Fabulous Diamonds II
The new album from Fabulous Diamonds is like a peek through a view finder into a future once fetishised but now forgotten, writes SHAUN PRESCOTT.
This Melbourne duo foreshadowed some of the late 2000s’ most pervasive underground pop manoeuvres as far back as 2004: dub as cheap portal to pop transcendence, and the synthesiser as conjurer of the future as imagined in the past. Since then, many artists (Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never) and labels (Ghost Box) have inhabited a similar plane where past and present tenses are fluid; where old futuristic timbres are presented anew. It’s like reading old speculative science fiction that has proved way off the mark.
The analogue synth is central to this effect: with its disposition to age and rapid obsolescence, it tends to leave maligned sonic detritus in its wake as newer models usurp the old. Fabulous Diamonds trawl those old remains and deliver music loaded with apparitional mystique. It’s a very 21st-century approach to innovation, re-remembering a future that never transpired. It might be a mere side effect – because Fabulous Diamonds is a pop group, primarily – but it’s a strong one. It’s their most striking characteristic.
In some ways Fabulous Diamonds’ sound is also built on the unexplored potential of older groups, old frameworks they manipulate into their own charismatic shape. This record is sometimes reminiscent of Essendon Airport’s regrettably short pop fling with Anne Cessna, and of the elusive Sydney post-punk group Makers of the Dead Travel Fast. But naming specific antecedents is beside the point, because it’s Fabulous Diamonds’ instrumentation that watermarks this music as historically indeterminate. And that’s what makes it so strange and surreal: this is sound that has slowly dripped through the cracks of legend and heritage, a reimagining of sonic terrain we all thought abandoned.
“This is sound that has slowly dripped through the cracks of legend and heritage, a reimagining of sonic terrain we all thought abandoned.”
Fabulous Diamonds don’t name their songs. This record is bookended by two extended tracks, long and repetitive synth tapestries coloured by trails of modulating sound and the isolated vocals of Nisa Venerosa. The reverberated percussion slices through the fray as if from aeons away, each hit emitting an echo imbued with varying depth, somehow catching the surrounding textures and absorbing them. In fact, it’s the percussion that makes this record such a compulsive listen, because it’s played with a sense of melody. Tom, snare, hi-hat and shakers communicate like separate chords in a riff.
It’s the shorter songs that prove Fabulous Diamonds are more than a Kraut-synth throwback though, and it’s disappointing that the three here make up less than half of the album. ‘Track 3’ is among the most unsettling in their oeuvre, with Venerosa’s carnival-esque voice guiding through an autumnal world locked on sunrise; a ghostly figure in a vaporous fog. Jarrod Zlatic’s unmelodic synth contains everything, until a subtle Wurlitzer lead breaks the bubble-wrap apart. ‘Track 4’ is Fabulous Diamonds’ best pop song yet, and the closest they’ve come to blatantly channelling their influences, in this case Dead Travel Fast’s ‘The Dumbwaiters’.
But otherwise, Fabulous Diamonds sound unique because they retread regions hastily abandoned, and happen upon possibilities stifled by the rapid progress of sound technology. This is kosmische for a post-cosmic world, a peek through a view finder into a future once fetishised but now forgotten. It’s a sparkling, luminescent and horrifying psychedelica, and it’s also proof that the past ought not to be off-bounds to pop music, as long as through exploring it something new and vital is discovered.
Fabulous Diamonds II is out June 19 through Chapter Music.