LIVE REVIEW: Trixie Whitley @ The Basement, Sydney (19/04/14)

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Trixie Whitley’s musical journey to-date has taken some interesting and different directions, from the soulful dub excursions of Black Dub with Daniel Lanois and others, to forging her own solo career and its rich melting pot of soul, jazz, funk and blues. She treated the Basement audience to all of that and more, particularly with her newer songs.

Playing two sets, Whitely set about showcasing her range, both vocally and stylistically as a songwriter. Those only expecting the piano-based soulful excursions would have been surprised and possibly jarred by her ventures centre-stage with distorted guitar and loose, ragged rock songs. It all seemed to make perfect sense when taken as a whole as Whitely convincingly demonstrated her ability to harness and deliver her soulful and deeply emotive singing and a musically curiosity to seek out new ways to write and perform the music around those emotions.

Her voice was in fine form, traveling from a deep, rhythmic sound right up into her high register, complete with cracks and aching, heart-laid-bare rawness. With a backing duo (bass & drums) providing just the right amount of tension and context Whitely was able to create some wonderfully hypnotic music. On guitar she gave the impression that she’s using it to find new angles in her music and those songs were definitely more primal, riff and groove-based. To see an artist in transition between a debut album and the next step of her career was intriguing and Whitely herself admitted that coming to Australia where all of her songs were new to the ears of the audience was a real thrill. Whitely backed up her reputation and critical acclaim with a strong and often spine-tingling performance yet one senses, as with most career artists refining their art, her best is still yet to come.

Chris Familton

this review was first published in The Music

LIVE REVIEW: The Necks @ The Basement, Sydney (13/02/13)

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photo by Holimage

by Chris Familton

As far as experimental, improvised music goes The Necks are the masters of their craft, never playing the same set twice and composing and creating widescreen, emotionally rich music in the moment. The trio played two hour long sets at The Basement and even though the instrumentation remained the same (piano, drums, bass) the virtuosic talent and imagination of Chris Abrahams, Tony Buck and Lloyd Swanton ensured that they felt like two distinct pieces of music.

After a minute of silence as the trio readied themselves Abrahams initiated the first flurry of notes on the piano that were full and melodic. Swanton absorbed the tonality and sweep of sound before easing his bass into the music while minutes later Buck did the same using low trajectory, rattling snare rolls to unsettle and scrape up against the gentler sounds that preceded him. The pattern of the piece was an evolutionary one that began with a delicate ornate whisper and gradually grew to a sustained squall. The music rose and fell as the players advanced and retreated at different points but the feeling was always of forward movement and auditory travel. Defining moments in both the pieces came when Buck shifted from textural, background percussion that at times sounded like a clanging abandoned ship or creaking machinery to slightly more traditional drum behaviour. The kick drum beat a pulse and toms were incorporated and when combined with Swanton’s bass in the second set the effect was reminiscent of some of the darker, avant-garde electronic music of recent years with dark, vaguely ominous themes. Abrahams’ endlessly inventive work on the keys also impressed. From morse code sounding alien dispatches to rippling and billowing runs of notes he showed both exceptional endurance and imagination. Their music was both intellectual and physical, a immersive full body experience.

this review was first published in The Drum Media / The Music