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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Neil Finn – Out Of Silence album recording/webcast

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Out Of Silence was recorded live in-studio via webcast on Facebook and YouTube and will be mixed, mastered and digitally released one week after the recording, on 1 September 2017.

“It’s pretty damned exciting. It’s the way I always dreamed of making music.”

Each Friday for the last month, Neil Finn has been convening in his Roundhead Studios in Auckland, New Zealand with a collection of musical friends and colleagues and a worldwide audience of over 15,000. Live streaming the sessions has allowed the general public into the world of the recording studio and a chance to intimately witness the technical and creative process that goes into preparing for, and recording an album.

The first three weeks of the Out Of Silence webcasts were used to rehearse and fine-tune a selection of the songs destined for the album as well as treat the studio and online audiences to some musical surprises. Finn was determined to make it an interactive experience, allowing for Skype calls from both members of the public and friends and family from overseas. Crowded House bassist Nick Seymour called in from Ireland and playing along to their song As Sure As I Am, Liam Finn and Connan Mockasin beamed in from Los Angeles and Jimmy Barnes (whose daughter EJ was part of the studio choir) delivered a thrilling Skype duet of the Split Enz classic Shark Attack.

Though the primary purpose of the early sessions was to rehearse for the album recording in week four, Finn rose to the sense of occasion that the process presented. In week two brother Tim joined him for a set of Finn Brothers songs while the following Friday saw Neil back on guitar fronting a tight rock band comprised of James Milne (bass), Elroy Finn (drums), Delaney Davidson (guitar) and Finn Scholes (keyboards) playing Crowded House songs (Weather With You) and Split Enz songs such as I Got You.

Each of the lead-up sessions were a tightly focused two hours but for the final webcast and full recording of the album, a four hour window was allocated. There was clearly less frivolity and loose joking around with the seriousness of the matter at hand. One got the sense the preceding week had been an intense period of rehearsing and ironing out any weaknesses in arrangements and performances. Finn also alluded to a week where many of the musicians had to battle winter illnesses to get to the final stage of the project.

“Is there anything we need to remember?” asks Finn. “Don’t fuck it up!” came the reply from his son and the album’s producer, Liam.

In a tightly packed studio, with Finn solely on piano, brass and woodwind sections, a percussionist, choir, drummer and guitarists as well as studio technicians and a film crew it was clearly an exercise in logistics and planning. As the session progressed it became clear how much of a people-person Finn is. In a high pressure environment, with the world watching, he was still able to create a working atmosphere that allowed individuals to relax and express themselves, for opinions to be voiced and all without a raised voice or overtly autocratic approach. It made for an inclusive and harmonious vibe in the room and one that filtered through into the soul of the music.

With son Liam Finn in the producer role, the album songs were recorded out of sequence, allowing them to ease into the session and also to bracket together the songs that required the various additional groups of musicians. The one constant was the choir, a who’s who of New Zealand music, including James Milne (Lawrence Arabia), Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins), Reb Fountain, Sam Flynn Scott (The Phoenix Foundation), Don McGlashan (The Muttonbirds), Sean Donnelly (SJD), EJ Barnes and Tim’s son Harper Finn. Dressed in robes and described by Finn as looking like “the mysterious alumni of some obscure university”, they provided a warm, campfire vibe that took in gospel and folk elements, giving weight and ascendency to Finn’s voice across the recordings.

Multiple takes of each song were undertaken, with micro adjustments made on each successive performance. Finn experimented with the interplay between his piano playing and singing, requesting a click track on some takes and none on others – anything to find the right mood and feel for each song. He fine-tuned string arrangements on the fly with arranger Victoria Kelly and provided suggestions to the choir on where to focus the impetus of their singing. It was a fascinating insight into both the process and Finn’s creative spirit and attention to detail.

From the momentum and pulse of Second Nature to the swooning melancholy of More Than One Of You, the Robert Wyatt’ish Alone with Tim Finn on guitar and vocals to the topical and Split Enz-sounding baroque pop of Terrorise Me with the line ‘love is stronger when it hurts’, Finn touched on themes of war, terror and policing but countered it with the greater and often more mysterious power of love. The overarching sound of the album was one of ornate and highly textured music, classic in tone and sophisticated and adventurous in its emotional range.

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: Hollow Everdaze – Cartoons

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Artistically speaking, pop art is an apt description of the style and approach that Hollow Everdaze have near-perfected on Cartoons.

A decade into their career they’re still uncovering lush, sun-kissed pop nuggets that swoon, sway and deftly swagger through 60s eccentricity, 80s/90s British indie and right up to the modernism of a band such as Spoon. There’s a wistful quality to the songs yet they invest just the right amount of grit and depth to keep them grounded.

The distorted guitar on the title track and Flat Battery, the bass and reverb on Running Away, and the violin on Same Old Story and the warped psychedelia of Still Ticking all add fascinating tangents and layers to their sound.

This is sophisticated pop music par excellence, endlessly inventive, devoid of schtick and all class.

Chris Familton

Cartoons is out now via Deaf Ambitions.

 

NEW MUSIC: Chad VanGaalen – Pine and Clover [Official Video]

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Canadian musician and artist Chad VanGaalen first came on our radar back in 2008 with his third album Soft Airplane and in particular the single ‘Molten Light‘. Since then we’ve kept a keen eye on everything he’s released, from Diaper Island (2011) through to Shrink Dust (2014) the forthcoming new LP Light Information (September 8th, 2017, Sub Pop).

Here’s the first clip from the new album, the beautiful gentle thrum and jangle of ‘Pine and Clover’.

ALBUM PRE-ORDER

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

 

NEWS: Lee Ranaldo announces new 2017 album

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Lee Ranaldo has announced he has a brand new album called Electric Trim coming out on September 15th via Mute Records.

His prime collaborator on the album was producer Raül “Refree” Fernandez and as well as his usual band The Dust (Steve Shelley, Alan Licht, Tim Luntzel), he also invited in guests Nels Cline and Sharon Van Etten.

Here’s the first taste of the new album – ‘Circular (Right As Rain)’.

ELECTRIC TRIM TRACKLISTING:
  1. Moroccan Mountains
  2. Uncle Skeleton
  3. Let’s Start Again
  4. Last Looks (with Sharon Van Etten)
  5. Circular (Right As Rain)
  6. Electric Trim
  7. Purloined
  8. Thrown Over The Wall
  9. New Thing
PLAYERS:
Lee Ranaldo – vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, electronics, drums, marimba
Raül Refree – acoustic & electric guitars, keyboards, electronics and programming, bass, drums, backing vocals
Sharon Van Etten – vocals
Alan Licht – electric guitar
Tim Luntzel – bajo
Nels Cline – electric guitar
Steve Shelley – drums
Kid Millions – drums
Xavi de la Salud – trumpets and flugelhorns
Cody Ranaldo – electronics
Mar Girona – backing vocals

LIVE REVIEW: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks

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Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, Mere Women, Jep and Dep @ The Factory Floor, Sydney (26.05.17)

Jep and Dep are on the downhill run to the release of their second LP, due for release in August, making this a chance to hear a brace of new tracks alongside songs from their debut Word Got Out. As is their fascinating dynamic, the duo exchanged barbed witty comments with each other and the audience before dovetailing into stark and dark folk songs framed by Darren Cross’ fine acoustic fingerpicking and Jessica Cassar’s high and lonesome voice which hung in the air with melancholic poise.

Mere Women are a band who’ve slowly built a strong reputation in the last few years with their three albums that showcase their engaging post-punk sound. Live they delivered and in some cases exceeded expectations. Front-person Amy Wilson is the human conduit into their jagged, coruscating sound where the drums stopped, started and tumbled, the bass provided the heartbeat and Flyn McKinnirey’s guitar created washes of sound and urgent collisions of effect-laden notes. It was a big and intense sound but one that was wholly the sum of its impressive parts.

Cash Savage is still riding high on the critical success of last year’s album One Of Us and based on this performance the songs have become even more vibrant and dynamic than when the band first toured them upon the album’s release. There was a relaxed intensity that permeated the set, the songs surging on with an ebb and flow and the band enjoying the sonic ride in their slipstream. Savage is still the focal point, that resolute stare across the audience, the clenching of teeth, stalking of the stage and slow-mo ducking and weaving like a boxer coyly sizing up their opponent. There was both a menace and euphoria to her voice as The Last Drinks traveled the length of One Of Us, drawing power and passion from Run With The Dogs, Rat-a-Tat-Tat and the album’s title track, just three highlights among many. A faultless performance from one of this country’s finest.

Chris Familton