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THE LEVITATORS – Eclectica

(Independent)

>Adelaide six piece deliver an EP guaranteed to get you grooving.

At least the Levitators are upfront with what they’re giving you. Eclectica, the follow up EP to the group’s 2008 debut album, has never been a more apt title for a release. Not many acts can pull off the idea of eclectic without seeming scattered or directionless, but The Levitators have managed well. Rather than sounding disjointed, the group combines elements of funk, hip hop and reggae, infusing them into one high energy style. Once Again opens the EP with a strong burst of horns, setting a laid back and groovy atmosphere. Sunshine In My Juice brings out the funk and the hip-hop infused Microphone Freak toys with electronic elements. Each track on Eclectica flows on well from the other, maintaining momentum throughout and never allowing for a lull.

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I made a promise to myself midway through last year to see more live hip-hop. However I think I failed that one, as I don’t recall seeing any after Splendour in the Grass. It’s a shame too, because this gig cemented once again how entertaining live hip-hop can be.

I entered The Zoo – slightly damp thanks to Brisbane’s sudden downpour – to what I initially thought was only house music. I figured out though, as the guy behind the laptop thanked the sparse audience, that it was an act called Tigermoth. Clearly not the most engaging set I’ve witnessed.

Not long after Tigermoth’s exit, a series of projections appeared on the back wall – a velociraptor, John Howard, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The images changed between celebrities, political figures and various pop culture references before two figures in mop-like full body costumes appeared onstage. Think a cross between Cousin It and Bigfoot. I considered how brave the duo must be to wear such outfits in a notoriously sauna-like venue, even on a relatively cool night. The idea of performing in the outfits added a sense if intrigue but ended up detracting from the performance after a little while. After a few songs though it was revealed that one of the mops was Quan Yeamons (the other was Emilie Goegan) before launching into a cover of Regurgitator’s ‘All Fake Everything’. Despite having seen Regurgitator perform this song just a few months ago, it was certainly interesting to see it performed in such a different context. I think it may have even worked better with Disaster as neither member was focusing on playing music and could put all of their energy into the rap. Not to mention the fact that Yeamons and Goegan bounce off each other so well, not only interacting with the audience while they are onstage but interacting with each other.

Next up was American rapper Lakutis, delivering a short set of roughly 20 minutes before the headliners were to appear onstage. Lakutis has an enjoyable arrogance about him – you’re drawn in unable to look away, but at the same time cringing to yourself at just how ridiculous it all seems. With songs like ‘Lakutis in the House’ and ‘I’m better than Everyone’ it’s easy to not take him too seriously, but still appreciate his skills and charisma.

Das Racist took to the stage in full swing. The Brooklyn three-piece opened their set with ‘Who’s That? Brooown!’ from their debut album Shut Up, Dude. The crowd approached slowly to the front of the stage, the venue sadly only about half full. By the time the much better known ‘Brand New Dance’ from their latest offering Relax started, everyone seemed to ease into the show a lot more comfortably. The group hilariously introduced most songs with ‘We’re gonna do a couple more American rap songs for you,’ and kept the crowd entertained with stories about their first encounter with cricket. Their energy that is so well captured on record translated well live, with each MC being an incredible enigmatic performer in his own right. ‘Michael Jackson’ was the clear pick of the night, gaining the first real roar of applause from the crowd all night. The group exited the stage saying, ‘We’re gonna pretend to do an encore and we’ll be right back’. Keeping their promise, they came back with an encore of ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ which pleased older fans but left many wondering where ‘Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell’ was.  This was only a small let down at the end of an extremely enjoyable night though, and hopefully the start of more live hip-hop for me in 2012.

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Tune-Yards (or tUnE-yArDs if you want to go with the stylised way of writing it) pretty much exploded onto the scene last year, gaining quite a bit of attention with the release of their second album w h o k i l l. The brainchild of frontwoman Merrill Garbus, she started the project alone utilising looping pedals to create drum beats and combining elements of R&B and afro-beat. The live lineup nowadays includes bass player Nate Brenner (who often assists with percussion and synths as well) and two saxophone players, which really helps to fill out the sound and add a lot of funk and energy to Garbus’ live performances.

 

It was amazing to watch Garbus create the live drum and vocal loops so effortlessly on stage, never once seeming to misstep. Right from the opening, the four-piece displayed a high level of energy and excitement which was helped greatly by the enthusiastic crowd who cheered, danced and shouted lyrics. They played most songs from their latest effort w h o k i l l, with the standouts being ‘Es-So’, ‘Gangsta’ and ‘My Country’. However, the real highlight (unsurprisingly) was ‘Bizness’, which is easily one of Garbus’ most impressive vocal performances where she changes between registers and between a soft whimper to a bellowing howl with such ease. The softly spoken frontwoman politely thanked the crowd for coming out on a Sunday night, but it seemed all too appropriate to thank her back for coming out to play such a marvelous show in the first place. It was refreshing to see this calibre of performer who approaches music in such a unique way. The entire band gave a downright flawless performance in all respects and was easily one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time.

 

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So I’ve been a bit quiet lately. But I write for Rave Magazine now! The first review I’ve done for them can be found here.

HIS MERRY MEN – Super Secret Spies EP

Monday, 12 December 2011

(Independent)

Brisbane’s own funktastic nine-piece release debut EP

In a city that seems to be revolving around indie-pop lately, His Merry Men are a breath of fresh air on the scene. Combining elements of funk and jazz, featuring strong vocals from frontwoman Megan Crocombe, the nine-piece are bursting with energy. The title track opens with a ‘50s-inspired surf guitar lick and horn accents in just the right places, while Crocombe advises us to “Just get out and enjoy yourself” over a languid chromatic riff in Njoy. Energy remains high throughout the EP, even during the slower Motown-influenced Bobby Got, thanks to thick textures and a beautifully layered brass section. The band have quickly made a name for themselves because of their vivacious live performances, and thankfully they’ve managed to capture this perfectly on record.”

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Acts Seen:

Imaginary Cities, Boy in a Box, Emma Louise, World’s End Press, Evil Eddie, The Jungle Giants, Little Scout, DZ Deathrays, Jonathan Boulet, San Cisco, Oscar and Martin, The Adults, Eagle and the Worm, Seals

I went into Big Sound Live with one goal – to only see bands I had never seen live before. The thing with this showcase is that it can be so easy to go see the acts you know will be good (Ball Park Music, Velociraptor, The Cairos, The Paper Scissors, Inland Sea etc etc) but for me that seems to kind of defeat the whole purpose. Isn’t the whole idea to help punters discover new local bands and showcase local emerging artists? I mostly succeeded, I had seen a bit of Little Scout earlier this year at Belle and Sebastian and I heard a bit of World’s End Press at Splendour in the Grass but for the most part I saw a lot of acts I had never seen before, or even heard of before.

Highlights:

World’s End Press – I stayed around to catch their whole set and it was well worth it. A genre I can only describe as retro electro, they’re very 80s complete with the loud shirts and bad awesome dancing. Lots of synths and grooving basslines. I compared them to a more subdued !!! (Chk Chk Chk) – well worth seeing again.

Oscar and Martin – I’m still trying to work out how I would describe these guys, because pop or RnB simply don’t cover it. They had two of the most amazing voices I’ve heard in a while and a really unique approach to their music.

Lowlights:

While there weren’t exactly any acts that I would say that I would never see ago, I felt a little let down by Emma Louise. With the amount of hype she’s had over the last couple of months, perhaps I had just set my standards too high. Or maybe it was an off night or a bad venue to see her in or the crowd was just too loud. It could have been anything, but I wasn’t blown away and I’m struggling to even remember anything about her set.

The Venues:

I managed to make it to every venue available for the event – Electric Playground, Bakery Lane, Black Bear Lodge, Ric’s, Tempo Hotel, Woodland, The Aviary and the Zoo.

It was actually my first time to Black Bear Lodge and I was quite impressed! I never thought the atmosphere of the Troubadour (RIP) could be matched, but Black Bear Lodge could even be an improvement. Lots of seating at the back and just generally a more open feel, I’m excited to return to this venue at some point.

Electric Playground was certainly an interesting choice of venue, but it seemed to work out okay. The sound was okay, the stage set up was okay, the scantily clad girls taking drink orders on the floor was a bit out of place but overall it’s an okay small venue. I don’t see it turning into a live music venue full time but it would be interesting to have the odd show here and there.

The only venue I was disappointed in was The Aviary. Absolutely no airflow, and beyond packed both times I went. I swear it was over capacity for Jonathan Boulet judging by the amount of people crammed into the stairwell between The Aviary and Birdees.

The Verdict:

It’s one of those ‘the more acts you see, the more you’ll enjoy it’ kind of events. It’s nice to be able to move around between different venues, and it’s nice to see members of local bands wandering around seeing other acts as well. I felt like I probably enjoyed last year a little bit more, but for the most part this year was very enjoyable and it was great to be able to see some bands I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

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“Sometimes it’s hard to be a famous dude,” sings Quan Yeomans on ‘All Fake Everything’. There was a lot of rejoicing from long time fans when it was announced that Regurgitator were releasing a new album after what seemed to be a 4 year hiatus. While they haven’t really officially released anything in that time, we’ve seen snippets of songs here and there, snap shots of the band taking their time to release something they’d be happy with. The end result is SuperHappyFunTimesFriends, an album you can purchase on any format you’d like. I got the cassette. Because, well, cassettes are pretty cool.

Regurgitator have never really been a band to take seriously, and while this album has its touching moments we still see the Regurgitator we’ve come to know and love. SuperHappyFunTimesFriends has a much stronger punk feel than previous albums, typical of the band to never really stick to a style for too long. I much prefer their hip hop stuff for the most part, but there are some really great moments here. ‘Be Still my Noisy Mind’, ‘No Show’ and lead single ‘One Day’ are the highlights, showing a slightly more serious (well, at least less nonsensical by comparison) lyrical side to a backdrop of catchy pop-rock. ‘Punk Mum’ is fantastic, a stereotypically pop-punk piece dedicated to Yeomans’ mum and ‘Super Happy Funtime’ is an interesting insight into Ben Ely’s mind (ie, random as fuck). ‘All Fake Everything’ is really the only hip hop style track on the album and those who haven’t been fans of the band for a while would see it as somewhat of a random addition.

It’s a short album, clocking in at just over 30 minutes. And with about half of the tracks just barely hitting the 2 minute mark, you can’t help but feel that some of this is just filler between much better songs. ‘DMT 4 2’ and ‘Devil Spell’ don’t really add anything of substance to the album at all. Mirco-track ‘Game Over Dude’ does provide a nice segue been ‘One Day’ and ‘All Fake Everything’ though. SuperHappyFunTimesFriends certainly isn’t as immediately impressive as previous albums, but you have to give the band some credit for just doing their own thing on their own terms.

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It has been five years since Wally De Backer has released an album under his moniker Gotye. The wait has proven to be worthwhile though, as Making Mirrors is easily one of the most anticipated albums of this year. The album opens with the title track, a 50 second clip of dreamy synths before launching into the groovy ‘Easy Way Out’. For the most part of the album, we have pop music at its best. ‘I Feel Better’ and ‘In Your Light’ are retro sounding with amazingly catchy hooks, though I’m not sure if they quite compare to the booming chorus of ‘Eyes Wide Open’.

While I can’t say that ‘State of the Art’ is one of the best songs on Making Mirrors, the whole idea behind it is fascinating – right from the story behind Gotye acquiring the second hand organ to the unique style of recording the vocals (as seen in the short documentary of Making Mirrors). In fact, the whole process behind the album is fascinating. There are so many layers, samples and different instruments that it’s impossible to dissect it all (no wonder it has taken 5 years for this album to be released…). Current single ‘Somebody that I Used to Know’ which features New Zealand singer Kimbra  almost seems like the odd one out on the album, being musically sparse by comparison and much more focussed on the lyrics.

The one downfall of the album is that not all of these musical ideas feel like they have been fully developed or fleshed out. Songs like ‘Don’t Worry We’ll Be Watching’, and especially the first two tracks don’t seem as well thought out as other album tracks. However, there’s something to be said about a song ending it before it grows stale, leaving the listener wanting more. While these tracks may not work out so well as individual songs, they fit into the greater scheme of the album extremely well. Gotye is great at capturing the emotion within in his music, whether it be dark and moody or bright and uplifting. Making Mirrors is a completely inspiring album, completely original and certainly worth giving your attention to.

 

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