Meet the electronic musicians running Australia’s new golden age
As part of our series of articles celebrating 90 Days of Summer with Vodka Cruiser, here’s our look inside the Australian sound that’s defined this summer.
Even before Flume won a swagful of ARIAs at the end of last year, you could tell there was something in the air. Super young, crazily talented Australian producers were ruling the airwaves and festival mainstages in Australia – and overseas. Some dubbed it an ‘Australian Sound’, others were sceptical of giving it a name. We spoke with the acts on the frontline to find out what’s behind this resurgent golden age for local electronic music.
Before Flume’s name elbowed its way into the middle rows of the line-up for Coachella 2014, inthemix got a slightly more grassroots taste of just how supernova his star has gone. Seeing two rows of Flume’s breakout debut LP (both standard and deluxe editions) nestled between the likes of Example and Flying Lotus in HMV’s flagship Manchester, UK, store confirmed he’s entered the big leagues.
48 hours later in Australia, Flume went primetime. In the midst of another of the ARIA Awards’ trademark telecast trainwrecks, he collected four gongs and saw fit to spread the love around, name-checking a roll call of like-minded local producers who’ve now found themselves drawn together under the catch-all genre umbrella of an ‘Australian sound’. In the space of one televised speech – an extension of a euphoric earlier post to his Facebook fanbase – Streten ushered names like Wave Racer, Charles Murdoch, Willow Beats, LDRU, Cosmo’s Midnight and Touch Sensitive into the mainstream consciousness.
Sydney’s Ned East, whose work on etcetc under the Kilter moniker has seen him tapped for upcoming remix duties by two high-profile UK acts, was another of the peers Streten propped from the ARIA stage. “Back three years ago when he was still on the rise, he would always have time for a talk to me about production when I was asking him what sort of software he was using and that sort of thing,” says East, whose sound is now moving in a more “club-friendly” direction after veering widely from trap to “almost trancey” with his remixes in 2013. “I still send him songs that I’m working on and he’ll give me some feedback.”
That sense of community isn’t confined within Sydney’s city limits. Anth Wendt, generating buzz out of Adelaide with his meticulously crafted future beat sound as Oisima, is another producer bubbling just under the surface who’s watched his pal Streten’s rise from afar. “Kids are searching, now,” Wendt says on a tea break from work on his forthcoming debut LP. “Anything associated with or around Flume, if the kids are going to be looking for something else other than his music then they’re definitely going to be stumbling across everyone else.”
Not that this Australian beats scene, whether you dub it an ‘Australian sound’ or otherwise, only came into being once Flume was discovered by the men with the Midas touch at Future Classic. Around the time Kilter got a copy of Ableton Live for his 18th birthday, he learned that there was a local producer mining similar musical ground to what was inspiring him out of Los Angeles: Dave Norris, AKA Dizz1.
“They’re all like little brothers,” says Norris, a decade-plus veteran of Australian dance music who’s gone from drumming for Melbourne breaks act NuBreed to teaming up with Aloe Blacc for his upcoming February EP on Tru Thoughts. “We saw all those guys coming up, we didn’t know who they were – they were just like little brothers of our mates and stuff, and now they’re just smashing it.”
Though his earliest production forays drew heavily from glitch hop (Norris namedrops Tipper and The Glitch Mob, among others), like East his attention soon shifted to the “less is more” aesthetic of LA’s emergent post-Dilla sound.
“As the LA scene started to pick up, FlyLo and all those sorts of guys came up and were just making it less technical, for want of a better word,” Norris says. The work of Flying Lotus is not just a common touchstone for the sounds of Dizz1 and Kilter, but also for Flume, who’s dropped the LA producer’s name in interviews and a recent Headphone Highlights mix for RBMA Radio.