Something out of left field happened when Sydney indie rockers CREO got together back in 2012.
Debut song ‘Afterglow’, released three years ago, first piqued interest with Jorjee Haman’s hypnotic vocals, but it was 2015’s release of ‘Suay’ and ‘Light It Up’ that really started to signal the sonic direction the band were taking, leaning into odd rhythmic textures and infectious basslines.
Since then, CREO have cut their teeth playing live with the likes of British India and Last Dinosaurs, and their re-emergence from the studio with their long-awaited debut EP Subtitles for X, Y, Z hasn’t come a moment too soon.
The slightly rambling nature of Haman’s vocals is backed by a brutal honesty from the get-go with opener ‘Behind The Beat’, and Haman’s anguish is palpable as he starts, almost unintelligibly, yelling the words. With a seamless transition into ‘Give Me Yours’, the deceptively hopeful sonics are underscored by the feeling of wanting something to the point of unhealthy obsession, and two tracks in the EP’s lyrical themes are already satisfyingly weighty.
A standout on the song – and entire record – is Daniel Tsoltoudis’ drumming, which switches up dynamically throughout gives the songs a loose, live feeling. Paired with superb bass work, it forms a standout rhythm section that anchors the intermittent guitar wails and vocal layers brilliantly.
While the title track slows things right down, it’s no less atmospheric, with Haman’s cooing vocals dancing with ripples of guitar as it waits for the rest of the group to really kick in, bringing more weight to an emotional crescendo that sees Haman allow his voice to crack and shake.
It’s fitting for this to flow straight into ‘June’, the most poetic moment on the EP. The soft keyboard and sporadic, reverberating guitar allow Haman to take centre stage and bring some vivid imagery to life with a slick pop sensibility (“The iridescent embers start to grey”) before a fuzzy guitar brings back the aural through-line that ties the record together.
It’s been a strong showing until now, but unfortunately EP closer ‘Too Many Thousand & 16’ ends CREO’s debut with a weaker moment, breaking from the mood carefully built so far with an attack of guitar wails, half-shouted lyrics and repeated vocal chants that ultimately feels a little disjointed.
Although not managing to carry its excellently-crafted mood all the way through across the finish line, Subtitles for X, Y, Z is an impressive emergence of an indie band who know how to stimulate the senses beyond the ear-drums alone, and already has us imagining what stories they could craft with an entire album.
CREO’ debut EP Visions IV is out now through Rare Finds, and they head out on tour later this month for a run of free shows, plus an appearance at this year’s Australian Music Week – check out the dates below.
CREO national tour dates
All free shows – full info here
Friday October 20
The Penny Black, Melbourne
Sunday October 22
Cherry Bar, Melbourne
Friday November 3
Transit Bar, Canberra
Sunday, November 5
North Gong, Wollongong
Friday, November 10
The Northern, Byron Bay
Saturday, November 11
Rics Bar, Queensland
Sunday, November 12
The Cambridge Warehouse, Newcastle