Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad: Sam Hamilton ‘Ubuntu’

Sam Hamilton

Great Sounds Great; Bad Sounds Bad is a column which sees a panel of writers for The Corner review a range of local singles and grade them out of 10. Check out the song below, read through their opinions and let us know in the comments section your own thoughts and what you’d like to see reviewed next time around.

[YouTube / Bandcamp]

[Grade: 5.6]

Vincent Michaelsen: I liked the beginning of this song, not the intro part that sounds ripped from The Strokes’ ‘Is This It?’, but what followed. But it lost me when the vocals came in. The auto-tune or whatever on the vocals doesn’t sound very good and the line “make it rain” is too common-place in the gangster vernacular to make any sense here. I don’t think this is such a bad track, it’s just very average. I’d say there’s too much going on and the different parts seem to smother each other. I do like the tune of those steel drums though. The video on the other hand is just plain bad. It felt like the kind of art piece you usually have to watch on a very small TV in a very empty room. Overall, I feel as lost as that group, looking to a piece of paper for ‘answers’. [4]

Hayden Currie: This is enjoyable enough. The not-quite Panda Bear vocals don’t entirely work but it gets good enough to maybe match its influences near the end. [7]

Andrew B. White: This is a great little piece. I’ll call it a ‘piece’ rather than a song as the music and visuals work really well together (so that’d be ‘art’ to you then, reader). I’m a fan of this type of video which is conceptually interesting and leaves you to make up your own mind about what is going on. I must confess that the hundreds and thousands did make me quite hungry. Musically, I really like the drums, especially the fills, which liven things up amongst the more rigid electronic bed. Catchy vocals too. I think this genre is called ‘Free Wave’ and that’s probably a good name for it – ‘Ubuntu’ is certainly free and wavy. Good work. [9]

Michael Kerby: It starts off fairly dull, but I just left it going in the background (as you do) and didn’t really concentrate on listening to it, and yet by the end of it, it felt like we’d got somewhere. I guess that might be the point – the song works as background music that you suddenly find yourself engaged in. Despite being aware of all this, I’d still like it if instead of disguising the vocals (and making them just another instrument) he had them front and centre. And sounded like Simon Le Bon. [6]

Sean Quay: Under no circumstances should you watch the video. Sometime I wonder if cheap and readily available video / audio equipment plus easy means of distribution is about the worst thing that ever happened to the creative arts. And you can shove your tilt-shift lens up your but I digress.

The track itself is nice enough and some how reminds me of Vampire Weekend’s Graceland vibe for no good reason, but despite that, I was able to overcome my swarth of negative first impressions. This song employs a good use of timbre and layering and a structure that is quite happenstance. The bass synth / hook is a nice driving force and the heavy processing on the vocals places them well within the song. This is the sort of music that could be aptly described as pleasant. [6]

Luke Jacobs: Ignore the video and this song becomes a lot more bearable. It’s not a bad video but it is distracting compared to what this song is trying to do. There are some interesting little moments that remind me a bit of Neon Indian but there are some oddities too that give it an edge of other synth pop.

There’s a kind of glowing distortion on some of the instruments and a pulsing tone that while I know sounds just like a preset in Ableton Live just makes it feel so much more fun and engaging. This song is good but it could have been so much stronger if it were a tad shorter – the last 30 seconds in particular feels like a lot of noodling with very little gain. There are glints of goodness here and if you are patient enough you can enjoy it. [6]

Joe Nunweek: Sam Hamilton’s renewed commitment to day-glo electronic pop makes for pretty compelling listening. The Ruby Suns make for easy shorthand as to what this sounds like on paper, but his origin point (installations, collage, other experimental stuff) means it’s music that’s happy to dwell on a certain note, or open up to a new swathe of noise halfway through. A bunch of tangents, but not to the point that it sounds like jamming (my suspicions are that the first draft did, but that he’s getting a better editorial command of his own work). If the music video itself seems a bit tentative, the song itself has verve and confidence. I like it a lot. [8]

Phyllis Gabor: K I don’t wanna go there tryna understand what’s going on in the clip cos I will just sound like an idgi “pfft art” hater (that disco ball face tho <3) so just gonna stick to the song. Is that a marimba? I don’t even know why but I love that sound so much, ‘specially cos it’s all buzzed out and diluted by other pretty sounds. I usually would find this kinda music yawn as, but found myself getting real hypnotised by the steady-paced whirliness; it’s quite soothing when you’ve got a fever and can’t sleep. I also feel this is a song I could jam hard to when I wanna be real productive and need some stable, cranking background sounds, which is real valuable. Was this song inspired by Ubuntu? I’ve only ever used the satanic version and can’t help but imagine this might’ve been a very different song if he was into that. [6]

Alex Lyall: I really like this song. At first, I didn’t. The introduction seems like an ugly blend of noises, but then the vocals come in! Suddenly, the song has this drive, the drums the driver and the vocals the idle chatter in the back seat. Where are we going? Rainbows End! This is what it feels like anyway, because when it develops and really gets going it sounds so sweet. The drums create this generous beat, that allow the other background noises to just do there thang, and they do, the piano plays this hypnotic riff and the bass just plucks away. The lyrics are indistinguishable and this works because we get a neutral song, one without theme. Truly, a song for the feelers of this world. [8]

Warren Smart: Some songs hit you straight away and some songs grow on you. This song, over the last week has done neither. The song was at first anemic and needed more depth and body that is not provided here. There is a disjointed feeling to the song caused by the shifting electronica frippery that adds as a distraction and comes to the forefront at different times throughout the song. So no, this does not smoke my tyres and after listening to it for a week I can no longer listen to the whole song. [2]

Eden Bradfield: How repugnant do I find this? It’s hard to say – whirly electronic beeps that show plenty of technical skill and pizzazz but not much feeling. Cold. Ain’t got that swing/don’t mean a thing. And yes, father-of-all-things-electronic Brian Eno can be a cold bastard too, but at least it’s interesting-cold. Ditto Stockhausen et al and any other name you care to throw into the hat. This just leaves me cold. [0]

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