Function – The Zillionaire-Retarded Speeds of Ordinary, Measured Light

The Zillionaire-Retarded Speeds of Ordinary, Measured Light

And from nowhere, it shall come. First line, first track, first words, “Break my heart I yearn to bleed and grow / Train my art I’m novice and mad and slow.” There’s a muted trumpet doing its best to sonically replicate the feelings behind those words, and Matt Nicholson, creator of Function, picking his guitar to pieces and singing, urging, seducing us, calling “paradigm shift now” whilst Pete Nicholson tells us the price, “to infinite sorrow’s breast.” And we’re not yet three minutes into the seven-minute opener called “Paduka Heart-Nectar.” It’s too gentle for sadness, too swelling for lethargy. There’s even melody in the madness. Whatever – at 2:53 on a Wednesday morning it makes sense. People have sold their soul for less.
Second track “Softest Light Sunday” is exactly that, a delay guitar loop over waves that dawdle in and out, no vocals, just sampled backgrounds, the tiniest chirps, a piano threatening to slip away. And then we hit the western-themed (I’m serious) “Good Man, Dead Man (Hard Lessons in Non-Separateness),” a tale of a town that kills its prophets after worshipping at their feet. The seraphic-sounding Ruth Schoenheimer makes her first vocal appearance, offering high tones to Matt’s narrative, and suddenly as a banjo begins to sound the loneliest tune possible, it all makes sense. The full five of Function do well and truly function, taking the best of last year’s Glaswegian Desert Hearts and mixing their sound up with Morricone, building up a spaghetti western soundtrack symphony. How can “their hero must be shot and hanged, and so he was” sound so beautiful?
If you hadn’t noticed by now, this is magical music, hot shit, serious, suffocating, and sparse, and aesthetically exquisite. Over 17 tracks, many of them instrumental, Melburnians Nicholson and co. have shaped a studio album that showcases all the agony and grandeur and artistic bamboozlement that goes into songs like “Situational Cellophane,” “Schoen (Shown),” and the knee-shaking “Air Kiss Air” with the glorious refrain, “no proof needed, air kisses air and space fucks itself”. The packaging is something more, 40 pages of black and white photographs and lyrics, offering up almost as much as the music does, yet providing as much confusion (references to a Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj abound) as wry earthy compensation (“she draws me to her breast and smells of mindless treats ah yes”).
So like Billy Corgan’s dreaming without the histrionics, Function have delivered an album of complexities and joys, of intersecting melodic dirt paths that offer new variations with each listen. Amidst the braying cacophony of trend upon trend, Function have crafted an album that already sounds without time, or beyond it, looking back with subtle drones and feedbacked wry grins of the knowledge that comes with loss. And from nothing it will come, The Zillionaire-Retarded Speeds of Ordinary, Measured Light is the finest album to emerge from Australia this year. You have been warned.