For Fans Of
Melbourne’s Ecca Vandal came out of nowhere a few years ago with the blistering single ‘White Flag‘, which was remarkably fully realised and had a sweet DIY music video to boot. Her brand of grimy synth-punk was exciting and driving, and one of the most surprisingly strong voices to come out of 2014. Of course, writing a kick-ass single isn’t quite the same as crafting an entire album, though, which makes the fact that her debut full length works as well as it does all the more remarkable.
Her newly released LP kicks off with a simple guitar riff that’s been filtered almost to oblivion, the perfect spotlight in the dark for Ecca Vandal’s opening address. It’s bare and raw; a mere prologue moment before the bass and drums join in and push things forwards with sheer levels of urgency and slight paranoia. ‘Your Way‘ is an apt opening track, encapsulating much of what the album is about – riffs and grooves, but more importantly Ecca Vandal’s unpredictable voice and the biting social commentary behind it. ‘Broke Days, Party Nights‘ is raucous and wild, introducing us to the record’s first significant use synths, which only become a more and more prominent element as the album runs on and on.
This is an area in which this album could have fallen apart slightly; it could have easily jumped across to “the dance track” then back to “the punk track” and then right back around to “the synth-punk track”. But instead, it is surprisingly cohesive. Never does a piece of instrumentation feel out of place, or does a layer of sound stick out awkwardly. One of the album’s real highlights, ‘Price of Living‘, walks this line between synthetic and organic brilliantly; driven by a bouncy guitar riff and featuring awesome guest contributions from Dennis Lyxzén of punk rock royalty Refused and the enigma that is ex-letlive. vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, but held together with an earworm of an organ motif.
From there on Ecca Vandal rarely lifts her foot off the pedal and keeps you guessing right to the very end. I even hesitate to call this a ‘punk album’, even though that’s exactly what it is at its core because genre expectations are consistently thrown right out the window. Sampa the Great makes a notable appearance, riffs are traded across buzzsaw synths and swelling pads, but at the heart of the album remains a declarative middle finger to anyone who thinks they know what an Ecca Vandal album should supposedly sound like. Now, this does result in some tracks sounding a little, well, all over the place (‘Cold of the Word‘ distractingly so), but for all that she’s doing here, these moments that show a small lack of focus don’t detract nearly as much as if the rest of the record wasn’t so goddamn catchy.
Of course, the real hero here is Vandal herself. Without a confident, magnetic voice to hold it all together this project wouldn’t have amounted to any more than the sum of its parts. Sharp, sarcastic and scalding, she navigates her way through societal expectations, her psychologist’s chair, Australia’s offshore detention centres and the wider music industry with the ease and conviction of someone who has been doing this for years and years.
Ecca Vandal is not an artist to be ignored, and you would be a fool to do so.
It’s a little hard to believe this is Ecca Vandal’s debut full-length, given the amount of confidence and self-assurance emanating from this record’s 12-tracks. Sure, her debut can be a little unfocused at times, but for the most part, this is a fantastic debut album that not only aims to take you by surprise but keep you deeply interested after the very first listen. And Vandal succeeds with flying colours on both parts.
1. Your Way
2. Broke Days, Party Nights
3. Price of Living
4. Future Heroine
5. Closing Ceremony
6. Cassettes, Lies and Videotapes
7. Your Orbit
8. End Of Time
9. Dead Wait
10. Cold of the World
11. Out On The Inside
12. Bad Habit