Dark Night Sweet Light Her­mi­tude Ele­fant Traks

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews -

The last time Her­mi­tude ap­peared in th­ese pages, its star was ris­ing but the word had yet to spread far be­yond our shores. The year was 2012 and the al­bum was Hyper­par­adise; its bril­liance was rightly recog­nised months later when it won this Blue Moun­tains elec­tron­ica duo of Luke Dub­ber and An­gus Stu­art the eighth Aus­tralian Mu­sic Prize. They were the first re­cip­i­ents of the pres­ti­gious $30,000 award to come from out­side the rock-pop uni­verse but in truth the duo have been bend­ing gen­res since they met as teenagers play­ing in a jazz big band — Stu­art (“El Gusto”) on drums and Dub­ber (“Luke Dubs”) on pi­ano. Their in­ter­ests have veered from those swing ori­gins through to funk and hip-hop, but fourth al­bum Dark Night Sweet

Light takes them even deeper into the fat synth-and-sam­ple sounds they have been mak­ing their own for more than a decade. The pair are fond of telling the story of a lon­gago sur­prise side­ways slide­out Stu­art per­formed in his car past Dub­ber’s stu­dio win­dow; the video clip for this al­bum’s pump­ing first sin­gle, Through the Roof, recre­ates a fan­tasy ver­sion of that mo­ment with a slightly men­ac­ing sub­ur­ban rub­ber burnout al­ley sce­nario, the song driven hard by cheery brass lines that quickly morph into sig­na­ture Her­mi­tude elec­tronic groove and a wildly hooky cho­rus. Fol­low-up The Buzz, fea­tur­ing Syd­ney jazz singer Mataya and Zim­babwe-via-New Zealand hip-hop prodigy Young Tapz, starts brood­ing and winds it­self up to a hyp­notic and tightly con­trolled frenzy, be­fore re­ced­ing into a metro­nomic wash. Some­thing th­ese two have al­ways un­der­stood is the idea that less is more; if it’s even re­lated to hip-hop — it­self a mat­ter of con­tention — this is a style that’s heav­ily min­i­mal­ist in its ap­proach, re­ly­ing on slowly evolv­ing au­ral tex­ture as much as any­thing else from the com­poser’s tool­box. While long-time lis­ten­ers will recog­nise a cer­tain Aus­tralian qual­ity to the sound, it’s not by ac­ci­dent that they’ve set­tled on a global feel. In this coun­try they’re still with Ele­fant Traks, the pro­gres­sive Syd­ney la­bel founded by hiphop leg­ends the Herd, whose singer Urth­boy was an early and keen pro­moter of the two. Ev­ery­where else, how­ever, they’re now with North Amer­i­can la­bel Net­twerk and that’s a huge deal — th­ese are the peo­ple who nur­tured Sarah McLachlan, Bare­naked Ladies, Avril Lav­i­gne and then, in 2000, broke Cold­play. For an act that took its name from the amount of time Dub­ber and Stu­art spent shut­tered up in an iso­lated stu­dio writ­ing mu­sic to please them­selves, it seems apt that Her­mi­tude is fi­nally fac­ing the mu­sic world­wide.

Stephen Fitz­patrick

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