“The Old Capital” is the debut album from Melbourne composers Claire Deak and Tony Dupé. The album is their first recorded collaboration, though Dupé has released two solo albums under the name Saddleback. 

The duo describes themselves as a home orchestra well-suited for late night rambling. Much like traveling in the dark of night, the sound explorations found throughout The Old Capital come into view seemingly out of nowhere. Headstrong rhythms of shuffling organic debris and lumbering stomps help light the path with some brief success, only to be swallowed up by a slow moving fog of droning organs and dampened strings. However with the proper guides, finding ones footing in this shadowy landscape doesn’t have to be difficult. Claire and Tony echo this sentiment throughout with a fine balance of both playful and haunting passages. Their confidence reassures us that once our eyes adjust to the dark, it need not be a frightening place.”

Once I saw this listed on the release schedule of Lost Tribe Sound my interest was piqued as I am familiar with the second Saddleback album “Night Maps” and like that particular album, there is no shortage of atmosphere on “The Old Capital”. The music on this album tends to free itself of genre classification. The only sort of consistency throughout is it’s organic nature. The pieces definitely take the listener into fresh sound worlds were genre is a fluid term. With a cabal of instruments used such as pianos, accordion, harp, harpsichord, pump organs, pipe organ, recorder, flute, trumpet, euphonium, clarinets, stroh violin, viola, wulf fidel, cello, double bass, guitar, charango, mandolin, baritone ukulele, banjo, xylophone, glockenspiel, gamelan, drums and voices, you know you are in for a musical treat. 

With a rustic feel to the pieces in parts and at times an almost dream like approach to others, the music benefits from Dupé’s three decades worth of musical experience (going back to his early 90’s indie band Glovebox), while Deak has also leant her vocals and instruments to a handful of other releases. There is something very reminiscent with the recording of “The Old Capital” and “Night Songs”, in the sense that it puts the listener into the heart of the material and places you within the recording. While on a riff about the recording, let’s head back to the atmosphere. There is a certain darkness to the music, but not one like that of Dark Ambient works. Instead there is this cinematic feeling of dread with the music having a heartbeat quality throughout which increases this feeling. I can just picture a film captured in the dusk to dawn period of the night when something personal and bad is going to go down.

Listening to the release you can see why this is on the Lost Tribe Sound label. For those who are familiar with the label and their main artist William Ryan Fritch, will note the affinity that Deak and Dupé share with Fritch. Label boss Ryan Keane notes that the duo from Melbourne, Australia are from a continent “known for cobbling genres together in ways that leave just enough of the roughhewn framework showing”. There is this raw honesty that comes across in the pieces that at times reveals a vulnerability and fragility and at others this full orchestral flourish. There is also an Australian feeling the sound which touches on the countries affinity to folk music be it avant-garde or traditional, in a similar fashion to that of a band like The Dirty Three can only come from those shores. In some ways it feels like it could be a soundtrack to a Peter Temple novel as it has this raw, but mysterious soundscape. At the time of recording the second Saddleback album Dupé lived on the New South Wales coast in a place called Kangaroo Valley and you can’t help but think he absorbed some of the influences of nature from the area.

Describing separate tracks defeats the purpose of the release as it is a complete album rather than a collection of tracks. Each track has it’s own particular DNA while very much entwined in with each other. Even when more electronic elements are introduced such as on “Before Dark” it still fits in with the organic qualities of the music. If I was pushed to describe it I would say it is Experimental/Folk/Alt Country/Cinematic/Drone/Electroacoustic/Modern Classical/Acoustic and I would still be missing out on a fair bit. I would also describe it as a definite listen, especially for those who have honed in on what the Lost Tribe Sound label is all about. “The Old Capital” is officially released on October 5 with just under a dozen cd’s remaining at time of publication and also available on Digital.

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