LIVE REVIEW: Jamie Hutchings @ The Newsagency, Sydney

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Jamie Hutchings, Sophie Hutchings

The Newsagency, Sydney 

April 27th 2018

It was a family affair at the Sydney album launch for Jamie Hutchings new solo album Bedsit. Sophie Hutchings, an acclaimed musician in her own right, opened the evening with a mesmerising set of solo piano. She’s released three full length albums on the local Preservation label and on stage she translated her hypnotic, subtle style to The Newsagency’s baby grand piano. Notes fluttered and danced like lattice and filigree and there seemed to be a constant dynamic interaction between soft, melodic prettiness and omnipresent melancholic undertones. With an attentive seated audience the effect was transfixing.

Jamie Hutchings has always searched for new ways to present and extrapolate his songs. From the spirited rock of Bluebottle Kiss to the wilder and darker Infinity Broke, the constant recognisable core is always Hutchings’ songs. Bedsit and this tour gave fans the chance to absorb those songs in the raw, unfettered by electricity and volume. With acoustic guitar in hand and accompanied on nearly all songs by bassist Reuben Wills and Sophie adding beautiful piano on a handful, the mood Hutchings created was decidedly laid-back, with a warm conviviality in the air.

Opening with Bedsit tracks Second Winter and Judas Is A Girl, we were again reminded of Hutchings’ unique way around a melody – never taking the easy way, dancing and wrestling with the notes and transitioning from spoken word to falsetto and gnarled, strained vowels with ease. December Park was an early highlight of the new material, as was Here Comes The Frost, a song that could’ve easily inhabited any of the Bluebottle Kiss albums. Speaking of that band, we were treated to a brace of their songs, including Last Playboy In Town, Everything Begins And Ends At Exactly The Right Time and The Weight Of The Sea. 

Now possessing an enviable and near faultless body of work, Hutchings continues to explore creative and intellectual songwriting but never at the expense of spirit and verve. Those qualities were on full display on The Newsagency stage on this autumn night. 

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Sophie Hutchings – Wide Asleep

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Rating8In recent years there has been a wealth of composers that fall into the loosely-aligned world of modern-classical, post-ambient, avant-electronic and instrumental post-rock. They draw from all of those styles and explore their compositional meeting points. Locally, our leading light is Sophie Hutchings and on her third album she again finds new and fascinating ways to create cerebral and emotionally rich and ornate arrangements – led by her piano but greatly enhanced with strings and ghostly, layered voices.

The album title suggests the deepest state of sleep where our mind is both at its most imaginative and vulnerable. Suppressed thoughts are exposed and tested, fantasies are lived out in suspended reality and our fears are briefly made all too real in dream. Memory I feels like a wash of romantic nostalgia, a light dance through the past while Memory II adds choral voices to the increasing tension like a rising anxiety entering the fray before subsiding to a slow calm. Falling and Living Light are high points with their contrasting approaches to twilight melancholia and fine examples of the way Hutchings varies her technical approach to her instrument. Flurries of notes can either form ethereal phrases or bolder statements, merely through variations in pressure and intensity. There’s a lyricism to her piano playing that draws you in, providing equal fascination for how she plays and what she is playing.

Hutchings’ ability to work in the light as eloquently as she explores darkness marks Wide  Asleep as her most expansive and resonant work to date.

Chris Familton

Wide Asleep is out now via Preservation Music

SONIC KICKS: Jamie Hutchings

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Earlier this year Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss, Infinity Broke) marked twenty years in music with a retrospective solo show at Camelot Lounge in Marrickville. With a such a strong back catalogue that spans both solo and band releases it was an impressive and rewarding trawl through his discography and a remarkable overview of the evolution of his songwriting craft.

Hutchings chatted more than he probably ever has on stage, giving an insight into the genesis and inspiration of the songs and experiences that surrounded them with self-deprecating humour, dedications and some healthy sarcasm. That personal interaction was crucial to the success of the evening and connected Hutchings to his audience who showed genuine love and passion for his body of music.

The success of the evening has resulted in an invitation from the venue to repeat the event on Thursday, August 27th. This time Hutchings will be supported by his sister Sophie Hutchings, an acclaimed pianist and composer whose 2010 album Becalmed was a real favourite of ours.

Thursday August 27th

Jamie Hutchings, Sophie Hutchings

Camelot Lounge, Marrickville

Doors 7pm

Jamie was kind enough to answer our Sonic Kicks Q&A plus a few other questions relating more directly to the upcoming show. Read on to find out which album inspired a switch from drums to guitar, the band that leaves him breathless, the soundtrack to his teen surfing years and his next musical plans.

The first album I bought.

Probably something by Split Enz. I was a huge fan from around nine years old and I started randomly buying their albums from there on in. I still dig Dizrythmia out sometimes. It’s pretty fantastic.

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An album that soundtracked a relationship.

Astral Weeks by Van Morrison. It makes me dizzy and reminds me of stuff.

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An album that inspired me to form a band.

I’d been playing drums in bands but it wasn’t until I heard You’re Living All Over Me by Dinosaur Jr that I felt I really had to teach myself to play guitar. I’ve never been as immediately effected by an album as that one. It just sounded like the best concoction ever and totally inspired me.

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An album that reminds me of my high school years.

Maybe the first Midnight Oil album. Everyone used to call it Powderworks or The Blue album, the first song has such a great high energy guitar riff, lots of surfers were into them and I was a pretty hardcore surfer so it was the perfect soundtrack. MI0001759825

An album I’d love to hear live and played in full.

Mariposa by Rein Sanction. They’re a lost early ’90’s Sub Pop band with an incredibly claustrophobic playing style. There’s some rough live footage on Youtube, I’d have loved to have seen them, I kind of forget to breath when I hear them.

My favourite album cover art.

Warehouse Songs And Stories by Husker Du. I bought it on gatefold vinyl back in the day, it look amazing. There’s no text on the cover which was pretty unheard of back then. The colours are so rich, crazy and explosive but it’s kind of ethereal too.Husker-Du-Warehouse-Songs-and-Stories-Front

A guilty pleasure album.

I don’t know…Tapestry by Carole King? It’s kind of classic AM radio stuff, such a amazing songs though.MI0001534574

The last album I bought.

Tea Time for Those Determined to Completely Exhaust Every Bit of This Body They’ve Been Given by Keiji Haino/ Jim O’Rourke/ Oren Ambarchi. It’s with the mail man but technically it’s my most recent purchase. They release a live album each year edited from an improvised set they perform annually. They really reach way out and bury me every time.BT012LP_CU

The next album I want to buy.

I’ve been trying to find the first Faust album on vinyl at a normal price which has been tough. When I do that’ll be it. I’m a huge Can fan but haven’t heard much of Faust, I recently watched a Krautrock documentary by the BBC and these guys really intrigued me.

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What are the BBK/solo/Infinity Broke songs that get requested or referenced most by fans?

It depends, when people are requesting stuff on social media or by email it tends to be album tracks or more obscure songs. At Infinity Broke shows people always want to hear ‘Monsoon’ which is fine because we love to play it. Solo if someone yells out stuff it’s usually stuff like ‘Fathers Hands’ or ‘Last Playboy in Town’. It really varies though, I think people that listen to my projects are pretty across most of the stuff which is nice.

If you had to choose between Neil Young, Tom Waits and Greg Dulli covering one of your songs, who would it be and which song would you be most interested to hear?

Geez…what a conundrum! Who to choose! Yes I’d allow Tom Waits to cover me I guess. I think he’d do a good version of ‘The Judas Hands’.

With a 20 year career, do you ever see your influence in younger bands on the Australian scene?

Not that I’m aware of, the best ones probably hide it I guess. On the rare occasions I have heard an overt influence I feel really embarrassed.

Playing a retrospective show, does that conjure up certain emotions, memories, people and places via the range of songs you play?

Not specifically or consciously, but there are some songs that suddenly put me in a spin out of nowhere emotionally and I have to try and hide it somehow. What I found about some of my really old songs when I was relearning them earlier in the year for my January show was how uncanny some of them were. It was like they were mini self-fulfilling prophecies.

How close is your songwriting style and process now compared to your 20 year old self?

I was very inside my songs when I was younger, often pretty earnest and naive which isn’t always the tastiest combo. Apart from becoming a better and hopefully more imaginative musician, the main difference is that I began to stretch myself way more lyrically. I began to feel like I could fly around and inhabit different worlds lyrically whereas in my ’20’s I was really stuck inside my own head. I still am a bit but I don’t feel disingenuous when I attempt to write outside of that little universe.

After looking back, what are the next steps forward for you musically?

Infinity Broke will hopefully start to play live again sometime, it’s been really difficult since our album tour to get everyone together, but it’s a blast when we do. I’ve been recording an album with Peter Fenton from Crow. We’ve got a collaborative project called The Tall Grass. We’re about two thirds of the way through. It’s been really humbling and refreshing working with him, sometimes we wonder where the music’s coming from! It’s sounding great. I’m also planning on recording a very bare solo album soon. Probably just acoustic guitar, double bass and vocals. Hopefully I’ll start working on Mark Moldre’s next album soon too.

LIVE REVIEW: Sophie Hutchings @ Raval, Sydney 28/10/10

written by Chris Familton

Tired Hands had the task of easing the punters back into their comfy high-backed armchairs at the intimate Raval, a venue that feels like you are in the lounge of a strangers house or at a wedding where you only know the groom. Tired Hands is a man, his guitar and a quavering, rich voice. Though the tempo of his songs barely rose above a heartbeat he had the room silently attentive while spinning his tales that were firmly grounded in the minimal melancholy of people like Jason Molina.

All three acts reside on the Preservation label with Seaworthy being the more established of the trio. Incorporating field recordings from the NSW South Coast and mixing them with live, looped and effects-driven guitars the duo created some magical transportive soundscapes. This was music best experienced with eyes closed to avoid distractions from around the room and those whose attention drifted away from what was happening onstage missed out on some mesmerising sonic ebb and flow.

Sophie Hutchings has been around the Sydney music scene for a while now, primarily as part of brother Jamie Hutchings’ bands (Bluebottle Kiss and solo). Now finally she has gone out on her own and with some critical acclaim for her debut Becalmed preceding her she celebrated the release of that album in fine style.

Hutchings wisely chose to use a number of guests to flesh out her solo piano pieces – in particular brothers Jamie and Scott accompanied on drums and cellist Peter Hollo added some great classical texture. Though their contributions added colour and shape to the music it was Hutchings herself who quite deservedly proved to be the star of the show. Her piano playing style is a curious mix of percussive rhythms and delicate phrasings allowing her to let single notes hang in the air and then build flurries of notes into rushes of melody. Chris Abrahams of The Necks came to mind but his playing is more improvised and free spirited. Hutchings has carefully created and nurtured her compositions yet thankfully they don’t feel tethered or rigid in their construction or execution.

Credit must go to Preservation for curating such a dynamic collection of artists that covered both traditional song and experimental composition with all involved possessing strong emotional resonance.

this review first appeared in Drum Media