Sunday, 25 November 2012

Album Review - "The Rubens" by the Rubens

The Rubens (2012)              ★  

As far as a rock band’s debut release, a self-titled album has usually been the safe bet (Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Stone Roses) but never usually produces anything outstanding to the band’s credit. However, the eponymous release from Menagle 4-piece The Rubens is all at once emotional and musically sentimental yet at the same time intense and theatrical. It is both a haven for rambling blues-rock narrative and single tracks which stand well alone.

For a group which formed a little under two years ago, the sound is particularly cohesive and the proof a professionally produced album (David Kahne – also worked with Regina Spektor, Paul McCartney, Lana Del Rey) is a declaration that a lack of experience does not necessarily mean a lack of quality.

Leading single ‘The Best We Got’ heralds back to retro blues-rock, soaked in soulful arrangements that demonstrate the traditional rock band setup still stands. Sam Margin’s unique raspy but technical vocals make a memorable impression from the start. ‘My Gun’ harnesses the youthful male strength of the band expressed simultaneously through steady percussion, dynamic electric guitar and a dash of Bond-esque drama. 

Among the recognised singles, there are new songs, which capture the biting mixture of spite, mourning and nostalgia spawned from heartbreak. ‘The Day You Went Away’ showcases the ambitious yet controlled passion of the group and ‘Never Be The Same’ is almost an updated lyrical Augie March in its swaying dynamic structure and anchored lyrics: “It took something bad, to show me what I had/ It took something sad, to remember who I am.”

The album navigates through a scene of misery, newfound love and tragic relations so it is not exactly an easy listen. Nevertheless, the nostalgic tone is endearing and there is regality to their sound – appearing effortless yet complex in its design, it is exciting to imagine what the band will create in the future.

It’s true that The Rubens are celebrated for their clear-cut influences harking back to the golden days of blues, rock and soul but what is really refreshing is the return of skilled guitarists, writers and performers to the electro-dominated scene of Western music.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Tame Impala studio sessions

When you’re listening to a Tame Impala track, it kind of feels like magic – each piece exploding into textured layering wrapping up the sentimental vocals – seeming all a bit surreal.  The latest in Modular’s ongoing Studio Sessions series is a chance to see how it’s all put together. Recorded in the local Perth basement of Fremantle’s Norfolk Hotel, the boys are barefoot, back home and performing three favourites off their freshly released album Lonerism: ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ and ‘Elephant’.

Director Kiku Ohe backs the performance with technicolour responsive lighting, just as we would have wanted – and giving us a taste of what’s to come with their upcoming national tour. It kicks off in full force with ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, while we’re perched over Jay Watson’s shoulder on keys. Band members are in their own moment but the music is at once organic and perfectly timed.

‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ follows and maintains the classic spacey psychedelic Tame Impala ambience. Overall, the sound is not too different from the record but it’s not a radio recording – the studio sessions keep the raw scratchy electric guitar and unpolished vocals. That being said, it almost feels like Kevin Parker could be whispering in your ear, it’s that immediate. This recording of ‘Elephant’ lacks some of the power in the original bass but it’s still an awesome jam to witness.

The intimacy of a studio session suits Tame Impala’s music, enhancing what already exists as a personal listening experience and drawing it out up close and personal.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Beni Stereosonic mix

Once again, Beni orchestrates a smooth transition of tracks to the point where you can be singing along to glam female vocals at one point and the next, bouncing along to hip-hop. The Sydney-based DJ and producer has released a special downloadable mix for fans to get pumped in time for his Stereosonic sets.

It’s a journey across space and time, covering 3 decades of house and electronica. You can sense those 90s trance build-ups, modern playful synth and vocal-heavy 2000s dance tunes. They hype travels smoothly up and down but the vitality never disappears – Beni sure doesn’t want you to take a break!

Fresh from his much-praised debut album release ‘House of Beni’, his Stereo mix explores a global spectrum of house music. That’s 48 minutes of hip hop beats, jazzy sax and smooth lounge grooves, futuristic techno, euroclub trumpets, trembling strings, electronica blips and whatever else you can imagine in his sound bubble.

It’s not as distilled and dance-worthy as his ‘House of Beni’ tracks but it’s a good one to leave on during pre-celebration. The middle section blends together, wearing out at times but it’s the minimalistic structure keeps the beat and bass going. The most irritating track is probably (Lazer Beams) with out-of-place high-pitched (that’s right) lasers.  Don’t fret – it’s followed by Beni’s own sweet tune ‘High Off Your Love’.

Remixes from other notable artists including DJ Sneak and Harvard Bass grace the mix, as well as a fun signoff from rap Le1f’s  ‘Wut’ to leave you in the mood to party. It’s a bit intense to listen to all in one go but it’s a great mix to get psyched for the summer festival season.

Published on Purple Sneakers.