Words by Keane Fletcher
I’m going to be frank: the world is pretty shit at the moment. Floods, wars, the ongoing pandemic…you could be forgiven in thinking that music would be the last thing on anyone’s minds right now. But that’s the artist’s job, isn’t it? To take all the mess of living and channel it into something palatable and cathartic. Well, that’s where South Australian-based duo Tonix come in, who’s latest single ‘ERA’ takes all the dystopian weirdness of the last few years and funnels it into 3 minutes of pulsing, jazz-inflected electronica. It won’t make you forget your troubles exactly, but it’ll certainly motivate you to dance them away.
With only a handful of tracks to their name (they did only form last year after all PLUS members Archie McEwen and Henry Brill Reed are only 16!), Tonix are still relatively new to the scene, though you may have seen them strutting their stuff on the streets of Adelaide where they busk regularly, as well as performing at a few underground venues throughout the city. I mention this because these are obviously two musicians who love what they do, seizing whatever opportunities they can to perform and hone their craft. And lucky for us too, considering how few techno/jazz fusion groups there are currently working in Australia. Taking their cue from UK groups like The Comet Is Coming instead, Tonix’s sound combines seemingly disparate elements (think thumping synths and bright curling saxophone) to create a strangely addictive party-scape, a sonic safe space that’s equal parts Berghain and Bennetts Lane Jazz Club.
‘ERA', the latest track from the duo, takes this basic formula and pushes it to new, more tactile extremes. Says band member Archie McEwen:
‘ERA' was born in an attempt to capture some of the darker techno sides of our sound…to encapsulate the raw intensity and thump that we try to deliver live in Adelaide venues.
And you can hear exactly that. The production is smartly designed to reflect an in-person acoustic and as a result the track pulses with the raw energy of a live gig. Low synths and basses distort at the edges like they would if you were standing too close a speaker (and were, perhaps, a few vodka-red-bulls deep), and the saxophone, when it comes, pops through the chaotic din like pockets of brass-inflected sunshine. It’s the kind of song that is so well attuned to the needs of the dance floor that it’s impossible not to move your body. The beat drops and your serotonin rises. I mean who doesn’t love an E-Street style saxophone over their sub 808s? The use of vintage samples only adds to this feeling of exuberant excess, establishing the song’s unique tone from the get go, one that is both nihilistic and tongue-in-cheek. It feels — and I mean this in the best way possible — almost hand-made, as if each element of the song has been handled and considered from a multitude of angles, each beat drop and synth pulse carefully selected and placed for maximum effect.
And while the combination of techno and jazz might not be to every purist’s taste, ‘ERA' is definitely a track with a broad mass appeal, nailing that tricky sweet spot between hard-hitting techno (the kind that’ll loosen the fillings in your teeth) and more melodic styles of dance music. The kind of song you might want to chuck on when the outside world is getting too much and only a beat drop will do.
You can stream 'ERA' now wherever you listen to good music!
Thanks for stopping by Hipland!