Since it's initial 2007 release, Naked on the Vague's debut album ‘"the Blood Pressure Sessions" has gone on to floor people across the globe landing them with a enviable vinyl re-issue on the influential US imprint Siltbreeze. The album is a deep dive into the depths of apocalyptic pop and psychedelic weirdness. Disparate vocals grip onto stabbing keys and menacing hook-laden bass lines, pushed on by a relentless drum machine, far past its warranty period, giving the whole of their sound a sonorous curtain of ecstatic foreboding. Essentially a ‘punk assault ranging from some almost dance-able short and sharp ‘hits’ to gloomy extended freak-outs. Lucy and Mathew take direction from where the short lived no-wave movement ended, expanding on what that imploded scene could have garnished had it not succumbed to its own fatalistic shortcomings.
01 Old Leader 3:23
02 All Aboard 2:53
03 Mothers Footsteps 1:50
04 The Horse, He's Sick 4:57
05 Brown Sun/ Sydney Lane Roads 5:54
06 Lonely Boys 3:09
07 God Nor Devil 0:49
08 Blood Pressure 3:47
09 The Beach Part 2 2:26
"You could argue that Sydney, Australia's Naked on the Vague are a bit of a 1980s-retro band, but only if you're thinking about the dark side of the decade-- no wave instead of new wave. Their first full length, The Blood Pressure Sessions, is mired in Reagan-era dread. Released last year on the Australian label Dual Plover and now given a U.S. vinyl treatment by Siltbreeze, the record drips with hollow contempt and dull scorn. It's the Southern Hemisphere's dark photo-negative answer to Times New Viking's Paisley Reich.
Comprised of keyboardist Lucy Cliché, bassist Matthew P. Hopkins, and a drum machine, Naked on the Vague churn out stripped-down and monotonous post-punk. The rhythms are primitive; the most animated songs rely on little more than the incessant thud of a bass drum. Likewise, any pretense of harmony is chucked out the window. As a result, it's easy draw a straight line from a Naked on the Vague song like "All Aboard"-- with it's slanted riff and stone-age drum loop-- to the esoteric scuzz of the past. But although Naked on the Vague wear some influences on their sleeves-- whether that's downtown noise, Flying Nun Records, or Huggy Bear LPs-- The Blood Pressure Sessions is more than just skilled homage. The band's take on post-punk is familiar but also tight and contemporary.
Naked on the Vague aren't abrasive in the Dead C sense, out to fully lobotomize their audience with skree and treble. In fact, when compared to the production value of other records released on Siltbreeze-- a label whose reputation was built on shrill hiss and white noise-- The Blood Pressure Sessions is startlingly clear and intensely silent. "All Aboard" is sheared down to the most meager of ingredients-- one circular drumbeat, a bass riff, and a and a malnourished keyboard melody. There's nothing else, not even amp hiss. But all of the negative space enhances the pervading sense of desolation. None of the instruments resonate and each lyric hangs in the air for only a moment before vanishing back into the void, as if the band are performing in a vacuum chamber.
Naked on the Vague also have a penchant for dubby textures that have more in common with the current Fuck It Tapes school of psychedelic music than to no wave. "Brown Sun/Sydney Lane Road" is six-minutes of clanking abstract percussion and flat vocal drones. There are accordion trills and lonesome trumpet farts thrown into the mix, but the sounds are hardly lush. Rather, they're restrained, like something from a claustrophobic horror-movie soundtrack. These moments alone don't divide them from the weirdos of yesteryear. Where no wave had a marked self-important streak, Naked on the Vague are self-aware. Although dark, their lyrics seem to drift around at the edge of black comedy. "Horse, he's sick/ Horse so sick," sings Lucy Cliché during the appropriately titled "The Horse, He's Sick". We're talking some distance from Michael Gira yelling, "All I can do is kill" in straight-faced earnest.
It's stupid to dismiss or embrace Naked on the Vague as merely the product of their influences. The Blood Pressure Sessions is an enhancement of an idea started a long time ago. During the 80s, bands responded to poverty, vacuous culture, and bad government with music that was appropriately nihilistic. It's not surprising that Naked on the Vague have been able to tap into that mindset 20 years later; the more things change, the more they stay the same." - Aaron Leitko.
"Australia’s underground scene might be known internationally for its blazing punk rock (The Saints, The Birthday Party, X), and that stuff’s great, but an equally astounding scene of arty weirdoes came up in the late seventies and early eighties, where names such as SPK, the Slugfuckers and Systematics churned out some of the best D.I.Y. music of the decade. Naked on the Vague are as clear a torchbearer of this tradition that I’ve ever heard, as ‘The Blood Pressure Sessions’ is a gorgeous, disconcerting event that grows deeper and more addicting with each listen. Sirens wail, drum machines wheeze out simplistic taunts, and old keyboards blow their cowebs in the listener’s face throughout each of the tracks contained within. Imagine Young Marble Giants in a post-Internet landscape and you’ve got an idea of what Naked on the Vague have achieved. This is the type of noise that compels people to cut themselves, writhe on the floor, dance and laugh, all within the same moment. Iwasn’t even looking for a new band to absolutely flip my lid, but I found that with Naked on the Vague. Allegedly, ‘The Blood Pressure Sessions’ will be pressed to vinyl by Siltbreeze later this year, and I will certainly be first in line."- Mathew Kosloff.
"I think my attentions were elsewhere when I caught this band at their label showcase down in Austin, my mind having just been turned into a paste by Eat Skull, and the virtual threat of some scene big shot who kept glaring at me any chance he got. Next time, dude, make a move, because you missed your shot at the title. Anyway, talked to Lax afterwards and NOTV was the band he had the most to say about; kept on going off on how they make music that fits in with the old Australian label M-Squared, that they were true to the roots of new wave, in that brief window before we were able to classify it. I like to stick to my guns, but I also have an outsized amount of respect for Siltbreeze and almost all of its works, and I knew this wasn’t some barbecue hoax from nowhere. I’m glad I’ve gotten the chance to spend some quiet time with this motherfucker of an album in the meantime. Co-ed duo wanderings of a decidedly dark and altogether chilling nature, either bending in a beautifully ebbing continuous tone meander, or thumping chest with steel-eyed intensity a la the better days of Lydia Lunch, all drum machine and black dye and squealing synthesizer, deathrockin’ and boppin’ along like … well, like a band that hasn’t yet been informed of “the rules” and went off on their own gut instincts. It’s often so hard to separate goth action from a teenage-level sense of propriety, that thing that makes all but the memories of youthful exposure to such stagey bleakness and sexualized danger so hard to stomach as the years go on. Naked on the Vague pull this off pretty effortlessly, and that’s a feat worth checking out. Very highly recommended. 500 copies." - DUSTED.
"Naked On the Vague Blood Pressure Sessions Dual Plover I regularly rant about the use of the term Post-Punk. Whenever I get into one of these rants, it is almost always about what is not Post-Punk and No Wave. The term is thrown around so often these days that it's really tough to even take myself seriously when I attempt to use these classifications to label a band. But, it is my duty as an album reviewer to take myself completely seriously (kidding) and continue to make assertions on what is and isn't said genres.
Lesson #2- No Wave; an example:
Naked On the Vague serve as a perfect example of what it takes to make a successful No Wave album in the current state of musical affairs. Although their sound is bleak and apocalyptic, almost making for a perfect soundtrack for Eraserhead, they don't try to pull off jacking DNA's sound; doing so is a big no-no. Due to the spirit of No Wave, a spirit based on creativity and challenge, the cardinal rule is to always have your own sound. Even while comparing Naked On the Vague to Teenage Jesus, or to my newfound favorite related groups Your Funeral and Jeri Rossi (who was the lead singer for Your Funeral), the comparison is really very unfounded. Those are the initial comparisons I make based upon singer's voice and mood of an album, but not on composition and actual style after multiple listens.
Another smart move made on Blood Pressure Sessions is not sticking to a single sound. Although they might not sound too different at first, No Wave bands have almost always worked best in a Singles and Live setting because of the differing sounds and various shades of black in their sound. Naked On the Vague manage to pull together a cohesive, solid album that moves from thick, suffocating layers to sparse drum and bass compositions. Sometimes spiraling out of control with heavy layers of reverb and distortion, making a psychedelic frenzy ( i.e. ''The Beach Pt. 2 (Black Sun)''), the track is always reeled back in through a countering song. At times the beat is thick enough to inspire a dance, but do not expect any Liars ''dance-punk;'' even the coked-up drum machine on ''Mother's Footsteps'' is balanced out by plenty of shrieks, feedback squeals, and distorted noise.
Naked On the Vague's Blood Pressure Sessions has proved to me once and for all that genres don't die, even ones based less on a sound and more on principles/situations. Although many bands tagged as No Wave will never actually hold a candle to their heroes, I feel confident asserting that if this was released 30 years ago, it would be studied and discussed with fervor just as other No Wave classics are getting treated today." - Jackson Glass
"It’s possible this song is named for a Max Ernst collage, which makes sense because Australia’s boy-girl duo Naked On The Vague could be the red wine-swilling, Gauloises smoking, art-school chums you’ve been longing to know. After life drawing class, you’d wander over to their crumbling Victorian house and listen to them play this song in their living room, while you sit on a sunken horsehair sofa and balance a cup of tea on your lap with charcoal-pencil-smudged fingers.
Like Ernst, NOTV turns irony and strangeness on its head and delivers it back to you with a careless and affecting nonchalance. There’s something about the cowbell and M.P. Hopkins’s vocoder-esque vocals that bring to mind a more tweaked out version of Wall Of Voodoo’s “Mexican Radio”—in a really good way. Meanwhile, Lucy Cliché’s measured and haunting vocal delivery devolves into a whirling hallucination with keyboard buzzards circling overhead. Top it off with a watery flanger-tinged guitar circa the Church or Echo And The Bunnymen, and—voila—dense, repeat-listen drama." - ANNA BARIE (on horse he's sick)
|MESS + NOISE|
"For a city so adverse to ghosts, so obsessed with a glossy veneer, so enamoured with money and the dogged pursuit of one-upping your neighbour, there’s no surprise Sydney spawns bands as deliberately contrary as Naked on the Vague, albeit in the subterranean realm. For NOTV, mere existence is enough validation in a city where the odds are against them. Cultural outlets are frequently threatened in favour of noiseless homes for inner city dwellers (once a contradiction, now a council’s obligation) and whole constellations of new music are muffled by a policeman’s admonishing finger.
This is the climate Naked On The Vague has evolved in, though up until now their inspiration seemed derived from elsewhere, most obviously the squat legacy of New York’s 80s No Wave movement. If this has been the sole point of contention for their detractors in the past, then The Blood Pressure Sessions is likely to disarm anyone still wary. There is something evocatively primeval about this debut full-length: it’s a well-sequenced collection of gravel textured pop songs, coloured with wailing reverberated vocals and disaffected gestures, embedded within grimy, anti-establishment compositions. The No Wave connection is still obviously there – most notable on previously released tracks such as the violently repetitive *All Aboard *– but these songs don’t settle on violence as a sole virtue: there is a heart to be explored, lyrics to be deciphered, and a pervasive sense of mystery.
The Blood Pressure Sessions sounds like the frustration – that inherently youthful frustration – that comes with feeling marginalised. Capitalising on ones misfortune has become unfashionable in today’s middle-of-the-road straddling climate, but The Blood Pressure Sessions, through sheer aural suggestion, makes it all seem so necessary. This is a welcome reminder that Sydney can still produce something haunted, rough around the edges, and imbued with soul." - Shaun Prescott
"This two-piece Australian act, consisting of Lucy Cliche and Matt Hopkins, apparently popped into being simply from finding old, broken instruments. Now, if all the kids coming across battered organs (not mine, thanks) sounded this good, we'd be in business! And make no mistake, these kids are the business. 'Old Leader' is our introduction, as oscillating waves of synth warp across the duo's shared vocals, punctuated by distorted cymbal crashes. It's Gloom, alright, but Cureheads will get nothing out of this. This is distilled nihilism, filtered through the brain of a Scissor Girls groupie on downers. 'All Aboard' is the closest we get to a dance track, which is fine by me! "All aboard, the ship is sinking! Jump on the tracks, the train is coming!" Lucy spits, while a hypnotic keyboard line keeps pace with a simple drum machine beat. 'Mother's Footsteps' trots out the noise guitar and stuttering vocals, punctuated by shrieks, and 'The Horse, He's Sick' is psychedelic minimal with clanks and drones stumbling over themselves. 'Brown Sun/Sydney Lane Roads' is not quite an homage to the ol' hometown, unless they spend a good part of their time there with their mind a-reeling on drugs and liquor (and who's to say they don't?) 'Lonely Boys' has creepy warbling, with the duo turning themselves into human didgeridoos. Very Swans influenced, with a touch of that early Coil mind-jism. The jangly 'God Nor Devil', supported by teeter-totter guitars, snare the listener with steel cords. Mysterious and echoing, 'Blood Pressure' brings to mind barren, flat wastelands, echoing with thuds and wooden clatters. 'The Beach 2' transforms foghorns into synth lines, as the guitar trickles down into a mush of sound, becoming static and oscillating waves once more. This excellent little dark'n'nasty is one of two debut releases. Can't wait for the other!" - Drop Dead Magazine.
"Since their emergence a few years ago, apparently with just a found organ, broken bass guitar, borrowed drum and some ‘old doom poetry’ in their arsenal, Sydney duo Lucy Phelan and Matthew Hopkins have managed to carve out a distinctive presence amongst that city’s experimental / underground scene as Naked On The Vague. In fact, it’s arguable that NOTV’s open-minded fusion of elements drawn equally from the No Wave / noise scenes as from classic psychedelia (and what the duo themselves describe as ‘apocalyptic pop’) has been one of the prime reasons why they’ve previously been selected as local tour support for such diverse acts as Kevin Blechdom, The Gossip and Love Of Diagrams. Whatever your personal take, NOTV are certainly not easy to pigeonhole into any immediate genre / scene, and this debut album The Blood Pressure Sessions, which follows on the heels of their recent Sad Sun CDR EP release on Sabbatical, continues to make any easy attempts at categorisation elusive.
If opening track ‘Old Leader’ shows the duo’s more doomy psychedelic leanings rising to the forefront, with spooky, heavily-reverbed vocals looming out in the mix amidst harsh bursts of snare percussion, droning organ tones and the sorts of sickeningly churning synth swells Throbbing Gristle deployed to maximal effect on ‘Hamburger Lady’, it’s hardly indicative of what’s on offer here. ‘All Aboard’ manages to kick things straight out of the preceding track’s drowsy fugue, unleashing perhaps this album’s most immediately accessible ‘hooky’ offering, with Phelan’s powerful vocals taking things towards post-punk / goth, while Hopkin’s bass provides Killing Joke-esque propulsive rhythm amidst a tight backbone of martial, punching beats, before ‘Mothers Footsteps’ manages to up the ante with its scream-laden flameout of fuzzed-up guitar noise and Suicide-esque drum machine rhythms.
If the aforementioned two tracks represent the more ‘punk assault’-oriented side of NOTV’s approach, ‘The Horse, He’s Sick’ shows them sliding out into deep psychedelica as monotonous drum rhythms, bass and buzzing analogue electronics send Phelan’s drowsy vocals soaring out into a disorienting wash of delayed-out loops, while ‘Brown Sun / Sydney Lane Road’ offers up what’s perhaps this collection’s most gentle moment, with gently chiming guitar chords, rippling percussive textures and distant organs tones providing a warm textural backdrop for Phelan’s wordless vocal harmonies – indeed, it’s the closest thing to an ‘uncharacteristically sunny moment’ as NOTV get here. The Blood Pressure Sessions is certainly an impressive debut album offering from NOTV that shows the duo using the broader canvas afforded them to expand considerably upon the possibilities hinted at on their preceding EP and 7? releases, and one that’s likely to further their cred with both indie fans and ‘experimental’ / noise heads alike." - Chris Downton.
"Sydneysiders Naked On The Vague offer whatever debris came out of The Blood Pressure Sessions, nine deliciously primitive tracks of harsh electro-doom punk played in monotonous ways with thumping bass, plodding drums and demented electronics. A male and female singer pitch their mannered shouty vocals to evince every emotion from bored, nihilistic resignation to a fevered, insane anger. Only in places (’Brown Sun / Sydney Lane Rd’) do these undergrounders approach anything that might fit in with the school of benign psychedelic droning such as their fellow countrymen Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood do so convincingly. Rest of the disc is just packed with good, seething menace. Hard to believe it’s just a duo making all this racket; almost as strong as early Royal Trux." - Ed Pinset.