Australia is a country of landscapes both harsh and beautiful, and rarely anything in between. We have expanses of silent land and crowded skies of screeching cockatoos; quiet forests in which the only sound seems to be leaves breathing, and beaches noisy with crashing waves. We don’t tend to think of the city as what defines us – it is the natural world that makes us who we are, regardless of where we live. But it is the city that dominates a lot of our cultural output – as it must, for most of us live in cities. Rarely, though, does anyone attempt to capture those rich whispers of the Australian landscape in recorded sound.
Nothing to Win and Nothing to Lose by Victorian duo anchor & the butterfly opens with a track so evocative of the Australian landscape that I almost expected to open my door and find that I had somehow been transported to a paddock on a dewy morning, magpies in the trees around me and the sun just starting to strike the ground. No matter how many times I listen to it, it is always so moving that I want to stop whatever I’m doing and just listen.
This track, ‘A Lone Star’, is the perfect introduction to this album, which picks up pace – although not too much – in a mindful way, the structure of the album suggesting careful thought about how songs would best fit with each other.
Singer-songwriter Bridget Robertson is a heartfelt narrator of the stories in these songs; guitarist Lance Hillier complements her perfectly, producing delicate strains or more robust accompaniment as required. These songs are restrained without being constrained; they are layered and also crisply produced. Hillier’s guitar is the constant in amongst any other instruments that appear – it keeps track of Robertson’s voice, weaving around her, supporting her, cajoling her.
This is not an album for those who like their country music replete with duelling banjos, but it is worth the attention of anyone who likes to give time to music and who will get time in return – this is an album that will stand up for years to come, and it rewards repeated listening. For anyone who loves music, what could be better?
Nothing to Win and Nothing to Lose is out now.