dreams (or stop you from having them all together). It reflects on romanticised memories as a disaffected teenager in the suburbs, tales of love, drugs, death, and the overwhelming feeling of finding yourself but still feeling completely lost.“ – PR qoute for ‘Auras’.
However, when listening to this new 12-track album, I personally find that it’s not so much about dreams so much as it is about daydreams; more so of the past than anything else. That may seem like an odd or perhaps unnecessary distinction to make, but I feel we aren’t talking about dreams as unconscious visions of the mind nor one’s own personal ambitions in life with ‘Auras‘. Rather, we’re discussing daydreams of in-the-moment romantic reverie. And that’s the very feeling and mindset that ‘Auras‘ completely drenches me in whenever I listen to it. The kind that makes one feel incredibly reminiscent of the past and of one’s own ever-fleeting youth, whether in blissful romanticization or in melancholic regret. And so… here goes nothing.
When I was in Year 11 and Year 12, I attended Bendigo Senior Secondary College (or BSSC to avoid the sheer mouthful of its full name) for my VCE. Now, adjacent to that school was and still is Camp Hill, where the Poppet Head Lookout is found. Originally a poppet head for Bendigo’s Garden Gully United Mine, the Poppet Head Lookout is a tall, well-placed tower that would gift any who climb it with a terrific 360-degree view of the Victorian rural city. From BSSC, the football oval, and remaining expanse of Rosalind Park beneath it; the unmissable and immaculate Sacred Heart Cathedral to the south; the wide perspective of downtown Bendigo to the east; the south-east CBD area being dominated by the mammoth Bendigo Bank building; the expanding streets of inner-town and country suburbia of Eaglehawk and Epsom out west; to the straight shot view of Midland Highway/High Street that winds its way through the town below – you could basically see it all from up there.
Now, this was a place that I’d spend a frequent number of my school breaks and lunches atop, just gazing out over the Bendigo skyline as I daydreamed the time away. Sometimes thinking about everything, other times about nothing at all. I ventured up there when I needed quieter, emotional solace from panic attacks or to help clear my head of ever-increasingly jaded thoughts about classes, friends, and life. Or both. Yes yes, I know, I know – it’s a pure and utter fucking teenage cliché if there ever was one! Yet when I think back to those final two years of high school, it’s the time I spent atop that tower that I tend to remember the most. Why? Well, perhaps because amidst a busy and stressful youth, it was a welcoming escape for me, and one I could easily make. It was great and also very comforting, honestly, to just be alone up there. The only real “distractions” that I’d encounter were the occasional tourist or fellow BSSC student climbing up to take a few photos and the biting, brushing winds of the open sky that surrounded me; both usually blocked out by whatever music that I’d placed in my ears.
Which brings me back around to ‘Auras‘. As this isn’t so much a record as it is a soundtrack. And it’s a soundtrack that’s meant to be experienced, ingested and thought about as you live and move through the wonder and disarray of daily life; especially in those moments of physical and emotional action.
For this is the record that I would have loved more than anything to exist during my high school days; accompanying my gaze over the Bendigo skyline as my mind and heart wandered through whatever thoughts and emotions were swirling inside me that day. It’s the record that would have played in my head on the many times that I hiked through the nearly untouched Black Hill Reserve near my home town of Kyneton, or through various jaw-dropping, off-the-beaten-path spots around the always lush Mount Macedon. It’s the record that I now play in my car the most when the sun is setting or as it slowly rises for another daily cycle. It’s the album that I would now rush to put on during a long train ride to block out any chatter and the low hum of the train’s engines below me. ‘Auras‘ is a record that I now love for all of those above personal, situational qualities. And also because it’s a great fucking listen too!
Now, in Deafcult being a noise-pop/shoegaze act and due to the nature of their instrumentals, song timbres, and the melodic quality heard throughout this wonderful full-length, ‘Auras‘ does elicit the usual “music writer” buzz words you’ll likely see in other reviews.
You know the ones I’m talkin’ about! Descriptors like: fuzzy, hazy, noisy, reverberant, loud, dynamic, distorted, drone-like, ethereal, shimmery, layered, textured, riffy, deep, and of course, dreamy. Of course, all of those terms do indeed sum up this mighty 12-track journey musically and sonically speaking, and that’s no bad thing. For while Deafcult’s sound isn’t anything new for this style of music, the six-piece do it all incredibly well. From the fitting production, the balancing of their immense four-guitar attack, the grand space that their music creates, and how the dual vocals of Innez Tulloch and Stevie Scott meld so well with the remaining instrumentation of their four bandmates.
However, as much as I utterly adore and so deeply connect with ‘Auras‘ emotionally, there is but one caveat I have with it that holds it back from the very highest echelons of 2017’s releases. Much like Hundredth’s sonic reinvention on new album ‘Rare‘, what does diminish ‘Auras‘ slightly is that it’s a rather one-note record in terms of its overall sound, dynamics, and pacing. See, the album’s first third – ‘Lemonade Beauty‘, ‘Secret Wisdom‘, ‘Summertime‘ and ‘Sparkle‘ – show the sextet’s full hand very early on. Meaning the sound and approach of those four songs are already locked in for the remaining eight.
The warm, 80’s synths on ‘Echoes‘, the post-punk leaning sound on the penultimate ‘Urasai‘ – a Japanese term meaning “noise” or “noisy” – and the darker shuffle of the ominous album closer, ‘Here Be Death‘ (which does end with a lazy fade out) are the only real moments of variation. And even then, they aren’t really that much of a variation from the established path. Though to Deafcult’s well-deserved credit, there is never once a bad or even mediocre moment to be had, simply that the deeper you dive into ‘Auras‘, the more familiar the sonic scenery becomes.
In saying that, there are still some simply stunning moments to be heard amid the already dizzyingly high track consistency. Pre-release singles ‘Rubix‘ and ‘Summertime‘ show the group nailing all of their genre’s tropes and then some; creating some amazing soundscapes that would receive standing ovations from this style’s veterans. Opener ‘Lemonade Beauty‘ features some unforgettable guitar and vocal hooks, which is a real accomplishment considering just how deep in the background the vocals are at times and how over-layered these four guitars are. The well-executed ebb and flow of mid-album standout ‘Stars Collide‘ create one, if not the most dynamically impactful moments of the whole record. Elsewhere, ‘Judy‘ contains by far the album’s heaviest section, with the song’s mid-section falling low and then lashing out with crashing drums and crushing riffs (there’s the real strength of four guitars for ya) before the vocals re-enter for one hell of a climactic finale.
Deafcult’s ‘Auras’ speaks to me on a much deeper level than what most bands of this style tend to do. This wonderful new record is but the daydream and you, the listener, are the waking dreamer. So please take the journey, for a glorious and gorgeous otherly world awaits you within these 12 damn solid songs.
1. Lemonade Beauty
2. Secret Wisdom
6. Indigo Children
7. Stars Collide
12. Here Be Death
‘Auras’ is out this Friday, June 30th via Hobbledehoy Records. Be sure to pick it up here when it drops on Friday! Also, is it just me or does this album’s artwork look like a combination of the front covers of Touche Amore’s ‘Parting The Sea Between Brightness And Me‘ and Converge’s ‘All We Love We Leave Behind‘?