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HUNTING GROUNDS are in it for the long haul. Their debut album may be be titled IN HINDSIGHT, but here is a sextet that is looking ahead with a firm grasp on the realities and possibilities of past and present. There is a degree of dramatic irony buried within the concise title of this very vast album.
Everything about In Hindsight is vast, the themes, the sounds, of course even the number of performers on it. Hunting Grounds is by nature a very cohesive, collaborative effort. There are multiple songwriters here, heaving and swaying against each other’s ideas and concepts, inspiring an eclectic and intelligent mix. Three vocalists now also revolve on Hunting Grounds’ stage: Lachlan Morrish, Michael Belsar and Galen Strachan. One might be forgiven for assuming that this is too much for one ambitious debut release, but it’s stitched together in a synth-heavy, hip-swaying cacophony that straddles beautiful and mesmerising.
IN HINDSIGHT launches with the words ‘No idea, where we are from, its clear. Where we are going, I fear is nowhere’ It’s true that this is a needless fear but the perfect spacey catchall to introduce this album. STAR SHARDS kicks with the throbbing bass of John Crawford that is so familiar to Hunting Grounds listeners, and embarks on a spacey journey of reverb drenched guitars and cleverly selected synth sounds. Of FLAWS there is much to say. The one that almost got away; born from a more typical rock song structure and not really intended for the album. Reworked into a hypnotic pseudo-house track, FLAWS now invokes something far grander than the more direct Hunting Grounds of old. Likewise, the middle of the album assaults listeners with LIQUID AIR; easily the ‘biggest’ song on the record. All soaring vocal melodies and uplifting keys, this song belongs in a stadium, or on the credits of your new favourite 80’s action film.
But there are also older, solidly road-tested tunes on here. KILL MY FRIENDS and COLD FEET cleverly marry the unpredictable, wilder live elements of Hunting Grounds into the more controlled elements of the album. KILL MY FRIENDS has all the urgency of older Hunting Grounds tracks, plus the desperate, repetitive yelping of master vocalist Lachlan Morrish. ALL EYES, with its grand piano, driving bass line and the croon of Michael Belsar is a stunning testament to the rapid growth of the Hunting Grounds sound. Plus, there are those hip-swaying, hands-in-the-air rhythms again. The sparse, heady groove of CLEARLY SEE is a pop jingle not so far from The Beatles more psychedelic wanderings. Fitting that the protagonist of the song is slowly losing his mind.
Hunting Grounds endured the waiting game when it came to the fruition of this album. Dates were set, first single (In Colour) released to much radio play and general praise. Then; nothing. The writing process was long and cumbersome, but the sonic growth from the ‘Howl’ and ‘Brothers In Violence’ EPs to ‘In Hindsight’ is palpable; and thus the wait is justified. Dribs and drabs of demoing was at last coaxed together into an album when the band entered Melbourne’s Red Door Sounds with Brothers In Violence producer Paul ‘Woody’ Annison (Children Collide, Black Cab, Young Revelry). The luxury of several weeks with Annison helped the sextet craft tunes that previously seemed offcuts (like FLAWS) into shiny aural gems.
Space is the crucial word here. In Hindsight is filled with it from wall to wall and the results are fabulous. There is a lot of space, every vocal hook and every sound in its place but there are no clinical elements. A handful of tunes sprawl in past the 5-minute mark and most of them boast an ear boggling but very agreeable selection of vocal tracks. Lachlan Morrish’s previously harsh vocal tones have acquired a more melodious quality, but they remain raw, and jolting and retain their unsettling air of old, complimented by the warm tones of other vocalists Belsar and Strachan. There are tips of the musical hat to Radiohead here of course, but the synths are at times a homage to the great man himself; Gary Newman. Older influences also shine through on the album, in the feverish guitar work of Tim Street and the neat, bang-on drumming of Daniel Marie. The old and new collide on In Hindsight to create the wall of sound the band really desired to achieve.
Each and every step of the journey towards the realization of IN HINDSIGHT has been a learning experience. The band’s winning stint as the triple j Unearthed High crown winners sent the band into a quality studio with experienced producers. In fact, Hunting Grounds have really come good as the first Uneathed High winning band to release a full length. Furthermore, a touring schedule that hardened touring veterans would wince at saw them cut their teeth on unfamiliar audiences and make many and varied friends. Venturing outside the support of the small but fruitful Ballarat music scene meant a new perspective, but also solidified the loyalties that lie at home. Indeed, the art and videos that accompany In Hindsight have been crafted by Ballarat locals, giving it all a very cooperative feeling. All in all; IN HINDSIGHT is a testament to the virtues of hard work, an inquisitive mind and an insatiable desire to experiment through sound.