RUFUS – Atlas
The Australian dance music scene is reflective of the nation’s character, I feel: modest, unpretentious, and all about a damn good time. Sydneyside indie-dance outfit RUFUS are emblematic of this approach. The achievements they’ve racked up in the meantime is nothing short of impressive – support slots for LCD Soundsystem and Holy Ghost!, appearances on the Australian festival circuit, singles that have received a warm welcome on Australian radio, and the recent signing to Sweat it Out (home to fellow practitioners of the good-vibes, no-bullshit approach to dance music A-Trak, Yolanda Be Cool and Parachute Youth).
The pressure of releasing a debut album seems to have remained largely ineffectual in the face of expectations – Atlas is not a record that tries too hard. Atlas is your mate who never takes more than five seconds to dress themselves and still looks better than everyone else at the party – effortless, cool. Atlas continues in this esteemed tradition – spanning a cool fifty or so minutes, it’s a chilled-out ride that will likely launch them to even greater heights.
Album opener Sundream immediately sets the mood for the record to come: the catchy thump of a well-crafted house beat underpins a simple piano melody that builds, builds, builds into a serious adrenaline-rush of a chorus that could light up even the darkest of nights with its blissful, soaring vocals and it’s a formula RUFUS have experimented with and slowly honed over the few years it took them to complete this album – the rest of its tracks follow similarly.
It strikes me as I’m midway into my first listen that it’s a serious shame that the release of Atlas was timed for the middle of winter, because its hands-in-the-air, don’t-care aesthetic guarantees its place as the perfect spring and summer soundtrack. Tracks like Modest Life and Two Clocks bounce along with unparalleled effervescence, whilst their more serious, considered moments, such as Sarah’s restrained melancholy, work spectacularly within the rest of the album – the musical equivalent of a much-needed cool breeze in the midst of unrelenting heat at midnight on an interminable summer evening. Synths shimmer in the air, breezy melodies weave and interplay in perfect unison – RUFUS’ strengths may not lie in the cutting-edge of production and experimentation but in writing a damn good pop song.
Cities like Berlin and London can keep their impossibly-produced cutting-edge sounds and endless parades of moody-looking DJs for themselves – Australian dance music’s edge is in its sunstreaked, relaxed aesthetic – and it’s one that Rufus have nailed this time around.