As the Australian music scene continues to gradually return to its pre-COVID glory, community radio Music Directors and presenters from around the country shine a light on the finest local talent doing the rounds today.

While many of us are adjusting to a new sense of normality after 2020, Australian musicians are still facing enormous limitations in working opportunities to support and sustain their careers. Exposure is more important than ever and ironically harder to come by in today’s media landscape.

The Australian Music Radio Airplay Project – best known as Amrap – offers Australian musicians a pathway to airplay to the many community stations who have long championed Australian music of all stripes. Providing exposure often before anyone else, community radio is a strong and unique network immune to passing trends.

In this Tone Deaf series, we’ll turn to the Music Directors and presenters at some of the amazing community stations from around the country and get their latest favourite Australian music discoveries from Amrap.

“There’s been a flurry of new local releases that reflect just how stories, sounds, situations and spaces can be reimagined.”

Firas Massouh, Music Director of 3PBS FM in Melbourne, continues this series with Australian music available on Amrap to help compile a playlist of the best homegrown tunes doing the rounds on community radio for you to sink your teeth into. As Firas explains:

“As we find ourselves well and truly living in the epoch of the ‘new normal,’ I have found it helpful to look for the ways in which musicians are accordingly being responsive and inventive in the face of the unknown. I didn’t need to look too far.

“There’s been a flurry of new local releases that reflect just how stories, sounds, situations and spaces can be reimagined. Some of the selections below represent a creative departure for the artists in question, some are exquisite collaborations while others are inspired covers of old songs.

“They are all ultimately set to the tone of reimagining oneself in the spirit of creating something new against the backdrop of what can sometimes feel like a standstill.”

Check out ‘If I Imagined’ by Coda Chroma:

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Coda Chroma – ‘If I Imagined’

If Coda Chroma’s second studio album Inside The Still Life was a book, then it would no doubt be one of the most irresistible page-turners that you’ve ever had your hands on. There is such captivating songwriting on the album, it was seriously difficult for me to ever start listening to it without going all the way through to the end. The more that I listened to this beautiful work, the more that I began to understand the interplay between the complexity and the simplicity in songwriter Kate Lucas’s storytelling that makes her one of the most innovative and noteworthy musicians in Australia today. 

‘If I Imagined’ is the first teaser to be lifted off Coda Chroma’s upcoming album. The song is an upliftingly sunny dreamscape. It’s on the more pop side of things, yet it’s still at once vivid and mysterious as you would expect from Kate. It is a wonderful invitation into her mind and how it sees things. I cannot wait to hear the whole album. 

K.I.M. – ‘Ghost Town (feat. Connie Mitchell)’

Here’s a not so sunny yet brilliant song that sees two musicians, otherwise known for producing dance electronica, effortlessly charting new territory. K.I.M. is the alias of Kim Moyes, who is one half of Sydney-based electronica duo The Presets. He teams up with Connie Mitchell from dance music group Sneaky Sound System on this ghostly, melancholic response to lockdown. The combination of the brooding intensity in K.I.M.’s production and Mitchell’s haunting vocals is a sombre ode that’s very fitting for our times.

Check out ‘Ghost Town’ by K.I.M.:

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Cale Sexton – ‘Refurb’

Refurb is the first taste of Sustain, the new album from Cale Sexton that sees him compose for electronics and computer-controlled bells. It features the Federation Bells, the 39 upturned bronze bells that decorate the Birrarung Marr urban park. One of Melbourne’s most exquisite art installations, The Bells have been used to produce music by various composers over the years.

In 2019, Cale Sexton was commissioned by The City of Melbourne to produce music with The Bells, which he reimagined as ambient techno instruments for his premier of Sustain. The work was co-commissioned by Heavy Machinery Records, the very label that’s now going to release it as an album. Produced and curated by Miles Brown and mixed by Sexton as well as Sleep D’s Corey Kikos, the album is gaining traction as a highly anticipated work in experimental electronica. Keep an eye on this one.

Mindy Meng Wang & Tim Shiel – ‘Hidden Qi’

At the risk of overstretching the sentiment that all contemporary releases are a response to COVID-19, this collaboration between Chinese/Australian avant-garde composer Mindy Meng Wang and Melbourne composer Tim Shiel truly encapsulates creativity-in-isolation that’s mediated by the internet.

During lockdown, Mindy would record on her 21-string traditional guzheng and send them to Tim who would use the recordings to produce minimal ambient dub. As lockdowns tightened and loosened, the two musicians continued to develop these recordings, ending up with four magnificent tracks that capture the traditional and modern ways through which we can reimagine this very strange world. 

Check out ‘Phase Transitions’ by OK EG:

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OK EG – ‘Phase Transitions’

Melbourne duo OK EG have put out some seriously wonderful techno over the last couple of years. Following on from their 2020 release Anthr, they now have a new EP titled Prismatic Spring that celebrates light and space in an otherwise dark and restrictive world.

The B-side first track ‘Phase Transitions’ is a ripper on the dance-floor. This is its straight to the point and immediate effect. But that’s not all. The more you listen, the more you start to hear the story that’s being told. It is a mystical and other-worldly story told with acid bass tones, lush pads and hypnotic drum machines.

Zoe Fox and the Rocket Clocks – ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’

This stunning rendition of the Simple Minds classic by Zoe Fox and The Rocket Clocks, comes from a riveting new compilation titled Cover Is Blown, curated by Zak Brown, the mastermind behind Melbourne garage four-piece Easy Browns. The compilation features contributions from 20 local acts, including Bitch Diesel, Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice, and the Codeine Cowboys, to name a few. 

Zoe Fox and The Rocket Clocks perform such an outstanding job in re-imagining a classic song that this release is proof of how a cover can be just as powerful as the original. The sultry new wave hooks from Simple Minds are transformed by the Zoe Fox into meditative ambience, invoking imagery that goes way past the adolescent romanticism of John Hughes’ 1985 coming-of-age film The Breakfast Club on which the original song features. Hey, not that there’s anything wrong with adolescent romanticism or the 1980s. It’s more that I think that Zoe Fox adds a certain maturity that makes the song more urgent, contemporary and relevant.   

Check out ‘Bumpy’s Lament‘ by Karate Boogaloo:

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Karate Boogaloo – ‘Bumpy’s Lament’

Not that it’s possible to ever get tired of Karate Boogaloo’s mixtape series. It’s just that, the more you listen to what this band puts out, the more that you want from them. So it’s really nice to get this first teaser from their upcoming Mixtape No. 3, a funny, intelligent reimagining of Isaac Hayes’ track Bumpy’s Lament, originally written for the Shaft soundtrack. It’s classic Karate Boogaloo; wonky, funky and head-shakingly unpredictable.    

Check out our playlist of community radio’s Australian music picks: