A lot of people are saying rock is dead, so it’s all good and well that there’s a load of new exciting electronic talent pouring out of Australia. It’s the sort of forward thinking about the future of Australia that 90% of our (mostly career) politicians fail to exhibit. Through the misty malaise that is a mining boom being pissed up the wall, has stepped Telling, a Melbourne-based duo consisting of singer Ben Abraham and the bloke doing almost everything else, Tim Shiel. The ‘cinematic folk’ throat of Abraham and the electronic and pop music veteran-cy of Shiel have swirled with sparse rhythm and harmony to create an avant-garde synthpop audiovibe.
The angelic voice of Ben Abraham and flawless production of Tim Shiel give Telling an impressive electro-pop edge. There’s no telling how far they can go.
Sheffield Shiel* – as Tim likes to be known (I may have completely made that up) – may raise eyebrows by his name alone. Shiel is an experienced musician, having previously cavorted about under the name Faux Pas and touring keyboardist for Gotye. He also has his own late night show on triple J, Something More.
The lads have so far released only three songs, but they’ve already played a gig in a disused power station, which is something Spod hasn’t even done yet. Telling is a long-burning creation, having debuted their first song, a cover of Bertie Blackman’s Stella, two years ago. Their cover, rather suitably fitting the times, is a stripped-back affair. The basic chords of the piano chime out along with Abraham’s soft, mechanised voice so pared back it almost sounds as if he’s reading out the lyrics. Telling’s version of Stella does take some interesting turns – there’s an interesting addition of running violins layered on, as Shiel’s electronicisms stalks towards a low crest. The little vibrancy that existed in the original has been replaced by Telling’s bleaker tone that fits the sorrowed lyrics equally as well.
How it Ends, released six months ago, carries the same mood as Stella. It too is about an end to a relationship: Abraham sings the chorus (“Take your plans and carry them out yourself/Cos you’re no longer welcome here”) as he crowd surfs on the support on the hands of the Shiel’s cauldron of digital crackles, drawing out the simple words in a manner not too distant from Bon Iver’s Woods.
Both Stella and How it Ends flex Shiel’s ambient muscle, laying in wait like a crocodile beneath the surface, only nostrils visible. Although we never get to see the dramatic and explosive lunge we’ve been waiting for, as the eventual crest resembles a molehill rather than a mountain. For mine, How it Ends does become a bit grating after a time listening to the confected, stripped-back indie vocals that I’ve become a bit too accustomed to. New Love, their newest song, takes a fair departure from the other songs as it’s not dour! Well actually, that makes sense – the songs about loveloss are dire, and the song called New Love is upbeat.
Like a barrel pushed down a hill, this song bobbles along at some speed. Abraham and Shiel have deftly shown some songwriting ability in seamlessly putting the song together like it was made of Perler beads. Abraham’s voice and melody takes centre stage while beneath the front end of this song, Shiel slowly mortars together a wide range of beats, rings and samples (I swear there’s one in there from Mario Kart) towards a crescendo that pulls the song up together at the very end.
The most evident thing about this song is that it sounds like a Gotye song – Abraham even sounds like the singular chart-topping electro-pop artist himself on this track. As you can probably guess, I’m much more of a fan of their New Love than anything else they’ve put out. Hopefully, not only do I hope Telling go down that path in the future releases, but they get a wriggle on and put more stuff out.
*Ed. 10 points for cricket puns
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