The Dissociatives

Some more awesome Aussies I discovered this year are The Dissociatives, a creative duo that consisted of Daniel Johns and Paul Mac. Their self-titled album boasts an unusual and unique collection of songs created by the usual amalgamation of rock and electronics, despite the two deriving from completely different musical backgrounds.
Daniel Johns is a guitarist and singer from the metal band, Silverchair. The band reached prominence  in 1994 through the release of their single Tomorrow, after winning a competition that rewarded them a recording session for one song. Their subsequent albums enjoyed the same, if not greater, success as the single.
Paul Mac is an electronics music artist, DJ and producer who worked with a variety of Australian acts to much success. He released his first album in 2001, titled 3000 Feet High. After listening to this, the  Dissociatives sound as if they have more of Mac’s style than Johns’s, although the latter does give the songs his characteristic voice.

The two met in 1997 when Mac remixed Silverchair‘s song Freak. Mac then began to play instruments in some Silverchair songs and appeared on stage with them on several occasions, leading to a friendship between the two. They decided to record some songs with each other, which were then released in 2000 on an EP called I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rock. Then in 2003, the duo decided to record an album together, and released The Dissociatives in 2004.

A quiet beat opens the ambient We’re Much Preferred Customers. Initial listens give the impression that little happens within the song, however, if you listen closer, you find that numerous sound effects and melodies in the background give the song a full and busy undertone. Even though I’ve never listened to this song until this year, it sounds so nostalgic as it captures the sounds typical of early 2000s music.

Somewhere Down the Barrel immediately starts with a louder electronic beat and in media res. The lyrics are about the existence of purpose beyond a consumerist lifestyle, and contains one of the coolest lines: A terrorist’s a prisoner, and a tourist a thief when paintings seem like bargains when they’re nothing but wallpaper.
Horror with Eyeballs is a slower, waltz-like song with a circus-freak undertone. Towards the end of the song, the melodies unexpectedly deviate in and out of these ‘insanity’ sections before giving into it completely.
Lifting the Veil From the Braille and Paris Circa 2007 Slash 08 are both instrumentals that use the same techniques, such as repeated melodies and layered background percussion and electronic effects. Despite this, both songs don’t sound like rehashes of each other, and the lack of lyrics do not create the impression that a layer is missing. Towards the end of Lifting… Braille, there’s an ascending flute melody that sounds as if it were taken from some familiar 70s pop-rock hit, something Abba would use…
Forever and a Day takes us into the torture of waiting for a loved one for what seems like forever. Small melodies from an orchestra of sounds and a filling percussive background maintain the song’s rich atmosphere through to its finish with vocal harmonising by a children’s choir.
Thinking in Reverse opens on an insistent beat followed by an agitated piano melody. The lyrics bring the song into a darker mood until the very danceable chorus. The ‘rising’ backward guitar gives the impression that the sound is moving towards you somewhere deep in the song, before it is abruptly stopped by the return to the dark mood. In the final verse, the lyrics overlap each other and give a completely different meaning to the song.
The best song on this album, in my opinion, is Young Man, Old Man (You Ain’t Better Than the Rest).
Despite the initial simplicity of this song, further listening allows you find all the melodies and rhythms in the background that create its rich and resounding atmosphere. The guitarist alludes to Guns ‘n’ Roses song November Rain in his solo outside a church in the middle of typically sun-baked Australian country.
A stopped-record intro opens Angry Megaphone Man and progresses through a series of unexpected melodic changes, one of which gives the impression of slowed time through little instrumentation and slowed-down effects in the background.
Sleep Well Tonight closes the album in the same way it started, this time in the manner of a lullaby. There is little instrumentation, made up for by the constantly moving vocal melody and lyrics.
Although its just one album, The Dissociatives prove that rock and electronic music do go well together, and that such an opposing combination creates original and unusual songs.

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