Saturday, 22 June 2013

Album Review - "Sistrionix" by Deap Vally

Sistrionix (2013)               ★ 

When Deap Vally were flaring up in the blogosphere over summer as “artists to watch” they much surpassed their poster image as two Californian rockers. They command attention with classic rock ‘n’ roll theatrics. Their debut album Sistrionix lives up to its name – these two troublemakers are making a name for themselves.

With essentially one EP (2012’s Get Deap!) and a style that is loud, fast and fierce, you probably won’t find them on commercial radio, with a sound veering off clean rock that scorches the eardrums.

All of which might mean that the follow-up is an exciting outcome for the rock ‘n’ roll preachers, rambling in embellished leather jackets, black band tees and wild hair to the music of Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. It’s also sure to please the young fans worshipping the Karen Walker female eccentric.

Their signature sound means that “Thelma & Louise” give us no time for a breather. Lindsey Troy is back with her signature raw vocals and Julie Edwards provides a wild percussion that makes you wonder how it is she still has any energy left by the end of the record.

“End of the World”, the opening track, has a killer riff and heavy distortion riding the distorted but consistent groove of the song. “Baby I Call Hell”, one of the 2012 singles, has Joan Jett written all over its howling vocals and heartbreaker anthem lyrics. This track is already a highlight of their live shows.

The mood then becomes blues-infused in “Walk of Shame” with an up-tempo break and lyrics of longing, regret and revenge. The entire album features a White Stripes –style marriage of shredding guitar and strong drumming but it is on “Gonna Make My Own Money” where their sound really starts to echo the grotty guitar work of Jack White.

“Creeplife” is a man-hating anthem spewing out insult after insult in a sassy, rocker tone √† la Tina Turner: “I don’t think I’ll be visiting you in jail” – she cries/whispers. On that path, the ferocious sexuality stays alive in “Your Love”. The tempo is slightly slower but the passion oozes out each line and the sound delves into psychedelic.

An album standout is “Lies”, the single that put Deap Vally onto international playlists. And rightly so, it sends shivers up the spine with its dark yet alluring sound. “You’re gonna be alone when you grow old/Babe, I wasn’t bluffin’/ From now on, you get nothin’.”

In “Bad For My Body” it’s the perils of the rock ‘n’ roll high live – sacrificing “health”, “head”, “wallet”, “image” and “reputation. But they bash on through with the force of savage seduction. “Women of Intention” is just plain sassy.

“Raw Material” lives up to its name. However, this means that some of the lyrics are lost in the primordial sound. The howling blues and slower tempo winds down the pace for Six Feet Under: “You moved into my veins like a drug.”

The good news is that Deap Vally live up to their rocker girl locks. These two are the real deal. They may not provide the sentimental poetry or creative arrangement of other contemporary rock bands but they own a sound hardcore and addictive, very alive.

Published on the AU review.

Black Atlass - Paris

“Paris” channels the subdued romantics of the very town it’s named after in a soft, flowing stream of black and white. The music video to accompany the new single of Black Atlass barely reveals that its artist is just 19, Alex Fleming, a singer-songwriter and producer from Montreal.

He isn’t completely new on the scene, having performed earlier this year alongside A-Trak, Just Blaze and Danny Brown at SXSW.

When he begins the track with fragile, tinkling piano you’d hardly expect an explosion of deep bass and gritty synth but that’s exactly where it heads. His whispery vocals mean that the lyrics are obscured by the textured music but it seems to tap into the senses: “gripping your hair”, “stay closer/back away”.

All of which means a slideshow of lovely ladies: their lips and luscious locks. Director Paul Labonté has brought fashion sensuality to the clip, on mute it could be a beauty campaign for a high-end Parisian label.

Having just signed to Fools Gold Records an interesting choice for a label that is primarily club music oriented), Fleming has impressive sensitivity for his age, slowly announcing his lines with a longing stare. The theatricality of the music is counteracted by the simple yet alluring visuals.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Pond - "Xanman"

Turn on, tune in, and then drop back in because the new single from Perth psychedelic boys Pond is full of explosive energy that will have your ears ringing in a joyful trance.

‘Xanman’ kicks off immediately with a rich sound of shredding electric guitar, earthy bass, crashing drums and the characteristic crying vocals of Nick Allbrook. We were sad to see him leave Tame Impala but it seems as if he has more up his sleeve.

The single has an equally distorted film clip (deep hallucinations) but this track is more optimistic and upbeat than some of their earlier work from Beards, Wives, Denim. They are now in control of their music, that’s for sure.

Absolutely a pump-up track, the energy harks back to the ferocity of classic rock.  Bang your head, dance, annoy the neighbours – let loose.

Published on adamNOTeve.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Interview with Sean Walker of Movement

In a scene not so glam as Almost Famous, Sean is navigating a car to get the equipment to sound check while two-thirds of the band are waiting in Melbourne downpour. On the way to their second headline show, texts are flying in from the boys and Sean Walker from Movement says he’d never had to multitask this hard in his whole life.

But it’s not just the unlucky weather that is keeping these three boys busy. As the latest signing to Modular music (The Presets, Tame Impala, Cut Copy), they are on a headline tour, working off their single ‘Feel Real’ and writing more “night music”. We chatted to Sean about that time they opened for Thom Yorke, beachside writing trips and cool Christmas parties.

Movement began just under two years ago as high school mates Sean Walker and Jesse James Ward, who used to write music and go to festivals together. “We had been dreaming about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it so we really didn’t want to feel any pressure to release anything. It’s unbelievable how much time we put into it, in terms of a lot of crap that came out of it, but it’s just good practice song writing.”

‘Feel Real’ is the first single and we’re still stunned that we wrote that two years ago, but Modular really wanted to release it. We’re getting all our material together, ready for future releases, so I’m really excited to get the new music out.”

Then, through a mutual friend, the pair met Lewis Wade who became their vocalist. “We heard his voice and it was exactly what we were after in terms of the sound and how we could write. It was amazing how we could turn the ideas in our head into something that people might want to listen to. That was a real help – it sped up the writing process hugely.”

Sean has just finished his degree in music production and film and Jesse has finished his degree in film as well. Lewis is a vocal major at the Institute of Music – so the boys all have their classical training in check. That said their music is often likened to more contemporary artists such as SBTRKT, which Sean is pretty stoked about.

“Something that has really quite stunned us big time is soul vocals – people really crave that stuff – which is amazing because our singer is trained in soul. We love to see that people enjoy the whole UK thing so it’s been really cool to have such a great reception. We get completely blown away when people make these references – I love SBTRKT.”

In terms of other artists they dig, Sean says that at the moment he is a huge fan of the new James Blake album Overgrown (“the production and the depth of the music on that is incredible”), as well as the leaked Jai Paul album (“big time influence for sure”).

At the moment, Movement are on the road for a headline launch tour in Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart for the Dark Mofo festival. Last month they followed Flight Facilites, which gave them a taste of the motions of moving around and playing for a whole new crowd. Movement are still on single figures in terms of gigs together (“seven or eight”) but the reception so far has been impressive.

“We had a great show last night. It was our first show by ourselves, our first headline show, so that was really exciting.”

“We’re kind of finding our feet at the moment in terms of interacting with people, it’s definitely been a big learning curve. Our set that we decided to build took a lot of planning because we had to get steel cut and recruit a lot of family to help us make it but it was good.”

Recently the group took more team-bonding time in a week-long writing trip to Seal Rocks (North Coast NSW) which was “massively inspiring”.

“It was the first time we’ve been able to go away just the three of us in a room. The image in my head is amazing- looking out the window in the room where we set up our studio looking at the beach. It was beautiful, it really was.”

All of which might clash with their vision of “night music”: “We are so inspired at night-time. It sounds cheesy but we do the majority of our writing in the late afternoon into the night and we want our music to reflect that.”

Along with the splendour of being a part of the Modular family come the events and parties thrown by the label. Next month, Movement will be opening for The Klaxons at FBi radio’s 10th anniversary fundraiser gig. “We’re really excited about that – Jesse and I have been in love with The Klaxons for a long time, since high school. We’ve dreamed about being signed to Modular and now the fact that we’re going to be playing just before they come on is incredible.”

On that path, it’s not the first time that Movement are opening for an international name. Last year, they were invited to DJ for a mystery guest at Goodgod Club in Sydney. They accepted, and it turned out to be Thom Yorke of Radiohead.

“We got a call and for us it was unreal. I had seen Radiohead the night before. We weren’t expecting anything, we’re not usually DJs, so in the space of twenty hours I had to learn everything about it. It was really fun, we enjoyed that.”

Just following their signing onto the label, Movement were invited to end-of-year drinks where Sean says they were overwhelmed at meeting some of their role modes including fellow Sydneysiders The Presets and Bag Raiders. Not your average work Christmas party: “No way, no way. You’re extremely blown away just looking around the room. You go to the bar and the drummer of Tame Impala’s there and you just ask about the touring schedule and you get blown away by how much they’re moving around.”

“You’re sharing a couple of beers with them and just talking and it’s really, really nice to be a part of that. That was a big move for Jesse and I.”

The Modular vibe seems to extend out of their parties and into the office. When it came to putting together their remix bundle (out June 21), the label asked the boys who they’d like to see work on ‘Feel Real’ over dinner.

“It was a dream come true actually. We were kind of like, “What do you mean…anyone?” We had some amazing names of people approached and it didn’t fit with their timelines. But we’re really excited to have it all there and going. I couldn’t believe hearing our song remixed by a UK artist but also a really prominent Australian artist like Ta-ku.”

“They’ve all done such unique awesome jobs to it so it’s really exciting, that will be cool to get out.”

“We wanted to get different sounds from different artists so I think we’ve achieved that, which is exciting.”

But what does Sean envision as a parallel life if there was no Movement?

“We were talking about that the other day – I think we’d definitely be trying to run our own business. It would probably revolve around film or opening a bar. We love creating things, I’m not sure, but something hands on.”

Having already been signed, one of the group’s first dream plans, Movement are now starting to think big. “We want to go international. We want to play festivals overseas, we basically want to travel overseas, that’s the one goal we’ve had from the beginning we always set out to do.”

“If we can move our music around the world that would be really amazing, that really would be incredible.”

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Willow Beats at Spectrum

A smoky room with damp blue lighting and black leather sofas doesn't seem the ideal spot for a dance gig where the stickiest floor on Oxford St was home to the Willow Beats EP launch. But the venue was strangely cosy and, despite their niche work, it was a sold out show for Sydney.

Stoney Roads DJs warmed up the crowd with sing-a-long favourites. The set first channelling the venue’s retro aura with MJ into Dr Dre then Tame Impala and plenty of new Disclosure.Towards the end of the set the dance floor was packed, everyone was up and ready to witness Willow Beats live(who turned up on time).

Willow Beats kicked off their set with "Space Oddity", off their first EP and quickly took over the stage with an eccentric loud show,, introduced by warped voiceover and otherworldly effects. In a live situation, Willow Beats are even more unconventional and create room to let loose and go wild.

Kalyani Ellis (vocals, songs, keys) enjoyed her role as front woman – following most songs she proffered much praise for her audience, crying “best show ever” and “I love you guys” - soaking up the vibe of the intimate tight gig or overwhelmed at the sold out space. She connected with the audience and a mellow venue such as Spectrum is the sort of place where the band hangs out at the bar beforehand.

The vocals were often swamped by the heavy production, but she managed to belt out her part. The smoother vocals tones on their new record became sharp, strident and experimental, adding in yelps and freestyle. The visuals were up for a few songs, abstract projections of colour and light, but did not play a major role.

Despite the tour centering on the newly released EP Alchemy, Willow Beats kept their fans happy and played most of their original Willow tracks. "Franky" was a family favourite and lured the last of the bar lingerers onto the dance floor. There was a fair balance of old and new - and a mix between high-energy tracks and the slower, more obscure productions such as the "Blue" and "Elemental".

Narayana Johnson (beats, synth, production) took it upon himself to climb onto the speakers and flap his arms like a bird, swooping over the crowd hanging out to the drop. They rounded up the show with textured hypnotic track "Grom the Destroyer" and the crowd went ballistic. For a moment thereWillow Beats almost became Willow Smith in a hair-whipping frenzy.

The cosy venue size eliminates the indifferent to create its own scene (never mind the mysterious black doors) but at the same time, it could be a mate’s house party. Willow Beats' performance is as much about creating a space to share the beats as putting on the show itself. The stage was no barrier and the live aesthetics bring humanness to their music.

 Published on the AU review.