Though mostly born from the same sessions as last year’s River Mirrors album, these nine songs operate on a different plane. More concise and song-based, yet with a broad range of moods and levels of intensity, the quartet conjure up caustic distorted storms of guitar over measured rhythms.
The spirit and intensity of Bluebottle Kiss is strongly present on both Before Before and its predecessor to the extent that ‘Only The Desert Grows’ comes off as a Sergio Leone-styled western version of Bluebottle Kiss’ ‘Gangsterland’ with its anchoring bass and drunken, staggering guitar squalls.
Jamie Hutchings’ vocals run the full gamut from lilting melodies on the verses of ‘Papa Was A Clown’to the strangled howls that ride the thunderous sludge rock of ‘Dogfall’, sweetened only slightly by its female gang vocals. Over the years the quirks and unique vocal navigation of his lyrics have become more entrenched and amplified. The way Hutchings approaches his Fender guitar and in turn how that playing style interacts with his voice has, through decades of use and abuse, become a singular sum of its parts. It would be hard to imagine him creating such deep-reaching and raw takes as just a singer in a band, stripped of his instrument, as it would with probable cornerstones of his sound J Mascis and Neil Young.
Though Hutchings is the backbone and architect of Infinity Broke, Before Before still feels like the product of a band, such is the strength of the rhythm section – Jared Harrison (drums), Reuben Wills (bass) and Scott Hutchings (guitar, percussion). Without that locked precision and ability to both swing and pummel, the songs, as great as they are, wouldn’t have the same impact.
Easily equals of the Bad Seeds and The Drones as masters of corralling both the conventional and avant garde, Infinity Broke continue to mine a visceral and creative vein of rock music.
A shorter version of this review was first published in The Music
Over a couple of solo albums Jamie Hutchings has been ploughing fertile ground with more introspective and quieter material than that of Bluebottle Kiss, his band from 1993-2007. Now he’s convened a new band featuring ex-BBK drummer Jared Harrison and headed back into dense, noisy, exploratory and discordant rock music. River Mirrors takes many twists and turns such as the meditative Necks-ish mood on Termites (a re-imagined version of a BBK song), the swaggering vigor of Swing A Kitten, the krautrock repetition and eventual release that is Monsoon and the Sonic Youth does Motown shuffling groove of Gallows Queue. This is yet another restlessly creative and highly impressive release from Hutchings.
Darren Cross opened the evening with a fine set of songs that showed the extent to which he has mastered the art of gothic country song. He wove narratives around characters and situations with both emotional resonance and clever wordplay and it never felt hokey or contrived in that most American of genres. His voice, as the years have passed, has taken on real character and depth with a slightly worn quality giving his songs that lived-in sound. Combined with some wonderful guitar playing and compositional pacing it made for the kind of set that enabled the listener to immerse themselves in the music rather than just observing from a distance. Cross played new songs and some from his EP of last year (Hit the Quit, Crystal and Copper) and the small audience listened attentively once he shut down the talkers early in his set.
Golden Blonde shifted gears with their electronic, twin percussive set-up. A trio, they built up a nice, detailed set of songs that wandered between indietronica and more abstract beat-driven workouts. If it lacked anything it was that it felt a little soulless at times. The clinical nature of the drumming and synthetic washes of digital static, pads and textural guitar playing made for a cerebrally rewarding performance but it needed a little more emotional investment in the song category to lift Golden Blonde from interesting to compelling.
When I first arrived in Sydney in the late ‘90s I shifted from a fertile music scene in Auckland, New Zealand into the new and generally unfamiliar cultural landscape of Sydney. Street press and local radio were my guides, leading me to places like The Hopetoun, Landsdowne, and Annandale hotels where I quickly found the sound that at the time was inspirational, communal, at times visceral and generally as good, if not often better, than the similar bands I was listening to from overseas. Bluebottle Kiss were the first that I came across and the one band that really blew me away with their ability to play tender, woozy guitar songs and then collapse or explode into avant post-punk rock maelstroms. They hit me in the head and in the heart, ticking all the boxes of noise, melody, art and emotion. Over the years through unblemished albums, changing line-ups and into hiatus the heart and soul, and principal songwriter has always been Jamie Hutchings. He of course just kept doing what he did best, writing, recording, performing, experimenting with and evolving his craft. Releasing the results as solo albums and gigging by himself and with a collective of family and friends.
Now with his new band Infinity Broke it feels like things have come full circle. Not back to BBK as such but holistically in that the sound of the band incorporates Hutchings’ music from all angles from the sweat-drenched, guitar heroics to the moody atmospherics yet still built around the idea of poetic songwriting. BBK drummer Jared Harrison is back in the fold alongside Scott Hutchings and bassist Reuben Wills and the quartet set about showcasing their new album River Mirrors, an album built on krautrock inspired repetition, Sonic Youth dissonance, Bitches Brew’s dark corners and in one particular song a mad and brilliant fusion of Elvis Costello, Motown and Northern Soul. All four played to their strengths with the dual percussion setup constantly inventive and never overwhelming the music. Wills’ bass playing was rock solid and contributed some great melodic and rhythmic surprises that served to counter and complement Hutchings guitar work. Now back playing his battered and beloved Jazzmaster, Hutchings relished the opportunity to stretch out with his playing. It sounded fragile, gloriously demented, tension-laden and openly deconstructed, often within the same song. From the single Swing A Kitten to the closing reconstructed (Infinity Broken?) version of BBK’s Let The Termites Eat Our Riches (Revenge Is Slow, 2002) it was a richly detailed and wholly absorbing performance that showed the rewards on offer for musicians who constantly seek to refine and expand their music, without discounting their past, and who have the ability and creativity to execute with style and substance.
Jamie Hutchings’ new band Infinity Broke is something of a return to the noisier exploratory guitar rock that he mastered so well with Bluebottle Kiss. As well as featuring Scott Hutchings and Rueben Wills the quartet also includes Jared Harrison (Bluebottle Kiss) on drums and as they enter the final stages of pressing up vinyl copies of their debut LP they’ve just released a clip for Rivers Mirrors’ first single Swing A Kitten as well as a stream of its second single Sinless.
Jamie has a couple of Melbourne live dates coming up plus an Infinity Broke show at the end of February in Sydney:
Friday, February 14th @ The Wesley Anne, Northcote, VIC – Hutchings solo, Andrew McCubbin, Sam Shinazzi & James Harrison.
Sunday, February 16th @ Pure Pop in-store, St Kilda, VIC (Hutchings solo @ 5pm)
Thursday, February 27th @ Brighton Up Bar, Darlinghurst, NSW (Infinity Broke, Golden Blonde & Darren Cross]
It has been a six years since Jamie Hutchings put Bluebottle Kiss on indefinite hiatus to focus on what has become a successful solo career with each solo release met with growing critical acclaim. Now Hutchings has returned to a fuller, noisier and more rhythmically intense sound with his new band Infinity Broke which features ex Bluebottle Kiss drummer Jared Harrison alongside regular Hutchings collaborators Scott Hutchings and Rueben Wills.
The album River Mirrors has been recorded and now they are putting the call out for funds to cover the mastering and manufacture of CDs and vinyl. Head over to their Pozible Campaign and check out the various rewards you can expect from your financial pledge.
The excellent first single to come from the new album is Swing a Kitten which is available now on Bandcamp and Infinity Broke will be playing their first show on Friday, November 1st at Black Wire Records, 219 Parramatta Rd, Annandale alongside Ted Danson With Wolves and Trent Marden Ich (of the Holy Soul).
Jamie Hutchings of Bluebottle Kiss fame is releasing a new e.p today. This comes ahead of the release of his new solo record ‘His Imaginary Choir’ which is due out early in 2009.
The ‘After the Flood’ e.p is available from http://www.trashthestage.com for only $10, through itunes and on the shelves at Red Eye Records as well. It’s a six track e.p with five tracks unavailable anywhere but this e.p. You can hear the title track at http://www.myspace.com/jamiehutchings. All CD’s are signed and numbered in very limited quantities.
In support of the ep Jamie is playing some live shows through late Oct and Nov:
Newcastle Sat 25 Oct- Cambridge Hotel (sophie and jamie only)
Newcastle Thur 6 Nov -Newcastle Uni ( jamie solo lunchtime show)
Brisbane Sat 15 Nov- the Troubadour http://www.thetroubadour.com.au EP LAUNCH
+ tim steward band + ben salter (the gin club)
Sydney Sun 16 Nov- Annandale Hotel http://www.annandalehotel.com EP LAUNCH
+ Loene Carmen + the Maladies + Mark Moldre + more
Melbourne Sat 22 Nov – Empress Hotel http://www.theempresshotel.com.au EP LAUNCH
+ Princess 1.5 + Mark Moldre
Melbourne Sun 22 Nov – the Retreat Hotel s/ Spencer P Jones and the Escape Commitee
Wollongong Wed 26 Nov – Oxford Tavern (jamie only)
THE RUNNING TIMES FOR THIS SUNDAY’S ANNANDALE GIG ARE:
Jamie Hutchings and his Imaginary Choir