Hutt River Province – Hutt River Province

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Label: Ruined Smile Records

I never really got in to indie rock as a genre. I know that’s a pretty broad statement to make, but I’m sure we all have comparable ones we can make (“I don’t really get jazz”; “I’m not a fan of country”; and so on). So, it’s with a touch of difficulty that I approached this cassette from Hutt River Province, given that the music they play can largely be summed up as “slow 90s indie” – think Red House Painters, Codeine, and so on. It’s the sort of thing I’d normally pass on, but whereas the aforementioned bands never really grabbed me, there’s an underground, 90s-emo charm and vibe to this release that I’m quite a fan of, and that might appeal to others who wouldn’t describe themselves as big fans of indie. It’s warm and quite blissful, and sometimes, that’s exactly what you need.

The music is largely quiet and fairly slow, drifting along in something of a haze that’s quite relaxing and pleasant – equally suited for late nights and sunny days where doing nothing is the best idea. What really helps gives the release its charm, though, is the heavy DIY vibe throughout, as well as the hints of shoegaze, and use of field recordings to add character. Opener “Cement Hill” features a stunning moment where the guitars are allowed to roar, with the shoegaze haze being given an extra layer of fuzz and distortion, and the way the songs segue together through samples and field recordings creates a wonderful continuity. It reminds me of the way Indian Summer used old jazz records to tie their songs together, and is just as effective.

The production is a big plus, too. The guitars have a great warmth to them, simultaneously loud and quiet (think of My Bloody Valentine and you’re not far off), and the placing of the vocals at the back of the mix adds a certain ambiguity and dreaminess to proceedings, both of which I’m a fan of. The music wraps itself around you, and it’s such a feeling that it’s hard not to let it carry you away.

Side B of the tape is where the band get more adventurous and branch out. Described as a collection of field recordings, “West Of Warradale” has a real sense of life and variety to it that takes it beyond the indie genre in to more experimental areas, without once feeling unstructured or forced. By its very nature there’s a bit of an improvised air to it, but it never feels indulgent or sloppy. Instead, it uses that nature to feel full of life and energy – albeit in a very relaxing way.

And that probably best sums up this tape. Whereas my dislike of most indie rock stems from it feeling too sterile, safe, and tepid, these songs take those influences and add to them real feeling and energy, without overpowering the inherently relaxing and warm nature of music like this. It’s the perfect music for when you just want to be, letting the world drift by as you coast on the feeling Hutt River Province create; and what a feeling it is.

Hutt River Province can be streamed and downloaded via Bandcamp; a run of 50 cassettes is also available, via Ruined Smile Records.

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