#3 – Eight Times Over Miss October

Welcome back to this irregular music blog, where I have a gush about some of the new music that has hit my face this month. Don’t forget, there’s a Spotify playlist of everything here, in reverse order, if that’s something that takes yr fancy.

EOB (Ed O’Brien) – Santa Teresa

It’s always fascinating to hear mostly silent members of really massive groups come forward and release something that is their own making. It adds personality and context to their playing within the band from that point on, for me at least, and sometimes you can lead the solo material directly back to moments in the larger bands previous work.

As is the case here, with this glorious piece of ambient loveliness from Ed O’Brien, the rhythm guitarist and tall handsome lad from Radiohead. I tried not to expect too much from the track, and there isn’t alot to it other than a very Eno-esque, guitar led ambient landscape, however the video is something that has captured my heart.

I don’t think I’ve seen much video work like this before. It’s a very generative, dynamically moving visual, thousands of granules sliding down the frame, occasionally forming images that quickly fade. The sometimes sharp edges of the frame give a boundary to the work, and this is as close to a moving painting as I’ve ever seen. It’s better experienced than written about. Go take a look with some headphones on, and the quality as high as you can get it.

EOB’s album has no release date as of yet.


Battles – Titanium 2 Step ft. Sal Principato

Eclectic 2-piece Battles have been forging a wonderfully wonky path for themselves since 2003, and first came to my attention in 2006 with their first few EP’s. The current members consist of Ian Williams, formerly of math punks Don Caballero and Storm & Stress, and the inimitable drumming of John Stanier, the man behind the iconic drum sounds of Helmet, The Mark Of Cain and Tomahawk. They’ve waxed and waned a few members over the years, and now find themselves resting as a two piece with various guests wandering in and out across their records.

Their newest, Juice B Crypts, dropped on the 18th of October, and includes this solid, fun and funky first single, Titanium 2 Step, featuring the scatty, sample-like interludes of Sal Principato (frontman of Liquid Liquid, whose track Cavern got sampled heavily by Grandmaster Flash for White Lines).

I just like this alot, haven’t heard the full record yet. But this is a core Battles track, through and through.


Dry Cleaning – Viking Hair

Peckham, London 4-piece Dry Cleaning have had my full attention since appearing on the Independent Music Podcast, an absolute favourite of this here blogger, with their sardonic monarch sulking track Magic Of Meghan, impressing such height and tongue-in-cheek deity on the most recent duchess of Sussex.

That EP, Sweet Princess, was wonderful start to finish, and they’ve dripped a couple of songs from their next EP already, and Viking Hair takes us further into the brusque, au-fait surety of personality that comes from Florence Shaw. The instrumental is always driving, solid and the chorus effect of the guitar, a strong characteristic of the band at this point in time, is really warm and captivating. They strike me as a cleaner, more compact Sonic Youth, with Florence like a british Kim Gordon but with more of a personal, honest thrust to her lyricism.

Their new release, the Boundary Road Snacks and Drinks EP, is out on the 25th of October.


SECT – Like Animals

Absolutely one of my favourite hardcore bands ever was Cursed, the Canadian band that ran from 2001 to 2008. On a whim after hearing about Left For Dead from a guitarist in my first band, I tracked down the vocalist Chris Colohan‘s latest band at the time, and I had my hardcore life turned upside down. The filthy, dust-fused vocals, the rough but satisfying production on the first two albums, and just a complete, bracing and unadulterated anger that I’d been lacking in my life.

But they were dead. DOA. They’d just released their last album, and on May 28 of 2008, they got robbed while at the end of their European tour, apparently an inside job from someone in their touring party, and they couldn’t continue as a band from there. And I threw my hands up. The same thing that had happened to me with At The Drive-In happened to Cursed, breaking up just as my interest in them peaked.

So I blanked on Chris Colohan for a while. Nothing he did could quite live up to the intense heights of Cursed, and I stopped keeping an ear out. Which makes this new development all the more satisfying.

SECT have been around for about 3 years now, flying under my Colohan denial radar up until their third record got release, at the end of August. SECT are everything Cursed could have been, Kurt Ballou making everything sound as crisp and perfect as he does with every record he produces. Colohan is joined by James Chang (Catharsis, Undying), Scott Crouse (Earth Crisis, The Path Of Resistance), Steve Hart (Day Of Suffering), and drummer Andy Hurley (The Damned Things, Fall Out Boy) and we get a complete, visceral, anarchic hardcore/metal experience.

I’m really happy, guys.


Common Holly – Joshua Snakes

Absolutely my pick from this week’s New Music Friday on NPR. Delightfully peculiar, angular pop from Montreal-based singer-songwriter Brigitte Naggar. Don’t let that singer-songwriter tag fool you tho, I often read that tag as ‘boring/stoic/repetitive meandering songwriter’ but in this case, Common Holly does some really interesting things on her second record, When I say to you Black Lightning, which came out on the 18th of October.

There’s some really satisfying production surrounding these lovely songs, some random hits and rough tones mixed with some rougher guitars to grit everything up, as well as some nice space mapped out on later tracks on the record. I get a more modern take on an early Cat Power vibe, but with a little more innocence.

It’s interesting, and that’s all I need.


Gang Starr – Bad Name

Posthumous records can be a real drag. They hardly ever really live up to what’s expected, because you know its the end, and there can’t really be any more, so it puts a stamp on the album and makes it feel dated and stale, especially if many years have passed since the artist in question passed, and what state the record was in when they did.

But I’m getting a great feeling about this upcoming final Gang Starr record. Absolute hip-hop legends, Gang Starr played by their own rules, with the inimitable voice of Guru fronting the deeply original and sample heavy production of DJ Premier. Guru passed in 2010, and their most recent album prior to that was 2003, so these vocals have sat for a good amount of time. But Premier has pulled in some guests who are so deeply stoked to be on the album, with J Cole stating that his verse on Family & Loyalty will be the last guest he will ever do on a track.

For me, my friend David introduced me to Guru‘s clear, concise and poetic lyrics around 2007, then a Canberra-focused twist on the chorus to The Planet appeared on the track Skyspike, on Finnigan & Brother‘s first full length Spend A Month In Colombia, which we recorded in 2012. I don’t know a hip-hop vocalist with a more original delivery style, one that is so devoid of drawl and rhetoric. It’s gonna be nice hearing some new stories from Guru. Let’s hope the record is as good as the last record from A Tribe Called Quest.

One Of The Best Yet is due out in December.


#2 – Do You Remember? A Post About Music In September

Here’s a bomb drop of songs that are new/good/fresh in some way for me this week.

You can hear all music related to this blog at Spotify, including tracks played on the old Tunes On A Plate show. It’ll be updated with each new post.

Mandy Moore – When I Wasn’t Watching

I haven’t really thought much about Mandy Moore since I was a teenager. I was there when Candy (this was such a massive number… 2?!?!?! hit in Australia), Crush (trumped by Jennifer Paige’s Crush IMO) and I Wanna Be With You were gigantic pop staples in the hallways of my preppy high school. She was sweet, saccharine and sexy, and of course, I hated it.

But there was something less fake, less bought and sold about her that always kept her in the back of my mind. I knew years later that she was in a long term relationship with Ryan Adams, and that was of no consequence until just recently.

But regardless of everything in her past, she’s dropped a new single, and it’s fucking sensational. It’s got some real late 80’s/early 90’s Stevie Nicks vibes for me, and rocks an interesting chorus arrangement.


Charli XCX – Gone (ft Christine & The Queens)

Holy shit, I’ve been pretty wrapped up about Charli’s new record for a while now. 1999 was an uncompromising monster of a single, released at the back end of last year, and in classic ‘waterfall’ fashion, we’ve had drops of singles up until the album’s release this month.

Gone was also a pre-album release, and I passed it off as uninteresting the first time I heard it. But the hook stayed with me, and when it fell on me a couple of times over the course of the next month, it latched onto my brain and now I think it’s one of the pop picks of the year.

My feelings all peaked when watching this performance on Fallon this evening. I’ve had few passes at the wonderful pop record Charli has assembled, and everything she is as a performer is on stage right here. But I got truly staggered by Christine in this video, she’s absolutely gigantic here and makes the performance what it is. Don’t skip this. And pay hard attention to the breakdown.


Grimes & i_o – Violence

Grimes continues down a darker path with her recent output with the clinically catchy and entrancing Violence. Personally, I never had an in with Grimes, apart from a fleeting enjoyment of Oblivion, until We Appreciate Power, because I always find it so damn fascinating when pop mixes its colours with heavy rock guitars and tones.

There’s definitely less of that here, this song is more about a few simple ideas smooshed together, and after listening to this track on a few different sound systems, I’ve come to notice that this song just doesn’t have any guts without the sensational bass throb throughout. Listening to this on tinny or cheap speakers is a completely different experience, the bass creates this haunting, hypnotic vibe that really makes this song what it is. I’m really interested in what else Miss_Anthropocene has in store.


Danny Brown – Best Life

Danny Brown has his hands all over a bunch of projects, his new record U Know What I’m Sayin’ is out on October 4th, and I really got attached to Danny after his last full record, Atrocity Exhibition. He’s got his own TV show called Danny’s House, he STILL has one of the most interesting voices in hip hop. I want this.


Underworld – STAR

I don’t think Underworld have any fucking right to be this fucking good in 2019. To come all the way from Underneath The Radar, to this series of experimental releases they’ve been putting out called Drift over the last year, it’s fucking ridiculous that Underworld are still here, still relevant and still doing important things in the underground electronic music world. This song has a vocal cadence that is similar to their mega hit from the Trainspotting soundtrack ‘Born Slippy‘, with the same wry sense of humour. Take a longer look at the Drift series and see what else you can pull out of it.


Candy – Super-Stare

Candy are definitely one of the most brutal hardcore acts getting around at the moment. To the point that I get scared to put their record on, because I know what I’m in for. Their last record, Good To Feel, has languished in my Spotify saved records, because I know how good it is, I just talk myself out of ever being in a mood to put it on.

I’ll soon have another record to feel guilty about. Super-Stare is a 7 inch release out on Relapse, and it’s fuill of distortion, reverb and roughness.

Of a long ago recording, + a rogue performance.

2 exciting events happening on the very same night in Canberra this weekend, both involving myself in some fashion.

First up, I had the adorable Faux Faux Amis join me in Melbourne way back in January 2014, to record a couple of tracks that didn’t quite fit the 1 minute format of their debut record, X.

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an earlier iteration of the garage studio

I had a modest little studio at the time, a big tin and brick garage with some very haphazard soundproofing left by a previous housemate. I made some fun and interesting recordings in the garage, but it had no windows and was suffocatingly hot in the summer.

[vimeo 101789593 w=640 h=360]

The recordings that we did on a very warm January Saturday in Yarraville first saw the light of day as a re-imagining, as myself and the band weren’t too satisfied with how the recording of the slower song, Holiday Inn, came out. My good friend Paul Heslin took my stems and created a very solid, different mix of the track with trumpet from Nicholas Combe, and added some superb backing vocals from Catherine James. Hear it above.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soAWY175AHA]

The other track, which I’m quite proud of, is called 50/50 (hear a sample of the beginning of the track above) and it finally sees the light of day this Saturday the 6th of August at the Phoenix on a cassingle. These were some of my most successful experiments with recording very fuzzy guitars, and the very trashy, over-compressed sound of the drums gave this track the honest garage sound that I was looking for. It’s an example of what I want to hear in my brain actually coming out into a mix, and I’m super happy with the results. Bruce Callaway at Broken Knee Studios gave the recording a nice compression master that added some more bite.

Tape is the perfect medium for this recording, I can’t wait to hear it on my dad’s Akai CS-F210 cassette deck.

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The cover of Reuben Ingall’s Microclimates

The other exciting event this Saturday, I’ve been asked by the wonderful Fossil Rabbit (Chris Finnigan) to join the aforementioned Paul Heslin and Reuben Ingall at a night of experimental music at Smiths Alternative, also on the 6th of August. I’ve delved back into a Future Conduits live set I’ve been teasing at for a long time, that allows me to play and affect beats on my APC40 controller while also playing other things without always looking at a computer screen.

Reuben and Paul are very longtime friends and former bandmates of mine, we toured to Tasmania and Sydney in 2013 when I was fiddling with my adapted Nintendo Power Glove (a project which I hope to restart in the future), and I’ve had some of the best times of my life with these two, and it’s always great to play beside them. Paul recently had a residency in Finland, and is spending his time making music with a Raspberry Pi, and Reuben recently released his 3rd solo record, called Microclimates, on Feral Media, and released a split EP with Logic Lost on the Tandem Tapes label.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=765zqyeHssY]

I recorded all of the Future Conduits EP in the previously mentioned garage in Yarraville, it was a real lesson in gradually building tracks to completion and slowly feeling confident with the results over time. Danny Wild produced a video for Black Sweat, and it still surprises me when I remember I have a video for a track that I produced.

This is likely to be my (first and) last show in Canberra this year, I’m taking off overseas from the end of August for adventures that I’ll detail in a later post.

For now, check out this unreleased Future Conduits track called Funky Drummer.

‘I Could Listen To Some Norah Jones’: The Norah Jones Half Hour Story, Part 1- The First EP

I’ve known Nathan Harrison and Emma McManus for a few years, travelling to the Phillipines with them both on separate occasions, listening to Nathan’s podcast that chews through every song in Triple J’s Hottest 100 from its inception, and seeing Emma perform under a bedsheet in a Tomato Kick in Quezon City, and also occasionally join Pocket Fox onstage around Canberra. They’re both also involved in the Sydney theatre collective Applespiel.

Had some time in the home studio with the Norah Jones Half Hour, they came to me with, and I quote, “two finished songs and 3 other things” that actually felt alot more realised than they led on.

I’ve known Nathan Harrison and Emma McManus for a few years, travelling to the Phillipines with them both on separate occasions, listening to Nathan’s podcast that chews through every song in Triple J’s Hottest 100 from its inception, and seeing Emma perform under a bedsheet in a Tomato Kick in Quezon City, and also occasionally join Pocket Fox onstage around Canberra. They’re both also involved in the Sydney theatre collective Applespiel, who are amazing and played my bass guitar onstage at the Malthouse in Melbourne one time, OMG.

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photo by Jessica Bellamy, 2015

They’ve played live twice so far, on both occasions they supported Finnigan & Brother (another band I’ve had my ugly mitts on a few times), who are accused of creating NJHH by not looking hard enough for other support acts and calling Nathan and Emma on their bluff when they said they’d create a band to support them.

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So the idea that they now have a recording that I’m producing is a weird one, but honestly they’ve written some super interesting tunes with hilarious lyrics. Crime Fighting Shame Blog dives into the world of photographing manspreaders on public transport then posting the photo on the internet, All Your Faves Are Problematic draws back the curtain on blindly following celebrities, trends and pop humour, and the NJHH anthem THE NORAH JONES HALF HOUR GLOWER POWER HOUR kinda just needs to be heard to be believed.

Nathan’s love of TISM is so welcome on these tracks, I’d love to hear more of that sort of influence on any Australian music at all, and they both bring some great performance chops to the vocals on all these songs.

Have a listen to an early mix of 20 seconds of Crime Fighting Shame Blog, right below:

 

More very very soon.

Music in 2050: What the even will it be?

Two of my good friends David Finnigan and Jordan Prosser are currently in Melbourne, and have been for the last few months, knocking together a piece called Crimeforce: LoveTeam, a script centered around boy bands in 2050, and they asked me to think about and deliver some work based around what music may be like in 2050. You can read more about it over at David’s website.

They were toying with Law & Order early on in the process, and purely out of seeing them playing with some of those tropes, I used the MusicMappr site to help generate a remix of the Law & Order Theme, something I’ve called Ordered Law.

I had a great time collating research from various platforms, looking into possibilities and things that may not actually change at all.

My blurb for the performances is below, with links to two tracks created using algorithmic music making tools.


2050 is a long way away. It’s (hopefully) in the back end of my own life cycle, and ruminating on musical advances up to then has been an interesting and thought-provoking exercise. I’ve found myself speaking to the GROWTH scenario, as it has the more fleshed out world-view and progression.

In this world, I feel that music has been pushed along continually by technological advances, as it always has. The difference exists in the way music is created, with record labels becoming more akin to how Spotify and Apple manage their playlists at the moment, by recruiting taste-makers and cultural heads to plot out music in a certain style or mood. The music itself will be created by computers, with the limits on a computer’s ability to recreate the complex timbre of specific instruments slowly being lifted. We are seeing now through websites like Jukedeck and Google’s Magenta project that computers can make respectable copies of songs given certain parameters, although at the moment these songs are rarely used for much else than royalty-free background sound in videos. There will likely be music making software created for use in a VR world, where complex instruments can be played by anybody.

Youth and protest music will continue to exist, fringe groups will continue to play fringe music for niche markets, and the pop mainstream will continue to co-opt them for want of a trend or fad, and then as quickly, discard them once they are no longer relevant. There may be a rise in the nostalgia and fetishization of ‘golden era’ pop music instrumentation (Beatles, Stones, Doors), but this may also just be another fad that waffles on for a few years.

Moving into the lyrical space, my research has suggested that in over 100 years of ‘pop’ music (music sold to the masses for playback on personal or in-home sound systems), very little has changed about the core centre of the pop verse. Take this comparison of Arthur Collins Hello! Ma Baby from 1899 with Drake’s Hotline Bling.

Arthur Collins (1899):
I’ve got a little baby, but she’s out of sight,I talk to her across the telephone;

I’ve never seen ma honey, but she’s mine, all right;

So take my tip, and leave this gal alone !

Ev’ry single morning, you will hear me yell,

“Hey Central fix me up along the line.”

He connects me with ma honey

Then I ring the bell,

And this is what I say to Baby Mine:
Hello! Ma baby,

Hello ! ma honey,

Hello ! ma ragtime gal,

Send me a kiss by wire,

Baby, my heart’s on fire !

If you refuse me,

Honey, you’ll lose me,

Then you’ll be left alone;

Oh baby, telephone

And tell me I’m your own,

Hello ! hello ! hello ! there !

Drake (2016):
Ever since I left the city youGot a reputation for yourself now

Everybody knows and I feel left out

Girl you got me down, you got me stressed out

Cause ever since I left the city, you

Started wearing less and goin’ out more

Glasses of champagne out on the dance floor

Hangin’ with some girls I’ve never seen before
You used to call me on my cell phone

Late night when you need my love

Call me on my cell phone

Late night when you need my love

I know when that hotline bling

That can only mean one thing

I know when that hotline bling

That can only mean one thing

Both address the use of phones to communicate with their respective partners, both stress the want and need for love via phone conversation. That’s 117 years of cultural change, and yet still there are such heavy similarities between pop verse.

So, I see very little changing in another 34 years. People will still reach out for love via song, either professing or wantonly calling for it through the medium of song. These lyrics, however, I don’t see being computerised or boiled down to a formula, as I feel this basic human connection and outward emotion is the core of the relate-ability in a pop song, and it wouldn’t survive without an entity expressing themselves. There may possibly be a rise in the creation of personas and characters, but I still feel some of the strongest messages in pop are and will continue to be through direct human emotion.

I created two tracks that were composed using the Jukedeck platform. The first (Hackney Revenge) is a pop song carved entirely by Jukedeck, using parameters that I have set, and the second (Stepford Wonderland) is a collection of 3 different Jukedeck tracks, morphed by me to fit with each other. This is an example of what I feel the music making process will be like at some point in the future, with the skill ceiling for makers to create a track getting lower and lower, to the point where the music is made for you, you just change a few parameters to suit your taste, and anyone who creates music like that can now be called a ‘Musician’.

Mix for FINT Fundraiser

Way back at the start of 2014, my generally handsome friend Nathan and another spectacularly awesome friend Emily Rose were looking to take a theatre show to Adelaide, a show that I never got to see because they only put it on in Adelaide, but as such, they needed funds and they put on an afternoon of entertainment in the backyard of Emily Rose’s house on Australia Day. Here’s a charming little promo video for the day.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BDgYTv-YbU]

 

They asked me to do a mix and I had been experimenting with DJing in the latter half of 2013, performing in my final year of my Bachelors in Sound Production as a live onstage DJ in Raimondo Cortese‘s St Kilda Tales. The show was a ton of fun, and I’ve had a great deal of fun cleaning up this set and putting it out to you all now. Will hopefully be adding future mixes to the wonderful Mixcloud site.

Download the mix HERE.

On the verge of something inevitable.

Over the last year I’ve been sporadically working on some electronic music, tracks that directly reference my inspirations, influences and hopefully convey a slice of original thought amongst the compressed waveforms. It’s not quite ready to share yet, but I’m on the cusp of getting these tracks out and re-entering the larger musical landscape by sticking my big toe into the water again.

I’ve had some great support over the last 8 months while finding time to complete these tracks, whether it was subtle words of encouragement from my dear friends Nate Troisi, Reuben Ingall, Nick Delatovic, Paul Heslin and David Finnigan, or actual contributions to the end product by Nick D again, Becki Whitton, George Rose, and Danny Wild & Luke McGrath who are cooking up video aesthetics to tie to a couple of the songs.

I’ve really taken my time with the creation of these songs, and the overall concept and design of the entire product that has become Future Conduits. At the start of the year I looked down at a metal panel at Yarraville train station and saw a sign that had allusions and connections to things that don’t exist yet, but someday will, and that tied together with my attitude to music, the hope of things to come and the possibility of something amazing being right around the corner, or a few years down the track. So I’ve deliberately tried to not rush anything to do with this project, to let it happen organically and to work on it when I’ve felt the time is right. I’ll confess to some perfectionist leanings in trying to correct things that could be better served by moving on and fixing those problems in my next project, but I’ve learnt alot in trying to complete these four tracks, and I feel as though my work now has a well trodden path to walk down and out of my brain.

FutureConduits_NickMc_V3

So here’s the artwork, designed by the darling and generous George Rose. She is a stunning visual artist who inspires me to create alot and often, and her work ethic around her art is really something to behold.

The first FCEP will see the light of day before 2014 is out.

Girlcrushes

Over on my Soundcloud, I’ve been hosting an old EP that I made after hearing my good friend Reuben Ingall chop and screw some pop classics with reckless abandon. The tracks on my EP have all reached their 100 download limit, and three tracks have all been downloaded over 1000 times since May 2011. Not bad for something I didn’t really expect to appeal to anybody.

I’m particularly fond of the Veruca Salt, Alanis Morrisette and Tracey Bonham versions. Veruca Salt are transformed into a slowly shuffling Kyuss, Alanis Morrisette hugs the rail between Nickelback and Jesu, and Tracey Bonham channels Isis’s best moments in the chorus of Mother Mother.

Shit On The Liver

 

I really wanted to take a second to speak on King Parrot‘s excellent video for Shit On The Liver, for a few reasons.

Alot of Australian metal has some pretty negative stigmas around it. Many dismiss it as not being as good as international metal, simply because we’ve never really birthed our own particular sound, style or sub-genre. Australian metal does not have pioneering kudos behind it like Swedish Death Metal, NWOBHM or the later NWOAMH. We seem to see what it is that we like first, and then try to, maybe ambitiously, break the record for that particular style. The recent documentary on Australian Metal throughout the years, Metal Down Under, lays all of this bare. We have trouble getting noticed at first by international audiences, but as a band garners attention and travels overseas to support their brand, time and time again there has been a backlash against the band back in Aus. We have a funny kind of tall poppy syndrome in this country in regards to heavy bands, we like you to stay at just the right height. Bands like AC/DC, Psycroptic, Segression and Alchemist all have similar stories to this.

King Parrot have been garnering alot of attention lately, and deservedly so, but I was really excited by their video, as it showcases a distinct visual style, an actual narrative and has a real air of quality around it. I’ve never seen a music video by a heavy australian band ever look or feel as good as Shit On The Liver does. So many budget Australian metal videos do not much more than fit to a stereotype. They squeeze in some bad green screen effects, have the band mime the songs on their instruments, and repeat ad-nauseum. But King Parrot vocalist Matt Young explains in Metal Down Under that they shot and edited the video for Shit On The Liver in one afternoon, a product of having a simple idea and running with it. It’s not the greatest music video in the world, it’s clearly a very low budget video, but they tried to do something creative that fit with their style and they pulled off something really special that is funny, threatening and unpretentious.

Or maybe I just have a soft spot for thrashy tunes juxtaposed with a group of men looking forward to enjoying a Bonnox and an early night in.

I’d also like to quickly mention, the boys walk down a particular part of Smith St, which at the time of the video housed the Smith St Portrait Project. Around that time, a housemate of mine, Meaghan Ross had lost a long battle with cancer, and she had been photographed for this project not long before she died. I think of her everytime I see this video. Much love, always, Meaghan.

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photo by Perry Axzkien