GUM is eternally flexible on ‘The Underdog’ / ‘S.I.A’

GUM, the solo project of Tame Impala/Pond member JAY WATSON, works as an outlet for the eternally flexible multi-instrumentalist to explore the limits of genre, refracting the music back through his playfully psychedelic lens. He continues to play around with genres on his latest offering, the double single release ‘The Underdog / S.I.A’, which has been lifted from his upcoming fourth record, The Underdog, the full details of which are slated to be unveiled next month.

In describing the themes of ‘The Underdog’, WATSON says that he aimed to evoke “that sensation of triumph and that weird parallel universe feeling you get when the person that’s not supposed to win, does.” Over shimmering synths and washed-out vocals, a brass line carries this thematic balance, introducing a spiritual sense of scale that, when paired with the female call-and-response vocals urging to “always go for the underdog,” seems uplifting at first. But while it starts out bright, the line ends up sounding flattened and defeated, tapping into the song’s underlying feelings of a cosmic injustice. In a final move of cosmic disorientation, WATSON fades the track out by traversing the passage of time, sampling his own voice from his 2016 track, ‘Don’t Let Time Get You Down’.

‘S.I.A’, meanwhile, was the last song made for the new album, and was based off an initial rhythm, where WATSON “liked the idea of it being really organic electronic music, kind of groovy but also really cold and mechanical sounding.”

A funk-infused bass line bubbles away underneath some glitchy analogue synths that blur indistinguishably into the persistent, driving disco beat and match the repetitiveness of WATSON’S refrain: “I’ll say it again, but you won’t understand.” The only real interruptions to this otherwise total instrumental soundboard come in the form of JAY’S kaleidoscopic guitar licks. But throughout the entire track, you can almost feel him constantly tweaking and twerking away at his sonic palette, so that colours and moods morph right before your eyes. If the programmed synths and monotonous beats sound cold and mechanical, then the buzzing synths that grow steadily in intensity, the guitar licks that run over one another, the tails of his vocal lines that echo and distort, swirling around in the background as they pan from left to right, introduce a more organic, human element to the track.

GUM will be heading out on tour in March and April behind his new material – you can find all the dates and tickets down below.

Saturday, March 31 – The Bird, Perth

Friday, April 6 – Yah Yah’s, Melbourne

Saturday, April 7 – By The Meadow, Bambra

Wednesday, April 11 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

Thursday, April 12 – The Brightside, Brisbane

WORDS BY KYLE FENSOM

IMAGE: Supplied

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