The Short of It: Horrorshow’s ‘The Grey Space’ is Beyond Superlatives

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Horrorshow: The Grey Space

Horrorshow: Uplift

Obsessed as it so openly is with the “grey” space between worlds, sub-cultures and people, it seems overly fitting that The Grey Space, the debut release from Elefant Traks-backed Sydney-side duo Horrorshow, should happen to be both the very definition of a out-of-left-field, “indie gem” release that fuels its exploits with a combination of sheer hi-octane musical moxy, a vision verging concurrently on the deeply personal and the joyously irreverent, and that raw, devil-may-care spirit peculiar to those with nothing to lose, while being simultaneously an LP possessing of such deft polish and a meticulous eye for detail as one might otherwise have only come to expect from a well-established and tour-honed act.

In a year that saw the release of Bliss ‘n’ Eso’s monolithic Flying Colours, The Herd’s razorblade-laced production bonanza Summerland, Astronomy Class and their full-flavoured, reggae-rich inauguration Exit Strategy, Muph + Plutonic’s And Then Tomorrow Came, Downsyde’s All City, Drapht’s Brothers Grimm, TZU’s Computer Love, Pure Product’s Eviction Notice, Sydney-side compatriots Spit Syndicate’s Towards the Light and The Tongue’s Shock and Awe, The Grey Space is ably capable of trading evenly matched musical and lyrical blows with any of the aforementioned luminaries. Purposefully lacking in the bombast, antics and nigh-glossolalia of B’n’E, vocalist/lyricist Solo instead projects at every level what is, for my money, one of the most sincere portraits of an artist in love with the nature of his work and the turning of his world ever laid to tape, perhaps best captured on the heart-stoppingly charming and mind-bendingly catchy “All Summer Long”. In search of a comparison, it may be fair to suggest he channels Urthboy at his most romantic and his least embittered, even if his sentiment lies perhaps somewhere else, somewhere closer to the momentary and slightly wretched wistfulness of The Tongue (for comparison, sample “That Word”, a highlight from Shock and Awe, an otherwise largely unsympathetic album predicated on The Tongue’s fairly one-note self-imaginings as a roustabout and understated raconteur).

Horrorshow: Put it to Your Head

Producer Adit oversees the installation of incomparably tasteful and surprisingly (nay, refreshingly) prominent bass lines reminiscent of the work of Marcus Miller into feature pieces like “Put It To Your Head”, What’s Going On-era brass arrangements into the undeniably playful “The Headline”, and a searing, funk-laden electric guitar that solos over “Note to Self (No. 81)” and that wouldn’t sound at all out of place on a hot slab of classic Isley Brothers wax. That he is a relative newcomer to the scene is made even more remarkable by the fact that, at his best, Adit can cut a soul track to challenge any in the game, up to and including the work of Plutonic Lab on Muph + Plutonic’s seminal 2004 release, Hunger Pains (“Paracetamol”, for instance, equally notable for its featuring Muph in a moment of rare and bemusingly sincere modesty). As a pair, they’re certified dynamite: the brighter Adit’s flair for sumptuous production burns, the more self-effacing Solo becomes, documenting (with naught but intricate rhymes and an easy, nigh-laconic drawl to his name) a world of sad-eyed girls and ancient-eyed adolescents, vague regrets and small pleasures.

Horrorshow: All Summer Long

Moving with commendable efficiency and yet without undue haste, Solo covers everything from the glamour and the soul-sucking drain of the endless party circuit (“The Party Life”) to nostalgic recollections of a misspent delinquent youth (“Uplift”, “Waiting For The 5.04”, [another “train” song in the Aussie hip-hop canon, and one that compares favourably with The Hilltop Hoods’ “Station to Station” and Seth Sentry’s “Train Catcher”]) and the ramblings of a depressive (“Celapram”), and between meaty, unabashedly vital verses even finds time for jazzy interludes to make True Live proud (“Days Past”) and a little freeform spoken-word poetry (“Dire Straits Pt. 1”). Though I’m naturally averse to making such a declaration, I can’t manage to get around the simple fact that, from end to end, The Grey Space is that rarest of things: an album, complete in every sense of the word and almost Brutalist in its construction, such is the clinically brilliant and uncompromising nature of its track listing, the quality of which is sufficient to make one wonder wherefore art the B-sides?

The Grey Space: a new and devastating salvo loosed from the ever-swelling and increasingly variegated arsenal of an Australian hip-hop scene that has finally and resolutely come of age. Everything that Eminem is to readily courted controversy, introspection on the vaunted nature of celebrity and meta-textual examinations of the fabric of West Coast hip hop or that Bliss ‘n’ Eso and The Hilltop Hoods are to spirited celebrations of the ties that bind the inebriated antipodean brotherhood of man, Horrorshow is to the tumult of exuberant and irrepressible youth. If you like what you hear, we strongly urge you pick up a copy and support some world class Aus Hip Hop.

Track Listing:

1. Uplift

2. Waiting For The 5.04

3. Choose None (feat. Just Enuf)

4. The Party Life (feat. Nick Lupi)

5. Days Past

6. Dire Straits Pt. 1

7. Celapram

8. All Summer Long

9. Put It To Your Head (feat. Fame)

10. No Rides Left.

11. The Headline

12. Note to Self (No. 81)

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~ by Martin Kingsley on July 7, 2009.

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