You know, as far as the music is concerned anyhow, I’m beginning to suspect there must be something in the water down under. The Aussies seem to have a real way with psych-rock recently with bands such as Pond, Tame Impala and countless others championing the genre the world over. Typical of this style are the grandiose soundscapes courtesy of cascading reverbs, delays, samples from every drum kit on recorded on every Motown record ever and some pretty specialist sonic alchemy from ripping Hammond organs, Leslies, vocoders, your favourite old school Moogs- you name it, it’s all in there. More often than not, this is neatly tied with some glorious visual excess courtesy of a ‘visionary yet doesn’t take itself too seriously’ music video, thus completing a truly decedant sensual experience. It’s audio-visual dynamite and, needless to say- brilliant. So hailing from the land where this fast-forming musical tradition is already casting an overbearing shadow of expectation upon new talent, Drued struck me as something particularly unique. Unsaturated yet sophisticated production, earthy rhythms and with a refreshing sincerity in its style, it’s clear to see Josh, the man that is Drued, is spearheading something pretty damn special.
His new EP, Jupiter Mid Heaven is absolutely exemplary of all of the abovementioned. To sum what makes this EP tick for me in one word – complexity. This sentiment was affirmed by a friend of mine, who, commenting on Jupiter Mid Heaven, mentioned how ‘the EP grows on you. The more you listen to it, the more you find’- and that’s exactly what I mean when I yap about complexity. The sheer degree of thought invested into the EP becomes expressly clear, where behind the light, breezy, and nonchalant styling of the EP; you’ll find some seriously heavyweight orchestration and arrangement. It’s brilliantly thought-out. So let’s dive in:
The EP opens with Mind’s Eye, and boy, is it a way to make an introduction. The haunting lyrics simply arrest the listener, this complemented with delicate acoustic guitars. However, there’s a sense of searching, agitation and unrest which is mirrored in Drued’s chord progressions and voicings. This is elevated into the chorus, where ostinato lines courtesy of electric guitars and cello drones (garnished with huge, cavernous reverbs) unleashes what, in my strange mind, can only be articulated as a sonic kaleidoscope. You’re set upon with a myriad of different sonic textures and artefacts, both spontaneous yet cyclical in nature- it’s bloody fantastic. ’Over and over in my mind and over and over in my mind.’
Terracotta Clouds follows much in the same vein. You have to listen attentively, piece together the fragmented lines which at times are introspective, personal, and at other moments, observe and speak from grander perspectives. This ambiguity is prosaic, with Drued’s tasteful lyrical sensibilities adding to the drama and movement within the orchestration in the track. It becomes difficult to divorce this from Mind’s Eye, I felt as though there was a form of natural progression with certain mannerisms being carried over to this track from the former.
The EP’s namesake track, Jupiter Mid Heaven, is definitely the ‘rockiest’ of the lot, but far from straight ahead rock. Its evident Drued draws from a wide array of influences, with this album, and particularly this track, being a melting pot of them. Assimilated into this loose alternative framework you can distinguish influences from reggae, ‘go-go’ rhythms out of the American East Coast, Mancunian synth arrangements of the early eighties, the list goes on and on. I found this track a masterclass in how seamlessly these traditions were interwoven, all branded with Drued’s distinct artistic uniquisms that, by this point in the EP, you’re well acquainted from the earlier tracks.
Wet Brain returns to Drued’s more psychedelic form, which I feel sets the tone for most of the EP. Again, the track is exemplary of Drued’s mastery of space in the track. Colossal reverbs add to profoundly internalised tonality that plays with the lyrics. This is all the more accentuated in the chorus, where the rhythm dissolves to make way for choir arrangements and other synthesized sonic artefacts. The groove breaks into something more of a pulse, which really allows for syncopated vocal lines to really drive the song. Attention to detail paid to rhythm, and how it is able to shape both style and sentiment of the song is outstanding, and no doubt the work of a consummate professional musician.
Old Man is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a perfect pastiche of the silver fox that plenty of us fellas have got ourselves figured out as when the golden years come calling– a heavy tan, hair slicked into a pseudo-greaser pompadour tall enough to make Elvis jealous, and still spout enough game to be a hit with the ladies. This macho, gunslinger aura is stylised perfectly with a strong rockabilly vibe that runs throughout the song. However, as the strings detune and snap, Drued kindly reminds us that to be ‘that’ silver fox is to also be a kind of a dick. A lovingly exaggerated vocal performance and an unrestrainable laugh at the end captures the quirkiness of the performance and hilariousness of the subject matter in candid brilliance. It’s stellar to see music with a sense of humour. Still, though the Old Man in question is something of a joke, the music is anything but. The track borrows from elements of Americana rockabilly through to Skittle music out of the fifties, all parts expertly executed.
So that’s Jupiter Mid Heaven to me, and certainly what I got out of it. Working within the framework of psychedelic rock, what sets Drued apart is the way that he is able to push the boundaries of the genre, assimilating other styles, genres and orchestration from a broader musical consciousness. Not only that, but what serves testament to Drued’s tastefulness is the finesse with which the above is performed; it sounds natural and unforced, and in terms of arrangement, indicative of a certain genius.
I implore you to listen to the EP, because it really is very, very good. To find out about Drued, do check out his site. There you will also be able to purchase the EP for the modest price he is asking for it. Again, I’m baffled that this degree of production and thought has come about from one person alone. I eagerly await any new work from Drued, but as far as Jupiter Mid Heaven is concerned- Josh, you’ve nailed it, man. Stellar work.
Drued’s Facebook page.
Words: Nigel Nunes