LIVE REVIEW: Jen Cloher, Tiny Ruins @ Red Rattler, Sydney


Jen Cloher, Tiny Ruins
Red Rattler Theatre, Marrickville, NSW Australia
20th September, 2018

A sold out Sydney show is a great way to kick off a solo tour for Jen Cloher and as she revealed during her set, this was her first ever solo headline gig. A surprising event given the career Cloher’s established over the last dozen years.

Hollie Fullbrook is better known as the central figure in Tiny Ruins but tonight she was performing solo, still in the hazy midst of jet lag following a European tour. It made for a fascinating set as she played old favourites such as Chainmail Maker, Me At The Museum, You In The Wintergardens and Hurtling Through, alongside her new single How Much, her first on Cloher’s Milk! Records label. Blaming the jet lag she admitted feeling nervous and at one point had a lyrical memory failure but recovered gallantly. It was a chance to see an artist at a transitional point with a new album pending, on a new label, singing songs we’ve never heard, stripped back to their essence.

Jen Cloher fitted into the Marrickville warehouse aesthetic in her green mechanic overalls. She was “at work, playing her block of wood”. It was more than work of course, as evident in the emotion she displayed when introducing songs with stories from her life. There were memories of her Jim Morrison teenage obsession, stealing money from her parents to fuel her Galaga addiction while pretending to be an 11 year old boy called Jon, a beautiful tribute to her mother who that day had been posthumously honoured at Auckland University as part of the Suffrage 125 commemoration and more. The stories were laced with humour and honesty and gave the songs context and added depth. 

With just an acoustic guitar Cloher transformed her more rock-leaning recordings into solo reveries that never lost their spirit and energy. It emphasised her strength as a lyricist, allowing the words to cut through in the acoustic setting, riding her near endless array of sweet and melancholic melodies. Tracks such as Sensory Memory, Kamikaze Origami and Strong Woman from last year’s self-titled album drew cheers from the warm and enthusiastic crowd but we were also treated to some dips into the back catalogue with David Bowie Eyes, Needs, Mother’s Desk and Eden With My Eve. 

Fullbrook returned to the stage for the encore and the pair played a touching version of Save Me From What I Want, a song that Cloher recorded with Mia Dyson and Liz Stringer. It capped off a wonderfull night of music. Songs stripped back to their simple yet detailed beginnings as stories, carried on the strings of acoustic guitars.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Robert Scott – The Green House

Rating8Robert-Scott---Green-House-300dpi_1024x1024-2It took Robert Scott a decade to get from his debut solo album (The Creeping Unknown, 2001) to 2011’s Ends Run Together and now he’s turned around his third effort in a mere three years. Of course Scott isn’t just sitting around twiddling his thumbs and working on his paintings between records; he’s still actively involved in both The Bats and The Clean and from the consistently high quality of songwriting on The Green House he’s been in clear and constant communication with his muse.

Five of the album’s twelve tracks feature the dreamy, hypnotic vocals of Tiny Ruins’ Hollie Fullbrook and she provides a wonderful complementary voice to Scott’s unassuming style, particularly on opener ‘Your Lights Are Low’ which comforts and gently menaces in equal quantities, aided by the textural post-rock guitar contribution of Tristan Dingemans (HDU). It really is a superb first track, setting the mood, tone and the musical standard for the rest of the record. ‘Vertigo’ is the first moment where we find Scott settling into his old comfy songwriting chair with jangling guitars, pastoral krautrock rhythm and those inimitable vocal melodies that pull the listener into catchy corners with wry couplets.

One of the real strengths of The Green House is the intimacy and restraint of Scott’s songs. They feel like they were recorded in a calm, rural environment. They flicker and sparkle with a folk-like quality akin to lilting mantras, having a lullaby effect at times, particularly the songs with Fullbrook. Late in the piece the instrumental ‘Where the Frost Lies’ is a warm, rhythmic treat that gradually decays and collapses before Scott rounds out one of his finest albums (solo or otherwise) with the simple, honest and affecting love song ‘Right From Wrong’.

Chris Familton

this review was first published on UnderTheRadar





Imagine traveling to a far flung part of the world like Zanzibar to visit someone close to you and with a head full of intrepid explorer ideas, hiring scooters and in the flash of an eye finding yourself at the mercy of a poorly equipped health system. That was the scenario for Tiny Ruin’s Hollie Fullbrook in October of last year and it left her with painful (but thankfully not life threatening) injuries which meant she had to cancel a run of live dates in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

“It was a reckless thing to do just before going on tour and it was all a bit of a disaster. I couldn’t get out of the country for ten days to get fixed up. It was hard seeing the fact they didn’t have bandages and basic stuff. There weren’t really any proper painkillers so it made me appreciate the NZ health system way more than I had before. In retrospect it was quite traumatic but at the time you just take it as it comes and try and stay positive and laugh about it. I came straight back to NZ and into hospital for treatment and discovered I’d broken three bones in my shoulder, foot and hand. It was a shock when I found that out as I hadn’t realised how badly hurt I was and that I was going to have to cancel a whole lot of shows. I had to sit in a wheelchair for a few weeks and not play guitar.”

Until that moment in Tanzania 2012 had been a hugely successful year for Fullbrook. Her debut album Some Were Meant For Sea received glowing reviews everywhere it was released and she backed it up with a busy touring schedule that received similarly positive responses from fans and critics alike. Most recently the album has also been shortlisted for NZ’s Taite Music Prize, the equivalent of the Australian Music Prize and the UK’s Mercury Prize.

“It’s fair to say that when I released the album first in NZ, and then Australia, my expectations were pretty low. I just had nothing to go by – it was all very new to me. To have been able to release the album further afield in the UK and (fingers crossed) beyond has been something I feel most thrilled about as it’s difficult for relatively unknown artists to get a foot in the door anywhere. I’ve been lucky with Spunk (Australian label), who have been gunning for me since before I recorded the album. Logistically, it’s hard to pull off, so I’m very proud of the whole team who have helped me get the record across the oceans. I also felt that making BBC World Service program ‘The Strand”s top five albums of 2011 was pretty special. I listen to the World Service a lot in my car, so to somehow feature in that realm was a real honour,” says Fullbrook.

As she settles into yet more touring and making up for the cancelled dates at the end of last year Fullbrook is also weighing up the idea of relocating to Europe for a short period to maximise her exposure there and though she has primarily been a solo performer she wants to take the opportunity to share the stage with other musicians.

“I’m looking at heading back over to Europe in May to support the Handsome Family and then if I’m there I’m thinking of basing myself in Berlin for a few months and playing as much as I can. If you go all that way and spend all that money you want to make the most of it – and avoiding the New Zealand winter is a good idea too! I’m trying to plan it all now and figure out who else is over there as the idea of hanging out with some people from home is appealing. I’m trying to convince my flatmate Cass Mitchell who plays double bass to also come along as we’ve been playing together quite a bit and to have that extra person involved on stage is what I’m looking forward to. I had Cass playing the double bass at some NZ shows around Xmas which was really enjoyable and having someone you know and trust up there on stage feels nice. It is good for the audience too having that other element up there and someone else to watch.

Fullbrook also a second album in her sights with some songs written and others either still forming or yet to appear. Her experiences of the last year are filtering into the themes and ideas for the next record and she expects it’ll have a different sound and feel.

“The first album touched on themes like distance and traveling but probably more in a fantasy kind of way. Maybe these new songs are more earthy and influenced a bit by living in Italy and being surrounded by mountains. One song especially is about mountains and relationships too. I hope to write a few more narrative style songs though as I think people are really drawn to those ones, they like the ones about characters and stories,” Fullbrook muses.

The evolution of Tiny Ruins is an exciting and fascinating prospect for Fullbrook and taking that step of opening up her music to other musicians is something that will both influence and be influenced by the next album.

“I often think it would be nice to have brass, like a trumpet or a trombone and I guess it does depend on the next album and how that takes form. It would be nice to develop the sound into a band feel from the last album and then expand the touring with the next album. It is easy and sustainable doing it on my own as I only have to worry about myself and budget-wise it is easier but you do want to grow somewhere. The songs on Some Were Meant for Sea were more suited to solo performance but these newer songs that are forming could do with a rhythm section and more dynamic and melodic things going on with Cass singing harmony parts. It is exciting going from writing songs with just me in mind, because I had no idea I’d end up performing them, to writing songs with other people in mind. It changes the writing process a bit.

The good news is that new Tiny Ruins songs aren’t destined to be hidden away until they are recorded, instead she will be road testing them across Australia and Europe before heading to the studio to begin recording album number two in the latter half of the year. As long as Fullbrook steers clear of motorcycles the near future looks set to continue being a creative and musically exciting time for Tiny Ruins.

this interview was first published in Drum Media

NEWS: New Zealand’s Taite Music Prize 2012 Finalists Announced…

The Taite Music Prize is the equivalent of the UK’s Mercury Prize or the Australian Music Prize and recognises outstanding creativity for an album release. The award is $10,000 in cash to be used however the artist wants. This year’s finalists are:

Andrew Keoghan – Arctic Tales Divide (Brave Beluga Records)
Beastwars – Beastwars (Destroy Records)
David Dallas – The Rose Tint (Dirty Records)
She’s So Rad – In Circles (Round Trip Mars)
The Bats – Free All The Monsters (Flying Nun Records)
Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant For Sea (Spunk Records)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Seeing Records)

The judging panel is comprised of:

Jon Bywater (Programme Leader, Critical Studies @ Elam School Of Fine Arts)
Hugh Sundae (Entertainment Editor, NZ Herald Online)
Stephen O’Hoy (IMNZ / Amplifier / DRM)
Jeremy Morrow (Warner Music)
Leonie Hayden (Editor, RipItUp)
Richard Thorne (Editor, NZ Musician)
Andrew Tidball (Editor, Cheese On Toast)
Russell Brown (Public Address)
Charlotte Ryan (95bFM)
Glenn Williams (Wammo) (KiwiFM)
11th Man – John Taite (BBC America)
The Judge Wrangler – Damian Vaughan (APRA)

Personally we’ll be hoping the award goes to Tiny Ruins, The Bats or Beastwars when the winner is announced on the 20th April in Auckland.

LIVE REVIEW: Tiny Ruins @ Notes, Sydney 22/07/11

written by Chris Familton

Sam Shinazzi opened the evening in three piece mode with Barry Adamson on guitar and Peabody’s Bruno Brayovic on bass. Playing mainly tracks from his recently released album When the Lights Come Up Shinazzi did justice to the recorded versions, even exceeding them in some cases like the wistful Movie of Your Life and the devotional Everything To Me. Brayovic provided some wonderful backing harmonies while Adamson’s guitar work provided colour and mood to Shinazzi’s laid back songs.

Grand Salvo is a curious visual proposition with his nondescript clothing and rural hair and beard. Is he shy? Is he eccentric? Does he occupy a world populated by delicate phrases and tender music? That last question is answered with a resounding yes when he quietly appears on stage and begins to play some of the most enchanting music you will hear around these parts. Otherwise known as Paddy Mann he plays folk music that incorporates classical elements and a mystical quality. A man alone with an acoustic guitar needs to be a special talent to hold a room silent and spellbound and Mann did just that. The melodically rich Needles was a particular highlight with its cycling lines heavy with imagery, as was the thematically sad Flowers from Grand Salvo’s last album Soil Creatures.

Tiny Ruins aka New Zealander Hollie Fullbrook had her work cut out following Grand Salvo yet she succeeded in both complementing his style and delivering her own unique take on folk and a touch of the blues. Quiet, coy and unassuming when she spoke between songs she seemed to transform into someone else when she opened her mouth and sang her fantastical stories populated with quirky characters and some devastatingly turns of phrase. By giving an insight into the meanings and inspiration of some of her songs she created a magical world for the audience – an intimate insight into her creative mind. Priest With Balloons was gorgeous, Cat In The Hallways played on a simple premise with great skill and Adelphi Apartments made you feel like you were Fullbrook herself wandering the streets of Wellington observing the local characters. She works in her own unique time zone, drawing the audience into her slow, dreamy and captivating world. This was an exceptional performance from a new singer/songwriter who appears mature and fully formed only one album into her career.

this review was first published in The Drum Media.