written by Chris Familton
This was an evening set to complete the circle of reinvention for Jack Ladder. With a new album Hurtsville just round the corner Ladder was here to show that the soul and blues of Love is Gone has indeed gone and in its place a starker and more beautifully brittle sound is soundtracking his songs.
Melodie Nelson performed an engaging yet somewhat tentative set that had sporadic flashes of greatness. Her sound is built around the atmosphere of the music and is achieved via drones, funereal pacing and repetition. Reminiscent at times of Beach House, Mazzy Star and Velvet Underground there was a standout moment with a song that may or may not be called Charlie. With it the pace quickened and a garage guitar riff hooked many punter’s heads and ears.
By the time Ladder and cohorts downed shots and arrived on stage the cosy Goodgod Small Club was near capacity, eager to hear Ladder’s next musical chapter. Pretty much the whole new album was played and not a single track from Love Is Gone. Ladder’s ‘new’ sound has two defining aspects – one is his lack of guitar playing which allowed him to focus his energies on his vocal delivery and emotiveness. The other is guitar sidekick Kirin J. Callinan who seems most responsible for the current sound. Ocean-deep splashes of reverb, chiming notes with chorus shimmers and tremolo shivers washed over everything while still allowing acres of space in the music. Hurtsville’s beautiful title track sounded like a lost John Hughes soundtrack re-imagined by David Lynch with the melancholy turned up to eleven. The heart melting sounds seem to have emboldened Ladder to give himself over to the performance of his songs almost completely making his deep baritone voice totally believable.
While the low ceilings, and high volume of the venue meant the new songs didn’t have the impact and drama of the versions on Hurtsville there were still enough convincing moments to convey the greatness of them. The music snaked and staggered between the Nick Cave-esque ballad Blinded By Love, the super-catchy Cold Feet and the cabaret spook of Position Vacant with the shadow of Tom Waits dancing madly in the background. As a showcase for an imminent new album the crowd seemed to embrace the songs wholeheartedly making it a successful night all round.
this review first appeared in Drum Media, Sydney
for more photos from the show check out our Flickr page