LIVE REVIEW: Protomartyr @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

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PROTOMARTYR – photo by Chris Familton

Protomartyr, Mere Women, Angie @ Oxford At Factory, Sydney Australia. February 16th, 2018

The best gigs are the ones where the creative quality and intensity builds evenly, seemingly at a symbiotic pace with the gathering audience. Angie set the scene with a low key and hypnotic opening set. This was another iteration of her solo incarnation, now fleshed out with drummer and acoustic guitarist. Previously she’s played on her own (Steve Gunn support) and with a full band (Chain & The Gang support). This configuration felt the most suited to her drone infused piano compositions and haunting vocal intonements.

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ANGIE – photo by Chris Familton

Mere Women mixed a brand new song with tracks from last year’s Big Skies album and a glance back to their 2012 album with Amends. Intense and dramatic sum up the band, with each member locked into their own musical corner, sculpting their own personality and sound. Guitarist Flyn Mckinnirey cut physical shapes with his playing, coaxing out nagging riffs and coruscating wasteland distortion while Amy Wilson pleaded, remonstrated and chanted dark, gothic sounding lyrics over his guitar and the inventive rhythm section.

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MERE WOMEN – photo by Chris Familton

With tongue in cheek, Protomartyr had said in their interview with The Music that if they didn’t make it to Australia soon that’d be it for the band. With their future now thankfully intact they made sure the audience were well and truly satiated with a set of 18 songs, mostly taken from their last three albums.

Singer Joe Casey is an enigma on stage, looking like a dowdy small-town insurance salesman and sipping from cans of Coors beer he was the perfect irascible foil for the remarkably tight band around him. Drummer Alex Leonard studiously beat out a tapestry of inventive rhythms, Bassist Scott Davidson was in constant motion, bouncing on his toes while flurried fingers urged post-punk and dance grooves from his fretboard. Guitarist Greg Ahee, much like McKinnirey from Mere Women was masterly at shifting between catchy melancholic riffs and scorched-earth punk screes.

Back to Casey though, the star of the show in sound and vision, the perfect balance of belligerent ambivalence and intellectual dissertation. Barking out free-form wordplay one minute, nailing down repeated phrases like “Never gonna lose it” in the encore’s Why Does It Shake? He channelled the ghost of Mark E. Smith and the glorious disdain of David Yow but he’s uniquely his own poet and performer. For those that like their post-punk laced with danceability, wit and wisdom this was an impeccable example of just that.

CHRIS FAMILTON

INTERVIEW: Protomartyr

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LOUD NOISE AND FLOWING ALCOHOL

Protomartyr’s frontman Joe Casey calls in from Detroit, MI to tell Chris Familton about the band’s new album, new record label and where that voice of his came from.

Protomartyr are already four albums deep into their recording career, all in the space of five years. It’s the sign of a band riding a wave of creativity and a relentless work ethic but, as Joe Casey explains, it is also about keeping the ball rolling and building on the success of each new album and tour.

“It’s definitely about keeping the momentum going. I can’t figure out how bands can take five years between albums. The space between this and the last has been the longest just because it was the most touring we’ve done. When that’s over and you go home you may as well get stuck in and write new stuff. Hopefully that will be the way forward but I think we’ll be touring this record more than the last one,” Casey predicts.

Relatives in Descent is another stage in the evolution of a band who sounded brash and chaotic on their debut album All Passion, No Technique. Now there’s a clearer attention to detail in the sound and structure of their songs, led by guitarist Greg Ahee, but also a result of working with a new producer.

“I think we always have to have the sound change. It helped recording with the producer Sonny DiPerri out in Los Angeles because he’s very good at sonically capturing things and he was always working and working harder than any producer we’ve worked with,” says Casey. “Our guitar player had some ideas going in, including violins and a different synth sound and I think it worked out really well,” he enthuses. “When he first said he wanted violins on it I had no idea what he was talking about but when we heard it come to fruition it sounded great.”

Casey’s resigned bark and conversational vocal delivery blends post-punk, spoken word and dissonant punk howling and with Protomartyr it developed out of figuring out how to be heard in a small room with loud noise and flowing alcohol. “At the time we were pretty drunk,” laughs Casey. “At the start it was mostly to make noise and have a good time all of the time. It developed from our early practice space which was basically a concrete box and I had to find a way to cut through the guitar and noise and a very sharp vocal attack seemed to work best. I have a very limited range and it’s about knowing what I can do with it, to fit into the songs the right way and not ruin them.”

Casey’s pride in the new album is evident, and their step up from the small label Hardly Art to the large UK indie label Domino means that they’ll be able to promote their music to a much wider audience, including, hopefully, some live shows in Australia in 2018.

“I’m amazed that we haven’t played Australia yet. From early on it was near the top of our list of places to get to, so we better be touring Australia some time in the next year. If it doesn’t happen next year the band is breaking up!”

Read our review of Relatives In Descent

Favourite Albums of 2015

DS FAVE ALBUMS 2015

Another year comes to a close and it’s time for the end-of-year lists to be revealed. Here at Doubtful Sounds we’ve had another 12 months deeply immersed in Americana music (alt. country & folk) so you’ll find plenty of albums from that genre on the list below. That’s not to say we didn’t listen to plenty of other styles of music. As usual we wrapped our ears around plenty of post-punk and indie rock with doses of jazz, electronic and psych rock. Read on to see what we rated as our favourite albums of 2015 and let us know what your top selections were.

a0486859370_101. James McMurtry – Complicated Game

McMurtry was a new discovery for me in 2015, despite Complicated Game being his tenth studio album. I was immediately floored by the storytelling, the vivid and heartbreaking prose that cut straight to the core of the story at hand and by using the fewest words possible he drew me into his characters, predicaments, heartache and troubled times. His closest contemporary is Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine, The Delines) who he shares a fascination with the downtrodden and struggling. Complicated Game was the most consistent and exquisite example of songwriting, complete with restrained and emotive playing, that I heard in 2015.

timthumb3.php-52. Marlon Williams – Marlon Williams

“Though this solo debut has been a long time coming he has toured and built a strong reputation as a live performer across Australia and NZ and that experience has filtered through on this superb album that never falters or loses its sense of wonderment across thirty-five playing minutes.”

james_thomson_cold_moon-23. James Thomson – Cold Moon

“The balance and symmetry of Thomson’s writing is a standout facet of his music. From blues to country, folk to New Orleans flavours, through the positive vibe of love songs to the darker desolation of characters at the end of line he nails them all in mood and lyrical imagery”

courtneyb-560x5604. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit

“Barnett often gets pegged as quirky yet her musical approach ticks most alt. rock and indie boxes. The joy and achievement of Sometimes I Sit and Think… is how she has married that with her inimitable knack for lyrics that will draw attention from even the most staunchest of listeners who would normally pay little attention to words. Like a more impressionistic pop-art take on the skilful writing of Mark Kozelek, Barnett is leading the way in literate songwriting without any hint of pretension.”

tah-cover-jpeg5. Lost Ragas – Trans Atlantic Highway

“That ability to hammer out a brisk honky tonk rhythm one minute and then craft a late night whisky-sodden ballad of heartache highlights the band’s magic. Combined with the way they apply tonality to their songs, both vocally and instrumentally, Lost Ragas have created an album of timeless quality, full of dark and graceful beauty.”

30f02ea86. The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – Freedom Tower: No Wave Dance Party 2015

Spencer, Judah Bauer and Russell Simins get back to what they do best; incorporating no wave funk, rock ‘n’ roll, blues and garage rock into one hollering’ and testifyin’ primal groove soundtrack. This was a palette cleanser after all the generic psych rock and faux electro-soul that permeated the airwaves in 2015.

Dogs At Bay WEB7. Bad Dreems – Dogs At Bay

“This feels like an important album, a statement born of experience, countless hours spent in the practice room and driving to shows. It rocks in a primitive fashion and it takes up residency in your short term memory. It sounds like the country and people that it chronicles and it never loses sight of the power of simplicity in rock n roll.”

Gold Class-28. Gold Class – It’s You

“Gold Class wear their influences on their collective sleeve yet they’ve corralled them into their own sound. The sheets of guitar, cold rhythms and that dark poetic howl are a breath of fresh air on this highly accomplished and compelling debut album.”

protomartyr_the_agent_intellect_10159. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect

“Primal rhythms with wire-brush screes of guitar and the distinctive disaffected howl and Mark E Smith-styled rant of frontman Joe Casey. The way they sonically blend beautiful and bruised sounds is what makes their music so appealing. It sparks and spits, Casey’s black humour lyrics are both catchy and provocative but above all, in 2015, Protomartyr are a breath of dissonant fresh air.”

10. Infinity Broke – Before Beforea4111469137_10

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.

11. Nadia Reid – Listen to Formation, Look For The Signs

12. Royal Headache – High

13. Houndmouth – Little Neon Limelight

14. Father John Misty- I Love You, Honeybear

15. Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven

16. Tami Neilson – Don’t Be Afraid

17. Kurt Vile – B’lieve I’m Goin Down

18. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities To Love

19. Destroyer – Poison Season

20. Twerps – Range Anxiety

21. Ryan Bingham – Fear And Saturday Night

22. Lindi Ortega – Faded Gloryville

23. SJD – Saint John Divine

24. Faith No More  – Sol Invictus

25. Bob Dylan – Shadows In The Night

26. Pokey LaFarge – Something In The Water

27. The Holy Soul – Fortean Times

28. The Phoenix Foundation – Give Up Your Dreams

29. Ryley Walker – Primrose Green

30. Perry Keyes – Sunnyholt

31. Tame Impala – Currents

32. Raised By Eagles – Diamonds In The Bloodstream

33. Lucero – All A Man Should Do

34. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

35. Sam Hunt with David Kilgour & The Heavy 8s – The 9th

36. Bill Ryder-Jones – West Kirby County Primary

37. Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – The Monsanto Years

38. John Moreland – High On Tulsa Heat

39. Kamasi Washington – The Epic

40. Beach House – Depression Cherry

41. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets

42. Dan Kelly – Leisure Panic

43. Moon Duo – Shadow Of The Sun

44. Ruby Boots – Solitude

45. Mark Lucas – Little Town Blues

46. Malcolm Holcombe – RCA Sessions

47. Django Django – Born Under Saturn

48. Jamie XX – In Colour

49. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

50. Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home

 

REISSUES/LIVE/BEST-OF

  •  Bob Dylan – The Cutting Edge 1965 – 1966 The Bootleg Series Vol. 12
  • The Velvet Underground – The Complete Matrix Tapes
  • Drive-By Truckers – It’s Great to Be Alive!
  • The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience – I Like Rain: The Story of the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience
  • John Prine – September 78
  • Mogwai – Central Belters
  • The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
  • Ryan Adams – Live at Carnegie Hall
  • Sly and The Family Stone – Live at the Fillmore East: October 4th & 5th, 1968
  • Townes Van Zandt – The Nashville Sessions
  • Various – Ain’t Gonna Hush: The Queens of Rhythm & Blues
  • Various – In a Moment: Ghost Box
  • Various – Ork Records: New York, New York
  • Various – Punk 45: Extermination Nights in the Sixth City – Cleveland, Ohio: Punk and the Decline of the Mid-West 1975-1982
  • Various – Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs By Karen Dalton
  • Various – Buried Country 1.5: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music

NEW MUSIC: Protomartyr announce new single and album

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One of my favourite bands over the last few years has been Protomartyr, a quartet out of Detroit who combine post-punk dynamics, a nihilist howl, jagged edges and intelligent espousals. The good news is they have a new album called The Agent Intellect (their 3rd in as many years) coming out on August 8th via Hardly Art /Inertia.

Below you can hear the first single ‘Why Does It Shake?’, a typically rhythmically strong track of creeping tension that lumbers and dances along with equal swagger, building and blossoming into sheets of guitar at the 3.5 minute mark.

SONG OF THE WEEK: Protomartyr | Maidenhead

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Protomartyr delivered one of my favourite guitar-based records of last year in the dark, post-punk rock of No Passion All Technique so I was pretty excited to see they already have a follow-up recorded and just released. Under Color of Official Right takes the key elements of the last album and improves on them exponentially. The vocals are less barked and approach melodic singing in many parts and there’s more space amid the clatter and rhythmic churn. There are similarities to The Strokes occasionally and Soft Pack often. This is a great record and the opening track is a real ear-worm.

2013 MID YEAR FAVOURITE ALBUMS

2013 mid year faves

Here we are again at list time, halfway through 2013 and already there have been a swathe of great albums released. We’ve been listening to an eclectic mix of stuff as usual including dub electronica, skronking freeform saxophone, abrasive art rock, retro-leaning post punk and heartstring americana. These are the records we’ve loved the most from what we’ve heard this year. There will be others from the last six months that we’ll discover as the rest of the year rolls out but we can at least highly recommend these ones – in no particular order…

  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
  • Protomartyr – No Passion All Technique
  • The Phoenix Foundation – Fandango
  • Kirin J Callinan – Embracism
  • The Drones – I See Seaweed
  • Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird
  • Jason Isbell – Southeastern
  • DJ Koze – Amygdala
  • Eleanor Friedberger – Personal Record
  • Colin Stetson – New History Warfare Vol 3: To See More Light
  • Zomby – With Love