In the past year Perth-based duo SLUMBERJACK have brought their music to new heights, turning out massive club hits like “RA” and increasing their total streams to over 40 million across platforms. During that time, musicians Morgan Then and Fletcher Ehlers have also pushed to a new level in their artistry and carved out a more boldly challenging sound than ever before. With their first-ever headline tour in the works, SLUMBERJACK now deliver a new EP that, in Ehlers’s words, “explores the dichotomies of light and dark and beauty and ugliness,” and ultimately creates a world unto itself.
Revealing SLUMBERJACK’s more refined musicality and heightened experimentalism, the new EP Fracture is a potent composite of bass-heavy club anthems, hook-driven pop tracks, and lushly cinematic pieces that show their film-score-inspired sensibilities. With its moody intensity and gorgeously jagged textures, the EP’s lead single and title track debuted in January and quickly became triple j’s most played track for several weeks. “Fracture” features a powerful vocal performance from Sydney-based singer/songwriter Vera Blue, infusing the song with an emotional depth that endures throughout the EP. “We want to create club tracks that have a story to them,” says Then. “You can dance to it at a festival or jam to it anywhere, but you can also listen more closely and study it and see how it relates to your own life.”
Along with bringing more exacting vision to the making of Fracture, SLUMBERJACK broadened their musical palette to add in obscure instruments from around the world. On “Cradle to Grave,” the duo use an Indian violin called a sarangi alongside a Japanese end-blown flute known as a shakuhachi, brilliantly offsetting the track’s more futuristic elements. A fittingly majestic opener to Fracture, “Cradle to Grave” came to life on a boat in Fiji as Then and Ehlers made their way home from playing the Your Paradise festival. “Everyone on the boat was sleeping and we were zooming over the Pacific Ocean and I thought, ‘I could sleep too, or I could try to write in this half-asleep, zonked-out state and see what happens,’” Then recalls. “So I started writing and saw the sunrise and kept writing once we were off the boat and at the airport, and 24 hours later the song was completed. It felt like a possession, like once I started I couldn’t stop.”
Fracture EP also features a Tuvan throat singer, who lends an eerie grandeur to the darkly charged yet ethereal “Paralyse (Figured It Out).” (“It’s so strange-sounding that it almost seems synthetic, but it’s really 100 percent human,” says Then of the throat singing. “When you hear that voice it feels like the world is ending.”) And for “Take Me,” SLUMBERJACK bring in the sarangi once more, this time conjuring up a frantic and feverish sound intensified by a relentlessly repeating bassline crafted by Ehlers.
Since breaking onto the Australian electronic music scene in 2014, Then (a Borneo-bred, classically trained concert pianist and former world-music artist) and Ehlers (a Vietnam-raised Australia native who taught himself to make electronic music at age 11) have tapped into their kinetic chemistry to guide their sound into new directions. With their synergy stronger than ever—and with multiple #1 tracks on Hype Machine now under their belt—SLUMBERJACK are currently focused on prepping for their upcoming tour, and aspire to deepen their engagement with each audience. “The show’s going to be about slowing down a bit and focusing more on what’s happening in the moment, rather than always looking to the next drop,” says Ehlers. “There should be moments where you just absorb something ugly or unusual, and then get the payoff later when you experience something beautiful. We don’t want to just have people going crazy the whole time—we want to give them a show that takes them on some kind of a journey.”