Ok, so missing my train meant that I arrived at The Globe in time to see The Rational Academy's final two songs. This makes a total of 6 songs that I've heard from the last two times I've seen them (tonight because of my tardiness, and a few weekends ago when The Zoo only let them play 4 songs before booting them offstage for some reason). Nonetheless, those two songs sounded pretty good, with the band's new rhythm section seeming to lock into the Rat Acad sound. Hopefully I can catch a decent length set of theirs soon.
Next was Grids/Units/Planes, a one-man-band whose music I guess could be filed under the ambient / IDM banner. The music was definitely very pretty, somewhat along the lines of Mum with lots of bells and warm synth tones combined with a (comparitively speaking) decent ear for actual songs and, dare I say it, melodic hooks. Still, the moments when the guy decided to add vocals to the songs often seemed quite grating; it's not so much that he has a bad voice, but more that his particular vocal style is very jarring considering the pretty music that lies beneath it.
Hazards of Swimming Naked certainly have an eye (and ear) for the dramatic. In fact, the phrase that kept running through my mind while they were playing was 'the post-rock Slipknot'. Their set started with The Globe's curtains pulled shut; behind the curtains a delayed guitar was tapped with a mallet, creating a wash of sound. As the first delicately picked guitar line started the curtains were pulled back, revealing six bands members (3 guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a percussionist) all wearing black hooded jumpers and white masquerade masks, backed by projections of lightning and crashing waves and avalanches. The music they created was, to put it bluntly, pretty standard post-rock. Basically, take the louder songs from Mogwai's last two albums (ie: Ratts of the Capital, We're No Here, Travel is Dangerous) and you have the blueprint for Hazards' sound. To the band's credit, they did add some interesting drumming patterns (courtesy of the two-man percussive section) and some almost 'hip hop' beats. Even better, there were certain times when the music would reach the point where you'd normally expect everything to explode into the predictable noisey crescendo, only to have the band decide to forego such obviousness in order to explore more interesting territory. And of course when those cacophonous parts did come, with distorted bass chords and all three guitarists strumming as fast as their arms could manage, it could still bring that same thrill that listening to 'Christmas Steps' gave back at the turn of the century. Certainly, as a band they're very good at what they do. I guess that the problem is more with their chosen style of genre - post-rock, and especially the Mogwai / Explosions in the Sky / Mono variety of post-rock, is a very tired and limited genre to my ears. That said, the crowd seemed to love it, and I'd be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy it overall too. I'm just not sure that I need to hear it again for another 6 months or more. Still, if you're partial to some very well executed epic instrumental rock, then you could do a lot worse than catch Hazards in full flight.
Lastly came Bloon (unfortunately they don't have any form of web presence that I can find), who are pretty much peerless in terms of instrumental rock in Brisbane. Unlike Hazards of Swimming Naked, Bloon's music relies less on big dynamic shifts and more on subtle build-up and release of tension. There are no moments in Bloon's music where things suddenly go from quiet and pretty to loud and crushing - everything is a gradual shift from one level to another. With just two guitarists and a drummer, Bloon make astoundingly lush music. I guess their general formula can be reduced to one guitarist making delayed washes of guitar chords while the other plays melodic guitar or synth lines over the top. In that respect they're not overly different from 90% of post-rock bands. And indeed, as good as Bloon are, I don't think that they transcend the boundaries of post-rock. What they are able to do, though, is make the sort of music that the best post-rock bands are capable of - music that creates shivers down your spine and sends you into some weird sort of trance. Indeed, lying on the sloped floor of The Globe listening to them, I believe I fell asleep for a few minutes. I have to say, it was the most pleasantly blissful feeling.