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
The sonic alchemist that is Darren Cross (Jep and Dep, Gerling) has released the second single from his new LP Peacer. ‘Sur La Vague (Drive Me Nuts)’ is a persistent ear-worm of a track. Over a Krautrock rhythm he weaves a mantra-like vocal peppered with hovercraft synths and saxophone. It’s that sweet blend of downbeat and uptempo – a kaleidoscopic, left-of-centre, pop nugget that brings to mind LCD Soundsystem and Fujiya & Miyagi. It’s also brilliantly enhanced with a suitably skewed and maniacal video clip.
For the full #DARRENCROSSPEACER experience, head to his Bandcamp page to buy the album on vinyl/CD/digital.
If you are in Sydney you can get along to Cross’ album launch at the Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Darlinghurst tomorrow night (September 6th). Music kicks off at 9pm. Entry is free.
Darren Cross has just released his second solo LP PEACER, a 100% self-recorded and independent album that finds him balancing the day-glo deconstructed indie guitar pop of his years as the main-man in Gerling and his more recent dark avant-folk leanings.
The first single and video from the album is ’90’s High’, a song with a strong sonic link to that peaking rush of Gerling guitar shapes and dance beats but also tinged with a kind of melancholic hangover. It all amounts to a catchy and thrilling first taste of the album if you haven’t checked it out yet. For more info and to purchase the album on vinyl/CD/digital, head to:
This is album number two for Darren Cross (Gerling) and Jessica Cassar and it finds them expanding their monochromatic and ethereal world into darker corners where mystery slowly reveals itself and both hope and despair are around every slow bend.
Their debut was clearly a interpretation of folk music but here they use even more swooning strings, piano and billowing reverb to add a ghostly and dreamy warmth to the songs. The pair share lead vocals and counter each other with some wonderfully arranged harmonies that add to the haunting qualities of their music.
On ‘Poor Little Rich Kids’ Cassar’s voice hovers in the aether behind Cross’ closely mic’d vocal. Cassar’s performance on the exquisite ‘Cruel Moon’ is reminiscent of Portishead at their most organic. Her voice is high and keening, pastoral even, when combined with Cross’ finger-picked guitar. It’s one of those sweet-sounding songs that has a dark undercurrent flowing just beneath the surface. Elsewhere, ’Helpless City’ has an ominous quality, like Nick Cave warning of approaching doom from the Bang Bang Bar stage in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks.
From rich kids drowning to a captive’s lament, a city’s cultural decline to romance in jeopardy, there’s a gothic sheen to They’veBeenCalled that both soothes and unsettles. Throughout, melodies cascade like slow rain on a window pane and as the closer ‘This Is Not The End’ dissolves into gentle static, the overriding mood that lingers is one of beauty bruised but not vanquished.
Jep and Dep are back with ‘Cruel Moon’, the first single from their forthcoming second LP, due out this August. Over the last couple of years they’ve developed a cohesive and atmospheric style, built on strong monochromatic imagery in their photos and videos – the perfect marriage to their sparse, sometimes lush, always compelling folk-noir sound.
Jessica Cassar and Darren Cross take a strong conceptual approach to their craft and so we chatted with Cassar to find a bit more about the songwriting and video-making process.
SONGWRITING AND RECORDING
“Like all of our songs, ‘Cruel Moon’ was a collaborative effort between the two of us. We always write our songs together. The difference with ‘Cruel Moon’is that I sung all vocals and Darren played the guitar unlike our other songs were we might sing separate parts or harmonise. We didn’t feel ‘Cruel Moon’ needed much more that as we felt the vocals and guitar were equally strong and spoke to each other beautifully. In terms of recording, Darren produced the whole album and composed most of the arrangements, adding his signature ambient sounds. The song (and the album) has a pretty creepy vibe as we recorded it between 12-5am as Darren’s studio was wedged between a years worth of constant renovations from the neighbours. Recording at that time fucking annoyed us at first, but it actually turned into a positive and contributed to the song (and albums) overall darkness.”
“We have not collaborated too many times with our clips, partly due to finances but mostly because we enjoy making our videos. As Jep and Dep’s aesthetic is pretty strong and signature it was important for us not to compromise on that and have people understand that. Having said that, collaborating with other artists is never just about you, it’s a joint effort with many ideas coming together, so it was just as important for us to be a bit more flexible. You can see that coming through with ‘Cruel Moon’ as it takes more of a narrative and traditional flow we had not experimented with before, which ended up working well for the film-noir inspired clip the team (Isabella Andronos, director) came up with.”
THE NEW ALBUM
“We plan to independently release our second album in August, much like we did with Word Got Out. We feel this album has solidified our “folk-noir” sound and pushed us much further into a Lynchian, noir-core realm. It’s far more minimal than Word Got Out and far more haunting.”
Jep and Dep officially launch the single at Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney on May 25th.
Writing and recording widescreen and cinematic music, where mood and atmosphere is paramount, and conveying it with minimal instrumentation shows both great restraint and ambition. That is exactly the musical world that Jessica Cassar and Darren Cross (Gerling) have created on their debut album Word Got Out.
The cover image of the pair stepping out of darkness and into an unknown light sums up the approach they’ve taken both artistically and aesthetically, from the black & white artwork to the rich noir romanticism in their songs that reads like a Wim Wenders tale of lovers entwined or one of Jim Jarmusch’s alternative realities.
The core of the album rides on Cross’ acoustic guitar and the duo’s voices that complement each other so wonderfully well. These aren’t just sweet duets, they speak of doomed relationships, dark corners and emotional shadows and Cassar’s voice negotiates those different moods with great versatility, swinging from a folk coo (‘My Man’) to an anguished and impassioned plea (‘Bobby’) or the gently soaring melancholia on ‘Wake Up Call’. Cross almost plays a supporting role, an echo or a counterpoint, a conversational partner or a sparring one. He delivers his words in a weary tone with a similar happy/sad quality to that of the masterful Townes Van Zandt.
There is drama aplenty in these songs yet they never shy away from a hook. ‘Babe Come Down’ buries itself in your short term memory with its catchiness, second single ‘Granted’ swirls and billows on a bed of stirring strings while ‘Bobby’ could be a lost Motown single by The Supremes in a parallel monochrome universe. ‘Tears In The Rain’ possesses the brilliant central line “You can’t hide your tears in the rain” which comes over like a gothic Lee and Nancy or Cave and Minogue if they were able to kick back and write songs together without the veil of celebrity killing the party.
Ten songs in thirty minutes and nothing outstays its welcome. This is an album built on the back of well-written songs and arranged, sung and played with an eye for detail and the concise deployment of subtle theatricality. It conveys emotion, transports the listener and creates captivating vignettes that pull you in deeper and deeper on each listen.
Sydney duo Jep and Dep have had quite the year beginning with an opening slot before Johnny Marr before going on to play shows with Matt Walker, Mia Dyson, Hatz Fitz and Cara, Kristen Hersh, Raised by Eagles, Tracey McNeil Band and Lindi Ortega as well as their own headline gigs across nearly every reputable venue in Sydney and other parts of the country.
They’re a dark, folk-noir Johnny and June with a sound that might cast them serenading a saloon in a David Lynch directed spaghetti western.
Their first single was the mesmerising ‘Babe Come Down’ and now, ahead of the release of their debut LP Word Got Out on October 23rd, they’ve released the clip for new single ‘Granted’. The song is another gem, building swirling romantic tension akin to Cave and Minogue before rich widescreen strings and cymbals swoon into view with grand elegance.
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.