Thursday, 30 April 2009

HiFi Bar, Gigs of the Week - April 30th

Before I delve into this weekend's gigs, I thought I'd share a few quick and disorganised thoughts on Brisbane's newest mid-sized venue, The HiFi. Of course it opened last night with a show featuring The Drones, Witch Hats and locals Hits. The bands were all pretty good to great, but they're not really what I want to discuss. The venue is located in what was previously the Pavilion in West End, but it's barely recognisable from that old establishment. The HiFi is split into a main room that holds 1200 audience members and a front bar known as 'Vinyl' (that particular part of the venue is yet to be completed, but apparently it holds 150 people and may be used to put on smaller shows - whether smaller local bands can use it is so far unclear). The main room is fairly large, roughly cubic but with multiple floor levels so that it's quite easy to get a decent vantage point from anywhere in the venue (that said, a friend of mine who is about 6'4" told me that from near the bar you couldn't see a thing). The room doesn't exactly have much character, it was built with sound and ease of viewing in mind and most of the decour is pretty modern - it has nothing on the similarly sized Tivoli in this respect, though is no worse than The Arena. Despite this apparent focus on sound quality one of the major complaints I've heard is the poor sound, and certainly I found this to be a problem myself last night. The first two bands sounded muddy and undefined, while things improved marginally for the headliners. It perhaps wasn't as bad as The Arena could sometimes be, especially in terms of the occasional feedback storms that plagued that venue on occasions, but that's not necessarily much of a compliment.

As for other factors, it was kind of difficult to tell what the venue will be like in the future due to the fact that things were obviously not finished (in addition to the Vinyl Bar being boarded up only one bathroom was operational in the main venue, for example). Apparently the bar staff were operating on only the most basic training from the venue and so any slowness on their part can be somewhat forgiven. Drink prices were kind of high anyway so after my first drink I never returned to the bar. There were a LOT of photographers and video cameramen in the crowd who occasionally got in the way, but I imagine this was just because it was opening night, though the venue has stated that many shows will be videoed and a feed will be shown in the Vinyl Bar so maybe the video cameramen will be a somewhat permanent fixture? I guess we'll find out soon enough.

On the plus side it has decent air-conditioning which will be a big help in summer, and frankly it's just nice to be seeing a gig somewhere other than the valley for once.


Thursday 30th:
Modern Love: Rocketsmiths, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Nikko, Mass Migration (final show) @ The Zoo - 4zzzFM fundraiser. Tickets are half price for subscribers.
Ball Park Music (Album Launch), Blame Ringo, Jake Rush & The Bad Habits @ The Troubadour
Drawn From Bees, The Strange Attractors - Ric's Bar

Friday 1st:
Aleks & The Ramps (Vic), Toy Balloon @ Ric's Bar
The Grates, Children Collide (Vic), DZ @ The Hifi - I think this is sold out so I'm not too sure why I'm listing it.
Hazards of Swimming Naked, Le Fricken Hecks, Soma, The Sea Shall Not Have Them @ Rosie's Downstairs

Saturday 2nd:
New Jack Rubys, Hotel Motel, Skritch, Sabrina @ The Troubadour
Twist Oliver Twist, Last Dinosaurs, Wipedoubt, Damasyria, Arado, Kybosh, Beth Lucas @ The Globe
Moon Jog @ Ric's Bar
Swaying Buildings @ Ric's Bar (4pm)

Sunday 3rd:
Secret Birds @ Ric's Bar
Live Spark: Wind & Brackets, Grand Atlantic
@ The Powerhouse
Lots of bands I can't be bothered listing @ The Caxton St Seafood Festival

Also don't forget that this is the last week to see the Underexposed Exhibition at Joshua Levi Galleries. There are bands and everything.


Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Review: McKisko - Glorio

When I first saw McKisko (or Helen Franzmann) perform her quiet, simple folk-pop songs she was opening the night's lineup, playing to a moderately empty room at The Hangar. That was about a year ago, these days she's playing to rather large crowds while supporting acts such as Bon Iver, Jose Gonzalez and Juana Molina. She's also just released her debut album, Glorio, to a not insignificant amount of local acclaim.

Glorio is an album centred around Franzmann's (at times quite impressive) voice. Guitar and piano provide the base upon which her songs are built, and various other instruments rear their heads at certain points, but the thing that dominates the mix is that voice - everything else is there for either utility or decoration. The sound of the album evokes thoughts of the mellower songs from Sufjan Stevens' Michigan and Seven Swans albums, or even Talk Talk's Laughing Stock - there's a stark pristine quality to these songs, where each instrument is placed just so in the spectrum of sounds. It's the perfect local release for the upcoming winter months. That's not to say that the songs are unemotional or overly perfected in any way (in fact there's a nice rustic quality to the performances), it's just that the subtle instrumentation and reverb-laced vocals evoke a certain feeling of icy winter landscapes. This is music that sounds like it came from Canada, not Brisbane.

The album starts with perhaps its strongest song, the atmospheric 'How We Are'. With a descending four chord progression that continues through the entire track, the song also features a hazy sounding cello (or perhaps it's a bowed guitar?), glockenspiel, minimal percussion, creepy loops and operatic sounding backing vocals. It's simultaneously incredibly beautiful and faintly terrifying. It could be my favourite local song from the year so far. Following it up is the comparatively upbeat 'The Hollow Boat', which actually features a fairly driving rhythm (of sorts). 'A Difficult Crossing' is probably McKisko's most crowd-pleasing song in a live context with its clever use of loops, but on the record the minimal, vocals-heavy production takes away much of the song's power. It's still a good song and provides a useful jolt of energy, but it could perhaps have benefited from more robust sounding production. It might have also been more effective later in the album, instead of being a mere two songs after the similarly energetic 'The Hollow Boat'. In any case, from that point on everything is fairly slow, sparse and beautiful, with the highlights of the second half of the record being 'Silence Slowly' and the wonderful closer 'Into The Night'. I guess I'm just a sucker for those dirgy piano ballads.

With Franzmann's vocals being such a focal point her lyrics are bound to come under some scrutiny. In my opinion they hold up; I certainly didn't notice any clunky lines that pulled me out of the surrounding soundscapes. McKisko avoids the dreaded 'confessional singer-songwriter' tag by making her lyrics much more abstract that most other local troubadours, and the music benefits from it.

Glorio is a strong record with a handful of truly great tracks (hell, I'd recommend it for 'How We Are' alone). At only 9 songs it's also quite brief, which is a strength when you're talking about predominantly slow, minimal folk music. I can't really think of anything else to say other than if you have a predilection towards fairly minimalist folk pop you should definitely give this record a spin - you can listen to a number of songs from the record at her myspace, as well as find dates to check her out live.


Gigs of the Week - April 22nd

Wednesday 22nd:
Moon Jog, Biff Co @ Ric's Bar
Fawn, The Rook, Smokestack Orchestra @ The Zoo

Friday 24th:
I Heart Hiroshima, Dick Nasty @ Ric's Bar
Vegas Kings, Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side, Sulphur Lights @ Step Inn

Saturday 25th:
The John Steel Singers, Blue Carousel, D-Wizz 2.0 @ The Troubadour
FootFootFoot: Saint Surly, Monster Monster, Alrey Batol @ Black Star Coffee
The Gallant, Idle Cranes @ Ric's Bar

Sunday 26th:
Blue Trial Records, The Dirty Liars @ Ric's Bar
Live Spark: Madeleine Paige, Scott Spark @ The Powerhouse


Monday, 20 April 2009

Interview: Kitchen's Floor

It seems like the biggest influence on bands in Brisbane these days is the anime Voltron. Bands form, split apart, and then form new and improved units. Kitchen's Floor is just one example of this phenomenon, with former members of French Horns, Look!Pond, Marl Karx, and Gutters coming together to create noise-infused havoc.

The trio originally consisted solely of Matt (French Horns, Look!Pond), who began Kitchen's Floor as a solo project in 2007. In July, 2008 Julia (Gutters) joined him, and the duo recorded a debut EP. In October of the same year the lineup was expanded to include Glen (Marl Karx, Permanent Dirt blog). The first half of 2009 has seen Kitchen's Floor recording their first LP, and, to learn about the results, we interviewed the band's founder, Matt Kennedy.

Before Hollywood: What has the experience of recording the LP been like? Was the process similar to recording the EP or did the band take a different tact this time?

Matt Kennedy: We recorded the EP in one day over a couple of hours, it was very simple and easy to do. When we recorded the album it was over a couple of months with alot of gaps inbetween sessions. We've recorded it with Joel Stern, who organises events for Audiopollen, runs Otherfilm and is involved in alot of other stuff around Brisbane. He's the busiest guy I know which is why there were long gaps between recording. His house is in Highgate Hill and his studio is his basement, which is a big room with some couches to sit on, a kitchen to look at, a toilet to piss in and some recording equipment. It's alot more comfortable than if we had done it in a legitimate professional studio, which wouldn't have suited us at all. Joel got a really nice sound for us with the most basic of equipment. All the songs were recorded live with some basic overdubbing. The main problem for us was not getting too drunk, which happened during the recording of the EP where we had originally recorded 9 songs but 4 of the songs were recorded later in the day when Julia and I were both trashed and sounded horrible so that's why the EP is only 5 songs long. I also broke alot of guitar strings and we were always hungry. It has been an awesome experience.

BH: Did you feel that Joel had a strong influence on the recordings? I know that Audiopollen usually has a rather diverse range of artists associated with it, and that Joel himself dabbles in experimental electronica.

MK: Joel has a very broad knowledge of music, more than I can comprehend. His influence was knowing exactly what we should and wanted to sound like, which is what a good engineer is all about. We basically tried to keep the recordings sounding as we sound live, with no studio effects or trickery, and Joel was cool with that. He was totally into it.

BH: And how would you describe the results?

MK: We're happy with the results! We've recorded 11 tracks for the album and they've all turned out pretty well. I was worried about it turning out too 'slick' which has happened to me in the past but it's got a nice raw sound. All our equipment is junk, The guitar was recorded through a 15 watt practice amp which isn't even mine and our drumkit is bits and pieces of old drum kits put together. Not really through choice, we're all pretty poor. I should return that amp sometime...

BH: In the past local bands have been limited to CD's, but recently there've been numerous Brisbane bands putting out releases through mediums such as vinyl, downloads, USB sticks, and even SD cards. How do you plan on releasing the album? And do you have a title for it?

MK: The album is titled 'Loneliness is a Dirty Mattress'. We're going to release it on CD first, then maybe vinyl in the near future if we can afford it. It's being released by R.I.P Society Records, who are a new Sydney based label. They've put out releases by Circle Pit and Lakes, we're big fans of both of those bands so it's pretty exciting.

BH: Any plans to tour the album?

MK: The will is always there, just lack of money is always the main issue. It's easiest for us to play in Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne but it would be really nice to tour New Zealand. We'll have to see what kind of response the album gets.

BH: Kitchen's Floor is definitely a band with both feet firmly set in the DIY camp. What do you think has been the attraction in this aesthetic?

MK: It's the only way we can get things done. There have been people who have helped us out a great deal like Joel Stern, but for the most part we have to do everything ourselves. The large number of bands compared to the small number of decent venues in Brisbane is a big problem. Unless you organise shows yourself in your friend's laundry or something, weeks can go by without anything happening. That can get very boring.

BH: What have been your favourite venues to play at (friend's laundrys included)?

MK: We take what we can get with venues as in we don't get asked to play them very often. I would say we don't have any favourite venues. Houseshows are always special compared to a bar or club which is a business with restrictions, liabilities and security. There's more freedom and fun playing in somebody's lounge room, basement or laundry that's completely overcrowded with wasted kids. Saying that, it is always nice to take advantage of a decent P.A. that a bigger venue can provide. I'm all for everything.


Thursday, 16 April 2009

Gigs of the Week - April 16th

Damn there's a lot on this weekend.

Thursday 16th:

Toy Balloon, Velociraptor @ Ric's Bar
The Gonzo Show, The Chemists, Swaying Buildings @ The Zoo
Mr Rascal, The Moses Gunn Collective @ Verve Cafe

Friday 17th:
Giants of Science, Hits, No Anchor @ The Troubadour
I Heart Hiroshima, Potato Master @ Ric's Bar
Underexposed: Black Market Rhythm Co, Drawn From Bees, Tim Loydell & The Deckchairs, Banawurun, Mikki Ross @ Joshua Levi Galleries - Music photography exhibition kicks off.
Texas Tea - Queen St Mall (5pm)
Teleprompter, The Strange Attractors, Fasttrack Euphoria @ The Zoo

Saturday 18th:
The Gin Club, Texas Tea, Yves Klein Blue @ Rockinghorse Records (12:30pm) - Record Store Day celebrations!
The Rational Academy, Nova Scotia, Seaplane, Loomer @ The Hangar
Underexposed: Screamfeeder, My Fiction, Grand Atlantic, The Cairos, Parlour Style @ Joshua Levi Galleries
Butcher Birds, Vegas Kings, J-Pan Fan @ The Troubadour
Mr Maps, Nikko @ Ric's Bar
Brutal Hate Mosh @ Ric's Bar (4pm)
Arrows, Our Anatomy, Francis, Piers @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall
Wind & Brackets, Ouch My Face (Vic), Fait Accompli @ The Valley Studios

Sunday 19th:
Dizzygotheca, Collapsicon @ Ric's Bar
Live Spark: Chloe Turner, Sam Buckingham @ The Powerhouse


Thursday, 9 April 2009

Gigs of the Easter Weekend - April 9th

Thursday 9th:
A Friend of Mine (Vic), Death Mattel (NSW), No Anchor, Del Toro @ Step Inn

Friday 10th:
I Heart Hiroshima @ Ric's Bar - IHH's first show of their Ric's residency. Technically this will be Saturday morning, ie: midnight Friday night (no drinking on Good Friday, y'see).

Saturday 11th:
Re:Enactment, Stemford Hiss @ Ric's Bar
Twist Oliver Twist, Felinedown, Dream Sequence @ The Globe

Sunday 12th:
Fans Fans Fans: *deep breath* Flamingo Crash, Witch Hats (Vic), Talons (NSW), Slow Down Honey (NSW), The Jezabels (NSW), Villains of Wilhelm, Rocketsmiths, Little Scout, DZ, Last Dinosaurs, Idle Cranes, The Cairos, My Fiction, The Grove @ Alhambra Lounge - starts 5pm, finishes 5am, $25 on the door.
Dave McCormack, Gentle Ben & His Sensitive Side @ Ric's Bar


Friday, 3 April 2009

Idle Cranes, Aheadphonehome, Blue Carousel, Axxonn @ The Hangar (14.03.09)

This review has been sitting in draft form for about two weeks, so I figured I should finish it off and post it...

This was my first real Hangar experience of 2009, as I've been unable to attend any of the shows held there since last November (with the exception of seeing Re:Enactment play the Mr Maps EP Launch afterparty). While it may not have seemed like one of the venues strongest ever lineups on paper, there was still enough of interest to ensure I wouldn't be missing it. Plus it's The Hangar, so it was almost guaranteed to be an enjoyable night out.

First up was local two-piece laptop ambience act Axxonn. I've written about their live show fairly recently, and this show for the most part offered more of the same, only better. The band played a longer set and threw more variety in terms of melody and texture into the music, while the added volume they could utilise at The Hangar (especially in the low end) added an extra layer of physicality to their music. Laying in a beanbag on the floor of the venue, the sensation of the sound moving through the room was a very pleasurable one. It was almost enough to send one to sleep, if it wasn't for the continually shifting aural textures keeping the audience's interest. It's just a shame that only a handful of people turned up early enough to witness the band (luckily this wasn't the case when they played Ric's about a week later, where they played an even better set).

Blue Carousel are one of my favourite local pop bands, with the ability to bring good vibes to pretty much any location (and they do seem to have played a whole bunch of different venues). On this particular occasion they needed to dig deep into this wellspring of positivity, as the band had barely gotten into their third song when an overly enthusiastic / overly inebriated fan ended up trying to start a fight right in front of stage (luckily for him he was stopped before being successful in this attempt, as he was literally half the size of the person he had provoked). A fight at The Hangar? That has to be a first. After a brief break while people were calmed down / lead outside the band continued, but they were obviously shaken and kind of struggled to recover their momentum. Knowing what Blue Carousel are capable of I was a bit disappointed that they couldn't display their full quality on this particular night, but they seemed to win over the majority of the crowd regardless (most of whom I imagine would have been largely unfamiliar with their music).

I had seen Aheadphonehome just a few days earlier at the Troubadour, and I have to admit that I was left somewhat wanting after my first experience of the band as a live entity (I'm a bit of a fan of their more electronic full length release 'In The Static' from a few years back). Things seemed a bit too smooth and a little bit 'Adult Oriented Rock' for me; it seemed like the band were trying to mix ambience with ragged indie rock, but the ambience wasn't enveloping enough and the indie rock was too tempered. This Hangar show painted them in a different light: the vocals were further back in the mix, the guitars melded together much more effectively and the whole thing just seemed to gel a lot better, and as such held my interest throughout their set. I think the prior show may have been a case of a mix that wasn't flattering to the band's aesthetic. They're quite a new band in a live sense, so we'll see where they take things from here.

I hadn't seen Idles Cranes in quite a while, in fact I had no idea that they'd changed from a quartet to a trio. One of the guitarists has since switched to bass and they have a new drummer. The new lineup works much better - previously there had been a disconnect between what the band seemed to be attempted to create (hazy, distorted psychedelic rock) and what they were actually putting across. The new lineup (and I dare say some new songs with a stronger sense of direction) seems heavier, groovier and more intense. By the time Idle Cranes hit the stage the room was hot, humid and mildy oppressive, but with the entire audience standing right at the foot of the stage the atmosphere was totally conducive to this sort of suffocatingly loud, druggy rock'n'roll. Previously the band had struck me as a pretty decent psych-rock act, but after this Hangar set I was seriously impressed. They're now on my 'have to check these guys out again soon' list.


Gigs of the Week - April 3rd

So here we are again, with another gig guide. We've missed the last two as I've been kind of run off my feet recently, but as of today we're back on schedule. We even have a (long overdue) live review, plus I think I'm going to resurrect my 'Brisbane Releases That Changed My Life' series in the next few days.

Anyway, gigs...

Friday 3rd:
Loomer @ Ric's Bar
Del Toro, BiffCo, Re:Enactment @ The Valley Studios
Halfway, We All Want To, Baron Field @ The Troubadour

Saturday 4th:
Hazards of Swimming Naked, Fickle Beasts, Moon Jog, River Peppermint @ Lofly Hangar
Seaplane, Legions of Mary, White Mansions, Sabrina @ Fat Louie's Pool Hall
Steve Grady (Album Launch), Chloe Tully, The Honey Month @ Metro Arts
Big Bongin Baby, Shrewms, Gravel Samwich @ Clarence Corner Hotel
Idle Cranes, Ghosts of Television (NSW) @ Ric's Bar
Halfday (Album Launch), Crystal Radios, PJ Weston & The Precious Few @ The Troubadour

Sunday 5th:
McKisko, Carry Nation, Corinna Scanlon @ The Troubadour