REVIEW: Brightblack Morning Light @ OAF, Sydney 07/04/10

Rio En Medio | photo by Chris Familton

Rio En Medio | photo by Chris Familton

The back story of Brightblack Morning Light involves the band living in New Mexico, off the national power grid and living and recording via solar panels. On record their music evokes that same area of the world with desert desolation and wide open spaces. How that would translate to a club environment was always going to be interesting as the band isn’t your straight up guitars and drums rock setup.

Support came in the form of Brightblack Morning Light touring member Danielle Stech-Homsy aka Rio En Medio who captivated the sparse crowd with a featherlite voice, baritone ukelele, guitar and pedals. The initial silence of the audience was somewhat unnerving when we are used to bar noise and incessant chatter as the backdrop to most live music. The crowd very quickly settled on her wavelength and most took to the floor to be entranced by Stech-Homsy’s delicate folk songs. Her voice was aided by drifting clouds of reverb which gave it an otherworldly effect – alien yet comforting.

Curtains were drawn, equipment was organised and smoke filled the stage before BML appeared, mostly hidden behind a rack of keyboards and in Nathan Shineywater’s case, a Fender Rhodes piano bass keyboard. Backed by sparse and funereal drumming, Shineywater unfurled an hour of deep, dark and hypnotic music that slowly evolved from one track to the next like a meandering Lynch-ian dream

Apparently on this tour Shineywater is simultaneously retiring BML and presenting his new musical incarnation – Berry Shadows – which will feature more collaborative work with people like Hope Sandoval whose voice will be perfect for these hazy, shimmering sounds. This show was probably more a look to where Shineywater is heading rather than where he has been, especially as it didn’t feature BBML’s co-founder Rachael Hughes.

You would have been hard pressed to define the end and start points of each project as the sound was still essentially that same swirling, murky voodoo vibe that soothes in an ominous way. Shineywater didn’t sing as much recite mantras in an effect heavy stoner drawl that had echoes of Spiritualized albeit time-stretched and reduced to a foggy crawl.

Shineywater switched to guitar for only one song, a move that lifted the music into a funkier realm that recalled Dylan Carlson’s Earth in the way he created a mood and allowed it to wander and grow as the music stretched on. If anything Berry Shadows may be a slightly heavier proposition, not in terms of tempo or aggression, just in the density of sound like a humid bayou swamp.

Applause was sparse throughout the show mainly due to the lack of obvious gaps between songs and there was no trace of a call for an encore when Shineywater finally spoke and thanked the audience in an almost cartoon stoner drawl.

There was no sense of pretence in Brightblack Morning Light’s performance, it was an immersive and genuine experience that you had to give yourself over to. When you cast aside expectations of verses and choruses the droning chords became a warm cocoon of sound like a slow motion backwoods version of My Bloody Valentine on high grade medicinal marijuana.

Rio En Medio | photo by Chris Familton
Brightblack Morning Light | photo by Chris Familton
Brightblack Morning Light | photo by Chris Familton

Brightblack Morning Light | photo by Chris Familton
Brightblack Morning Light | photo by Chris Familton

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