LIVE REVIEW: Lambchop @ Factory Theatre, Sydney

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Lambchop, Antonia & The Lazy Susans, Jack R Reilly @ Factory Theatre, Marrickville, Oct 19th, 2017

Early arrivals were privy to opening sets from local acts Jack R Reilly and Antonia & The Lazy Susans. The former showed a fine line in intimate, emotionally open and vocally impressive singer/songwriter fare over sparse and haunting electric guitar. In contrast, Antonia & The Lazy Susans were a confusing choice to open for a band like Lambchop. They delivered emo/indie guitar pop with an overdose of angst. The songs were overwrought and simplistic in form, a total contrast to the act they preceded.

This was a stripped down version of Lambchop – a band who have always had a fluid lineup revolving around frontman Kurt Wagner. On this tour the configuration was bassist Matt Swanson, pianist Tony Crow and Wagner on guitar, laptop and vocal manipulations.

Opening with a trio of songs from last year’s Flotus album they established the sonic palette for the evening where bass-lines formed pulsing, smooth and febrile shapes over beds of digital beats and textural clicks, beeps and washes of sound. Crow’s piano was a revelation of cascading notes that fluttered and danced through melodic passages, light of touch but beautifully melancholic and immersive. Front and centre was Wagner, the conductor and storyteller with his reading light, vocal unit, laptop and guitar. Using autotune, delay, reverb and self-sampling effects he conjured up a playful and endlessly fascinating take on the role of the lead vocalist. Older songs such as The Decline of Country And Western Civilisation and 2B2 were recast in the Flotus mold without losing any of their grace and poetic weight – an example of how, even though this was a new iteration of Lambchop and quite a distance for their country soul origins, it was still uniquely identifiable as the same band.

As the set progressed the players seemed to relax into their roles, particular Crow with his often hilarious quips, such as setting his phone to vibrate in his pocket at various moments during the show, to keep himself awake. It was certainly a show that traded on a minimalist sound that recalled Brian Eno but at the same time it embraced and reinterpreted various influences such as the textural and melodic inventiveness of Arthur Russell and the lush R&B of D’Angelo. In keeping with that they concluded with a uniquely Lambchop take on Prince’s When You Were Mine. This was post-modern soul music at its most compelling.

Chris Familton

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ALBUM REVIEW: Steve Gunn – Eyes On The Lines

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Rating8At the forefront of the loose scene of guitar adventurists that include Cian Nugent, Ryley Walker and Chris Forsyth, Steve Gunn is another who has figured out how to expand his sound to a full band and incorporate his lazy psych-rock vocals. The touchstones of Richard Lloyd and Tom Verlaine (Television) are obvious in the sparkling, spiralling guitar phrasings while on tracks such as Nature Driver Gunn finds an organic seam that echoes rural England more than downtown New York. Those divergent paths make for a rewardingly immersive and freewheeling guitar rock record that continues to reveal itself on repeated listens.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Matt Malone – S .I. X

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Rating7Victorian songwriter Matt Malone deals in dark, heavy and sombre music on his debut album. The pace is leaden, his voice a gothic, stentorian and preacher-like baritone. There are obvious touchstones like Nick Cave, Jeffrey Lee Pierce and Johnny Cash who he absorbs into his death blues soundtrack of rattling strings, ghostly sounds and strummed wasteland ballads. “Now I caress your throat with the lips of a traitor’s embrace” is typical of the doomed poetry and murder ballad sensibility across the album and though it is devoid of light relief and the gloomy pallor rarely lifts from the songs, Malone has created an often captivating and stylistically hypnotic debut album.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: Mercury Rev @ OAF

MERCURY REV, JAMES DELA CRUZ (DJ SET) @ Oxford Art Factory, 07 December 2015

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Eschewing the usual opening band, the warm-up honours went to James Dela Cruz (The Avalanches) who played an eclectic hour long DJ set that stretched from Neil Young to warm techno flows and some fine turntablism skills.

FEPX1684Mercury Rev hold a fairly unique position in music with their fantastical, dramatic sound that hits both the extremes of shoegaze and the fragile beauty of Catskill Mountains Americana. This was quite possibly the smallest venue the band have played in Australia so it was a chance for fans to experience them in full flight in relatively intimate surrounds. From a sea of dry ice pierced by dreamy washes of blue light emerged Jonathan Donahue, Grasshopper and their bassist, drummer and keyboardist/flautist. What followed was the full Mercury Rev experience that was in no way downsized or compromised for the club venue. Their recently released album The Light In You got a fair showing in the setlist but they know that their audience peaked with the seminal Deserters Songs album. Early fans were treated to Frittering from Yerself Is Steam (1991) but it was tracks from the aforementioned album that drew the biggest cheers from the enthusiastic crowd. Holes, Goddess On A Hiway and Opus 40 were exquisite in their delivery with Donahue commanding the centre of the stage with conductor flourishes and grand gestures like a magician conjuring up some dramatic illusion. Opus 40 rounded out the main set with an extended and accelerated surge into sheets of distortion with a sonic dizziness that seemed to spin the room on its axis.

Mercury Rev were art rock in dazzling glory, almost too grandiose for the small setting but they never overcooked it. The mystery in their music had the audience immersing themselves in its dark romance while at the same time trying to figure out just how they create such an ornate and wonderful sound from their standard rock band format.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Tweedy – Sukierae

fe457d61-2Rating7It’s quite surprising that this is Jeff Tweedy’s first solo album given the extent of his career as frontman and principle songwriter with Wilco. Most would have expected him to develop a solo career on the side. He’s always shown an openness to collaborate (Loose Fur, Neil Finn) and he’s played plenty of solo shows yet this is his first foray under his own name (excluding the Sunken Treasure live DVD) and even now he has framed it as a duo project with son Spencer on drums.

The other surprise with Sukierae is its twenty song double-album format at a time when records seem to be trending toward shorter run-times. Reportedly there was a wealth of material to draw from so Tweedy the elder has been able to take a broad sonic brush mixing power pop with gospel, alt-country with art-rock and much more. The two constants are Jeff’s voice which melds melancholy and melody into endlessly attractive shapes and Spencer’s drumming which is in turns virtuosic in complexity and simplicity, both complementing and adding crucial varying dimensions to the music like Levon Helm jamming with James Brown.

‘Wait For Love’ is Sukierae’s first sweet, lilting Beatles-esque highlight complete with whistling and it is quickly matched by ‘Low Key’ – the closest the record gets to Wilco territory –  ‘Flowering Lane’, ‘Summer Noon’ and ‘New Moon’. Across so many tracks there are many moments of greatness buried in the detail. Subtly applied effects and textures like the honeyed swell of gospel voices that grace ‘Nobody Ever Knows’ and Jeff’s exploratory guitar wig-outs that recall Nels Cline, Split Enz and Television.

It is always hard to sustain an album’s high points and invariably there are lulls here. No clunkers by any means, just a handful of songs that drift by innocuously between the sweet spots. Overwhelmingly, Sukierae confirms Jeff Tweedy’s standing as a songwriter and musician with a mesmerising ability to imbue his songs with understated emotion and free-spirited musicality.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on FasterLouder

 

NEWS: Jep and Dep announce debut album, tour and new single

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Sydney duo Jep and Dep have had quite the year beginning with an opening slot before Johnny Marr before going on to play shows with Matt Walker, Mia Dyson, Hatz Fitz and Cara, Kristen Hersh, Raised by Eagles, Tracey McNeil Band and Lindi Ortega as well as their own headline gigs across nearly every reputable venue in Sydney and other parts of the country.

Over at our Americana blog Post To Wire we said of the pair:

They’re a dark, folk-noir Johnny and June with a sound that might cast them serenading a saloon in a David Lynch directed spaghetti western.

Their first single was the mesmerising ‘Babe Come Down’ and now, ahead of the release of their debut LP Word Got Out on October 23rd, they’ve released the clip for new single ‘Granted’. The song is another gem, building swirling  romantic tension akin to Cave and Minogue before rich widescreen strings and cymbals swoon into view with grand elegance.

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NEW MUSIC: 2nd single from The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project: Axels & Sockets

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Glitterhouse Records are about to release the third volume of The Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project where incomplete or unrecorded Pierce songs have been finished with a superb cast of singers including Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Deborah Harry, Thurston Moore, Mick Harvey and many others. Axels & Sockets is out May 2nd in USA/Europe and locally in Australia shortly after May 5th.

‘Constant Limbo (Constant Rain)’ is the second single from the new album performed by Cypress Grove and Crippled Black Phoenix with a deep and dusky call and response section between Mark Lanegan, Bertrand Cantat, and Suzie Stapleton (Melbourne, VIC) who we’ve featured previously on DS.

“It all came about because Cypress Grove was invited by a friend of a friend to my show at London’s 12 Bar Club where I’d been squished onto the beginning of a metal line-up. My previously booked show had fallen through so it was better than not playing London at all. Pretty lucky I guess – particularly as Mark Lanegan has been a prime influence on my music. Though all the musicians involved are incredible – it’s a real honour to be a part of the project” – Suzie Stapleton

01 Nobody’s City – Iggy Pop with Nick Cave (feat. Thurston Moore) 
02 Kisses For My President – The Amber Lights with Debbie Harry 
03 Mexican Love – Black Moth
04 Weird Kid Blues – Julie Christensen
05 Ain’t My Problem Baby – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club
06 Constant Limbo (Constant Rain) – Crippled Black Phoenix and Cypress Grove (feat. Mark Lanegan, Bertrand Cantat & Suzie Stapleton) 
07 Into The Fire – Nick Cave And Debbie Harry 
08 Thunderhead – Kris Needs Presents…Honey 
09 Desire By Blue River – Mark Lanegan and Bertrand Cantat 
10 Kitty In The Moonlight – The Amber Lights with Xanthe Waite
11 Secret Fires – Ruby Throat
12 Kisses For My President – Andrea Schroeder 
13 Body And Soul – James Johnston 
14 Goodbye Johnny (Andrew Weatherall’s Nyabinghi Noir Mix) – Primal Scream 
15 Break ‘Em Down – Hugo Race 
16 My Cadillac – Cypress Grove
17 The Journey Is Long – Lydia Lunch and Jeffrey Lee Pierce
18 Shame And Pain – Mark Stewart And Jeffrey Lee Pierce (feat. Thurston Moore)