Chemically speaking, the best way to speed up a reaction is to invite change and introduce an outside force: light, heat, movement. As The Cactus Channel know full well, the same goes with sound — introducing change compels a composition forward, as it rises, falls, peaks and boils.
As frenetic rhythms build only to fall away, and melodies loop, dive, and stutter, The Cactus Channel make music that both functions on and demands reaction. 2017 finds the band shape-shifting again, welcoming guest vocals from Sam Cromack on the first release of what promises to be a big year.
Until recently, The Cactus Channel were easily introduced as integral members of the Soul music scene that quietly flourishes in Melbourne. Well-known for the kind of musicianship and compositional skills fundamental to making compelling instrumental music, The Cactus Channel are equal parts sharp and scruffy, at turns loose and languid, then electric and rhythmic.
The band formed in high school, united by shared interests and a shared sense of humour — a love of soul music and the kind of hip hop, jazz, and alternative releases that spring from it, meant that from the beginning The Cactus Channel have prided themselves not just on eclecticism, but on the constant sharing of influences among their members.
The band were signed in their formative years to Melbourne soul mainstay HopeStreet Recordings and recorded their much beloved debut, Haptics. Sophomore release Wooden Boy in 2014 saw the band’s shifting sound cemented: spooky and cinematic, arid and augmented, and decidedly difficult to pin down. “Soul” slowly became too small a word to encompass the band’s output, as traditional horn lines gave way to twisting parts that oscillated between overblown and understated, and a rhythm section that prided itself on moments that make a listener stop and take stock, partly unnerved and partly overjoyed.
By 2015 The Cactus Channel had two albums, and national tours under their belts when they were approached by Nick Murphy (FKA Chet Faker) to collaborate on one-off release Kill The Doubt / Sleeping Alone. The band’s first recorded foray into working with a vocalist, it proved yet another avenue for the band to introduce diverse sonic textures into their arrangements. This year they have collaborated closely with Sam Cromack on an EP that treads a thin line between alt-soul and the best of indie pop, swimming in compelling atmospherics and deftly weaving Cromack’s rich, drawling vocal and disarming, meditative lyrics through the band’s typically intuitive arrangements.
Solidifying their lineup of seven members, The Cactus Channel’s music will undoubtedly continue to shift and change, as action-reaction proves the perfect formula to keep the band, and their listeners, on their toes.
“Once again The Cactus Channel have provided the goods for what is one very dark but compelling 7”. Well done, you have certainly kept the flag of quality running high” – Craig Charles, BBC 6 Music
“Infectiously funky sounds… a horn-fuelled, butt-shaking affair” – Triple j (Dom Alessio, Home & Hosed)
“A soulful melange between jazz and funk” – Hypetrak (Hypebeast)
“Tightly raw soul, rambling deep-funk jams and organ-driven party mash-ups” – The Age
“the harmonies and ride-heavy drums of The Cactus Channel fit perfectly with Faker’s powerful voice” – Hilly Dilly
“absolutely fabulous music” – (on collaboration with Chet Faker) – Triple j (Richard Kingsmill)
“What ensued was an onslaught of pure soul that melted the minds and ears of all surrounding, perhaps not what you’d expect of a young band with a name as unusual as The Cactus Channel” – The Ripe