Beat’s Favorite New Local Tracks in February: Immy Owusu, Tamsin Otway

Words by Augustus Welby

Each month, we round up our favorite new releases from local players and explain why you should pass them on.

Last week we reviewed new tracks like Dallas Woods and Camp Cope, you can check out that article here. Otherwise, read on for the hottest new music this month from Melbourne and greater Victoria.

Larry Maluma – ‘Doctor of the Bush’

(Independent)

Zambian musician Larry Maluma moved to Australia in the mid-1980s. He may not have become a household name, but Zamrock and funk musician continues to make music with revolutionary conviction.

Maluma’s new album, Justice, has been in the oven for five years. It was a period of great personal loss and professional setbacks for Maluma. But on songs like the infectious, reggae-influenced “Bush Doctor,” Maluma displays a resilient spirit.

Immy Owusu – ‘Mantra’

(Hopestreet Recordings)

Torquay musician Immy Owusu specializes in a mix of psychedelic rock, funk and West African roots music he calls ‘Afrodelik’. Owusu’s music is a conscious and natural fusion of the influence of his Surf Coast upbringing and his Ghanaian paternal heritage.

‘Mantra’ moves nimbly along a slight furrow. Owusu’s main vocal is the focal point; elegant, captivating. “We all feel it now,” he sings with obvious urgency, assuring about the song that darkness can be shared and absorbed together.

Tamsin Otway – “Always Love Me”

(Independent)

Tamsin Otway has released a series of singles over the past two years. Some were bright, pop-oriented tracks, others painted Otway as a capable sidekick to Lana Del Rey. But none possessed the resolute intention of “Love Me Always”.

It’s a rock song of the anthemic variety, pitch shifting and crisp guitar solo included. There’s a hint of Killers about it, but Otway’s voice evades any affectation. In fact, while “Love Me Always” may have festival bonding potential, the Melbourne songstress seems more interested in shedding things than writing a hit.

Oceans – ‘Bachelor Kisses – Live at Dangertone Studios’

(Independent)

You had me on the cover of “Go-Betweens”. “Bachelor Kisses”, taken from the new Oceans EP, Live at Dangertone Studios, is precisely that; a cover of Grant McLennan’s first track from the GB’s 1984 LP, Spring Hill Fair. Oceans – which until now has been a solo project for Melbourne musician Thomas Lee – also places his version at the start of the track sequence, and it’s a nifty move.

Lee’s layered shoegaze and dream pop recordings weren’t always the most penetrating things. But the sweet melody of “Bachelor Kisses” – which features backing vocalist Mayzie Lee, guitarist Dwayne Pearce, bassist Joshua Strange, keyboardist Anthony Knoepfle and drummer Michael Fox – shows the romantic and empathetic heart of the Oceans sound.

Soft Powder – ‘Running in the Dark’

(Independent)

To describe the music of Melbourne’s Andy Szetho as Soft Powder as “dreamy” seems a bit lazy and a bit obvious. But on songs like “Running Through the Dark,” Szetho’s synth-wave production generates the same kind of near-yet-far away feel that often characterizes dream consciousness.

“Running Through the Dark” is intentionally lo-fi, featuring soft textures and minimal dynamic variance. Szetho’s vocals are present throughout, but are just one element among many, imbued with as much reverberation as the guitars, drums and synthesizers. The general impression is one of elusiveness.

SheOak – “Endless Labyrinth”

(Moonleaf Recordings)

SheOak’s “Never Ending Maze” executes something that so many songwriters aim for but end up compromising – that is, minimalist simplicity. SheOak is usually a four-piece band led by vocalist and songwriter Xadi Walsh. But on ‘Never Ending Maze’, Walsh goes it alone, singing on a single acoustic guitar.

There’s a bit of reverb, but the recording is otherwise bare, offering a view deep into the songwriter’s process. By giving us access to the essence of SheOak, Walsh commits a courageous act of artistic demystification.

Ferla – ‘Violence’

(Independent)

Is it too early to proclaim the “song of the year”? Anyway, Ferla’s last single and the last track released before the band’s second album, personal hotspot, is a stone cold killer. It’s a pop song. Melodramatic. Excited. Concerning.

As is typical of songwriter Giuliano Ferla, the off-center approachability of “Violence” is slightly undermined by Ferla’s paranoid lyricism. However, he is only paranoid to the extent that he pays attention to the chaos and unpredictability of life – the life of the individual and life as the animating principle behind all that exists.

It’s pure class, top to bottom. Well done.

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