Monday, July 12, 2010

Tickets Please

(EDIT: So got another review up on the Beat website for y'all Here We Go Magic's Pigeons
and the Karnivool review has popped up on not one, but two, websites: Beat again, and a new website I'm penning for now called Word On the Street, an emerging arts and events type place. Check it out. S'real good.)

The Fringe show continues to fester and grow, but I don't want to reveal too much just yet. Just some more cheeky imagery as some food for thought.
Instead, here's a couple of reviews for some swell gigs recently. I often find that good concerts come in groups. There'll be nothing for months, then all of a sudden, two or three totally unique but equally awesome shows will roll round. This was one of those times.
Apologies in advance too for the lack of live photography, I'm a wrtier not a shooter, though i'm starting to think maybe bringing a digital camera to gigs might be prove to be better than nothing...
Kimbra - Live @ The Toff In Town, Sat July 10th

The small confines of the Toff were the perfect locale for Kimbra’s musical stylings, intimate as it is with the candle-lit cafe tables dotted about and especially the crimson trimmings - all suited to Kimbra’s jazz-inflected soul-pop. When those same red curtains part they reveal Kimbra giddy with energy, ready to go, alongside her four piece backing band, all in matching shirts and suspenders. A tidy visual, but the focus is most definitely on who is fronting them, dolled up in a femme fatale bob and equally natty red frock, is the songstress herself.

Tonight sees her showcasing tunes from her hotly-anticipated debut Vows, a record that's steadily gathering buzz thanks partly to the names attached to it. Namely Francois Tetaz (Bertie Blackman, Gotye) and M-Phazes (Amerie, Pharoahe Monch), but the surprise is how well her snappily produced recorded output translates to the live setting. Suprising not for lack of experience, even at the tender age of nineteen Kimbra has already been gigging for years, but how her ambitious arrangements crackle with energy in the flesh.

Diving into Cameo Lover, her talented backing band lay the perfect bedrock for Kimbra’s remarkable voice, an elastic timbre that’s comfortable with a variety of acrobatic styles. One moment she’s slyly crooning, emphatically wailing the next. It surely helps that the linchpin of Kimbra’s sound – rhythm – is given near-perfect personification in the brilliant drumming of Stan Bicknell, his muscular tone bringing out the subtle hip-hop backbone as well as the natural groove to Kimbra’s compositions.

Good Intent too brings out the infectious vibe of her music, as well as the crowd, who quickly fill the space in front of the stage with a mass of nodding heads and swaying hips. The escapist soul-hop of Settle Down, the lead single from that same forthcoming debut, follows. Its cut-up singing phrasing and melody wins over any lingering doubters in the audience. It’s easy to enjoy Kimbra’s music when she so clearly relishes it herself, with her band providing such a solid base it gives her the freedom to focus on her singing. When it comes to her voice, it’s not just about her technique but more importantly character and expression. Each cooing phrase or strained yelp is met with the same level of enthusiasm, losing herself in the music. A feeling all the more offset by the self-conscious girl between songs, modest about her own performance and fawningly thanking the crowd.

The shimmering Two Way Street follows, a shimmering highlight with starry-eyed keyboards and a lovelorn emotional core, it’s melodic hooks sinking deep. Plain Gold Ring meanwhile allows Ms. K to flex her vocal acrobatics, firstly with her trusty loop pedal – harmonising and layering rhythmic phrases – before letting her voice sail over peaking melismatic phrases and the full force of her ensemble.

Next comes Limbo, apparently a newie, but you’d never know it if it hadn’t been announced beforehand, it’s just as slickly rehearsed as the rest of the set, riding its urgent polyrhythm to excellent results. On Withdraw that Jeff Buckley influence bubbles to the surface, simmering as it does over a neat 6/4 beat, but again as always with the soulful grain of her voice, it’s as likely to throw up comparisons to Amy Winehouse or Camille. Reaching a mean climax of soaring band harmonies it segues into the equally effective Break, closing the set on a high note, a taut collection of songs that exhibit Kimbra as star-in-waiting. Kudos must go to her slick band for realising her ambitious arrangements, but as a writer, singer and performer - to Kimbra go the spoils. Even if her modest, somewhat naive persona is glaringly obvious between tunes, when she’s in the moment – whether it's the defiant swooping chorus of Settle Down or exploring her melodic elasticity on Plain Gold Ring - she’s in her element. And in the presence of such talent, and with Vows just around the corner, it’ll only take a few minor tweaks and before long it might be hard to catch at such an intimate venue as the Toff again.

Enjoy the excellent video for Settle Down below:

Karnivool - The Hi-Fi Bar, Thursday July 8th
w/support MM9 & Sleep Parade

Being the final performance of three consecutive sell out shows at Melbourne’s HiFi Bar, this evening’s gig was not without anticipation. But after the previous night being cancelled due to illness there were concerns that tonight’s show would also be rescheduled, thankfully there was no such worry and as floorspace became an increasingly rare commodity, it seems clear everyone got the memo.

Opening proceedings were Melbourne’s own Sleep Parade, who even when playing to a sparse crowd give epics such as Everyday and Weeping Walls their all. Though they’ve already fulfilled great promise with their Things Can Always Change LP, a line-up change and a second album just around the corner could posit them as the next group most likely to “do a Karnivool” themselves. Surely ones to watch.
Less enthusing, were fellow Perth boys MM9. Though they brandish a competent brand of electro-rock, settled somewhere between Pendulum and Sugar Army, their spectacle lacks memorable tunes or engaging hooks. Still, as a warm-up for the main event they get the job done, frontman Dan Sutherland animatedly mashing his sequencer while drummer Ben Ellingworth provides the real visual focus.

It’s clear what people are really here for though, as the Perth group’s only headline shows for the year, Karnivool’s New Day tour is – outside of the Big Day Out earlier in the year – the only chance to see the group flex the musical muscle of their sophomore prog-rock beast, Sound Awake.
Easily one of the best releases of last year, its progressive structures combined with musical intensity and inventiveness catapulted the group to the forefront of the nation’s burgeoning alternative rock scene. A record as dense as it was sprawling, but just how would these complex arrangements translate to the live setting? Very well thanks, would be the short answer – but then Karnivool have never been a band to do things by halves.

Tearing straight into their lead single Set Fire To The Hive, its soon clear that nothing is lost in translation from the studio to stage. If anything, it’s spiky guitar undertow and barrelling drums that mimic a stampede of dinosaurs are given even more girth. With its taxing time signature, primal energy and anthemic appeal it demonstrates a band that needs no warm-up, taut and ready to take the audience along on their epic sonic journeys, dragging them by force if need be. It sets a high standard for the evening that never falters.

Goliath and Simple Boy follow, and in full flight the band are something to behold. Drew Goddard and Mark Hosking’s guitars aren’t split into simple lead and rhythm roles but share an exhaustive amount of work that even includes glockenspiel and electric mandolin duties. Meanwhile bassist Jon Stockman relishes every note with physical emphasis, and his six-string mastery is nothing to sniff at. Drummer Steve Judd is equally captivating and nothing short of virtuosic, underpinning the likes of All I Know and Roquefort with an irresistible sense of groove. Special mention must go to Ian Kenney however, surely one of our nation’s finest frontmen, stalking the stage with purpose possessed both of a wild-eyed candour and a pitch-perfect voice. All the more remarkable when you consider that between the Vool and Birds of Tokyo, the man mustn’t get much rest for his larynx. “I’m feeling a lot of love in this room my friends” he remarks before launching into Cote, and the room explodes with a huge singalong, the crowd matching the band moment for moment at every turn.

Such musical might needs little emphasis, and the stage set-up is fairly spartan, maintaining the use of a bank of programmed lights as well as the usual spots and colours, but arriving in tandem with the twelve minute opus that is Deadman comes the biggest signifier of the bands psych-rock ambitions: Lasers. Big green banks of ‘em and it certainly adds to the sense of space and drama already inherent in Karnivool’s catalogue. Fan favourites Themata and Roquefort are delivered with equally titanic rapture, and even Fade from their first EP gets its first airing in years. It’s nu-metal influences show through when placed alongside the newer material, but it goes to show how far Karnivool’s sound has come. Their opaque textures and layered intricacies don’t leave much room for improvisation or variation, but to see such complex compositions come to life is positively awe-inspiring.

After closing the main set with the powerful ballad New Day, wrought with emotional potential, they return for an encore of Change. Containing an album’s worth of ideas within its twelves minutes, such a sprawling, ever-evolving, epic would exhaust most acts; Karnivool simply take it in their stride. It climbs to dizzying peaks before descending into an acoustic oda that allows Judd a crazed drum solo. It’s a fitting end to the night and as the punters trundle into the cold Melbourne night, their minds blown, their grins wide, it’s clear that Karnivool have – once again - done performed their job with peerless execution.

An excellent live version of Deadman from last year

and a shoddy home recording of Set Fire To The Hive @ BDO

Anyway, on a totally unrelated note, here's some stuff I've been enjoying in pictures and links:

Prince releases new album. ...through newspapers.
This really came out of nowhere. Jonathan Boulet's other music project.
Big Scary's latest seasonal EP. Brilliance strikes again.
Like Kings of Leon meets Wilco. Includes hella catchy Kick Drum Heart.