9 Track, LP (2012, Negative Guest List)
Related: Sky Needle.
Sky Needle should’ve sucked. Time Hammer, the Brisbane group’s first 7”, was an instrumental affair performed on homemade instruments. It had its charms, but it was difficult to imagine ever loving the group because the concept was far too cerebral. The group laboured to draw attention to its means, and as great as it sounded, you couldn’t help but imagine three guys playing strange instruments in a room somewhere. Probably with sheet music, as inapplicable as that imagery may be. If music can only conjure visions of it being performed, then it has failed.
Sky Needle is no longer about the instruments. Rave Cave’s liner notes bear no mention of an elastic dust shovel or latex pump horn. With the release of their Neckliner cassette last year, and the introduction of Sarah Byrne on vocals, Sky Needle has become a mood: a set of hazy, amorphous imagery. And while they don’t sound much like their label mates Mad Nanna, the mood conjured here is similarly narcoleptic, like the weird lucidity one experiences just on the edge of sleep. Sarah Byrne seems to (because who knows, really) trade in the kind of nonsense one speaks if awakened sleepwalking. That’s just the way it sounds.
Sonically, it’s reminiscent of the zones Hi God People or Sunburned Hand of the Man explore: it’s ambiguously foreign-sounding music that suggests an affinity with methods and traditions far beyond the group’s ken. There are vaguely Eastern-sounding string drones purring beneath Byrne’s vocals, but there are also brass-reminiscent timbres lurching in the mix, normally in step with the group’s stalking, low-tempo temperament.
The band definitely sound like they have “jams” rather than songs. Each track seems derived from some blank-stare hypnosis, a kind of lumbering inertia wrought by the ensemble’s tendency toward persistent tempos and barely perceptible crescendos. Yet each song has its own set of colours and its own subtly different way of achieving these ends, and the record has a sense of momentum as a result.
Despite the wielding of never-before-wielded instruments, Sky Needle’s actual approach isn’t reinventing the wheel. But there are colours and textures here you’ve never heard the likes of, which makes this record essential listening if you like staring at walls and imagining things. Which you all should, every now and then.
by Shaun Prescott