Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Necks

Well here I am once more, languishing under bright luminance, perched over the keys ready at the call to shape at least one. More wretched. Sentence. The inertia of the past weeks is inexcusable and justly have I lost the few fancied readers that I have had conceitedly boasted. No matter. Last night I was privileged to witness the strange conduct of a professional employed in her field. A day found me pouring over the result but was amazed at the discrepancy between the labor I had witnessed and it’s outcome.
Sometimes the Necks can be like that. Amidst the gentle shimmerings of sound of the bass, drum and piano trio there emerges sometimes a guitar chord, electronics, a fanfare of winds, sometimes even voices. These inexplicable noises arise perhaps from certain resonances that Abraham arcanely summons from the keys of his trade. They flit in and out over the set seemingly at random rarely lingering, always leaving the audience in dumb astonishment.
But I am getting ahead of myself. As I was saying I was lucky enough to have positioned myself in the audience behind Age reviewer Jessica Nicholas. But again I have erred and flung myself too far in time. I should have started with, I was at the annual, The Necks performance at the Corner hotel. As I was saying in the introduction I found myself observing Mrs. Nicholas as she was taking notes for her own review. It was quite remarkable to watch, horrifying even. There she was filling page after page of her small exercise book with line after terrible line of what was probably even a short cuneiform, shorthand! Every two minutes she would pause look up at Tony Buck while awaiting some divine inspiration and then down she would be again with line again of admirable verse. She must have ended up with at lest ten double sided sheets in the second set alone. And now I dig up the scant words that I once tried to solicit at a show. One of the more coherent entries I can find, I have it in front of me, “this band fucking sucks!” Must I cleanse the fount of Helicon, swampy with mud and rushes and restore the sleeping Muses, soiled by rusticity, to their pristine beauty. Well enough rhetoric. Far worse was when I opened the paper the next day, or the one after that and found the review occupying but 300 or so scant words. What extravagant waste! Should writing really be such work? Well competent writing perhaps. On the Neck’s practice of purely improvising each gig, “Even the most seasoned mariner would find it daunting to set sail with intuition as his only compass.” Nordic objections aside it’s a million times more imaginative than anything I could have writ, though her trick does seem to be just that, writing a million different things and selecting the best. The nautical themes continue to resurface through her review like the most deferent beluga whale (you see I could easily just rewrite that), “All three players seemed part of the same tidal pull, the music ebbing and flowing with a majestic, rolling momentum.” Coleridge rarely said more.
Anyway I couldn’t agree more with her sentiments, the Necks are an uncommonly moving band. They’re playing a show soon at the Melbourne Town Hall to make use of its immense grand organ. The largest in the southern hemisphere. And I can tell you from last year that it will be two hours of a gradual exhilarated, bliss. Do come.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cam Butler

With his album ‘See (symphony no.1)’ Cam Butler and his Shadow of Love Orchestra garnered no small amount of critical acclaim. I read with approval the swooning, sycophantic review in the age. Lush, orchestral, epic, marvelous. Another reviewer described a Cam Butler live show as ‘possibly the greatest he’d seen in a decade.’ His music seemed straight up my alley. Long, loud instrumental music with the pretension to be treated as classical. Consequently I was pretty excited to read that Cam Butler and his ten piece ensemble would be playing a show at the Spanish on the night of my last exam. Oh cruel world. Imagine my disappointment when learning that those reviews had been written by a press agent or at best under duress or perhaps even by Cam Butler himself acting under a pseudonym. I had been deceived the reviews had been falsified the music I had been expecting was played but cruelly misshapen, meanly perverted, broken. What now that I can’t rely on professional music critics. Who am I going to now give my trust, the people? But democracy is for fools, given the choice the people would again choose the murderer Barabbas.

Where to begin with Cam Butler. Well it’s not that he makes bad music, he just barely makes music at all. I’ll describe the structure of one his songs, the formula of which was adhered to throughout his set as some natural law. It will begin with some simple, unexciting, guitar phrase. Repeated. Then one of the two drummers will start playing the cymbals, later the other will join in also. Don’t get two excited though, two drummers is all very well and good but only if they play two different things is their any sort of point to it. Next the four piece sting section advances with sentimental swells and melodic straining. I sure hope you like romantic and banal string music, like soundtracks to old hollywood romances. Because for the next ten minutes the song is going to build up a little as the bass begins, the acoustic guitar starts playing the chords and Cam Butler noodles around for a while. The drums will get a bit louder as the rhythm is established and the strings keep doing their thing. Then it quitens down as it began with nothing having essentially changed except the position of the hands on your watch. Then it’s over. And now ten more variations on the initial theme.

I’m being hard on Cam who doesn’t really deserve me to be. He’s a capable guy who plays guitar and thought it would be a good idea to have a small orchestra back him up. Which would have been fine, had he kept this fancy and it’s results to himself. I blame the people who encouraged him along the way. The people that said, “go for it Cam, you don’t need any knowledge of music to presume to conduct an orchestra”, that said “hey Cam that riff isn’t boring and you should just repeat it for the entire song, the string section will make it sound good”, who told him, “nah mate, you don’t need progression in music, you just need a string section to play to one idea”, who enjoined him to “forget the last 200 years of musical development mate... oh you don’t know it, even better, look just make sure everything is completely tonal and monorythmic” who encouraged him with, “sounds great champ, you should record a CD” who told him, “Yeah call it a symphony, you won’t be misleading anyone or appear breathtakingly audacious” who agreed with him, “what you want to play at the Spanish on the night of the last physics exam, good idea”. So I would absolve you Cam especially for this naive comment (taken from beat), “I have had people insinuate in reviews that it might be stepping over the mark. (to call this album a symphony) But even though I haven’t been to college or anything... this is up there with the great European tradition. The composers of yesteryear would have used instruments that were around at the time, and electric guitar happens to be what’s around now.”

Cam the reason this music isn’t symphonic is because it doesn’t progress. It has no movements and apart from the quiet/loud dichotomy no movement. The music is uninspired and so monotonous that there can not be even a cursory comparison to the most banal works of young Mozart. People are still today composing 'classical' music and they do indeed compose it for modern instruments. You’re not breaking any new ground in here, though maybe in impertinence... In fact a lot of modern instruments were pioneered by mid 20th century composers such as Edgard Varese. Glenn Branca for instance recently composed a piece he scored for 100 electric guitars. I point this out because you seem to think that because you scored your album for a string section it qualifies as classical music. Hardly. And look it’s not because you haven’t been trained musically, it’s because your music is inane and listless. You considering this album a Symphony would be akin to me considering this a well thought out and written review. Alas, however we may like it to be so, it is not.

Also playing at the show were Princess One Point Five and Registered Nurse. Princess One Point Five treated us to a warm set of well crafted pop songs.

Registered Nurse were admissible. Sometimes they really good and sometimes they weren’t but usually they fair. I can’t remember what they exactly sounded like now, but quoth my friend Andrew in a fair summation ‘they sound almost like a band that I’d actually care to see.’

Sunday, October 29, 2006

In Which Our Hero Attends a Ska Show

It’s nice when, with no more than a quick leafing through the gig guide you can appraise from the name of the band alone exactly what a live show will be like. Of course judging a band like this is hardly accurate, think the Dirty Three who aren’t a sleazy pub rock band or The Drones who aren’t an avant-garde noise experiment. But sometimes I am pleased to encounter some degree of success. It is reasonably apparent for instance that Because of Ghosts are a post-rock band, the Oren Ambarchi Noise Trio will play with random static and high pitched squeals or Acid Mothers Temple and the Cosmic Inferno play (obviously) Japanese psychedelia.

But approaching Sunday’s show at the Arthouse (several weeks ago now) I had seriously no idea what to expect of the bands Skaladdin and Skamikaze. (nb. for those still adjusting to my particuarly mode of writing, this is sarcasm)

The band King City Seven played before these mystery acts and here at least I did know what to expect because I had seen them before. Yes, it was a fateful summers day about this time last year when the King City Seven snatched away childhood dreams of being the world’s hardest rocking musicians. You see in the heady days of my youth I played guitar in one of the most promising new outfits around, The Heat Death Of The Universe, combining a love for attitude, rock music, and the thermodynamical laws of entropy. It was a great time, partying every night, rocking out everyday. We had it all drugs, sex, legions of fans and record label offers (well actually none of those things) but on the crucial night of our first gig at the Beaumaris Hotel’s battle of the bands competition the King City Seven stole our dream. The gig went terribly, firstly we hadn’t realised that we needed to do a sound check beforehand and so our guitar chords sounded like harsh and high pitched noise discords. Secondly our lead singer Ben had, citing artistic differences left for more promising prospects interstate. Thirdly and not least, our songs were just seriously lame. Anyway the King City Seven stole the show but I don’t begrudge them, they’re actually terrific guys and play an upbeat blend of ska music and pub rock. It’s not really my thing but they’d be a great band to play a party or a packed pub instead of those awful cover bands that seem to be the trend these days.

Skamikaze had come down from Queensland for the show and it was a pretty enjoyable one. I guess I don’t need to say what they sounded like. The highlight was a cover of the Specials, A message to you Rudy and the Suicide Machines, No Face. It was pretty enjoyable and I was sort of really getting into the whole ska thing towards the end. Which is somewhat strange. For the past few years I’ve been focussing perhaps overmuch on intellectual music to the denigration of emotional music. This subject deserves an essay to itself which I’ll reserve for a more favorable moment but for now these admirable words of Sir T. Browne in his Religio Medice will suffice, ‘And even that vulgar [and tavern music] which makes one man merry and another mad, strikes in me a deep fit of devotion.’

Skaladdin are from Switzerland. They are awesome. Really their show pretty much blew me away with the fun, with the dancing, with the humanity. You see when I was younger I was really into ska music, ska music and oddly metal, in those days would I two step the streets in my Doc’s and ripped jeans, sporting a patched leather jacket, Dead Kennedy’s shirt and a carefully shaved head whilst yelling anarchist slogans at squares. Well not really, though I did for a while endorse anarchism. Anyway Skaladdin brought it all flooding back, they played some Less Than Jake covers (the best ska band ever), Rancid and I think more the Specials. I relearnt and reveled in quite skillfully that particular brand of dancing peculiar to Ska music that is named skanking. The bands originals were ace too, in short I just had a really great time.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sodastream - A Review?

So yes, it has been notably quiet here of late. And though I use that term, notable it is doubtful that you sir, have indulged to give this fact consideration. At least one possible extenuation, for me may spring to mind, being that it is so near the conclusion of the study year. To this I acknowledge a small concession but far more plausible is the reason you have already settled upon, viz. I have fallen foul of that terrible affliction known as sloth. These past months have seen less updates on the site then even the champion of inertia, Ben himself would dare to permit. To this there has been mounting within me the awful reproach of having left these vital posts unwritten. Well what then, more posting? I shrink to make such a promise lest that dreadful malaise strikes me once more, but nonetheless I shall essay these coming months to endure it.

Of course writing more is one thing and one upon which little effort may be expended. No the difficulty lies in the germ of writing. These are not easily came by and if my efforts lead but to more posts in the spirit of the previous then there is no hope. Another such scrap however will not be this review. It has been over a month since I saw the band, Sodastream and then promised to report and promptly. But I couldn’t do it. During that interval I have made numerous sallies in this purpose but have achieved nothing further than this retarded MS Paint picture.

I just don’t have much to say for the band. I arrived at the show unpardonably late though still warmly received by the friends I so carelessly affronted. After the terrific haste I had made to arrive after work I sadly could managed only a couple of fortifying brews to help overcome my initial discomfiture. On this would I ask the reader to think me no drunkard but for the fact that by the absurdly relaxed criteria this word holds I must confess it.

Well, how for some more preliminary remarks? Sodastream consist of two musicians though on the night I am supposed to right now be addressing they entertained a third. Guitar, double bass and drums for the trine. What of it, then? Dear reader, I must beg your indulgence for some time more. You have come here now perhaps after a long-regretted “sodastream” google search or perhaps from another less inconsequential blog site. Perhaps indeed you have been here before. The point to be made is that though I may in appearance seem to be desperately stalling in reality I am with true literary virtuosity setting the scene for what will undoubtedly be a climactic and insightful review.

So then, the Sodastream show was satisfactory. Some of their songs were rather beautiful, some were rather dull. A key problem I believe was my complete unfamiliarity with their material before the night but this is hardly an excuse as almost all the bands I review here are previously unknown to me. But they just didn’t make me feel it, if you follow. Of course their are mitigating circumstances; firstly it was held at the Corner hotel leaving little opportunity for the intimacy so vital to indie/acoustic bands further I was little predisposed to hear music that night being still flustered as I mentioned far earlier. Sodastream played a tight show displaying deft musicianship and competent songwriting but it was not anything spectacular or evidently remarkable.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Meaningless Milestone #1

Alright, this sites counter at the bottom left column just ticked over One Thousand hits.

Thanks then to you generous reader.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Review: [Kes and Band + The Triangles]

Following even a casual survey of the range of art displayed at the National Gallery of Victoria one finds the majority of the most excellent paintings (and I distinctly recall at least one breathtakingly consummate bust) are based on religious events or themes. Recall the many impassioned images of the Christ painted in the Renaissance and contrast to these the listless virtuoso portraiture in the 18th century. Think you, that Bach could have touched the heights of his St. John Passion, Mozart his D-minor Requiem, Stevens his Seven Swans without being first filled to the brim with the most profound devotion?

Of course the contention I have just now outlined is completely absurd. Confessedly I do in my more frivolous moods I enjoy the argument, yes the one just above, and in a way I would like it to contain some small crux of truth. That is, great art is infused with the awesome power of God’s love. This fancy may account for why I love a band like the Triangles so goddamn much, blasphemy, yes unhappily I am myself an atheist. But you see when the Triangles start playing their gorgeous, whimsical pop music I have something of a religious experience. As the guitar ascends the major key so do my spirits soar and when the xylophone taps out a joyful melody I gleam with radiant mirth and devotion and...

Your pardon. So the Triangles played a pretty good set at the Tote on the Sabbath. Two things were disappointing however. Firstly they have determined to reduce the number of random instruments they use on stage (eg. ukuleles, accordions, cups, bugles, various and manifold random keys, balloons etc.) and instead play a more rock based guitar set. This I feel is a mistake. Their talent lay precisely in the chaos and unpredictability of their music and shows, cutting back on instruments in favour of consistency and saving time between songs is disappointing. Even if they sometimes do forget a bugle say and can't play a song or spend ages looking for a lost harmonica it's all part of their singular charm. My other grievance is that they didn’t play that song about building helicopter number three though bats and i am your valley were particuarly good. Anyway their new songs are meritous if sensible but the Triangles if you have happened to google yourselves and are reading this then take heed.

Also playing was the talented Kes with his very talented backing band. Hopefully I’ll manage a fuller review of Kes at a later date. Basically the set was awesome. Imagine if you will, a folk band jamming psychedelic rock freak outs. Maybe you’re familiar with Syd Barrett? Well a bit like that, nowhere near as inspired and erratic but every bit as good. I really can’t remember too much else though the lyrics were pretty interesting, one song seemed to be about wizardry. But I do recall being completely blown away.

In short, The Triangles and Kes are two bands you really need to see.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Fuck Meredith

The Meredith Music festival is awful. The past few days I haven’t been able to sleep so strong was my fear that tickets would be so plentiful that I’d be somehow deceived into accepting one, again... I remember it well. That sterile, blasphemous field in the remote Victorian countryside. Deceptively serene but amidst the hippies and indie poseurs an undercurrent of dissidence. There were drugs, alcohol and especially marihuana everywhere. Completely non commercial an entirely non profit enterprise. There weren’t even any policeman. So far we’ve established that this festival is anti- the war on drugs (and probably terror), anti- the economy and anti- law and order. And the noise, gods, the noise they passed off as music. It was a long way from what was played in my day.
Just look at the bands they’ve got playing this year;
Datarock – Norwegian “new rave” according to wikipedia no doubt a pseudonym for “old rave” just with more street credibility.
Midlake – Completely unobjectionable indie rock.
Augie March – I heard a song of theirs on Nova so I guess they’re cool.
The Drones – I read an interview with the Drones the other day where they not only bagged John Howard but also defended the ludicrous Black Armband fabrication of Australian history. Needless to say I’ll never listen to them again.
The Soundtrack of Our Lives – This band just, actually sucks.
The Bamboos – No ones listened to funk music since the early eighties.
Girl Talk – I hear this band strip on stage thus further demonstrating the complete lack of morality in our nations youth. Also, and from their myspace, “It bangs as a continuous mix packed with wildly disparate Top 40 genres and eras.”
City of Ballarat Brass band – As the great conductor Thomas Beecham once stated, ‘theres a place for everything; for brass bands it’s in an open field and several miles away.”
Tapes and Tapes – More generic indie prattle.
Concertino Trio – Not only is this band not either Australian or American but they’re actually from Communist Russia. No thanks, Comrade.

So yeah, that’s why I’m not going to Meredith this year.

And also because they sold out of tickets in about half an hour.