Tuesday, 27 May 2008

No Culture Festival

Now that the gigs o' the week have gone bye-bye, I thought that this event was deserving of its own post.

The 3rd No Culture Festival is being held this weekend. For the first time the festival is being spread over three nights and three venues. These nights and venues are as follows:

Friday 30th @ Lofly Hangar ($15)
This is the 'hardcore/punk' night. 4 bands, 15minute sets each. The name act on this night is Ampere from the US, with the rest of the bill being filled out by Majorca (from Melbourne) and our own To The North and Quiet Steps.

Saturday 31st @ Ahimsa House, West End ($15)
Starting at 1pm and finishing at 1am the following morning, this is the big one, with a total of 16 bands on the lineup (in the following order, from last to first): Baseball (Melbourne), Turnpike, Luca Brasi (Melbourne), Arrows, True Radical Miracle (Melbourne / Adelaide), Charge Group (Sydney), Alps of NSW (Newcastle), Pikelet (Melbourne), Kes Band (Melbourne), Rialto Decibel Choir (playing potentially their final show), The Surrogate, Willows, Maiden Names, Fourth Is To Burn Warehouses, Otters, Swandive. For times go here.

Sunday 1st @ The Troubadour ($8)
The folky comedown show at the end. Pikelet (Melbourne), Charge Group (Sydney), Let's Not But Say We Did, Chalk & Cheese.


Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Review: Del Toro - Hydra

Del Toro's debut album, Hydra, is aptly named. At times this album feels like it has many heads, but at the bottom of it all it's all part of the one beast. Each song feels like the score to some cinematic masterpiece, but exactly what film you don't know, and therein lies the beauty of Hydra; each song is open to the listener's unique interpretation.

Hydra kicks off with a RZA-style intro featuring dialogue from a Alejandro Jodorowsky film before vaulting into the sound that Del Toro has come to embody; sprawling atmospheric 'desert rock'. The track, 'Man Bites Bear', rambles on until to the exact point where the listener begins to drift, and then Adam Dodd's guitar kicks into overdrive and gives the song another perspective before trailing off into the setting sun. 'Spare Parts' is a bouncy change of pace that makes good use of delay and distortion. Jason Leca's bassline carries the song along in whichever direction he feels they need to go, while Adam's guitar weaves around and Bre O'Neill pounds away on the skins.

'Exxo' intersperses distorted riffs with some eerie effect-laden guitar lines. The song is one of many tracks on Hydra to display the influence of the album's producer Casey Rice (Tortoise, Dirty Three). The shrill 'Transit' sound like it's being played with a dentists drill rather then a guitar, but the three-minute blast of sound works quite effectively. The brooding 'Frog Prince' gets a little crazy midway with what sounds like a Japanese women speaking before being shattered into electronic oblivion.

The pounding 'Oaxaca' follows on with that spaghetti western-in-space feel returning under the layers of sonic distortion. The excellent 'Cabo' has a similar, if somewhat more laid back, vibe to it. 'Sharpie' throws a bit of surf-rock guitar styling into the post-rock mix, before Del Toro launches into the one-two punch of 'Hydra' and 'Huevos Del Oro'. The title track has a glimmering, aquatic feel to it, building up until it reaches the sludgy, Swervedriver-like 'Huevos Del Oro'. The whole band shine on the track, with Dodd's guitar creating dense sheets of sound that make the song sound a lot bigger then it has any right be.

'Unlimited' and the oddly named 12th track, '13', continue with the proven formula or previous songs, but the next song, 'Saddle Down', is an epic eight minute long track which verges on falling under the classification of Krautrock. The track chugs along until the pulsing semi-motorik beat drops away halfway through and is soon replaced by a filtered didgeridoo before the song builds up to a soaring conclusion. Hydra then reaches its conclusion with 'The Good, The Bad, and The Undead', a Morricone-esque piece that is a fitting ending to the aural journey the album proffers.

Hydra is a unique and well developed take on instrumental rock, with the ability to stand up to the works of its peers within the genre. The album rewards the listener in a different way each time it is played, a sure sign that Hydra will stand he test of time.


Monday, 19 May 2008


Local post-rocker's Nikko are a band on the rise. The quartet are gradually gaining popularity on the strength of their consistently entertaining and constantly evolving live shows. Ahead of a show this Friday at Rosie's Bar and an upcoming tour of the East Coast, I sat down with guitarist Jackson Briggs and bassist Sam Whiting to talk about the past, present, and future of Nikko.

Whiting, vocalist/guitarist Ryan Potter, and drummer Blair Westbrook have been playing on and off since the 9th grade in what Whiting classifies as 'a number of shitty school bands'. Fortunately all this time together produced a tight live outfit and, with the addition of Briggs to the lineup in 2005, Nikko (named for German chanteuse Nico) came into being.

From the get go the band has proved to be formidable on stage, with an ever-changing set list. The end result of such tactics is that each song gets fleshed out live, meaning that each song will play out differently every show. Briggs is quick to point out that it makes recording difficult for the band, however, as they are never really satisfied with having a definitive version of a track.

Nikko's songwriting duties are split between Potter and Briggs. Briggs' contributions are for the most part instrumental, whereas Potter's songs, with a vocal and lyrical style similar to Nick Cave or Warren Ellis, provide an excellent counterweight to the crashing waves of Nikko's instrumental songs. Musically the bands influences are both obvious (The Velvet Underground, Mogwai, Sigur Ros), and subtle (The Drones, Johnny Cash). The disparate musical tastes of each band member is quite possibly the reason behind this successful clash of styles. The influences aren't restricted to music either, with Whiting citing the films of directors Jim Jarmusch and the Coen Brothers as a source of inspiration; unsurprising given the cinematic feeling exuded from the majority of Nikko's music.

The second half of 2008 will see Nikko embarking on their first interstate tour, playing in Sydney (8th July at the Hopetoun) and Melbourne (12th July at The Old Bar, 16th July at Getrude's Brown Couch). Following these gigs they will begin recording on their debut EP with an aim to have it out by November. In the meantime you can head along to Rosie's this Friday to see them play Stemford Hiss, Lifeless Alarm, and Sea Monster ($10 entry from 8pm).


Sunday, 18 May 2008

Weekly News - May 18th

  • Brisbane's drought of decent music festivals could be coming to end with the newly established Sounds of Spring occurring October 11 at the RNA Showgrounds. No bands have been announce as of yet, but keep an eye out forthe first lineup next week.
  • Dew Process have joined the digital age with their new online store. Now you can pay money to download film clips available for free on Youtube and buy albums for more then they cost in CD form (if you should so wish to).
  • The Young Liberals have released The Young Liberals' Contractual Obligation Album; their third album of 2008. Unfortunately you probably won't be able to get this anywhere other then their shows, but you can have a listen to 'Come On' and 'This Was My World' on their myspace.


Sunday, 11 May 2008

Weekly News - May 11th

  • Not musical news, but possibly relevant to your interests is the forthcoming release of Bad Teeth #6. For the uninitiated Bad Teeth is Brisbane's premiere comic book artist (grab a copy of Rave for evidence). The book will be launched at the Alibi Room on May 29th.
  • Violent Soho have previews of 'Love Is A Heavy Word', 'Jesus Stole My Girlfriend', 'Son Of Sam', and 'Muscle Junkie' from their debut album We Don't Belong Here up on their myspace. We Don't Belong Here is scheduled to be released next month.


Thursday, 8 May 2008

Weekly News - May 8th

  • Room 40 are probably the most critically acclaimed Brisbane record label, but their roster is somewhat lacking in local talent. Fortunately Leighton Craig is attempting to bridge the gap with the release of his debut solo LP, 11 Easy Pieces. Room 40 are also working on two quality events in the next few months in the guise of Fabrique and Liquid Architecture 9.
  • The Pineapples From The Dawn Of Time have new material! You can watch a live performance of new track 'Beezlebub' at the Step Inn here.
  • Arrows are offering their first two releases, Don't Write Poetry and a split 12" with These Hands Could Separate The Sky, for free download on their myspace.


Review: An Horse - Not Really Scared EP

Here's the debut release from An Horse, aka Kate Cooper from Iron On and Damon Cox from Intercooler. Since An Horse originally started as Cooper's solo project, she's the principle songwriter and provides the primary focal point of the group. Hence, Iron On comparisons are pretty much inevitable... and not at all unwarranted. An Horse can easily be categorised as Iron On sans bass and (most of the time) a second guitar. That's no bad thing at all - Iron On are a class act, and Cooper has provided a number of quality of songs to that band's repertoire. Not Really Scared continues the quality displayed in her other band, with a familiar sound that still manages to mine new territory and provide a new twist on what was perhaps starting to become somewhat formulaic.

The immediately obvious difference between the two bands is comparative minimalism of the two-piece's sound - things are much more sparse and spacious than Iron On's crushing power chords, which gives the record a sense of vulnerability and fragility - it's totally fitting, as this release seems to be one of the most damaged and scared sounding records I've heard in a considerable time. Kate and Damon may well pound their instruments at times, but it always seems more like the two of them are lashing out in defense against an uncaring world (see: the final few minutes of 'Shoes Watch' or the unconvincingly defiant 'Scared As Fuck'). It's a seriously effective and affecting approach - hell, it can sound kind of terrifying in it's own way. The juxtaposition between galloping drums and reverb-laden vocals in the aforementioned 'Scared As Fuck' provides the perfect example of this mood - while Cooper sings 'I'm not really scared' the song sounds like the band is running for its life, completely petrified. Cooper has the perfect voice for this sort of music - forceful enough to cut through the band's noise, imperfect enough to be endearing, natural enough to sound authentic. And no fake American accent.

All of this isn't to say that An Horse have moved away from the members' previous bands' pop songcraft - far from it. 'Camp Out' could quite easily fit on an Iron On release if it had a bit more guitar muscle in the choruses, and there's plenty of melody in the vocals across the EP - Cox's backing vocals are used to good effect throughout. It should be noted that Cox is far from being a mere backing musician to Cooper's musical vision - his drumming provides a propulsiveness that is required to give the songs the vitality that they need. Since most of the tracks on Not Really Scared consist of a handful of chords played on a sole guitar, oftentimes it's the drums that provide the dynamic shifts between verses / choruses / middle eights. Most of the drumming walks a line between complexity and simplicity, and seems to be able to largely avoid repetition.

With the Iron On camp being very quiet since the release of The Verse, An Horse is the first of that band's splinter projects to have a record out (with Ian Rogers' doom/stoner-rock band No Anchor set to release an album later in the year and Ross Hope still to release any solo material). Hopefully we'll see that band returning to the stage and CD racks in due course, but in the meantime An Horse have released a highly successful and hugely rewarding work of their own. I keep harping on about Iron On in this review, and it's probably somewhat unfair considering the quality of this CD. Maybe one day Iron On will be the footnote in the story of An Horse, instead of the other way around.