Lights & Music: The Best of Australian Bloghouse
We go back to late 2000s with help from Bag Raiders, PNAU and The Presets, plus more.
Header Photo: The Presets at Webster Hall in 2008 by NickyDigital.
Since the mid-90s, Australia’s alternative music scene has floated between music genres, something that becomes strikingly evident as you watch the evolution of triple j’s Hottest 100 over the post 20 or so years. In 1994, it was the dark, grungy sounds of Nirvana, Silverchair, Nine Inch Nails and The Offspring. In 1999 we saw a rise in techno-influenced electronic music with Fatboy Slim and The Chemical Brothers, joined by Moby and Groove Armada in 2000. By 2002, Australia had returned to rock'n'roll, with Queens Of The Stone Age, Grinspoon, The Vines and the Chili Peppers. Genres and movements come and go, and in Australia bloghouse and dance music really started to make its mark in the mid-2000s.
So what is bloghouse exactly? Well, much like the mid-90s grunge era, it wasn’t so much a genre as it was a movement. An insurgence of small, mp3-hosting music blogs that shared anything and everything (which eventually caused the conception of Hypemachine) caused a mammoth rise in low-bitrate electro-house, indie-dance and fidget, which spread like wildfire and was played out over clubs around the world no matter what the distortion levels on those rips were like. The French were always one step ahead, with the Ed Banger crew and Justice building on that ever-popular Daft Punk sound to release some of the finest work of the bloghouse era. Outside of France, the remaining European scene was just as strong, with Boys Noize (Germany) and Soulwax (Belgium) becoming international front-runners, while in the US and UK Hervé, A-Trak and Switch matched by their transatlantic neighbours Simian Mobile Disco and Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. The whole bloghouse culture was a pretty interesting time. Sweaty, drug-ridden club-goers, dressed in neon jumpers and raybans or Kanye-shutter glasses to match, danced until the sun rose every week.
One thing I noticed is that amongst the pile of articles and columns about bloghouse and its sudden explosion, Australia was largely left on their own. In 2007, international bloghouse heavyweights found their match in Australia’s own movement, spearheaded by receord label Modular Recordings along with dance legend AJAX (RIP), and basically floating Parklife music festival until its eventual disbandenment in favour of what you now know as Listen Out. Whilst our involvement in the bloghouse craze might have not been as significant as France’s for example, it still had a lasting impact on many people working with dance music today and many believe it paved the way for Australian becoming the globally recgonised dance music powerhouse it has become.
There’s a small group of people still dedicated to this bloghouse sound, one of which being A-Trak. Eight months ago, the Fools Gold head-honcho and world-class turntablist dropped his Bloghaus Revival Mix, followed by a second one last month. With these mixes came a sudden re-interest in the bloghouse days, with FACTmag recently putting together THIS killer playlist, and blogs like THUMP predicting that 2016 could see the revival of the bloghouse days.
And to keep that vibe going we thought why not revisit those hedonistic, care-free days of fluro jackets, Kanye sunglasses and green mitzi's:
Bag Raiders - Shooting Stars
What would a playlist about Australian electronic music be without Bag Raiders’ Shooting Stars? Still getting a huge reception on any dancefloor in 2016, Shooting Stars has everything you need – a sun-soaked synth melody, a groovy bass-line, earworming lyrics and just a fucking vibe. Released in 2009, smack-bang in the middle of the bloghouse phenomenon, Shooting Stars is Bag Raiders’ pièce de résistance. It’s timeless in the most genius of ways, only taking a quick re-listening of the single’s catchy chorus line before it’s drilled in your head again. Speaking of which, apologies in advance to anyone I come across in the next week, as I’ll no doubt be humming Shooting Stars’ melody non-stop after writing this. Dammit Bag Raiders, you evil geniuses.
Bonus track: Fun Punch AKA the track that started it all for Bag Raiders in 2007, and an absolute thumper:
Cut Copy - Lights & Music
With four albums, two EPs and over a dozen remixes, the worst thing about Cut Copy is having to pin-point a single track in their career that highlights the band and their sound. In Ghost Colours, their second release, was named by Pitchfork as one 2008’s best albums (#4), and their 2011 album Zonoscope was just as impressive. Even Free Your Mind, whilst not as popular as its predecessors, snuck in a couple of solid tunes. That being said, if anyone were to come up to me and say “hey, link me your favourite Cut Copy song!” I would have trouble looking past Lights & Music (whilst simultaneously understanding that you'd probably say Hearts On Fire). Taken from their second album, Lights & Music is Cut Copy at their finest, with the vocals of frontman Dan Whitford driving a lashing, synth-soaked beat that incorporates the best of electronic and the best of rock on one track.
KIM - Wet N Wild (Midnight Juggernauts Remix)
Some of you may not know this, but the Kim Moyes half of The Presets has been DJing and producing for basically as long as that act has been going. And while these days he often veers into the darker techy sounds, back in the bloghouse days he was throwing out electro jams left right and centre. Wet N Wild was already a pretty big tuna, but Midnight Juggernauts turned into a bombastic riot back in 2009:
Muscles - Ice Cream
Muscles’ Ice Cream is another one of those immortal tracks in Australia’s dance music history, guaranteed to get people singing along the second you hit play. Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, Ice Cream sounds like a single you would expect from an Australian, male version of Robyn. Ice Cream is peak Australian bloghouse, but didn't lead to much more success for Muscles who disappeared until recently when he released an album in April entitled Gods.
The Presets - This Boy's In Love
Whilst My People is an obvious shoe-in for a playlist like this, I feel like This Boy’s In Love encompasses this electro-house sound a whole lot better for The Presets. A song you could be assured would feature at least three times in one morning on Rage (or 2008-era Channel V, even), This Boy’s In Love takes a single you would expect from the Pet Shop Boys and injects full of Australian flavour, with an aching, frenzied synth line that wildly spins behind the track’s catchy, anthemic vocals. While we’re at it, Talk Like That was bloody good too.
Bonus track: Girl And The Sea kinda makes for a nice companion piece to This Boy's In Love.
New Young Pony Club - Ice Cream (Van She Tech Remix)
If you see “Van She Tech Remix” attached to a single, you know it’s going to be good. The remixing arm of disbanded Australian trio Van She, their remix of New Young Pony Club’s Ice Cream takes a bloghouse song and make it even bloghouse-ier. A dark, Jusice-esque synth line dominates the track’s retro breakdown, which also sports one of the genre’s finest cowbell lines. Their remixes for Feist, The Presets, Tiga and Strange Talk are up there with the best, and explains why Nicky Night Time and Touch Sensitive have both forged strong solo careers in the years since.
Van She - Sex City
While Kelly is probably Van She's all-time most popular song, Sex City was the single that really got the ball rolling. A dirty ode to 80s new wave, the driving, live drums and sexy af vocals got an absolute thrashing on our nation's youth boadcaster. Their second album, Idea Of Happiness, didn't quite reach the heights of the first, and as mentioned above going their separate ways has worked out to be the best thing for basically everyone in the group.
Miami Horror - Sometimes
Back in 2008, Miami Horror were far different to the hit-making machines they are today. Sometimes was the Melbourne group’s break-out single, blending indie-pop influences with deep synthtronica to create a delicious slice of synth-pop, which eventually saw the track added onto the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack and opening the band to an international audience. Nowadays, the group are long-past their Australian house days, being one of the stand-outs of this year’s Coachella. Good on ‘em.
Bonus Track: Their remix of Midnight Juggernatu's Road To Recovery didn't really go anywhere beyond the electronic music blogs of the day, but it is a certified banger.
Shazam - Pool Party
A bit of Perth pride for this one has hometown bloghouse hero Shazam enters the fray with this bouncy little nu-disco number. There's also a remix of Jona Vark by Gypsy & The Cat he done did that was bloody great.
PNAU - Embrace
Fun Fact: PNAU were actually one of the crews that got me interested in Australian dance music. Consisting of Nick Littlemore (of Empire of the Sun and Ladyhawke) and Peter Mayes, PNAU were the source of several pre-10s stompers, the best of which being Embrace. Embrace is the audio symbol of summer, with a bubbly synth melody and anthemic vocals (sung by Ladyhawke herself, by the way) that are simply impossible to forget. Whilst we’re on the topic of PNAU, I feel like now is a good time to re-visit the video clip to their track Baby and simply mouth “what the hell am I watching”, because let’s face it – that clip never really made sense to anyone.
Grafton Primary - Relativity
The brothers Garden (Joshua and Benjamin) popped up around 2007/08 when the Modular glory days were really hitting their straps, sliding in pretty comfortably alongside the likes of The Presets and Cut Copy as a live dance act. Relativity was their first salvo, and while a couple of albums followed afterwards they never really topped it.
Like Woah! - Oh I Like (Whitenoise Remix)
We know absolutely nothing about Like Woah! except they released this song in 2007 and it is one of those huge electro tunes that is full of the kind of crunchy synths and snares we came to know and love of this era of music. The remixer on this occasion, Whitenoise, is technically American, but Like Woah! are Australian and this is a banger so here it is. Like Woah! did so little after this you can only find 'em on MySpace.
Midnight Juggernauts - Into The Galaxy
Taken from their debut album Dystopia, Into the Galaxy is one of Midnight Juggernauts’ finest pieces of work. Emerging at the same time as their more electronic-leaning friends on this playlist, Midnight Juggernauts toyed with a darker sound of electro-pop, playing with a sound heavier in guitar and delving into psych territory. This guitar-infused electronica evolved over the next few years post-bloghouse, paving the way for bands like Tame Impala, who arrived in 2010 with the Innerspeaker album. Into The Galaxy aside, the entirety of their 2010 album The Crystal Axis was pretty damn good too.
Bonus track: Tombstone, also from Dystopia, is arguably the group's heaviest moment, and turned d-floors into a sweaty mess anytime it was played.
Riot In Belgium - The Acid Never Lies
Sure La Musique was the more commercially popular of Riot In Belgium's only two original tracks, but The Acid... is for those who wanna go deeper. Much, much deeper. Half of this duo, Beni, has still been pumping out some quality house tunes in the year's since Bang Gang and Riot In Belgium have left us.
Aston Shuffle - For Everyone
After rising through club ranks in 2006/07 with remixes, For Everyone was their first single and was one of the signifier's for Aussie dance music's descent deeper in the electro-house/club world and away from live acts. And it's not hard to see why - this has both eyes firmly locked on the club with grinding synths and high energy tempo.
Ladyhawke - My Delirium
Although technically from New Zealand, here's where we blur the lines and say that our transpacific neighbours are close enough that she counts as an Australian (like Lorde at Splendour). My Delirium, taken from Ladyhawke's self-titled debut album, is Australian dance music at its best. From the second that opening synth melody hits, My Delirium captivates you, not letting you loose until it's final, blazing guitar riff ends, with Ladyhawke's soaring vocals put on a pedestal to become the obvious highlight. Much like many of the other songs on this list, My Delirium has a chorus line that's anthemic and powerful, always stirring up a massive singalong whenever it's played out.
Sneaky Sound System - UFO
Sneaky Sound System were probably the most ‘mainstream’ act on this line-up, but you would be kidding yourself by saying you don’t have a sneaky soft spot for the group. UFO is probably the most memorable of their work, with THAT chorus line “I saw a UFO and nobody believes me” being played endlessly in the glory days of Channel V and eventually saw front-woman Connie Mitchell named as one of Australia’s greatest 20 vocalists of all time. Ahhhhhh, 2008 was a better time.
Bonus track: It's pretty hard to go past the Tonite Only rework of Pictures - that shit still goes off.
Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream
We'll bookend this list much the same way we started - with a track that instantly evokes a response on the dancefloor even though it's almost a decade old. Once that first vocal kicks in for Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore's powerhouse duo it's game on. Experienced quite the resurgence thanks to a bloody car ad in the US earlier this year.