Single Gun Theory ‘Millions, Like Stars In My Hands, Daggers In My Heart, Wage War’ (NETTWERK, 1991)

In retrospect, the films we watched growing up as kids in Australia in the early 1990s were extremely weird. There must have been something in the water in 1993 especially – the year that gave us the bizarre duo of ‘Reckless Kelly’ and ‘The Heartbreak Kid’. ‘Reckless Kelly’ starred kooky comic actor Yahoo Serious in a satirical modern-day take on the legend of Ned Kelly that also features a pre-Matrix fame Hugo Weaving.

‘The Heartbreak Kid’ was about a questionable romance between a 22-year-old high school teacher who falls in love with her 17-year-old student. To say neither of these movies has aged well is an understatement, but the soundtracks have held up slightly better, and what links them both is the inclusion of music by Single Gun Theory.

Single Gun Theory were Jacqui Hunt, Pete Rivett-Carnac and Kath Power. Formed in Sydney in 1986, their downtempo electronica was way ahead of the curve at a time when Australia’s airwaves were dominated by rock and pop. Tom Ellard of Severed Heads was an early champion of the band (Rivett-Carnac was briefly a member of Severed Heads’ touring line-up) and brought them to the attention of the Canadian label Nettwerk, who specialised in dance and industrial music and were responsible for getting Severed Heads’ music into North America.

The trio released their debut album ‘Exorcise This Wasteland’ in 1987 on Nettwerk, and ‘Millions, Like Stars In My Hands, Daggers In My Heart, Wage War’ followed in 1991. Inspired by Hunt and Rivett-Carnac’s travels through south-east Asia, the album incorporates field recordings from their trip and eastern music with warm analog electronics, spoken-word samples and Hunt’s smooth-as-glass vocals. The radio-friendly single ‘From A Million Miles’ fuses club beats with a smattering of global sounds and became their most recognisable song (winding up on the previously mentioned ‘Reckless Kelly’ soundtrack). ‘Take Me Back’ opens with a recording of Natalie Wood from the 1961 film ‘Splendour In The Grass’, before morphing into moody trip hop, and ‘Angels Over Teheran’ mixes hip hop and a vibrant collage of samples that had to have had a formative influence on later Australian electronic acts like The Avalanches.

Across the album, the fusion of slow-moving, slightly psychedelic electronica and world-spanning instrumentation sounds firmly rooted in the 1990s, but at the time, Single Gun Theory were at the forefront of the trip hop genre – you could argue that they were Australia’s first trip hop group. ‘Millions, Like Stars’ sounds a bit like Thievery Corporation, a bit like Portishead and a bit like Bel Canto, but with a unique Antipodean sunniness at its heart. The album achieved Top 40 success in Australia, and David Byrne and Australian film director Peter Weir were said to be fans. Single Gun Theory released one more album, ‘Flow, River Of My Soul’ in 1994, and a soundtrack for the film ‘The Monkey’s Mask’ in 2001, but ‘Millions, Like Stars’ is the best example of their singular and somewhat forgotten talent.

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