ALBUM REVIEW: Kevin Morby – Oh My God

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Apparently Kevin Morby went into the studio and recorded this album two years ago, before he released his last record, City Music. It sounds quite different to that album, different to his breakthrough album Singing Saw as well. What came out of those studio sessions is a concept album of sorts, one that is tied into the theme of religion, by someone who states that he’s not in the slightest religious.

With that in mind, it’s an interesting set of songs that explore the place, role and ramifications of religion, both at a personal and societal level. He leverages gospel music, angelic choirs and rhythm tracks built on handclaps, weaving them into his folk-flavoured indie rock. Morby’s ability to sound like a pastoral balladeer one minute and a street-wise poet the next is on full display as the songs unravel. At his best he’s a fine and convincing blend of Dylan, Reed and Cohen.

He’s got a clever way with lyrics too. “Do you want to play chess in my chest” he sings on ‘Piss River’ and on ‘Savannah’ he he follows the line “Sometimes I let my silence become the conversation” with an abrupt pause to emphasise the point. The arrangements on Oh My God are a real delight. Often sparse, with warm sounding organ, piano or jangly guitar and regular enhancement by lonely minimal, solo horn accompaniment. There are glorious interruptions of 50s doo-wop (‘Congratulations’) and Velvet Underground/Bowie chug (‘OMG Rock n Roll’) but the overwhelming mood is more reflective and gently interrogative than those exceptions.

Across Oh My God Morby plays with and eloquently investigates religion with equal amounts of respect and irreverence while placing his songs in artful and evocative musical settings.

Chris Familton

 

FIRST LISTEN: Prudence – Major Tom

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Sydney artist Prudence releases his debut EP Major Tom tomorrow on Bandcamp and streaming platforms. Prudence is songwriter (and bassist for DMAs) Tom Crandles who also releases music as Au.Ra with Tom Jenkins.

Major Tom’s six tracks were recorded in Margate, Kent UK, completed in Sydney and finally mixed in Auckland earlier this year. The results are a kaleidoscopic blend of post punk, new wave melancholia and art rock.

They are songs that dig into dark corners one moment and shine psychedelic colour wheels of sound across the speakers the next. Languid guitar chords hang in the air on songs such as ‘Caramel’ while ‘Save It For Me’ is an intoxicating blend of New Order and liquid pop dance-floor shapes and ‘Euphoria’ is an aching wander through rhythm and dark synth textures.

Major Tom is out May 10th on Forged Artifacts.

 

SONIC KICKS: Wahoo Ghost

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Sydney trio Wahoo Ghost have just released their debut album The Eighth Door and the brand new single She Wolf’ (check out the video below). The album is high on atmospheric psychedelia that swirls around the dark poetry of Charli Rainford. Space and texture is paramount, whether it’s raw and bluesy or grainy and dream-laden.

The Eighth Door is available now on Spotify, Apple Music and CD Baby.

Guitarist Rob Crow took the time to take our Sonic Kicks Q&A to give us a taste of some of the albums that have shaped his musical life.

Wahoo Ghost are Charli Rainford (vocals, guitar), Rob Crow (lead guitar), and Jarvis Woolley (percussion).

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The first album I bought.

The Goodies – Greatest Hits.

Well I was only nine, what did you expect, Iggy & The Stooges?

Black Angels

An album that soundtracked a relationship.

The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream.

I used to have a neighbour whose dog would howl every time I put this album on. As soon as the guitar riff in ‘Bad Vibrations’ started, that set him off, then he’d howl over the fence for the entire album. After a while we became friends. His name was Boris. Wait, you didn’t mean a romantic relationship did you?

Hawkwind

An album that inspired me to form a band.

Hawkwind – In Search of Space.

Space music doesn’t have to mean songs about other planets, but music that uses space – sparseness, atmosphere and strange whooshing effects, to take you to your own inner zone-out space. We try to create atmosphere and space in our music too. Have I used the word “space” enough yet?

The Fall

An album that reminds me of my high school years.

The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace.

I was the weirdo at school who didn’t really fit in. So I used to travel on the tube up to central London to see bands, to escape the humdrum suburban life. The Fall were one of the best. Sarcastic, angular, awkward and repetitive. A bit like me as a teenager.

Spiritualized

An album I’d love to hear live and played in full.

Spiritualized – Pure Phase.

Epic, soulful, emotional, soaring, beautiful. Spiritualized are another band who are masters of using space in their music. Some moments in this album feel like time is frozen, and you are transported to another world.

Kraftwerk

My favourite album cover art.

Kraftwerk – Computer World.

This album cover is what the future looked used to look like, in the past. Oh, and they also kickstarted the whole movement of electronic music. Geniuses.

 

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A guilty pleasure album.

A Flock of Seagulls – A Flock of Seagulls.

I don’t really feel guilty about any music that I genuinely like. But once you can get past the haircuts, this is actually a pretty good album. And now that 1982 is the new black, they’re kind of cool again, aren’t they?

Grouper

The last album I bought.

Grouper – Grid of Points.

This is the ultimate in atmospheric music, very introspective, reminiscent of early Portishead. Liz Harris’ voice is run through reverbs and delays, along with sparse instrumentation, creating dense layers of sound. Don’t put this on at a party.

Syntax Error

The next album I want to buy.

Syntax Error – Message.

You absolutely should put this on at a party. One of the best bands in Sydney right now. Hypnotic rhythms, swirling swooping space effects, and a theremin, the only instrument you play without actually touching it. 

 

NEW MUSIC: Beastwars– Omens

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photo by David James

New Zealand metal band Beastwars return with their first single since singer Matt Hyde successfully underwent 6 months of treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2016. ‘Omens’ comes from their new LP IV, due out on Friday June 28th.

 Hyde said that through his diagnosis and subsequent treatment, he was given an opportunity to look into the abyss beyond life as we know it. “Throughout the treatment – I was numb – and it’s interesting to have the ability to confront that, to confront the void, to confront the idea of mortality. I didn’t make peace with it either.

To celebrate the album release Beastwars are touring New Zealand and Australia in June/July – presented by Panhead Custom Ales. They are hitting Wellington, Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin in New Zealand and then jumping over the Tasman to play Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne shows.

IV can be pre-ordered now at all good digital stores and streaming platforms and Limited Edition Vinyl, Cassette and T-Shirt Bundles are available at http://www.beastwars.bigcartel.com. Single ‘Omens’ is available for streaming and purchase now.

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NEW MUSIC: Josephine Wiggs – Time Does Not Bring Relief

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Best known for her role as bassist for The Breeders, Josephine Wiggs is also a fine composer of atmospheric ambient music. ‘Time Does Not Bring Relief’ is the first taste of her new solo album We Fall. It’s a haunting piano-based, instrumental composition that gently pushes and pulls rhythmically across nearly five minutes, evoking the work of Harold Budd and Nils Frahm. Evocative, textural soundscape music.

We Fall was composed, performed and recorded by Wiggs, with drums and electronics by her longtime friend and collaborator Jon Mattock (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized).

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We Fall is due out May 17th via The Sound Of Sinners.

NEW MUSIC: Henrik Von Euler – F-dur

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As much as we love manic post-punk, sweet alt-country tunes and arch indie-rock, we also love to bliss out to relaxing ambient sounds. Not the cheesy lift music or Muzak or hippie-lite new age bullshit. We’re talking experimental, avant garde composition, whether it be electronic, acoustic or a combination of the two. Think Eno, Harold Budd, Fenenesz, Caretaker or Hiroshi Yoshimura.

This elegant track from Swedish producer Henrik Von Euler this the spot for us with its meditative qualities but in the background there lurks both beauty and distant ominous clouds on the horizon. It’s tranquil yet possessing some darker mystery beneath the surface.

We know little about Von Euler other than he runs the label Flora & Fauna and has been a part of the Swedish electronic scene for over fifteen years with numerous releases on labels all over the world. This track comes from his recently released EP Hemskogen.

NEW MUSIC: Tindersticks Soundtrack ‘High Life’

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Tindersticks and Stuart A. Staples are custom built for soundtrack work, such is their ability to conjure such exquisite and restrained mood and atmosphere, both musically and vocally. They’ve worked on a number of film projects in the past and this latest one by Staples is for the movie High Life, directed by Claire Denis – who Staples has worked with on seven of her other films. His soundtrack and sound design compositions on High Life earned him the George Delerue Award for Best Music at the Gent Film Festival.

Below you can watch the video for ‘Willow’, with lead vocal from actor Robert Pattinson, and listen to the instrumental piece ‘The Garden’ which rises and falls with dramatic tension and poise, a brooding cousin to late period Talk Talk experimentations with its droning bed and searching brass.

Most of the music for High Life was made before the filming. The conversation with Claire started maybe as far back as 2012. There were many ideas I wanted to explore and I appreciated the foresight of Claire and the producers in offering me support and encouragement to do this. As well as work with usual collaborators Dan McKinna, Neil Fraser and Earl Harvin, this afforded me purely experimental recording sessions with David Coulter, Thomas Bloch, David Okumu, Julian Siegel, Seb Rochford and the BBC singers. Several long sketches / pieces were created from these sessions that the eventual score was formed from or informed by. 

And then there was ‘Willow’. a seed of a song shared by myself and Dan Mckinna that eventually grew to be the conclusion of the High life with Robert Pattinson, the lead actor, singing the song in character to his daughter Willow, a theme that runs through the film.

~ Stuart A. Staples

 

NEW MUSIC: Theory Of Why – Wrapped Up In Snow

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Theory Of Why is a studio collaboration project between Anton Kropp and Julia Nova who met as college radio DJ’s at the University Of Maryland WMUC station where they continued to write and play music long after college, not stopping after they went separate ways.

‘Wrapped Up In Snow’  comes from their self-titled debut album and has a mix of Breeder’s 90s rock sounds and a darker, more exploratory psych and Krautrock drive. Their self-describe blend of influences such as Stereolab and Wooden Shjips is a pretty accurate one in terms of this track.