In 1996, Melbourne indie pop band The Cat’s Miaow, short on members at the time but big on ideas, wanted to make a record for kicks. The ensuing trio—guitarist Andrew Withycombe, bassist Bart Cummings, and singer Kerrie Bolton—released a short EP under the name Hydroplane. Filling the void left by the departure of their Cat’s Miaow drummer, they used a Roland drum machine to create tape loops and sound experiments, just enough material for a limited a 7-inch record, cheekily titled “Excerpts from Forthcoming LP.” They figured it would be sweet and surreal and then that would be that, but, following the unexpected popularity of the LP, their label had other plans and convinced Hydroplane to put out a proper full-length release, which the band recorded and released in 1997.
Recently reissued on digital and vinyl formats, Hydroplane’s self-titled debut album experiments with different instrumentation and soundscapes than the group’s work as The Cat’s Miaow. Propelled by the absence of a live drummer, Bolton delivers lush dreamy vocals that hover in a delicate dance with the band’s guitars, synths, and bass.
Using a drum machine instead of a live drummer, some songs (“Wurlitzer Jukebox,” for example) have a danceable hip-hop / R&B rhythm, while others like “Song for the Meek” are drumless pieces of almost ambient dream pop, and others forego vocals altogether. Taken together, the album plays out like a series of short vignettes to experiment with different styles and structures, creating a record whose sonic palette expands across every track. Meandering from trip-hop to pop to shoegaze to ambient, it’s a delightfully eclectic album, taking listeners on a fun ride that’s well worth taking.