24 Jun 2015

Weekly Listening: Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique, Bic Runga, P.H.F, Foals and more

9:42 am on 24 June 2015

A revolving cast of contributors from the Music 101 and Wireless teams showcase some of the best new music releases from the past week.

Robyn and La Bagatelle Magique ft. Maluca – ‘Love Is Free’

Just as I was looking at my watch and beginning to wonder how far away the new Robyn album is, the dancehall queen is back with another collaborative mini-album, this time with La Bagatelle Magique. The group’s debut single is ‘Love is Free’, a multilayered ‘90s-throwback house jam.

Opening with chopped-up vocal samples, a cowbell (can’t go wrong), and a pulsating electronic beat, ‘Love is Free’ switches it up about halfway through and rides off into the sunset, with Robyn slowing things down and an appearance from Mad Decent affiliate Maluca.

Comprised of touring keyboardist Markus Jägersted and the late producer Christian Falk, La Bagatelle Magique first got together with Robyn to work on material for her new record, before the trio realised the music they were making needed to stand on its own. While that new Robyn album is still a while away, ‘Love is Free’ is a worthy and satisfying dancefloor filler until then. – Ellen Falconer

Bic Runga – ‘I Dreamed A Dream’

‘I Dreamed A Dream’, the latest Bic Runga track co-written with Kody Nielson (The Mint Chicks/Opossom/Silicon), takes a simple folk backdrop and splashes enlivening funk elements and 70s-inspired ghostly vocals across it. It’s an elegantly produced composition, with a slightly haunting atmosphere.

Although the musicianship is incredibly tight and polished, the song is free of rigidity and the different elements juxtaposed together make for a unique piece of songwriting. Runga uses her vocals creatively, and there's a real strength to her performance, despite her gentle vocal tone.

Taken from her upcoming album due out next year, and underpinned by strong songwriting and production, it’s a track which invites the listener to ponder Runga and Nielson’s interesting, evolving musical direction. – Elizabeth Beattie

P.H.F. – ‘Soft’

P.H.F. aka Joe Locke released his last LP, Grind State, in January this year via New Zealand record label Crystal Magic. As a release it felt very scattered, and while there were some amazing tracks, it was never as great as hearing 2012’s OK Cool for the first time.

However if ‘Soft’ is any indication of the next material Locke has in the pipeline, then it’s hard to not want the record to be released as soon as possible. There’s a murky and extremely disconcerting quality to the track and that steamy sound is incredibly engaging. Listening to it makes you feel like you are somewhere bigger than the room you’re in, or the bus you’re on or the park you’re sitting in. That feeling is evoked by the dark and slimy synth pads and the razor sharp drum snaps. It’s scary to declare you love something after just a few listens, but ‘Soft’ has that quality. – Luke Jacobs

Foals – ‘What Went Down’

‘What Went Down’ is the title track off Foals’ upcoming fourth release, and it promises to be the heaviest yet. When speaking of the title track lead singer/songwriter Yannis Phalippakis stated, "It is one of the most savage and animalistic songs we've ever done. When we play it in a room, it just feels predatory, it feels like we're on a hunt or something.” And it truly is.

Easing in with familiar vocal melodies, ‘What Went Down’ quickly builds up a ferocious intensity. It’s a no nonsense opener that firmly establishes the tone for the upcoming album; dark, cynical, disillusioned.  “I buried my guilt in a pit in the sand,” Yannis howls. Hopefully the feverishness of this track is matched throughout the rest of the album. – Joshua Thomas

Raury – ‘Devil’s Whisper’

‘Devil’s Whisper’ is, for all intents and purposes, a companion track to Raury’s first single, ‘God’s Whisper’ (found on 2014’s Indigo Child). Where the latter sketches a vision of Raury as a chosen one being called to a higher purpose (namely music), ‘Devil’s Whisper’ fleshes out the flip side of ego and the promises the devil makes to satiate it: “Young boy, tryna rule the world I see / well young boy, I can give you everything”. He borrows heavily from his own work: the hybrid gospel-folk sound, the choral vocals, and even the specific “oh na na” refrain from ‘God’s Whisper’ are all repeated here.

‘Devil’s Whisper’ begins with Appalachian-inspired handclaps and guitar picking - typical of Raury’s previous offerings, and no surprise given his deep south upbringing in Georgia - but the handclaps soon morph into a driving electronic beat, gospel vocals give way to Andre-3000 style rapping, and a wailing electric guitar even winds itself through the bridge. The result is something approaching tribal.

Raury is not short on ambition. He began making music in earnest at 14; his conviction that school wasn’t going to be a prerequisite for his success, and the ensuing conflict with his mother, is chronicled on the DIY recorded interludes on Indigo Child. Besides getting picked up by Columbia Records in 2014, the 18-year old also produces an annual music festival (Raurfest, this year headlined by Big K.R.I.T.), was shoulder-tapped by Kanye, and guested on SBTRKT’s last album. While Raury’s lyrical ability seems like it’s yet to reach its zenith, his genre-blending writing and production skills are well beyond his years. – Sarin Moddle

Jad Fair and Jason Willett – ‘The Greatest Power’

At times, ‘The Greatest Power’ sounds like any half-hearted attempt at a Bob Dylan impersonation. Here though, the drum machine teeters on, and the syncopated synth has all the haphazard joy of Mario Kart 64. This isn't the best track ever - a billion Half Japanese nerds can give you a better list than I, but it is palatably jubilant. Fair and Willett are having a good time and that's all too rare a thing to hear recorded. – Eden Bradfield

What's your pick? Tell us about it in the comments section.