Mystery Guest, Octagon City (Tenth Court)
Melbourne, AUS-based Mystery Guest recently put out one of our favorites of the year, so far, with their debut full-length. Starting with the current sitch-appropriate line “are you feeling stressed?”, the title track opener serves as a kind of starchild meets ‘1984’ informercial. For those pining for “the roundness of a circle, and the structure of a square – at the same time” here for your pleasure, ladies and gents, is Octagon City.
Comprised of Patrick Telfer and Caitlyn Lesiuk, Mystery Guest make trippy, louche dance music with a decidedly downtown feel. Part of a continuum stretching back to the art damaged Lower East Side of the 70s, the jubilant DIY disco of a leftfield Factory Records signing, through bohemian dance like Deee-Lite and Luscious Jackson, and on to current arch-stylists like International Teachers of Pop, the album’s nine tracks groove, tease, and slap – all the while taking pleasure, from a distance, at the goofy grin forming on your face.
Highlights are many. ‘Redeem’ has a sultry grooviness that calls to mind 80s r&b and The Style Council-esque mod pop. The back-to-back one-two of ‘Get Up’ and ‘Red Dance’ are slow motion bangers; the former adding hints of afropop to the arrangement, the latter riding a seriously elastic bassline. ‘Mystery Party’ comes off as a sensual re-drawing of ‘Vogue’ – “lift your skirts/hertz by hertz” is one of the best dance floor commands of this or any year, and the track is currently tied with Too Free’s ‘Gold’ in our 2020 “best use of 808 cowbell” awards. ‘Moon, Moon’ feels positively Roxy in its decayed romance – “our celestial bodies/making the waves/singing to drown/the church upon the knaves” (is that a hint of ‘Always, Forever’ at the one minute mark?). All this groove is beautifully anchored by Lesiuk’s unflustered vocals. Oozing charisma, I love the way she reshapes and stretches certain syllables, adding to the grandeur.
Beguiling and a bit cheeky, Octagon City is very highly recommended. The shape of their love is an octagon – step on in.
Octagon City is out now, courtesy of Tenth Court.
Highlights include: ‘Redeem’; ‘Moon, Moon’; ‘Get Up’; ‘The Day Lou Died’.