Muph & Plutonic – Diamonds in the rough

August 18, 2008 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, EG, August 15, 2008

Hip-hop duo Muph & PLutonic focus on details, writes Dan Rule.

Dan Young and Leigh Ryan don’t deal with compliments too well. The pair – known to most as MC Muphin and producer par excellence Plutonic Lab – shift uncomfortably in their seats at the mere mention of new album …And Then Tomorrow Came.

When its glowing reviews are raised, they fall all but completely silent. Young stares mutely into his coffee up, nodding once as way of polite acknowledgement; Ryan averts a uneasy gaze to the window. “Yeah,” he chuckles nervously. “It’s a bit over-the-top.”

There’s very little that’s “over-the-top” about Muph & Plutonic. Spend any amount of time with the intensely personal outer suburbanisms, soul-flecked arrangements and raw beats of …And Then Tomorrow Came – their third long-player as a duo – and you’ll find a work that thrives on nuance and understatement. And while you wouldn’t dare tell Young or Ryan, it’s also one of the most mature and quietly masterful records to rise from the domestic hip-hop ether.

“I almost approached this record from the song writing perspective rather than as a rapper perse, even though they are raps, straight up,” says Young. “Hip-hop’s what I love, but it was really great to get that perspective from another genre and kind of bring it to life in this.”

Ryan concurs. “A lot of the kind of influences for this record weren’t necessarily hip-hop influences,” he says, “despite the fact that it’s very much a hip-hop record. Like, I’d be giving Dan folk tracks to listen to just for the writing and vice versa.”

It’s this unassuming sense of exploration that has come to characterise Muph & Plutonic in the context of a domestic scene that, in it’s search for distinctness, has often tended caricature. Across two acclaimed albums as a duo – 2004 debut Hunger Pains and 2006’s brilliant Silence the Sirens – and several respective solo releases, Young and Ryan have followed an aesthetic conduit based around form rather than geographical location. Indeed, while both have become iconic members of the Australian hip-hop landscape, neither defines themself by it.

It’s little wonder. Music runs deep for the pair. 29-year-old Young learned the MCing trade at the start of the 90s, under the watchful eye of his elder brother. “I was his little apprentice,” he laughs. “Everyone in my class was listening to Nirvana and I felt like I was kind of separating myself from all of that with music because I pretty much always felt a bit like that. It was that kind of outcast thing, you know.”

Ryan, on the other hand, grew up with a father who was a musician and has been playing the drums since primary school. He discovered the world of production through a high school teacher. “He basically had a home-studio and he had an eight-track reel-to-reel and drum machines and all this kind of stuff,” recalls the producer, who has since made beats for everyone from Renee Geyer and local MCs like Pegz to international rappers like Fatlip (of LA’s legendary Pharcyde) and UK MC Lotek. “Sometimes I’d just wag school and go to his house to use the studio and stuff.”

“I was learning how to produce right then and there,” he continues. “I just loved all these machines, you know. You could make a whole piece of music without needing anyone to help you.”

And Then Tomorrow Came shimmers with such an expansive palette. While cuts like the rugged The Damn Truth, swooning Number 45 and Size of the Soul peal with organic soul sensibilities and instrumentation, the tectonic dub of Balloon Heads (featuring vocalist Kye) and psyche-funk of the title track (featuring Pete Lawler, of Weddings Parties Anything and Crazy Baldheads fame) add another inflection entirely.

But the record’s two most striking tracks would have to be the austere fingerpicked guitar and raw, live drum break of Muph’s poignant self-exploratory oeuvre Yesterday’s Basement and the popping electro beat and angular guitar hook of Muph’s extraordinary diary of addiction Sleep.

“Rapping really keeps me sane in a way,” says Young, staring into his coffee cup again. “It used to be an adrenaline rush, but now it’s really a release.”

“I’m no psychologist, but hopefully I can do something for someone,” he pauses, breaking “Maybe I could write a self-help book – Things Not to Do.”

Muph & Plutonic play the Corner Hotel on Saturday, August 23

…And Then Tomorrow Came is out now through Obese


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