Sunday, March 25, 2012

Review: Grimes - Visions, My Best Fiend - In Ghostlike Fading

The following album reviews originally appeared in print for triple j magazine's March Issue (no. 59), they are reproduced here in their entirety. Featuring previous 'Introducing...' inductee Grimes and Brooklyn's My Best Fiend.
Grimes - Visions (Inertia/4AD)
After two records that mix the unexplored with the atmospheric, performance artist/DIY muso Claire Boucher emerges from Montreal’s underground with her first release for 4AD. As informed by Enya as by Aphex Twin, the bizarre futurism of Oblivion and Vowels=space and time finds crystalline vocals gliding over a beatific underbelly, while the ninety seconds of Eight contains an album’s worth of ideas. Visions possesses more stimulating sounds than songs, but it’s bound to inspire cult fandom – if not hailed a sleeper hit
Grimes - Genesis

My Best Fiend - In Ghostlike Fading (Warp/Inertia)
The cloud-bursting sleeve and atmospheric title merely hint at what the contents confirms, a Brooklyn band revelling in a pre-MGMT mode of bluesy psychedelia. Cracking Eggs and the swooning Jesus Christ follow the blueprint laid out by Spiritualized’s narcotic excursions; slow-mo tempos and see-sawing chords that swell into crashing, gospel-abetted, seven-minute grandiosity. Their aloof simmer, and vocalist Fred Coldwell’s twang, can occasionally drive to distraction, but at their best – such as on the spacey Pink Floyd lilt of ODVIP – they’re a folkadelic trip.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Gareth Liddiard - Live @ The Regal Ballroom Northcote, Mar 23

This review was originally written for ToneDeaf, and was published on-line here. The following is reproduced in unedited format. 
After a thrilling set from Lost Animal, playing material from Ex-Tropical with calculated aloofness. The Drones frontman himself graces the stage for one of his rare acoustic performances.

For one typified by the knotted blues rock and brutal accounts of grizzly Australian history of his day job, the haughty trimmings of Northcotes’ Regal Ballroom seem a little out of character. The ticket price including optional dinner, the hall splayed with dining tables and silverware, with ornate chandeliers draped overhead. However Liddiard, flanked by gothic candelabras, commands the space. A tall, cavernous roof allowing him ample room to roar his hardest and strum his fiercest.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Review: The Ocean Party - The Sun Rolled Off The Hills

A Beat magazine review, originally published in-print and on-line. Reproduced here in its entirety
The Ocean Party - The Sun Rolled Off The Hills (Independent, 2012)
It’s not every band that can put support for both the mannered indie of Oh Mercy as well as maverick lothario Dave Graney on their CV, or for that matter, get the seal of approval from the latter.

The Ocean Party
, five lads originally from Wagga Wagga now relocated to Northcote, have done just that, they must be chuffed with Graney likening them to "early Orange Juice." While we’re making comparisons, it’s worth mentioning peers like Twerps and Dick Diver. The Sun Rolled Off The Hills is yet another debut of lo-fi, melodious indie, filled with neat, clean guitars, gentle melodious hooks and some wry lyrics. You could vaguely lump them into the Flying Nun Records/Dunedin sound revival that’s happening, except that they’ve substituted the typically melancholic streak with that of a lazy, summery vibe and never shy of making a few local references (Northcote Station and Shepparton, take a bow).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Deep Sea Arcade - Outlands

A Beat magazine review, originally published in-print and online, reproduced here in its entirety
Deep Sea Arcade - Outlands (Ivy League, 2012)
On the strength of Outlands, the debut for Deep Sea Arcade, it would be extremely tempting to label the Sydney five-piece a ‘beat combo,’ the lingering influence of the '60s on their sound almost deems the tag suitable.

Lead single Girls could easily soundtrack the summer of love, with its meaty chord changes, kaleidoscopic production and even some ‘sha la la las.’ By the group’s own admission it was originally conceived by "jamming on a guitar riff that was essentially Wild Thing backwards."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lowlakes - Live @ Northcote Uniting Church (EP Launch), Mar 17

It’s not often you go to church and see a drum riser splayed across the altar. For the launch of their self-titled EP, Lowlakes chose to commandeer Northcote’s uniting church, clearing the pews aside for a makeshift gig space with naught but a few spots and a vigil of candles to light the room. The natural acoustics were a bit boomy for your typical gig, but as a unique setting it would even give AC/DC’s Let There Be Rock video pause.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Silence is easy/It just becomes me" Interview: James Walsh

This interview was originally for Melbourne street press Beat magazine and published online here. It is reproduced here in its entirety for AMR.
For Starsailor fans, it’s been a long time between drinks. Last gracing our shores nearly a decade ago, the wait for the UK four-piece to return has looked indefinite ever since the group went on ‘official hiatus’ a few years ago. Luckily, fans will get the next best thing this March when frontman James Walsh brings his solo show down-under. Still possessed of his genteel, vibrato-flecked voice that would thrill a choral master and his way around an acoustic guitar, Walsh has formed a career as both a solo artist and a freelance songwriter since the band’s sabbatical of 2009.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Introducing... Lowlakes

Until their press release popped up in my (rather crowded) inbox, I had no inkling who Lowlakes were. Of course, that's the whole point of the 'Introducing...' series, but still, there's usually some buzz, some ring of the bell at a group's name - a fact made all the more surprising when you listen to these lads. This is good stuff, and it deserves to be heard.

Originally hailing from Alice Springs, childhood friends Thomas Snowdon (vocals/guitar), Bill Guerin (bass) and Jack Talbot (drums) shook off the red dust and relocated to Melbourne where the inclusion of Brent Monaghan's atmospheric influence transformed a group formerly called The Moxie into Lowlakes. 

The aural result is a tasteful union between ambitious mood-setting and the more earthly approach of an indie guitar band. Inspired by the celestial atmospherics of Sigur Ros but with a more grounded approach to their arrangements, there's an ambience in their dreamy sounds as well as a darker rhythmic undertow.

St. Vincent - Live @ The HiFi Bar, Mar 14

This live review was origially written for, and published, by the folks at ToneDeaf, the edited version is available on-line here, while the following is a full 'director's cut' edit. Enjoy.
The crowd, beset by a field of summer frocks and skinny jeans, was already brimming by the time Melbourne’s own Minibikes opened the bill with some polished hooks. A five-piece playing straight-up indie pop, the vibrant likes of Kill To Feel touched with a soft spot for boy-girl harmonies between singer Marcel Borrack and keys lass Libby Chow. Their mood is sprightly if not distinctive, but there’s far worse things than being likable at this stage of a career.

Fire, Santa Rosa, Fire! soon grace the stage, and those familiar with the Adeladians’ previous work will notice that this is a group in transition. Though there’s room for the vicious hi-hat rolls and agitated hooks of Little Cowboys, Bad Hombres, their newer material instead shifts from the angular towards the atmospheric. Washing their restless pop hooks in spacious swirls with a new focus to vocalist Caitlin Duff’s enigmatic croon. Newer cuts, including a self-described ‘slow-burn’ and galvanising single Panther Shrine shows them playing to their inventive, and technical, side. Centered around hypnotic guitar loops and octave-hopping bass that spiral into cathartic grooves. After tonight’s showing, they’re sure to pick up a few followers on their own measured march towards their sophomore album.

Their left-field pop is fitting support to a lady who’s mastered the field, having famously earned her stripes with the likes of The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens, Annie Clark – the brains behind St. Vincent – possesses a live show fitting of her expansive albums.

Monday, March 12, 2012

'A spade's a spade' Interview: Gareth Liddiard

This interview was originally conducted for, and syndicated by ToneDeaf. Who originally published the article here, which in turn spawned this scoop, the article is re-produced here in its entirety for the AMR readership, enjoy, I think it's one of my best.
“With your songwriting, it’s very much storytelling – do you have your own favourite storytell-“

“Fuck. I just found a bullet.”

I am speaking down the line with Gareth Liddiard,
The Drones frontman himself – to some, his band is considered our nation’s most important rock act; in other circles his muddied tales of Australia, with their gothic poetry, are as revered as Paul Kelly’s or Nick Cave’s – and he’s just found a bullet.

“Just sitting in the middle of the bush – cause I get phone reception,” the ocker twang of his songs and his speaking voice one and the same, “and there’s an unused .22 bullet just lying here. Looks real old.”

It’s a surreal yet fitting moment. Who else but Liddiard would be able to spot, let alone identify and carbon-date such a projectile? In the foliage of Western Australia, no less. It’s wholly appropriate for a man whose own work looks past the tourism-friendly image of our country and its picturesque bush to pick out the true, gruesome details that lie beneath.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled With Light

Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled With Light (Warner Music, 2012)
While Fanfarlo’s debut Reservoir showed promise as a contender in the indie-come-folk rock arena, it sounded slightly derivative, crowded by bigger albums that blended (or transcended) a brand of similar fusion. The UK quintet have clearly spent the last three years in the lead-up to a follow-up mapping out new sonic territory, the result is a set filled with unashamedly pop cuts that are ruthlessly economic and polished in their assembly, without denying their unique flair.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bon Iver - Live @ Sidney Myer Music Bowl, Mar 8

(EDIT: The lovely folks over at Everguide, took a liking to my rambling sycophancy  so they've published the review in full over at their website too.)
How do you write about music so good that it's difficult to articulate just what makes it so stirring? How do you describe an artist at a sheer peak of his creative powers without losing the balance to a wash of hyperbole?
This is the problem when discussing Bon Iver, particularly in the live setting. 

Well, the first step would be to establish the players, for Bon Iver is no longer solely Justin Vernon. Though the 'cabin-in-the-woods' mythos will forever be the origin of what would become
For Emma, Forever Ago, the current iteration of Vernon's musical compositions have been characterised by collaboration. It's what characterised the eponymous sophomore Bon Iver, Bon Iver, easing and enunciating into a lush expansive palette that is as much credited to the brilliant players Vernon has enlisted. Certainly, Vernon remains the catalyst and visionary to the sonic soundscapes that Bon Iver paint, but it is as much about the party of talented, spirited individuals who have as much passion and attention as their band leader that deserve the credit. A fact made all the clearer in the live arena. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Wrangling The Heard: February

Front up, Feb's playlist and bloggage was evenly dominated by The Dead Leaves and I, A Man, both of whom gave us terrific launch gigs (which you can read about here and here respectively). Then there was UK's Outfit who recently featured as the latest in AMR's Introducing... series, additionally there was new tunes from Sydney's Oliver Tank, Jonathan Boulet and the new Damon Albarn/Flea/Tony Allen supergroup Rocketjuice and the Moon to contend with. Finally, my recent interview with The Drones frontman Gareth Liddiard (which you can read over at ToneDeaf) meant his solo album Strange Tourist was also on heavy rotation; but the spotlight, dear readers, instead swivels in different directions...

British Theatre - British Theatre EP
When the almighty Oceansize regrettably called it a day, it was obvious that its five members were far too talented to rest on their creative laurels. Heck, they even explicitly said as much when they first broke the news and their twitter account has been a hot-bed of new musical happenings ever since. The most intriguing phoenix to rise from the band's ashes however, has been British Theatre
The fact that it features two fifths of the former line-up, including vocalist/guitarist Mike Vennart, means that of all the new musical projects, they sound like the most logical successor to Oceansize's dense musical heritage. Paired with keyboardist/sound guru Richard Ingram (formerly Oceansize's 'Gambler'), they've unleashed their first official release, a self-titled EP available over at bandcamp, after months of tinkering and teasing on their website.
The opening ID Parade On Ice features Vennart's familiarly enigmatic lyricism and visceral singing, but the heavy, guttural moments of their former group have been substituted for different means of achieving intensity. Namely, the tricky time signatures and rhythmic patterns are played out across processed drums and electronic beats while Ingram's sophisticated touch fills much of the wide audio stage with piano and keys as well as flecks of harp, analog synths and atmospheric sounds. It's a rich palette but there's a muscular undercurrent to the feathery piano and swelling washes of guitar.
Gold Bruise is an equally sonically articulate number, centred by textured drones and a clicking drum track, Vennart's vocals washed in a tinny filter that Oceansize fans will find warmly familiar. In fact, it clambers its way through some dark moods and claustrophobic textures before it reaches a straight(ish) drum pattern and a shimmering, blossoming organ pattern in a cathartic peak.
Along with closing instrumental Little Death #3, these three tracks form a deliciously promising taste of things to come. It's a natural evolution of parts of Oceansize, but more importantly, it's the organic meeting point and fresh approach of two great musical minds. More please!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Introducing... Outfit

Though they hail from the birthplace of The Beatles, you won't find Liverpudlian quintet Outfit mimicking much of their musical legacy, well... except for maybe channelling the surreal side of pop. Having met through a Merseyside mansion that housed a collective of outsider artists, the five members of Outfit have since debunked for the band buzz utopia of London, but the solidarity of their creative commune still lingers in their music.