Album Walkthrough: Felicity Groom breaks down Magnetic Resonance Centre
With guest collaborators including Kevin Parker, Felicity Groom's third record is a spiralling descent into experimental pop.
It's difficult to find a musician that has pushed the core of West Australia's live space as much as Felicity Groom, and that's saying something, considering there was a seven-year gap between her last two records.
Her 2011-released debut record Gossamer was a stand-out release that made her an exciting addition to Perth's live music ecosystem, somewhere she wouldn't really leave throughout the recording and release of her second record Hungry Sky. If the first album was an introduction to Groom and the snapshots of her life that underpin her music, then Hungry Sky was a reflection of how things have changed; incorporating learnings not just from the first album, but from broader life moments that matured Felicity Groom, and saw her songwriting evolve.
After sharing and touring Hungry Sky, however, Felicity Groom put things on pause. She took a few years out of the limelight to embrace motherhood, and following that, she had to learn the dynamics of creativity - let alone music creation specifically - in a busier household, and how to find a balance between the parts of her life after the upheaval that came with having kids. "It’s not easy making music with new babies," she told us earlier in the year. "For one whole year, you’re so sleep deprived that you can’t think... let alone think creatively."
Instead, Felicity Groom had to experiment - experiment with time, experiment with different methods of creative release and musical creation, experiment with different ways of thinking - to create music within her changing life, and her third record Magnetic Resonance Centre (out October 28th) is the end product. As it seems, the experimentation that went into the record emerges within its sound too, with Magnetic Resonance Centre being an exploration of Groom's work but at its most left-field and versatile, moving between snapshots of her multi-faceted sound with the grace and charm that's long defined Felicity Groom's rise.
Across the space of 13 tracks, Magnetic Resonance Centre delves into the depths of pop music's outer edges, and the experimentalism that underpins its evolution forward. It moves with an electronic understudy that flexes between subtle and refined right through to dance-y and lively; Dance For None, for example, capturing a close friend and collaborator in Tame Impala's Kevin Parker for an indie-electronic wash of psych-pop that's amongst the year's most infectious, while Backwards Forwards dabbles in the opposite, drawing inspiration from the world around her and as such, nestles samples of life through dreamy, washed-out pop.
"After some courses in Ableton, I branched out on adventure never taken before to produce my own album," says Felicity on the record, sharing yet another way in which the album is marked by personal exploration and experimentation. "It has been predominantly written and recorded in my house in-between daytime naps that my children would have. It’s not easy making music with new babies. For one whole year, you’re so sleep deprived that you can’t think... let alone think creatively. I really got into the swing of things when my children both settled into long mid day naps. I’d ignore all household chores and work like mad until they woke up.
"If you soloed some of the tracks, you’ll hear the children in the background... playing and running down the hall. Some of those sounds I harnessed and turned into beats and percussive elements.”
Another way in which Magnetic Resonance Centre's left-field creativeness shines is in Galactagogue, an audio-visual experience that takes the foundations of the record and breathes new life into them, worked on alongside visual artist/filmmaker Poppy van Oorde-Grainger and artists such as Curtis Taylor and Dominic Pearce. There's also a launch to the record coming at Mojo's this November - more information here - which again will show another way the album can live; the record quickly taking on multiple forms joined together with Felicity's prowess in songwriting and production.
You can listen to the album below, alongside a track-by-track walkthrough dissecting the record's inner themes and creation, one song at a time.
Just like water makes the shape of that which contains it, the innate human being adapts as best they can. The 5/4 pulse of the tune beats out a retro-future feel that projects the listener into parallel universes of various versions of now. It is said that to be human is to make mistakes… computers however also make mistakes, they just make lots of them in a very short amount of time and learn from those mistakes and correct accordingly. Mistakes are in fact a good thing. Good music at its essence is the fruits of a bunch of mistakes cleverly woven together to make something new. If the computer keeps correcting itself so much that it can’t make any more mistakes… then where is it’s creativity?
We all know that creativity wins… So maybe we’ll all be ok.
Produced after the band The Courtneys came to stay at my house...
The melody flew in the window of my car while driving from one thing to another. Imagine cats in roller-skates. Life can sometimes feel like that. Then there’ll be that one little thing that makes the rest of the crap melt away with the effect of a reverse ice cream.
Once upon a time, in a suburban Perth, young Groom first met a young Heath Ledger at a school social. In those teen years of warping bodies and expanding horizons, Groom and Ledger danced around each other at various performances and parties. She witnessed this kid work hard and catapult himself from chicken advert to Hollywood and it provided the teenage Groom such focus in her own path. She looked forward to the time when she could thank him for that.
Many years later that name came back into her home through two separate musicians from LA visiting town at the same time. As the last song written for Magnetic Resonance Centre, Hey Sun was forged as an open letter to a big influence on a small-town teen.
Our appointed leaders are all out of whack at the moment. It’s no wonder that comic book characters are having this massive surge on pay TV. We are living in a seriously close version to that paradigm. This song was a band effort from conception…. Michael Jelinek assisting with chordal changes and Andrew Ryan assisting with structure and parts.
In its first version, it was kinda post-rock. I didn’t want a straight out rock song… so I took it back and had a tinker. I made it more like a mechanical music box. Then Andrew Ryan added the bass line and Michael Jelinek redid the drums and mixed it. Special shout outs go to Jamie Hutchings for lending an ear to the track and Amanda Burton who played flute on this track. For someone who only reads written music and someone who only plays by ear… we got there! Also shout outs to Charlie Podbury who played her sax on another track that didn’t make the album… so I moved her parts in this song.
Burj Khalifa was born after a family holiday to Dubai. The combination of learning that the Burj Khalifa moves in the wind and loving the title and tunes of Leon Vynehalls album of 2018 Nothing Is Still was enough of a meditation to begin this mantra-like tune. Burj Khalifa is a propulsive and entrancing house groove pop song that doesn't sound like anything else.
SOONER THAN THE SUN
This song took an epic developmental journey. I loved it’s Doris Day like melody… but wanted it to be part of today's world of production. I was pretty new at producing my own stuff when I started this song and by the end I had some tricks up my sleeve. So this was one of the earlier songs written but one of the later songs to be finished. When Andrew Ryan added that seven-note bass line, the end became clearer.
Lyrically it was initially a reaction to being told I was no longer in the age bracket for a particular radio station. Being confronted with my own mortality was difficult considering that I already had all these identity adjustments going on post children. I wanted to stare into the face of things… and still come out smiling.
DANCE FOR NONE
Produced by Kevin Parker and myself, this is banger that righteously an infallibly tells my two young daughters that they should dance for nobody.
This is about Australia's adolescent attitude to standing up and confronting its own dark history.
I wrote this song mostly when I was down the south-west coast of Western Australia… and it’s probably the most laid back tracks on the album. Everything else is either ladder to an emotional hotspot or a slide to a party. This one just cruises in-between. Horns on this track were played by Jimmy ‘The Lips’ Murphy who tirelessly had to replicate the single notes of each midi chord as I played them as its been a long time since I’ve had to write a score.
I’LL BE YOUR BEACON
This tune is about big big love. It was very tempting to add drums to the whole of this track. In fact I did at one stage… but they were thrown out again. One of the earliest tracks written for the album, it was beautiful to have friends Hayley Jane Ayres and Tristen Parr bring my midi string lines to life. This track is not on the vinyl.
ALL OF YOU
I have a complex relationship with social media. I realise that it’s important to use in the context of musical promotion… but I like to be private about my own life. I this song I navigate the feelings that get raised in me every time I have to make a post. Having no previous experience in mixing on my own, Michael Jelinek did a fantastic job on the whole album in pulling the sounds out and accentuating the sonic themes. He had a lot of crazy tracks to manage in every song…and he managed them very well.
It’s amazing that your cells are forever in your child and MORE THAN THAT… your child’s cells are forever now part of you! The moment a kid is born, it’s quite evident who they are. It’s innate. That personality just gets amplified. I look at both my kids and not only see ancestors in their faces… but also see personality traits… passed down. The way they make decisions, their humour. It all goes with this idea of energy never-ending.
TRIPLE QUANTUM COHERENCE
This the end to that big adventure... the point the needle finally slides off the vinyl.
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