[21 January 2007]
Macromantics is Romy Hoffman, a new hip-hop artist from Melbourne. She’s among the most outspokenly Australian of the Aussie hip-hop contingent, enunciating those characteristic vowels with obvious relish. “Miss Macro spits rap flows hot like tea or coffee”—imagine it, if you can, with a thick Aussie accent, spoken fast and confidently: here’s Macromantics.
The MC comes from a live instrumental background, guitaring for Noise Addict back at age 15. Apparently, she “discovered” hip-hop on tour with the band in the U.S. I don’t know that you could say it’s translated into a certain reverence, but Macromantics does have a keen sense of musical and cultural influence: a couple heavy metal references, a Tom Waits imitation, an old Schweppes commercial, and myriad other pop cultural references are crammed into her interesting and unconventional imagery. The influence of her peers is also present when she talks about “the sky raining paper cranes” you may think of Suffa’s famous rejoinder in Hilltop Hoods’ “Dumb Enough?”, “…it’s a swan”. The imagery’s not always spot on, something we can forgive in a debutante. Still, we cringe at this: “This is Macro mantra banter flawless / Presence is felt like a batch of Santa Clauses”.
Interestingly (or inexplicably) Macromantics has been signed to indie label Kill Rock Stars. She’ll be supporting Deerhoof (of all bands) in the U.S. early next year: predict a bemused response from the hyper-hip ‘hoof lovers, I guess. Well, the label’s got a pretty wide net in terms of signees, but Macro raises one cash-in flag you’ll likely read in any other press covering the artist: you can’t listen to Macromantics without thinking, at least once, of Lady Sovereign. As to who’d win in Celebrity Death Match, my money’d have to be on Macro – she’s mad scrappy, seeming somehow more genuine.
Well, though there are tendencies towards Lady Sovereign delivery-wise, Macromantics is most certainly her own artist. If you’re inclined to make the comparison, Macromantics has more in common with Eminem’s syllable-twisting, repetitive delivery than Lady Sovereign. But it’s her melodic sensibility that saves many of these songs from pastiche. Taking as a starting point this “barbeque rap” sensibility that pervades and hampers much of Aussie hip-hop, Macromantics adds a layer of slick synth production and rich instrumentation—from the stuttering, rising horn fanfare of opener “Miss Macro” to the mariachi/whiskey blues feel (imagine it?) of “Dark Side of Dallas”. The latter track was actually written by Australian indie band Ground Components, but the majority of the credit for the production goes to Sydney producer Tony Buchen (Buchman). He’s crafted a varied palate of sounds and atmospheres that is essential, as it stops Macromantics’ combative delivery from becoming monotonous. That she strays in that direction is one of the worrying things about Moments in Movement.
The first three tracks on Moments in Movement bound out of the gate with a heap of attitude; they’re the best songs on the album. Apart from “Miss Macro”, “Moments in Movement” adds a dark, crunchy electro vibe with a slow-chanted dirge of a chorus; and “Scorch”, the first single, uses a simple arpeggio of aaahs as an effective backdrop for the MC’s enthusiastic delivery. But as the disc wears on, the problems inherent to female rap (lack of bass, perhaps lack of depth of vocal character) begin to limit Macro too. “Locksmith” effectively becomes Sage Francis’ own: between his verse and the male vocal sample, the feel’s completely changed. On “Vaudeville”, the attempted variety backfires: the Tom Waits-style freak out doesn’t have the impact it’s shooting for, it just sounds staged.
Macromantics probably won’t make a huge wave with Moments in Movement, but it’s appreciated that these records are still made: records with room for improvement but a relish of idiosyncrasy. It’s still pretty likeable, really.