ALBUM REVIEW: Kevin Morby – Oh My God

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Apparently Kevin Morby went into the studio and recorded this album two years ago, before he released his last record, City Music. It sounds quite different to that album, different to his breakthrough album Singing Saw as well. What came out of those studio sessions is a concept album of sorts, one that is tied into the theme of religion, by someone who states that he’s not in the slightest religious.

With that in mind, it’s an interesting set of songs that explore the place, role and ramifications of religion, both at a personal and societal level. He leverages gospel music, angelic choirs and rhythm tracks built on handclaps, weaving them into his folk-flavoured indie rock. Morby’s ability to sound like a pastoral balladeer one minute and a street-wise poet the next is on full display as the songs unravel. At his best he’s a fine and convincing blend of Dylan, Reed and Cohen.

He’s got a clever way with lyrics too. “Do you want to play chess in my chest” he sings on ‘Piss River’ and on ‘Savannah’ he he follows the line “Sometimes I let my silence become the conversation” with an abrupt pause to emphasise the point. The arrangements on Oh My God are a real delight. Often sparse, with warm sounding organ, piano or jangly guitar and regular enhancement by lonely minimal, solo horn accompaniment. There are glorious interruptions of 50s doo-wop (‘Congratulations’) and Velvet Underground/Bowie chug (‘OMG Rock n Roll’) but the overwhelming mood is more reflective and gently interrogative than those exceptions.

Across Oh My God Morby plays with and eloquently investigates religion with equal amounts of respect and irreverence while placing his songs in artful and evocative musical settings.

Chris Familton

 

NEW MUSIC: Benefits – Strains

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Benefits is the musical project of Sydney songwriter Mason Lewtas plus Ben Cauduro (Keys), Matthew Bilic (bass), and Jordan Quilty (drums). Based on the indie rock hooks of ‘Strains’ he’s got a good thing going on in the songwriting dept. Guitars sparkle and charm over a relaxed vocal melody and a melodic set of finely balanced riffs that swing and hang in the air with tough nuance. This looks to be his second single after last year’s similarly catchy ‘Waste My Time’.

 

FIRST LISTEN: Prudence – Major Tom

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Sydney artist Prudence releases his debut EP Major Tom tomorrow on Bandcamp and streaming platforms. Prudence is songwriter (and bassist for DMAs) Tom Crandles who also releases music as Au.Ra with Tom Jenkins.

Major Tom’s six tracks were recorded in Margate, Kent UK, completed in Sydney and finally mixed in Auckland earlier this year. The results are a kaleidoscopic blend of post punk, new wave melancholia and art rock.

They are songs that dig into dark corners one moment and shine psychedelic colour wheels of sound across the speakers the next. Languid guitar chords hang in the air on songs such as ‘Caramel’ while ‘Save It For Me’ is an intoxicating blend of New Order and liquid pop dance-floor shapes and ‘Euphoria’ is an aching wander through rhythm and dark synth textures.

Major Tom is out May 10th on Forged Artifacts.

 

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.

Syntax Error

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: Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Affluenza

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Two of the guys from S U R V I V E, Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein, who are best known for the soundtrack work on Stranger Things, have composed the music for Rashid Johnson’s dramatic directorial debut Native Son, which was Sundance’s opening night film.

Based on Richard Wright’s seminal novel of the same name, the modern reimagining of Wright’s 1930’s coming-of-age drama chronicles Bigger Thomas, a young African-American man who takes a job working for a highly influential Chicago family — a decision that changes the course of his life. HBO Films and A24 released the film on April 5th with Milan Records releasing the score on the same day.

‘Affluenza’ is a billowing, gaseous synth bed that envelopes the listener with a tense and foreboding quality.

NEW MUSIC: Glenn Echo – Overwhelm

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Glenn Echo is a musical project from Matt Gaydar out of Brooklyn, NY and we were instantly drawn into this track ‘Overwhelm’, with it’s warm and intimate sound. Really nice chord changes in the verses of the song as it gently weaves together its varied sonic elements. I like a track that knows its strengths and how to work with them and not try to build them into something that they’re not, or add extraneous parts to the music. This track builds but never outgrows it’s initial charm and attraction.

‘Overwhelm’ is the first release off an EP set to be released in 2019.