Global Beat Australia: Emotional landscapes from Jaala, Harmony Byrne, and Sarah Elise Thompson

Artists Harmony Bryne, Jaala and Sarah Elise Thompson. Photo by Maddie Stephensen, Wilk and Billie-Jean Bullard.

KCRW’s Global Beat is a new series highlighting emerging artists from around the world. We’re kicking the series off with our friends in Australia by partnering with The Australian Music Alliance and the Australian Music Radio Airplay Project (Amrap), a uniquely Australian organization designed to support Australian music on public radio.

KCRW DJ Raul Campos hosts along with Amrap Manager Andrew Khedoori for weekly Aussie artist spotlights. This week we’re featuring singular sounds spanning myriad genres. From hypnotic grooves, to vocals that’ll reverberate in your bones, to a solo piano piece that will probably make you cry (in a good way), we’re coming for all of your feelings with this one. Catch up on all the artists from the series (plus bonus tracks!) with our Global Beat: Australia playlist

Jaala - “Workhorse

Cosima Jaala, Maria Moles and Carolyn Schofield (aka Fia Fiell) come together as Melbourne three piece Jaala, creating a hypnotic mood with a great sense of adventure. Photo by Wilk. 

Jaala is out of Melbourne, and named after the band's leader and guitarist Cosima Jaala, who draws this incredible fizzy imagery from her guitar. As much as just pulling out some really great licks, I find her approach to playing really unique and the same goes for the other members in the band; drummer and percussionist Maria Moles, and Carolyn Schofield on synths. They really work in sync for this nuanced sense of dynamics throughout their new album “Gap Tooth.” We're firmly in atmospheric art rock territory here and I love how Jaala do so much to create this hypnotic mood with so little. I listen to this and it's like the musical equivalent of taking a most satisfying, much needed deep breath. That inhale exhale feeling we sometimes don't know we’re looking for. I hear this song, and I just want to be wrapped up in it. 

Harmony Byrne - “ Kings & Queens

Coming out of rural Victoria, Harmony Byrne collaborates with the Teskey Brothers to create her alt-Americana sound. Photo by Maddie Stephensen.

Alt-country was born in the U.S. It’s not called Americana for nothing. So I know I better be on my game if I'm going to bring some alt-country sounds from Australia into the mix here on KCRW. I think I've done pretty well here with a singer songwriter called Harmony Byrne, who's out of rural Victoria. Production on this track comes from one of the biggest groups in the country right now. They're called the Teskey Brothers, and two of the members of that band run a studio where they helped make all of this happen. But what's really happening on this track is the voice of Harmony Byrne. She’s set-up with just the barest elements delicately played out to give you a little hint of gospel and soul vibes coming through.

Sarah Elise Thompson - “ Pink Salt

Sydney-based composer and pianist Sarah Elise Thompson is in high demand for composition. All the while making the space to release her own material. Photo by Billie-Jean Bullard.

Sara fits into that space that's become known as modern classical, or neo classical. Think of someone like Ólafur Arnalds. I absolutely hate those tags. I think it's a bugbear of sorts for these artists because a lot of them make instrumental music with classic instruments, but they very much want to take those instruments — such as the piano — into a different space. And that's what Sara Elise Thompson is doing here. There's a really small, but devoted scene of artists moving around the orbit of this type of music in Australia. It's particularly huge in Europe, but for most of the artists making it here… they've got this real lightness of touch that's often inspired by aspects of the Australian landscape. So whatever you call this solo piano piece, it's nowhere near Mozart or Bach. It's way more unanchored, way more free form, and it runs way more on sensation than structure. I love the poise that it maintains as it slowly curls around you. It’s from an album called “self centre,” which shows the full range of Sara's compositional skills. In the meantime, this one may just stop you in your tracks for a few minutes.





Raul Campos, Adam Burke