Album Review: Local Authority – Negative Space

What was Valley Heat Records is now 4000 Records, but what remains is the singular dedication to the local Brisbane music scene and an obsession with the cassette. And there is no better way to launch this new face than the debut album from Local Authority, ‘Negative Space’.

Local Authority is the product of Jacque McGill’s imagination and musical prowess with the additional input of Dan Sparks (drums) and Erica Sunnex (backing vocals). On stage, Local Authority are Jacque McGill (vocals, bass), Rhos Pridham (guitar), Erica Sunnex (synth, backing vocals) and Lachlan Andrews (drums).

McGill describes his unique way of recording – from smashing bottle against the wall to layering sound – for example using 14 microphones to record 1 guitar through 3 different amplifiers at once.

And this is the hallmark of ‘Negative Space’. Spacious, atmospheric and yet, antithetically, dense and complex. Shimmering and dark. A brilliant tension throughout.

We’ve already met Local Authority the band: their single Oil Rigs, released earlier this year, was a spectacular debut that melded the spine of early The Cure with the layered harmonies of Ride. We called it an absolute delight. And such an epithet more than matches their hair-raisingly gorgeous debut album, released yesterday.

Take third track, ‘No Joy’ – a blistering wall of sparkling jingle-jangle guitars and an enigmatic melody. Local Authority have an elegance and a studied elegiac posture to the sound: shoegaze flirting with dream pop, haunting and atmospheric. This perfectly captured in ‘Wait’ with its Cocteau Twins drone and McGill’s floating voice gliding across the top and a crackling finale.

There is a discordant edge contributed by the shimmering guitars, layers upon layers with their crystalline sharpened blade. And there is melody. Call me simplistic, but I like a melody, and there’s bagfulls in this album. I love melancholia, and this album is steeped in an air of tristesse and longing.

‘Marine Flowers’ is an enthralling hypnotic chant, a repeated refrain and an insistent rhythmic drone, layers of gorgeous harmonies like a gilded cloud floating above the sea of chiming guitars. A song that could slide effortlessly next to anything released by Steve Kilbey from The Church.

Local Authority have by no means only one colour in their palette, and ‘Negative Space’ is not all dreamy patchouli-scented psychedelia (as delightful as that is). ‘Dust’ is a brooding southern gothic masterpiece that drips with menace and rumbles and thunders with swagger and attitude. Final track ‘Disintegration Fever’ leaves us with a wandering slightly unnerving air rivened with surprising sonics.

This is truly a magnificent album that carves out a unique space for Local Authority in the heady world of shoegaze/dream pop.

You can order the album here.

‘Negative Space’ is being launched on 5 October 2019 at the Bearded Lady in Brisbane with what is the cream of the Brisbane music scene playing (and all part of the 4000 Records stable and all previously lauded by Backseat Mafia), tickets available here:

Launch show: October 5 @ The Bearded Lady w/ Syrup, Go On + The Double Happiness + Elder + Edith Thomas Furey 

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