Gabriella Cohen's Latest Single Demands Your Attention

25 May 2018 | 11:40 am | Ross Clelland

"'Music Machine' seems to know it’s taking the piss out of itself just a bit."

The danger in collaboration, or even getting that musical guest onboard who you’ve always idolised, is maybe getting lost in their music rather than your own.

If you were lucky enough to witness Goldfrapp visiting earth via an old train shed in Sydney’s Redfern last year you’d realise she (or is it them?) are more than capable of being a bit terrific entirely on her/their own devices. But being labelmates with Depeche Mode, having somebody suggest. “Hey, why don’t you do a song with Dave?” might sound like an utterly fine idea.

Thus, for the repackaging/marketing kickalong for the Frapp’s Silver Eye album the eponymous Alison and Will Gregory offer the new and ‘improved’ Ocean (Mute), now with added input from the voice of the Gahan fella. Thing is, in its undoubtedly well-put-together rolling moodiness, it actually ends up sounding more like her guesting with them, rather than vice-versa. The real awkwardness though is it’s probably the best Mode song to come out this decade.

Another odd confusion is despite Conrad Sewell actually taking home the pointy item for ARIA Song Of The Year in 2015 – he did, really, look it up – he’s probably still more widely known for getting the featured voice role on a couple other people’s songs. But having your name alongside the late Avicii or Armin Van Buuren certainly wouldn’t hurt, you’d reckon.

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But now signed directly to a local label, young Conrad Ignatius Mario Maximilian Sewell – he is, really, look it up – returns with songs of his own making under his own name (well, the first and last bits of it, anyway…).

Healing Hands (Sony Australia) is big modern pop with an electronic foundation, and gospel tinges. Undoubtedly commercial, but done with care and some passion it appears. In a throwback to the days of the double-A side single, Come Clean is released simultaneously – it illustrating the quieter end of his muse, an almost 1970s-Elton-with-21st century-synths feeling to it.

Passenger is another working in an utterly contemporary pop model, but really does seem to be something individual. It’s probably in that intriguing broken warble in his voice – something that occasionally may seem affected or mannered that somehow comes with a real human wistfulness, Hell Or High Water (Black Crow) adding some almost Chris Isaak guitar twang to the spaces which  give a slightly different angle to his typical airiness. As the visuals suggest, music to stroll thoughtfully through desert canyons by.

The machines get a delicate, perhaps even fragile, edge in the restrained racket of what Vancouver Sleep Clinic do. The hard disc skips and gathers itself repeatedly as Silver Lining (Merlin) unfolds and tries to work out what is wants to be. VSC’s Tim Bettinson engaging A$ap Rocky producer FnZ – oh, you kids and your random capitals and odd punctuation spelling…- adding some perhaps even hip-hop elements to the synthetic soul. Somehow it all fits together to make something complete, which actually appears to surprise itself about halfway through the second chorus.

And sometimes an artist will take a complete left turn from what you might expect, but still manages to utterly delight you. Absolutely musically well-regarded in her own right Amanda Shires is partner, muse, and sometime bandmate to Americana’s finest, Jason Isbell - and the easy option for her would probably be to spool out a couple of those effortless fiddle lines she can, and sing of motherhood and moonbeams. But you kinda knew she was never going to just leave it at that.

Leave It Alone (Silver Knife) maybe has a country soul in amongst the almost retro synth noises that carry it along. It’s warm and sensual, and probably more Feist than Dolly – but you seem to know Amanda would likely appreciate either and both.

Even as her reputation and recognition build, Gabriella Cohen retains this self-aware sassiness to what she does. Music Machine (Captured Tracks/Remote Control) seems to know it’s taking the piss out of itself just a bit, even as the Hawaiian guitars head for the desert - but manage to deposit her in some technicolour corners of LA. The music, mood, and (particularly) the moves almost seem designed to turn up on Rage at around 2am just as you’re dozing off, demanding your attention and making sure you remember its (and her) name.

And sometimes it comes down to location, location, location. Family Fold are certainly of Sydney’s inner-west – an upcoming album neatly-titled Ashfield Skyline further confirming that, although main Folder Paul Andrews actually decamped to the Nashville skyline to record it.

If unfamiliar, Andrews was also part of Lazy Susan, early 2000’s pop contenders who will likely be forever remembered for mention of another place entirely – and actually saying Reykjavik in a song. And a few more eyebrows go up in recognition.

Crying In The Carwash (Independent) continues a tradition of conversational little domestic dramas in a classicist pop construction, which gains even more weight when the big wave of strings sweep in. Involuntary toe-tapping, and an earworm that will haunt you for the rest of the day ensue.