Friday, 27 February 2009

Gigs of the Week (and a bit) - February 27th

Since the last Gigs of the Week was kind of late and this one is kind of early I figured I'd just update the previous one. There are lots and lots of gigs this week, both of the local and not-so-local varieties.

Tuesday 3rd:
Ball Park Music, Blue Trial Records @ Ric's Bar
Shifter, Fi Claus, Chloe Turner @ The Troubadour

Wednesday 4th:
Mr Rascal, Mt Augustus @ Ric's Bar

Thursday 5th:
Joe Lally (USA), Blank Realm, Narwhalls @ Step Inn (Upstairs) - Ex-Fugazi bassist with some top local supports.
Garage To V Finals: Villains of Wilhelm, Drawn From Bees, The Gallant, PJ Reh @ Step Inn (downstairs)
Nova Scotia, Anonymeye @ Ric's Bar

Friday 6th:
SixFtHick, Spencer P Jones (Vic), The Horrortones, Narwhals @ The Troubadour
Violent Soho, Hits, Dick Nasty, Lords of Wong @ Step Inn - Violent Soho say goodbye to Brisbane before heading off to take over the US.
Secret Birds, Blank Realm @ Ric's Bar
Wind & Brackets, Villains of Wilhelm, The Bungalows @ The Valley Studios

Saturday 7th:
Side Effects, The Murderettes @ Ric's Bar
I Heart Hiroshima, DZ, Good God @ The Zoo
Grouper (USA), The Rational Academy, Ian Wadley (Vic) @ Judith Wright Centre

Sunday 8th:
Sonic Boom: iAlarming, Dan's Double Organ, Charles Curse, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Marl Karx @ 101 Merthyr Rd (7pm) - Free house party-esque gig.
Live Spark: Intercooler, Numbers Radio @ The Powerhouse

These last couple should really have been called 'Gigs of the Weekend'. I promise I'll do one early next week, as there are some good weeknight shows.

Friday 27th:
Tame Impala (WA), Intercooler, Black Mustang @ The Zoo
The Oyster Murders, Blue Carousel, Cohagen Quaid @ The Valley Studios

Saturday 28th:
Heinz Riegler, Tom Lyngcoln, The Holy Rose @ Jamie's Cafe (7:30pm) - Recommendation of the week. BYO.
Late Show: Texas Tea @ The Troubadour (1am) - following on from the Gareth Liddiard / Ben Salter show.
Fans: Last Dinosaurs, Comic Sans, Blue Carousel @ Alhambra Lounge
Mary Trembles, The Violent Flames (Vic), The Quills, The Frets @ Globe Theatre
The Exploders (Vic), Black Mustang, The Fuss, Treetops, The Smokestack Orchestra @ The Valley Studios

Sunday 29th:
Live Spark: We All Want To (aka Tim Steward Band), Kate Bradley & The Goodbye Horses @ The Powerhouse (3pm)


Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Review: Mr Maps - Mimicry of Lines and Light EP

Mr Maps are probably the most meticulously consistent live band in Brisbane; if you're at all into their style of dramatic post rock you'll likely not quickly forget the first time you see the band. Their off nights are tighter than pretty much every other local band's best shows. Sometimes this comes at a cost: there's not a huge difference between one Mr Maps show and the next bar a better venue / sound system and a slight re-ordering of the band's setlist (six songs at last count). Up until now that's been ok because live performance has been the only real method of obtaining a Mr Maps fix - with the release of Mimicry of Lines and Light that's all about to change.

The EP is a curious artifact - it's actually a double EP (coming in a lovely foldout digipack ala The Gin Club's Junk album - artwork apparently care of the band's keyboardist Chloe Cooper, though she's not credited). The first CD, Lines, presents five songs as performed by the live band over the past year or so and recorded by Steve Bartlett; the second CD, Lights, shows us the original forms of these same songs - band leader Chris Perren's more electronic versions, stitched together from separately recorded pieces and moulded into recognisable 'songs' for his Honours thesis.

Lines is the 'feature' release of the two, I guess. As with everything Mr Maps, it's impeccably performed and recorded, although I have heard people complain that it doesn't recreate the same impact of the band in a live setting - personally I disagree, for me the recording hits all the rights notes in terms of clarity, dynamics and punch (especially at high volume). Most importantly it's not fatiguing to listen to - there's no intensely harsh high end or excessive compression. As for the songs themselves, if you've ever seen a Mr Maps show then you've probably heard all five before. For those who haven't, imagine the wide-eyed, optimistically cinematic post-rock of Sigur Ros or Explosions In The Sky with a slightly more technical, math-rock bent ala a more organic Battles. This is big, life affirming stuff - it sure ain't subtle, and it ain't trying to be. This is perhaps best exemplified by the requisite epic closer, 'I See Them, They're Like Mountains', which in its more intense sections may cross the line between emotive catharthis and melodrama, perhaps coming across like an instrumental crescendo from a Creed ballad stretched out to 8 minutes. However, the song is saved by two elements which feature throughout the first disc: exceptional drummer Sangdae Yang's rhythmic variety and prowess, and the almost flawless sense of build-and-fall-away that the band seems to posess - every single composition builds, explodes at just the right time and for just the right length, before falling away to either finish or do it all again. It might occasionally be a bit predictable, but at the same time it can still be immensely satisfying.

'Your Heels In Sand, Soul In Pursuit' is the logical opener, with its moody opening and sudden burst into a rush of drums and guitar one minute in (not to mention the very satisfying 'free jazz' drums at the start and end of the track). 'This Mess Is A Place' shows off the band's musicianship with stop-start riffs and a polyrhythmic middle section that is supremely impressive. The best song to my ears is the relatively short 'Til The Money Outruns Us', which with its complex guitar patterns and galloping rhythm would have made a more unconventional but probably more effective closer to the record. Another highlight is penultimate track 'Like Little Soldiers', which shows the band at their most reflective and is the closest the band gets to that celestial beauty that Explosions In The Sky perfected on their third album - though Mr Maps still end it with some searing guitar distortion.

Lights presents us with the same highlights and issues of the first disc, but perhaps magnified. The complex, intertwining layers are even more complex and intertwined, and the overblown bits are often even more overblown (just listen to the stadium-rock guitars in this version of 'I See Them...'). If the attention to detail in the compositions is even more impressive on this disc, that is conterbalanced by the absence of any feeling of 'wow, this is actually five people playing in a room'. Although I mostly prefer the live band versions, I've heard numerous people say that their favourite of the two discs is Lights.

Now that we have this release in our hands, I hope it heralds in a batch of new songs for the band (though I'm not sure whether this is more or less likely given the recent departure of Nick Smethurst on guitar). Due to the absolute precision inherent in Mr Maps' performances the only variety comes from new material - Mr Maps are a long way from the unpredictable nature of a band like Turnpike, where each performance will offer some unique modification of some segment of a song. On the flipside, the amount of writing and rehearsal that must go into creating this music virtually guarantees that new material will appear at a fairly slow rate. I highly doubt that the band is suddenly going to lose the perfectionist streak that has served them so well to date, so it will be interesting to see how Mr Maps handle this issue of over-familiarisation, if they even consider it at all.


Friday, 20 February 2009

Gigs of the Week - February 20th

We should have some reviews of some releases by Mr Maps and perhaps An Horse in the next few days.

Friday 20th:
British India (Vic), DZ, The Bloodpoets @ The Zoo
Ambitious Lovers, Mt Augustus @ Black Star Coffee (Thomas St, West End)
Fabrique: Tenniscoats (Japan), Gudrun Gut (Germany), The Deadnotes @ The Powerhouse - Lawrence English's Room 40 label presents a night of experimental pop.
Useless Wankers (NSW), Z-Rays, Sulphur Lights, Heels @ Step Inn

Saturday 21st:
Del Toro, McKisko, Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Jerry Falwell Destroyed Earth (Vic) @ The Hangar
Velociraptors, At Sea @ Ric's Bar
Sunday 22nd:
Live Spark: Charles Jenkins, Kissy Trouble Company @ The Powerhouse (3pm)


Friday, 13 February 2009

Gigs of the Week - February 13th

Once again this is late, which is a shame as there were some good shows last night.

Friday 13th:
The Gin Club, The John Steel Singers @ GoMA
All You Need Is The Beatles (tribute night): Drawn From Bees, Hungary Kids of Hungary, Skinny Jean, Gladstone and Lochaber, The Strange Attractors, Chloe Turner @ The Troubadour

Saturday 14th:
Be Excellent To Each Other: Electric Jellyfish (Vic), Hits, Seaplane @ Step Inn (Front Bar)
Mike Noga & The Gentlemen of Fortune (Vic), Young Liberals, At Sea @ Step Inn (Main Room)
Heart Flew Like An Arrow, Blue Carousel @ Ric's Bar
Common People: DZ, Villains of Wilhelm @ Rosie's (Upstairs)

Sunday 15th:
Live Spark: Dave McCormack, Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side @ The Powerhouse


Monday, 9 February 2009

Slug Guts, Blank Realm @ Step Inn (06.02.09)

This was a show supporting the legendary Guru Guru, plus Sydney bands Dead Farmers and Circle Pit (who were all varying degrees of good-to-great) as well as a collaboration between Candlesnuffer, Joel Stern and Robert McManus (at least I think those were the three collaborators), but true to BH form we're just going to concentrate on the two Brisbane acts.

Blank Realm are a band who I've always appreciated but not often enjoyed to the extent that some other people do. Their kraut-influenced ambient rock has somehow never really connected with me, and I'm not totally sure what the reason is. Perhaps it's because music of this sort requires an effectively hypnotic rhythm section, and whenever I've seen them in the past this element has been somewhat absent. Friday night's set finally contained this vital ingredient, and so it was the first time that the band had really held my attention throughout a set - the grooves moved past being merely repetitive to being entrancing, largely thanks to the bassist and a more consistent performance from the drummer than I've seen in other Blank Realm sets. They moved between relatively traditional guitar based grooves and more abstract ambient segments made up largely of droning feedback and various synthetic noises - I think there may have been an infinite loop mixer that the drummer played in these sections. Over it all (or perhaps under it all, more accurately) the singer non-verbally moaned vaguely in pitch, providing more of another layer of atmosphere than a melody or a focal point. It suits the band.

(It's perhaps worth mentioning that they played one song that had a guitar part that sounded almost exactly like the verse from The Screaming Jets' 'Better', which raised a few smiles from various crowd members)

Although Slug Guts have been around for a while now, this was actually my first time seeing the band (I skipped out on the guerilla show they put on at the Village Twin last year), so they were probably as much of a draw for me as Guru Guru and Dead Farmers were. Featuring members of OnOxx, Frou Frou Foxes and Loomer, one might expect Slug Guts to utilize a fairly 'angular' post punk sound. One would be correct in having such an expectation, though that's not to say that Slug Guts are unsurprising at all. Instead of the stabbing dissonance of the previously mentioned bands, Slug Guts head in a more swampy blues direction, complete with vocalist Jimi K yowling like some demented baritone feline. With the rhythm nailed down by the huge bass and powerful drumming, the two guitarists provided corrosive treble smothered in reverb (like Steve Albini with a whammy bar) - the effect being reminiscent of defunct Melbourne act The Bird Blobs. It's an instantly compelling sound, and the band have their shit down to the degree that such music requires - this stuff doesn't work unless it's tight, and thankfully Slug Guts seem to realise this.

Of course, tightness should not be confused with being 'polished'. Slug Guts are not polished, they are rough and raw. Their set was filled with technical issues, mostly related to the bass - I believe they restarted the first song 5 times, each time making it no further than 30 seconds in before the bass cut out again. After trying all manner of fixes they eventually got it to work, and then they were off. The set was moderately short (I don't know if it was shortened at all due to the aforementioned bass problems, though I suspect probably not), which worked in their favour. At times some of the songs seemed overly similar, usually keeping the same tempo and using similar structures - there were occasions where I couldn't tell if the band had started a new song or if they'd merely put a 5 second break into the middle of the previous one. It didn't matter a huge deal though, as the sound they put together was interesting enough to keep my attention. When they did change things up a bit it worked in their favour, so hopefully they'll add a degree of variety to their set as they continue. At this stage though, they're still a pretty entertaining band.


Friday, 6 February 2009

Gigs of the Week - February 6th

Bit of a late one this week.

Friday 6th:
My Fiction, Black Mustang, Hunz @ The Troubadour
The Vagina Monologues: Tim Loydell & The Deck Chairs, Blue Trial Records @ The Globe
Acid Mothers Guru Guru (Japan/Germany), Dead Farmers (NSW), Circle Pit (NSW), Slug Guts, Black Widow + Joel Stern + Dave Brown @ Step Inn - contrary to certain rumours, this has not been cancelled.

Saturday 7th:
Mr Maps (EP Launch), Qua (Vic), Chalk & Cheese @ La Boitte Theatre
Re:Enactment @ The Hangar (midnight) - The afterparty for the Mr Maps launch
Deux Garcons, Turnpike @ Ric's Bar
Texas Tea, Silver City Highway, Mexico City @ The Troubadour
Hungry Kids of Hungary @ The Troubadour (1am)

Sunday 8th:
Live Spark: Chris Pickering, The Sunburys @ The Powerhouse
The Estates @ Ric's Bar (4:30pm)


Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Review: AxxOnn - Should You Fear Hell? EP

Should You Fear Hell?, the debut release from experimental noiseniks AxxOnn, is by no means a groundbreaking release. That having been said, most music typified as experimental these days is done so mainly to make it vividly clear that it is an entity distinct form any form of pop music. Indeed, this EP isn't hellish, nor is it heavenly. Rather it is in limbo, or purgatory if you will.

AxxOnn, as you have no doubt read in Cam's previous post, is a collaboration between electronic artist Tom Hall, and No Anchor/Iron On bassist Ian Rogers. Should You Fear Hell? doesn't stray far from either of their previous work (excluding Iron On); rumbling bass, floating soundscapes, and then a few more bursts of abrasive bass tones. The pair take their name from David Lynch's Inland Empire, and there is unlikely any more fitting reference. AxxOnn's music exudes the same sort of tension and subtle perversity that is found in Lynch's works.

The EP consists of one 24 minute track broken up into three sections. The first of these is entitled 'White Glare', and that pretty aptly describes what the 7 minute plus section consists of. The swirling, interstellar synthesizers instill a sense of ethereality, yet at the same time they obscure the slightly menacing growls of bass.

After 7 minutes of drones it comes as a bit of a shock when the synths punch in at a different frequency to initiate the second part of the EP, 'Stolen Pens From The Hyatt'. This section works as almost a crossfade between the passive (at least in terms of listener involvement) first section and aggressive final section. Hall's synths (I say synths for want of a better term - I have absolutely no idea what instrumentation he is using here) slowly give way to Rogers' trashed to fuck bass sound; a buildup to the oncoming Götterdämmerung.

The last 11 minutes of the EP consists of the section entitled 'Shit Rainbows (And Unicorns)'. Now I didn't actually look at the titles before listening to the EP, and rainbows (shit or otherwise) and unicorns definitely did not come to mind. Rather this resonator heavy piece evokes some bizarre factory line, where all the robots happen to produce beautifully distorted tones. The droning synths return, carrying the listener downwards like a conveyor belt past the array of unidentifiable beeps and buzzes, until the song gets as sonically low as possible and fades to static.

While Should You Fear Hell? doesn't answer the question it poses (at least not for me), it does mark an excellent debut for this AxxOnn. If they can take us on a trip through the underworld in 24 minutes, one can only imagine where they would journey given a full length release. Brisbane has been putting out a huge amount of great experimental/avant-garde/post-rock music in recent times, and Should You Fear Hell? is a great addition to that canon.

Should You Fear Hell? is available to download for free at


Loomer, Axxonn @ Ric's Bar (29.01.08)

Regular attendees of Brisbane noise-rock gigs will likely immediately recognise the two members of Axxonn, Ian Rogers from doom-punkers No Anchor and noise artist Tom Hall (who also moonlights in Secret Birds). Where the regular acts of these two musicians generally tend towards the more abrasive end of the musical spectrum, Axxonn have a much more soothingly warm and embracing sound. Consisting mostly of warm synth swells and repetitive melodies that are slowly manipulated and embellished with the addition of effects or gradually undulating dynamics, occasionally grounded by a subtle beat, their set consisted of 3 or 4 songs which seamlessly blended into one another, becoming acts in a larger, cohesive musical passage. Ric's would not generally be the best venue to experience music with this sort of subtlety, but the crowd at this show was surprisingly reverent and focused on the sounds emanating from the stage. While I'm told later that the darkness of the venue's PA hid some of the subtlety located in the high-end of Axxonn's music, it had the effect of making the experience even warmer sounding and all encompassing.

You can download their free EP 'Should You Fear Hell' from their website (I believe that Gav is going to review it soon). Axxonn are also playing The Hangar on March 14th with AHeadphoneHome and some other bands.

This was actually my third time seeing Loomer in the space of a week - the first time, at the Step Inn, was a bit rough but with a few indications that there was some quality music underneath it all; the second time was at The Zoo, where they took advantage of the big PA and blew the roof of the place with a rock solid performance, upstaging the rest of the bands that followed that evening (including the mighty Secret Birds). This Ric's show was somewhere in between, but the quality of their performance meant that it tended more to the second show than the first.

As much as I don't want to merely reduce this review to a list of comparisons to other bands, I'm kind of forced to. The common statement made about Loomer is that 'they sound like My Bloody Valentine' - certainly being named after a song from Loveless doesn't help them in that regard. It's not an entirely baseless remark (especially if you listen to the track 'In Me' on their myspace), but their name is misleading insofar as the band don't so much envoke the sound of that classic album as they do the band's earlier, more angular recordings such as the Feed Me With Your Kiss and You Made Me Realise EPs. Loomer are a far more muscular band, being just as much indebted to MBV's American cousins Sonic Youth (circa Daydream Nation and Goo). They actually reminded me somewhat of the now defunct Brisbane band Frou Frou Foxes at times, although Loomer are much less aggressive and more melodic than that group.

One thing that has struck me about Loomer each time I've seen them is the amount of effort they are putting into their music - they're not merely a bunch of kids who are goofing around trying to replicate their favourite bands. You can hear the songs in amongst the noise, and you can see that the band care about doing them justice when performing. They walk the tightrope between pure noise and pop as well as any other local band I can think of from recent times.