LIVE REVIEW: Ride @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney 2019

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Ride @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW Sept 6th 2019

It’s been a long time between drinks for Australian fans of English band Ride but the timing felt just right with the band re-established for a couple of years now and with two solid new albums under its belt.

It’s most likely that the members of openers Shiva & The Hazards were probably not even born when Ride first emerged from Oxford in 1988. Listening to their music with that in mind casts their sound in an interesting light given how in thrall they are to bands such as Verve, Oasis and The Stone Roses. Unfortunately they were given the demoralising support band treatment with flaccid lighting and a sound mix that imagined a rock band without bass guitar and a lead guitarist whose tone sounded like it was being transmitted through a portable AM radio. They persevered unperturbed and seemed to be enjoying the thrill of a big stage gig. A song of theirs such as recent single ‘Angkor Wat’ is a strong release in it’s recorded form, ticking all the boxes of psychedelic English indie rock albeit 20+ years past its heyday, but on the Enmore stage it all sounded too disconnected and lacking warmth and depth. That said there was generous applause from those early arrivals hugging the stage barrier.

Ride have always had the ability to sound both intimate and widescreen on their albums but in the live realm they’ve made the decision to focus firmly on the latter, employing colourful stadium lighting and maximum projection, mainly from Mark Gardener. You got the sense that the newer songs they played were written with that in mind. Big riffs, repeated and pushed out into the room with emphasis on dynamics over texture. Of those new ones the two that resonated most strongly were the Primal Scream’ish ‘Kiill Switch’ and ‘Future Love’, an absolute gem of a song, easily the equal of the best in their catalogue. Live, its jangling riffs and near perfect vocal harmonies lit up the room and provided relief from the more overwrought moments on the setlist.

Of course nearly everyone was there to hear songs that thrillingly illuminated a particular corner of their musical youth nearly 30 years ago. Songs from the seminal Nowhere album and its follow-up Going Blank Again. The dense and agile baggy noise of ‘Seagull’, the chiming perfection of ‘Vapour Trail’, the cascading heavy-lidded hypnotism of ‘Dreams Burn Down’ and the interstellar gospel psychedelia of ‘Polar Bear’ from their debut album all gloriously lived up to expectations, as did ‘Leave Them All Behind’ and the dystopian light-headedness of ‘Chrome Waves’ from Going Blank Again. ‘Twisterella’ from the same album was great to hear but it hasn’t aged as well as their other songs, sounding timestamped and with a whiff of nostalgia about it.

As a band they were firing on all cylinders, tight and in the pocket. It was overwhelmingly evident that they’re the sum of their parts, even if Mark Gardener takes on the frontman role, clearly relishing his position as interlocutor for the band. Listen closely though and it quickly became clear how essential Andy Bell’s guitar playing is. Those riffs that define the golden moments in the songs, the twists and turns that add the colour and sheen that made Ride the great band they were (and still are). Steve Queralt (bass) and Loz Colbert are an underrated rhythm section too. The former with feet planted and rooted to the spot, playing it straight for the most part, occasionally delivering defining bass lines such as the central hook of ‘Seagull’. Colbert too is essential, the anchor and the engine in perpetual rhythm and motion.

Ride in 2019 are a band who have navigated the reunion process better than most. They’ve reignited the creative spark of their songwriting and recording and put together a show that pleases fans new and old. They remain vital and energised, and even though they at times overcooked the ‘rock show’ aspect of the gig, the songs and sounds they built their audience and acclaim on remain intact, and gloriously so.

Chris Familton

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

EP REVIEW: Body Type – EP2

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Body Type
EP2
Inertia Music / Partisan

The Sydney quartet are releasing this, their second EP, on the eve of a UK tour, another sign of the band’s rising star status on the international stage. Of course, they’ve been the local talk of the town for a couple of years, building a solid following via their own shows and some fine support slots. 

If EP was their calling card, their first real statement of intent beyond a couple of earlier singles, then EP2 is another step forward. It solidifies their reputation as incisive songwriters and fine players. They’ve got an ear to the ground but a widescreen songwriting vision.

Opener and first single ”Stingray bursts from the gates with a spray of guitar notes, sparkling and cascading over the nimble rhythm section. It’s a great example of the rush of energy they can invest in their songs, the retention of the rough edges to the music and the economy of their songs. Pop in structure but noisy and damn catchy by nature.

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‘Free To Air’ initially dials things back to a wistful and melancholic slice of dream pop before choppy drums and their swirling jangly guitars take flight. It’s a song apparently inspired by an old neighbour of Annabel Blackman’s and his life as witnessed remotely from her bedroom. Musically the song captures that mood of both intimacy and disassociated observation. ‘Insomnia’ inhabits a similar atmospheric place, the highlight being Blackman’s vocal melody which is heavy-lidded and drowsy yet still irresistibly catchy.

‘Sad Wax’ weaves more of the same snake charmer guitar lines into the song’s DNA but it lacks the same impact and physicality of the other songs on the EP. It’s a pleasant enough track but it sounds under-formed as it repeatedly circles the same musical idea without building or elaborating on it. The final track ‘UMA’ gets things back on track with a different sonic palette. The bass comes to the fore, leading the song into grungier territory akin to Pixies with a dash of Hole. It works wonderfully, all tension and quirks courtesy of shrieks and sneered, gang vocals, capping off an impressive batch of songs from a band that just keep getting better and better.

Chris Familton

SONIC KICKS: Wahoo Ghost

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Sydney trio Wahoo Ghost have just released their debut album The Eighth Door and the brand new single She Wolf’ (check out the video below). The album is high on atmospheric psychedelia that swirls around the dark poetry of Charli Rainford. Space and texture is paramount, whether it’s raw and bluesy or grainy and dream-laden.

The Eighth Door is available now on Spotify, Apple Music and CD Baby.

Guitarist Rob Crow took the time to take our Sonic Kicks Q&A to give us a taste of some of the albums that have shaped his musical life.

Wahoo Ghost are Charli Rainford (vocals, guitar), Rob Crow (lead guitar), and Jarvis Woolley (percussion).

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The first album I bought.

The Goodies – Greatest Hits.

Well I was only nine, what did you expect, Iggy & The Stooges?

Black Angels

An album that soundtracked a relationship.

The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream.

I used to have a neighbour whose dog would howl every time I put this album on. As soon as the guitar riff in ‘Bad Vibrations’ started, that set him off, then he’d howl over the fence for the entire album. After a while we became friends. His name was Boris. Wait, you didn’t mean a romantic relationship did you?

Hawkwind

An album that inspired me to form a band.

Hawkwind – In Search of Space.

Space music doesn’t have to mean songs about other planets, but music that uses space – sparseness, atmosphere and strange whooshing effects, to take you to your own inner zone-out space. We try to create atmosphere and space in our music too. Have I used the word “space” enough yet?

The Fall

An album that reminds me of my high school years.

The Fall – This Nation’s Saving Grace.

I was the weirdo at school who didn’t really fit in. So I used to travel on the tube up to central London to see bands, to escape the humdrum suburban life. The Fall were one of the best. Sarcastic, angular, awkward and repetitive. A bit like me as a teenager.

Spiritualized

An album I’d love to hear live and played in full.

Spiritualized – Pure Phase.

Epic, soulful, emotional, soaring, beautiful. Spiritualized are another band who are masters of using space in their music. Some moments in this album feel like time is frozen, and you are transported to another world.

Kraftwerk

My favourite album cover art.

Kraftwerk – Computer World.

This album cover is what the future looked used to look like, in the past. Oh, and they also kickstarted the whole movement of electronic music. Geniuses.

 

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A guilty pleasure album.

A Flock of Seagulls – A Flock of Seagulls.

I don’t really feel guilty about any music that I genuinely like. But once you can get past the haircuts, this is actually a pretty good album. And now that 1982 is the new black, they’re kind of cool again, aren’t they?

Grouper

The last album I bought.

Grouper – Grid of Points.

This is the ultimate in atmospheric music, very introspective, reminiscent of early Portishead. Liz Harris’ voice is run through reverbs and delays, along with sparse instrumentation, creating dense layers of sound. Don’t put this on at a party.

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The next album I want to buy.

Syntax Error – Message.

You absolutely should put this on at a party. One of the best bands in Sydney right now. Hypnotic rhythms, swirling swooping space effects, and a theremin, the only instrument you play without actually touching it. 

 

NEW MUSIC: Baroness – Borderlines

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Baroness have announced their new album Gold & Grey will be released on on June 14 via Abraxan Hymns/Cooking Vinyl Australia.

“Our goal is, was, and will always be to write increasingly superior, more honest and compelling songs, and to develop a more unique and challenging sound,” offered Baroness founder, guitar player and vocalist John Baizley. “I’m sure we have just finished our best, most adventurous album to date. We dug incredibly deep, challenged ourselves and recorded a record I’m positive we could never again replicate. I consider myself incredibly fortunate to know Sebastian, Nick and Gina as both my bandmates and my friends. They have pushed me to become a better songwriter, musician and vocalist. We’re all extremely excited for this release, which includes quite a few ‘firsts’ for the band, and we’re thrilled to be back on tour to play these psychotic songs for our fans. Expect some surprises.”

Baroness is John Baizley (vocals/guitar), Gina Gleason (guitar), Nick Jost (bass) and Sebastian Thomson (drums).

1. Front Toward Enemy
2. I’m Already Gone
3. Seasons
4. Sevens
5. Tourniquet
6. Anchor’s Lament
7. Throw Me An Anchor
8. I’d Do Anything
9. Blankets of Ash
10. Emmett-Radiating Light
11. Cold Blooded Angels
12. Crooked Mile
13. Broken Halo
14. Can Oscura
15. Borderlines
16. Assault on East Falls
17. Pale Sun

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Doubtful Sounds Presents: The Ramalamas, Darren Cross, The Finalists @ The PBC

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Hey, we’re putting on a gig! Yep, we go to so many gigs and we know a good lineup when we see one so we’re putting on a Sydney show with three great acts. There’s a personal disclaimer with this in that I play bass in The Finalists.

Head to The Petersham Bowling Club on Sunday March 10th and you can catch the cosmic country, psych rock ‘n’ roll of The Ramalamas, the sonic alchemist that is Darren Cross (think a future folk version of Leo Kottke meets lo-fi, psychedelic, avant pop) and newish Sydney group The Finalists who blend twelve-string Rickenbacker jangle with post-punk and indie psych rock.

Plus a specially curated DS playlist between bands.

Petersham Bowling Club
The Green Room (downstairs)
Sunday March 10th
3PM $10

 

NEW MUSIC: Joey Sweeney & The Neon Grease – On Monday

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Joey Sweeney hails from Philadelphia and as well as writing some great music he also does a very good thing in donating proceeds from his sales to charities. In the case of his album Catholic School, which ‘On Monday’ comes from, half of all profits from album sales, both digital and physical, will go directly to Rock To The Future, a non-profit organization that provides music education for Philadelphia’s underserved youth, at no cost to them or their families.

“They’re tearing the old church down”

Saxophone carries across the song like a bittersweet summer breeze as Sweeney paints a scene of a city and a person’s experience and connection to it. It’s a slowburn of a song that hits its straps with dualing organ and keyboards hinting at a less-pretentious Arcade Fire influence, an affinity with Wilco and a Springsteen obsession. It all amounts to a thrilling journey of a song over its four minutes. Great clip too.

Catholic School on Spotify

NEWS: J Mascis Announces New Solo LP ‘Elastic Days’

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J Mascis will release his new solo LP Elastic Days via Sub Pop Records on November 9th. Here’s the first single from the album, ‘See You At The Movies’.

Preorder the album HERE

About Elastic Days:
Near the end of Reagan’s first term, the Western Massachusetts Hardcore scene coughed up an insanely shaped chunk called Dinosaur. Comprised of WMHC vets, the trio was a miasmic tornado of guitar noise, bad attitude and near-subliminal pop-based-shape-shifting. The contours of their sound ebbed and flowed and mutated for 13 years before the name was retired. And in the course of that time, Dinosaur (amended to Dinosaur Jr. for legal reasons)
defined a very specific, very aggressive set of oblique song-based responses to what was going on. Their one constant was the scalp-fryingly loud guitar and deeply buried vocals of J Mascis.

A couple of years before they ended their reign, J cut a solo album called Martin + Me. Recorded live and acoustic, the record allowed the bones of J’s songs to be totally visible for the first time. Fans were surprised to hear how melodically elegant these compositions were, even if J still seemed interested in swallowing some of the words that most folks would have sung. Since then, through the reformation of the original Dinosaur Jr lineup in 2005, J has recorded solo albums now and then, when he had songs that were suited to acoustic (or at least relatively toned-down) performance. And those albums, Sings + Chant for AMMA (2005), Several Shades of Why (2011) and Tied to a Star (2014) all delivered incredible sets of songs presented with a minimum of bombast and a surfeit of cool.

Like its predecessors, Elastic Days was recorded at J’s own Bisquiteen studio. Mascis does almost all his own stunts, although Ken Miauri (who also appeared on Tied to a Star) plays keyboards and there are a few guest vocal spots. These include old mates Pall Jenkins (Black Heart Procession), and Mark Mulcahy (Miracle Legion, etc.), as well as the newly-added voice of Zoë Randell (Luluc), among others. But the show is mostly J’s and J’s alone.

He laughs when I tell him I’m surprised by how melodic his vocals seem to have gotten. Asked if that was intentional, he says, “No. I took some singing lessons and do vocal warm-ups now, but that was mostly just to keep from blowing out my vocal cords when Dino started touring again. The biggest difference with this record might have to do with the drums. I’d just got a new drum set I was really excited about. I don’t have too many drum outlets at the moment, so I played a lot more drums than I’d originally planned. I just kept playing. [laughs] I’d play the acoustic guitar parts then head right to the drums.”

There is plenty of drumming on the dozen songs on Elastic Days. But for those expecting the hallucinatory overload of Dinosaur Jr’s live attack, the gentleness of the approach here will draw easy comparisons to Neil Young’s binary approach to working solo versus working with Crazy Horse. This is a lazy man’s shorthand, but it still rings true.

J’s vocals have always leaned in a direction acknowledging the Bard of Toronto, but as early as Dinosaur Jr’s third single, the epoch-defining “Freak Scene,” J’s off-hand vocal delivery was instantly recognizable. On a track like “Sky Is All We Had,” the same dynamism is at work, but the evolution of technique is so massive as to lift the proceedings to a new level. The album is chock-full of similar nuggets. Built around acoustic guitar figures, often holding off electric flights of guitar backdrop until the third act, the tunes are massively seductive and satisfying. J’s fave track is “See You At The Movies,” which has a fully evolved sense of loss hanging over it, and features the classic couplet, “I don’t peak too early/I don’t peak at all.”  My own choice is “Picking Out the Seeds,” on which J pulls out his falsetto voice to great effect, and maintains a middlin’ pace that makes the tune one of the great Beard Rock readymades of the era.

But Elastic Days brims with great moments: Epic hooks that snare you in surprisingly subtle ways, guitar textures that slide against each other like old lovers, and structures that range from a neo-power-ballad (“Web So Dense”) to jazzily-canted West Coasty post-psych (“Give It Off”) to a track that subliminally recalls the keyboard approach of Scott Thurston-era Stooges (“Drop Me”). The album plays out with a combination of holism and variety that is certain to set many brains ablaze.

J says he’ll be taking this album on the road later in the year. He’ll be playing by himself, but unlike other solo tours he says he’ll be standing up this time. “I used to just sit down and build a little fort around myself — amps, music stands, drinks stands, all that stuff. But I just realized it sounds better if the amps are higher up because I’m so used to playing with stacks. So I’ll stand this time.”

I ask if it’s not pretty weird to stand alone on a big stage. “Yeah,” he says. “But it’s weird sitting down too.” Ha. Good point. One needs to be elastic. In all things.

–Byron Coley