It’s been a two-and-half year odyssey spread over two states for Brisbane-bred, Sydney-based electronic production team Bitrok, but the journey is only just beginning with the long-awaited release of their self-titled debut album.
Somewhat fittingly, the ten track Bitrok release is seeing the light of day on the rejuvenated Creative Vibes imprint, legendary for helping launch the careers of seminal Australian acts PNAU and Gotye and now taking the new breed of Australian electronica to the masses. The label is a perfect fit for a long-player which sees Ryan Dickinson and Ollie Bowler shake off the confines of their more club-oriented past, a liberating approach which has allowed them to fuse a lifetime of subconscious songwriting lessons with an uncanny knack of delivering sounds which punch in just the right places for a festival dancefloor – and they’ve played to their share of those as well.
The world’s first taste of Bitrok was Constellation Down, which drags singer Johnny Mackay out of his indie comfort zone and positions him smack bang in the middle of a languid bass groove, guitar counterpoint and enveloping synth pulses over live drums before the payoff – a glorious closing refrain with just enough emotional resonance to have you reaching for the skies as the sun sets whether you’re on a dancefloor or otherwise. A remix package featuring Jono Fernandez, Jamie Stevens, Dopamine and Dave Winnel has already made its mark on clubland, with Stevens’ effort subsequently featuring on UK house music veteran Dave Seaman’s latest DJ mix for the legendary Renaissance label.
Mackay is one of the more leftfield names attached to Bitrok, with the guest cast also including Australian dance music royalty N’fa, Rupert Keiller (Sonic Animation) and Manta Ray (My Ninja Lover) alongside Rick Mansfield (Tortoiseshell), Rootwords and Brisbane neo-soul chanteuse Georgia Potter. And the results are as diverse as that roll call indicate with Bitrok covering the full electronic spectrum – from guitar-heavy stormers to filtered disco-funk workouts, dirty half-step grooves to gorgeous atmospherics, never overplaying their hand as their production smarts are used to enhance the songscapes they’ve spent so long perfecting.
The skills of Scott Horscroft (The Presets, Silverchair) are also readily apparent, as the man with the Midas touch and even more golden ears handled the final mix at his own Big Jesus Burger Studios in Sydney – and with Mike Marsh (The Chemical Brothers, Massive Attack) on mastering duties at The Exchange in London, it’s no wonder the record positively sparkles.
To discount Dickinson and Bowler’s decorated past would only tell half the story. Formed initially as a club-focused project after meeting on a Queensland festival dancefloor in 2005, they’ve racked up 12-inch releases on a string of UK dance labels, been licensed for compilation release on Ministry Of Sound’s Clubbers Guide To 2008 and the Y4K series on Distinctive Records, and strutted their stuff before Australian festival crowds at Future Music Festival, Good Vibrations, Parklife, Stereosonic and Blah Blah Blah – not to mention spinning at the after-party of Britain’s esteemed Breakspoll awards. Triple J also unearthed them to play Brisbane’s Hear & Now Festival in 2009, while Australian superstar Gotye tapped them on the shoulder to put their own spin on Thanks For Your Time for his 2007 remix set Mixed Blood.
As for the future? Dickinson and Bowler have already debuted their unique new interactive live show on a run of dates in traditional venues down the east coast of Oz, will be keeping their club smarts honed as the Bitrok DJs, have just completed remix duties on a track by EMI signing The Slips (featuring Melbourne MC Phrase), and have a remix comp of their own set to launch in conjunction with the release of Bitrok to the world.
But for now, it’s all about a genre-crossing debut which has their course set for the stars.
Bitrok is out through Creative Vibes Friday February 10.