The Nevada Strange – ‘Crawlspaces’
There was a time, around 2007-2010, where Sydney looked like it was directed by David Lynch. What were hardcore bands found cowboy hats, reverb pedals, cut their tempos in half, and for a time dressed in such a way (black, mostly) that they were easily confused with Orthodox Jews. The shows were badly lit, smoky, and the songs seemed lit by neon – lyrics about violence, sodomy and addiction written in such a way that invited incredulity from anyone who didn’t know the person who was singing. It burnt out soon enough, heroin will do that, but not before The Nevada Strange released Drowned By Law.
Really, the EP is the scene’s headstone: Some people died, others went to rehab (or Melbourne), and The Nevada Strange broke up soon after it came out. Come 2011, I found myself 18 years old with nothing to go to.* But it had to end, and now I’m glad it ended the way it did, with Drowned By Law’s last track: ‘Crawlspaces.’
Beginning with a bassline that circles like a predator, the song’s sense of fucked-up lethargy hits with the snare drum and ultimately defines it. It’s a journey from some unnamed club into lyrical and musical abstraction: From fixating on a disco ball to climbing through someone’s window to self-harm. Musically, from clean (vaguely threatening) tones on the guitar to distorted incoherence. And like in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the unhinged guitars (and the images it invokes) are juxtaposed with the metronomic rhythm section, generating the same sense of weird, substance-mediated hedonism that we see in this scene.
It’s the sound of an ending, of the EP and ultimately the scene. There was meant to be an album (so I was told in 2012), but it’s never come out and this scene strikes me as one of the more under-recorded moments in Australian music. But at least it was summed up in the shape of ‘Crawlspaces’ before it all ended. And what an ending it is.
Kodak Black – Lil B.I.G. Pac
Like many rappers, Kodak Black doesn’t stray far from the work of the legends who inspired him. As many others have commented (including Kodak himself) the Florida rapper belongs strongly in the lineage of Gucci Mane and Boosie Badazz, who not-so-coincidentally are the only two rappers joining him on this tape. Kodak however is more than just your average biter; he manages to emulate these heroes, even if he chooses to reference two other icons in the mixtape’s artwork. Like Gucci, Kodak has a knack for flows that morph naturally into great hooks, and to introduce Gucci on ‘Vibin In This Bih’, Kodak does his best Gucci impression: “Hitting licks, now I’m dropping hits, mouthpiece cost a brick”. Like Boosie, Kodak’s bravado and introspection constantly intersect as he raps in his similarly distinctive Southern tone. ’Can I’ is the best example, a medley of contradictions about fame, money, confidence and sex, blending matters of life and death with the prosaic: “What if the trolls roll up on me right? Should I run? / Can I take you out to lunch?”. In these musings Kodak never feels aimless or lost; instead he builds a self-portrait of strength and resilience, suggesting that like both Boosie and Gucci, Kodak will likely be able to construe his latest adversity – his current incarceration – into another mythos-building episode. To quote Gucci’s verse,“[I] walk around the club like I walked around the yard.”
* Bar the odd show by Brisbane’s Slug Guts,who managed to stick around for another two years and put out their best work, Howling Gang, in 2011. This blurb, however, is about Sydney.