NEW MUSIC: Pardans – Hookers (with Hidden Depths) & Over The Moon And Beyond

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Here are two live studio session tracks from the Danish jazz-punk quintet Pardans. They’ve been together since 2015 and draw equally from the jazz world of Ornette Coleman and the darker, knottier sounds of post-punk and Captain Beefheart. There’s a great intensity and drive in these songs – woozy, rambunctious and lurching, like Birthday Party falling down the stairs at a jazz joint.

‘Hookers (With Hidden Depths)’ is the single from their recently released album Spit & Image.

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NEW MUSIC: Marble Arch – I’m On My Way

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More new shoegaze sounds today! This time it’s courtesy of Frenchman Yann Le Razavet who, as Marble Arch, records music that draws heavily on the likes of New Order and Ride. He makes it sound effortless with cascading melodies, obscured vocals and synths and guitars that blur into one billowing vapour of 80s indie pop.

Marble Arch have a full album on the way in 2019.

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. 

LIVE REVIEW: Shihad @ Metro Theatre, Sydney

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Shihad, Young Lions, The Dead Love
Metro Theatre, Sydney
November 24th, 2018

Thirty years, damn… where did that time go. This writer recalls first seeing them open for The Angels in Auckland, New Zealand in 1990. Back then they were fresh-faced young lads, still in thrall to the thrash metal of Metallica and co and yet to embark on the ups and downs of their rock ’n’ roll career. Now of course they’re middle-aged statesman of Antipodean hard rock, a conduit between metal and melodic rock and most importantly, still performing as passionately and intensely as ever.

The Dead Love were up first, keeping things simple, rough and raw with their grunge punk that treads a nice line between unhinged rock and crossover melodic punk pop. At times their songs veered too close to catchy choruses of the anthemic hook kind but they know to ensure they keep enough throat shredding angst and anger in the mix to stop the songs sounding too cleaned up.

Young Lions on the other hand represent the worst of modern rock, when technology creeps in and bleaches out the rough edges and believable conviction in the music. In their frontman they have a singer who can certainly nail emo, hard rock and some cringeworthy rap moments but his self-belief was overcooked with over-the-top rock star moves and ventures into the audience. The music was generic alt-rock by numbers, Bono fronting Linkin Park, an Australian Idol facsimile of rock music.

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Shihad quite simply laid waste to what came before them. On a stage devoid of amplifiers and a sound that was blisteringly loud, heavy and perfectly balanced, they set about celebrating 30 years as a band with a set that began with Think You’re So Free from their most recent album FVEY and worked its way back, in chronological order to Factory from their debut Churn. 

It was a fascinating arc to experience as the four black-clad Kiwis accurately acknowledged their high-points and lesser successes. The General Electric (celebrating 20 years) supplied five songs, FVEY three, Shihad, Killjoy and Pacifier two apiece. The most commercial period spanned The General Electric and Pacifier albums and the near sold-out crowd were in full voice singing along to songs such as Comfort Me, Run and My Mind’s Sedate. As always Jon Toogood was the hype man and the tireless frontman, constantly inciting audience involvement with handclaps, sing-alongs, lit-up phones held aloft and unified jumping up and down. They’re all cliched rock moves but he does it well and all with his laconic, genial stage manner. 

As a band there are few that play tighter hard rock and honour the riff as diligently as Shihad, they’re a precision machine with a beating heart. In Toogood’s case, one that pumped blood in a stream down his arm as a result of frenetic guitar playing. Karl Kippenberger still works the stage, grinning at the audience like he’s bumping into old friends, Phil Knight is a study of six string wizardry while Tom Larkin is the glue and anchor that ties it all together. As they approached the tail end of the set things got darker with the magnificent thrum and throb of Deb’s Night Out, an absolutely brutal psych assault of You Again and the industrial tectonic riff of Factory from their debut album.

Shihad are essentially still doing what they’ve always done, entertaining their devoted fans with sensory overload at maximum volume. It’s fun, it’s life-affirming rock music and they’re still right at the top of their game, a claim that can be bestowed on very few bands after three decades of making music.

Chris Familton

INTERVIEW: Cash Savage & The Last Drinks

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LOVE, POLITICS AND LAST DRINKS

On an autumnal morning in Prague during her European tour, Cash Savage discusses the songwriting shift on her new album Good Citizens and talks with Chris Familton about the importance of her band The Last Drinks.

The lead-up to the release of a new album can be a tricky period for an artist to negotiate. Some take it in their stride while others ride the emotions of anticipation, self-doubt and excitement. Cash Savage had of course been through album releases before but this time around it felt different given the shift in her songwriting to address socio-political issues that she felt she could no longer avoid.

“Never more so has it been such a relief to have a new record out. This album is really different for me. Through interviews I’ve had the opportunity to self-analyse that. The day it came out we got a four star review in the Guardian and a real weight lifted off me that day,” Savage reveals. “I didn’t realise I was carrying that at all and then I was floating around the rest of the day once that happened.”

Heading into the writing of Good Citizens, an album that addresses the marriage equality debate, moral decay and the inherent problems with male dominated societal structures, Savage knew that it was essential that she start writing about those issues while also still grounding many of the songs in the world of love and relationships.

“I wanted to make the album a real snapshot of how I felt at the time and part of that was that I was (and still am) in love. I knew it was going to be more political but I didn’t ever think it wouldn’t have a couple of love songs on there too. These love songs are political too, because of who I am,” she stresses, before adding “I didn’t really ever see there was a point for me to write songs like this before. I was quite happy to have drunken rants about political systems with my mates down at the pub, but I didn’t see much point putting it in my music. This time I didn’t see there was any other way around it. I had never thought I would ever write a political album so it was surprise for me!”

Making a foray into writing about these kinds of issues begs the question as to whether the process acts as a way of Savage dealing with and processing her feelings about them. “Those issues are frustrating full stop so I don’t think the songs made it more frustrating. It definitely helped for me to write about them. I’ve actually quite enjoyed contemplating the different questions that I get asked about those issues, from different people from different walks of life. For me I guess I’ve found it quite healing.” 

Over the years Savage’s band The Last Drinks have been an integral part of the sound of her records and the power and passion of her live performances. The lineup has changed as members have taken temporary leave for other musical pursuits (guitarist Joe White is a member of Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever) or for family reasons (guitarist, banjo player Brett has recently become a dad) but Savage believes the flexibility and nature of the band is its strength.

“The band has always been so organic with its changes that its never felt like it’s one sound. To have a genuine shift has given us a lot of freedom and we’ve had to re-work some arrangements. We’ve been playing some of these songs for a long time and it’s nice to mix them up a little bit. It doesn’t feel different and it does feel different at the same time. It’s been quite nice actually. There is such a camaraderie within The Last Drinks. We’re just a really good bunch of mates and there’s so much fun had on and off the stage. They’re a phenomenal live band and to be able to stand in front of them is just fucking incredible.”

NEW MUSIC: SHON – A Crack In It

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SHON is a Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist who released an EP called Made As It Drifted, earlier in 2018. ‘A Crack In It’ is one of those textured and layered tracks that recalls the inventiveness of Radiohead and the willingness to place real instruments in digital environments. SHON uses an art-rock and post-rock  palette of sound and it works wonderfully on both sonic and songwriting levels.

ALBUM REVIEW: Deep Sea Arcade – Blacklight

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It’s been six years since Nic McKenzie and Nick Weaver released their debut album Outlands. On the back of a run of singles they’d built a strong sense of anticipation about that first record and it certainly lived up to expectations. Fast forward to 2018 and how does a band evolve and change over that time? The DSA model is to essentially stick to the template with some refinement and an easing off of the accelerator.

As you’d expect with such a long gestation, they’ve no doubt rewritten and reworked tracks and that has given these ten songs a sense of calm control. The more frantic edges of earlier songs have been rounded off. This is the band sounding less indie psych rock and with more of an ultramodern sheen that embraces electronic and disco sounds as much as it distils the pop and psychedelic qualities of their past work. Mercury Rev, Spoon, Beck, The Horrors are names that come to mind, acts that all relish melodic hooks as equally as they paint in cosmic colours. 

McKenzie’s voice is shorn of some of its more nasally proclivities and is now in perfect marriage with the music. Musically, the Manchester 90s vibe is still there in tracks like Joanna with its dance-ready rhythm section. The closer Ready is a highlight of studio-polished melancholy while Learning To Fly is an absolute ear-worm of a track that uses hooks and repetition to bury itself deep. The other highlight is the single Close To Me with its loping trip hop groove and psych-soul feel that blossoms into one of the duo’s finest choruses.

Black lights are employed for artistic lighting effects as well as diagnostic and therapeutic uses and in that sense it’s a fitting title for a record that looks to combine art-pop and post-relationship dissection. There are moments when form supersedes the strength of the songwriting but overall Blacklight justifies the long wait for this second album.

Chris Familton