Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Battles – Gloss Drop

June 5, 2011

Review by Kate Herrington

Thanks to the Skins Season 2 soundtrack, I fell in love with the New York rock band “Battles” earlier this year. Considering their debut album “mirrored” was released four years ago, some might call me a late bloomer, however I am now an obsessive fan driving home from the 4zzz studios to listen to their latest release – Gloss Drop.

This album flows beautifully through 12 sophisticated equations of diverse texture and speed. It sounds like these experimental boys have become quirkier since we last heard from them, taking us into a world where steel drums don’t sound cliché and hand claps are not indie.

This is the bands first release without the charismatic fourth member and vocalist Tyondai Braxton. Although there are numerous guest vocalist appearances, they do not compare, and I feel Battles work could be just as powerful if the album remained a voiceless abyss. Gloss Drop is wonderfully engaging, but as the CD spins I can’t help listening for a track to match the success of their most known song “Atlas”, it never comes.

For me, the music of Battles has an intensity that requires solo listening, and this release is no exception. Gloss Drop is quite an intense, enjoyable collection of tracks which will be on high rotation for those in the know.

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Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens In Toowoomba (Ever)

May 5, 2011

By James Cobb

After an award-winning debut at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in 2008, Sarah Collins has brought her one-woman show to the Brisbane Powerhouse for what promises to be a very successful season.  Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens In Toowoomba (Ever) is an engaging and interactive comedy about dysfunctional relationships, overcoming adversity, and rediscovering what it means to be a kid.

The performance is told through the eyes of Kevin John and his quest to overcome the monotonous boredom he feels with being ‘just an ordinary kid’.  Collins takes the audience on a heart-warming journey that is filled with anecdotes and fantastic characters that are incredibly sincere and quite often, all-too-familiar.  Her ability to capture the essence and naturalness of twenty different characters with a simple change of costume or expression is a tribute to her ability as a performer.

When you enter the space, you are greeted with a small stage, very basic props and a minimal lighting rig.  I was amazed at the number of different ways she used these materials.  It is fair to say that Collins is a genius when it comes to creating entire worlds with the most basic materials.  She relies as much on the audience’s imagination as she does on her own.  Instead of spoon-feeding you every detail, she sets your imagination free.

Nothing Extraordinary Ever Happens In Toowoomba (Ever) is running at the Brisbane Powerhouse until Saturday 15th May (excluding Mondays).  All ticketing information and performance times can be found at the Brisbane Powerhouse Website:

http://www.brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/view/nothing-extraordinary-ever-happens-in-toowoomba-ever/

My Disco & Absolute Boys review

November 30, 2010

I’m slowly becoming more and more convinced that tom drums make people lose any sense of self control. My Disco and Absolute Boys at The Zoo on Saturday night presented no exception to this rule.

Adelaide trensters Absolute Boys started off the evening playing to an unfortunately nearly empty room. The few punters scattered around The Zoo were far from given an empty performance, however. Absolute Boys were tight and expressive, combining catchy pop tunes with fierce and jagged eccentricities. Their stage presence I found to be polite, but extremely “cool” at the same time. And “cool” is definitely a key word for this review. Absolute Boys had a definite hipster vibe going on, with a clear vision of trend beaming out amongst the plaid button-up shirts, layers of bass delay and slashing guitar layered on top of the soft and precise vocals. But, you know what, I’m not even saying that’s a bad things. As hipster tre cool as the Absolute Boys may have come across, there was also a “reformed boys from the Adelaide burbs” vibe too, which acted as a sort of subtext to their whole performance. So don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the Absolute Boys set. They were thoroughly enjoyable and made me want to dance, and this could never lead to a bad thing.

I admittingly didn’t hang around for the Slug Guts set. They seem to be playing every show in Brisbane lately, along with a couple of other bands who seem to be dominating all the shows and venues around town. And personally, I’m getting pretty sick of Brisbane’s entire underground music scene being represented by three or four bands. So this is the reason I didn’t stay to watch them.

While I found quite a few similarities between the Absolute Boys and My Disco sets in terms of repition, driving basslines, vast walls of sound and insistent minimalism, there was a real rawness harnessed by My Disco which makes it easy to see how so many people have become obsessed with them. They played their entire new album Little Joy from start to finish, with slight deviations away from the recorded version of the songs. As you have heard, Little Joy is not a participants album in the way that it is a mesmerizing one. My Disco have created a repetitious monster of the trance kind, and Saturday night they unleashed it onto The Zoo patrons with an unstoppable force. The little lighted worked perfectly with the minimalistic sounds of My Disco and created a great atmosphere. While I was a little disappointed when I found out they were going to play Little Joy from start to finish (why should I pay an extra $20 to hear something I already have), I think it made sense. It was a very complete set that went through all the right levels of energy and intensity like waves.

Overall, it was a really awesome night with quite an interesting lineup. There was all the genetic makeup here for a possibly mediocre evening, but My Disco brought their balls to the table and once again proved that they are probably one of the most unique bands in Australia right now, and definitely one of my favourite.

Liza Harvey

Interfused

November 16, 2010

The Queensland National Ballet is a curious company; youthful and energetic it offers its dancers a chance to explore contemporary dance within the confines of the Russian Vaganova method of classical ballet.
In Interfused, Artistic Director Martyn Fleming has created a dance of tension and romance located within office politics. It explores themes of workplace relationships through the intersection of three couples; a janitor and a young intern, the boss and his PA and two middle-management lovers.

The QBN dancers are very young and most likely have never worked within the grey walls and oppressive atmosphere of a city corporation, yet their interaction with this soul-sucking environment is expressed beautifully through rigid postures, busy group pieces and desolate solos. The musical score turns contemporary pop songs into piano score perfect for the young dancers. The music builds throughout the performance, filling the concert hall of the Old Museum with sound. The dance flits through each pas de deux coming to a crescendo in which the corps de ballet join the principals in strenuous leaps and very fast floorwork. Interfused leaves you quite breathless and also amazed that such young dancers can express such mature and complicated themes. Keep an eye on their upcoming performances here, http://www.qldnationalballet.com.au/.

Bleeding Knees Club, Virginity.

November 14, 2010

Sometimes, the dreams of youth feature musical aspirations. You know what I’m talking about; those conversations with friends that go a little something like this:

“You know what, broseph? We should start a band.”
“Yeah, totally dude.”

Usually, this pipe dream goes no further than the list of names you’ve managed to scrawl on a beer-soaked napkin, with “Best Friendz Forevs” at the top. That is, unless you happen to be the two chums from Brisbane who decided to call themselves Bleeding Knees Club.

These guys write tunes about the four pillars of youth: the opposite sex, resenting the elderly, parties and generally being raucous. The vocals are raw, the lyrics are simple and the music is as loose as they are. Virginity is an extremely infectious EP, with surf-come-garage-punk beats that make my little teenage heart pound faster than housewives at a Boxing Day sale.

Recently added to the No Years line-up, Bleeding Knees Club is also playing Woodland on the 19th of November. It’s sure to be a riot.

Check out their site for more deets: http://thebleedingkneesclub.tumblr.com/

– Sophie.

Review: Age of Adz, Sufjan Stevens.

November 2, 2010

I know what you’re thinking: “Heck yes, Sufjan Stevens is back! Better don my white choir robe, daisy chains, and head to the nearest open field for a frolic.” Well, hold your unicorns, guys; the god of indie folk pop has gone electronic, and I’m thinking you might want to take a seat for this one.

Futile Devices, the first track of the record, is a quiet and mellifluous song that probably belonged on an earlier album, like Seven Swans. From there, The Age of Adz gets progressively, well, crazier. The songs are still quintessentially Sufjan Stevens, with beautiful orchestral arrangements and those choir vocals, defining features all reminiscent of the majestic Illinois record. However, it seems that Sufjan Stevens has also recently developed a feel for next level beats and I’m guessing it’s because Bjork started teaching at his Sunday school.

A chaotic melange of indie folk pop and electronics may sound ugly, and at some points, the album leans a little that way, but yet again, Sufjan Stevens has proved to be an incredibly unique musician. The Age of Adz is certainly no letdown; it is a work of genius but it’s also FLIPPIN’ insane.

In this respect, I purport that Sufjan Stevens was abducted by aliens and wrote this album after returning to Earth, still spaced-out on moon drugs. There’s no other logical explanation. And when they finally find extraterrestrial life out there, I’m going to ask for the Sufjan Stevens treatment.

– Sophie.

Review: Interpol, self-titled.

September 26, 2010

With very fond memories of Turn on the Bright Lights and Antics, and a strong will to forgive them for Our Love to Admire, I was really excited to pick up Interpol’s new, self-titled album.

The first time round, this album had me deeply disenchanted. Speculating that perhaps Interpol have been consuming too many pheromones in their tea (see film clip for ‘Lights’), I gave it a second chance.

Although a couple of tracks do save Interpol’s keister, said tracks all seem to be concentrated in the first half of the album. It’s like going to the pub with some friends; the start of the evening features captivating conversation topics like if zombies ever need condiments, or the inevitable “what does it all mean?” philosophical musing. Copious amounts of alcohol later and BAM! Everyone’s digressed in to insipid ramblings. Or maybe that’s just my experience?

Analogies aside, this album seems contrived and lackluster. To his credit, Paul Banks still has a way with peculiar lyrics, but not one track truly stands out, nor do any of them even come close to the brilliance that is Interpol’s early work.

Sadly, this must be what Interpol- throwing- in –the- towel sounds like.

– Sophie.

Frankly! It’s a Pop Festival

September 6, 2010

Frankly! It’s a Pop Festival graced our fine Powerhouse this last Saturday past, bringing with it an enviable lineup of some serious pop bands. In the last year or so my definition of ‘pop music’ has done a complete backflip. So, I can understand if you’ve read this review so far and thought “hells no! A pop festival??” But, Zeders, fear not – this is pop music at its purest, with just plain mother fucker catchy tunes. The lineup was made up of Fabulous Diamonds (Melb), Guy Blackman (Melb), Surf City (NZ), Crayon Fields (Melb), High Places (US) and Xiu Xiu (US). I found it interesting that there seemed to be a pretty decent crowd right up until Xiu Xiu played – perhaps the lure of pretty and colourful fireworks got people’s attention. Lawrence English who curated the festival certainly did a great job at piecing together this fantastic pop festival!

Fabulous Diamonds
One of the things that really struck me about Fabulous Diamonds was there skill in keeping repetition interesting. Sure, there songs are a collection of one drum beat and a keyboard riff that slowly develops over a period of about 7 minutes or so, but for some reason I find it really easy to get into it. I thoroughly enjoyed their set at Frankly on Saturday, much more so than at their LP launch the night before at Burst City. Fabulous Diamonds seemed to balance the right amount of tension and drone quality across their Frankly show and I’m not sure if anyone else could have pulled it off quite as well as they did.

Guy Blackman
I’m still not quite sure how I feel about the Guy Blackman set at Frankly. For a lot of the time his simple pop keyboard melodies, clean vocals and daggy jokes made me feel like I was watching my Dad perform. But maybe that was just his charm? I think I kind of appreciated it in the same sense that you can appreciate a dad-joke, and his set did get more interesting as it went on. By the last two songs, the boys from Crayon Fields had joined Blackman on stage to perform a super up-beat version of “Gayle”, which ended the set on a fantastic note.

Surf City
Surf City really carry on that classic New Zealand pop sound that is reminiscent of bands like The Clean and even Songs (yes, I know they’re from Sydney but three of them are from NZ!). There was a real particular nostalgic pop sensation that flowed through the Surf City set and I really enjoyed it. However, listening to music that makes you feel like dancing, while it’s really the middle of the day and everyone’s sitting down inside a big brick building just didn’t seem to bring the right vibe to their set. There was definitely something missing in the middle, some kind of translation or understanding where even though the Surf City boys performed really well, the crowd just didn’t respond in the way that I think they deserved.

Crayon Fields
There was something extremely wholesome about watching a bunch no particularly attractive guys play 60s inspired pop with a geeky precision! Crayon Fields are now one of my favourite bands, and I think it might be just because I feel like if I took one of them home my dad would be very happy! Their set at Frankly was really great and they injected a fair dose of renewed excitement into the festival air. Not that the previous bands didn’t perform well, but the whole timetable had been pushed forward by about an hour and this made everything feel a little rushed, like the organizers were trying to rip off a band aid as fast as possible. So when Crayon Fields played fantastically, there was a fair amount of excitement that seemed to drive up the vibes a little bit.

High Places
There were a few things about the High Places set that really distracted me from really enjoying their set. There were a fair amount of sound issues before they started playing which pushed back their time by half an hour (and actually bringing the festival back to its original playing times) and there’s always a nervous tension in the air when even the audience can tell that something’s gone wrong. Then when they started playing the mix just seemed a little bit out, like there was some phasing or something happening with the speakers… and then I realized it was all because of a photographer who was leaning his entire body against the right hand speaker to steady his camera and in doing so cutting out most of the higher frequencies and quite radically changing the sound. As a trained engineer/producer, these little things really get to me and I’m sure even those in the audience who don’t know anything about the physics of sound would have heard the extreme change in sound. As I said, I was pretty distracted through the High Places set, and so while their beats came across really brutal and meaty from their drum machine, I felt like for most of the set the entertainment value of watching two people on stage and a drum machine just didn’t hold its worth. It was real shames because their recorded works are fantastic and pack a shitload of punch, but it just didn’t seem to translate live. This, doubled up with my audiophile distractions proved High Places to be a bit of a disappointment.

Xiu Xiu
While in their stage setup, Xiu Xiu weren’t all that too different from High Places in term of two people on stage adorned by drum machines, keyboards, guitars and a few percussion bits and bobs, their live stage presence was surprisingly overwhelming. I felt that they were super intimidating on stage, especially Angela Seo. Maybe because I’ve seen her throw up for the entire 3:56 of the “Chocolate Makes You Happy” filmclip I thought ‘wow, there’s really not much these guys wouldn’t do for their art’. And that completely translated into their set at Frankly. Xiu Xiu had an air about them where they really came across as being completely there for the audience and for their music. I know this sounds cheesy, but they really ‘performed’, and it was thoroughly entertaining, engaging and exciting. Even though the crowd had maybe halved by the time Xiu Xiu graced the stage, I really don’t think it altered anything about their performance and it was really flattering.

Liza Harvey

Review: Memphis by Magic Kids

September 4, 2010

At the moment, there are a lot of groups jumping on the surf rock bandwagon (presumably heading straight to the coast), and I guess you could say Magic Kids are one of them. Hailing from Memphis (surprising no?), these kids gained a lot of recognition in the music scene back in 2009 with the release of their single Hey Boy. A year later, Magic Kids have lived up to the hype with the release of a downright infectious debut.

Memphis is short and sweet and so full of youthful exuberance, I’m fairly convinced it could replace Botox. The opening track Phone lets you in on the overall feel of the album; jangly guitars, harmonious vocal layering and the cutest orchestral arrangements this side of the fence. Hey Boy remains the highlight of the record, in all its sunshine pop glory, and the rest of the tracks are close behind. Seriously, it’s like these guys have never seen a rainy day in their lives.

All in all, Magic Kids are a little twee pop, very Beach Boys, and hopelessly optimistic. And this, my friends, makes for a fantastic band with a gorgeous debut.

– Sophie.

Review: Department of Eagles, Archive 2003-2006

August 17, 2010

A while ago I came to the conclusion that decent bands always have an unusual story behind their beginnings. Daniel Rossen (later to be of Grizzly Bear) and Fred Nicolaus met by chance when they were assigned as each other’s roommates in college and decided to start jamming together one spring.
Fortuitously, this recorded material later came across the path of a Californian label and the Department of Eagles’ debut album The Cold Nose was born. Between that time in history and the release of their highly revered second LP, In Ear Park, Department of Eagles did a lot of messing around in university practice rooms, among other places I’m sure. Archive 2003-2006 is a collection of these tracks.
Honestly, apart from track titles such as “Practice Room Sketch 1”, you’d never know this was an album comprised of tracks that wouldn’t have otherwise seen the light of day. Each track is a whimsical little journey unique in and of itself. Take the track “Flip”, for example. At first a seemingly sweet song, it flips (see what I did there) into a badass rock-out. And it works. Archive 2003-2006 is an incredibly solid album and is sure to have all the indie hipsters drooling from their pierced mouths.