Review Summary: Meathook house.
Australian electronic dance music has been having a moment for what seems like the past few years, a trend highlighted by the genre-hopping, main-stage baiting Flume and one that a cynical observer could certainly say is a disease the rest of the globe had already contracted. There’s your typical HARD and Tomorrowland acts in Alison Wonderland and the Stafford Brothers, the aggressively chipper pogo-ing of the Melbourne bounce house scene, and the bevy of generally house-oriented, Triple J-championed artists that have been playing the club and festival circuit like Anna Lunoe, Yolanda Be Cool, and Nina Las Vegas. SECT
, the debut LP from Tom Stell aka Golden Features, won’t do anything to dissuade critics of the cliché that Australia is perpetually one step and vast oceans behind everyone else when it comes to breaking new ground. At least right off the bat, anyways: opener “Always” apes Daft Punk in its mechanized vocal motif and is a brutal bit of no-frills house that relishes in a template Ed Banger perfected over a decade ago. Nor does single “Falling Out,” the first track with substantive vocals, come across as anything more than vintage Miike Snow on some particularly dirty ecstasy. Upon diving into SECT
a bit further, though, Stell’s minimal style and penchant for foreboding, efficiently propulsive house showcase a surprisingly inspired producer.
“Medicate" demonstrates what Golden Features does best, beginning as a haunting bit of industrial, almost ambient noise with a detached, distorted vocal that rather violently swoops into a punishing bit of hard electro. The main beat itself is spartan but muscular, a technique amped up by the focus on a massive syncopated bass, a walloped cowbell, and a synth riff garroted before it can go anywhere. “Runner” similarly indulges in an ominous buildup that reverts into a straightforward blast of house, a relentless four-on-the-floor beat meant to grind the lower end of the frequency into rubble. It’s a sound that hasn’t been in vogue in quite some time, but Golden Features puts enough of a vicious spin on it to produce a record that sounds fresh. SECT’s
most recognizable trait is Stell’s ability to project a beat like a fish hook, one that latches itself in your gut before viscerally tugging, sometimes ripping, away once the lure is properly set. Even on a comparatively chill track like “Woodcut,” Rromarin’s wispy guest vocals merely serve as a complement to that grimy, persistent low end percolating below the melody.
The last few cuts confirm Golden Features’ true forebears; more so, at least, than any of his continental contemporaries. “Renewal” is almost single-minded in its attempt to recreate the best of French chain-smoker Gesaffelstein’s dungeon-oriented techno, blaring warning alarms and a merciless, ferocious beat. “Everything” and “1991,” meanwhile, blow out the artillery to almost cinematic proportions. The former is all forward motion, carrying a nicely complicated percussion track, pummeling bass, and a faint tinge of hopelessness accentuated by that repeated lyrical accusation. “1991,” meanwhile, is a horror show of a comedown, skronking carnival horns sidling up to a chopped-up melody that circles back in and around like an ouroboros. Both tracks serve as appropriately abrasive homages to SebastiAn, an artist that never met an electro trope he couldn’t distort and subvert. Golden Features isn’t reinventing the wheel quite yet, but there are worse artists to draw inspiration from. For now, SECT
introduces a distinctive enough sound to make the future enticingly dark.