ALBUM REVIEW: Bad//Dreems – Gutful

bad-dreems-gutful-album-art

There’s an inauspicious start with the BD-by numbers Johnny Irony but any doubts of a sophomore slump are quickly quashed by first single Mob Rule which utilises gang chants and pub rock bar chords to rail against the narrow-minded, pack mentality sub-cultures in Australian society.

That sentiment permeates much of the album, blatantly and subtly. It’s their statement of sorts and it comes at a timely moment as they’re a band that sits right on the border between underground, rock ‘n’ roll notoriety and cred, and the larger, promotion-driven world of festivals, triple j and the accompanying dumbed down bloke vibe that can sometimes invade that transition.

Elsewhere, Ben, Alex, James and Miles hit some fine melancholic spots like the yearning By Your Side and the woolly strum of Pagan Rage – a distant sonic echo to one of their first singles Chills. They still bear the iconic Aussie rock imprint of producer Mark Opitz but overall this is a less forced and more subtly varied album that even takes in saxophone on A Million Times Alone. Stripped of the bluster and noise it highlights how well the band blends mood and wistful melody alongside lurching rock n roll.

Chris Familton

Advertisements

LIVE REVIEW: The Tall Grass, Adam Gibson & The Ark-Ark Birds, Christine Jane

fullsizeoutput_a6c8

The Tall Grass, Adam Gibson & The Ark-Ark Birds, Christine Jane Leadbelly, Newtown (May 6th, 2017)

This was a double album launch for The Tall Grass and Adam Gibson and they chose well to celebrate their new albums together. The songs and music of both bands deal in rich poetics and tangled and exultant musicality. Mood and emotion are strong components of their respective works.

Christine Jane and acoustic guitar accompaniment opened the evening with a set that got better as it progressed. Her voice proved to be a versatile instrument and her performance was assured, culminating in a wonderful and bluesy, jazz serenade.

Adam Gibson & The Ark-Ark Birds sound like a quintessentially Australian band, one that straddles communal indie pub rock sounds, evocative wide open desert plains storytelling and heady suburban poetry. The six-piece were augmented by the vocals of Alannah Russack and a fine guest piano turn from Jadey O’Regan. Gibson is the real focal point of the band though, his spoken word delivery, slightly awkward to fresh ears, quickly became a hypnotic tool, drawing in the audience with tales of sisters and stranded sharks, missing persons, torn apart towns and stilt walkers. Belanglo, Byron And The Road Between was completely captivating, the band sounding like the Bad Seeds soundtracking an ominous tale that was never going to have a happy ending.

Witnessing the two year gestation of The Tall Grass, the collaboration between Peter Fenton (Crow) and Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss, Infinity Broke), has been a fascinating one. Beginning as an acoustic duo they seemed to be woodshedding skeletal songs on stage, finding their feet and the right blend of style and song. The release of Down The Unmarked Road was their first full-band show and the effect was akin to transforming a black and white photo into a full-sized colour print. Texture and depth was added and both artists were freed up to stretch out vocally and with their guitar playing. Little City was a highlight, its gently propulsive and coaxing rhythm and the pair’s melodic interplay sounding sublime. The Road Is Long contrasted with its rougher edges, and Tom Waits-ish clatter, Fenton and Hutchings opening their lungs, gritting their teeth and leaning into the song with real intent. An impressive realisation of a musical collaboration and clear mutual respect.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Suzie Stapleton – You Were There

Screen Shot 2017-05-17 at 12.07.47 pm

Suzie Stapleton has been based in London for the last two years, playing shows, recording and collaborating with like-minded artists. Now we get to hear the fruits of her labour with the exquisite new single ‘You Were There’, a slow, swaying, atmospheric wander of a song. There’s dark intent at play, a sense of past events just outside the perimeter of one’s memory. The rhythm section anchors the song perfectly, an ominous slow march with sombre, heavy bass, snare cracks and ringing cymbals as Stapleton intones her lyrics in restrained gothic blues style.

The song was recorded with Gavin Jay (Jim Jones Revue/The Righteous Mind) on bass, Ian White (Gallon Drunk) on drums, and engineer Drew Smith (PJ Harvey/Ed Harcourt) at the wheel.

Head over to https://suziestapleton.bandcamp.com for a free download of the song.

NEW MUSIC: Jep and Dep – Cruel Moon (video)

17239962_998381023596171_4153849057491066154_o

Jep and Dep are back with ‘Cruel Moon’, the first single from their forthcoming second LP, due out this August. Over the last couple of years they’ve developed a cohesive and atmospheric style, built on strong monochromatic imagery in their photos and videos – the perfect marriage to their sparse, sometimes lush, always compelling folk-noir sound.

Jessica Cassar and Darren Cross take a strong conceptual approach to their craft and so we chatted with Cassar to find a bit more about the songwriting and video-making process.

SONGWRITING AND RECORDING

“Like all of our songs, ‘Cruel Moon’ was a collaborative effort between the two of us. We always write our songs together. The difference with ‘Cruel Moon’ is that I sung all vocals and Darren played the guitar unlike our other songs were we might sing separate parts or harmonise. We didn’t feel ‘Cruel Moon’ needed much more that as we felt the vocals and guitar were equally strong and spoke to each other beautifully. In terms of recording, Darren produced the whole album and composed most of the arrangements, adding his signature ambient sounds. The song (and the album) has a pretty creepy vibe as we recorded it between 12-5am as Darren’s studio was wedged between a years worth of constant renovations from the neighbours. Recording at that time fucking annoyed us at first, but it actually turned into a positive and contributed to the song (and albums) overall darkness.”

THE VIDEO

“We have not collaborated too many times with our clips, partly due to finances but mostly because we enjoy making our videos. As Jep and Dep’s aesthetic is pretty strong and signature it was important for us not to compromise on that and have people understand that. Having said that, collaborating with other artists is never just about you, it’s a joint effort with many ideas coming together, so it was just as important for us to be a bit more flexible. You can see that coming through with ‘Cruel Moon’ as it takes more of a narrative and traditional flow we had not experimented with before, which ended up working well for the film-noir inspired clip the team (Isabella Andronos, director) came up with.”

THE NEW ALBUM

“We plan to independently release our second album in August, much like we did with Word Got Out. We feel this album has solidified our “folk-noir” sound and pushed us much further into a Lynchian, noir-core realm. It’s far more minimal than Word Got Out and far more haunting.”

Jep and Dep officially launch the single at Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney on May 25th.

VIDEO: Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Sick Bug

Screen Shot 2017-04-28 at 10.13.32 am

Here’s another track off Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever’s consistently excellent French Press EP, out now on Sub Pop. Tumbling, jangly guitars and that incessant drum beat are the backdrop for young lust…

“I want you, I want you, I want you, I want you, I wanna see you smiling on a blue afternoon dreaming of the ceiling and the smell of your room cuz I want you, I want you, I want you.”

INTERVIEW: Rickie Lee Jones

rickieleejonesweb2016

RICKIE’S STILL IN LOVE WITH MUSIC

Rickie Lee Jones, she of the long and diverse career that began back in the late 70s with that single Chuck E’s In Love, is still passionate about music and her achievements, as she explains to Chris Familton.

Beginning at the start of her career in Hollywood, odd jobs, a chance encounter with Tom Waits and her demo tape brought her to the attention of Lenny Waronker, producer and executive at Warner Bros. Records, who beat out other labels to sign her and launch her career.

“It was a dream at the time because before that I was just trying to pay the rent. I had a boyfriend at the time who was in school and he encouraged me to go out and play and make money to pay the rent. That helped me get started. It was hard, I was homeless for a lot of the time and and I had nothing to fall back on. When it happened it happened very quickly. At the time I was 23 I wrote Chuck E’s In Love and The Last Chance Texaco and I was on an unemployment benefit. Then one year later I was in a studio and recording an album. Once I decided in my mind to do it, it took about a year to sixteen months,” recalls Jones. “To be able to devote oneself to it is really helpful in gaining early success,” she says, before adding “that success, who doesn’t want that? But it comes with a lot of baggage.”

Jones’ most recent album, The Other Side Of Desire, was her first in a decade and was released independently after a crowdfunding campaign; making it a world apart from her experiences with major labels in the 70s and 80s heyday.

“It feels good not to have any pressure from an outside person to meet their expectations. The thing I had going when I was first signed was they were the best label in the world, they had the best A&R and they just loved music. They dropped you if you didn’t sell records but they didn’t sign you and then drop you straight away, they tried to develop artists and they kept them on the label,” she explains. “I was spoilt by that and know what it’s like to be on a label run by a company that loves its business more than business, that loves music and artists and doesn’t try to make them act like business people. We live in a time where artists act like business people, they talk about the bottom line and their brand. They talk about the brand of Beyonce and the brand of Madonna, this is shameful in the arts. It shows the whole process is corrupted.” says Jones, a tone of disillusionment creeping into her voice.

Jones sounds like she’s in a great place musically and personally as she looks to the future and what it may hold for her. “I am writing and I’m finishing a book which should be out around Christmas. I’m having fun right now performing and I can feel people engaged in ways that I didn’t feel before. I’ve accepted my place in music and I like that I’ve lasted this long and I just want to keep working on it. When I stand in front of an audience I know exactly who I am and that is a great gift.”