Sydney’s Gardland seems so exploratory that putting a wayward stamp on what’s being attempted is almost pointless. The team of furious psyche producers Alex Murray and Mark Smith, although young, have coupled together a gnawing early catalog of sounds that come closer to nightmare than accessible.
The duo’s first full-length LP, Syndrome Syndrome, follows up its eponymous EP released earlier this year, which Murray and Smith describe as “deep in technoid sludge.” Recorded in a ten-day session in their native city, the four-track EP curls together muddled drone elements that seep into the skin. The EP’s second track ,“1767,” in particular, spirals down with vocals so daunting that it borders on numbing.
If there’s one common element at play with what Murray and Smith are trying to do, it’s purely visceral. The hectic tone and unnerving force don’t come back in familiar patterns, but are apparent throughout the duo’s efforts.
In the film preview of Syndrome Syndrome, those curiosities seem even more profound, to the point of jarring. Director Jannah Quill took the ubiquitous tone and intensified the visuals for a fairly morose preview of the album.
Murray and Smith hit an unfortunate snag when some of their equipment was stolen during the middle of the recording sessions. “We re-bought the exact synths that we lost because they had become an inextricable part of our language,” they said. “But we couldn’t recreate the sounds we’d made or the ideas we’d stored. So that led to the mad, yet fruitful, binge of writing in the late recording stages. The weird thing is Syndrome Syndrome would’ve been a totally different record if we hadn’t lost our stuff. Being thrown in the deep end with no time and a clean slate was a really good thing for us.”
After getting their legs back under them, Murray and Smith cobbled the LP together fairly quickly. “The final phase of recording was very straight forward,” they said. “We deleted all the old stuff and smashed out about 80 percent of the record in a couple weeks.” While the pieces on the old synths seem more “settled,” as the two say, the latter are “more exploratory and generally wacked out.”
While the “wacked out” sense may seem similar from the EP to the LP, the duo feels that there was a lot of change in between. “Our tastes have broadened considerably,” they said. “We decided to get rid of the computer and improvise. We had a deadline. We had to make a record for a broadly scoped record label [RVNG] on the other side of the world. So we just locked ourselves in a bedroom and smashed out the best music we possibly could.”
The ultimate constant in the Gardland process seems to be urgency. The speed of production and change are a siphon for Murray and Smith, which requires an undying array of ideas to not only be used, but thrown away during its creative live sessions.
“Every time we play we’re hearing something new–for us chasing weird ideas that are just out of reach is a necessity for playing a good show,” they said. “When we have made plans or tried to do something in particular for a live set it goes out the window within a couple minutes.” That note of change explains the variations between the EP and LP, but it gives Gardland its most important tool: an inexhaustible openness. While Syndrome Syndrome sounds confoundedly unique, its also relieving to know that what’s coming next will be assuredly different.
Syndrome Syndrome is set for release October 29, courtesy of RVNG. Pre-orders are available now.