LIVE REVIEW: Khruangbin @ Metro Theatre, Sydney

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Khruangbin, Harvey Sutherland
Metro Theatre
14 March 14th, 2019

by Chris Familton

This was a night of very few voices given that both acts on the bill were primarily instrumental trios. It was the music that did the talking and it transformed the Metro into a wall-to-wall sea of bodies-in-motion and conjured up a celebratory vibe in the room.

Harvey Sutherland, the self-described funk-synthesist, was up from Melbourne to open the show and by the end of the first song he’d won over the audience with his blend of soul, funk, house, disco and of course the aforementioned funk. The rhythm section were quite astonishing in their fluidity and precision as they constantly found new ways to build rhythmic detail and dynamics into the music while Sutherland wove his cosmic keyboards into melodic dance floor excursions. It was an infectious set that brought to mind Steely Dan filtered through Jamiroquai.

Khruangbin have built their brand on a visual aesthetic that melds black, straight-fringed wigs with explosions of colour and choreographed stage moves delivered with a knowing half-smile and semi-detached cool. That was enhanced on stage with an excellent light show – simple, bold and dramatic utilising colour and shapes, much like the trio’s music, on this first of two sold out nights at the venue.

It quickly became clear that they’ve spend a lot of time and effort into structuring their sets so there is a balance of peaks and valleys, from the hard funk breakbeat of Maria También to the dreamy, sweet and soulful soft tones of Cómo Me Quieres. As a trio they balance each other out wonderfully. Laura Lee is often the most compelling focal point with her knee drops and hip swivels and constantly light-dancing bass-lines, while Mark Speer roams his side of the stage, also in endless motion as a player but with a kind of roving commission to explore all stylistic facets of his guitar, from psych rock solos to dub echoes and flurries of hyper-melodic Thai funk. Holding it all down and providing a framework for which to hang the songs on was drummer DJ Johnson, his playing channeling everything from hip hop breakbeats to James Brown and Portishead.

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Their breakthrough album Con Todo El Mundo provided a large portion of their set but there were also dips back into their debut The Universe Smiles Upon You, with White Gloves being a particular highlight and one of the only songs to feature all three on vocals. As the set progressed we got a strange interaction between Lee and a lonely looking green telephone which seemed kind of pointless and a successful attempt by Speer to get everyone in the room to introduce themselves to the person standing next to them.

Before the encore the entertainment factor peaked with a medley that saw seamless transitions between songs by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, A Tribe Called Quest, Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and culminating in the crowd joining in on the chorus to Spandau Ballet’s True (via PM Dawn). 

What the trio showed was their ability to translate their music from the intimacy of their recordings to the live stage, where they balanced nuance with deep grooves, hypnotic and sensual rhythms, humour and exceptional musicianship.

NEW MUSIC: Mantell – Can I Set It Right

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Last year we posted Mantell‘s single ‘Lulu’ and now they’ve gone and upped the ante with this excellent new single ‘Can I Set It Right’. The tempo is brisk and breezy with cascading guitar melodies over a lazy and choppy Strokes-ish rhythm. The chorus is totally theirs even if it sounds like one of those eternally familiar, catchy indie rock refrains. Since their last single they’ve expanded to a five-piece and it’s served them well.

NEW MUSIC: Deep Sea Peach Tree – Zanzibar

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Woozy, aqueous, dreamy, tripped-out vibes are dripping out of the speakers with this great track from NYC’s Deep Sea Peach Tree. It looks like they’ve been around for a few years with some EP and single releases  and an album, Vaguely Navy (2017), already under their belt. Some of their stuff reminds of the much-missed Girls.

NEW MUSIC: Baroness – Borderlines

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Baroness have announced their new album Gold & Grey will be released on on June 14 via Abraxan Hymns/Cooking Vinyl Australia.

“Our goal is, was, and will always be to write increasingly superior, more honest and compelling songs, and to develop a more unique and challenging sound,” offered Baroness founder, guitar player and vocalist John Baizley. “I’m sure we have just finished our best, most adventurous album to date. We dug incredibly deep, challenged ourselves and recorded a record I’m positive we could never again replicate. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to know Sebastian, Nick and Gina as both my bandmates and my friends. They have pushed me to become a better songwriter, musician and vocalist. We’re all extremely excited for this release, which includes quite a few ‘firsts’ for the band, and we’re thrilled to be back on tour to play these psychotic songs for our fans. Expect some surprises.”

Baroness is John Baizley (vocals/guitar), Gina Gleason (guitar), Nick Jost (bass) and Sebastian Thomson (drums).

1. Front Toward Enemy
2. I’m Already Gone
3. Seasons
4. Sevens
5. Tourniquet
6. Anchor’s Lament
7. Throw Me An Anchor
8. I’d Do Anything
9. Blankets of Ash
10. Emmett-Radiating Light
11. Cold Blooded Angels
12. Crooked Mile
13. Broken Halo
14. Can Oscura
15. Borderlines
16. Assault on East Falls
17. Pale Sun

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NEW MUSIC: Superego – Loose

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The tumbling drums were the first thing that caught my ear on this track. A rhythmic collapse into the song as it takes flight on guitars that chime and cascade in shoegaze waves. The vocals are detached, afterthoughts almost. Certainly not central but casually integral to the song as the bassline sways with a dead-eyed swagger and another crashing chorus careens around the corner. Great stuff from this Midlands, UK quartet, with their debut single.

NEW MUSIC: Walking Bicycles – ESP

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Here’s some psychedelic rock courtesy of Walking Bicycles out of Chicago IL. ‘ESP’ comes from their forthcoming LP Chooch (April 26th), their fifth album from a 15 year career.

There’s a cool production approach to the track with an echo chamber kind of vibe giving it a noisey, hard-surfaced clatter that adds a post-punk tension which complements Jocelyn Summer’s anguished recitation. Great rhythm section too!

NEWS: King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard announce new LP ‘Fishing For Fishies’

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After their massive five album onslaught of 2017, the band played some massive shows and tours through last year before consolidating and recording their new LP Fishing For Fishies which is set for release on April 26th via their label Flightless Records.

They’re calling this 14th album a blues-infused blast of sonic boogie. “We tried to make a blues record,” says frontman Stu Mackenzie. “A blues-boogie-shuffle-kinda-thing, but the songs kept fighting it – or maybe it was us fighting them. Ultimately though we let the songs guide us this time; we let them have their own personalities and forge their own path. Paths of light, paths of darkness. This is a collection of songs that went on wild journeys of transformation.”

We’ve already heard the synth epic Cyboogie, here’s the title track from the record…

NEW MUSIC: Lucille Furs – All Flowers Before Her

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Lucille Furs are set to release their new LP Another Land, this Friday, March 15th. Here’s the song from it that caught our ears, the 60s psych pop rave up that is ‘All Flowers Before Her’. Sure it’s a retro sound but these guys do it authentically and without a sniff of dress-up pastiche. Listen to the way the track puts a softer psychedelic sheen to a West Coast garage rock sound that harkens back to The Zombies, yet the Chicago group also colour and beautify the music with baroque pop flourishes.

It’s a catchy and strangely refreshing sound, standing apart for the dark psych rock that has been so pervasive in recent years. The other tracks we’ve heard from the album sound just as compelling. You can check out a few of them on Bandcamp, ahead of the full album release this Friday.

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