album review: collarbones, iconography
Beguiling, kaleidoscopic but undeniably enthralling, Collarbones’ full-length debut makes a definite statement.
Built on a love of all things fractured and warped, Iconography is a creative genre-bending approach to digital music-making, fusing shards of electronica, pop, R&B, hip hop, industrial and more. It’s a monster hatched by Sydney-based Marcus Whale and Adelaide native Travis Cook, who collaborated across the internet to combine slices of instrumentation, mashed together with beats and synths into soundscapes that pulls you in all different directions, from lofty highs to dark, industrial lows.
The album is brimming with ideas, some fully-formed, others just flights of fancy flitting around. It’s a creative interpretation of sample-based music, taking fragments from the mainstream and infusing them with the underground.
But this Frankenstein of sounds feels strangely cohesive- it’s disjointed, but somehow organically so. While it could easily have become frantic and disorienting, the overall vibe is pretty chilled, and it’s really quite easy to listen to.
The tracks shift across a spectrum of moods and atmospheres, though each is as peculiar and intriguing as the next. The merry, almost carnival-esque instrumental track ‘Berlioz’ brings a light and airy touch to the album, while tracks like ‘Ghost Ship’ have a strangely eerie underbelly, drawing you into a darker world.
Surprisingly, they seem to favour shorter tracks, with most stopping short of four minutes- but in that brief amount of time, they manage to transport you to a strange and utterly unique place. Even ‘Transylvan’, an admittedly somewhat jarring bricolage of samples laid over a rolling bassline, achieves a strong atmospheric effect in the mere 53 seconds the track lasts.
The quirkiness of Collarbones has already been well established in music’s underground circles. After meeting online in 2007, Whale and Cook formed a strong musical partnership, sending files back and forth to experiment with the possibilities of digital soundscapes.
Testing the waters with their Tiger Beats mixtape released earlier this year (a strange success, featuring playful covers of artists including Justin Bieber and Destiny’s Child alongside obscure local band remixes), and finding a responsive audience, they continued to build and expand on their concepts- and Iconography was born.
The record has been out for less than a week, but it’s already making waves across the interwebz, and I have no doubt Collarbones will continue to do so in underground music circles. Though it may fall a little short of brilliant, Iconography is an engaging, intriguing and highly impressive debut, and it shows real creativity and guts that make it a valuable addition to any music collection.