The Brag Media
News October 27, 2015

Album Review: Big Scary – Not Art

2012 was a big year for Melbourne duo Big Scary. Touring their Triple J Album of The Year-nominated record Vacation around the country and then the world, their trajectory included an extensive US tour, a stop by mega music festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, and culminated with a journey to India for a string of performances. They say that travel changes you, and while no Ravi Shankar-esque sitar sounds feature on the band’s second album Not Art, it’s definitely a departure from Vacation’s plugged-in indie-rock roots. This time Tom Iansek and Jo Syme are slowing things down, favoring a more R’n’B-flavored sound.

We got our first taste of Not Art with the enticingly-named teaser trackPhil Collins earlier this year. This slow burning song defies the conventions of an lead album single and, according to lead vocalist Tom Iansek, releasing it first was a deliberate act of misdirection. Iansek’s whispering vocals are brooding, a little aggressive, and wholly melancholic. While Syme’s looping, macabre drum sequence (it’s similarity to 1981 Phil Collins hit In the Air Tonight no doubt lending to the track’s name) sets the mood for the much darker record to come.

While former Yves Klein Blue bassist Sean Cook produced Vacation, Iansek took the wheel this time round, with a little help from Grammy Award winning mixer Tom Elmhirst (The Black Keys, Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse), guest bassists Ted O’Neil (The Vasco Era) and Graham Ritchie (Emma Louise), and a gospel choir here and there.

Luck Now is the best example of Iansek’s progression in the production seat and his best Bon Iver impression to date: featuring staccato percussion and piano chords layered over dubstep and hip-hop inspired electronic loops. The antagonistically named, yet sweet-sounding Why Hip Hop Sucks in ’13 showcases Syme’s haunting vocals and arresting drums, and samples gospel choir harmonies, all rolled in a pretty piano melody. It’s an affirmation of the duo’s dedication to making interesting and eclectic music.

Big Scary are still in the process of discovering their sound and Not Artis indicative of that. While the record is more focused than their debut, the sonic influences are still wildly diverse; from Jeff Buckley to Bruce Springsteen to Kanye West, Not Art pays homage to an eclectic blend of artists and genres. And that’s the best thing about it: in sampling elements of the art of others in new ways, Big Scary are hoping to make sense of their own. Rather than being confusing or disjointed, the result is a poignant album about the artistic process itself.


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