What can we achieve when we seperate fear from our actions, and we stop allowing that fear to hold us down? Much of what we do in this life is shrouded in a veil of trepidation, soaked in anxiety which stems from concern regarding the judgement our peers may place on us. This is perhaps most true for the creative arts. When an artist presents themselves, projected through their medium, they leave a piece of their very being available for consumption, to be ridiculed, admired, torn apart, or simply observed. When one honestly represents oneself through their art, there is nothing to hide behind – no barriers, no secrets, no contrived identity – there is only the one self, exposed. Fear of this exposure can drive wonderful artists to sit on their work for years, or never release it at all.
This past Thursday the 8th of June, Melbourne musician, singer and producer Lalić unveiled, with little fanfare, Bed Tape 2: Soft Release, a follow up to early 2016’s Bed Tape. In December of the same year that Lalić released Bed Tape, they released Portal, their second full length record following 2014’s Broken Foot Rabbit Hole. Bed Tape 2: Soft Release is a direct response to fear. In some ways, a rejection of the shackles that fear places on an artist. In a candid Facebook post announcing the surprise release, Lalić noted that “I just always feel so daunted about releasing things, and everyone gets so caught up on fear of failure, and this unreachable perfectionism (me included.) I just wanted to release a whatevery thing.” The “whatevery” product that they have offered listeners is a lush, and dense work of dream like, transformative and transcendental ambience. It is a far cry from the psychedelic folk of Portal, which we described when it was released as sounding like “simmering heat waves visible in the distance as you’re driving down a long, straight country road in the summer time.” A more apt description for the sounds of Bed Tape: 2 would be the feeling of waking from a night of disconnected dreams – you feel lingering emotions, recall fleeting scenarios, yet they are all laced in confusion, washed out and surrounded by an atmospheric openness. Such is the nature of dreams; they are fleeting ,visceral experiences which conjure memories and moments of our lives, to distort and transcend. These feelings are akin to those elicited when listening to Bed Tape: 2.
Mladen Lalić Milinković, the mind behind Lalić explained that Bed Tape: 2 is “works that were maybe never intended to be shown to people, or songs thats weren’t finished, or things I made just for the experiment. I feel like there is this real line between music that is released, and music that isn’t. There is an expectation that released things are polished, refined, considered and intentional. I feel like that makes a lot of people feel really constricted in the work they put out, and a lot of important stuff stays private.” Mladen’s decision to release Bed Tape: 2 this way seems to stem from their adoration of their friends unfinished works – “my favourite music is the half finished songs my friends send to me. I feel like releasing music should be more accessible.”
Bed Tape: 2 is a sequel to Bed Tape in name only. The first Bed Tape is less unified, more of a collection of odds and ends taped together into a release. Bed Tape: 2 retains a certain cohesion which is lacking on Bed Tape. That is not to say that the individual cuts on Bed Tape don’t stand up – they absolutely do – Bed Tape: 2 is simply a more unified collection of work; it feels as though it was designed to fit together. While Bed Tape still demonstrates the eclectic and experimental electronica to be found on Bed Tape: 2, it also has psych-folk elements, which are not dissimilar to the work of the late Connor Tolson as Riders of Sin. Bed Tape: 2 creates a world of its own across its sixteen tracks – a lush, expansive, immersive, enveloping world dominated by warm ambience, but sprinkled with surprising left turns like the rather funky ‘Boom’ or the elongated vocal sounds of ‘Locus Cloud.’ This cohesion, the seemingly clear relationship between the songs, wasn’t exactly intentional during the recording of the music. “Bed Tapes: 2, like the first one, isn’t so much produced as much as it is compiled. Most of (the tracks) are ideas that never became songs, or sound experiments. Some are from a long time ago and some are compilations of recent things, but it’s all put together to be a cohesive work.” The oldest track on the record is actually a demo that Mladen produced at the age of 14.
The cover art of both Bed Tape releases features a drawn bedroom, with instruments and laptops on a bed, a blind pulled shut, a bowl and a thermos on the ground. On Bed Tape, there is a person, perhaps Lalić, seated on the bed – on Bed Tape: 2 there is not. This may signify the lack of a human presence on the largely instrumental volume 2. Perhaps it signifies the detachment from the music reflected in the release announcement, how it stands as its own being.
2016’s Portal draws inspiration from psychedelic music, with elements of pop and folk quite prominent as well. There is an amalgamation of ideas, genres and time periods that run through the veins of Portal. “You know, I hear all these artists over time, and I love them, but I was always thinking ‘but if it was just…’ And so Portal was meant to be kind of like a bridge between all those genres. Taking what I liked about all of them and creating that.” As an artist with a revolving stylistic output, this didn’t necessarily satisfy Lalić – “I think I’ve become disillusioned with that idea since finishing Portal. But I guess that is necessary for me to keep looking forward.” Mladen is sometimes the sole member of Lalić, and sometimes not. There is a live band for Lalić, who contributed to the creative process of Portal – “they played all their own parts, and I had a lot of production and writing help from them all as well. The live band has become more and more of a collaborative project over time. We’re going to start working on a new drum, bass, guitar and vocal album soon, and I hope that is completely collaborative.” Much like a body of water or a viscous substance, the idea of Lalić is free of form – “on the other hand, the new Lalić LP that is coming out hopefully soon, Pretend Ranger, I recorded and wrote on my own. It’s played with a different live line up and that is still Lalić as well? It gets a bit confusing, but I like that.” There seems to be a distinct malleability at the core of Lalić, allowing the project to never stagnate in the one place.
Another piece of the Lalić puzzle comes in the form of an ongoing collaboration with rapper Slippy Mane. The duo’s first single ‘2 Much’ was released eight months ago. Lyrically, it is a stoic reflection on benders and a life of excess. Stylistically, it is quite detached from the music of Portal, or Bed Tape: 2. The music takes on the energy of a drug induced state, which reflects the lyrical subject matter impeccably. “Diego (Slippy Mane) has a big influence and input on my production. He can be very specific about what he likes, or things that should change or be added, which has definitely influenced my style too. I love collaborating with other artists, particularly for the effect that it has on me, the ideas that it gives me and the fresh perspectives it offers to the way I see my own practice. People who don’t see themselves as ‘proficient’ in playing music, I think they can have the most to offer.”
The Lalić x Slippy Mane project does not end with the release of ‘2 Much’ – “we’re going to be releasing a 10 track album called SLP2K17 very soon this year that we’re really excited about. We’ve wanted to do this collaboration since we were 15, and I can safely its one of the proudest things I’ve ever been part of and made. I’m so excited for people to hear it.”
Some say that the killer whale is the ruler of the ocean, with its fearsome predatory abilities. Others would argue that the true ruler of the ocean is the octopus, who can adapt to each of its environments, camouflaging itself against any surface it encounters, and slipping through cracks and crevices a tenth of its size. The octopus has an enviable environmental versatility, a transformative, adaptable physical nature. This loose metaphor is the most accurate one I can think of to describe the music and nature of the Lalić project. Lalić is free of restriction – it can fit into multiple crevices; the trippy hip hop of Lalić x Slippy Mane, the ambient electronica of Bed Tape 2: Soft Release, the psychedelic folk of Portal. Lalić as a single person, Lalić as a band, Lalić as a different band again for Pretend Ranger. There are so many aspects to this project, so many facets, so many camouflages and so much stylistic ambiguity. But at its core, it all stems from the one person, the one centre of gravity; Mladen Lalić Milinković.
Portal and Bed Tape: 2 are available from the Lalić Bandcamp.