Musk Hill - The Baudelaires (Off The Hip)
Another day, another great and surreal psych band from south of the NSW-Victoria border. The Baudelaires have a string of singles under their belt (via Colourtone Records) and this is their full-length debut (on Off The Hip, of course.)
Mr Everywhere, Mikey Young (Eddy Suppression Ring), recorded this with The Baudelaires in a three-day session at a house on the Mornington Peninsular in Victoria. The songs burn slowly, for the most part, with a magnificence all their own. They aren’t in any hurry but they arrive at their destination.
There’s a sound common to records of bands that work with Mikey Young and it’s unmistakable, if hard to describe (at least to these damaged ears.) Lo-fi is a lazy tag that doesn’t cut it as a descriptor. It’s not polished, it’s invariably based around a dry guitar sound, and the vocals are almost always drenched in reverb and/or a little delay. Mikey Youngsound is that of a band off to the left and back a little in the soundscape, distant but really quite close.
The Baudelaires are a young Melbourne four-piece who list Spacemen 3 and Syd Barrett among their many influences. You can’t half tell. Two guitars that lilt and buck inside the rhythms. A rock steady, sometimes plodding, backbeat. Throbbing, simple bass-lines.
You know that TV ad where the bloke stands back and admires his handiwork after painting his house? “Musk Hill” is not so much aural wallpaper as the full Monty of primer and two coats that come out in a shade that's so out of synch with anything else in the Dulux catalogue that you, too, have to sit up and notice. That said, you can slap this album on and dip in and out of it as you like. It flows.
Vocalist-guitarist Grischa Zahren has an ethereal quality to his voice that suits these nine songs perfectly. He's a dab hand at the yodel, too. Neither he or guitar colleague Ben Reid are show ponies but there’ are some sharp riffs and a brooding power in their trippier interplay. When they stretch out on a track like Syd's "Lucy Leave" (the only cover) there's a nice tension that absent formt he original.
You can preview the record on Bandcamp or listen to their back catalogue on Soundcloud. That's how bands do it these days. "Snapper Steve" and "Foxglove" do it for me, but if you want a signature song, jump into the album's last track, “Dweller”. A martial beat and one Velvets rhythm guitar anchor the tune, while flecks of overdriven shards of scarcely controlled feedback spray from the second guitar. No spoilers here but the ending is ace.
It seems a disservice to brand The Baudelaires as "shoegaze" but I suppose a few people will use that tag. To me, it was a euphemism for "boring" back in the long distant '90s. A fair whack of these songs have come out on singles but I’m guessing they were short runs and are impossible to find, which makes the album your obvious choice for gluerd-on fans and the unitiated. “Musk Hill” is available as a CD or on vinyl - because getting up halfway through to flip an LP over is good for you.