Sunday, 9 September 2007

Brisbane Releases That Changed My Life #1: Rival Flight - Bewildered Beyond All Hope of Remembrance

I thought that I ('I' being 'Cam') would write about some of the releases from local bands that have been somewhat important to me over the last few years. All of these releases I'm going to write about in this section were released after I moved to Brisbane in 2001, which means no Go-Betweens or Saints or Screamfeeder or anything like that. These will be somewhat self-indulgent posts, and pretty much completely devoid of any worth to anyone except for myself. It's a total vanity project. I hope you enjoy reading it 1/10th of what I imagine I will writing it.

Anyway, I thought I'd start with what was probably the first local release I ever bought, Rival Flight's 'Bewildered Beyond All Hope of Remembrance'. Not a bad start. For me, along with Perth band Adam Said Galore, Rival Flight epitomised that 'Australian Indie-Post-Rock' sound that was so popular just after the turn of the century (along with other bands like Purplene and Mukaizake). Their music was dry, spidery and subtle, more in debt to Slint, Papa M and a sort of Built-To-Spill-ified Tortoise than to the delay-filled monstrosities created by your Mogwais and Godspeed You! Black Emperors (a style of post-rock that locally seems to be more popular these days than it was back during the genre's prime). There was a restraint and a songcraft in this group of bands that is missing in many of the more arty local post-rock bands. Really, the music created by these acts was just standard indie-rock with a predilection for intertwining guitar lines, long songs and huge crescendos - it was barely 'post-rock' at all, but somehow they were tarred with that same brush. Hell, most of these bands had vocals in almost every song.

Anyway, the music. 'Bewildered...' started with the mighty 'Knife In The Eye', with intricate guitar lines giving way to massively distorted chords, bellowed vocals and double-time drumming just after the halfway mark. It was a great opening to a great EP. Following up was one of the two instrumentals on the album, 'Ockham's Razor'. Restrained all the way through, it was the EP's shortest track at only 4:10. Third off the rank was 'Midnight Tulip Dancing', one of the most beautiful songs I've heard come out of Brisbane. After gradually building in stature over the first 4 minutes of the song, all of the instruments save for a lone guitar and some mellotron strings dropped out for a short breakdown, before the band re-entered with massive drums and a build to a group singalong, complete with falsetto 'ooooooh's. The song proper finish at around the 7 minute mark, but a 2 minute reprise gradually faded in, consisting of those same massive drums from before, but replacing the guitars with strings and keys.

'The Day Everything Was Cut In Half' was THE song of the EP. Hell, it was THE song of Brisbane for most of 2001 and 2002, according to me. It was a truly immense composition, clocking in at 8:48 minutes (although really only consisting of two riffs). It spread its shadow over the rest of the EP, with its massive distorted chords and spine-tingling yelled vocals. After building up a repetitive staccato riff for the first 2 minutes, the guitars and drums burst into the song's main riff, with 3 or 4 voices half singing, half yelling the refrain 'danced off that night, came back broken'. After another 2 minutes of this the song fell back to it's original (comparative) lull, before incrementally adding each element back into the mix, building up to a climax even more satisfying than the first. Big Muff pedals were switched on, drums were pounded, and larynx's shredded.

The final song was 'Muesli For Swallops'. To be honest, it's the only blemish on an otherwise pretty awesome release. To be brutally honest, I usually pressed stop on my music player of choice before the track started. It's the most ridiculous mix of programmed beats and sounds I've ever heard, and is completely at odds with the rest of the release. Better to just remember this one as a four-song EP with an ill-considered bonus track.

I only managed to see Rival Flight once before they broke up. It was at the old Woollongabba Hotel, supporting American post-hardcore band The Icarus Line. It wasn't the most amazing show I've ever seen, but when The Day Everything Was Cut In Half started... well, there was never a more apt title.


Anonymous said...

Fuck yeah!!!

Ben said...

A huge favourite of mine. I actually got to hear a rough mix of the never-released album in 2004. From memory, it was different - more songy, even had an acoustic at one point. Still slow. Generally each song started off fairly plain and then changed up to something totally rad halfway through. They weren't happy with it. My lucky friend who owned the copy stayed true to whatever word he gave the band, and I never did manage to burn one for myself.

If anyone from the band reads this: please release it, somehow, anyhow.

By the way, the only "post-rock" song from that era that comes close to "Cut in Half" is "Argentinians" by Not From There.

Saul Jarvie said...

Hi, I'm Saul from Rival Flight and had this link sent to me recently. Kind words you've spoken here.

Thought you may be interested to know that I'm planning on releasing a few tracks from the unfinished record sometime early / mid next year and if all goes according to plan we'll get together to make the record we always should have. These will be some old ones re-worked, (The Day Everything Was Cut in Half never came out quite right so we'll do that properly this time too), some we never recorded and a few new ones as well.

I've also been busy working on 2 records (the first one is done and I'm finishing the second one now) with a group of revolving musicians (Joel from Rival Flight plays guitar on 2 songs on the first one) and will somehow self-release these I figure early next year. This project is currently called Saul Jarvie & The Plaster of Paris but one if not both of these will more than likely be self-released under the name 'Obeau'.

There's some unfinished rough stuff of mine at at the moment and I'll be sure to update the page over the coming months.

Again, thanks for your kind words.