NEW MUSIC: Donny Benét – Second Dinner

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The smooth sailing prince of low-slung synth pop and disco funk is back with a new single Second Dinner’. It’s another winning slice of coy 80s electronic pop with shades of Bryan Ferry fronting a sultry disco house band with Giorgio Moroder producing.

TOUR DATES:

  • 04 Oct – Fat Controller, Adelaide, SA
  • 10 Oct – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD
  • 11 Oct – Beach Hotel, Byron Bay. NSW
  • 18 Oct – The Rosemount Hotel, Perth, WA
  • 19 Oct – Mojo’s Bar, Freemantle, WA
  • 25 Oct – The Croxton Bandroom, Melbourne, VIC
  • 02 Nov – The Metro Theatre, Sydney, NSW

NEW MUSIC: Orion’s Belte – Cherchez La Ghost

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It’s hard to ignore the killer groove and minimal exotic funk of this track from Norwegian trio Orion’s Belte. They released their debut album Mint last year and have already followed it up with the EP Slim in 2019.

‘Cherchez La Ghost’ is their brilliant take on the Ghostface Killah track, mixing a great breakbeat with effect-laden pedal steel and an nervous twitch of a magical low-slung bass-line.

LIVE REVIEW: Herbie Hancock @ Sydney Opera House

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Herbie Hancock
Sydney Opera House, June 10th 2019

Herbie Hancock has been playing jazz onstage for nearly sixty years and even though this was his second show of the day in the Opera House’s Concert Hall, the septuagenarian seemed to have boundless energy as he took the audience through a spellbinding two hours of jazz fusion.

Hancock has always been one to evolve with the times and branch out from traditional be-bop jazz into soul, funk, classical and more. Tonight he was still sounding like he was channeling the future with a lineup of Lionel Loueke (electric guitar), James Genus (electric bass) and Vinnie Colaiuta (drums) and himself on piano, synth and keytar. At one point he introduced a song as one he wrote in the ‘70s and as the audience cheered he added – “2070, I’m ahead of my time!”.

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The focus of the set was firmly on songs he wrote as technology was changing and electronic music was becoming established and often taking the lead in jazz, funk and soul music. Actual Proof was a real highlight. Hard funk and ridiculously virtuosic soloing from the band, especially Colaiuta on drums. What made the band so impressive was their ability to work as a cohesive, fluid and rhythm-based unit and then pull things back to spotlight individual solos that never outstayed their welcome. These were some of the finest players in the world yet there was very little ego emanating from the stage. Hancock was flashing grins and kicking out his leg from beneath the piano, clearly revelling in the musical interaction with his band. As he introduced them he seemed genuinely and humbly in awe of their talents.

Hancock himself divided his time between his various instruments, pacing himself before going deep on a solo, notes near flying off the keys in a blur of fingers, whether it was light, dancing runs or heavy, slamming chordal accents. He remains a dazzling and inventive player, still taking his music to thrilling and otherworldly places.  For the most part the set was upbeat and constantly in motion. A comparatively quieter moment came with the soulful Come Running To Me featuring Hancock’s synth-manipulated vocal adding yet another element to their sound.

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Late set highlights came in the form of two of his masterpieces and most recognisable compositions in Cantaloupe Island, recorded in 1964, and the closing future funk encore of Chameleon, from his 1974 album Head Hunters. Hancock took centre-stage with his keytar, swapping solos with Loueke and at the age of 79, leaving the stage with an airborne jump to signal the final note as the audience rose to their feet in unison. 

This was no artist playing it safe at the tail-end of his career, this was a celebratory night of music and creative spirit par excellence, from a true innovator and legend of modern music.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Khruangbin @ Metro Theatre, Sydney

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Khruangbin, Harvey Sutherland
Metro Theatre
14 March 14th, 2019

by Chris Familton

This was a night of very few voices given that both acts on the bill were primarily instrumental trios. It was the music that did the talking and it transformed the Metro into a wall-to-wall sea of bodies-in-motion and conjured up a celebratory vibe in the room.

Harvey Sutherland, the self-described funk-synthesist, was up from Melbourne to open the show and by the end of the first song he’d won over the audience with his blend of soul, funk, house, disco and of course the aforementioned funk. The rhythm section were quite astonishing in their fluidity and precision as they constantly found new ways to build rhythmic detail and dynamics into the music while Sutherland wove his cosmic keyboards into melodic dance floor excursions. It was an infectious set that brought to mind Steely Dan filtered through Jamiroquai.

Khruangbin have built their brand on a visual aesthetic that melds black, straight-fringed wigs with explosions of colour and choreographed stage moves delivered with a knowing half-smile and semi-detached cool. That was enhanced on stage with an excellent light show – simple, bold and dramatic utilising colour and shapes, much like the trio’s music, on this first of two sold out nights at the venue.

It quickly became clear that they’ve spend a lot of time and effort into structuring their sets so there is a balance of peaks and valleys, from the hard funk breakbeat of Maria También to the dreamy, sweet and soulful soft tones of Cómo Me Quieres. As a trio they balance each other out wonderfully. Laura Lee is often the most compelling focal point with her knee drops and hip swivels and constantly light-dancing bass-lines, while Mark Speer roams his side of the stage, also in endless motion as a player but with a kind of roving commission to explore all stylistic facets of his guitar, from psych rock solos to dub echoes and flurries of hyper-melodic Thai funk. Holding it all down and providing a framework for which to hang the songs on was drummer DJ Johnson, his playing channeling everything from hip hop breakbeats to James Brown and Portishead.

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Their breakthrough album Con Todo El Mundo provided a large portion of their set but there were also dips back into their debut The Universe Smiles Upon You, with White Gloves being a particular highlight and one of the only songs to feature all three on vocals. As the set progressed we got a strange interaction between Lee and a lonely looking green telephone which seemed kind of pointless and a successful attempt by Speer to get everyone in the room to introduce themselves to the person standing next to them.

Before the encore the entertainment factor peaked with a medley that saw seamless transitions between songs by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, A Tribe Called Quest, Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and culminating in the crowd joining in on the chorus to Spandau Ballet’s True (via PM Dawn). 

What the trio showed was their ability to translate their music from the intimacy of their recordings to the live stage, where they balanced nuance with deep grooves, hypnotic and sensual rhythms, humour and exceptional musicianship.

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: Fox Grin – Black Tree

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New music in the sense that it’s new to us… Fox Grin (Atlanta, Georgia) actually released their LP King Of Spades back in January of this year but we’ve only just come across this great track, ‘Black Tree’, in the last couple of weeks. It’s a upbeat shimmer and dance through art-rock and avant-pop. Downbeat by nature but thoroughly on the up musically, it cuts a fine sartorial figure as the infectious rhythm section pulses below all manner of guitars and keys. It sounds like Beck buried in a kaleidoscopic studio with Field Music.

Check out ‘Black Tree’ and find your way through to the full record on Bandcamp or hit up the usual streaming services.

ALBUM REVIEW: Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders – Blue Poles

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The sense of Jack Ladder’s career to date is that he’s constantly been searching for his lost soul sound. The early bluesy rock n roll to the introspective troubadour, the gothic synth sounds of Hurtsville to the brighter colours of Playmates. Blue Poles is named after the Jackson Pollock painting and yes it does draw on all manner of styles but this time around he pulls them together into a cohesive set of nine songs. It’s also the first record he’s self-produced, another clue as to why this feels like the album that is most uniquely and naturally his own sound and vision.

‘Can’t Stay’ is the first introduction and transports the listener back to the junction where post punk met pop art, immediately reminiscent of peak-era Thompson Twins with their twinkling synths and fascinating rhythms wrapped up in pop music. ‘Dates’ takes that scene setter and turns it on its head with a repetitive glam stomp, like prime Roxy Music with Ladder shapeshifting between Eno and Ferry. It’s infectious stuff, enough to induce self-indulgent lounge room strutting. Another song, another colour added to the canvas. ‘Susan’ is all dark and shadowy hues, Cohen circa ‘Everybody Knows’, but Ladder gets pleasingly perverse with a tale of a car accident fatality and and husband calling his wife to join him in the afterlife.

Bowie is never far from Ladder’s orbit and ‘I.N.M.’ is unabashed funk of the Thin White Duke variety, complete with skewed scattershot guitar courtesy of one Mr Kirin J Callinan. ‘Tell It Like It Is’ is of the same ilk, Ladder getting louche and mysterious, dropping great lines such as “Our love is like a door with no handles, you kick it down…”

‘Blue Mirror’ is an exceptional song. The mood it conjures, the nod to ‘Moon River’, the languid swirl and solemn pulse of the music that recalls David Sylvian, the crown prince of austere pop. Ladder finds the perfect backing for his soft bellow of a baritone. Sometimes it has sounded too knowing or a touch too sardonic in other settings. Here it meshes seamlessly. First single ‘White Flag’ is another melancholic highpoint of Blue Poles. Built on little more than a breakbeat and simple tremolo-laced guitar notes Ladder sings ‘I surrender, surrender to be free, in your chains is where I’m gonna be’, conjuring a mood of giving in rather giving up.

‘Feel Brand New’ feels like a respite from the blue mood of much that precedes it. It’s a good old fashioned rock n roll tune with guitars ringing high in the mix, throwing out unabashed and catchy hooks with the kind of optimism you get on a new morning that promises possibilities instead of weariness. Ladder leaves us with ‘Merciful Reply’. An Orbison-styled, solemn yet grand gesture. It harkens back to the lachrymose ballads of yesteryear, yet in Ladder’s hands it rings true and artfully heartfelt.

Blue Poles draws on a sense of romanticism, one steeped in melancholy yet ultimately not fatalism. There is dark humour at play and some fine wordplay on display and it sounds exceptional. This is Ladder’s finest record to date, his maudlin opus par excellence.

Chris Familton

DOUBTFUL SOUNDS – Spotify Mix Series

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We’ve got a new series of mixes happening over on Spotify. As is our want, these are all over the show. One minute you’re in downtown LA in the 80s, next you’re off to New Orleans in the 20s before a quick jaunt to Auckland in the 1990s. Dub, post-punk, glam metal, ambient, pop, country and jazz. Anything goes.

Catch up with the first three mixes below….