Thursday, 3 December 2009

Gigs of the Week - December 3rd

Thursday 3rd:
Ernest Ellis (NSW), Carry Nation @ The Clubhouse
Skinny Jean @ Musgrave Park (10:30pm) - Free & All Ages (with guardian)

Friday 4th:
Incremental Records Xmas Show: Velociraptor, No Anchor, Lion Island, Mt Augustus, Ambitious Lovers (EP Launch & final show), Monster Monster @ The Clubhouse - Free, with Little Scout and Running Gun Sound DJs
Hits, Giants of Science, Sweet Dreams, Daddy Long Legs (Vic), Lords of Wong, Mercy Beat, Pretty Boys @ Step Inn
Anonymeye (Tape Launch), Thankless Plum (Vic) Nova Scotia, Ambrose Chapel, Brutal Hate Mosh @ Book Nook (West End)
Loomer, Kitchen's Floor @ Ric's Bar
Texas Tea @ The Powerhouse
Tara Simmons, Scott Spark @ The Powerhouse Visy Theatre
Scott Matthew, Heinz Riegler @ X&Y Bar

Saturday 5th:
Idle Cranes, Carry Nation, Mr Rascal, Moon Jog, Restream Vs Aheadphonehome @ Jugglers Art Space (4pm)
The John Steel Singers @ Gossip (Club 299)
Mt Augustus @ Borders CBD (1pm)
Browning St Garage & Bake Sale @ Browning St Studios - Raising funds for Browning St Studios to take their music education program to remote areas.
The Boat People, The Paper Scissors (NSW), Dan Parsons & Band @ The Clubhouse
Ball Park Music, Sweet Fawn @ Ric's Bar

Sunday 6th:
DIY Turnstyle #2: Ghost Notes @ 10 Laura St, Highgate Hill
Andrew Morris, Timothy Carroll, The Sunburys, Scott Spark, Georgia Potter, Lucie Thorne, Sean Sennett, Jody Haines, Madeleine Paige, Chloe Turner, PJ Weston, Steve Grady @ The Powerhouse (3:30pm)


To farewell the (imo amazing but somewhat divisive) Ambitious Lovers, here's the full set from their show last month. They're playing for the final time at 8:30pm on Friday at The Clubhouse for free:


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Friday, 27 November 2009

Gigs of the Week - November 27th

I wasn't go to do one of these up, but there's so many great gigs on this weekend that I thought that perhaps I should. I think I'll only do one more this year, since things tend to die down in December.

Friday 27th:
No Anchor, The Rational Academy, Yout Dem, Whyte Lighting @ The Step Inn (Front Bar)
The Swamplords (Album Launch), Sulphur Lights, Velociraptor, Running Guns @ The Troubadour
Fergus Brown (NSW), McKisko, Mr Maps, Cowper @ Lofly Hangar
The Gin Club, Edward Guglielmino, Mexico City, Lion Island @ The Zoo
Toy Balloon, Cardhouses @ Ric's Bar
Real Bad Music Convention @ 1145 Ipswich Rd MOOROOKA - Three day DIY convention.

Saturday 28th:
At Sea, Lion Island, Smokestack Orchestra, The Videomatics @ The Troubadour
4zzz's Dub Day Afternoon: Kingfisha, Rhythm Collision Sound System, Darky Roots & lots more @ The Jubilee Hotel
Real Bad Music Convention @ 1145 Ipswich Rd MOOROOKA - Three day DIY convention.

Sunday 29th:
Lion Island, Pensive Penguin, Hello Yoko, Tom Eggert @ Ithaca Pool - just in case you thought there weren't enough opportunities to see Lion Island this weekend.
Real Bad Music Convention @ 1145 Ipswich Rd MOOROOKA - Three day DIY convention.
Assassins 88, Kitchen's Floor, Sleepwalks, Loomer @ Browning St Studios (6pm)

Wednesday 2nd:
Browning St Goes Bush Benefit: The Rooftops, Stop It I Love It Cabaret, Kay Orchison, Peter B & The Homeless Souls, Sarah Gall & more @ Brisbane Arts Theatre (Petrie Terrace) - a benefit for the music teachers from Browning St Studios to take their music education to remote areas. There's also a student recital occuring at the venue at 6pm.

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Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Turnpike @ Mere Noise Meltdown, Step Inn (14.11.2009)

I saw a lot of local bands play over the last weekend. The sounds coming from these bands included cool garage pop (Running Guns), overwrought radio-rock (The Gallant), awesome Bardo Pond-esque drone-pop (Loomer), K-Records-meets-SST sludge (Manic Eyes), affected yet entertaining noise punk (White Cop), the gradual evolution and coming of age of an already pretty great new band (Slug Guts), the farewell of a local phenomenon (Secret Birds' final show), a beautiful yet far too brief set of quiet folk (McKisko), and an experience of a band I missed during their heyday (El Borracho). Most of it was actually pretty damn great, a somewhat rare run of consistently quality music. Some of it was not so good. All of it was worth writing about in some form. However, when the time came there was only one band I really wanted to write about, and they're a band I've written about (and fawned over) before: Turnpike.

Turnpike, for me, are that band you go and see at every opportunity that presents itself, where you stand in the front row with a handful of people and wonder why so many others seem to pay so little attention. They've been one of my favourite bands (note: favourite bands, not just favourite local bands) almost since the first time I saw them. Their music is simultaneously clever, boneheaded, technical, lacking in technique, ear-splitting and aurally orgasmic. Song structures are merely loose recommendations on where a particular piece of music should lead - each player is free to head off on a whim at a moment's notice, or to attempt to play a particular part completely differently to how they've played it previously. And yet the songs are complex, twisting journeys that are unpredictable and yet always hit their marks.

In the last year or so there have been rumours that Turnpike would break up and transform into some other band. Thankfully that plan seems to have been abandoned, but the idea of changing direction somewhat seems to have been retained. New songs have been introduced recently: the first one was introduced a few months ago and is by far the most schizophrenic song the band have yet written. Starting with a bubbling bass riff in 5/4, it eventually builds up and explodes into a rudimentary sort of thrash metal before falling back to where it began. The second new song was unveiled at the Mere Noise Meltdown on Saturday evening, and was in huge contrast to the retro-tinged garage rock performed by most of the other bands on the bill. Featuring more twists and turns than... well, something very twisty and turny, it displayed guitarist Adam King adding a bit of Ian Williams to his usual Steve Albini meets Ash Bowie guitar stylings. Individual notes and melody lines are clearer than they have been for years in Turnpike's music, although still delivered in a highly twisted, clanging fashion. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Chris Bryant and Tim Evans provide their usual mix of solid anchorage mixed with appropriate levels of chaos, except now with double the number of 90 degree turns in the music and greater flow than ever before. The total effect is mind blowing, throughout the song I found myself being more and more astounded with every newly introduced riff.

Older songs were also performed on the night, both released and unreleased (though familiar to anyone who has seen the band since their debut full length dropped in 2006). They were similarly impressive, and performed as well as I've ever seen them (despite some occasional problem with guitar leads being disconnected due to the Step Inn Front Bar's limited stage space). Although the set was a short one at only five songs, it was packed to the brim of explosive, exciting music. Turnpike may well fall within the confines of 'math rock', but they also display a vitality and energy that bands in that genre often lack, who instead getting lost in studiousness and the search for perfection in performance. Turnpike dismiss that aspect of the genre, and hence are able to comfortably fit into a night such as the Mere Noise Meltdown, where attitude and perceived authenticity reign supreme.

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Gigs of the Week - November 12th

Thursday 12th:
Secret Birds (Album Launch), Slug Guts, White Cop, Manic Eyes @ The Clubhouse
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse

Friday 13th:
2high Festival: Tin Can Radio, Villains of Wilhelm, Sunflower, My Fiction, Running Guns and more @ The Powerhouse - see www.2highfestival.com for the full list of bands and times. Free entry.
The Stabs (Vic), Witch Hats (Vic), Loomer, The Deadnotes @ The Clubhouse - Free entry.
Mr Rascal, At Sea @ Ric's Bar
Princess Rodeo, Blue Trial Records, The Bloodpoets, Boss Level Monster @ The Globe
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse
Wagons (NSW), Texas Tea @ X&Y Bar
Illage @ Checocho Cafe, West End

Saturday 14th:
Mere Noise Meltdown: The Horrortones, Turnpike, El Borracho, Vegas Kings, Butcher Birds, The Sips, The Hymies, The Dangermen, The Keep On Dancins @ The Step Inn
Texas Tea @ The Troubadour (1am Late Show)
2high Festival: Black Market Rhythm Company, Richard In Your Mind (NSW), Mr Maps, McKisko, Dot.AY, Mt Augustus and more @ The Powerhouse - see www.2highfestival.com for the full list of bands and times. Free entry.
Little Lovers, Extra Foxx, Feathers @ 4zzz Carpark (2pm) - All ages, donation entry.
Cuthbert & The Nightwalkers (NSW), Little Lovers, Oh Ye Denver Birds @ X&Y Bar
Hungry Kids of Hungary, Deep Sea Arcade (NSW), Ball Park Music @ The Zoo
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse

Sunday 15th:
Shit Life: White Cop, Blank Realm, Tidy Kid, No Guru Trio, Extra Foxx, Loomer, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Sounds From The Ward, Cured Pink Radio, Swamplords, Loose Grip, Science, Kitten Party, Baglady & Walter P. Cronwiegn, Brutal Hate Mosh, The Harpy Choir @ Dutton Park Cemetary (or somewhere near it, 3pm)
Hungry Kids of Hungary, Deep Sea Arcade (NSW), Ball Park Music
@ The Hive
Live Spark: Steve Grady, Crystal Radios @ The Powerhouse
Doch Gypsy Orchestra @ The Powerhouse

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Thursday, 29 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 29th


Thursday 29th:
Heinz Riegler, Microflora (Vic) @ Jamie's Espresso Bar (7:30pm) - Releasing a new cassette of various recordings from the past few years, limited to 60 copies (featuring hand-printed artwork from Alex Gillies).
Luluc (Vic), McKisko, Lion Island @ The Troubadour
Toy Balloon (Album Re-Launch), Tin Can Radio, Moon Jog, Doom Doom @ The Zoo

Friday 30th:
Gig-Antics: Skinny Jean (Album Re-Launch), Megastick Fanfare (NSW), The Parking Lot Experiments (Vic) @ Uber
The Estates, The Oyster Murders, Plastic Palace Alice @ The Troubadour

Saturday 31st:
Tigermoth, Sweet Dreams, Purity Device, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Big Dead @ Lofly Hangar
Monday Heart, Grids/Units/Planes, Music For Slow Dancing @ Blackstar Coffee (West End)
Wind & Brackets, The James Wright Experience @ The Clubhouse
Finders Keepers Markets: Pikelet (Vic), Mr Rascal, Kate Jacobson, The Cardboard Kids, The Fox And The River, Erin-Louise @ Old Museum (12pm - 9pm)

Sunday 1st:
Finders Keepers Markets: The Bell Divers, Lion Island, JuliaWhy?, Edge of Colour @ Old Museum (10am - 5pm)

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Monday, 26 October 2009

Fiesta Roundup

Three days of predominantly local music this past weekend made up the best Valley Fiesta I've had the pleasure of experiencing, bolstered by some fantastic sets from Japan's Limited Express (Has Gone?) along with Jack Ladder, Alex & The Ramps and more from interstate. Some prior years have featured lineups that haven't quite justified the bother of dealing with the crowds associated with the event; this year not only was the lineup pretty damn strong throughout the entire weekend (it was a rare moment when there was nothing of interest to see), but the crowds seemed to be more pleasurable to be a part of. I can barely think of a set that I didn't enjoy. The following gives some brief thoughts on most of the local acts I managed to catch.

Early on Friday evening, Monster Monster started the festivities with a set of his usual indie-rock inflected hip-hop. Joined by frequent collaborator Saint Surly, the two traded brief snippets of music back and forth throughout their half-hour set. It's an act that they've been performing for about 6months now, but this Fiesta slot was certainly the most natural they've made it sound. Previously they've had some difficulty pulling off the transitions between each act's turn in the spotlight, making their sets somewhat erratic at times (though the actual pieces of music they've played individually are usually pretty great). They must have been working hard on the flow of their set, as the changes generally seemed very natural on this particular evening. At times it was actually difficult to figure out which of the two artists was providing the basis of the track and which one was providing accents. This was probably furthered by the fact that neither act played many of their recognisable songs, which would indicate that the set contained mostly new material (perhaps from their upcoming collaborative record).

Lion Island have been building up a bit of a buzz over the past few months. Having recently released their debut EP, Berlin, the band have been expanding their sound from its somewhat Beirut aping beginnings. Many of the newer songs in their repertoire add an almost post-punk rhythmic quality to their gypsy folk, without turning the band into yet another Arcade Fire wannabe (so far). Some of their earlier songs hinted at this mixing of influences, most notably the EP's title track with its delayed electric guitar and soaring arrangement. Now the band is taking these ideas further, with more varied instrumentation and more complex arrangements. While you can still hear the band searching for their core sound, they seem to be getting closer with each show.

Having recently gone through some fairly significant personnel changes, Mr Maps returned on Saturday from a few months' worth of downtime with a slightly different slant on their kaleidoscopic version of post-rock. Gone are unpredictable drummer Sangdae Yang and guitar effects guru Nick Smethurst, respectively replaced by Jacob Hicks (otherwise known as the frontman for Re:Enactment) and Shem Allen (of Skinny Jean, although his was apparently a one-off appearance, with Smethurst's full time replacement being cellist Briony Luttrell). The end result is a leaner, rockier sound - at least for this show, things might change again once the cello is introduced. Most significantly, Hicks is a more traditional and harder hitting drummer than Yang, although he shares the previous drummer's frenetic style. The band are every bit as entertaining as they used to be, and have thankfully used the downtime and lineup changes to introduce some new material into their set.

DZ earned a place on the Fiesta bill via TripleJ Unearthed (along with Drawn From Bees whom I missed because... well, I'm not really much of a fan). Having last played in Brisbane at the launch of their Ruined My Life EP last month, at Fiesta the two young men were in substantially more cohesive form (thanks to a 3pm start time at an alcohol free event). While they were still probably the most ragged band to grace any of the three Valley stages over the weekend they have their own form of tightness, careening along with their groove-punk riffs, threatening to fall apart but instead crashing back together when the big moments come. And boy, do those big moments come. Every single song has at least one point when that immense riff enters and the drums start pounding even harder than before. They're an incredibly entertaining live band, but the songs are catchy enough to remain in your head after the live spectacle has been forgotten.

Having recently released their debut full length Set Your Bones, Butcher Birds took to the SAE stage around the middle of Saturday's festivities. They started their set with the same one-two combo that opens their album, displaying their muscular 'sludge-pop'. I haven't seen the band very often since their new drummer, Donovan, joined their ranks, but it's clear that he gives the band an extra degree of punch. His brief cameo on lead vocals halfway through the set also helped to break up the rest of the sludgier material, providing a welcome blast of punk rock. The rest of Butcher Birds' slot was filled with their usual slow-burning riff rock, with Stacey Coleman's gruff, smokey vocals meandering around the edges. Most of the time their music isn't especially melodic or hooky, being mostly reliant on the physicality of raw volume and the sluggish mood that it all creates. As such, late-afternoon on a bitumen street probably isn't the most conducive of settings for the band to be performing. Still, they put on their standard solid performance.

Although they've been around for a decent amount of time I'd never actually seen White Mansions before, despite the fact that I'd heard a lot of positive things about the band. I figured I should remedy this, and so I made sure I was in attendance for at least part of their Fiesta set. I'm glad I did, as they're a good band - classic sounding songs that remind one of 70s AM radio, but played through distorted garage rock and with a vocalist (Dave Ross, ex-kt26ers) who splits the difference between John Darnielle's stand-and-deliver approach and Dave Grohl's recent full throated bellow. A friend of mine mentioned The Replacements as a possible reference point, and such a comparison makes as much sense as any other.

Disco Nap is the new vehicle for ex-Iron On co-frontman Ross Hope, and much like Kate Cooper's An Horse (and very much unlike Ian Roger's No Anchor) his new music sounds a lot like his old music, with a couple of minor tweaks. Where Cooper paired things back for her new project, Hope has gone in the opposite direction, adding a handful of new textures to his fairly comfortable indie-rock. I must admit that for the first few songs I wasn't really into Disco Nap, it felt like a less successful rehash of Iron On that kept many of that band's more annoying aspects but without the quality of songs. As the set went on this feeling gradually eased and I began to enjoy the music, though it's certainly true that Hope is yet to write anything for his new project that is as good as 'Playing Hard To Want' or 'Fifty-Four Equals Two Hundred' (though there were some songs that showed some promise). It's only early days for Disco Nap so we'll see how it all develops.

Returning that morning from a show in Sydney, Little Scout launched their new EP Different From A Distance as the sun set on the valley. It was an enviable time to be performing, with the low ambient light mixing with the colourful stage lighting to wondrous effect (although the possibility of rain threatened to cut things short at any moment). It suited the recent developments in the band's sound, with their old pseudo-folk pop gradually giving way to a slicker indie rock sound, positing them as the middle ground between twee-indie bands ala Belle & Sebastian and the stadium sized atmospherics of U2 (or, if you were inclined to be less kind, Snow Patrol). They played a largely laid back set that drew equally from both of their EPs, finishing with their JJJ hit (and still best song) 'Dead Loss'.

There's very little to say about SixFtHick that hasn't already been said. The twin vocal attack of the Corbett brothers generally makes a strong initial impression, but it's the music behind them that holds your attention. The label they've given themselves, 'cane punk', is as apt a description as any, appropriately conjuring thoughts of Queensland's deep north. The music has a rough, brutish post-punk edge, calling to mind bands like The Birthday Party and The Jesus Lizard. The Corbett's don't have that same tortured howl of those bands' Nick Cave and David Yow, but they certainly attempt to create the same level of on stage intensity of the aforementioned frontmen (or at least as close as they can get at an outdoor, family event).

As the night closed on the outdoor stages, inside The Troubadour newly formed folk group Epithets provided a bit of a comedown for those present. Rising out of frontman Nick Smethurst's solo act Let's Not (But Say We Did), the new band presents the singer's songs in a more fully fleshed form. The added strength of the band suits Smethurst's music, as the restrictions placed on him by having to interact with three other musicians seem to give him direction and confidence. No longer are songs interrupted by apologies, while both the guitarwork and singing are stronger. The intricately finger-picked folk is given more weight and a clearer structure by the addition of bass guitar, Simon Reynolds' drumming finds the perfect blend of complexity and understatedness, and the violin fills in any remaining sonic gaps.

Playing under the Sunday midday sun (and wind), Carry Nation perform their threadbare folk to a small crowd who are mostly standing in the shade provided on the sidewalks. Starting out as the solo project of Jessie Warren, they've gone through a couple of incarnations before arriving at their current point of a second guitarist and two doo-wop style female backing singers. It's about as minimalist a sound as you can get from four musicians, leaving the songs as the central focus. Jessie's songs are memorable enough to be able to withstand this spotlight, with her voice coming across as a blend of the breathy Holly Throsby and the 'quirky' sultriness of Beth Gibbons.

Texas Tea are probably Brisbane's most recognisable country act and genuine local favourites, and so returned to a similar slot as the one they played at last year's Fiesta. They mostly stuck to their more upbeat numbers, such as 'Billy' and single 'Macy & Me', ignoring more introspective tracks like 'The Daredevil's Lament' and 'Cane Farmer's Song'. Generally I prefer their darker songs so I was slightly disappointed, but I can understand why they chose to do such a set when large portions of the audience would have been unfamiliar with their music. Still, a few more downbeat songs might have helped to provide a little bit more variety to their performance, which was a little bit monotone. Despite that, their songs are always strong and Kate Jacobson's voice is always a joy to listen to.

Dot.AY was certainly one of the more 'out there' acts performing at Fiesta this year, with his Gameboy created chiptune music. I was looking forward to hearing Alex Yabsley's 8-bit beats blasting through a sizable PA, and for the first half of the set this is what the crowd was treated to. It was effective and the gathering crowd seemed to be enjoying it, with a healthy amount of dancing occurring in front of stage. Unfortunately in the second half of the set things started to fall apart, with the penultimate song featuring vocals that were mixed at about double the level of the backing track, robbing the song of its energy. This was followed by a long break caused by both of Yabsley's Gameboys crashing when trying to load the sequence for the final song. By this stage a good percentage of the crowd had lost interest, resulting in a frustratingly lopsided set from one of Brisbane's more interesting musicians.

Playing the final slot of the Fiesta, Brisbane's garage soul supergroup The Horrortones brought an appropriately fun filled close to the weekend. By this stage I was almost dead on my feet, and I was likely not the only one. Something special was needed to get the crowd's attention at the end of Sunday evening, and The Horrortones did as good a job as any at providing it. With a set consisting solely of covers, the band ploughed through the songs with infectious enthusiasm. At that point of the weekend their music was the perfect blend of familiarity and celebratory energy.


Thanks must go to the organiser's of this year's Valley Fiesta. It was without a doubt one the most enjoyable event of its type that I've attended. With any luck they'll be able to reproduce it next year.

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Friday, 23 October 2009

Gigs of the FIESTA

So it's Valley Fiesta weekend, and this year they've actually put together a pretty fantastic lineup. Check out the full lineup at www.valleyfiesta.com.au.

Friday 23rd:
Valley Fiesta: Limited Express (Has Gone) (Japan), Shrewms, Aleks & The Ramps (Vic), Lion Island, Monster Monster and MORE @ Brunswick St Mall
Mr Maps, Idle Cranes, Hailer @ The Club House
The Cairos, Last Dinosaurs, Vasy Mollo, The Parties of Interzone @ The Troubadour
The Moses Gunn Collective @ The Troubadour (1am, FREE)
Grand Atlantic, Killed Two Birds, The Travelling So And Sos, The Estates, Felinedown @ The Globe

Saturday 24th:
Valley Fiesta: Vegas Kings, SixFtHick, Butcher Birds, Little Scout, DZ, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Mr Maps and MANY MORE @ Brunswick St Mall
Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, Denim Owl (Vic), Extreme Weeze(Vic), Epithets @ The Troubadour (FREE)
Live Spark: Steve Grady, Popalicious @ The Powerhouse
The Gonzo Show, Mexico City @ X&Y
Wind & Brackets (Single Launch), Velociraptor @ The Club House
Occult Blood (Vic), Ivans (Vic), Panel Van Halen (Vic), Secret Birds, White Cop @ Step Inn (Front Bar)

Sunday 25th:
The Horrortones, Texas Tea, Dot.AY, Drawn From Bees, Carry Nation and MANY MORE @ Brunswick St Mall

Tuesday 27th:
Brutal Hate Mosh @ Ric's Bar

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Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 14th

There's a ridiculous amount of great stuff on this weekend.

Wednesday 14th:
In Sepia, Gladstone & Lochaber @ Ric's Bar

Thursday 15th:
No Anchor, The Sips, Undead Apes, D.Black (Secret Birds) @ The Zoo
Mapletons, Oh Ye Denver Birds @ Ric's Bar
Dead Riot, Biff Co @ The Clubhouse

Friday 16th:
I Heart Hiroshima (Album Launch), We All Want To, Heinz Riegler @ The Zoo
Open Air: Videomatics, Big Strong Brute, Carry Nation, Mt Augustus, Your Hand In Mine, The Liar's Chair @ Queensland College of Arts (226 Grey St Southbank, 4pm-9pm)
Lion Island (EP Launch), Epithets @ Ric's Bar
Drawn From Bees (EP Launch), Ball Park Music, Oh Ye Denver Birds @ The Troubadour
Halfway @ The Powerhouse
Mr Rascal @ Queens St Mall (6pm, 7pm, 8pm)

Saturday 17th:
The Sips, Sweet Dreams, Bloody Roo, Geese, Triple Dragon @ Legion's Club (7pm)
Hazards of Swimming Naked (Album Launch), Arcane, Red Medicine, Restream
@ The Zoo
Jamie Hutchings (NSW), The Honey Month, Ichabod's Crane @ Lofly Hangar
The Quickening, Willows, The Here And The Elsewhere, We Set Sail @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall

Tuesday 20th:
Sleepwalks, The Peel St Band @ Ric's Bar

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Review: To The North - To Work And Not Feed 12" EP

To The North are, and have been for some time, probably the best so-called 'post-hardcore' band in Brisbane. Other dubious hyphenated terms that could be (and have been) used to categorise their music would be 'math-rock', 'jazz-hardcore' and 'tech-punk', all terms that might turn various people off of their music. Such labels might seem to paint their music in an over intellectualised, bloodless light, but anyone who has seen the band live knows that this would be a huge mistake, as the band are a hugely passionate, emotive force. In fact, an equally as apt term to describe their music might actually be 'emo', but in the original use of the term from when it described various bands from the early days of Washington DC's hardcore scene that grew around the Dischord label.

To Work And Not Feed is not the debut release from To The North, but it's the most substantial in a while (they released a split 7" with the similarly minded Ohana last year, and an EP called Landscapes before that). The record features four songs spread over two sides of vinyl (with a download code included), and was recorded almost 18months ago by a friend of the band (Dave Williams) and mixed by the ever present Bryce Moorhead. The record captures the band with a raw honesty; there are very few overdubs, the sounds are left without a huge deal of polish, and as such the band's musicality is left as the sole focus. It's a sound that is unadorned and uncluttered. This is probably the best presentation for the band as their songs are complex and non-linear, and would probably become impenetrable with a more dense mix. If a song like 'If Knowledge Were A Right Of Passage You Would Be A Fucking Genius' was filled with more instrumentation it would likely collapse under its own weight, as it's already stuffed with more riffs and chord progressions than a lot of bands put together throughout an entire album. As an aside, it's probably also the best track on the record.

The star instrument here is certainly Errol Hoffman's guitar. It winds its way around all of the other instruments, alternating between extremely intricate melodic runs and dynamic chordal work. Almost stealing the show at times is the muscular yet dexterous drum work from Simon, while Josh's bass provides a solid foundation for the music (also displaying its own inventiveness from time to time). The instrumental base is likely strong enough to invoke interest even in those who are not particular partial to this style of indie rock, but the vocals might be a turnoff to any who are averse to the genre's somewhat ubiquitous speak-singing. Singer Cam Gillard's style is fairly common amongst post-hardcore bands, and those who don't particularly like other vocalists of his ilk probably won't be won over by his efforts. That said, he's a particularly passionate, anthemic vocalist who provides a needed centrepoint in the middle of his bandmates' controlled chaos. Lyrically he seems to mostly deal with conflicts and relationships (though not necessarily of the romantic variety), and does so with an inclusive, non-accusatory tone - there are a lot more 'we's on this record than 'you's.

For a band who have for a long time been fairly irregular in their gigging and releases, it's encouraging to see To The North playing out more consistently. In recent times they've become a more constant presence in gig guides, and have been on multiple tours with another one about to begin in support of this release. With any luck they'll become more than the highly respected but inconsistently seen heads of a local scene. With a bit more luck we'll get another record from them soon.

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Friday, 2 October 2009

Gigs of the Week - October 2nd

Friday October 2nd:
Open Frame @ Powerhouse - Room 40's annual two-day experimental music festival.
The Parties of Interzone, Scarletto @ Ric's Bar

Saturday October 3rd:
Butcher Birds (Album Launch), SixFtHick, Loomer, Dirty Bird @ The Zoo
Tiny Vipers (USA), McKisko, BigStrongBrute, Lion Island @ The Troubadour
Oh Ye Denver Birds @ The Troubadour (1am Slot)
Open Frame @ Powerhouse - Room 40's annual two-day experimental music festival.
West End Live: McKisko, Timothy Carroll, Andrew Morris, Kate Bradley & The Goodbye Horses, Mt Augustus, Paste @ Boundary St
Love of Diagrams (Vic), Kitchen's Floor, Sleepwalks @ The Clubhouse
Teleprompter, Villains of Wilhelm @ Ric's Bar

Sunday October 4th:
Bats Magazine Launch: Stature::Statue, Stemford Hiss, Swamplords, Oh Ye Denver Birds, Charlie Why, The Arc @ The Fort (1-6pm, All Ages)

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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Review: Do The Robot - First Names

Do The Robot's 2008 Valve records release Amp On Fire was an enjoyable, if somewhat flawed, minimalist shoegaze record. A little over a year later the band have released their follow-up, First Names, and it's an improvement on their debut in almost every sense. While recent live shows have played up the ambient side of their music, First Names combines the recent increased use sound layering with the traditional melodicism Do The Robot have shown at all stages of their existence. The record improves upon the areas that were somewhat lacking on Amp On Fire, while expanding the areas where the band was already quite successful.

The record starts off with 'Europe', about as concise a song as you'll find in Do The Robot's discography, coming in at a touch under 4minutes. Within this timeframe the musical improvements the band has made in the past year all come to the fore - the songs are more densely packed with melodies and shifting arrangements, and there's a greater sense of movement inherent in the music. No longer do their songs coast along for 7minutes with a mere two or three chords, seemingly held in stasis; now songs embrace traditional pop structures while still keeping the band's trademark dreaminess and languid beauty. Another thing that will strike those familiar with the debut is the sound of the record - everything seems so much more full than before, and not just because of the increased use of guitar and keys overdubs. Engineer Todd Dixon has done a great job of balancing reverb-filled haze with a sense of weight for all of the instruments. The final thing of note that has really improved in recent times is Sera's singing - she has always had a voice with the perfect character for this style of music, but now she has better control of her vocals and hence comes across as much more powerful and confident. She also seems to have reduced the Americanisations in her pronunciation (something that is a bit of a pet peeve of mine).

The band also seems more willing (or more able) to mix things up - 'Grandmother's Bicycle' is a terrific, upbeat pop song that devolves into a Sonic Youth Sister-era outro, 'Mountain' is the tensely dramatic centrepiece of the album, and 'Moon In The Sky' shares a fair bit with sister-band The Rational Academy's more reflective moments. Meanwhile 'Just The Six (No The Five Of Us)' is the sort of extended jangly pop song that Amp On Fire was filled with - except better. Matt also mixes up his guitar tone much more frequently than on the prior record, often double tracking his parts and not being afraid to throw down some appropriately distorted shoegaze guitar. It helps to keep the record moving along, and stops things from getting too samey.

First Names is the record that I was hoping for with Amp On Fire - beautiful and stark, yet inviting and enveloping. Unlike Amp On Fire, it benefits from not outstaying its welcome, being all over in a bit over 35minutes. It also packs a lot more ideas into its running time than its predecessor, ensuring that the listener stays interested through its entire duration. Since Do The Robot have already moved on from the sound of this record I'm interested to hear their next release - if its much like their current live show we can expect it to be more obtuse, more ambient, more abstract and even more densely filled then First Names, and yet just as melodically satisfying as this record.

Oh, and I should also mention the beautiful packaging. The vinyl version comes in individually hand-crafted fabric jackets.

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Friday, 25 September 2009

Gigs of the Week - September 25th

Good weekend this weekend. See below.

BTW, Mr Maps have a free download available on their myspace of a new track they recorded in their rehearsal room just recently. Check it out if you're into them.

Friday 25th:
Stature::Statue, Moon Jog, 3ofMillions (NSW), Bastards of the Epic Day @ Lofly Hangar - Bring along a mix-CD to swap it for someone else's.
Royal Headache (NSW), Bed Wettin Bad Boys (NSW), Kitchen's Floor, The Seizures @ Step Inn (Front Bar)
Nikko, Caught Ship (Vic) @ Ric's Bar
Almost Invisible #3: Sounds From The Ward, Alrey Batol, Ghost Notes @ Browning St Studios
We All Want To @ The Powerhouse (6pm)
Tom Ugly (NSW), The Rocketsmiths, Comic Sans @ The Troubadour

Saturday 26th:
Turnpike, Loomer, Whyte Lightning, Loose Grip @ Fat Louie's
FootFootFoot: Dot.AY, BigStrongBrute, Buildings Melt @ Blackstar Coffee (7pm, Thomas St West End)
Velociraptor, Bright Yellow (NSW) @ Ric's Bar
ChalkAndCheese @ Borders (1pm)

Sunday 27th:
The Gin Club @ The Powerhouse (4pm)

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Thursday, 24 September 2009

Review: Idle Cranes - Fur Release

Post-punk band Idle Cranes have been been playing around the traps for a few years now, but have just recently released their debut record, Fur Release. The band seems to think of it as an EP, but with nine tracks and a running time of around 40minutes it's equally as valid to think of it as a full length album. With a production style that hearkens back to the post-punk records of the late 70s / early 80s (ie: not much low end, LOTS of reverb and feedback, buried vocals that are largely indecipherable) it's not an easily digestible piece of music either, but it's not without rewards for those who persist with it.

The record starts of with the instrumental 'L'Amour', a spiky piece of down-tempo post-punk that somewhat sets the template for much of the record in its minute-and-change length: trebly guitars, distant thundering drums, monolithic distorted bass that somehow stays in the sonic shadows despite its volume. 'Frigate' introduces vocals into the mix, with both of the band's singers sharing the mic on the song - Jon's languid, British sounding croon laying the foundations while Jakeb's more colloquial bark cutting through the middle, his speak-singing sounding more like the vocalisations of your average post-hardcore vocalist than a post-punk one. 'High Heels Low Brow' closes off the more accessible first third of the record with the most immediately likable slice of music on the disc, disco drums and all. If Fur Release were to have a single, this would be it.

In it's live incarnation, 'Ghost Train' is an absolute monster. Slow, menacing, oppressively loud. This recording doesn't capture that side of it at all, instead the song comes across as monotone and repetitive, with pretty much no dynamics or significant changes in its 7minute span. Drums are reduced to a metronomic tapping in the background, the bass is neutered of any power and the song is reduced to an exercise in mood and texture. Strange, then, that it's not a total write-off (though cutting a minute or so out of the first half might have done the track a favour). The song is probably the biggest challenge on the record, almost as if the band is daring you to make it to side two. Those who do will be greeted by the somewhat schizophrenic 'Discotheque' (cool riff at the 2minute mark) and the relentless, tribal 'Tetrahydreen'. In combination with 'Ghost Train' this trio makes up the decidedly strange middle third of the record.

The final third of Fur Release is probably the strongest, but also the most oblique. 'Mexico' takes the murky atmospherics to their logical limit, slowing things down to a introspective crawl and, in the process, becoming the most successful recording on the album. 'Two Horse Race' is probably the Idle Crane's finest live track, and though the band's chosen recording style has sapped the song of some of its oppressive power from the live setting (much like 'Ghost Train'), it still stands out as one of the highlights of the disc. The verses are propulsive, while the choruses increase the intensity by just enough to highlight the epic nature of the chord progression. 'DFD41' finishes things off with some more atmospherics, utilizing some found sound loops, an acoustic guitar and some droning vocals to bring things to a soothing yet disquieting end. It's one hell of a comedown to a record that doesn't give an inch over its entire running time.

By taking such a strong stance in terms of creating a uniform, highly stylised sounding record, Idle Cranes have created a somewhat more divisive record than they perhaps might have with a more 'true to life' presentation. Such conviction is to be applauded, especially in such a young band, even if the results are perhaps to the detriment of individual songs. The band has obviously wanted to create a real record, as opposed to a collection of loosely linked tracks. Some people have labelled the record as 'lo-fi', but that's not really accurate. This isn't something recorded on a cassette four-track in someone's garage, it has been intentionally constructed to sound a certain way and create a certain mood. In this respect the record is a success (extra credit also needs to be given when considering that the band pieced the record together from multiple recording sessions at a variety locations, although four of the tracks were recorded at the (new defunct?) Valley Studios by Glenn Agnew).

There is certainly a consistent mood that runs through the entire record - often this can create a sameness to the music, and this is arguably the case here. However, after living with the album (or EP, whatever) for a bit of time the listener is able to get past the murky sounds and hear that there is actually a remarkably wide breadth of music on display. Strangely enough, it's easy to imagine that with a more orthodox production style Fur Release could actually seem a little bit scattered. The fact that it instead comes across as quite cohesive would indicate that this is a band with a fairly strong idea of where it's headed, even if at this stage it does seem to occasionally get lost . Still, their success rate is high enough that this record (and their live show) comes recommended.

You can currently listen to the entirety of Fur Release record at the band's myspace page.

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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Gigs of the Week - September 17th

Thursday 17th:
Blue Carousel, Running Guns, Surecut Kids @ The Clubhouse (Empire Hotel Corner Bar)

Friday 18th:
The Nation Blue (Vic), SixFtHick, Dick Nasty, No Anchor @ The Zoo
Mr Rascal @ Queens St Mall (6pm)
My Fiction, Teleprompter @ The Clubhouse (Empire Hotel Corner Bar)

Saturday 19th:
4ZZZ's These Are Not Birds: Secret Birds, To The North, Swamplords, Feathers, Oh Ye Denver Birds, Common Pointless Rage, Wil Wagner (Vic), Mr DNA (Vic), Sleepwalks @ Boundary Hotel (West End)
Chinese Burns (Vic), Undead Apes, Fancy Boys, Geese @ Step Inn (upstairs)
Dizzygotheca (EP Launch), Silver Circus, Edge of Colours @ The Zoo

Sunday 20th:
Sonic Boom #6: Ambrose Chapel, White Bears of Norway, Secret Killer of Names, Extra Foxx, Ian McIntyre @ 101 Merthyr Rd, New Farm

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Wednesday, 16 September 2009

DZ, Villains of Wilhelm @ Fans (12.09.09)

Popular indie-rock club night Fans recently up and left their traditional home at Alhambra lounge, now putting on their regular shows at the Empire's corner bar (otherwise known as The Club House). Deciding to start things off with a bang, Fans opened the new location with the EP Launch for the super-hyped dance-punk band DZ.

Starting off the night, however, were garage rockers Villains of Wilhelm. Before I go any further, there's one thing that has always annoyed me about this band: they seem to always pronounce Wilhelm as 'will-helm', missing the obvious opportunity for illiteration provided by the usual pronunciation of the name! Man, that really grinds my goat... Anyway, The Villains play largely uptempo, loud rock'n'roll with occasional detours into something a bit more melodious. Frontman Danny Wilhelm is far and away the focal point of procedings, running around and causing all sorts of havoc while the rest of the band provides tight backing to his antics. In general crowds seem to lap it up, though not everyone is so enamoured - after their set a less than impressed friend of mine commented that 'anyone can roll around on the floor, it doesn't mean the songs are any good'. It's a fair point, though perhaps a marginally unfair one. While The Villains are hardly providing anything unique in the grand scheme of things, they execute their chosen brand of rock'n'well with a near perfect balance of musical proficiency and reckless abandon. Furthermore, what's wrong with a bit of showmanship? Whether the band can prove themselves to be as effective on record is up for debate, but as a live spectable they're a worthwhile act for those with a predisposition towards their particular form of rock.

DZ have garnered a reputation as a fairly explosive live act, being unafraid to try every trick in the proverbial book to enhance the energy inherent in two dudes playing loud, guitar-based rock music. To that end they liberally incorporate intense strobe lights, crowd surfing, smoke machines, black lights and extreme volume. Most of these things were on display at the launch of their Ruined My Life EP, and the crowd responded in predictably riotous fashion. The end result was without a doubt one of the sloppiest rock sets I've seen in many a month - instruments would regularly stop playing for bars at a time, musical cues would be missed, crowd members would run onstage and push over parts of the drum kit or pull out a guitar lead. For a band being touted in some circles as the heir to Violent Soho's grunge-influenced crown, on this particular night they lacked that particular band's iron-tight grip on its music, but that's not really what DZ are trying to achieve. They're a band who are attempting to bring the noise and aggression of punk and meld it with the communal, party atmosphere of dance music, as shown by their regular covering of songs from acts live Daft Punk, Justice and even the Venga Boys. Judged on that criteria, the launch was a complete success. I can't think of many occasions where a crowd has been so intensely into a local band's set, or where the security at the front of the stage were actually not only necessary at a local show, but so laughably ineffectual.

The night finished up with Stature::Statue playing the 1am slot, but a) I've already reviewed them quite recently and b) I was pretty tired by the time they had started so had already headed home. There was also Chain Gang from Sydney at the start of the night, but I only caught their last (pretty crazy) song, plus they don't fit within Before Hollywood's scope.


Photo courtesy of Gerry Rocks.
Usual full disclosure statement: I recorded the DZ EP at my home studio.

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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Gigs of the Week - September 9th

So, it's Big Sound week this week. That means there will be all manner of industry types walking around the valley until the weekend. I had a bit of a look around today, it was... interesting. In any case, Big Sounds means that there are quite a few shows happening around town over the next few days.

(Also, for those who want a look behind the curtain to see what makes Before Hollywood tick, there's an interview with me over at the blog The Fruit Bowl... if you're interested)

Wednesday 9th:
Big Sound Live: I Heart Hiroshima, The Rational Academy, Little Scout, DZ, Skinny Jean, The Middle East, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Kate Bradley, Toy Balloon, Timothy Carrol, Ed Guglielmino, Rocketsmiths, Chris Pickering and MORE @ Various Valley venues - See www.qmusic.com.au/bigsound2009 for details on getting tickets etc.

Thursday 10th:
Big Sound Live: We All Want To, Grand Atlantic, The Boat People, Mary Trembles, Hunz, Last Dinosaurs, Madeleine Paige, The Cairos, Drawn From Bees, Dan Parsons and MORE @ Various Valley venues - See www.qmusic.com.au/bigsound2009 for details on getting tickets etc.
Pink Reason (USA), Slug Guts (LP Launch), Fabulous Diamonds (Vic), Blank Realm @ Step Inn
NineHoursNorth: aus (Japan), Cokiyu (Japan), Do The Robot @ Judith Wright Centre
Teleprompter, Snow White @ Ric's Bar

Friday 11th:
DZ (EP Launch), ChainGang (NSW), Stature::Statue, Villains of Wilhelm @ Club House (Empire Hotel Corner Bar)
Songs (NSW), Little Scout, Big Strong Brute @ The Troubadour
We All Want To @ The Powerhouse
Up Late: Kate Jacobson, Ben Salter @ Queensland Art Gallery

Saturday 12th:
The Bell Divers, Bliss @ Ric's Bar
Running Guns @ The Troubadour (1am Late Show)

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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Review: AXXONN - Masters of the Epic Day

Masters of the Epic Day, the second EP from local laptop-drone duo AXXONN (the first being the freel download Should You Fear Hell?, which Gav reviewed a while back), is an interesting little release. Interesting because it's actually something of a split record, featuring two songs from AXXONN and two songs from each of the two members' solo projects: Tom Hall (as himself) and Ian Rogers (as Ambrose Chapel).

It's also interesting because the two AXXONN tracks are probably the weakest on the record. Masters starts out with 'The Second Death', a track that plays out like a slightly condensed version of the debut EP (but this time with drums). The song starts out quiet and contemplative, full of warm synth tones, before erupting into noise around the one third mark, cruising along at full volume for a bit before calming back down... only this time it returns to crushing distortion instead of just petering out. Since it's only one song compared to the first EP's three it contains fewer melodic ideas, being mostly based around changes in dynamics instead of the Hell's gradually shifting tones and melodies. It's satisfying in the way that a Mogwai song is satisfying: it hits all of the points that you want it to hit, and it peaks right around the time you desire it to. It has big dynamic shifts that seem as though they're meant to jolt you about, but you're expecting them so they don't really surprise. In fact, the song is very Mogwai-like - I know it's a sin to automatically compare dramatic instrumental bands to the Scottish post-rockers, but this track really sounds like the more electronic numbers from the most recent two or three Mogwai records (the only difference being that Mogwai play guitars that sound like synths while AXXONN play synths that sound like guitars - even the sampled drums sounds a lot like the playing of Martin Bulloch, though that's probably more because he's often such a lifeless, mechanical drummer). I don't think there's any plagiarism going on here, even of the subconscious sort, as I don't believe that AXXONN are overly avid listeners of Mogwai - it's probably has more to do with the inherent limitations of and similarities between bands in this vague 'genre'. Anyway, 'The Second Death' is certainly not a bad track, in fact it's quite good, but it doesn't feel as successful as the band's earlier release.

The second track, 'Nikki Grace', is shorter but perhaps a bit more interesting, though it mines a very similar vein of ideas as 'The Second Death' - gradually developing textures in the first half, a big dynamic shift around halfway, mechanical drums. In fact, I think one of the main problems with the two AXXONN tracks is the drums - I just don't think that Hall or Rogers are particular adept at programming rhythms, or at least not the big, bombastic sort that they're trying to implement here (actually, on second thought the rhythms are actually pretty decent, the issue has more to do with the drum sounds that have been chosen and the way they've been mixed - the drums just seem to stick out, breaking the spell created by the rest of the music). On Should You Fear Hell? rhythm was used sparingly, often being limited to muted bass rhythms that burbled away beneath the weight of the huge synthesizers, and this was very effective. On Masters the rhythms are much more upfront, and I don't think it really works. It takes the band more in the direction of standard post-rock, which is all well and good, but I think that the band's best moments are when they're more understated and are slowly milking a dramatic chord progression for every remaining bit of interest.

The solo tracks reinforce this. All four are far more understated than the opening two songs, and are all the better for it. Tom Hall's 'Wor(l)ds Fall Down' is four and a half minutes of dread based around a couple of keyboard notes, while 'Between Subdivided Distances' features a slowly building array of drones and textures which never reach any sort of emotional payoff, although they do eventually break through the aural clouds to reach a kind of sunshine for the last minute of the song. Both tracks are desolate, murky sounding affairs, but not in a cold, detached way. They're also both really, really good.

Meanwhile, Rogers' two tracks are equally as enthralling. 'Bulk Carriers At Sea (And On Fire)' alternates between unnerving white noise and synths that sound like foghorns, giving a feeling that perfectly reflects the song's title. 'Corridors_Bend' is the shortest track on the EP, featuring a chorus of what sounds like ebowed guitars and rumbling ambience - there's really only one idea in the track, but it's explored thoroughly while not outstaying its welcome, and as such is as successful as anything else on the EP.

Masters of the Epic Day is an interesting little release. It's successful in ways that you wouldn't think it would successful, and its failures are due to things that you would imagine would be strengths. Who would have thought that the solo tracks, which many might have expected to be somewhat 'throwaway' in comparison to the 'proper' band songs, would be the highlights of this disc? Conversely, AXXONN are often most successful when melding the heady 'art' of experimental drone music with the more emotive, visceral world of rock and folk (in the traditional sense of the word), so it makes sense that the use of bombastic rhythms and big dynamic shifts would only add to the success of their music. However, this doesn't seem to be the case. It seems as though the aspects of AXXONN's music that they should be pursuing are the subtle melodies and texture shifts, and mixing those with a more subtle rhythmic approach.

Don't let my musings on why this record doesn't quite hit the heights its aiming for put you off, it's still a highly worthwhile release. All six songs are at the very least interesting, with none of them being remotely 'bad', while some of the solo tracks would be highlights on many quality records. Oh, and the packaging is pretty cool, almost meeting the lofty standards set by Rogers' other act, No Anchor.

Here's the video for 'The Second Death'.

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Thursday, 27 August 2009

Gigs of the Week - August 27th

Thursday 27th:
Bliss, Half Tail @ Ric's Bar
Secret Birds, TroubleKarmaFlow @ X&Y
Bluejuice (NSW), Skinny Jean, Last Dinosaurs @ The Zoo

Friday 28th:
Alps (NSW), Kitchen's Floor, The Deadnotes, Whyte Lightning (Vic) @ Step Inn (Front Bar)
Extra Foxx, Little Lovers @ Ric's Bar
To The North, Caught Ship (Vic), Soars, The Peel St Band, Birth of Bison @ Via Studios - Free, All Ages.
Mexico City @ The Powerhouse
The Keep On Dancin's @ The Troubadour (1am)

Saturday 29th:
Caught Ship (Vic), Whyte Lightning (Vic), The Swamplords, Sweet Dreams, Loose Grip, Nikko @ Ahimsa House
Cuthbert & The Nightwalkers (NSW), Little Scout, Lion Island @ The Troubadour
The Sunday Reeds (Vic), Kitchen's Floor, The Gonzo Show @ Lofly Hangar

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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Turnpike, Seaplane, Undead Apes @ 4zzz Carpark (15.08.09)

4zzz's Radiothon has come and gone, so I hope that those of you who weren't subscribers prior to this past week have now changed that. In any case, the Zeds started off their yearly subscription drive last Saturday with an afternoon show in their carpark on St Paul's Terrace, something that was relatively common a few years back and has recently returned as a semi-regular event. The Porridge program was responsible for this particular show, and so we had three loud indie-rock bands (of various sub-types) playing in the winter sun.

Local punk rock frankenstein Undead Apes started things off. The band consists of members of Eat Laser Scumbag, Sekiden, Dick Nasty and Gazoonga Attack, and Undead Apes don't really stray too far from what you would imagine a band featuring such musicians would sound like: it's loud, up-tempo, catchy punk (more of the garagey 'pop-' variety than the 'hardcore-'). Although they've only been around for a relatively small amount of time, they're a pretty tight little outfit - again, as you'd expect given their lineage. Aside from one mix up due to attempting to play a song that was only written a day or two before the show, every song was nailed down tight, coming across with great force. I'm struggling to think of anything substantial to really say about them, other than if you like the previously mentioned bands (or just punk rock in general) then you'd be well advised to check them out.

Seeing as Seaplane's co-frontman Stirling Bartlam hosts the Porridge show, it was no surprise to see his own band on the lineup. They're a fine act so I doubt many people had any complaints. Having gone through a lineup change fairly recently (drummer Conwae Burrell being replaced by Nova Scotia frontman Scotty Brique), it's been reassuring to see that if anything the band has become even tighter. Scott is a louder and slightly more accomplished drummer than Conwae, although not to such a degree that Burrell's trademark roughness has been eliminated. Brique provides the perfect middle ground for the band - sturdy enough to provide a solid base from the two guitarists to throw their signature squall over, but loose enough to continue the previous incarnation's character. This show was amongst their better, with all members being able to stretch out at full volume with a supportive and interested crowd (indeed, Dale Peachey seemed quite incredulous that audience members kept asking him to turn up for once). Most of the set was made up of tracks from their recent 12", such as The Soiree, Plastic Jesus and Feather, with a few older favourites added to mix things up.

It's no secret that Turnpike are one of my very favourite Brisbane bands. If you're at all inclined towards their brand of no-wave/math-rock noise then it's a rare thing to witness a bad Turnpike show (indeed, I can't actually remember ever seeing one, though I'm sure it must have happened at some stage... probably). Although they've been playing a set of largely unreleased songs ever since the arrival of their Humans Find Patterns album a few years back (with the only songs to appear since 2007 being 'Selling, This Century' from their split with Del Toro, and 'Easy Choices For Bad People' from Stranded), it seems that the band has decided to start moving onto new areas regardless. Hence we are treated to a lengthy new song, with the promise of more to come. The new track features drummer Chris tweaking electronic noises for the first third of the song, while Tim plays a continuous 5/4 riff on bass and Adam noodles away on guitar. It's like some sort of minimalist version of Tortoise. Eventually the guitar and bass meld together, the drums enter and things work themselves up to a moderate level of 'rock', before everything explodes into something that can only likened to thrash metal. After a comparatively small amount of ear-shredding the songs calms back down and returns to its origin. It's definitely new territory for the band, and represents another shift in their sound (something that seems to happen every year or two). It will be interesting to see if they continue this new, more abstract direction with their other new material. Hopefully we'll see a new release from these guys in the near future.

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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Gigs of the Week - August 20th

So there was supposed to be another post in here about something else, but unfortunately there were technical issues and it had to be scrapped, so instead here's a boring old gig guide. There's not a whole bunch on this weekend, though what is on is pretty good.

Also, remember that 4zzz's Radiothon continues until Friday, so subscribe!

Friday 21st:
Greg Brady & The Anchors, Del Toro @ Ric's Bar
Vegas Kings, Undead Apes, Electric Jellyfish (Vic) @ The Troubadour

Saturday 22nd:
Sweet Dreams, Electric Jellyfish (Vic), Turnpike, Dollface, Loose Grip @ Browning St Studios
4zzz Radiothon Finale: Hunz, Blue Carousel, Ball Park Music @ X & Y
Reptiles (Vic), Parties of the Interzone @ Ric's Bar

Tuesday 25th:
The Scrapes, Sounds from the Wall @ Ric's Bar

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Thursday, 13 August 2009

Gigs of the Week - August 13th

It's Radiothon for 4zzzFM from this Saturday all through next week, so subscribe to the station so they can stay on air. You can win prizes!

Thursday 13th:
The Lifted Brow Launch: Talkshow Boy (Vic), The Estates, Joel Saunders & Crazy Hearse @ The Zoo - Launch of literature zine, with cheap copies available
Dave Ross, Conor MacDonald @ Step Inn (Front Bar)
Grand Atlantic, Sarakula (NSW), The Stress of Leisure @ The Troubadour
Tycho Brahe, Twist Oliver Twist @ Ric's Bar

Friday 14th:
Mexico City @ The Powerhouse

Saturday 15th:
4zzz All Day Breakfast: Seaplane, Turnpike, Undead Apes @ 4zzz Car Park, St Paul's Tce (2pm) - With a sausage sizzle!
Do The Robot (Album Launch), Carry Nation, BigStrongBrute, Silver Screens @ Lofly Hangar
Mr Rascal, Lion Island @ Ric's Bar

Monday 17th:
Wheatpaste, The Dead Ringers @ Ric's Bar

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Idle Cranes, Stature::Statue, Velociraptor @ Fans (11.08.09)

Fans nights have fairly quickly become the hub of a rising new scene of fashionable young indie-rock bands. The audiences they attract reflect that - I don't think I've ever seen such a well dressed, good looking group of people before... except for at the other Fans nights I've attended. They makes the crowds who frequented the old Depot nights (with whom Fans shares a venue - Alhambra, aka No12 - and also the pre-Ekka holiday evening, with The Depot having it's annual reunion just down the road) look comparatively trashy. This particular evening sees Sydney's Talons in town to launch their new album, as well as a record launch for one of Brisbane's own new acts, as well as two other local acts of a similar disposition.

Stature::Statue may have gone through some relatively significant lineup changes in recent times (new drummer, losing a guitarist) but their core sound has stayed pretty much the same throughout their three-year existence - super fast, chaotic post-punk of the 'angular' variety that was very popular a couple of years ago. While many of the bands who appeared around the same time and with a similar sound as Stature have either disappeared or morphed significantly, they've pretty much soldiered on in the same vein. This is no bad thing; they were always one of the best bands around in their chosen style, coming across as more ragged and crazed than their peers.

After seemingly losing their way a little bit a year or so ago when guitarist Dion and drummer Ross left, they seem to be back on track with their newest incarnation. Replacement drummer James has improved by leaps and bounds - where he once struggled to keep up with the rest of the band he now provides a solid backbone. Meanwhile the reduction of the band to a trio has streamlined their sound and allowed one to hear the intricacies of their music much more easily, instead of hiding it all behind a wall of guitar effects and feedback. The result is something that's less At The Drive-In and more like Lightning Bolt being fronted by Steve Urkel (the ATDI comparisons never really fit in the first place anyway - S::S aren't nearly as hooky as that band, and with their explorations of feedback and guitar texture are sonically far more in debt to bands like Sonic Youth and JAMC, albeit with the tempo doubled). I hope they continue with this more stripped back lineup, it suits them well.

Idle Cranes come from similar post-punk stock to Stature::Statue, but with a far hazier, groove-laden feel and generally more variety in musical style. This particular evening they're launching their debut EP, 'Fur Release' (which you can listen to in full via their myspace) - although being 40minutes long I'd be more inclined to call it an album. I've seen the band a few times since the I last wrote about them on Before Hollywood, and they've put on a pretty good show each time - not always mind-blowing but never flat, and always with at least a handful of songs that impress. The usual pick of the bunch is regular set-closer 'Two Horse Race', one of the best shoegazey stoner-rock songs to come out of this city recently (though I can't really think of much competition for them in this category... suffice to say that even if this were a more popular style right now the song would still rate highly). Generally the band puts on their best performances when the atmosphere is somewhat oppressive - hot, drunk and tired is generally the best state in which to appreciate their particular brand of music. This show wasn't the superlative performance that the band might have hoped for in an EP Launch, but I don't think think that was really due to anything that the band did or didn't do. For some reason all of the disparate elements didn't quite gel - the venue, the crowd, the noise, they just didn't come together in the way that one might have hoped for when everything seemed lined up just perfectly. At it's best, though, the sound was all-encompassing, and at its worst it was still better than many other bands could muster.

After Idle Cranes came Sydney's Talons, who put on a pretty great show. I saw and liked them back at the FansFansFans festival a few months ago, so Tuesday's show proved to me that it wasn't a one-off. They don't really fall within the focus of this blog though, so that's all I really have to say about them.

Finishing off the night with a 1am set were local garage collective Velociraptor, a septet featuring members of DZ, The Strange Attractors and Running Guns (and probably a few others). I've seen the band now in three incarnations, ranging from a trio through to tonight's seven-strong lineup. The band seems to think that their music is super primitive rock and roll, but I don't quite know about that. It may not be tech-metal but it's equally not boneheaded two-chord rock, being filled with all manner of stops, starts and breakdowns. For your standard four-piece rock band it might not be massively impressive but given there are seven people on stage (who apparently almost never practice together) it's a pretty good effort. As for the size of the band, there's no real need for that many people in order to play the songs, but that's kind of missing the point - it's all for spectacle, with four guitarists, two drummers and a bassist creating absolute havoc on (and off) stage. There was crowd surfing, audience members being given instruments to play, amplifiers and drumkits being pushed over mid-song, walls of feedback and confusion in between every number. As for the songs themselves, they're pretty damn catchy garage rock tracks, all lead by frontman Jeremy Neale who does a damn good job of attracting interest, especially considering the chaos that surrounds him on stage and the fact that he barely has a chance to address the audience in between songs (and when he does you can't really hear him over the guitar feedback and the conversations of the other band members anyway).

Oh, and they have a song based around the theme song to the original Batman TV series.

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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Gigs of the Week - August 5th

Wednesday 5th:
Suzie Stapleton, Sabrina Lawrie & The Hunting Party, Skritch, Tal Wallace @ The Troubadour

Thursday 6th:
Mt Augustus, Ambitious Lovers, Bud Petal (NSW), The Scrapes @ Browning St Studios
My Fiction, The Oyster Murders, A Horse Darkly @ The Zoo

Friday 7th:
I Heart Hiroshima, DZ, Seja Vogel, Stemford Hiss @ The Zoo
Grand Salvo (Vic), Jessica Says (Vic), McKisko, Lion Island, ChalkAndCheese, JA Core @ Browning St Studios
The Gonzo Show, Wipedoubt, The Young Liberals @ Step Inn - note: This is not the Young Liberals featuring members of The Gin Club, Butcher Birds etc. This is an instrumental, 'post rock' esque Young Liberals.

Saturday 8th:
The Boat People, Dan Parsons, Ball Park Music @ The Troubadour
Local Produce: Mary Trembles, Drawn From Bees, Joel Myles, The Mercy Beat @ The HiFi
Teleprompter, The Arks @ Ric's Bar

Tuesday 11th:
Fans: Talons (NSW), Idle Cranes (EP Launch), Stature::Statue, Velociraptor @ Alhambra

Wednesday 12th:
Idle Cranes (EP Launch) @ Love, Love Studio (1pm, 27 Florence St, Newstead) - A BBQ and art show that is also functioning as Idle Cranes' record launch (in addition to the previous night at Alhambra).
Running Guns, The Kents @ Ric's Bar

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Monday, 3 August 2009

Review: The Rational Academy - Swans

The Rational Academy have been one of Brisbane's most respected indie-rock bands ever since their formation in the wake of the dissolution of Benjamin Thompson's Autumn Giants and Meredith McHugh's Delpino. After releasing last year's well received A Heart Against Your Own (why a track like 'The Author' failed to get substantial JJJ rotation is a mystery to me - I suppose the fact that the band pushed the similar but more morose '2004' instead probably has something to do with it), McHugh left the band, leaving Thompson as the sole founding member remaining. While some of the band's first steps after their substantial lineup change left some people wondering if they had lost their spark, Swans should lay any such fears to rest. It's probably a better record than AHAYO, though it moves the band further away again from its guitar-squall origins.

Released on Lawrence English's Someone Good, Swans is the label's second release in a series of records following a strict '10 songs in 20 minutes' format. This restriction seems to bring out some of The Rational Academy's strengths, as it forces them to showcase their melodic abilities - what would have otherwise been choruses are now middle-eights - without surrounding things with minutes on end of drones and feedback; there's no 'The Squid And The Whale' on this record. That's not to say that there isn't a healthy amount of ambience and sonic experimentation here (this is The Rational Academy after all), instead it just means that you only have to wait half a minute or so until the next riff or lead vocal. When the haze of buzzing synths and effects do descend they do so with a greater degree of cohesiveness than they have on previous recordings.

That cohesiveness is the other strength of this record - tracks blend into one another in such a way that you may not realise that you've moved into a new song, while when there is a big dynamic shift between tracks it always feels totally natural (eg: the piano-based 'Summer Husbands' moving into the jagged guitars of 'Satan'). The band perhaps uses this to cheat a little bit in regards to the '10 songs in 20minutes' challenge, as a couple of the 'songs' are really just intros or outros to other, more substantial numbers ('12 Feet In Cheltenham' is pretty much an outro for 'Teen Diethylamide 25', while 'Oak Hill' is 19 seconds of ambience that continues into 'Summer Husbands'). Still, who cares when it gives the record such great atmosphere. As much as it seems like a cheap comparison, it really does call to mind the recordings of The Rational Academy's recent stage partners in Deerhunter. The end result is that songs that individually might seem somewhat slight are bolstered by the music that surrounds them - the record ends up as more than just a sum of its constituent parts.

Perhaps this is why the two most developed and robust songs are the ones that bookend the record: 'Unsolved Mysteries' is perhaps the only song one the album that could be called a 'rock' song, even though it consists of layers of clean guitars and a haze of tremolo and reverb, while 'A New Berlin' is a beautiful acoustic-guitar based number with the most direct production on the record (though it eventually gives way to the ambient outro of 'Yoko I'm Only Dancing', the record's technical closer). In between we have the stately 'Teen Diethylamide 25', the robotically funky 'Hammer' and the wintry beauty of 'Summer Husbands'. My personal favourite is the supremely catchy 'Satan', one of the few traditionally guitar-based songs on the record; I find myself wishing it was twice as long, but I guess the song's brevity increases its potency.

We've been accused of playing favourites with The Rational Academy here at Before Hollywood, but with a record like this... why the hell wouldn't you? It's mature, delicate, meticulously constructed and supremely rewarding. A Heart Against Your Own was a wonderful record but had some fairly conspicuous flaws - despite The Rat Acad being a terrific guitar-rock band, the loud guitar songs on that record sounded kind of strange in their recorded contexts. Swans removes the flawed elements of the last record, edits things down their bare essentials and then polishes the results to a fine shine. While I'd love to hear a Rat Acad ROCK record that matches their old live sound, it's probably not going to appear any time soon (though they apparently have a third album already completed which should be released early next year - a 2009 release date was pushed back due to the band's overseas touring). Swans is a better replacement than one would have any justification in expecting.


PS: Apologies for the lack of a gig guide last weekend, I came down pretty sick at the end of the week.

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