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Housewife

EP I/EP II/EP III


[Self-released; 2011]



By ; April 15, 2011 


Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

Changing your moniker to explore new musical grounds is far from an original idea but it’s hard not to ponder if it’s entirely necessary. In some instances it makes perfect sense; when an artist doesn’t want to alienate an established fan base with something totally different, changing your name is a perfectly congenial idea so if you mess up then the immediate integrity of your original moniker still lies intact. However, there’s a risk of sorts in that if your new moniker creates something better than what you were doing before then your old one might well fade away and be forgotten or be deemed pointless as new fans question why you don’t spend your time doing what you’re better at. And what if your two monikers end up creating something inherently similar so that having two monikers becomes a pointless thing – do you combine them or drop one altogether? It’s a kind of uncertain business in the end.

For Hamish Duncan though, creating a new musical personality seems rather natural and somewhat questionable: natural because he’s always had that unpredictable and excessively creative side that you couldn’t expect everything he’s ever done to be labelled under his most famous Sleep In moniker; questionable because the material he’s released as his new side project Housewife isn’t too far away from what we’ve seen him execute as Sleep In.

In all fairness though the material spread out across these three short EPs comes off as more an exploration of sounds and genres that Duncan has only ever dabbled with in the past and the similarities it has to any previous Sleep In records are those that are in the past since Duncan has refined and naturalised his sound over the past year or so.

Again Duncan seems to dabble more than anything on these EPs. Apart from the deep and grimy feel EP I retains for the majority of its eleven minute playtime, the material here is scattered and rarely does one genre or style stick around for long. Because EP I flows and keeps a consistency of sorts going throughout, it’s probably the easiest of the three to get into and to like as a whole. Opener “Amen” drops a curious and ominous beat amidst looping feedback which, with its peculiarly unconventional hook, strangely recalls the opening track to Octogasm (another of Duncan’s side projects with Leon Conelly).From there it moves into exploring multiple drumbeats, heavy drones and various samples of piano lines and vocal snippets before ending on “Now Weather”- a raspy synth number with a good deal of distorted guitar that still manages to keep a steady beat going throughout. It might all sound a little scattershot but that’s the point of exploration. Duncan might well be throwing everything into the mix at once at times but he has a noticeable talent of keeping it all together (which I can’t help but feel I have to put down to the way he executes the transactions between the tracks here).

As good as it is to see Duncan wade around in a style with plenty of freedom, what’s most interesting from the Housewife project as a whole is the experimentation. Considering Duncan’s always been a musician who can take a left turn without turning any heads (his next Sleep In record could be a concept album about a relative’s nasal hair called Aunt Bessie’s Menopausal Transformation and nobody would bat an eyelid), this doesn’t leave many places to go. Nevertheless, EP III showcases a few new tricks that I can’t help but feel worth mentioning: “Riot At The Red Lights” sounds like it’s just killing time for the first two minutes but when the second beat drops and the playful keyboard notes come into the frame, your attention is thrown back into the loop; “The Best Sense” also takes a little time to find itself but the dribbling loop against the heavy droning background makes for a sound that’s as hard to describe as it is to conjure up in your mind to begin with.

One style Duncan has consistently managed to execute well is ambient and the offerings here make for some of the best material. “The Well Is Dry” calmly goes by with a quiet buzz as it breathes in and out for the space of three minutes while retrospectively “Glass Eyes” would probably be more apt in the drone genre. But even though it’s got a much harsher tone and texture and has a beat stuck in it, it still feels more strangely calming and ambient than anything. Sadly those are the only real tracks that can go under the ambient tag but still, amidst the jumble of styles on offer here, all bouncing about with random samples and trippy beats, they make for a good moment’s rest.

As a whole EP II hasn’t been namedropped yet but that’s because it’s probably the weakest of the three. There are only two real tracks to be taken from it: the earlier mentioned heavy droner “Glass Eyes” and opening track “Lonely Together” which sounds like a storm setting in with thick tones and nice glimmering melodies that hide beneath the noise. The rest of the EP is dedicated to minute or so long snippets of noise that can be interesting when passing but as a whole don’t really offer much and don’t develop much further than where they began. These interludes pop up across the three EPs and only really on EP I do they sound part of a whole due to the way they meld into the surrounding tracks.

If anything then the creation of a new moniker for these tracks probably wasn’t too bad an idea. While none of the material on the EPs is bad per se, none of it is hugely impressionable either. But considering a lot of this feels like mere experimentation with sounds, styles, textures and tones, there can’t be much criticism put out there. As said, EP I is enjoyable for the way it sounds as one but it’s just a shame it’s so brief. But even listening to all three EPs in one go feels dissatisfying. All I find myself wanting is for something to establish itself, for an idea to really grow – which is what the future seems to hold for Housewife. Since releasing these EPs, Duncan has put out another track that, at eight minutes long, nearly overruns the length of one of the EPs alone. On it Duncan slowly and patiently unfurls a series of unlikely melodies to become something that’s engrossing as it is kind of groovy. It makes for a reassuringly tantalizing taste of what might come next. And the track’s title? “Now We Wait.” And that’s exactly all we can do now.

63% / 49% / 58%



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