LIVE REVIEW: Witch Hats, The Laurels, Terza Madre, Melbourne Cans @ Red Rattler Theatre, Sydney (19/08/16)

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Melbourne Cans made the trip up to Sydney with their soulful, shuffling and shaking sound. There was a lo-fi backbeat to their songs, somewhere between the 80s Postcard Records sound and a woollier Royal Headache. Keyboards took the songs out of straight strum and sing territory, adding a psychedelic feel which worked well.

Terza Madre have been gathering a slow buzz and reputation. They are hard to pin down – hard to fit on small stages too, with the 7-piece, black-attired outfit adding an additional vocalist and a trumpet player at times. The music was considered and emotive, occasionally showing hints of 70s prog as they sang Italian pop songs with an almost gothic drama. Their set got better as they settled in. There is little to compare them to on the current scene which is good thing.

The Laurels are a band who have been in a period of sonic transition in recent times. With an imminent new album they showcased some songs from it, some old ones and even one written the night before. Luke O’Farrell was surrounded by a bank of digital instruments to add to his already impressive guitar pedal-board. They were loud – the bass still propels their songs, and with more tools at their disposal their sound has loosened and allowed more rhythm and flow into their guitar revelries.

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Witch Hats took the stage late to a thinning yet still enthusiastic audience. On their new album they’ve added more nuance and melody yet it’s still a primal sound, with singer/guitarist Kris Buscombe holding court centre-stage while stick-figure bassist Ash Buscombe carried the bottom-end whilst constantly bouncing and lunging to and fro. Live, there was a bristling fervour to their new songs, more urgency and attack in the delivery and when they hit extended sections the dissonance and noise entered the fray as the guitars fragmented over the dark pummelling grooves of the rhythm section. Their set added credence to this writer’s belief that of the current crop of post-punk/alt-rock Australian bands, there are few that can match Witch Hats.

Chris Familton

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