Huntly have been around for what feels like minutes. This is no negative feat, however, as they have been building a very strong reputation around the Melbourne scene with this murky, warped brand of soul electronica and rave R’n’B they’ve been developing over the last couple of years. They certainly haven’t been short on activity, putting out singles that have garnered the group national radio support and etching their name into the Australian music scene inch-by-inch with their raw, high-emotion performances, but they hadn’t had the chance (or rather, hadn’t chosen to spoil the chance prematurely) to properly introduce themselves as a complete package to the world just yet. Here, Huntly finally take that chance to showcase precisely what they’ve come together to do with their anticipated debut EP, Feel Better Or Stop Trying, and while it has been a long time coming, it’s obvious here that they didn’t waste one single minute.
What Huntly have managed to capture on this EP is a carefully considered and gorgeously layered dark electro-soul-pop rave; the kind that simultaneously lifts you up and building the vibe with these grinding, grimy beats. Hypnotic synth swells and lush harmonies while it brings you down with these incredibly earnest, heartfelt vocal performances that strangle your heartstrings. The end result is this dizzying sensation of wanting to dance your feet numb and sulk in a corner all at once. The opener, ‘Heavy Sometimes’ sets the stage with these eerie, stuttery vocal samples falling over one another, drenched in this thick church-hall reverb and feeling like a lost memory. In a breath, the whole thing snaps into focus on one singular voice cooing sweetly and somberly over soft piano, then it turns sour on a dime, vocalist Elspeth Scrine spitting the bitter refrain “fuck are you doing here?” with such striking honesty you can’t help but pay full attention. From here, the EP begins its strange and twisted little journey through the darker, murkier corners of electro-pop with its best foot forward, transitioning from genre to genre with true finesse and never once letting it feel jarring or uncomfortable.
My pick of the bunch would have to be the silky-smooth ‘Sunday Sheets’: a dirty soul-electronica slow-burner with an off-kilter beat that gets so deep and gritty it makes your guts just lurch. Scrine emotes beautifully in this full, round Australian accent that only adds to the sincerity of her delivery, letting her heart bleed out over shimmering reverb-soaked synth chords and minimalist trap-influenced beats, the tension rising and rising until finally letting it drop out into this super tasty house break that’ll have you involuntarily rocking in your seat without even noticing.
‘Singing Surts’ wears its Tame Impala influence proudly on its sleeve (also offering the only male vocal lead here), riding wave after wave of sun-bleacheded synth over big bass kicks and even some cheeky lil’ hand claps, then swinging a hard left by breaking into this sprawling, almost middle-eastern flavoured chorus. That’s one very strong ace up Huntly’s sleeve – their ability to tie so many styles together so seamlessly – while still making the whole track feel like one cohesive piece. ‘Lusty’, a very sparse electro-pop ditty with sing-along melodies and syrup-sweet hooks galore, is probably the straightest tune on offer here which interestingly serves to make it stand right out from the pack. The full-band sound of ‘Anyone’s Summer‘ offers arguably the strongest vocal parts on the album, supported by these incredibly tight soul harmonies that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, then finally, the six minute closer ‘We Made It’ sneaks in and wraps its arms around you like the hug you’ve needed since the album began; those ethereal falsettos cradling you like a newborn, slowly easing you out of the whole experience as comfortable and lovingly as it can muster.
I can’t say that Feel Better Or Stop Trying is without its flaws, and I can’t say that there isn’t any room to grow or mature here; this is still a young band and it does show to an extent. What I can say is that Huntly have really elevated their art here, pushing their own boundaries and setting an impressively high standard for a debut EP, and if this is anything to go by, we can be sure to expect some absolutely ridiculous work from these kids in the years to come.
Feel Better Or Stop Trying is available now via Huntly.