After one of the longer waits for new material from Dappled Cities, it’s finally over: the Sydney indie-pop outfit are back with ///// (Five), their fifth studio album.
///// is everything you’d expect from the innovative Dappled Cities, and more – it seems the time out has given them the space they needed to create a crisp and clean cut release. ///// is a drone of feel-good beats and eclectic electronica that underline a more mature take on both life and music.
Five stands in the tradition of the hyper-colour ’70s scene of Roxy Music and David Bowie, all sex and soul, but it’s not a nostalgic record. Standout track ‘Stone Men’ shuffles along with just that message – life and all its happenings are captured with a catchy buzz and an interesting layering of vocal harmonies, plus zapping strings that conspire to build up a festive groove.
It’s a great song with a gorgeous video, but proves the band isn’t stuck in a romanticised past, despite the throwback inspirations.
“I guess the best way to describe it is late-’70s pop-rock,” co-frontman Dave Rennick says of their latest sound expedition. “We were really going deep in that. I think what drew us to it, it’s music made by bands, and more specifically musicians in the bands. You’d get Bowie walking in with these songs, and he’d have a bunch of session musicians, and yeah, he’d have an idea where they’d go and would have some riffs, but the nuances are created by having the actual band there together.
But while they were peering back in time for the record, the band also had one eye fixed very firmly on the present – and their place in it – as they approached a fifth full-length record.
“Something we obviously look at is the rise of producers at the moment, which is awesome,” Rennick says. “All of these laptop producers. We saw this happening, and well, that’s not us. I see it as a fundamentally different art form, so it leaves us to question, ‘Who are we?’ And the answer really is, we’re a band! And what do bands do? Oh, that’s right, they get into the room with a song and fucking play together and try not to overthink it.”
While for the most part this approach is a definite success, there’s at times a certain something standing in the way of this organic groove remaining true throughout the entirety of the album; after ‘Know Your History’, the rhythms become a little less infectious, with the odd moment where it’s easy to zone out.
But that’s not to say Dappled Cities have lost direction. Indeed, after a stellar 18-year career and counting, they remain the group Sydney musicians look to for guidance in crafting a continually relevant sound. It’s not indie-pop, strictly speaking – not any more – but whatever it is, it works.