NEW MUSIC: Benefits – Strains

benefits-cover-1535066746904

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’.

 

SONIC KICKS: Wahoo Ghost

Wahoo Ghost - Band Shot SONIC KICKS

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).

r-5353093-1514468321-4395.jpeg.jpg

 

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.

 

0000276202-2

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: 100 – Just Us

1541052038291

Crawling out of the Sydney underbelly is 100, a tension-laden quartet with a brand new song to follow-up their EP Cortisone and a split 7″ with Nick Nuisance & The Delinquents.

‘Just Us’ lurches and staggers across the speakers with the creeping malevolence of Jesus Lizard and Nirvana. It’s unhinged yet the band are in full control as they delivered these monolithic crashing post-punk chords that hang suspended in the air before dropping like free-falling asteroids.

LIVE REVIEW: Khruangbin @ Metro Theatre, Sydney

IMG_6349

Khruangbin, Harvey Sutherland
Metro Theatre
14 March 14th, 2019

by Chris Familton

This was a night of very few voices given that both acts on the bill were primarily instrumental trios. It was the music that did the talking and it transformed the Metro into a wall-to-wall sea of bodies-in-motion and conjured up a celebratory vibe in the room.

Harvey Sutherland, the self-described funk-synthesist, was up from Melbourne to open the show and by the end of the first song he’d won over the audience with his blend of soul, funk, house, disco and of course the aforementioned funk. The rhythm section were quite astonishing in their fluidity and precision as they constantly found new ways to build rhythmic detail and dynamics into the music while Sutherland wove his cosmic keyboards into melodic dance floor excursions. It was an infectious set that brought to mind Steely Dan filtered through Jamiroquai.

Khruangbin have built their brand on a visual aesthetic that melds black, straight-fringed wigs with explosions of colour and choreographed stage moves delivered with a knowing half-smile and semi-detached cool. That was enhanced on stage with an excellent light show – simple, bold and dramatic utilising colour and shapes, much like the trio’s music, on this first of two sold out nights at the venue.

It quickly became clear that they’ve spend a lot of time and effort into structuring their sets so there is a balance of peaks and valleys, from the hard funk breakbeat of Maria También to the dreamy, sweet and soulful soft tones of Cómo Me Quieres. As a trio they balance each other out wonderfully. Laura Lee is often the most compelling focal point with her knee drops and hip swivels and constantly light-dancing bass-lines, while Mark Speer roams his side of the stage, also in endless motion as a player but with a kind of roving commission to explore all stylistic facets of his guitar, from psych rock solos to dub echoes and flurries of hyper-melodic Thai funk. Holding it all down and providing a framework for which to hang the songs on was drummer DJ Johnson, his playing channeling everything from hip hop breakbeats to James Brown and Portishead.

IMG_6350

Their breakthrough album Con Todo El Mundo provided a large portion of their set but there were also dips back into their debut The Universe Smiles Upon You, with White Gloves being a particular highlight and one of the only songs to feature all three on vocals. As the set progressed we got a strange interaction between Lee and a lonely looking green telephone which seemed kind of pointless and a successful attempt by Speer to get everyone in the room to introduce themselves to the person standing next to them.

Before the encore the entertainment factor peaked with a medley that saw seamless transitions between songs by Ol’ Dirty Bastard, A Tribe Called Quest, Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game, and culminating in the crowd joining in on the chorus to Spandau Ballet’s True (via PM Dawn). 

What the trio showed was their ability to translate their music from the intimacy of their recordings to the live stage, where they balanced nuance with deep grooves, hypnotic and sensual rhythms, humour and exceptional musicianship.

LIVE REVIEW: No Age @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

img_6080.jpg
No Age

No Age, Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, Arse, Basic Human
Oxford Art Factory
February 14th, 2019

Almost ten years to the day that No Age last played Sydney, at the 2009 Laneway Festival, the Los Angeles duo return on the back of their critically acclaimed album of last year, Snares Like A Haircut. 

A fine four-band lineup had been put together for the evening and all four local acts impressed. Basic Human kicked things off with their primitive punk rock, built on a relentless rhythm section and topped off with the endlessly pacing singer’s half-sung, mostly shouted vocals. They were catchy and a good balance of noise, attitude and humour, with each song introduced as “This is a love song”, given it was Valentine’s Day.

IMG_6073
ARSE

Arse have to be one of the best named bands to come out of Sydney in a long while and you kind of expected great things from them before they’d even played a note. Collared shirts, tight trousers, swagger and volume. The trio started with a gloriously mangled take on Advance Australia Fair before unleashing distorted bass, guitar sounds pulled from a metal album and minimal post-hardcore drumming. It was like Cosmic Psychos cutting all kinds of Jesus Lizard angles with the noise punk dial on 11. They topped it off with a Revolting Cocks’ish lurch and stagger through John Paul Young’s Love Is In The Air.

fullsizeoutput_cc81
Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys

Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys played a Surry Hills gig with No Age back on that 2009 tour and here they were again, essentially still doing the same thing but seeming much more comfortable in their musical skin as a band. The songs rolled and tumbled with less consternation and more flow. Plenty of tracks from their 2017 album Rot were played including the super catchy pop song Plastic Tears, Away and Expanded Horizons and on stage and with volume it showed how well they’ve shaped their Replacements meets melodic garage punk sound over two albums.

No Age still do what they’ve always done, from those early days at The Smell in LA to their latest album, they’ve always found inventive ways to dig noise and melody from the single construct of drums, a guitar and a couple of mics. They still seem a relaxed pair, chatting with the audience, exchanging jokes about old songs being new, unravelling the mystery of Vegemite and talking up the observed ease of living as a vegan in Sydney. 

Their dynamic is basic but with the subtle interplay of Randy Randall’s guitar effects, Dean Spunt’s punk breakbeats and other avant garde interjections like the experimental ambient typewriter chatter of Snares Like A Haircut, their songs rarely end up regressing into same-sameness. One quickly forgets they’re a two-piece when the full throttle wall of Dinosaur Jr sound bursts forth. It’s a clever blend of energy and inventiveness, equally directed at the mind and the feet of the audience and Randall seemed equally lost in a sea of hair and leg kicks as he wrestled all kinds of sounds from his guitar. When they dialled back the frenzy on the song Send Me they sounded like a lost Flying Nun band – beautifully wasted, wistful and melancholic.

Spunt and Randall left us with perhaps their finest song, Teen Creeps, with its Sonic Youth chug and shoegaze wash of guitar, a cathartic way to send the audience back out into the night, fully vibed on No Age’s dissonant sonic hypnosis.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Magnus – Saints, Sedated

1541234043053.jpg

Sydney trio Magnus know how to hit the metal, indulge the boogie, stoner rock vibe and stay perfectly on the wrong side of weird on this digital single ‘Saints, Sedated’. It hits a super solid pounding sprint home at the back end after digging into jazz metal noir and desert rock grooves.

The track features Lucius Borich (Cog) on drums, percussion, backing vocals and organ.

Magnus’ sophomore album is coming soon and has been engineered and mixed by Aria award winning Paul McKercher and mastered by Grammy award winning Brian Gardner (Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf).

LIVE REVIEW: The Goon Sax @ Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney

IMG_5251

The Goon Sax, Gregor, Married Man
Petersham Bowling Club
23 November 23rd, 2018

As The Goon Sax made a hurried dash from Newcastle after their flight from Brisbane to Sydney was curtailed, Married Man opened the evening of outside guitar pop music with a set that showcased the songs and voice of Sarafina Pea. Vocal effects were employed to songs that took in dream pop and post punk. It was blurred music with jagged edges courtesy of the rhythm section and in Pea, a voice that rises above the music quite impressively.

Gregor was up from Melbourne and like the headliners he too was celebrating his recently released album Silver Drop. If Married Man used the standard rock n roll components then Gregor (in duo format) delved further into the world of deconstructed pop songs by utilising a drum machine, endlessly inventive bass playing, washes of sound and deadpan vocals with filter-free diary-entry lyrics. It was a fascinating mix that took a few songs to adjust to but across a full set it all made total sense as sad confessional songs to dance to.

IMG_5252

The Goon Sax should probably have been playing a larger venue with a proper sound system, given that the show was sold out and the sound was under par. It was no fault of the sound-person but the drums weren’t mic’d and with drummer Riley Jones’ often light touch they lacked impact in the rhythmically driven songs. The bass was shortchanged as well, leaving the songs sounding a bit hollow and missing depth. All that aside, the band dug in and tore through a set that drew mostly from the new album We’re Not Talking but dipped into their debut, the super catchy Sweaty Hands a particular highlight. Sleep EZ, Make Time 4 Love and the Jones-sung Strange Light all stood out. 

As a band they clearly have the songs and have developed into a fascinating triptych of quirky and slightly awkward individuals (think Talking Heads) but the gnawing feeling still remains that Louis Forster needs to take the lead on more songs. There was a noticeable lift, clarity and drive in the songs that he helmed and the audience responded as a result. Jones’ vocal cameos were also a welcome addition to the set. In all this was a good show, not the best they’ve played in Sydney but good enough to warrant the acclaim and growing fanbase The Goon Sax continue to receive. 

Chris Familton