The Presets

TrackAlbum / Single
My PeopleApocalypso
Youth In TroublePacifica
A New SkyApocalypso
A.O.Pacifica
No FunModular Recordings 2014 single
Yippiyo-ayApocalypso
Girl And The SeaBeams
This Boy's In LoveApocalypso
PromisesPacifica
Fail EpicPacifica

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Contributor: Steven Rayner

Three albums in and The Presets are not done. Not with you, not with me, but least of all with pop music.

This year (writing in October 2014) they’ve delivered two non-LP singles despite an extensive touring schedule and one member of the duo is releasing solo material. They seem restless, eager to forge ahead, suffused with confidence. They give the impression that their best is yet to come and I am impatient to hear it.

 

Pop comes naturally to Kim Moyes and Julian Hamilton, something they discovered with the release of My People in December 2007. Picked as the lead off their forthcoming album, 2008’s Apocalypso, they were suitably proud of the track but agreed with their label Modular that it might be too uncommercial to receive much radio play. It currently stands as the longest charting single by an Australian act with some seventy six weeks on the top 100.

Angry, distorted synth lines and a belligerent beat are joined by a chorusing “yeeeaaah!” delivered not in euphoric ‘hands-in-the-air’ fashion but a drawn out sneer of knowing cynicism. The rhythm might be the familiar ‘four-on-the-floor’ of many a rave anthem but already it’s clear that this is no hedonistic hoedown. “I’m here with all of my people,” sings Hamilton, sounding not unlike Jello Biafra. “Locked up with all of my people, so let me hear you scream if you’re with me.” The scene isn’t a warehouse or commandeered field. This is a Detention Centre and it seems we’ve arrived in time for a riot.

Tall and tan and young and lovely
I follow all around the world for you
And you’ll find out
Oh it’s a world of extremes

Political ceremony
They’ll never find a happy home for you
But know that’s not the only chance you’ll get
Yeah you’ll see

The anger here is visceral and building and by the song’s climax (and it feels so good and it feels so good) you might wonder if anyone got out alive.

 

Those of us converted by Apocalypso were soon hungry for more but there was to be a long, frustrating wait. Four and a half years and not a sound, then in June 2012 the single Youth In Trouble appeared, in retrospect a pleasingly perverse choice for a single let alone the first taste of the forthcoming album Pacifica.

Where My People gave voice to mounting anger and injustice and tracked it to a climax of blessed release, Youth In Trouble zeroes in on anxiety as background noise and here the pressure only builds. It’s there from the start as the agitated bass notes begin, a barely perceptible but insistent machine noise underneath everything. And then we meet the day.

Slept through my alarm
Must be something wrong with it
I look down, my skin,
My sheets soaked wet
I had the wildest dream
Was none too subtle
About a world on fire
And youth in trouble

Woken from a nightmare to discover they’ve overslept we begin with protagonist thrown, but whom, if you’ve got six minutes, will tell you what’s wrong with the world, what terrifies them and it’s … wot? Kids?

Up out all night
In bright lit wonderland
Communicate online with
I don’t understand it
With music taste abominable
Man, I’m worried sick
For youth in trouble

Inside all day
Heads buried in a screen
Sharing pictures that I pray
I never have to see
Lack of rules makes me
So uncomfortable
God I’m terrified
Of youth in trouble

This tabloid stoked fever-dream of fear and resentment might seem comic were it not accompanied by a Shepard Tone. This audio illusion gives the impression of an infinitely rising tone when its actually a fixed set of tones repeating and your brain is a dummy. Inspired by Christian Smith & John Selway’s Total Departure (a fixture of Moyes’s DJ sets at the time) Hamilton and Moyes use a rising Shepard Tone to underscore the increasing anxiety until, without ever reaching a crescendo, it drops out and the rhythm (and the Shepard Tone) begins again.

So, you see, a perverse choice for a single. A track that, given the conventions of dance music, promises to deliver at least one Bass Drop. Here The Presets don’t delay gratification but deny it outright, along with our expectations. There’s a satisfaction in that.

Political protest and social satire are certainly not beyond the bounds of popular music but I don’t wish to give the impression that Hamilton and Moyes make music to stroke chins by. This is POP.

Yippiyo-ay is an 80s infected ode to hand-jobs. A.O. is the pop song as karmic dig site. This Boy’s In Love knows the truth of leaving everything you know to follow love and how you can never go home again. Despite its recent appearance in the world Promises is every real holiday song, catchy and sweet enough to blast from fairground speakers but filled with so much heartache it will haunt your journey home.

I doubt there’s anything they can’t do, so it’s good to know that three albums in and The Presets are not done. Not with you, not with me, but least of all pop music.

 

The Presets website

The Presets biography (iTunes)

Steven Rayner hosts a monthly mixtape series on Mixcloud here. Follow @Steven_E_Rayner on twitter.

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