This was actually the first time I'd seen Rialto Decibel Choir live (which is somewhat embarassing to admit). I'd heard some recordings and the continuous praise for the band in certain circles, so I was definitely keen to check them out. This show was one of the band's final shows as a two-piece (as of their show on Wednesday they will be a four-piece, adding bass and drums to their current guitar-and-vocals lineup). As a counterpoint to Gav's previous review, personally I think they're one of the better bands in Brisbane's (very talented imho) folk-inspired indie scene. James is quite an accomplished guitarist and Ashleigh can really sing; I've heard of her voice being likened to Joanna Newsom's, and while the comparison is somewhat warranted I find Ashleigh's voice to be much darker and more gothic in nature - there's certainly very little about her voice that could be described as 'girlish' or 'pixie-ish'. It's a deep and dark sound that lends the band a sense of gravity that other similar bands perhaps lack. Admittedly their set at Ric's was quite short (and I missed a few songs at the start... since when do bands at Ric's start before 9:30?), so perhaps their music might become somewhat one-dimensional over a longer period of time, as Gav mentioned a fortnight ago. Personally I could have listened to them for twice as long as I actually did, but for those who find their music somewhat 'samey' I would imagine that the expansion of the band will add some diversity. Seeing as I'm pretty smitten with their music as it is, I'll certainly be very keen to hear how their sound progresses over the coming months.
As opposed to Rialto, I'd seen Blue Carousel twice previous to this show. After the first show I was pretty much in love, but after the second show I was unsure if they really were as good as I had initially thought. This show proved to me that my instincts were correct - they're a pretty great band. Imagine Mercury Rev's love of bombast and synths combined with the noisey lead guitars and oblique songwriting of Sunset Rubdown. The band managed to put on a quality show despite a faulty bass lead and an aborted attempt at a new song (or perhaps because of these things - I'm a sucker for bands triumphing over adversity). The keys to Blue Carousel's sound are singer Valdis' high-pitched, other-worldly voice and the way their lead guitarist's trebly, scratchy, noisey melodies back the smooth synths. The band have a well developed sense of drama that (at least to my ears) never descends into melodrama - the best example of this being the epic closer that features a tense four-chord progression that eventually builds up to falsetto vocals, wailing synths, crashing drums and two guitarists wringing some glorious noise from their guitars, before disintegrating into a wash of white noise to finish. It can be pretty affecting stuff. If the band can manage to tighten things up ever so slightly (ie: tune those guitars and tighten that rhythm section) without loosing that slightly ramshackle energy they could grow into something really great.
My personal highlights for the night:
- the way that Blue Carousel's drummer would count the band into every song:
1 2 3 4 *half a beat pause* *band starts*
- the nu-metal Axl Rose (dreadlocks era) and David St. Hubbins lookalikes in the front row who seemed rather unimpressed by Blue Carousel, and left with a shouted "you're shit!" and middle fingers pointed at the band (which was received with hearty laughter from both the band and the rest audience).