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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

8.4

Total Control
Henge Beat

Of all the things Mikey Young has stuck his finger in outside of Eddy Current, Total Control's Henge Beat seems to be the most at odds with his reputation. The same degraded-30-year-old-vinyl charm he brought as an engineer to recent releases by Royal Headache and Kitchen's Floor is still there, but with Total Control his habitual representation of guitar bands has made way for a revisit of 70's synth-punk. With the monotone drawl of Daniel Stewart and robotic beats of James Vinciguerra driving the band, the melodic overtones are left to Young and the UV Race's Alastair Montfort. Together with the status of Young as Australia's lo-fi comptroller, Henge Beat reads as a record tied closely to their contemporaries, set apart by their willingness to collate disparate elements.

The record begins with an electronic affront; the drum-machine confrontation of See More Glass coming out of the closet before anyone has even shaken hands. For the uninitiated it's a hard dick to swallow, the total absence of guitars jarring the expectations you may have had going into the record. Almost as an apology, Total Control follows it up with Retiree, the purest dose of punk found on the album, featuring those treble-heavy guitar tones you were expecting four minutes prior. Later, the band measures the lazy, seven minute sprawl of Carpet Rash against the speed-fuck garage guitars of Stonehenge and the toy-strumental afterthought, Shame Thugs, a three-track run that sums up the band's willingness to stray from any sense of focus.

The real art of this album is the balance it finds between the roughly cut, lo-fi punk aesthetic and the drum-machine retrospective that's tightly wrapped around it. Total Control manage to walk this knife edge between two entirely different sounds with a cohesiveness that's at odds with the record's boundless diversity. One More Tonight begins with characteristic garage vigour, yet halfway through, one echoed electro-note cuts through the mix like a flick to the knob. The moment you recoil, it lurches into it's chorus to round out the track, breaking down into that sack-tapping foreshadow before closing out with carnivalesque electro-noise. The record then benches it's guitars and let's the synths take over for The Hammer, Stewart's monotone Ian Curtis vocal sitting above an unmistakable post-punk atmosphere.

Henge Beat does wear its influences on its sleeve (Stonehenge as a Buzzcocks parallel, Meds II as some kind of bridge between Junkyard and From Here to Eternity, the synth-whines of No Bibs recalling Devo) but more than anything, it espouses the wonder that was inherent in the growth of the synthesizer in the late 70s and early 80s. Henge Beat has the feeling of measured balance that only the hindsight of looking back on dated technology can bring. Guitars aren't left behind in an obsession with electronics and the synth isn't rebelled against as the symbol of an impure future. Instead both sides of the coin are accepted with love and warmth, before being used as tools to write songs about taking pills and fucking on the floor.

Henge Beat is an unexpected success. It's synth-rock 30 years after it got tired, revisionist Krautrock when everyone is sick of hearing it and lo-fi punk where that's all its intended audience lives and breathes. Each aspect of Henge Beat could almost be a fuck up on its own, but it's the delicate balance between the band's warring directions and the artful cable-tie job Young does in the studio that makes this what it is — one of the most interesting records to escape Melbourne's underground this year.

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Total Control

 

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