Lifting the listener’s thoughts and imagination into an expansive and emotional almost visual flight through an ever evolving soundscape broken up into smaller evocative sceneries, Vertebra the new album from Italian band Australasia is one of those absorbing emprises you just cannot pull away. Ten tracks of predominantly instrumental merging of post rock, shoegaze, classic electronica, and enthralling ambience, the release is a masterful and compelling adventure. There is though much more substance than that description suggests, flavours and styles bred elsewhere seamlessly employed in the melodic web cast, and when vocals are rarely used they are more another texture to the creative narrative than any lyrical storytelling. The album as skilful and magnetic as it is equally suggests this is a project still in evolution with greater glories waiting on its horizon, something which just adds to the pleasure bred by Australasia.
The band is the creation of multi-instrumentalist Gian Spalluto who has linked up with Mina Carlucci and Giuseppe Argentiero of fellow Italian band Vostok. Touched by influences which include the likes of Red Sparowes, At the Gates, Joy Division, This Will Destroy You, Angelo Badalamenti, Mogwai, Pelican, Ennio Morricone, Cult of Luna and more, the band provides emotive landscapes and mesmeric incites which never restrain themselves musically or imaginatively to any singular intent or limiting frame. Australasia’s debut release, the Sin4tr4 EP of 2012, opened up the gateway to the band and its invention which the Immortal Frost Productions released Vertebra continues with striking strides into the awakening imagination and aural world of the band.
The journey opens with Aorta and a guitar cast melody which as the album progresses is a regular protagonist if in varying guises and intent. It is a mellow coaxing of a start to the song which gathers intensity in its breath as it opens up its creatively sinewed arms and melodic armoury. Hitting full stride early there is a tempestuous union of post rock provocation and metallic sculpting which flows and moves towards a stretch of sonic beauty and evocative reserve. Impressive rhythms and drums steer the enterprising exploration superbly and the guitar play is quite riveting across the body of the song. In its final thirty seconds or so the track unveils a union of male and female vocal harmonies which provides a last wash of warmth and elegance to the impressively crafted flight.
The following Vostok immediately offers a vintage electronica sound to thoughts though it is soon smothered by a strong cloud of sonic shadows and blackened emotion. The song undulates thrillingly as it progresses, big mountainous rhythms and textures mingled fluidly with tender elegance and those returning electronic caresses before dissipating for a lone acoustic guitar to wave the dark climes away. It is a track which seems to pass so quickly in time and though almost four minutes in length its successor Zero is soon feeding the senses and providing another heady structure of melodic imagination and rhythmic incitement. Not for the first or last time, the music reminds a little of The Cure around the time of the Seventeen Seconds /Faith albums, a shadowed energy coating the air of the song but speared by a melodic beauty which only raises the spirit and light.
Next up Aura roams through a more electro pop /shoegaze realm with eighties synth pop flavouring, though yet again there are intimidating resonances and dark clad tempting which tempers the radiance enough to add wonderful doubt and menace to the calm. The track also sees the captivating voice of Carlucci swarm siren like over the senses. Lyrically the track is uncluttered with effective repetition whilst gentle soaring harmonies make the prime successful persuasion. Like all the tracks, the song seems simple but holds a real deception as everything is so precisely and imaginatively woven together. The closing vocal scat does not quite work for personal tastes but it does not deflect from the smouldering piece of enjoyment.
Both the melodically flamed but intensively blackened Antenna, one of two tracks on the album taken from the earlier EP, and the excellent towering bulgingly muscular Volume continue the impressive height and stature of the album whilst the title track provides a pleasing short Spring respite with expressive tones and soft weaves, even if it feels a little like an anti-climax from the immense and lofty force and heights carved previously.
The second track from Sin4tr4 steps forward next. Apnea provides a reflective blend of imposing density and melancholic beauty wrapped in another bewitching vocal wash from Carlucci and an electro courting which pokes light through the cloudier ambience. It is a delicious embrace which makes way for the bordering on corrosive presence of Deficit. Scuzzy and thickly bonded to the ears, the track thrillingly riles up the senses but then before they can accept the intimidation the piece twists in on itself to lay a beauteous glaze of melodic endeavour on the incitement. It is a short but scintillating piece of composing and realisation waking up the appetite even further for the closing seven minute plus epic of Cinema. Arguably the track is a shade too long but it is a mere quibble when it makes such a compelling temptation across its emotionally clad presence.
Vertebra is a spellbinding release though to temper that slightly maybe it does not ignite a fire in the belly of the passions as often as it arguably could or should have, though again to put that into context, it is fair and easy to say that Australasia has created an adventure which is impossible to resist or stay away from. The band has the potential to create their own legacy you feel as their album permeates through thoughts and emotions, Vertebra a very striking start.
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