Over the years, Melbourne-based alt-soul collective The Cactus Channel have developed a reputation for delivering intricate, genre-bending compositions. Their third self-produced studio album Stay A While is certainly no exception. Comprised of eleven captivating tracks that showcase the musical prowess and dynamism of the group, this is definitely an album for those with finely tuned musical ears. Jazz influences feature heavily on the record, mashed together with psychedelia, pop and soul, creating a sound that hints at the likes of BADBADNOTGOOD, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Grizzly Bear. Once again, TCC manage to retain their signature sound whilst incorporating vintage elements, and this time they introduce the entrancing vocals of Lewis Coleman to the mix.
Title track and opener ‘Stay A While’ sets the scene for a mesmerising sonic journey. Sun-drenched jangly guitars collide with bopping keys, whilst the deep hum of the horns section provides a perfect foundation. In the latter half, genius chord progressions shift between moments of calm and suspense. TCC are certainly not a band who are afraid to let their instruments shine, a similar approach to critically acclaimed indie rock group Whitney and one that is often disregarded by bands with a desire to reach mainstream audiences; but it is in this approach that they have managed to locate a precise balance in their music.
Arriving next is recent hit single ‘Storefront’, introducing the soulful, reassuring vocals of Coleman. The song gently ebbs and flow out of a psychedelic-infused haze, replete with clever horn arrangements, ethereal synthesisers and eclectic percussion. Meanwhile, track no. 5 ‘CMMNR’ immediately grabs the listener’s attention, almost transfixing you in a state of hypnosis as the instruments take centre stage. Obscure chords, a domineering horns section and jazz-infused percussion induce a mood of sheer suspense, making this a stand out track.
Recent triple j favourite and number seven on the album, Leech, brings us back up to speed with an intoxicating beat. The soothing croons of Coleman meld perfectly with intricately layered instrumentation, gradually building throughout the track and slowing down only momentarily for an electrifying bridge. Super tight percussion ensures the excitement is retained throughout the entirety of the song.
Next up, instrumental track ‘And Then They Rubbed Their Tired Eyes’ introduces quirky space-age synthesisers, immersing the listener in a rich, eerie soundscape and providing the perfect lead into the enthralling six minute ballad ‘Stop Me’. Captivating vocals float effortlessly along with melancholy saxophones whirling in and out of frame, almost mimicking a state of falling in and out of consciousness. The beautiful chords, angelic harmonies and pattering drumbeats are utterly entrancing, whilst a clever switch between time signatures ensures the listener is kept on their toes.
As a body of work, Stay A While is cohesive, versatile and introspective; the kind of record you could put on during a long overnight drive to keep you sane. This review has only briefly touched on some of the tracks on the album, so grab a pair of headphones, whisk yourself away from reality and discover for yourself why The Cactus Channel are making some of the most interesting, clever music around right now.
The band will also soon be traversing the country on a national album tour. Make sure you catch them in the flesh at their upcoming album launch at Marrickville’s Factory Theatre! See below for a full list of tour dates...
Words by Renee de la Motte