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Kindness, Not Courtesy

by Spirograph Studies

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Gospel 09:58
R&R 05:11
Gromp City 05:08
M31 07:01


This is the debut album from Melbourne-based art music band, Spirograph Studies. 'Kindness, Not Courtesy' is comprised of eight thoughtfully selected tracks, by band-leader and bass player Tamara Murphy, brought into being by this awesome line up. Each track has been composed from a singularity to create a simple, yet vast, music.

*Please note that we as we are trying to be more environmentally conscious, we are not planning to press any more CDs at this time. We hope you understand, and can enjoy our music in one of the many high-fidelity formats Bandcamp offers.


“This album absorbed me with its understated movement, subtle colour shifts, beautiful melodic interaction, and textural approach to music making.”

Kindness, Not Courtesy is the debut album of the four-piece group from Melbourne, Spirograph Studies. It is an absorbing and distinctive album featuring the beautiful interplay of pianist Luke Howard, guitarist Fran Swinn, bassist Tamara Murphy and drummer James McLean. The compositions are simple sounding but thoughtfully crafted and well-designed vehicles for the ensemble to showcase the eclectic taste and versatility of the players. Their formidable ability makes everything sound effortless and, in every track, we can hear their enjoyment in making music together. Seven of the eight tracks were written by bandleader and bassist Tamara Murphy and the album takes the listener on a lovely journey through delicate and warm soundscapes.

From the first track it, is clear that these musicians are committed to making music together using a collective and textural approach. There is seldom a dedicated soloist, instead, there is space and respect from each player which allows the material to be explored by everyone simultaneously. Where one would normally expect to hear a solo from any of the accomplished soloists in the ensemble, we hear their collective approach to making music together interactively using excellent interplay, warmth, and empathy. On the rare occasion when someone is moving to the foreground for a feature, the high level of interplay and interaction is never lost.
While the album is generally quite gentle and warm, there is a healthy progression and variety to the material. There are not many sharp corners to the music; phrases stretch naturally, and the music breathes. One section leads organically to the next and the listener relaxes and enjoys the journey. The longest track on the album, the almost 10-minute composition Gospel, is an excellent example of this pacing. Beginning with a bold use of space and restraint, the track gradually swells and builds. Instead of feeling empty, the initial space draws the listener in to hear the material gently unfolding with curiosity and trust.
There is a lovely arc to the album and the first five tracks are nicely balanced by the more active final three pieces. The influences and musical tastes of the performers are diverse but merge together very successfully, allowing for the group to traverse many different landscapes as a cohesive unit. In the darker R & R and Gromp City we hear a tasteful use of Rockier musical sensibilities. The final track M31 by James McLean brings another colour to the album. Following the light moving guitar introduction, the performers gradually layer and increase the activity and density over the next seven minutes to construct a captivating textural sound world.
There was not a traditional hierarchy to the music and while this was one of the strengths of the album, it did take my ears some time to adjust. My attention was constantly zooming in and out to hear the beautiful detail each of the players was bringing to the music while also refocusing to hear how everyone was working together to build the colourful soundscapes.
Each subsequent hearing revealed more detail. It was a pleasure listening to the interplay between members and how they move through and explore the beautiful material together. This album absorbed me with its understated movement, subtle colour shifts, beautiful melodic interaction, and textural approach.

July 27, 2020

Artist(s): Spirograph Studies - Tamara Murphy (bass), Luke Howard (piano), Fran Swinn (guitar), James McLean (drums)
Label: Artist Release
Reviewed by: Rafael Karlen
The Music Trust



Jazz of startling originality, difficult to categorize, has been streaming out of Melbourne for years. Kindness, Not Courtesy is an example. Seven originals by bassist Tamara Murphy and one by drummer James McLean are generally ruminative and minimalist, featuring beautiful harmonic changes. One might call this genre “textural jazz”, whereby no particular soloist dominates the sound mix with technical virtuosity. This is a collaborative venture with four players contributing sensitively to the whole. Still, there is individuality here. Lyrical pianist Luke Howard, while often unobtrusive, can also project strongly, with a very clear voice. Guitarist Fran Swinn, with a pleasing Bill Frisell influence, is a skilled conversationalist in the mix. While there is an appealing stillness here, the music also flares out, showing the influence of rock elements, while its inner music retains the majesty of jazz.

Eric Myers
The Weekend Australian, August 24, 2019
Published in the Weekend Australian


Spirograph Studies are a Melbourne based four-piece bringing their debut album, Kindness, Not Courtesy, to Aotearoa in September 2019. Band leader and bassist, Tamara Murphy utilises the immensely talented quartet to gently herd us through gorgeous soundscapes on this record. Spirograph Studies have captured the imagination of live audiences at jazz festivals in their home country and it is just a matter of time before they do the same here.
This record is cinematic in its breadth and detail. It conjures imagery and the colour pallet of a film score. The opening number, The Opposite of Afar, begins the journey and sounds like a journey in and of itself. Maybe the group are leaving, maybe they’re arriving only to leave again, but they always grab us mid-embrace. This record is a train station or an airport with singular emotions and themes brought into their truest forms – everything is on the move. Pianist, Luke Howard’s graceful improvisational work sparks out over the structure offered by Murphy and drummer James Mclean, only to build and swoon with Fran Swinn’s guitar.
Murphy is behind every sweeping turn, every flung open window or elusive dab of paint by softly nudging and probing. Then Swinn is off again wrapping delicate notes around broad swathes of drums and hi-hats to hold the exquisite tone together. Mclean’s drumming soars above on songs like R & R but it is the interwoven elements of this group that prove to be their strength. Particularly earnest pieces are blended with subtle layering from other members of the quartet to add depth and even playfulness. And when Howard’s piano is ready to crash, Swinn and co crash up against him like a rough sea in the superb and wild Gromp City.
This album reflects a masterclass in storytelling, in depth and detail and while that alone should be relished, it offers more. It is not often listeners are invited into something so intricate yet still so accessible. This album does something that can get lost in the heady throws of creation and that is allows a space for the listener. This record is an invitation, a warm welcome or the sounds of a new friend at a front door. All I can, do is suggest you walk through it.

Hayden Pyke
writingincapitalletters.home.blog August 11, 2019


released July 1, 2019

Spirograph Studies are:
Tamara Murphy - bass
Luke Howard - piano
Fran Swinn - guitar
James McLean - drums

Recorded at Pughouse Studios by Niko Schauble in Melbourne, December 21, 2017 & June 25, 2018
Mixed and mastered by Joe Talia at A Good Mixture Tokyo
Front cover image - Cameron Robbins, “21hrs, Dry Cool SW, Flinders St”
Photo - Hans-Jørgen Jahr
Layout and design - Hans-Jørgen Jahr
Luke Howard appears by courtesy of Decca Music Group Limited


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Spirograph Studies Melbourne, Australia

Post-rock, post-jazz and post-minimalism, Spirograph Studies shamelessly steal sonic palettes from all areas to build their cinematic sound.

In 2019, they tour around Australia and NZ to launch their debut album, Kindness, Not Courtesy.

Spirograph Studies:

Tamara Murphy - bass
Luke Howard - piano
Fran Swinn - guitar
James McLean - drums
... more

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