Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: The Unthanks - Diversions Vol. 1

The Unthanks - Diversions Vol. 1: The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons (Rough Trade, 2011)
How do you finish a banner year after releasing a critically-acclaimed sophomore record? Well, if you’re contemporary folk act The Unthanks, by releasing a live album of covers, of course. An eclectic one at that.

Doing exactly what it says on the tin,
Diversions is an unedited audio document of a one-off performance at the Union Chapel in London, in which the baroque five-piece lend their considerable voices and delicate playing to tributing two maverick singer-songwriters. It’s a warts-and-all account, even including their affable between-song banter, thick with the group’s Northumberland accents.

Review: Penguin Café - A Matter Of Life

An album review for Beat magazine, originally published in issue #1304

Penguin Café - A Matter Of Life (Independent, 2011)

Embracing the torch passed down from his father Simon, Arthur Jeffes carries on the musical legacy laid out by his dad’s own musical collective Penguin Café Orchestra. Though he drops the ‘orchestra’ label, Jeffes Jr.’s own instrumental compositions are no less lush or collaborative. Even without a background in the typically highbrow realm of modern classical, A Matter of Life’s minimalist styling is completely accessible, and is its greatest strength.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Battles - Live @ The Forum (Big Day Out Sideshow), Jan 28

The following is a review originally published and syndicated for Hitz 247, reproduced in its entirety here.
The best way to describe the colossal rhythmic power of a Battles concert is to watch the sea of heads. There’s people bobbing and dancing, others prefer metronomic nodding, while some go for straight-up headbanging. The clinch? It’s all at once and it all makes sense.

Touring as part of the Big Day Out, Battles’ strength as a live unit makes them a reliable festival act, but it’s at sideshows like these that their titanic experimental rock is allowed to unfurl. Flanked by a wall of amps, two glowing video panels mimic a burning sunrise as the trio lope onstage and begin structuring the opening of Africastle. It soon crashes to life, built on visceral syncopations and mean polyrhythms, their instrumental collision of computer precision and processing with a propensity for shattering grooves is both thrilling and occasionally baffling. You often wonder what sounds are being made and how they’re making them, but they’re definitely playing them. Loud.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Introducing... Grimes

If there's one thing the music world loves, it's a kook (cue: Bowie's Kooks) and in more recent times none more-so than the female variant. Enter Canadian Claire Boucher, a performance and visual artist whose time in a bourgeoning DIY scene resulted in the birth of Grimes. A solo musical project she describes as "a quest for the ultimate sensual, mystical and cathartic experience and the vehicle for my psychic purging." You don't get that with Rihanna.

Friday, January 27, 2012

'Just Don't Call Him A DJ' An Interview with Girl Talk

This is an interview I did with Girl Talk for Pedestrian.TV in the lead-up to the Big Day Out, reproduced here in its entirety for the dedicated Ranters amongst you. 
There would be few artists who would forgive a hungover interviewer like mash-up maestro Girl Talk, particularly when the cause is a celebratory night on the town after seeing Steely Dan.

“Oh! Were they good? They’re a cool band, they’ve done so much great stuff. I have sampled some drums, not melodies or anything, just some subtle stuff. One of my favourite samples is from them, used by Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz [whose 1997 hit Déjà vu samples 1977 Aja opener Black Cow]. That is one of the coolest samples and they worked it so well, in my top 20 samples in hip-hop music of all time.”

Even casual conversation with Gillis makes evident his encyclopedic knowledge of popular music and giddy enthusiasm for its potential use and celebratory power - something that anyone who has heard his dazzling pop alchemy or seen one of his gigs-come-party-raves can attest to. And let’s be honest, that’s an ever- quotient of people. If you’ve got an internet connection, you know Girl Talk.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

'I Know They're Gonna Love It' Review: The Darcys - Aja

Steely Dan fans can be a fussy lot, but when it comes to covers and tributes, they’re also a starved lot. There’s probably a fairly good reason for this, less to do with their brand of seventies soft-rock falling out of vogue and more to do with the sound musical knowledge it takes to tackle Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s imposing catalogue; that, and some major chutzpah. As it turns out, Canadian band The Darcys aren’t lacking in either.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Happy Australia Day: A-Z of Australiana

Just a random collection of Australian artists and songs to enjoy on our national day

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Yeo - Live @ The Butterfly Club (Home Album Launch), Jan 24

With its dual rows of stiff pews and a slightly raised wooden platform, the front-room of The Butterfly Club retains the air of a church gathering or a musical recital. It’s not your typical venue for a band booking, but then, nor is this your typical gig. How often upon arrival to a venue do you receive a complimentary tea-towel (emblazoned with the artists’ lyrics)? It instantly puts the homely vibe into the launch for Melbourne-based musical maverick Yeo’s latest album, Home, which itself is not your typical Yeo album.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oliver Tank - Live @ The Workers Club (Dreams EP Launch), Jan 20

It was clearly a night for loop pedals…
In support of Oliver Tank (who's just been Introduced) on his first date of his Dreams EP launch tour were local Melbourne artists Kikuyu and Wintercoats, both artists who relied on the distinctive piece of tech to bring their textured solo projects to life on stage.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Introducing... Oliver Tank

A 22-year old wünderkid who produces his own music with a mix of live insrumentation and electronic elements best touted as 'post-dubstep.' No, it's not James Blake - though comparisons to the English artist are tempting... we're talking about Sydney musican Oliver Tank. With an ear for minimalist arrangement, he fuses warm flushes of electronica with his own, gently affecting voice.

Though he first came to the attention of the blogosphere with an unlikely chilled out cover of Snoop Dogg's Beautiful, it was through the triple J Unearthed spotlighted Last Night I Heard Everything In Slow Motion that he confirmed himself as an emerging talent. With subtly manipulated vocal harmonies over a bed of gently chattering beats and some stirring string arrangements, it demonstrated his music possessed an inherent emotional breadth. A sting made all the more potenet when it was chosen to score Get Up's successful marriage equality ad campaign.

Kimbra - Two Way Street Remixes

 2011 will go down as the year Kimbra broke, what with the release of her stunning debut Vows, claiming 'Best Female Artist' at the ARIAS, and of course that little song with Gotyé. Rather than rest on her laurels, Kimbra has been spending time in LA recording and mixing for an exclusive release of Vows for the American market, rubbing shoulders with the likes of John Legend and producer Mike Elizondo (who's worked with artists as diverse as Dr. Dre and Mastodon), ya know the usual.
Rather than keep us waiting though, she's released her fourth single, the shimmering Two Way Street, and to celebrate there's a couple of new remixes to wrap your ears around courtesy of AMR pals, Viceroyalty.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Introducing... Dry The River

Introducing... is a new segment for AMR, over the next few weeks, I'll be commiting to spotlighting a series of artists, bands and musicians to watch for 2012. To kick us off for the year is...

Dry The River
Already pinned with BBC's Sound of 2012 stamp of approval, and already selling out shows in their native UK before their debut LP is even available, Dry The River are touted to do what Mumford & Sons did for searingly epic folk-rock two years ago.
In fact, everything that's great about the East London five-piece is contained within Weights & Measures, a song that - since I discovered it laste last December - has been on permanent rotation since.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

tUnE-yArDs - Live @ The Corner, Jan 15

For one with such a distinctively powerful voice, it’s only fitting that the tUnE-yArDs show begins with Merrill Garbus alone at the mic. Entering the stage solo, her diminutive frame shouldered by a mane of feathered pink tulle netting and bearing oversized, hooped earrings she quickly leaps into a series of chants and hollering. Her bright eyes darting and peering beneath her trademark face-paint (mimicked by some among the crowd), she demonstrates the full elastic range of her singing, at once warming up her commanding vocals and signposting their abilities.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blood Orange - Live @ the Northcote Social Club, Jan 11

The following live review was originally published in Beat magazine, and online, it is recreated here in its entirety.
It was this time a year ago that Devonté Hynes last visited our shores under his old moniker, Lightspeed Champion, in what was touted as being a full show with backing band turned out to be a solo gig, a rather baffling one at that. At its worst it was glorified karaoke, in retrospect, the shy, wooly-jumpered indie kid that attempted to rouse a near-empty East Brunswick Club was one in a phase of transition.

Jump to twelve months on, and several blocks away to the Northcote Social Club, and Hynes is a man in a more assured mode. Namely as Blood Orange, his new musical guise that turns back the clock on the lush, baroque pop of Lightspeed Champion to the slick eighties funk and soul thatscored the neon-lit discos and bars of nocturnal New York City.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yeo - Home: the album, the interview

“You know… ‘XOXO, Selma Blair.’ And I was just ‘That just happened. Awesome. There’s my first review!” Melbourne-based musician Yeo is recalling his tweet from the Hollywood actress in response to linking her his new single of the same name, “and the song’s got nothing to do with her. I’m not a creep, I’m not just writing about this superstar that I have a crush on. It’s about a break-up, her name is just a vehicle for it.” Driven by deftly-plucked banjo, rolling snare and some speedy acoustic picking, Selma Blair is the first taste of Yeo’s complete stylistic u-turn towards alt-country, folk and classic rock on his third independent record Home (available for free or courteous donation right now).

Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 End-of-Year Celebrations: TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2011 (Part 2)

10. TV On The Radio - Nine Types of Light
For all the art-rock gusto surrounding discussions of TV on the Radio, they seem to obfuscate that they can be a powerfully direct band and their fourth LP is perhaps their most approachable. Its message is simple: in the face of a fucked-up world at the end of its frayed tether, it’s important to take stock in what matters. Chiefly: love. That artsy title might not get to the heart of the matter, but the likes of You, Will Do and, most explicitly, Your Heart make it clear “With the world all falling apart/I’m gonna keep your heart.”
Where the Brooklynites’ honed their brand of horn-abetted art-funk on predecessor Dear, Science, they’ve slowed down for a contemplative set that sounds more comforting without damaging their rich scenery. The twin falsettos of Tunde Adibempe and Kyp Malone voice both alliterated poetry (Second Song) and inner-city mistrust (No Future Shock), with Dave Sitek’s adept production continuing to colour their rich sound with painterly detail. Most impressively on the record’s refined centrepiece, Killer Crane, where glowing piano chords meet slowly inked orchestral washes and metronomic banjo plucking.
It’s not all grace and tenderness, the wiry dance paranoia of Repetition and stomping crunch of Caffeinated Consciousness find the dancefloor beneath the emotional debris, but the lingering sentiment is of a band that cares. A feeling made all the more poignant when bassist Gerard Smith lost his fight with lung cancer. In retrospect, it hasn’t defined Nine Types of Light, and those who caught their recent visit to our shores can confirm their live show remains a relatively undiminished unit of funkified exorcism; but his contribution to another innovative, beautifully realised record is a fitting epitaph.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 End-of-Year Celebrations: TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2011 (Part 1)

20. Jenny Hval - Viscera
The minimalistic guitar notes and sparse machine noises open 'Engine In The City', then the sexually charged couplet: “I arrived in town/with an electric toothbrush/pressed against my clitoris.”

This is the beginning of Viscera, and it sets the stark tone for a darkly surreal yet equally beautiful trip. Dropping her Rocket To The Sky moniker, the Norwegian native’s first set under her own name channels the spirit of folk reverence; her voice gently plaintive in in abstract poetics or ringing with crystalline beauty in bright harmonies.

Her music is warped with arch experimentalism, her songs as sensual as they are provocative, as likely to unspool into a sea of noise as they are ascend into a delicate ether. The majority of them unwind slowly over six to eight minutes, like a strange new flower blossoming, but always with a charged sense of character, narrative or emotional effect. Truly a singer-songwriter for (and of) the modern age.

2011 End-of-Year Celebrations: 2011 In Memorandum

Yes, it's the new year and yes, AMR has yet to unveil the annual Top 20 Albums of the year, but just to tease out the anticipation just that little bit longer, it's best to provide some context. Though all those terrific artists did a perfectly good job, think of this as a more personalised preamble that paints a broader picture before we hone in on the finer details. 

That, and it's worth reflecting on just what a strange, extreme year for music it was. Maybe it’s the seachange that is the ceaseless turning of time through yet another decade, maybe it’s the further fragmentation and cross-pollination of popular music through media and live mediums, more likely it was a combination of all of the above, but there’s no denying it – 2011 was a funny year.