When most people think of Australia, they think of surfers, kangaroos, “shrimp on the barbie,” and a smorgasbord of deadly animals living in the outback. Rarely will you hear about the Australian music scene, or the artists living there. One of these up-and-coming talents is atmospheric pop duo, Au.Ra. Jane’s Lament is the product of over two years of members Tom Crandles and Tim Jenkins jamming out to guitar and drum loops, and it’s apparent that the art of improvisation is one that they’ve mastered.
“Morning,” the album’s first track, has an indie rock-centric sound, not unlike The Strokes, with a highlight on simple guitar melodies over a consistent hammered bassline and drum beat. Au.Ra manage to stray from the pop single format by throwing occasional guitar noise into the song, with some accents completely going against the key, creating a confused dissonance. “Sun” and “Pyramid,” the next two songs, follow the same indie rock sound, but bring more elements of ambience and psychedelia into the mix, with guitar ad-libbing, as well as heavy reverb/tremolo effects use.
Jane’s Lament takes a very jazzy turn in “You’re On My Mind,” where it introduces swing beat drums, complete with snare drum ghost notes. Progressions are reminiscent of ‘80s and ‘90s house music, incorporating seventh chords and chromaticism, staccato bass, and synth textures. As the album wears on, more ambient and synth elements are added to the songs, almost as if there’s a sonic evolution. “Juki” is a 58-second-long spacey fanfare with several dynamic layers of synthesizers, each going off on their own time and meter. “Spare The Thought” builds up to a battle between guitar feedback and string melodies, completely overshadowing the drums, bass, and vocals.
“Width,” the final song, continues on the spacey theme originally established in “Juki” as it cycles between inaudible words being spoken through a loudspeaker, chunky synth bass chugs, atonal sine waves, and what sounds like a whale’s song. The final image made by Au.Ra is one of loss and discovery, confusion and clarity, outer space and the deep sea.
While musical contemporaries Tame Impala can be compared to the ‘70s psychedelic movement, Au.Ra is most certainly akin to the ‘80s house and new wave movements, with Tears For Fears and My Bloody Valentine coming out as major influences. Jane’s Lament not only creates synth-fueled soundscapes, but also invents a level of visibility and imagery rarely seen without synesthesia.