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

    The Gate: August 14 – Guineafowl, Alps, Karoshi

    I promise this blog hasn’t just been relegated to being a PR device for The Gate … really, I promise! But bear with me while my schedule settles down… and I indulge myself in posting another reminder about our next gig.

    Really excited about this Saturday’s gig. We’ve got local rising stars Guineafowl headlining, along with the one and only Alps of Newcastle/New South Wales/The World and downtempo/glitch-pop maestro Karoshi. I’m really pleased to have such a diverse set of music represented here, and I think there’s going to be something great for everyone to discover.

    This will all be happening this Saturday and costs a $10 donation at the door, all of which goes to support the artists after costs. If you’re keen to come along, make sure you reserve your spot on the doorlist!

    By the way, thanks to everyone who got along to last month’s show with Betty Airs, Border Thieves and Yae!Tiger. Was an amazing night, and you owe it to yourselves to catch all of those bands at a show soon. Gem has posted some photos of the night which will give you a feel for what went down.

    The Gate: July 24 – Betty Airs, Border Thieves, Yae!Tiger

    [ enlarge poster ]

    Just a quick post with an update on the next gig for The Gate which, if you missed my previous post, is a new backyard venue I’m starting. This particular lineup was collaboratively conceived and organised with Jonny from Polaroids of Androids and it’s looking to be a fair barnstormer.

    It’ll take place on the 24th of July and will cost you a mere $5. Check the website to read up on the bands or register for the gig (an RSVP is required).

    The Gate’s been a bit of a busy hobby the last few days, mostly due to word of it spreading a lot faster than I was anticipating. It all started with an unexpected news article on FasterLouder and then went on from there. Seeing the wide variety of responses (most of which have been incredibly positive and encouraging) has been a real buzz, and I’m really grateful to anyone that has offered their advice, enthusiasm or interest.



    Bon Chat, Bon Rat

    One of the many (many many many) artists that I’ve been wanting to write about for some time is an incredible new Sydney band that have just recently appeared on the radar. They’ve already begun collecting much acclaim around the traps, and really I’m just dropping in my additional two cents on a group that is sure to be doing many more great things in the very near future.

    Bon Chat, Bon Rat are a three-piece group specialising in a melodic, partially electronic sound that never you never quite pin down to any particular genre. Somehow they manage to cohesively tie together a dreamy, synth-pop oriented sound while never actually sounding constrained by any of the particular “scenes” that synth-pop has found itself in. 80s synth-prog/pop revival? No, somehow it’s fresh enough that it never feels like it’s retreading a past movement. Chillwave? Nope, it’s definitely not within that category. IDM’s second coming? Nope, it’s more accessible, more organic than that. Throughout the EP’s play you can definitely spot a lot of seminal influences amongst it all, but as a whole the band manage to get away with sounding like they’ve got their own thing happening.

    Part of the identifiable fingerprint of the band’s sound is live instrumentation which is frequently included without being too smoothed-over by effects and post processing. Whether it’s a minimal guitar arpeggio creating texture across the mix, or a distorted live bass line sitting amongst the foundations of a track – they have a direct, live feel rather than something that’s been shorn of its natural characteristics. In a sense, it helps give the impression that the band is much more than elements filtered through a laptop.

    On their new six track EP, three of the tracks feature vocals (four if you count the vocoder-tinged closer “Nowhere Paradise”), which are all differently approached – ethereal in “Map of São Paulo”, densely harmonized in “Tribes” and very direct in “Le Rayon Vert”. All are impressive in their delivery – excellently developed melodies, great vocal performances. Meanwhile, the instrumental tracks are densely atmospheric, almost soundtrack-like pieces built around simple ideas which explore dynamics via elaboration in texture and instrumentation.

    Through all of this rambling and raving I guess what I’m trying to say is this EP is great dammit and you have utterly no excuse not to have it when it’s available as a free download (linked below), or in physical form for the low price of $5. Go get amongst it.



    Introducing The Gate

    Once again, I apologise. Despite my best intentions to get content into this blog at a proper rate again, there have been numerous distractions coming from nearly all directions. Just wanted to give an update on what one of these directions is.

    Since we’ve moved out to Ryde (land of the musical black hole), we’ve wanted to see what we can do to encourage a bit of activity in music around here. As we seemed to have landed on our feet in moving into a house seemingly purpose-built for hosting gigs, the first step for doing so seemed pretty obvious. So for the last few months we’ve been working out how we can approach this, and out of all of that The Gate was born.

    We did a test gig a couple of nights ago to see how viable the idea is and I’m am utterly thrilled to say that the gig went incredibly well, to the point where we’re more than eager to develop the environment as a venue to host a semi-regular event.

    For the first gig we got some friends of mine – Garage Hymnal – to do a show for their fans. Telafonica (who I’ve raved about before) graciously accepted an invitation to play a support set.

    Anyway, I just wanted to drop a post about what we’re doing as a heads-up on what will likely be happening in the near future. Ideally, each event will be an opportunity to feature up and coming artists and bands from Sydney and beyond in an area that doesn’t ever get to see them. On top of that, we think we’ve landed a space that’s a unique and exciting place to see music, and definitely one of interest to people beyond this area.

    The backyard is a 150 capacity space (deck and yard) with a naturally landscaped raised level in the yard that functions as a stage.

    All events will be non-profit, with all proceeds from door donations and coffee (after costs) going to the bands.

    Anyway, we’ll see how things go! Look out for an announcement over the next few days for a gig on June 19th.

    Thanks to Jatin Valabjee for the photos.

    Seja – We Have Secrets But Nobody Cares

    Sydney label Rice Is Nice seem to have hit a pop jackpot with their newest signing, Seja Vogel. Her upcoming album We Have Secrets But Nobody Cares is a diverse yet consistently well-executed album that I’m only digging more and more with each listen.

    Apparently Seja is a loyal fan of vintage synths and built the album almost exclusively using them, yet the geekery and knob twiddling never obscures what gives this album it’s heart and soul – well honed, emotionally direct songs. It’s precise in structure, yet charmingly handcrafted in it’s delivery.

    The album’s sound bounces all over the spectrum throughout it’s playing time – at times it features gorgeous, wash-laden shoegaze textures, at other times it’s burbly, quirky electropop. The songs almost always feature Seja’s vocals upfront along with layers of vocal harmony overdubs which aid in giving the album a consistent flow despite the shifts in styles.

    Check the bottom of this post for a stream of “Sing Me The Song Like You Said” which really jumped out at me. The album’s coming out on March 27th and I highly recommend you get hold of a copy.

    Seja will also be launching the album next week at The Sando in Newtown on Friday, 23rd of March with Otouto and (the ever-brilliant) Ghoul.


    Sing Me The Song Like You Said:

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    Parades – Past Lives

    Parades - Past Lives single cover

    It’s no secret that Parades are up there on my list of favourite Sydney bands at the moment. After a self-titled, self-released first collection of songs in late 2008, followed up by the gobsmackingly brilliant Hunters/Dead Nationale single in mid-2009, the band has recently signed with label Dot Dash / Remote Control (home of Snowman, Ned Collette and others) and are on track to release their debut LP Foreign Tapes in April this year. I predict good things ahead.

    Their pre-album single is “Past Lives”, and it’s a lovely, concise pop tune that’s big, pretty and spacious. It continues a trend the band seem to be exploring with more adventurous arrangements, with Efterklang-esque horns floating around the background, and loads of ambiance scattered everywhere.

    The band’s had a live lineup shakeup as reported on their Myspace – their touring party now contains the girls from Kyu along with appearances from a brass section where possible. You can see these changes yourself as the band promote the new song alongside The Seabellies on the following tour dates:

    • 18th March 2010 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
    • 19th March 2010 – The Grand Hotel, Wollongong
    • 21st March 2010 – Northern Star, Newcastle
    • 27th March 2010 – John Curtin Hotel, Melbourne
    • 1st April 2010 – The Clubhouse, Brisband

    Get amongst it. Their live show comes highly recommended.


    Beach House – Teen Dream

    I’m in. I’m sold. If Beach House‘s last album Devotion was an introverted, dimly lit Pet Sounds by way of a drum machine, this one’s bigger, brighter, and more assertive. Not that I didn’t like Devotion by any means, but I think I’ll be spinning this one more regularly.

    So, the changes in sound: there’s the aforementioned brighter tone to it, for a start. It’s got more dynamic shifts – bigger harmonies, lusher mixes, bigger choruses, but it still manages to retaining the delicate dream-pop elements that are fundamental to the band’s sound. Instrumentally, the arrangements feel a more substantial than past album – Victoria Legrand’s voice is also out front and centre, propelling each song and making sure it connects.

    The songs are gorgeous – first single “Norway” definitely sticks out as the biggest, catchiest number, but opener “Zebra” and “Lover of Mine” come close in infectiousness, with the latter particularly finding a groove amidst some subtle 80s pop influences. “Real Love” definitely jumps in as a highlight in the form of a lovely, slow-burning ballad.

    There’s not a lot more I need to say. If you’re into music that’s dreamy, sunny, texture-rich and song-oriented, this one’s in category A. I highly recommend it. If I could hack a metaphor, Beach House seem to overcome their indoor-bound introversions and discovered the outdoors. This album is a natural progression – neither a leap nor a baby step – but the results are working for me, and I think it’ll take the band to a bigger crowd.

    Also: I also have to make special note of the packaging – I picked up the special edition CD and it’s brilliantly presented as a folded digipak box with individual full-page artwork for each song. Really enjoyable. The special edition also comes with a DVD containing video clips for every one of the album’s songs. Buy your music yo, it rewards you with pretty pictures and stuff.

    Teen Dream is out now on CD through Mistletone/Inertia. The vinyl release is available for import from Sub Pop.


    Massive Attack – Heligoland

    It’s taken me the two weeks since Massive Attack‘s new album came out for me to decide I’m ready to put my thoughts together on this album, and even then I’m not entirely sure I’ve got my head around it altogether.

    Let’s get things started with the bit I wasn’t expecting to write: this album’s not crap.

    I know, I’m scratching my head as well. After the dismally middling 100th Window, and all of the subsequent rumours of the remaining two members of Massive Attack’s barely-functioning relationship, I’d basically given up on Massive Attack or any kind of return to their former greatness.

    Having said this, this isn’t (in my humble opinion) a return to band’s greatness as seen in their best works – but in a lot of ways I think comparing Heligoland to those albums will perhaps inhibit your enjoyment: I started to properly enjoy the album once I managed to disentangle my listening from comparing the album to it’s predecessors, and trying to work out where it fit within the Massive sound.

    The album’s sound and aesthetic is clean, and bright: it’s melodic, it’s pure. This is not entirely good, but it’s not entirely bad either. There’s no sonic grime – no Blue Lines vinyl crackle and hiss or Mezzanine distortion. It’s calculated and precise, and most definitely digital – occasionally with a little too much Pro Tools post-production applied. That’s not to say it doesn’t have atmosphere – there’s plenty, it just manifests itself in different ways. There’s less bombast by way of slow, plodding beats or rib-shattering sub-bass, but the band manage to conjure up dark and occasionally downbeat textures by way of other means, including an unexpected presence of recognizably acoustic instruments: pianos, horns, drums and guitars.

    The highlights are definitely pushed forward by their guest appearances – Tunde Adebimpe (saves an otherwise potentially dull song), Hope Sandoval (absolutely stellar), Horace Andy (“Girl I Love You” is excellent) and Damon Albarn (excellent) each turn out incredible tracks, largely due to their performances and songwriting input. Elbow’s Guy Harvey’s modern futuristic spy tune feels like it’s trying a little hard to be a clever tune, but it ends up winning you by the time it reaches its horn-laden conclusion. Robert Del Naja seems to have given up on rapping (unfortunately) but he manages to turn out two good singing performances on “Rush Minute” and “Atlas Air” – but these songs, while decent, seem let down by uneven arrangement and production, both feeling a little bit laborious and uninspired in their assembly.

    And then there are the missteps, sure – “Splitting The Atom” is an embarrassing attempt at a lighter Blue Lines-era tune with phoned-in performances from Daddy G, Horace Andy and Del Naja, while Martina Topley-Bird’s two contributions are pleasant enough but ultimately unremarkable.

    All this being said, I found once I got amongst the album and let it speak on it’s own terms it’s thoroughly listenable and definitely enjoyable. A few tunes will be able to stand as classic tracks in the Massive Attack oeuvre, and many of the remaining at the very least contribute to a cohesive album.

    Colour me surprised – I wasn’t expecting much from this one at all.

    “Splitting The Atom” Video

    Four Tet – There Is Love In You

    Four Tet - There Is Love In You

    A lot of people are saying they really love the new Four Tet album – I don’t think I’ve got anything too unique to add, just chipping in to agree really.

    I reviewed this record’s preceding release – the Ringer EP – on Polaroids of Androids and as a conclusion wondered whether it was a sort of experiment, or a hint of the nature of his next album. Turns out, it was kind of both: There Is Love In You does have similarities – soft four-to-the-floor foundations, organic samples scattered liberally and flourishes of synth elements – but it pulls back on the hypnotic, lengthy song structures just slightly and tightens up the focus of each piece. It ends up as an accessible, thoroughly enjoyable listen. It’s at times happy (“Circling”), bouncy (“Sing”), baddass (“Love Cry”) and simplistically beautiful (“She Just Likes To Fight”) in turn.

    In amongst all of those above words, I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m finding it really really good.


    • Love Cry on Myspace (best I can do, sorry)