Words by Laura Perm-Jardin
Photographs by Adam Kremer
Infiltrating the surf and indie rock sounds that hold a monopoly on the independent Brisbane music scene, Argentina the solo project of Alex Ritchie provides refreshing choice of summer soundtrack. His catchy blend of ambient electronica, synth-y pop and layered vocals has generated much hype between his new release, anticipated to drop some time this year.
From first listen, I envisioned Argentina as a cross between a more modest M83 and Manchester Orchestra. Birthed from failed Pop-Punk band beginnings, there’s still a hint of ‘Hellogoodbye’ in Ritchie’s synth-y compositions, however he has grown from a culmination of influences to become a unique inclusion into Brisbane’s current music scene. Taking notes from local musical veterans Arrows and Paper and The Plane (circa 2008) the band’s more shoegazey indie brand of song is apparent in Ritchie’s vocal styling’s. The enunciated and at times, slightly spoken word vocals do not shy away from the Australian accent, much like another one of Ritchie’s major influences, An Horse.
Along with a number of self composed tracks, written and produced by Ritchie himself, Argentina has payed homage to one of his major inspirations, putting an unusual but very interesting spin on An Horse’s track ‘Camp Out.’ The original track features a simple guitar riff paired with a light percussion line featuring tambourine. Ritchie’s spin transforms the tune into what could be an entirely new song. His addition of piano organ and underlying deep synth adds layers and substance to the An Horse track whilst still preserving the original melodic elements of the song. The electronic drumbeat, echoing refrain paired with a quickly ascending and descending synth riff is reminiscent of the successes of The Postal Service.
Ritchie’s most acclaimed track, Bad Kids begins with an infectious synth melody that instantly transported me to an all too familiar period in 2009 where the song “Fireflies” by Owl City was inescapable. However, unlike Owl City, Argentina’s dreamy synth pop introduction is not brutally interrupted with whiney vocals and terrible lyrics. Instead Argentina delivers a refreshing take on the usual synth pop approach adding harmonized layered vocals with an ambient but substantial bass line to his masterful creation. The track received much play on Triple J and attracted so much hype behind it that Alex was deemed to be one of Triple J’s Feature Unearthed Artist. The seductive brand of ‘minimalist synthpop’ as branded by Dom Alessio seems to have an element that almost anyone can identify with.
For the past few months Ritchie has been recording his first EP and planning his live show setup which promises live drum and percussion styling paired with a multitude of vocalists. The artist speculates that he doesn’t want the live experience to emulate a disk jockey set where he simply re-mediates his digital recordings into a live setting – he strives to bring something fresh to his performances. We’re looking forward to seeing Argentina perform alongside Pluto Jonze, Cub Scouts and Fairchild Republic at Cobra Kai Club hosted by Oh Hello on February 23rd and crossing our fingers that he’ll reveal some sneaky new tracks he’s been working so hard on.