Contrast – Less Than Zero EP

The first time I plugged my headphones in to listen to Contrast‘s single Pipe Dreams back in February of this year, I had to turn that shit all the way up. Today,  I’m listening to it again as the opening track from their debut EP Less Than Zero and I’ve had to once again hit that Command-F12 to get my jams up to an acceptable drown-out volume. This is music made to induce tinnitus, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

contrast band

Swirling, hypnotic tunes that cause a real burning sensation in your inner ears – an awesome new shoegaze EP from Melbourne’s Contrast.

Following in the recent trend of Melbournites coating their high energy major chords with a blistering fringe-down shoegaze sheen (see Luna Ghost or Flyying Colours for a reference point), Contrast have literally just dropped the five track EP, remastering their two previous singles Dull and Pipe Dreams to include even more screaming feedback and fuzzed out low end. If you want to get into noise music, this and their pedal worshiping Melbournian cousins is where you’d start.

Trap is our first taste of new material on the EP, and from the get go, you can almost hear Nowhere playing in the background. That wandering bassline, popping and bouncing along happily, gives a lighthearted vibe to what would otherwise be quite a serious affair.

This is Smilegaze, as it were, borrowing much from that era of flux, the precursory musical flavours to the Britpop of the late nineties. As the song proper begins, those long, trailing guitar riffs begin etching their way deep into your ear holes.

When the song is over, we are greeted with a symphony of duelling guitar feedback, acting like the equivalent of looking at something bright for too long, then shifting your gaze to a dark surface. The music is no longer there, but the afterglow still burns the back of your eardrums.

Titular track Less Than Zero is the first time I the lyrics take front stage on Contrast’s work (apologies if the lyrics are extremely deep and meaningful on Pipe Dreams – they just sorta slipped me by), but not because the song takes a chill pill. Certainly it opens quite slowly, but any delusion that this is Contrast’s mushy love song are quickly quashed as the double guitar onslaught once again takes hold.

Instead, it’s Contrast’s mushy breakup song – “You’re insane / You’re thinking / I don’t have better ways to occupy how I spend all my time“… “You’re so boring that I’d rather be dead than here / I just want to make you feel as though you’re less“. Women, am I right? Chorus, analogue delay and some heavenly string picking abounds in the guitars for this one, giving a real movement to the track – the music video for this one should definitely involve driving a car or sailing a boat or flying a plane.

Drum Machine seems to stumble more than it swirls – less graceful and more dizzying. By the second minute of the track you have completely zoned out to whatever is happening in the song, huddling under the blanket of noise that the track has thrown over you unawares. This is what happened to me, so I don’t have much to say other than I enjoyed the track. Oh, and the guitar tone about 3/4 of the way through can only be described as insane – truly the work of a madman.

Dull ends the album with a well needed calmer track. Still at a speed that a reviewer might call ‘Rollicking’ when referring to a less noisy band, this one delivers a crunchy, almost loving guitar tone to your ears – a welcome release from the waveform limiting insanity present on the rest of the album. I’d never describe a Contrast song (or a shoegaze song in general for that matter) as ‘beautiful’, but this one comes damned close to expressing real beauty.

The EP was dropped on Monday the 30th of May, available for the low low price of $10 via their bandcamp. They launched the single in Melbourne recently, and depending on how much money they make from this release, they might also be up here soon.