Big Scary’s bold debut album, Vacation, winningly demonstrated the Melbourne indie twosome’s breadth of musical vision and the deft, minimalist touch to realise it.
If its warm intimacy was a surprise for those that had unwisely dismissed Tom Iansek and Jo Syme as ‘just’ another boy/girl duo, Vacation’s lush, sophisticated follow-up shatters those preconceptions.
For Not Art, Big Scary truly stretch their creative wings and take flight to musical horizons few have charted.
Cut-up beats frame ornate piano on the pulsing, profound ‘Luck Now’ and ‘Invest’. Similar delicate ivory ripples dance across fragmented breaks and growling synths on ‘Twin Rivers’, as the pair’s expressive vocals ache of a relationship in stasis: “The conversation’s so old/we can’t even muster a fight.”
Elsewhere, vivid guitars lightly chug against the howling hook of ‘Belgian Blues’ then shimmer on the dusty landscapes of ‘Phil Collins’ before drawing romantic patterns across ‘Lay Me Down’. Throughout, both conception and execution prove these are songs that are made smarter, stronger, and lusher by ambitious production choices.
A gospel choir convincingly augments Iansek and Syme’s expressive vocal performances (on the lucid ‘Harmony Sometimes’ especially) before taking centre-stage on the rich and surreal, DJ Shadow-nodding ‘Why Hip Hop Sucks In ‘13’.
By mixing eclectic influences and unique sonic approaches and applying them to their own intelligent but uncluttered pop sensibilities, Big Scary have hit upon something strikingly unique – and not just for themselves.
It will take patience, but combined these 11 compositions that initially appear to be an intriguing patchwork, reveals itself to be a rich aural tapestry, one constructed to get better with each spin.
Is Not Art a masterpiece? No. But it’s made by a band very much capable of one or two during their career if they can craft such an impressive record as their second studio effort.
Not Art, ironically but undoubtedly, very much is. Arm the accolades and be ready to fire them in Big Scary’s direction.