LIVE REVIEW: Kirin J Callinan @ Oxford Art Factory

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Kirin J Callinan, Spike Fuck, Hviske @ Oxford Art Factory, June 10th 2017

Sydney has produced a number of forward thinking songwriter/musicians in recent years who blend differing levels of theatricality into their performances. From Jack Ladder to Alex Cameron and Mossy, they all cultivate a persona and carefully consider an image as part of their creativity. Kirin J Callinan though, is out on his limb of kaleidoscopic eccentricity.

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Hviske were cruelly given low volume as the first act and it was a disservice for their industrial -tinged techno sound that requires an immersive sound for full effect. Augmented by the buried vocals of Kusum Normoyle which acted as another instrument rather than a lyrical tool, they showed enough (at low volume) to suggest they strike a nice balance between headphones and the dancefloor.

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Spike Fuck is another emerging enigma, from the challenging moniker to an ambiguous fashion sense, she sang over laptop backing tracks, peppering the songs with Alan Vega-styled whoops and an emotionally battered yet righteous blend of Las Vegas croon, country pastiche and melancholy-drenched synth music. There was plenty to like in her performance though adding a backing band would really allow her music to shine in the live sense.

One microphone, bathed in a sea of blue light. A static image delayed for minutes before a large brimmed, heavy-jacketed figure strode on-stage. The unmistakeable figure of Kirin J Callinan had arrived, taking the audience from the first and owning them until the final parting clang of heavily treated guitar.

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Callinan and band mixed it up, digging into both the Embracism and Bravado albums. Like Bowie taking his stage cues from Lindsay Kemp, Callinan has created a distinct stage manner of grand gestures, quirky dance moves and facial expressions that run the gamut from knowing sleaze to innocent glee.

Many of the new album tracks worked even better live, stripped off their production sheen and layers. My Moment was epic EDM, Callinan playing the build and drop to the hilt. Living Each Day was a perfect twee pop song, from the audience’s response S.A.D felt like a hit single, while Family Home showed at the heart of the pomp and primp it’s the strength of songwriting that holds everything up.

An audience member tore Callinan’s leather cod-piece from his person, exposing him literally and figuratively yet he embraced the moment and made the most of the opportunity to test and titillate his audience. This was a magnificent return home for Sydney’s singular pop provocateur.

Chris Familton

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Tall Grass – Down The Unmarked Road

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Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss, Infinity Broke) and Peter Fenton (Crow) have come together as The Tall Grass, which began as a live acoustic duo project before being expanded upon and sonically coloured in the studio with a wide-ranging band sound.

It’s still on the laid-back vibe though – wistful, poetic, and melancholic. The sound of their other bands is still evident, particularly Hutchings with his more distinct vocal stylings but it’s wholly a collaborative effort with the pair playing off each other with a melodic ebb and flow, tension and release.

Songs are expertly built on close harmonies and traded lines, guitars that weave in and out and springboard off each other amid melodic bass lines, field recordings and jazz-leaning drums and percussion. It all comes back to the songs though, and Moller, The Buyer Beware, The Two O’Clock and Little City in particular, match the best either has written in the past.

I keep mentioning the strength of songwriting and the interplay between the two musicians but it is the hallmark of a collaborative project when the creative lines between the artists are blurred, carry equal weight and ultimately the art is the sum of its parts. There’s a delicate tenderness to the music here, built on mutual respect and the willingness by both Hutchings and Fenton to explore the shadows and sunlit corners of emotion and experience.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Chain & The Gang – Best Of Crime Rock

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With bands such as Nation Of Ulysses, Weird War and The Make-Up, Ian Sevonious has been a underground garage rock provocateur for nearly 30 years. As Chain And The Gang, he’s distilled the essence of what does, right down to it’s bare rhythmic essentials – drums, bass, guitar and vocals.

They’re a highly economical and effective combo, stripped to simple gang chants, sparse riffs and grooves that snake and pulse with vaguely sleazy appeal. The remit of the band is a kind of rock ’n’ roll reverse psychology – Devitalize, Why Not, I See Progress and others embracing deconstruction with a playful approach to ultimate nihilism.

This is primal garage rock with infectious, minimal R&B rhythms and they nail it with tongue-in-cheek attitude, strut and swagger.

Chris Familton

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Mere Women – Big Skies

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Album number three for this Sydney quartet (previously a trio). The addition of bass guitar adds another layer of rhythm and movement to their sound as they tackle the experiences of women over different generations via their dark and swirling post punk.

It can be a claustrophobic listen at times, the guitar acting like mesh and gauze with its washes of distortion and clanging reverb, while Amy Wilson sings in a stentorian manner, the obvious comparison being a tougher Siouxsie Sioux shapeshifting with the fluidity of Warpaint. Drive and Numb are two highpoint on a very strong album that manages to simultaneously sound sweeping and intimate.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: The Tall Grass – Moller

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The Tall Grass (Peter Fenton & Jamie Hutchings) recently launched their debut album Down The Unmarked Road, marking the occasion with a couple of full band shows. Now they have a video clip for one of the album’s many highlights, ‘Moller’. The song references King St, Newtown and the song’s namesake, friend and fellow musician Chris Moller (Midget, Starboard, Blood Relative) who died five years ago.

Read an article about Hutchings’ memories of Chris Moller.

The Tall Grass play another full band show on Friday July 7th at LazyBones in Marrickville.

NEWS: Lee Ranaldo announces new 2017 album

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Lee Ranaldo has announced he has a brand new album called Electric Trim coming out on September 15th via Mute Records.

His prime collaborator on the album was producer Raül “Refree” Fernandez and as well as his usual band The Dust (Steve Shelley, Alan Licht, Tim Luntzel), he also invited in guests Nels Cline and Sharon Van Etten.

Here’s the first taste of the new album – ‘Circular (Right As Rain)’.

ELECTRIC TRIM TRACKLISTING:
  1. Moroccan Mountains
  2. Uncle Skeleton
  3. Let’s Start Again
  4. Last Looks (with Sharon Van Etten)
  5. Circular (Right As Rain)
  6. Electric Trim
  7. Purloined
  8. Thrown Over The Wall
  9. New Thing
PLAYERS:
Lee Ranaldo – vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, electronics, drums, marimba
Raül Refree – acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, electronics and programming, bass, drums, backing vocals
Sharon Van Etten – vocals
Alan Licht – electric guitar
Tim Luntzel – bajo
Nels Cline – electric guitar
Steve Shelley – drums
Kid Millions – drums
Xavi de la Salud – trumpets and flugelhorns
Cody Ranaldo – electronics
Mar Girona – backing vocals