What is it about Australians and travelling? It's like the moment they hit 18 they feel compelled to sling a backpack over their shoulder and catch the first flight to... well, anywhere that isn’t Australia. From Tunbridge Wells to Timbuktu, they seem to keep half the world’s pubs and bars staffed, or at least in business. Either Australia’s too boring to stay there post-school, or Australians have a natural wanderlust that can’t be suppressed.
Young Magic’s Isaac Emmanuel certainly has the latter. The album he's created, with the help of fellow Aussie Michael Italia and Indonesian Melati Malay, contains music recorded in an estimated ten countries, in places as disparate as Granada, Reykjavik and Mexico City. The band has finally settled, for now at least, in New York. There, huddled in a cold loft above a 1920s opium den-themed bar, they set about collating their aural snapshots and blending them into a blissful, mellifluous record, aptly entitled “Melt.”
The opening three tracks provide as good an introduction to an album as you're likely to hear all year. Opener “Sparkly” is exactly that, a shimmering, twinkling concoction as tender as a tiny animal opening its fragile eyelids for the first time. “Slip Time” is a little more forceful, featuring a high-pitched squawking noise not unlike aforementioned tiny animal’s mother discovering a trio of Australasians in a scrum around its baby, trying to record its first murmurings. “You with Air” concludes this tasty triptych with singing that sounds like a human imitation of aforementioned mother trying to protect her aforementioned baby, over what would be a cheesy techno riff if it wasn't slowed down to a lush, languid pace, spiced up with a bit of tribal drumming.
There's quite a lot of tribal drumming. Chances are it’s performed on authentic instruments too. Emmanuel has explained how the nomadic nature of the recording process meant he was often forced to use whatever he had to hand to make music from. On one occasion he was lucky enough to be staying in Bristol with some professors who just happened to collect West African instruments (the hook on “Slip Time” sounds like it's played on a large kalimba). Yet even when not so lucky, he still made attempts to incorporate his surroundings into the music – he's currently trying to utilise a sample of a door slamming in Reykjavik.
Considering the improvised nature of composition, you’d expect the album to be all over the place. It’s a testament to the production skills of the band that it isn’t. Unfortunately, it’s also the record's greatest failing. Like last year’s “Dreams Come True” album by CANT, it's a gorgeous collection of music, but only a few songs really distinguish themselves. While it's true that there are no real low points, nothing reaches the staggering standard it sets itself early on, either. A few come close; “The Dancer” is deftly intoxicating, “Cavalry” is a deep, warped salute, and even the shrillest chillwave-bashers could be charmed by the sumptuous “Night in the Ocean.”
In fact, the ocean is a good metaphor for this album – fluid, expansive and border-less. Also, like gazing at the sea for hours, very little changes. In this sense the album almost becomes an allegory for globalisation – a true product of many different countries, but one that results in homogeneity rather than diversity. Of course, if all homogeneity sounded as gorgeous as “Melt” does, I'd be the first to advocate chucking everything into the melting pot. It's just odd that, considering this is an album created in a way that wouldn't have been possible even ten years ago, it still sounds like it could've been made in a single bedroom.
Maybe that's a petty gripe. “Melt” isn’t intended to revolutionise music. Nor is it a musical travelogue. Just like so many Australians who’ve hopped from continent to continent without ever losing their national identity, Young Magic have swallowed up influences from all over the world and converted them into something only they themselves could've produced.