ALBUM REVIEW: Beck – Colors

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Beck’s much anticipated 13th album follows the lush and melancholic Morning Phase and though Colors is equally lush, it’s an album built on widescreen technicolor, bold sonic brushstrokes and a saturated pop aesthetic.

On first listen it feels like the quirks and eccentricities that made Beck so iconic are absent on this album but dig below the pop-laminated surface and you’ll find an equally audacious approach to song-craft.

Beck dials in funk, hip hop and psychedelia, exquisitely blending rock guitars and low slung beats in a clever collision of synthetic and organic musicality. ‘No Distraction’ is a standout with its clipped funk and snaking vocal melodies. Like many of these songs he operates in areas of structural cliche – build-ups and anthemic choruses – but it’s all done with an auteur’s ear and sleight of hand that belies the complexities at play.

Old school Beck fans will enjoy the collage-constructed ‘Wow’ but the overwhelming focus of Colors is Beck’s continuing exploration of the frontiers of pop music, like a 21st century Steely Dan.

Chris Familton

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ALBUM REVIEW: Underground Lovers – Staring at You Staring At Me

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Still one of the leading lights of the Australian strand of guitar strummed, literate indie pop/rock songs, Underground Lovers have influenced the sound of many a local band over the years from The Sleepy Jackson to Blank Realm and on to Shining Bird. They’ll no doubt continue to hold that sphere of influence with their latest and one of their best albums.

Staring At You Staring At Me is a multi-dimensional collection of songs, stretching from the experimental clatter and propulsive dirge of ‘Glamnesia’ to the alt-rock swagger of ‘Every Sign’, ‘The Rerun”s cold synth, reminiscent of their exceptional 1998 single ‘Cold Feeling’ and on to the glorious indie-rock melancholia of ‘Conde Nast Trap’.

They don’t put a foot wrong and they continue to produce effortless sounding and richly melodic music.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Zola Jesus – Exhumed

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Zola Jesus returns with the first single from Okovi, her new album on Sacred Bones Records, due out Sept 8th.

It finds Nicole Hummel in fine form, juxtaposing dramatic flurries of strings, industrial electronic rhythms and low frequency bass thrums as she backgrounds her lead vocal with the deathly howl of her self-voiced choir. There’s a turbulent, anxious and haunting feel to the song that seems to be addressing death, rebirth and the shadowy netherworld that lies between both.

ALBUM REVIEW: Forest Swords – Engravings

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This is Matthew Barnes’ first album on Ninja Tunes and if anyone thought that might mean a softening of his more caustic edges then they are mistaken.

Primarily instrumental electronic music, the vocals that do appear are generally spliced and twisted into choirs, like machines speaking in tongues. These are digital compositions but he still retains a primitive, organic percussive base to his sound.

Less dub-influenced than on Engravings (2013), Compassion still possesses the disorientating, otherworldly psychedelic patina that he coats his music in. It’s an often impressive and immersive exercise in ancient futurism that works both as an imagined soundtrack and a transportive headphone experience.

Chris Familton

 

NEW MUSIC: Alex Cameron – Candy May

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Alex Cameron has a new album called Forced Witness coming out on September 8th via Secretly Canadian and here’s the first single from it – ‘Candy May’.

Cameron and sidekick Roy have been traveling the US-of-A for a while now, spreading their electro-croon lounge music from coast to coast on the back of the successful debut LP Jumping The Shark.

LIVE REVIEW: Kirin J Callinan @ Oxford Art Factory

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Kirin J Callinan, Spike Fuck, Hviske @ Oxford Art Factory, June 10th 2017

Sydney has produced a number of forward thinking songwriter/musicians in recent years who blend differing levels of theatricality into their performances. From Jack Ladder to Alex Cameron and Mossy, they all cultivate a persona and carefully consider an image as part of their creativity. Kirin J Callinan though, is out on his limb of kaleidoscopic eccentricity.

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Hviske were cruelly given low volume as the first act and it was a disservice for their industrial -tinged techno sound that requires an immersive sound for full effect. Augmented by the buried vocals of Kusum Normoyle which acted as another instrument rather than a lyrical tool, they showed enough (at low volume) to suggest they strike a nice balance between headphones and the dancefloor.

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Spike Fuck is another emerging enigma, from the challenging moniker to an ambiguous fashion sense, she sang over laptop backing tracks, peppering the songs with Alan Vega-styled whoops and an emotionally battered yet righteous blend of Las Vegas croon, country pastiche and melancholy-drenched synth music. There was plenty to like in her performance though adding a backing band would really allow her music to shine in the live sense.

One microphone, bathed in a sea of blue light. A static image delayed for minutes before a large brimmed, heavy-jacketed figure strode on-stage. The unmistakeable figure of Kirin J Callinan had arrived, taking the audience from the first and owning them until the final parting clang of heavily treated guitar.

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Callinan and band mixed it up, digging into both the Embracism and Bravado albums. Like Bowie taking his stage cues from Lindsay Kemp, Callinan has created a distinct stage manner of grand gestures, quirky dance moves and facial expressions that run the gamut from knowing sleaze to innocent glee.

Many of the new album tracks worked even better live, stripped off their production sheen and layers. My Moment was epic EDM, Callinan playing the build and drop to the hilt. Living Each Day was a perfect twee pop song, from the audience’s response S.A.D felt like a hit single, while Family Home showed at the heart of the pomp and primp it’s the strength of songwriting that holds everything up.

An audience member tore Callinan’s leather cod-piece from his person, exposing him literally and figuratively yet he embraced the moment and made the most of the opportunity to test and titillate his audience. This was a magnificent return home for Sydney’s singular pop provocateur.

Chris Familton