Post punk new wave chill never sounded better than in the new release ‘The Warning Birds’ from Hobart band EWAH & The Vision of Paradise (EVoP). The much delayed album gestated over a period of disturbance in the ether. Emma Waters – EWAH – says of the development of the album:
We’ve been sitting on this album for a long time now. Working hard at it alone. Chipping away. Coming up against many obstacles and challenges. Deaths, births, empires crumbling, you name it. At the beginning, I laughed at the idea of the difficult second album. Well, it’s five years since we released ‘Everything Fades to Blue’. This one should’ve been released 2-3 years ago, but stuff kept happening to slow it down. Somewhere along the way ‘The Warning Birds’ became my albatross. There’s a point where finally you get to release this creature, beast, baby, call it what you will, out into the wild wide world and see what happens. Well, thank fuck that time has finally arrived.
And it’s certainly worth the wait. Over the intervening time, EWoP have been dripping tantalising morsels from the album as well as playing live, but the ultimate collection is divine.
What EVoP have done – a bit like their compatriots Christopher Coleman and the Great Escape (who share bassist Stu Hollingsworth) – is captured the essence of their environment in the wild southern isle of Tasmania and delivered a potent portraiture that takes in the beauty and the ugliness of both the physical and metaphorical. With a delivery that can recall a range of greats from Dusty Springfield, Chrissie Hynde to Chrissy Amphlett and Sharon Van Etten, EWAH’s voice is compelling and urgent, antithetically both cold and enveloping, while the instrumentation has new wave scything momentum about it.
Opening instrumental ‘Dusk’ is an ambient cloud that captures the chill winds that slice across kunanyi/Mount Wellington overlooking nipaluna/Hobart, before ‘Beach’ launches into a post punk tornado with a heart of industrial steel and feedback riding an insistent thundering bass. EWAH’s voice is filled with hurt and pain: cold and distant.
‘Vultures’ is a melodic thrill – thundering spine-tingling bass and sharp as crystal shards of guitar interweave with EWAH’s studied, distant vocals – there’s no way out of this island – reflecting the feeling of lockdown in her home town of Hobart in Tasmania:
At the mouth of a port city
People locked in by the Government
There is violence in the blue sky
There is silence in the stone streets
Indeed these sharp incisive lyrics hauntingly evoke the COVID claustrophobia of isolation – there’s no way in, there’s no way out – and the accompanying video is a beautifully shot black and white piece set in the foothills of kunyani/Mount Wellington, the brooding monolith that is the imposing backdrop to Hobart. It is surreal and enigmatic:
‘Vanishing Point’ is delectable: mesmerising, hypnotic and crystalline with such a posed sense of style. Guitars scythe their way through the wash of keyboards, and EWAH’s voice is both cold, distant and emotive at the same time – a chill and eloquent delivery.
This sense of place is stretched through to the video – part of a series filmed by the band that showcase the Tasmanian wilderness with its innate sense of mystery and enigma. The band pays tribute to the traditional owners – filmed on location in turbunna/Ben Lomond, lutrawita/Tasmania:
We would like to express gratitude to the traditional owners and ongoing custodians of lutrawita. We acknowledge that we have made this video on their country and pay to respect to elders past and present. Always was, always will be.
A beautiful acknowledgment for a beautiful video.
The video is a preview of a larger project, a featurette movie to accompany the release of an upcoming album.
In the movie EWAH plays a lone explorer traversing a new world with the hope of finding a safe haven to start new life. Playing with the idea of early colonists, EWAH is equipped with a handful of cumbersome devices and tools in a perhaps foolhardy attempt to understand the strange world she is trying to survive in.
‘Arcadia’ eases back into something more restrained and sombre – cold synths establish a mournful elegiac pace: something organic and pastoral while EWAH’s voice is haunting and hypnotic as she sings in an almost nursery rhyme inflected melody. This is a stately and beautiful track that evokes the misty cold landscapes of the hinterland.
‘Noon’ is another brief instrumental: foreboding and edgy before ‘Hole in the Sky’ slides in.
Antithetically, ‘Hole in the Sky’ references obliquely the strange phenomena that saw the hole in the Ozone layer lie directly above Tasmania, adding a strange frisson of danger from above, even during the long cloudy days and cold winters. This contrasting situation becomes a palimpsest for the tensions that surround this harsh, beautiful land. Emma Waters (EWAH) says of the themes of track:
Tasmania is often seen as a pristine wilderness; however, it has a potted history of environmental crisis and degradation. Think Franklin River, Lake Pedder, mining, deforestation and salmon farming. It is a place of brutal beauty, harsh weather and moments of political and community divide.
‘Hole in the Sky’ with its mesmerising guitar arpeggios and dramatic percussive blasts is hypnotic and statuesque as EWAH repeats we live at the end of the world. Waters’s voice ascends as the song progressive with power and force: full of mystery and allure and the instrumentations build up with a clattering wall of noise.
The accompanying video, directed by long time collaborator Ursula Woods, is a powerful monochrome performance piece with an alien force landing in the form of a saxophonist and a strange hypnotic force overtakes the band, complete with some very classy formation dancing:
‘Play Hard’ is haunting and enigmatic: an electric spine with a driving almost foreboding tone. EWAH’s voice is eerie, soft, brim full of attitude and a swaggering sneer. There is an Arctic chill – or Antarctic to be geographically precise – to the dream pop reverie. Luscious layers of instrumentation shimmer their way underneath the vocals that evokes the Australian landscape in all its forms.
The video perfectly captures the tone and themes of the song:
‘Paradeisos’ rolls on a circular bass line with an air of mystery across a synth bed. Ethereal and hypnotic rhythms abound while EWAH’s vocals are soft and alluring. ‘Isolation’ introduces a threatening movement and a glam rock shuffle that reaches a satisfying crescendo. ‘Golden Light’ showcases EWAH’s delicate and beautiful vocals – another sombre elegy that is suffuse with deep yearning.
EVoP continue to produce music that is of the wild landscapes and harsh climates, reflecting the raw combination of beauty and truth delivered through bold anthemic music and indelible melodies. And from the well of despair and decay, they produce music infused with hope, resilience and light. ‘The Warning Birds’ is a palimpsest for beauty and decay, wild and turbulent landscapes with the intrusion of modernity and the threats and ugliness this can entail. The music is ethereal and bold, the lyrics eviscerating and personal, creating something that can be heartbreakingly beautiful while tearing holes in your heart with a sense of loss.
You can catch EWoP live at their launch in Hobart on Saturday 9 April at Altar- tickets and details here.
Feature Photograph: Eden Meure