The Terrifying Lows is the work of Melbourne-based musician and Gamilaroi artist Tyler Millott, and his new self-titled album is a sparkling collection of jewels: finely tuned pop vignettes that have a dark undercurrent beneath the shining melodies. To add to the wonder, Millott took full control of the creativity – writing, recording and producing.
As with much creative output over the last couple of years, the exigencies of the times provided valuable opportunities. Millott describes the recording process for the writing and recording album:
Due to the pandemic, it took a lot longer and the sessions were more scattered than I had originally planned but otherwise, I’m so stoked on the whole process and very proud of the final result. It also feels good to show off my skills not only as a bass player but as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, having played all the instruments on the album with the exception of the backing vocals (Phoebe Neilson (Killing Heidke/Kate Ceberano) and Naomi Oakley (Mirii) and the drums.
Opening ‘Waiting For The Sun’ is a deliciously dark piece of gothic post punk pop. An indelible melody and anthemic chorus are delivered across a jangling dark synth/guitar filigree with a sparse evocative bass spine. This is an immersive and euphoric track burnished by a hint of melancholia through Millott’s yearning vocals.
Millott says of the track:
‘Waiting For The Sun’ is about a strange and dark time in my life when, for a long while, I was having very vivid and graphically violent nightmares and I was doing just about anything to stay up and not go to sleep. I can’t remember how long this went on for. Any length of time I pull out of my memory of this period seems too absurd to be real.
The gothic nightmare thrum is eloquently expressed: a sense of impending doom and anxiety threads its way through the track. ‘Waiting For The Sun’ has something of the presence and aura of The Cure in their gothic phase, but delivered in a perfectly formed dark pop package.
The accompanying video, filmed by Naomi Oakley and directed and edited by Millott himself is close and intimate, filtered in rich, dark colours evoking a sense of anticipation when it is always darkest before the dawn:
The rest of the album follows suit with a warm post punk dark synthwave thrum throughout, marked by Millott’s subtle and evocative vocals that deal with dark themes.
‘Everywhere You Go (There You Are)’ has an insistent driving, rolling bass beneath Millott’s soft vocals with scything guitars and a bubble gum pop melody. This reminds me a great deal of the recent solo work from the legendary Johnny Marr: vibrant pop songs with a sharp rhythmic spine and a hint of melancholy.
By contrast, ‘Running Slow’ and ‘Turn Violent’ have a motorik percussion and a dirty fuzzy bass and syncopated synths that haunt in the distance. Again, it is The Terrifying Low’s ethereal melodies and singing that create a sharp focus. The latter features a cold distance in the vocals but both feature anthemic choruses with a darkness in the lyrics.
‘Dark Heart’ is a stately melancholic track resting heavily on melodic bass lines that form a steely spine underneath the scaling synths and harmonies. As the track launches into a musical interlude, there is feeling of euphoria – a feeling that ebbs and flows around the yearning expression. This is a dreamy, laid back track with a cinematic scope that is swept aside by the following track ‘The Spur’ – a swiftly moving anthem that swirls with constant movement underneath the dark themes and yearning vocals.
‘Belladonna’ is another reflective piece – a slower pace and yearning tone with a bright pop sparkle:
‘Twisted’ is an epic track: a bold, stately and anthemic treatise about the state of the world with sense of personal hopelessness: an ominous bass rumbles in the distance and guitars and synths whirl in the air. Final track ‘The Blind’ is another dark track about the state of humanity, leavened by a hope for individual salvation, delivered over a new wave post punk bass bed and an insistent guitar riff that breaks into a brain searing fuzz.
‘The Terrifying Lows’ is simply an enormous and ambitious album that delivers. Nine remarkable tracks are imbued with cinematic, anthemic pop melodies that carry dark themes across shimmering instrumentation. It is out now and available to be streamed and downloaded here.
Feature Photograph: Naomi Oakley