The Gate Presents: Live in the Front Yard

Merry Christmas! I’m normally a complete grinch at this time of year, but I’m shedding my seasonal curmudgeonly ways and getting into the spirit of giving. And blogging, for that matter! (don’t fall off your chair)

We’ve just released a video series of acoustic live performances called “Live in the Front Yard“, featuring The Paper Scissors, Valar, Tash Parker and Lessons In Time. The performances were shot in between soundchecks before our last show at The Gate. Masterfully directed by Matt Davis, they’re some wonderful performances by some wonderful acts that you owe it to yourself to get amongst. Enjoy!

The Paper Scissors


Valar appeared on my radar a couple of months back, and having now seen them live a couple of times in the time since, they’ve become firmly fixed on my “band to watch” list. They’ve just released a short live performance film that very compelling makes a case for why you should, too.

This 6 and a half minute clip features two songs, and highlights all of the band’s trademarks: meticulous yet sparse songcraft, poignancy, and a very candid, genuine sense of human frailty. Impressively, the entire performance was recorded old-school: just two mics in the centre of a room – a gutsy move, giving the band little opportunity for editing or post-production trickery, so you’re definitely hearing the live performance without much happening between the recording and you.

The clip was gorgeously shot using a four camera setup all manned by Matt Davis in a pristine, church-like setting. Obviously a lot of attention to detail has gone into making sure the space really comes alive, and it all pays off wonderfully.

The band recorded an EP earlier this year entitled We Have A Home Amongst The Trees, which is available as a digital download or handmade 10″ vinyl from Bandcamp.

Border Thieves

Border Thieves live at The Gate, Photo by Gem Nail

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of seeing a previously unknown band live that completely knocks your socks off. One of my best experiences of this happening in the last couple of months was when Border Thieves were championed by Jonny Nail to go on a co-curated July lineup at The Gate. I was familiar with (and loved) a previous band that a couple of the members were in – Hand Me My Jetpack – so I took Jonny’s word for it.

Pretty much, Border Thieves blew my mind. They’re an unbelievably tight live act, incorporating a diverse range of influences from tight krautrock-ish jams to shoegaze-y pop to uptempo punk-infused numbers. Liberally sprinkled throughout is a hefty dose of samples and electronic flourishes that really perfect and distinguish their sound. It’s a great package.

Border Thieves are launching a brand new single (their first physical release, I believe) this Thursday night at Melt Bar in Kings Cross. I highly recommend you check this gig out – they’re a distinctive act, and I hear rumours that they’ll be laying low for a little while after this gig. Seriously, don’t miss out on seeing them.


Donkey Korg:

More Border Thieves on Soundcloud

    Playing Live

    • Thursday, 7th of October, Melt Bar
      Doors open 9pm
      w/ Domeyko/Gonzalez, Made In Japan and Carnation
      Facebook Event

    El Perro Del Mar – Love Is Not Pop

    El Perro Del Mar

    This one came as a complete surprise – I’ve been spinning the album repeatedly waiting for it to wear thin on me, but it’s come up as a total winner.

    El Perro Del Mar is the project of Swedish pop songwriter and singer Sarah Assbring – she has previous albums in her discography, but for whatever reason I hadn’t run into her before.

    First, the upfront confessions: I only actually gave this album (entitled Love Is Not Pop) a go due to its production being handled by Rasmus Hägg (one half of the esteemed electronic group Studio), being mildly curious to hear what sort of treatment a pop singer/songwriter would get in these sorts of hands.

    As it turns out it’s an extraordinarily low-key treatment: mellow, lush and completely captivating. It’s sonic nature straddles a balance between the organic and the artificial and comes across as sounding like a truly authentic production. There’s little in the way of distracting studio manipulations, studio trickery or gimmicks – it’s an album of straightforward songs presented with a healthy amount of care taken to the presentation of the sonic layers that bring them to life.

    Nearly all of the instruments on the album were played by the artist and producer. There’s a pleasant unrefined, personal edge that comes from this – the instruments are obviously being played by people with less technical skill than musical skill and, as a result, instead of robotic session players we get far from perfect but thoroughly enjoyable performances. Take the drums on “Change of Heart” for example – they’re full of inadvisably cluttered playing, flirting dangerously close to completely falling out of time, but they’re completely human and organic and all the richer for it. I smile every time I hear it.

    Much of the playing is simple but completely intentional – the synths, the guitars, the pianos, the drums – all obviously played by people that know what their musical intuitions want to see realised. The sound and mix are tastefully reminiscent of 70s production: lots of dry, upfront bass and drum sounds, with reverb and delays liberally applied to vocals, guitars and synths.

    I’m getting off track – but rest assured, there’s plenty to unearth for production geeks – but as for the songs, they’re simple songs of (yep) love, and they do their job of suiting the mood perfectly. Sarah’s vocals are lovely and lowkey and do a great job of bringing the emotion to life.

    I’ve said enough. I like it a lot (surprise!). Despite its surprisingly short length (7 tracks, with 3 solid bonus remixes for Aussies) it’s a satisfying listen and one that seems to bear out repeated ones at that. Good things comes in unexpected packages!

    El Perro Del Mar was recently in the country (which I missed, sadly). Roanna from Those Walls, Your Ears covered one of her Sydney shows which apparently didn’t see a lot of punters didn’t turn up, which is a shame.

    The album’s out and in stores via Inertia, as of mid last month.


    Deastro – Moondagger

    Here’s the story of my first listen of Deastro‘s new album Moondagger:

    1. Chance upon album, vaguely recall positive mentioned of Deastro
    2. Insert album in CD player
    3. Instant grin, room reverberates with explosive energy, evening transformed within 30 seconds, etc

    This is a first listen album. It’s not a grower – it’s all there, hitting you smack in the face right from the word go. Fortunately the instant appeal doesn’t dissipate over time – I’ve been giving it plenty of spins over the last couple of weeks and it continues to stand up as a great pop album.

    Deastro is a one-man project belonging to Randolph Chabot Jr, apparently all self-produced and home recorded. Perhaps due to this creation process, there’s a delicious dichotomy in the music he creates – all at once the songwriting is human, personal, genuine and even unassuming while the sounds are frequently colossal, epic, almost stadium-esque.

    The Deastro sound is defined by layers and layers of synths and Randolph’s swampy, ethereally treated vocals, but instead of rigid, robotic drum programming most of the rhythm section is propelled by live drums and bass, which give the songs a lot of their energy and help further both the expansiveness of the sound and the personality of the recording.

    I’m pretty fascinated by the lyrics – the ones I can make out anyway. Randolph (from what I can gather) seems to hold Christian convictions which appear to permeate the song content. References to God are frequent (“Day of Wonder”, “Vermillion Plaza”) with my favourite instance being the bonus track “The Shaded Forests” as he yelps out the Psalm-derived refrain “whom shall I fear?” followed by “we’re gonna make it home!” … in the wrong hands it might be another biblically plundered cliche, but when he sings it it’s extraordinarily compelling. Naturally the album isn’t confined to a single subject matter – it seems to span all manner of topics of interest in Randolph’s worldview. Now to find a lyric sheet so I can actually decipher them.

    Seriously, get the album – I love it to bits, and I think you will too. It’s an “up” album – try it on a Friday night or the start of a roadtrip. It’s epic.


    I Am Robot And Proud – Uphill City

    Another release amongst a pile of recent discoveries that I’m finally finding time to write about…

    image image

    I Am Robot And Proud is the name of Shaw Han-Liem’s solo electronic project that has apparently been releasing music since 2001. I haven’t heard anything from his past material, but I recently obtained a copy of his new album Uphill City which is an uptempo set of jubilant, poppy electronic nuggets – bright, colourful, slightly-cartoonish but flowing with real human sentiments and emotions throughout – the cover above represents it well, actually.

    The more I listen to this album the more I enjoy it – each listen reveals plenty of detail lurking beneath its primary-colour laden glossy surface. Han-Liem’s material is excellently crafted, the arrangements are intricate while instantly accessible. Even though you’ll find IDM-esque stutters and glitches reminiscent of Dntel’s past work and mixes that sometimes swarm like plankton, it’s always grounded by well-defined song structures and deft control of dynamics.

    Throughout the entire album there are pockets of acoustic elements: fragments of (what appear to be) found sounds appear scattered liberally across the mix, strummed guitars pick up the chord progressions, or some melodic percussion will lead the way with a riff. The acoustic component comes to the forefront on the surprise track “Island Life” – a short waltz featuring gorgeously arranged wind instruments and a rolling guitar part, almost entirely made up of live instrumentation. A highlight for sure.

    If anything, Uphill City wins by way of the ease with which it carries its wide-eyed and exuberant musical personality. The arrangements and writing are always intelligent, as mentioned above, but more than anything its success lies in making a connection with the listener where it counts.

    Uphill City is out now through Darla and is available on eMusic.


    Helios – Eingya (or: I like your old stuff better than your new stuff)


    I don’t know much about Helios except for this fact: I really like a record he made in 2006 called Eingya. It’s the kind of album that brings to mind all kinds of adjectives like “grandiose” or “majestic” or “gorgeous” – words that sound ridiculosuly saccharine when written down, but seem immediately justified as soon as the album’s first notes creep in to the picture.

    It’s like a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist – ambient, spacious, textured, yet personal and organic. Think of it as being what could happen if Brian Eno went mountain climbing with a post-rock band while listening to Boards of Canada and made an album about their experience. Usually the pieces are led by a simple motif handled by guitars or pianos, set against sparse percussion and tastefully orchestrated ambience.

    Really there’s not much more to be said than that – I highly recommend the album. It’s best enjoyed turned up loud, preferably on a cold winter’s night in front of an open fire with a glass of red.

    Helios is just about to release a new album called Caesura which is what I’d originally planned to write about, but after getting my hands on a promo copy I was left feeling somewhat disappointed. The record sounds like a somewhat paint-by-numbers affair compared to this which sounds so personal and engaging, as if the soul has got lost somewhere along the way.

    That being said, go listen to Eingya! It can be purchased on eMusic or bought directly from Type Records.


    Blog revamp

    Finally – I’ve managed to put a new look Joe.Blog online! This redesign is long overdue – it’s been put off on plenty of occasions thanks to an insane lack of spare time.

    There are still bits and pieces that need to be tidied up and improved, but at the very least it re-establishes the blog’s image as being solely a music blog rather than a hodge-podge personal blog that covers all sorts of unrelated subjects (and usually badly). I figure if I stick to one topic I’ve probably got a good chance of getting good at writing about it.

    Obviously the actual shift in direction happened a long time ago but I feel doing the revamp puts the identity of the blog in step with its content.

    As far as being a “music blogger” goes, I still feel like I’m working out my writing style and what exactly I want to make a priority of covering, but I’m sure that will all click into gear as I keep doing it.

    OK, enough on this subject – time to get on with it and actually write about some music!

    Sasha’s Invol2ver imminent, remixes Thom Yorke, Apparat, Ladytron and more

    I’ve been unforgivably AWOL for the last month and a bit, for which I must apologise. Until now I’d been working late nights on a rather insane project and had generally been getting distracted by life’s little quirks. This blog post finds me one day after finishing the aforementioned project (and also not having full use of my computer thanks to a faulty iPhone updater)

    Sasha - Invol2ver

    Excuses aside, I was pretty darn excited when I heard that Sasha was bringing us a follow-up to his excellent 2004 mix CD, Involver. If you didn’t hear the release (you should buy it), the album was basically a DJ set with a quirk: each track was a unique remix by the DJ himself, all of which were carefully arranged to make a really impressive flow of tracks. The selections were great, and the remixes were hot.

    After a lacklustre release in the form of Fundacion NYC (which was, IMHO, a pretty ordinary mix CD), Sasha looks like he’s back to take things to another level. And does the tracklist look killer or what?

    1. Intro – Badger
    2. You Are The Worst Thing In The World – Telefon Tel Aviv
    3. Flesh – Rone
    4. Eclipse – Sasha vs Ray LaMontagne
    5. Lowlife – Sasha vs Adam Parker
    6. Midnight – Charlie May
    7. Arcadia – Apparat
    8. That You Might – Home Video
    9. Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron
    10. Couleurs – M83
    11. The Eraser – Thom Yorke
    12. 3 Little Piggys – Sasha
    13. Sometimes I Realise – Engineers

    I needn’t make too much of a fuss about the quality of the artists represented here. Needless to say, I am excited.

    The disc is slated to be released on September 5, and will be heard quite clearly within 5km radius of my block for a good few weeks, I’m sure.

    Jimmy Tamborello does a self-guided in his studio

    Dude, I want a toy room like that! One day, maybe…