An album’s title holds such important bearing to its recordings that often bands struggle to land on one that truly fits. The Flood seems the most befitting title for the debut from Melbourne’s Tulalah that to have named it anything else would have been in vain. To me, the album is an overwhelming deluge of stimulus; an outpour of creativity, emotion. A flood of pure serenity and unmistakable craft from a bunch of very talented people.
Holed up in a small beach town south of Melbourne, Tulalah spent months delving into the depths of talent that they collectively hold. They came out with The Flood.
Their story goes a little like this: Three months after the release of their debut EP, The Mule, back in 2013, the original sextet caught the attention of Equinox Records A&R by chance at a gig at The Evelyn Hotel in Fitzroy, Melbourne. The label, home to fellow folk, soul and jazz visionaries like Hiatus Kaiyote and The Raah Project, sat down with the band to talk about their future. When they arose, the seeds of The Flood had been planted.
Tulalah set out to a small home-made studio in Blairgowrie, a little beachside town on the Mornington Peninsula, to begin recording. Utilising the freedom of a home studio, plus the availability of several churches and halls, the band soon grew to a nine-strong group, with expansive instrumentation ranging from string and horns to guitars and orchestral percussion.
The centrepiece of The Flood, however, is Bridie Cotters vocals. Musically, the band employ a range of influences ranging from obscure chord structures informed by jazz, to harrowing storytelling and an ominous intonation harkening back to traditional forms of folk music. These pieces drift around Cotter like debris in a, well, flood, as she delivers with absolute prestige.
On tracks like Selma and Outgoing Tide her voice delicately waves throughout the complex musical arrangements with the finesse of a ballerina, working around with bass lines and plucked guitar in rigid unison, yet somehow as a sole presence. That being said The Flood harnesses some pretty wonderful harmonies; Cotter’s feminine warble is backed by masculine husks drenched in church echoes, while tracks like Birthday Song and Hell utilise the males in the band for lead vocal duties.
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Rarely does a track fall below the four minute mark. Each song is a painfully crafted piece of work; each a story within itself, with endless nuances and hidden bits of magic to be overlooked and discovered with delight at a later time. It’s the work of many minds, an outpour of ideas.
Worry Me Well is an epic journey, dark and foreboding with rumbling percussion and bellowing cello lines, while Hell is a beautiful closer, a wretched folk tale with vocals, guitar and a harmonica. There are hints of Grizzly Bear in the unsettling drones and chord changes that the band employ, however this is something even more complex, more intricate, and something far more interesting.
The beach as a motif seems to have pervaded the tone of The Flood. I’m not talking about white sand and tropical foliage; I’m talking about the battered coastline of Southern Australia in Winter. One lashed by Antarctic cold and relentless wind. The Flood whips and whirls between calm and calamity, between the wrenchingly pretty to the ominously obscure. It’s a work of tireless effort, a transcendental record that is almost impossible not to swept up in.