Snakeface – Oberon

This is going to be one of my albums of the year. Just listen to it.

It’s primal, it’s raw, it’s a little savage, yet it’s all gloriously fun. It contains a vast array of hardcore and punk influences from all decades, plus a tangible sense of Australian identity that feels neither contrived or forced, nor cringeworthy. I like it abundantly.

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.

Listen

Sing Me The Song Like You Said:

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Ben Frost – By The Throat

Ben Frost - By The Throat

I’ve been utterly blown away by and constantly replaying this album of late since first having my ears massacred by it a few weeks back. Yes, massacred. It’s an experience to behold: layers of rib shattering bass, gorgeously arranged strings and horns, delicate piano and scattered glitched out fuzz.

Finding words to describe the album is not particularly easy: it defies categorisation but sits somewhere in the general realm of modern ambient composition. That being said, it straddles just about every gap – both organic and electronic, beautiful and abrasive, melodic and dissonant.

I first came across the album after hearing “Híbakúsja” late one night on FBi. It was intriguing but radio’s definitely not the medium to listen to this stuff through! Once you hear it a high quality recording an entire panorama of bleak, paranoid soundscapes open up and completely immerse you. It’s terrifying, but simultaneously exhilarating. Sorry about the semi-hyperbolic language, can you tell I enjoy listening to it?

Comparisons? It defies them, but the works do remind me a little of Efterklang in places, particularly the use of horns. Amiina (Sigur Ròs’ string quartet) make an appearance, so some will draw links to that. Frost’s collaborator and co-producer Valgeir Sigurðsson also works with Björk and a host of others, so you there’s plenty of that Icelandic experimentalism happening in the mix.

Whatever the case, give it a shot. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s definitely a mind expanding and thoroughly rewarding listen.

Listen to the whole album at Ben Frost’s bandcamp site

Cuthbert & The Nightwalkers Pace Themselves

And there was me thinking just a week or so back that it had kind of been a while since I’d heard new recorded material from Richie Cuthbert and his crew. And then just like that, lo and behold, an announcement enters my inbox: they’re back.

Cuthbert & The Nightwalkers return with a new single entitled “Pace Ourselves” and it’s just what the doctor ordered – an eccentric, shouty, fun tune with a singalong refrain.

It’s kind of the anthem of a big night in reverse – the song starts with the tale of a night gone wrong (dodgy mobile phones! lonely bars! references to The Streets maybe?) that builds into the bliss of meeting a friendly stranger, getting high on life and… well, getting sloshed (“Pace Ourselves” elegantly turns into “Waste Ourselves”, y’dig?)

If anything, it’s “that” song that should prevent the group from endangering themselves of being pidgeonholed as a red frog-eating, perpetually high-school aged innocent pop group. F bombs! Drinking tales! Yeah, the Nightwalkers have grown up I guess.

Oh, the single was also mixed by Cornel Wilczek (a.k.a. Qua) – expect good things to come from the rest of the album if this man has had a hand in shaping the rest of the tunes, because this guy is the goods (coincidentally I was listening to Q&A and Silver Red back to back just today, so I’m particularly Qua fanatical at this point in time)

New material means new live shows and that means definitely good. This band are essential live viewing if you haven’t already seen them. You can see them tomorrow night (10th July) at Q Bar or the (still a long way off) single launch show at The Hopetoun on the 5th of September.

Listen to the track

Old news: Ships remixed

A few people have mentioned that it slipped under the radar a little, so what the hey:

Once upon a time, The Basics made a great single. It was called With This Ship. I remixed it. It got released on their Like A Brother EP last month. The end.

If you want to take a listen to said remix, have a crack at this stream:

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    Enjoy!

    (oh and you can buy the EP from the band’s myspace, or iTunes)

    The Drones are doing another tour

    In the blogging universe it’s difficult to ignore The Drones, this in part being due to Seany-boy excitedly pounding millions of gushing posts a day about the group (OK, so he’s slowed down a little lately). That being said his enthusiasm is justified – they certainly are one of the best talents to emerge out of Australia in recent years.

    Where The Drones really shine, however, is on the stage. Their recent performance at the Laneway Festival in Sydney was one of the best of the day and the only Laneway Stage set I’ve seen that managed to reach the back of the crowd instead of getting lost in murky acoustics along the way.

    If you’ve missed an all-out Drones headlining tour (as I have, to date) fear not! They’ll be soon returning from their overseas tour and doing another lap of Australia in support of their most recent album Havilah. I plan to be at their Sydney show (pending ability to make it back from other commitments), so maybe I’ll see you there!

    Here’s the full swag of dates. You can download their third single at the bottom of this post.

    • Thu 23rd Apr : The Corner Hotel : Melbourne VIC
      w/ Kev Carmody & Witch Hats
    • Fri 24th Apr : The Corner Hotel : Melbourne VIC
      w/ Kev Carmody & Witch Hats
    • Sat 25th Apr : The Metro Theatre : Sydney NSW
      w/ Kev Carmody & Witch Hats
    • Sun 26th Apr : Fly By Night : Fremantle WA
    • Wed 29th Apr : The Hi Fi : Brisbane QLD
      w/ Witch Hats & Hits
    • Thu 30th Apr : ANU Bar : Acton ACT
      w/ Witch Hats
    • Fri 1st May : The Gov : Adelaide SA
      w/ Witch Hats
    • Sat 2nd May : Groovin The Moo – Townsville : Townsville QLD
    • Sun 3rd May : Ripe Festival : Noosa QLD
    • Sat 9th May : Groovin The Moo – Maitland : Maitland NSW
    • Sat 16th May : Groovin The Moo – Bendigo : Bendigo VIC
    Listen

    The Basics – With This Ship

    The video for the new Basics single With This Ship has finally hit the Internet after being under wraps for some time:

    The song has been through a few incarnations since it’s first live outings in early 2008, but has become a straight shooting pop anthem. Trust me, it’ll get in your head and not leave for days.

    The single (7″ and CD) will be in stores next week. The B-side is Tim Heath’s first ever released composition entitled Trouble In His Head and I am not making an understatement in saying that it is EXCELLENT. Keep an eye out for it. (update: it’s streaming over here)

    The Basics will be participating in a Red Cross Bushfire Appeal gig in Melbourne on March 1st (details here), but have released no official tour plans beyond that.

    The Middle East – Blood

    Over the years I’d heard splutterings of enthusiasm surrounding a band from Townsville called The Middle East. They didn’t get down to Sydney much – probably due to their location of residence – but a few of their tunes fell into my hands a couple of times and seemed nice enough. They were on my “bands to watch” list, but then promptly disappeared off my radar.

    Now they’ve suddenly appeared back on the scene with a deal with Spunk Records, and boasting a shift in sound that has moved from plundering influence from the usual pillars of indie rock to introducing a greater influence from the broad pool of folk. They’ve recently supported Bill Callahan (Smog) and apparently are recording an EP that should be released mid-year.

    I was given their latest track “Blood” which features a lovely picked guitar, a very nicely penned melody and crooned vocals. It’s a slow burner, gradually building before introducing a melody that leads to an explosion of glockenspiels, a chorus of vocals and trumpets. Y’know, the kind of thing that Arcade Fire made cool. Actually the whole thing is kind of what Sydney live favourites Cuthbert & the Nightwalkers might sound like in a more sober and reflective mode.

    Have a listen:

    The Middle East are playing two shows in Sydney next month:

    • The Hopetoun on the 20th of February with Leader Cheetah, Megastick Fanfare and Maple Trail
    • Brass Monkey in Cronulla on the 21st of February with Leader Cheetah and Jack Ladder (solo)

    Mountains in the Sky, Qua, Ohana @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney

    I just got back from a double headlining album launch featuring Mountains in the Sky and Qua. Whoa. Seriously mind-boggling – most of it anyway.

    The event was unusual in that the “double headlining” term was taken more literally than usual and actually featured both acts sharing the same set, taking turns to present material from their new albums and occasionally sharing the stage in free-for-all jams. The format worked really well I thought, although it tended to give a rather ramshackle, unpredictable edge to the proceedings. Sometimes it worked to stellar degrees, other times it came within millimetres of falling to pieces.

    Apologies about the page full of photos. I hate having to scroll through pages of pics like this, but unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to incorporate anything more sophisticated for viewing photo collections on this blog.

    I don’t have any pretensions of being a great photographer – the shots are pretty mediocre in my opinion, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.

    ~~~

    The evening was kicked off by Ohana, who I’d been eagerly looking forward to see since hearing rave reviews from Jonny at Polaroids of Androids. The band kind of sounds like a combination of noise rock and math rock – perhaps if A Place To Bury Strangers and Battles got together and had a baby – or perhaps not. Regardless, I thought they were fantastic.

    Ohana

    Ohana

    Ohana

    ~~~

    The proceedings continued with a bizarre introduction to the set by this gentleman, who got the crowd into the spirit of things with a speed-rap medley. He later returned with an Eddie Vedder impersonation.

    Crazy dude doing Eddie Vedder

    ~~~

    Enter Qua (aka Cornel Wilczek), who invites you into his mysterious domain:

    Qua

    His ambient stuff that opened the set was insanely good (“All Breath, No Body” off the new album) … a very cool opener for the set. I’ve heard that Silver Red is more along the lines of this, so I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it.

    Qua's percussion guy

    Qua band

    Qua and percussion guy

    Cornel

    Cornel

    Really enjoyed Qua’s set – his use of various touch-based controllers added a nice touch (haha geddit?) to his set, and the tunes came across really nicely. A particular highlight was “Lapsang Souchong” off the new album (Q&A) which nearly blow the roof off the Oxford.

    ~~~

    Mountains in the Sky (aka John Lee) was also brilliant, with really solid material and a great live feel. I’m really looking forward to hearing his new album Electron Suite, which is now sitting on my desk and awaiting consumption.

    John Lee / Mountains in the Sky

    MitS

    MitS drummer

    John

    John

    John

     

     

    ~~~

    Despite the excellence of most of the performance, unfortunately the set kind of crashed and burned disappointingly towards the end. Whether caused by alcohol or exhaustion, the last three tunes didn’t really things on a high note. John and Cornel both limped through their final solo tunes, and the combined closer that saw half the audience join the band on stage didn’t quite match some of the set’s earlier peaks., though it was certainly memorable in the mayhem that ensued.

    Not to matter – both artists offered an excellent showcase of their material, and brought a great party atmosphere with them.

    The Woods Themselves – (c’mon) do the beach thing

    The Woods Themselves

    This one kind of snuck up on me. I wasn’t necessarily expecting much – just another band in the low-key folk genre, perhaps?

    But initial impressions or assumptions don’t always prove themselves. I’ve listened to The Woods Themselves’ new album (c’mon) do the beach thing many times now, and something about its ramshackle presentation and home-grown character has won me over.

    Apparently recorded in various places such as the Kangaroo Valley down below the Southern Highlands and in studios in Sydney, this album seems to manage to straddle the gap between giving the production of the record all the attention and polish that it needs while retaining an organic, down-to-earth atmosphere. It sounds like a real band in a room (with minor studio interference) and has all the cohesion of a continuous set of music, yet if you listen closer it sounds the songs have seen meticulous arrangement applied.

    Take the opener “Buy Some Time”, for example: an acoustic guitar hesitantly makes its entrance, before the band enters led by an organ motif. A trumpet responds, fading out as an electric offers its counterpoint. Considering the number of times perfect little moments like this appear, it’s amazing the record doesn’t sound more forced – and even more that it sounds like it could have just happened off the cuff.

    The album is one of a slow-burning nature, usually relaxed in pace but occasionally interspersed by more energetic cuts (“Comforted & Questioned”, “Virgin Domestic”) that help give the album some momentum. The tone and texture of the album comes largely from fairly standard components (guitars, bass, piano/organ, scattered horns, percussion) yet it always manages to maintain a unique identity. A few samples, programs or tape manipulations appear from time to time,  but never in a way that seem at odds with the rugged, earthy sound that the band establishes.

    In short, this is a band that knows its sound and what they’re trying to do: the sound and atmosphere is fully realised and the songs sound personal and sincere. Just like an album by a low-key folk band should be – and then some.

    Listen

    For some reason the band only offer their more uptempo songs for download, which is a shame as they don’t stand out to me as their greatest moments. But give these a spin anyway, keeping in mind that in my opinion the other 9 tracks on the album are where the real goodness is to be found…