Guddling is a four piece band comprising sisters Tara Mathey (guitar/vocals) and Emily Mathey (bass), plus Bethan Lewis (viola) and Mark Lewis (drums), who aren't sisters, or related in any other way, or even women...well, one of them isn't anyway. I stumbled onto them late last year at a gig supporting the Pyramidiacs and the Upsets and was immediately knocked out by their performance.

I have since seen them a second time and been equally impressed. However this EP still came as a surprise as viola player Bethan Lewis wasn't present at either show, but her presence on this disk gives the songs an extra dimension that you don't realise is missing until you hear it. Don't get me wrong though, the other three musicians can carry the songs as a trio more than adequately. It's just that the viola adds a compelling counterpoint to the guitar.

The opening "Holiday Reading" is a good example. It starts off with a staccato double tracked guitar introduction and then slows down for the viola, which sets the tone for the first verse. On the catchy chorus the guitar speeds up again and so does the viola, but seemingly only half as much as the guitar, providing a calming contrast for the anxious, agitated lyrics ("It's my head spinning round again/That's my hand you've been standing on").

In "Data Smog" it's the opposite - the viola flies on the chorus while it's the guitar which is slow and deliberate, almost funereal in fact, matching the cautionary tone of the foreboding chorus ("You won't last one dreadful night").

"Monocle" mixes these effects at will in its anything but one eyed view of love and loss. The viola is alternatively soothing smooth and tensely troubled, while the lyrics veer between resignation ("You have my humble consent to be whatever you choose") and a refusal to relinquish the relationship ("This old wound still has comfort in it/cut me for another minute").

"Sceptic" has a traditional, folky feel - reminiscent of the insufferably cheery Coors, only locked in a dark, dank dungeon and forced to share some uncomfortable family secret.

Despite its bouncy facade, "Dishwasher" is another fairly bleak slice of life dressed up as pop ("Took another look at my life/and I watched it float away down the sink"). However with its catchy chorus "(Destroy yourself with something else...") it's also the most immediate song on the EP, so it isn't surprising that it has been picked up, along with "Holiday Reading", for some regular play on Triple J.

Final track on the EP is "Not On Your Nellie". There's a definite touch of the early, angry PJ Harvey and though it's written in the second person ("Did you want to take my bad advice today?") it seems clear that the songwriter is addressing herself as much as the "wanky fat spiky-haired boy named Greg".

There's a sincere, but shielded and detached, personal commentary running through the whole EP, which develops considerable impact over repeated playings. It's a pity that I didn't yet have this EP when I was reviewing the Penny Ikinger and Rudolf Z. Raschberger EPs recently. I remember being assured during geometry class that it only takes three points to define a circle and the circle defined by these three EPs perfectly encloses the "requiem pop/glumcore" category I was proposing then.

I know nothing about the Blue Chairs, other than they are mainly the work of one person, Juergen Felder, and that he's German. "Ask Me Tomorrow" is a very pleasant piece of indie pop, strongly reminiscent of the Go Betweens - both in the sense of its light, folk-pop sound and the combination of the winsome and the world weary in its lyrics.

The "flip side" (not that CDs have a flip side, but old habits die hard) "Show Me Your Love" is another soft slice of pop, though more in the "New Zealand" style of jangle pop (think Bats/Chills).

Sadly neither of these EPs is widely available, but both can be obtained direct from the source: Guddling here and Juergen Felder here. For those on a budget, the Guddling web site even has the EP available for free download. - John McPharlin


1/2 - Guddling


- Blue Chairs