Dark Night Sweet Light Hermitude Elefant Traks
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.