Selected Songs 1997-2003 compiles some of the finest moments in the recording history of Hydroplane, the Melbourne-based indie-pop three-piece that operated alongside The Cat’s Miaow through the second half of the nineties. It’s the third release in what feels, now, like a loosely planned series by World Of Echo, documenting the music made by this group of friends in Melbourne sharehouses (The Cat’s Miaow’s Songs ’94-’98, 2022), or in the case of The Shapiros (Gone By Fall, 2023), while traversing the International Pop Underground.
This loose coalition with dance music, and the quiet experimentalism at the heart of Hydroplane, also gestures towards peers like Hood, Acetate Zero and Other People’s Children, and releases on renegade labels like Wurlitzer Jukebox and Enraptured. Like those groups and labels, The Cat’s Miaow were reconciling independent pop music’s past – sweet melody and melancholy, chiming and droning guitars – with the futures promised by DIY electronics and nascent digitalia, the interface of indie and IDM that led to some of the underground’s most blissful, texturally swoonsome music. All that is here, but also, the poise of the melodies is pure Cat’s Miaow, though, with Bolton’s voice sailing, pacifically, over some of the most pared-down, gorgeous music made during their decade.
It was a time, too, when such music could make waves – “We Crossed The Atlantic”, one of their early singles, was picked up by John Peel, who played it repeatedly on his legendary radio show, the song reaching #13 on his 1997 Festive 50. That the song itself was a cover of a tune by 1960s Australian beatnik-pop-poet Pip Proud felt even more perfect – a group of outsiders paying tribute to another outsider, played on the radio one of the few broadcasters brave and human enough to take a chance on this music. But it was a time where everything was up for grabs, and genres were flowing into each other: folk songs went drone; indie re-discovered noise; ambient pop floated, again, out onto the dancefloor. And while they may have been sequestered away in Melbourne, Australia, Hydroplane felt core to that scene, a quietly driving force.
Compiling material from across their brief but mercurial career, this double album perfectly captures the magic and mystery of Hydroplane’s dreamlike, perfect pop songs.