While simultaneously influencing the development of a South London sound in recent years and a strong musical identity to his own label, Bradley Zero has also become an ambassador for a distinctive new Melbourne noise. Coming to the fore in a post-Hiatus Kaiyote landscape and aided by the petri dish that is Northside Records (above), a new generation of soul cats are helping to elevate Melbourne music beyond anything it’s experienced before. Rhythm Section has played an active part too, with releases from Silent Jay & Jace XL, Prequel and now 30/70 with a new album of conscious, spiritual, jazz-funk-indebted soul.
To celebrate the movement 30/70 are part of, Bradley gives ten tips for Melbourne’s golden generation of groove. Listen to them as a Spotify playlist and read the stories around each pick below.
30 / 70 – ‘Misrepresented’
First up the band of the moment, 30/70, with the lead track from the new EP. I discovered the band a couple of years back from their debut LP Cold Raddish Coma. It hit me in a way that very few records do, so to get to know the band personally and finally get this EP together was a dream come true. This track melds a spiritual jazz template with a tough groove and strong protest lyrics that are as much a call to arms as they are a cry for help: “ Elevate! ‘Cause I feel misrepresented.’
Allysha Joy – ‘Akala’
Allysha is the lead singer of 30/70 and she released a special 7” via Northside Records for RSD 2017. It’s a thing of beauty. This ode to Akala, the UK rapper and activist is poetically peerless, showing a softer, but just as politically potent side to Joy’s delivery. “So before the seas do rise, I swear I swear I’ll make a change.”
Prequel – ‘Nothing Better’
Prequel struck gold again in 2016 with his EP Freedom Jazz Dance, and ’Nothing Better’ has stood the test of time. This track is the epitome of an uplifting dance floor interlude: restrained, gentle, constantly building only to evaporate into nothingness, allowing for the next track to hit harder. It’s a selfless piece, its power is in its simplicity and surrender.
Kirkis – ‘Cold Crush ( MNDSGN Instrumental Re-edit)’
Krikis is a mad genius. His output has been intermittent and shrouded in mystery. Reports of one of his very few live shows in Melbourne are recounted as a “you had to be there” moment. So profound was the impact that they’ve been mytholigised. Kirkis, best known to the outside world as one time guitarist for the Floating Points live band, is a producer, multi- instrumentalist and painter. This track came about after he was asked to remix a track by MNDSN for Fresh Selects. The remix took on a life of its own, straying so far from the original that it gained a new title, and was eventually remixed by MNDSGN himself. the track became known as COLD crush and is a hazy, lysergic downtempo trip that sounds somewhere between Actresss and Dâm Funk on a cocktail of codeine and xanax.
Billy Davis feat Cazeaux Oslo & Jace XL – ‘Rocking Chair’
Melburnian Billy Davis made a big splash (with me at least) with his debut effort Bad Ending, featuring a host of faves such as Allysha Joy & Cazeaux OSLO alongside some new and very exciting names like Ceeko, Jwils, Blasko & Tanya George. The album was recorded at home and released independently but sounded like the tour de force of an artist in the peak of their career. At once soulful and experimental with such great synergy between all of the guests this was a debut statement the likes of which I don’t come across regularly. I urge you to check it out on Bandcamp.
The second album – A Family Portrait – sees Davis settle down with his house band. While there are moments of brilliance, the new album, as a whole, is a little too polished for my tastes – the immediacy of the debut left a far greater impact on me. However, there are a few stand out tracks and this one with RS featured artists JACE XL (of Silent Jay fame) and Cazeaux OSLO (who features in Prequel’s ‘saints’) is definitely one of them.
Nai Palm – ‘Cross Fire / So Into You’
Nai Palm is the undisputed queen of Melbourne soul and with her debut solo album she’s set to cement that position and then some. This is the second track released from the album and if this (and the other track, ‘Homebody’) is anything to go by, we’re soon to be treated to a masterpiece from one of the world’s most unique and talented songwriters. Recorded acoustically in Melbourne with the Hiatus Kaiyote backing vocalists (Lori, Silent Jay, Jace XL) providing nothing short of celestial harmonisations, the album drops 20th October and I’m rather excited. Private chats with Nai would lead me to expect some unexpected collaborations in the pipeline too.
Silent Jay x Jace XL – ‘Just Waking Up’
Jay & Jace (JJ for short) are two certified Soul Brothers from the Northside (via Manilla & NYC) who produced Sacrifice, a certified modern classic for RS INTL at the tail end of 2015. Flying the flag for future facing, retro leaning alternative RnB in Melbourne, this track was the one that reeled me in and led to me signing a record with the pair. The collaboration wouldn’t have been possible without Mary Grigoris, who runs creative platform Cyclopes and was managing Jay at the time. Special shouts must also go to Wondercore Island, a label, curation and management platform run by Si Jay Gould, whose annual compilations introduced me to Vulture St Tape Gang, Moses Sumney, Noah Slee, Jordan Rakei and of course, this track from Silent Jay. Head to their Bandcamp for a similarly inspirational listen.
Jaala – ‘Lowlands’
Jaala is a tough one to characterise, sitting somewhere between alternative pop, art rock and soul balladry. For fans of Dirty Projectors, Deerhoof and well, Hiatus Kaiyote – it doesn’t get much better than this. Still got to see them live. I don’t know how it hasn’t happened yet!
Krakatau – ‘Riddel’s Creek’
Another band I’m waiting to see live with baited breath. Potentially last years biggest new band discovery for me and they’ve only released two EPs and five tracks in total! These five tracks clock in at over 57 minutes total, so it’s enough to keep me going for now. Krakatau are putting the ‘ Pro’ in PROG with indulgent yet classy ten minute plus musical journeys such as ‘Apogean Tide’, ‘Tharsis Montes’ and this epic piece ‘ Riddel’s Creek. They are TIGHT- as -fuck and if you’re not put of by six minute long church organ intros, you’ll be softly welcomed to a whole new world of prog funk that sounds like it could be written anywhere between 1971 and 2049. They’re currently in the studio working on an album with old mate Mike Katz aka Harvey Sutherland and I’ve been plotting and planning for the best part of 2017 to try find a way to get them over to these shores ASAP.
Hiatus Kaiyote – Fingerprints
How could I not end with Hiatus Kaiyote? To listen to them is a never ending epiphany, to witness them is a lucid dream and to count them as friends is an ongoing inspiration. We (Rhythm section and PCO) where so lucky to be able to host them in Peckham last year, under the improvisational guise of Swooping Duck. The backing band where joined onstage by Lori, Jay (on sax!) and Jace, whose rendition of ‘Sexual Chocolate Cheescake’ will forever remain in my memory. I could have chosen any song of the album – especially the numbers sampled this year by two of the biggest artists in the world (Drake & Kendrick Lamar), but I went for ‘Fingerprints’. This delicate, personal track is a neo soul masterpiece, penned by a 16 year old Nai and brought to life by Bender, Perin and Simon. This is a coming of age song like no other.
30/70’s Elevate LP is out 27th October – buy from Bandcamp.