When the opening track of a record is a Y-Pants’ cover of Favorite Sweater, which includes the lyric “there it is on the line, very clean” you sense a voyage into the avant-garde looms. Holy Balm, an Australian three-piece, are committed to pushing their songs (and anyone elses) to the outer-edges – which is probably why they’ve found a suitable home on the forward thinking Not Not Fun label.
The group build relatively straightforward pop songs with synth-built basslines, wriggling shapes of analogue keys and a solid pulse courtesy of their old-school rhythmic machinery. But their performance strongly resists any form of quantised control. The group rebel against the rigid tempos with a new-wave dissent and never let the production rise above the minimal. Imagine a loose form of avant-garde electronics with a distinctly skewed attitude leading it all astray.
It makes most sense on tracks like Losing Control, the title alone feels apt, this band feel on the edge and close to walking out on a song at any moment. It creates a spontaneity that must be hard to work when you’re dealing with electronics. Yet the vocals consistently instigate an air of self-proclaimed free reign, there’ll be no melodious sweet nothings here, more a constant series of calls and statements. Check the pitch-bent electro-crash that is Town Called Hope for a prime example.
It’s good to have a group like Holy Balm around – bending the rules and the notes, letting the electronics run imperfect lines, and creating some exciting and interesting pop in the process.