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Anthony Carew

Free Music Monday: The Townhouses, Diaspora

By November 26, 2012

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There's often not much in a band name, but The Townhouses evokes all the wrong things for the music Leigh Hannah makes under that banner. The rooted, geometric, concrete associations of such constructions betray the drift and waft of his near-ambient electronic music. It's especially off given that Hannah records most of it in the opposite architectural structure: a garden shed in rural Australia, at his parents' property in the countryside outside of Melbourne.

With a fondness for tuned percussion —especially Indonesian gamelan— Hannah's music is like a constant parade of bells and chimes, tinkling in their tintinnabulation. There's a definite set of artists framing The Townhouses sound —Four Tet, Nobukazu Takemura, Ambient Works Aphex Twin, even minimalist composer Steve Reich— but Hannah adds a wrinkle to the proceedings. On his second LP, Diaspora, he's using all these ambient cues in a pop-song context.

Inviting along various guest vocalists —including ambient R&B warbler Guerre, oddball pop abstractionist Rainbow Chan, Italian soft-pop stylist Giorgio Tuma— Hannah works at hammering his mallet'd compositions into three-minute form. The lyrics are largely about transience and the slippery notion of home, and these are particularly Australian themes.

The country's entire troubled history is one of immigration —from the arrival of modern colonists to the contemporary treatment of asylum seekers— and the backpacking pilgrimages undertaken en masse, by its modern youth, are like the immigrant's voyages made in reverse. The album's title, Diaspora, reflects this; Hannah's globalist music exploring the notion of scattered people's and shattered national identities.

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