Play: Repeat

7 August 2012 | 6:30 am | Michael Smith

“Rather than listening [to music], we’re trying to take more of a body-movement approach with this record.”

In classical Greek mythology, the Danaïdes were the 50 daughters of a king called Danaus, all but one of whom killed their husbands on their wedding night, as you do, and were condemned to spend eternity carrying water in things full of holes, coming to represent the futility of a repetitive task that can never be completed. Danaïdes is also the title Sydney three-piece The Alcohotlicks have given their second album and, as drummer and composer Evan Mannell explains, it sort of fits, even if they've realised they spend a lot of time explaining the pronunciation of the word.

“We've been getting interested in making a bit more music ourselves at home, and so obviously that puts you in the realm of using computers and the like to demo up your music and you get involved with soft synths and fake instruments inside the computer and you try and make them work sound-wise,” he says. “So I suppose that was one influence on it, but also just the music we were listening to and in particular a [New York City experimental rock] band called Battles, and the idea of music for dancing.

“Rather than listening [to music], we're trying to take more of a body-movement approach with this record.” Which is where the connection with repetition comes in, with repetitive musical motifs and rhythms, “trying to build up this mesmeric feeling over long periods of repetitive action, repetitive beat and things like that.”

It's certainly an unexpected progression from their first album, 2008's You, You, which saw Mannell and fellow jazz guitarists Aaron Flower and Ben Hauptmann, the latter now based in Melbourne, flirting with elements of grunge, country and surf. With Danaïdes, there's an obvious move into electronica. “I don't know that we're dealing with jazz very much anymore,” Mannell admits.

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“Talking about the departure from jazz, we've all been involved in wider-reaching projects of late, doing anything from pop stuff to rock'n'roll and indie singer/songwriter and all sorts of stuff, and usually you find that the approach, when you're making records in those kinds of areas, is a lot more considered. So there's still improvising in the music – it's not like we've stopped all that altogether – but the forms are very concrete now; they're sort of like songs almost, with a verse and a chorus and a double chorus, you know? Traditional pop song form, but there's still plenty of room to play around within those structures.

“It's a funny thing because there are some things that have to happen live, like if we're triggering samples and that sort of stuff, recreating certain sections of the album in a live setting. Outside of that, there's plenty of room that every we time we play it's a fresh version of it, but it still holds true to its classic form as it was recorded.”

While Hauptmann was the principal composer on the first album, with the trio coming up with a few things collectively in the rehearsal room, the fact that he lives in the nation's southern capital while Mannell and Flower live in Sydney, as well as the extracurricular activities of the three members, has meant the opportunity get together has shrunk and the evolution of individual members composing on computer and exchanging parts via email has made for a much more democratic compositional breakdown across Danaïdes. That process has also meant they've been much more, as they put it, considered about their compositions, more prepared to edit parts that don't add anything where the more traditional jazz approach would have meant going with the spirit of improvisation, good, bad or indifferent.

“We threw a lot of stuff out, this time 'round,” Mannell admits, “which I was happy to do.”