NEW MUSIC: Mother Anxiety – Father Time

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Here’s a new tune from Ben Serna-Grey (Mother Anxiety), someone I haven’t come across before. ‘Father Time’ has a really interesting mix of drone and otherworldly folk music yet it’s placed in a compositional, electronic realm where the different sonic mediums are mixed and twisted, layered and densely woven together, to the point of static decay and fractal implosion. The result is quite mesmerising.

INTERVIEW: Matt Corby

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WINKING AT POP MUSIC

Matt Corby has come a long way from his solo folk beginnings. Here he takes us into the creative process behind his colourful new  second album, Rainbow Valley.

by Chris Familton

The album title suggests some kind of idealised nature-based community where everything exists in harmony and for Corby and his family, that’s why they’ve settled in the area of the same name, in the lush surrounds of Northern NSW. “The house is situated in an amazing tropical paradise where you only really hear birds. With that kind of silence comes a certain amount of focus. I wouldn’t have made an album that sounds like this if it was somewhere that wasn’t picturesque,” Corby believes. “It was fitting to call it Rainbow Valley because it marks the place that was needed to facilitate the record coming into existence. It’s quite a sunny feel through most of it but it does have some dark moments too. It’s quite happy in an introspective way,” he adds.

The physical process of finding inspiration and capturing those ideas has become music easier in Corby’s home, with the studio he’s set up there. “I have a space I can come to where everything is set up and ready to go with mic channels, a drum kit, synths, guitars and amps. That’s made the workflow heaps easier. I can go in there on a good week and do a couple of good songs.” 

Over a string of early EPs, Corby made his name with a strong folk sound that gained comparisons to Jeff Buckley and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but he increasingly added soul and psychedelic influences. ARIA Awards and high charting singles followed, culminating in his debut album Telluric hitting #1 on the Australian charts. Now he’s taken the rich and modern psych-soul sound of that album and added some fascinating new angles and colours.

“I think it’s a continuation in my weird way. I never really want to make one thing again. This one is slightly more pop. It’s not necessarily pop music but it’s winking at it quite heavily. I could have gone really weird, which I naturally want to do, or have a crack and make something that is really palatable for lots of people without compromising too much,” says Corby.

The genesis of Rainbow Valley came from a few songs that didn’t make the final cut for Telluric. Corby then spent a year jamming and experimenting in his home studio with longtime friend and musical foil Alex Henriksson before he was ready to head to Byron Bay to again work with producer Dann Hume and put together the album. “Alex and I like the experimental phase and not necessarily the hard work of refining songs and trimming them and getting lyrics and melodies concise. We’d just put beats down and do fun sounding stuff. It got me to the point where when I was seriously writing songs for the album, 18 months ago, I had had all that experimentation behind me so it was easy in the moment to know what to do and reference those jams and pull bits out and use them,” Corby explains.

Corby’s creativity has evolved and matured to a point where he plays all the instruments on Rainbow Valley and he’s found the confidence and musical ability to find the sweet spot where a variety of genres blend seamlessly, where traditional and ultra modern sounds coexist and with a balance between experimentation and commercial viability.

“More and more I’m conscious of others in my creative process. I used to be against what others thought ‘fuck you, this is my art!’ Now that I’ve digested a lot of other music I understand things like what genres and time period things fit into and what referencing those does for a modern audience. It probably comes from doing music for a long time and it definitely comes into play when I make music,” Corby reflects. “When I hit something that feels good, I usually feel good because I think that other people will probably like it, which is kind of cool. Hopefully I’ve got that right on this record.”

NEW MUSIC: Aaron Taos – Loneliness

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The idea of loneliness is explored beautifully on this track from Aaron Taos. He places the vocals right in the middle of the mix while drum machine, atmospheric guitars and other effects swirl and drift around the central vortex of the song.

Taos says of the song… ‘Loneliness’ is a song I wrote when I was going through a really rough patch. I was in the midst of a bout of depression brought out by a stagnation of my career and wasn’t really leaving the house. It was winter, which made things worse. What really helped me feel better was remembering that career/music isn’t everything and appreciating the relationships around me, specifically that of my girlfriend at the time. She was a shining light through my dark time, reminding me that as important as your goals are, connection and love is the foundation of feeling good and whole. 

NEW MUSIC: Niki Moss – There Must Be Something In The Water

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Plenty of cosmic twists and turns in this track, the second taste of the solo work of Portuguese musician Niki Moss, who previously has worked with the band Savanna. ‘There Must Be Something In The Water’ drips with psychedelia and a kaleidoscopic quality that sound like a futuristic Doors if they were on different drugs.

Moss’ debut album Gooey is slated for release early 2019.

 

INTERVIEW: Adrianne Lenker

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THE OVERWHELMING SENSATION OF BEING ALIVE

Three years on the road with her band Big Thief has been a life changing experience for Adrianne Lenker and as she explains to Chris Familton, she wanted to document and archive her thoughts and emotions through that period on her new solo album abyskiss.

I made my first solo record when I was 21 and I was so much closer to my influences then. Now I’ve got farther from those influences although I’m more influenced by more things than I’ve ever been,” explains Lenker as she ponders they ways in which she’s evolved musically and personally since her debut, Hours Were The Birds, was released. “I’m 27 now and I feel like there have been so many things that have happened. When I made that record I hadn’t even met the band and I’ve spent the last three years on the road and they’ve become my family. That in itself has completely changed me. I’ve shed skins. I’ve been so influenced by the music the guys in the band have shared with me and people I’ve met on the road. My heart has been expanding with the challenges and heartbreak and the wounding and mending over that time.”

The album was predominately written on the road, something many artists choose to avoid. For Lenker, her muse has a habit of dropping in at any time and capturing the songs in certain situations can make for a difficult creative process. 

“Songs are always welcome in my soul but reality sets in sometimes and there are moments when I can’t give attention to a song that’s coming through. That can be so frustrating. Time is so fleeting and with touring pretty much all of your hours in each day are structured and everything is planned out ahead of time. Writing on the road is about stealing time from myself, finding moments to get lost in my soul,” says Lenker. “That can just be for 20 minutes or a couple of hours or for a day, but there have been so many times when an idea has been forming that I’ve felt really excited about and then we have a soundcheck or a show or a meeting. That’s happened countless times where I’ve lost ideas that I’ve loved. I also think when it doesn’t form fully it is meant to be, they’re just stepping stone ideas to get to another thing.”

Sonically, there is a clear separation in the sound of the album from the full band elements used on Big Thief recordings. “I had the intention to keep them minimal because I really wanted the acoustic guitar to shine,” explains Lenker. The approach is an effective one, drawing the listener into the intimacy of her performance and the simple details of her songs. “I just sat in front of the microphone and sang and played the songs and recorded them. There was no editing at all and we only aded one or two other elements. I was conscious to keep it like that – quiet.”

Lenker is known for her astute and sensitive approach to detailing events and the emotional impact they have. On abysskiss she again takes a magnifying glass to life experiences but places them in  the context of big picture existential questions.

“The biggest theme is the least original thing possible. Life, pain, birth, death, the cyclical nature of things. A lot of it is about questions themselves. The aching bittersweetness of being alive and the inherent duality of everything. What kind of twisted, hilarious or crazy thing brought all of this into being and how insane it is that we are brought into his world and then leave and the only guarantee we have is that we will die and lose everyone that we love. Somehow that’s what makes it so rich,” she says, with a mix of wonder and passion in her voice.

“I’m fascinated by the microcosms and explosions that are happening minute to minute within all of us. It’s creating this crazy tapestry that feels extremely gruesome, morbid, gory and bloody and also so delicate and magical and pure. The ocean exists and the most beautiful harmony exists but also war and destruction. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the sensation of being alive. That’s where it’s coming from.”

ALBUM REVIEW: Adrianne Lenker – abysskiss

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Known predominantly as the singer, songwriter and guitarist for the band Big Thief, Adrianne Lenker is one of those artists who writes constantly, documenting daily life and existential thoughts as she travels the world with her band. abysskiss is her second solo album and it finds her expanding the raw folk of her debut into a freer and more subtly textured set of songs.

Acoustic guitar is at the core of each track. Generally finger-picked and inventive it is the vessel that carries the songs as Lenker’s voice quietly drifts across the music, repeating phrases, re-shaping words into different phrasings and emphasising mood and tone over any quest for perfection. It amounts to a hypnotic effect akin to heavy-lidded lullabies and that sweetly intoxicating drift when you’re halfway between dreaming and awake. As a result the songs have an intangible quality that requires repeat listens to get a handle on them. Each track also contains a secondary element or two – a ghostly backing vocal, field type recordings  or another instrument, adding another thin layer of texture to the music.

Out of Your Mind is the most immediate song, sharing a gentle chug and sound with some of Liz Phair’s work while Blue And Red Horses is catchy in a playground chant kind of way. Symbol is another that lifts the pace and inhabits a nice pocket of ethereal psychedelic folk. Across the album, themes seem to alluding to big picture things such as childhood, the inevitably of death and the cyclical nature of life. Heavy stuff indeed but in Lenker’s hands it has a sense of mystery and wonder that draws the listener into her intimate world of song. 

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Joe McKee – I’ll Be Your Host

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Joe McKee used to be the main guy in Snowman but now he’s based in Los Angeles and has recorded a new album, An Australian Alien, under his own name, alongside members of Ariel Pink, Drugdealer and The Pixies.

‘I’ll Be Your Host’ is a beautiful hazy, dream-like drift of avant-pop, complete with a heavenly sax solo. Check out the video and then hit the Bandcamp link to stream and buy the album in digital and vinyl formats.

LIVE REVIEW: Jen Cloher, Tiny Ruins @ Red Rattler, Sydney

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Jen Cloher, Tiny Ruins
Red Rattler Theatre, Marrickville, NSW Australia
20th September, 2018

A sold out Sydney show is a great way to kick off a solo tour for Jen Cloher and as she revealed during her set, this was her first ever solo headline gig. A surprising event given the career Cloher’s established over the last dozen years.

Hollie Fullbrook is better known as the central figure in Tiny Ruins but tonight she was performing solo, still in the hazy midst of jet lag following a European tour. It made for a fascinating set as she played old favourites such as Chainmail Maker, Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens and Hurtling Through, alongside her new single How Much, her first on Cloher’s Milk! Records label. Blaming the jet lag she admitted feeling nervous and at one point had a lyrical memory failure but recovered gallantly. It was a chance to see an artist at a transitional point with a new album pending, on a new label, singing songs we’ve never heard, stripped back to their essence.

Jen Cloher fitted into the Marrickville warehouse aesthetic in her green mechanic overalls. She was “at work, playing her block of wood”. It was more than work of course, as evident in the emotion she displayed when introducing songs with stories from her life. There were memories of her Jim Morrison teenage obsession, stealing money from her parents to fuel her Galaga addiction while pretending to be an 11 year old boy called Jon, a beautiful tribute to her mother who that day had been posthumously honoured at Auckland University as part of the Suffrage 125 commemoration and more. The stories were laced with humour and honesty and gave the songs context and added depth. 

With just an acoustic guitar Cloher transformed her more rock-leaning recordings into solo reveries that never lost their spirit and energy. It emphasised her strength as a lyricist, allowing the words to cut through in the acoustic setting, riding her near endless array of sweet and melancholic melodies. Tracks such as Sensory Memory, Kamikaze Origami and Strong Woman from last year’s self-titled album drew cheers from the warm and enthusiastic crowd but we were also treated to some dips into the back catalogue with David Bowie Eyes, Needs, Mother’s Desk and Eden With My Eve. 

Fullbrook returned to the stage for the encore and the pair played a touching version of Save Me From What I Want, a song that Cloher recorded with Mia Dyson and Liz Stringer. It capped off a wonderfull night of music. Songs stripped back to their simple yet detailed beginnings as stories, carried on the strings of acoustic guitars.

Chris Familton