NEW MUSIC: JW Francis – Lofi

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When he hits the central tangled and tumbling guitar riff, JW Francis sounds like the lovechild of The Strokes, Real Estate and Talking Heads on this smart earworm of an art rock single. ‘Lofi’ is the second of three singles he’s released in 2019. Check out the others too – ‘Is That The One’ in particular is excellent.

Francis was born in Tulsa Oklahoma, raised in Paris, France, and now based in New York City.

NEW MUSIC: Charcoal Burners – The Verlaines and Husker Du

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We posted another Charcoal Burners track earlier this year and this one also hits the spot with its warm buzz and jangle of guitars, interlaced with piano (that reminded us of Able Tasmans). I like that they reference the sound of the song in its title, you can definitely hear both bands that they mention, more so their Dunedin counterparts. I’d also throw in a comparison with the less caustic side of Swervedriver in the way the song gently churns and drones.

‘The Verlaines and Husker Du’ follows their 2019 album The Best Day You Could Imagine.

 

LIVE REVIEW: Joan As Police Woman @ Factory Theatre, Sydney (2019)

 

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Joan As Police Woman
Factory Theatre
9 October

As a venue, the Factory Theatre often lacks warmth and atmosphere but on this night Joan As Police Woman transformed it into a dreamy basement cabaret bar. There was no support act due to her playing two sets – another tip of the hat to the jazz bar scenario. It also gave the fans a chance to check out the fully laden merch desk between sets.

On a dimly-lit stage wreathed in smoke sat an upright piano, an electric guitar, amplifier, and a Roland Rhythm Arranger drum machine. Joan Wasser, resplendent in a disco-era jumpsuit, took a long, deep breath before easing into a gorgeous rendition of ‘To Be Lonely’. The reverence of the attentive audience was quickly broken with Wasser good-naturedly asking for the air-conditioning to be turned off as she shivered, stretched her hands and even dropped to the floor for some press-ups. A few songs later she took up an audience member’s offer to lend her jacket.

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It was clear that Wasser was in a playful and irreverent mood, exchanging banter with the audience before switching her attention back to her emotive jazz-tinged deep soul, R&B and folk inflected songs. Pretty much all the songs she played came from her recent anthology release Joanthology which cherry picks the highlights of the last decade of her solo career.

What quickly became evident from watching and listening to Wasser perform her songs, was the way she commands and steers the timing of, and space within her music. Sparse piano chords settled in unusual places, augmented by sweet melodic runs of notes. All the while her voice drifted and soared above the music, pushing and pulling via simple incantations one minute and delicate and intricate acrobatic flurries the next. Her more rhythmically dependent songs were given groove and depth via the drum machine and on her cover of Prince’s ‘Kiss’ she took the song further into coy and sensual territory. Other highlights included ‘Human Condition’, ‘Tell Me’, audience favourite ‘The Magic’ and the gentle ache of ‘The Ride’.

Joan As Police Woman has visited Australia a number of times now but this felt like the most relaxed, intimate and consummate show we’ve seen from her.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: UK Apache with Shy FX – Original Nuttah 25

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UK Apache and soundman, DJ and UK pioneer, Shy FX have released ‘Original Nuttah 25’ – a re-recorded and re-mastered seminal anthem ‘Original Nuttah’ that shook dance floors back on 1994 with its hard-hitting seminal jungle beats. It still sounds gloriously heavy and madcap. The re-mastered and re-recorded 2019 version of the all-time classic features an original vocal from actor Idris Elba,

Shy FX says of ‘Original Nuttah 25’: “This record changed my life and I still can’t believe its 25 years ago! For the anniversary we wanted to do something special, so we re-recorded the ‘Original Nuttah 25’ version, added a speech from an actor friend of mine and called in a remix from Chase & Status to freshen it up in time for Carnival. And trust me they came through with the goods! Here’s to another 25!”

NEW MUSIC: CJ Stranger – Strange One

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“A stream-of-consciousness ramble of a day living in the inner-west”

Hooks and riffs abound with laidback verve and hypnotic charm on this new single from Blue Mountains, NSW resident CJ Stranger. That’s the nom de plume of songwriter and guitarist Cameron James Henderson and on this track he hits a sweet spot between The War On Drugs and Kurt Vile with a cool blend of his voice and the guitars that surge and swagger beautifully.

Expect an album called Hey Stranger in 2020 and you can catch Henderson playing these upcoming shows:

November 14 – LazyBones Lounge, Marrickville
w/ Gavin Bowles, Liam Gale (fb event)

November 21 – Django at Camelot, Marrickville
w/ Pat Tierney (fb event)

ALBUM REVIEW: Underground Lovers – A Left Turn

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Underground Lovers
A Left Turn
Rubber Records
★★★★

Underground Lovers are back with their ninth studio album, their third since they reactivated after a hiatus through the first decade of the 21st century. That return showed they were still in fine form with their blend of psychedelic indie rock and electronica and they’ve again produced a strong album that brings those elements together in perfect hypnotic harmony.

Their last album Staring At You Staring At Me focused on the guitar sound of the band, giving it more of a rock feel. This time around they’ve ushered their electronic explorations back into the fold, placing the album close to the work they produced on Cold Feeling at the end of the ‘90s. 

Early on, Bells sets the psych controls for the heart of the mind and just as viably, the dance floor, with its droning Krautrock sprawling across more than six wonderful minutes. They have the ability – like Spiritualized and Wooden Shjips, to find the sweet spot of a groove and ride it endlessly. Hooky ups the rock ante yet still in a warm embrace with the melodies of Glenn Bennie’s guitar and Vincent Giarrusso’s vocal incantations.

Shoegaze has always been another mainstay of the band’s sound and on Dunes and Lusher, Philippa Nihill sounds like a dream sister to My Bloody Valentine and Cocteau Twins as the music shimmers, glows and gently shudders behind her. The single Seven Day Weekend is anthemic in its drum machine-powered rhythm and distorted see-saw guitars as Giarrusso trips out in full Shaun Ryder mode on the ode to carefree socialising. 

By the time we reach the conclusion of the epic nine minute closer Rocky Endings, there’s a sense of post-rollercoaster exhilaration in the wake of the album’s propulsive peaks and floating valleys. The song winds its wistful way for four minutes before taking off into the stratosphere on an interstellar space-rock mission of chiming guitars, pulsing bass and metronomic drumming that billows and expands gorgeously. A Left Turn is another sonic gem from one of Australia’s psychedelic finest.

Chris Familton

 

NEW MUSIC: ACUA – Keep Spinning

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ACUA are a post-punk band from Cologne who sit somewhere in the sweet spot between the aforementioned genre and the more hypnotic side of dream-pop, shoegaze and indie rock. ‘Keep Spinning’ is the their latest single and finds the fairly new band blending synths and guitars into a really nice sound (reminiscent of RIDE), balanced between drift and drive, where texture is everything.

ALBUM REVIEW: Refused – War Music

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Refused
War Music
Spinefarm/Search and Destroy
★★★½

With the band’s split in 1998, it took 14 years for them to spread their various music wings (including the excellent International Noise Conspiracy) and re-set their personal lives before reconvening for live shows and then delivering the strong comeback album Freedom in 2015. It showed they were still vital and able to conjure up fire-in-the-belly forward thinking heavy music. 

War Music solidifies the band’s return to active duty but it’s a more refined and compact take on the modern rock album. Trimmed of any excess, it rips and roars across ten songs in 35 minutes. There’s little diversion into synth interludes or overly prog workouts. Instead it keeps things locked tightly around the precise and knotty guitar riffs and that rhythm section that still kicks and drives with metronomic muscle.

Not everything works though. Malfire swaps intensity for more melodic commercial rock shapes and it just sounds overplayed. Likewise the punk-pop melody of the chorus in I Wanna Watch The World Burn. The second half of the album is where they really find their feet, Turn The Cross tumbles violently with tangled breakneck playing from all band members. It sounds truly thrilling, a band on knife edge, right on the lip of the wave. They follow that with Damaged II, a song that would fit on any Rage Against The Machine album. When they re-enter the maelstrom after coming to a halt momentarily it’s like the swing of a sledgehammer. The Infamous Left is an exercise in old school thrash metal before the band closes the album out with the stomp and swagger of Economy Of Death.

The themes of War Music are still the same with Dennis Lyxzén howling and screaming about protest, struggle, revolution and inequality. With Refused it’s the sound though. That hurricane of distortion. militant rhythms and the combination of primal physicality and intelligent application in the band’s intoxicating noise.

Chris Familton