Monday, 10 September 2007

Review: Mt Augustus - Monolith EP




Mt Augustus, if you don't know already, is the creative vehicle of Cameron Smith, a.k.a Cam, a.k.a 50% of this blog. The band, which also consists of Pat Elliott, Daniel Denton, and Simon Pearlman (although only Pat appears on the EP, and in only two of the songs), are purveyors of an eclectic blend of folk-rock, lo-fi, and plain ol' indie rock, which throws up numerous reference points but manages to maintain its own unique flavour throughout all six songs on this EP.

The first track, 'Lost and Found', is an acoustic number in the confessional vein of Nick Drake or Elliott Smith. The track showcases a knack for lyrical simplicity; the song conveys the need for independence and the feeling that some problems need to be face alone. At no point are proceedings overdone and Cam manages to create a song which contains a lot of pure emotion.

Next up is 'Club Soda', a song that careens along with joyous regret of a Jeff Magnum song. At 2 minutes and 40 seconds length, 'Club Soda' leaves the listener wanting more. The song has a glorious sounding accordion, a mandolin providing an excellent melody, and a large serving of fuzzed up bass driving the song along. All this is made even more impressive due to the fact that all instruments on the track are played by Cam.

'You Were The Last One To Reply' is the first track on the EP to feature outside help, and this doesn't serve to hinder it one bit. The song is a moving duet between Cam and Melissa Tickle (of Rooftop Nightwatch and Roman History), and also features the work of Kat McAulay on violin. The tale of a relationship slowly falling apart would leave the listener thinking they were listening to a 16 Lover's Lane-era Go-Betweens outtake (a comparison made all the more apt due to Kat's violin) if it wasn't for the haunting banjo accompanying the song.

The fourth song, 'Edith', was the standout track of the EP for me. Again the comparison of Jeff Magnum and Neutral Milk Hotel comes to mind at first, and while this may be true of the musical component of the track (I can't actually name any other bands that use musical saw!), it is the lyrical prowess of Cam that stands out on 'Edith'. The song is distinctly Australian, and almost twee at some points ("gets a complimentary lesson in elocution/followed by a 'how are things wiht you?' "), leading to a song that comes off sounding like the Lucksmiths in over-drive (I've made the Lucksmiths comparison in a previous live review of the band and it was most likely 'Edith' that led to the connection).

Cam continues to prove his musical diversity on 'Symbiosis', a haunting take on failed relationships. The song features off-kilter drums, an acoustic guitar, and the restrained use of the musical saw again, which serve to showcase Cam's emotionally-charged vocals until a dirge like accordion serves drives the song to its conclusion.

The final track on the EP, 'You're Not Hopeless', is what Cam refers to as the band's "token emo-folk" song. That said, the influence of Conor Oberst is nowhere to be seen in the track thankfully, and Cam's portrayal of the feeling of social ineptitude sweeps from depression to joy during the five minutes of this track. The banjo, utilised so well on 'You Were The Last One To Reply', returns, as does Kat's violin and the backing vocals of Melissa, this time joined by Pat McDermott (also of Rooftop Nightwatch and The John Steel Singers). The only sleight I have against the song is the key change in the last thirty seconds which reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel, although the fact that this is the biggest issue I have with the EP just shows how good a record Mt Augustus have put together.

Just in case you haven't been persuaded yet, here is a live version of Edith recorded back in June at the Troubadour.

Mt Augustus - Edith

6 comments:

Cam said...

*surreptitiously slides $100 across the table to Gav*

Anonymous said...

STEEL!

Darragh said...

Good to see an active Brisbane music blog writing great and informative articles.

Gav said...

Good to see people reading it!

Gav said...

Oh and I fixed steel. Personally I think it adds character with three E's.

darragh said...

Got the record, and its pretty damn good, as you say, "Edith" is the standout - love the saw solo. Regards

Darragh