CS + Kreme: Melbourne’s exquisite “hypno pop” duo

Written By: 
Matthew McDermott
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Dive into seven essential tracks from Melbourne’s CS + Kreme ahead of their LA debut at ISC HQ on June 25th.

The weird tunes world is more accessible than ever, yet from the jump, CS + Kreme — the Australian duo of Sam Karmel and Conrad Standish — ran at a different speed, crafting atmospheric and insular pop music with ample room for mystery. The band’s first EPs, which came via the essential LA label Total Stasis, included instant subterranean hits like “Devotion” and “Roast Ghost.” The duo’s now sound mixed slow, seance-like riddims with oblique, seemingly nonsenical vocal chants that nevertheless settled in the listener’s subconscious. 

After aligning with the taste-making London label The Trilogy Tapes, CS+Kreme dropped a couple of EPs and then a definitive album, Snoopy, which introduced liturgical music and middle-eastern influences into an already heady mix. With respective discographies stretching back to the mid 00s, CS+Kreme seem intent on coining a new musical language. In their capable hands, post-punk, dub, downtempo and a myriad of other esoteric traditions combine into an exquisite “hypno pop.”

We’re beyond thrilled to present the LA debut of CS+Kreme on June 25th at ISC HQ in collaboration with our friends at Common Time. CS+Kreme will perform live alongside special guests Madalyn Merkey and Maral. Total Stasis will play records throughout the evening. 

Limited tickets available now: https://link.dice.fm/Te1414a30889

In anticipation of the show, below are seven key tracks from the CS+Kreme catalog along with write-ups from Common Time’s Matthew McDermott and ISC’s Phil Cho.

Devotion

The opener on CS + Kreme’s debut EP on Total Stasis is still one of their best. Texturally gorgeous, the track features Clare Wohlnick’s space echoed flute blending into the duo’s murky, otherworldly textures and sampled sounds. Like many CS + Kreme tracks, there’s a cathartic sort of sinking feeling to “Devotion” that’s melancholic yet tranquil. The accompanying visual from Scott Morrison, featuring a mysterious figure in a wheelchair navigating a colorful ocean reef, is a tonal hit. – Phil

Whip

A perfect mix of live and electronic instrumentation, “Whip” rides along an 808 beat, electric bass, and Conrad Standish’s cyclical “Never give up” vocal. The combination is simple but incredibly addictive and quickly unravels into waves of synthesizers and heavily processed guitar from HTRK’s Nigel Yang. It’s one of the first tracks we heard from the duo and immediately drew us into their slow, tripped-out world. – Phil

Roast Ghost (Ultra Lavender Mix)

“Roast Ghost”‘s slowed-down Roland drum machines and gauzy synths bear the influence of Melbourne’s preeminent gloom merchants, HTRK (whose singer, Jonnine Standish, is married to CS, hence the surname). The track spans a hypnotic 21 minutes to fill one side of a cassette. Lyrically, Standish strays from heavy themes of love and loss in favor of a psychedelic dream logic. Over and over, he voices these cryptic lines: “How do you get yourself untangled from a knot that was tied before you were born? / The directions to my house (house) / The detective’s in my house.”- Matt

Bugged

“Bugged” encapsulates the manner in which CS+Kreme’s hodgepodge approach allows them to break into new sonic territory. The instrumental track hinges on a dub-punk bassline that could have emanated from This Heat’s Cold Storage studio. Upon this foundation, the duo whips up a fantasia of acoustic guitars, whistled middle eastern melodies and decidedly modern sampling and drum programming techniques. – Matt

Saint

“Where did blueberries go?” has got to be one of the most absurdly wonderful lyrics to open up a song. Spoken in a sort of sleepy, low whisper and backed by Sam Karmel’s haunted baroque organ, the line seems to hint at an underlying trickster attitude echoed on track titles like “Pussywhistle Tea” and “Time Is A Bozo.” For a group that makes quite sophisticated experimental music, the duo doesn’t seem to take themselves too seriously and it makes their work all that much more compelling. – Phil

Blue Flu

Most bands would have hit on the trip-hop/dubstep groove that weaves through “Blue Flu,” let it ride, and left it at that. But CS+Kreme isn’t most bands. Instead, the head-nod sections prop up a strange, longform post-punk pop song. The eight-minute cut leads off with aleatoric woodwinds and chimes and the band’s signature, spectral vocals.  “Shine a light in every corner/shine a light in every crack/shine a light in every swimming pool,” standish intones. Eventually, the track blossoms into an orchestral pop motif that wouldn’t feel out of place on those Talk Talk records. – Matt

Crushed Cream

CS + Kreme’s most “club-friendly” track is a crunchy 808-roller with bubbling square-wave synth bass. The track is, unsurprisingly, not conventional at all though and features slow, arpeggiated bell tones alongside a devilishly synthetic trumpet. The tune lands on a split 10” via Michael Kucyk’s always excellent Efficient Space label alongside fellow travelers Blazer Sound System. – Phil


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