The Paradise Motel – Australian Ghost Story

The Azaria Chamberlain story has seen many appearances in the arts, from the John Bryson book and film Evil Angels, to the Moya Henderson opera Lindy; but now the great Australian mystery has been taken up in indie music too. Emerging from a 10 year hiatus, The Paradise Motel decided to remind everyone of their existence through a haunting, well written concept album.

One of the most remarkable Australian bands of the ‘90s, The Paradise Motel’s classic releases like Still Life and Flight Paths earned them a solid reputation for their distinctively haunting soundscapes and powerful live shows. The music favoured haunting, mournful and slow sounds and was often characterised by sparse arrangement, offset by moments of density and loudness – what the band have rather aptly described as “the violence and the silence”.

Australian Ghost Story comes from a band with more than enough years of experience and an obvious comfortableness with their sound. Retaining the melancholic arrangements and the noir-esque, cinematic quality, this album is a beautiful narrative journey exploring one of the most talked about and culturally significant crime mysteries the country has ever witnessed.

With the release date coinciding with Azaria’s 30th birthday, the songs are appropriately eerie and dark. Album opener The Witnesses sets the scene, with the distinctive hushed vocals of Merinda Sussex immediately coming to the forefront.

From there its textbook Paradise Motel – a play between sparse and dense dynamics, arrangements, flanked by distant orchestra sounds and layered, hushed vocals and melodies. The PJ Harvey-esque Brown Snake combines funk rhythms with mournful violin and plays on the violence/silence technique as it crescendos to a loud finish. The Cops keeps the moody vibe going, its chanted lyrical finish giving the song a chilling ambience. But one of the album’s real highlights is its closing track. Clocking in at over nine minutes, Prelude to a Saga brings the album to an epic, emotional and sprawling finish.

Although this isn’t the band’s best work, it is great to see this unique and important band finally resurface again. Hopefully the recent live shows and new record points to more future releases – and visits to our stages – from these much loved underground Melbourne legends.