Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Film Review: Flight Facilities "Across America"

Flight Facilities are a household name in Australian dance music but a never-before-seen mini documentary shows us that behind the polished performances are two good mates who make music for a living, and love it. Red Bull Media House  produced Across America during the duo’s coast-spanning tour of the USA in early 2015. It is hard not to get caught up in their incessant banter, self-deprecation and ability to transform any uncomfortable touring experience into a practical joke.
The film is edited as more like a memory flashback rather than a step-by-step guide to the touring journey. We start at one of their packed out shows in Las Vegas, jump to conversations in their tour bus, studio jams, free time and back to the concert halls. All the while the camera feels unobtrusive, as if we’re watching their backstage shenanigans as another member of the touring crew.
‘Of course, we see the classic flashes of fame, including quick cuts of girls screaming à la Beatles Shea Stadium to those same girls later getting their chests autographed with the FF logo. But the main storyline and most endearing aspect of the film is the opposing creative dynamics between the two: Hugo Gruzman aka the jokester, shown rolling in the snow in a Hawaiian shirt and boxers, alongside James Lyell (Jimmy) who does yoga and packs his suitcase meticulously on tour.
Across America uncovers valuable snippets in its interviews with the boys, their manager, Future Classic label staff and music journalists. We find out that the duo took an hour to create their first track together, which become a funky, rhythmic track “Big Fat Rio.” We also get to see childhood photos in their bedroom and footage of past live shows. It is a story of two unlike characters with like minds, who get on famously and saw a spark in their work from the get go.
While we don’t know where they are at times, Red Bull have done a great job of expressing the spontaneity of overseas performances and the freedom of the tour bus lifestyle. The two started out as DJs but possessed a knack for writing great original content which, as the film shows, translates across international dance floors. And while Jimmy notes that Flight Facilities have never broken industry records, “we’ve never been the top of the top,” it seems to be better that way because they truly live both the ordinary and the extraordinary.
Flight Facilities: Across America premiered at an event in Sydney earlier this month and will will be available online soon.
Published on The Iris.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Interview with Keys N Krates

Keys N Krates are currently in their hometown of Toronto, Canada before they bring their live show to Australia for the new year.

For those of you who don’t yet know, Keys N Krates is comprised of international award-winning turn-tablist Jr. Flo, drummer Adam Tune and David Matisse on synth and keyboards.

The Canadian trio are about to release another EP on Dim Mak recordsMidnite Mass, which is due out on January 14 next year. They took some time out to speak to PS about studio life, fanmade merch and the religious side to rave culture.

Your Facebook page has been down for a few days, did you post something offensive for that to happen?
No, we still haven’t been able to sort that out, so if anybody has any contacts at Facebook who could sort it out, that would be awesome. We have absolutely no clue. We went one day to update it, and it was no longer there, or any trace of it, so it’s kind of a mystery.

Aussie artists Hermitude are joining you on tour next year, how did that come about?
We met them in Chicago. The reason why we asked them to support us on our tour is because we really dig their music, we think it’s cool. We’ve seen footage of them performing live and we liked that they’re a live act. We hadn’t actually met them until we played a festival with them in Chicago called Freaky Deaky. We got to hang out with them there and they were cool guys so we’re extra excited to have them on the bus because we know that they’re not just good guys but normal dudes who seem like they’re going to be good to travel with.

Which other producers are you digging at the moment?
We’ve been listening to some Rustie, we’re always listening to Hudmo and Cashmere Cat; I’ve been really digging this new dude KRNE, he’s from the bay area. Ganz, Troyboi and of course Drake.

That sounds like a pretty sweet festival lineup.
Yeah it would be.

I saw you guys tweet that you love fanmade merch, what are some highlights?
There’s a lot that we Instagram. We see a lot of fans, they’ll come to our show and before they come they’ll make their own merch and screen print designs, or artwork, on a shirt. Some of it I think is fan enthusiasm and some of it is that they don’t want to pay the shipping fees for our merch. Either way we totally dig the DIY stuff and the enthusiasm of people actually wanting to create stuff out of our name. Super dope to us.

We see the fun side of the studio life (like Instagram videos spinning around in computer chairs) but what was challenging while creating the EP?
Generally, when you see the Instagram videos off us playing off the laptop that’s when we have the tune done, or 80% done, and we’re in a happy place. That’s when all the arguing, the recording, all the EQing, all the bullshit is kind of done, so we’re excited about the tune we’ve just made, or if we think it’s really strong. We argue, we butt heads, we do recording sessions with people and there’s a lot of emailing for getting samples. It’s definitely not all celebration.

In the promo for your upcoming  tour, you guys said “we want it to feel almost like a religious gathering.” Can you expand on that?
I think the whole idea behind Midnite Mass is music as a religious gathering because seeing an act is like that. Also, the rave scene especially has its own set of principles, of guidelines on how to act and we think we’re a part of that and facilitating that and we want the music to mean something to people and to be almost spiritual, something that they get something from and take something home with them. And we want the artwork and vibe of the EP to reflect that. The house production we bring on tour will reflect that too, the way we do the lighting will feel like a spiritual experience, we hope.

How are you thinking of translating Midnite Mass to a live set?
The way we interpret it live is going to sound a bit different to the EP, because that’s just how it is. Our live interpretations of our recorded music has always been a bit different. Part of the fun of people coming to see us is they’ll get something that holds true to the record but is its own experience. We do stuff in the show, independent of the record, that we don’t do anywhere else and will never be recorded. We have a cover of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ that we do that will probably never come out, that’s just something that we do live. That also goes for the live versions of our stuff.

Your track ‘Keep It 100’ became a bit of a catchphrase, do you guys see a standout on the new EP?
We’re always trying to do fun, catchy taglines with a lot of our stuff – I think ‘U Already Know’ has that potential – but we don’t really know man. At the end of the day we’re making stuff that we like, we’re not saying at the time “we made this and it will do this.” ‘Keep It 100’ didn’t become a big song until a year out. It got a lot of DJ support early on, but it didn’t really become a big song. And same with ‘Dum Dee Dum’ – a lot of our music has been a slow burn. We never really know what to expect, we just make stuff that we like.

What would you say to young producers or musicians who are reading this?
Work on your own sound and make lots and lots of stuff. Don’t get discouraged, it takes a while to find your sound but make a ton of shit and after you make ton of shit, make more. Just keep trying to find new sounds and work at it.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Gary Clark Jr. "The Story of Sonny Boy Slim"

It often takes a few listens to get into a song, but there’s no denying the sweet moment of that feeling like you've heard a new song before. Gary Clark Jr. oozes familiar, old-school sentimentality among creative production, and his latest record The Story of Sonny Boy Slim will delight most and move many.

Even the title itself beckons for a nostalgic flashback to the music of the mid 1900s, inviting us into a sonic storytelling that’s been missing (at least in the traditional sense) from a lot of the music since. Of course, there will be links to other artists when we read about Gary Clark Jr. – his sound clearly has a history to it. First track ‘The Healing’ sets the mood of the record with a gospel hymn sample “I’m On The Battlefield for My Lord” into twangy electric guitar, reminiscent of the Django Soundtrack.

Despite the vintage feel of the record, Gary’s voice brings a youthful energy, which lets us know we’re listening to freshly created lyrics. ‘Our Love’ is a charming ballad, not so much about a love complete but something in the process of becoming something life changing. ‘Church’ is a healing anthem, and a standout on the album. As he croons, it becomes a spiritual experience separate from religion. The Story of Sonny Boy Slim sounds like the story of all humans on the cusp of vulnerability, feeling very alone, and then reaching out to others despite the risk.

Gary Clark Jr. has acknowledged in interviews that his Blues sound has its roots in USA pre-Civil Rights, when artists sang of their oppression. However, his blues vocals aren't so much an imitation but rather a vehicle for the hazy autobiographical-via-imaginative narrative he develops song by song.

Ultimately, the record is an ode to music. Gary Clark Jr states it outright in the first track: “when this world upsets me/this music sets me free.” He takes us through the power of song as a vessel of doubts (“Hold On”), a psychedelic loop of thoughts and feelings (“Wings”) and an invitation to dance away cares (“Can’t Sleep”). His voice is an instrument in itself, ranging from a hip-hop inflected spoken style to a fragile falsetto exuding suffering. And classic guitar fans will enjoy his screaming solos cutting through the melodies.

The Austin Bluesman is playing Falls Festival in Australia over the summer and it will sure be a memorable set, watching Sonny Boy Slim come to life. He has performed previously down under at Bluesfest, but something tells me this record signals an expansion of his fan base from serious blues fans to all music fans. Who would have thought the harmonica had made a comeback? 

Published on theAUReview.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Safia at the Factory Theatre

“Do you guys want an album?” Safia’s loved vocalist Ben Woolner screamed out to a sold out Factory Theatre. In reverse career mode, the Canberra three-piece is now a household name in Australian music with just five official singles. They brought stadium level dynamics to a medium-sized venue (read: strobe lights and moving visuals) and turned an local weeknight gig into something really memorable.

Throughout the night, the band had a firm grasp on suspense. From the visual ticking metronome before ‘Counting Sheep’ to the looping ‘Take Me Over’ intro, riling up the audience like an animal call, we were made to savour the setlist. It felt like getting clues from a band with a decade worth of discography behind them. In the middle of the set, well placed, we heard the most sentimental, falsetto-sweet tracks, including ‘Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues’ and ‘You Are The One.’

You know it’s been a good gig when the songs stick in your head on the way home. Ben’s vocals are the heart of the band and his dedication to performing was sincere. Sometimes the stadium antics felt a little cheesy, (“I want to see your hands up! Sing along Sydney!) but it is nice to feel involved, especially when it doesn’t feel forced. It would have been an extra treat to hear their covers of fellow balladeers (James Vincent McMorrow, Alt-J), which featured in their sets earlier this year, but this gig was all about originals.

You also know it’s been a good gig when someone throws a bra on stage. Safia are far from the Red Hot Chili Peppers in attitude but it looks like they warrant the same love from their fans. After chants of “one more song,” the band came back for a five-minute distorted jam and a performance of ‘Paranoia, Ghosts & Other Sounds.’ Guitarist Harry Sayers threw his picks into the audience and the faded down. Something tells me they’ll be playing hall-sized venues on their next Australian tour.

Published on theAUReview

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Interview with Petite Noir

Photo Credit: Travys Owen
Yannick Illunga aka Petite Noir is an artist who calls several places home. From London to Cape Town, he’s accumulated a mix of eclectic influences (and a friendship with rapper Mos Def) which make for a rich listen on his bilingually titled debut record La vie est belle/Life Is Beautiful.

Petite Noir terms his music as “noirwave,” if it were to enter a genre and his music videos have captured our ears and eyes’ attention with striking visuals to match. We spoke with him during his Red Bull studio sessions in South Africa before he heads on a string of European festivals this month to launch his record.

PS: Hi Yannick, what are you up to today?
YI: I’m in Cape Town at the moment. It’s a quarter to ten here. I guess I’m a late riser. But I like to sleep early too.

I’m going to the studio later and then going Jo’burg tomorrow and then going to London on Monday for the European tour.

Who are the pioneers of Noirwave to you?
It’s more of like a mentality, you know. And yeah it’s quite new, it’s all developing itself and it’s really developed and developed and it’s like a freethinking movement – just freeing yourself from the system, if that make sense.

You seem to be getting a lot of press in France, why do you think that’s so?
I think maybe it’s the name and the fact that I speak French and the energy’s there, you know.

What have been some of your festivals to play in the past and why?
The last festival I played in France was pretty amazing. This festival I just played in New York like a week and a half ago was pretty amazing too. I mean there are so many good festivals but the main highlight now was the one just in New York [Afropunk Festival].

Which Aussie artists do you dig?
Tame Impala’s pretty amazing. Ah man, I’m sure I know a lot of other Australian bands I just can’t think of any at the moment.

On your new record La Vie Est Belle – Life is Beautiful, what came first the title or the music?
The music came first. And then while I was writing I had such a beautiful view of a garden and the sun shining in the garden on the flowers and I just thought, “this is beautiful.” This was in South Africa. I wrote it in Johannesburg a few months ago then moved to London and re-recorded everything in London. It is pretty quiet but I think that’s what I wanted – I think I wanted to be away from everything. And in London, I’m in new area all the time because I haven’t really gotten a place there. Every time I go back we rent some new place.

I’ve read that your girlfriend Rochelle Rharha Nembhard selects the aesthetics for your music videos, can you tell me about that ?
She does the creative direction and the art direction of where we should go and how we should do it. She’s really good and she’s brought along really good artists and she chooses who we should use. She’s on set but we’ll get a director as well and go from there.

What about your non-musical influences, what were you reading or watching during the creation of this album?

I don’t know. I just think I had stuff on my mind that I wanted to let out. I’m quite a spontaneous writer. I sort of write the first thing that comes to my mind.

Is there an ideal listening situation for your album?
I think it’s like family music. You can listen to it with your family and everyone will enjoy it.

How natural is it to sing parts of your songs in French?
I grew up speaking French and I speak French with my parents all the time. It was my first language so it was pretty natural to have it both in French and English.

How did people first respond to your pseudonym “Petite Noir?”
Sometimes people are uncomfortable but the thing is the problem isn’t with me, it’s with you. I don’t really let that phase me. That’s my name.

What have you heard about the record so far from people who’ve streamed it?
Yeah I’ve had very good feedback so I’m excited for the release of the album, very excited.

What else is on the cards for the rest of the year?
A lot of touring, a lot of promo, a lot of videos, more music, more collaborations. The next video should be out in October, I think.

What would you say to the young musicians or producers who are reading this?
Just know yourself and what you want to do and just enjoy the journey.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Peter Greste 'Journalistic Freedom' at the Sydney Opera House

"I wouldn’t wish what I went through on my worst enemy... but it’s brought you all here today."

Peter Greste knows that journalists don’t have the best reputation at the moment. He even puts them up with used car salesmen and politicians in public opinion. But all jokes aside, Greste spoke at this year’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas for a reason: his work as a journalist saw him locked up in Egyptian prison for 400 days.

Greste spoke to a packed out Concert Hall in the Sydney Opera House with veteran journalist and friend, Mark Colvin. He couldn’t tell us every detail, but Greste did recount his path to prison and continuing rescue efforts for his still imprisoned Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohammed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed. All in all, the focus was on the values which he champions, freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Greste says that authorities and politicians have used the abstract “war on terror” term to clamp down on journalists, saying, “In the name of national security, we’re stopping interrogations and I’m very concerned about that.” All of which makes the job of a journalist a dangerous one, when half a century ago they were rarely direct targets.

Despite the talk show format, in a large venue, there was an honest interaction between speakers and audience whether a gasp of disbelief at the size of Greste’s cell or a round of applause to recognise the courage his family. Would he go through it again? Ironically, the hardest question of the night came from a young journalism student in the audience. Greste sighed and said that we need to get the human stories out.

Admitting a loss of faith in the system, Greste didn’t hide that his resentencing (as of this August) was shocking. But despite many injustices, he is still on the fight to free his colleagues and continue support for informed, public debate. “The internet tends to force people into radicalised silos as much as anything else. We need to have these conversations in daylight,” he said. The takeaway message - Keep tweeting, keep sharing information with your friends, and talk about the important matters in public.

Published on theAUReview.

Methyl Ethyl at Newtown Social Club

They’ve been coined “the next Tame Impala” and aside from sharing a home city of Perth, Methyl Ethyl are experiencing a similar national hype with the former. The three-piece played to a packed room at Sydney’s Newtown Social Club, following a performance at the weekend's Volumes Festival. Despite the crowd, they remained humble and ran their seamless set like a support act, with no encore.

Methyl Ethyl may not be the most charismatic Australian band on stage but their music does stand on its own. The experimental instrumentation and soulful lyrics kept everyone staring at the stage. Lead singer and lyricist Jake Webb counted down the songs before he would “get out of our hair,” despite the fact that this was their headline show. Most of the crowd was seeing the band for the first time and so a lack of expectations made for honest interactions, whether it was Webb shouting back a “G’day” at someone or thanking us for coming along.

In that style, Methyl Ethyl played what are probably their most well known singles ‘Rogues’ and ‘Twilight Driving’ early on. A few crowd members were singing along but most were intrigued by their dedication, staring focused down at their instruments and watching the rich sound we hear on their new record come to life. Webb seems shy for a frontman but he still has an Aussie sense of humour: “This set, I think, is dedicated to Annie Hall and all of the people here wearing stripes.”

The intimacy (and darkness) of Newtown Social Club made it feel like we’d stepped into a demo recording, for the elongated jams and non-climactic sequence. The reverb on “Also Gesellschaft” sounded great and I’d even go so far as to compare Webb’s vocal expression to something of an early Jeff Buckley, with eyes shut and face scrunched up. In between tracks, the band members tuned their equipment, took a sip of beer and casually shuffled around. For a set celebrating their record Oh Inhumane Spectacle, ironically it was at once both dreamy and very human.

Published on theAUReview.

Interview with Sam from The Paper Kites

Ahead of the release of their highly anticipated twelvefour album, out this August, Antigone caught up with Sam Rasmussen of Melbourne band The Paper Kites to find out more about the making of the record and what the group has been up to during their time off the road. Working with the awesome Phil Ek on the album, Rasmussen details their experiences in studio and the concept of overseas success.

Tell me about working with Phil Ek (Modest Mouse, Fleet Foxes, The Shins).
The man, the mystery. He was great to work with. It was pretty tense at some points - maybe not so much for him, because that’s just the way that he works, but I know Christina and I had a pretty interesting time recording vocals. Normally in the past, when we’ve been singing, you keep going until you get it. But with Phil, he would cut you off and say, "It’s not working, you’re not getting it," a couple of takes into the song. You’d sort of feel like your confidence was smashed a bit, because you go home after that day and you know you haven’t done a song the way the producers hear it and you think you know your own voice. You say, "What am I doing wrong?", but at the end of the day, I think he was really right in saying, "If I’m not believing what you’re singing, then you’re not singing it right."

We’d go away and have these Rocky montage moments where we’d be practising at home and then come back in the studio the next day and we’d get it straight away and he’d come in and say, "That’s what I’m talking about, that’s how you should be singing it." So I think it’s a bit of a more opened-up vocal sound than I’ve had before. Generally, I’ve layered heaps of my vocals and you can disguise your vocal intersections when you’re layering voices. When it’s literally just you singing out there, you kind of hear everything. I’ve never sort of had to record like that before, I felt exposed. But I really enjoyed it.

What are you looking forward to when playing a national tour after performing in Europe and the US?
It feels like ages since we’ve played a show in Australia, I think about fourteen months. So we’re pretty ready to play but having said that, when we get back into the rehearsal space after recording an album, straight up, we always really suck because it never sounds as good as it did on the record. We really want to put together a really great show this time. I think we’re meeting up next week to talk about things that we feel make a great show and combining all of our live influences and seeing what we can do to this set to push the live set a little more. I think the songs on the album are already going to lend themselves to a bigger sound and it will be good to see how they translate.

How have people responded to the single "Electric Indigo" so far?
It’s been great. A lot of people have been saying, "I love this new direction you’re taking." It doesn’t really feel like a new direction because I’ve been in that headspace for ages. You’ve got to remember, you’re catching everyone up. Most of the singles that we’ll put out are a bit of a different sound but there are still heaps of tracks on there that are true to the folk thing. But it’s been really great so far - the video’s been going really well as well. We tried to do something a little bit different with that, getting cool actors on board - so yeah, it’s been good.

Something like "Bleed Confusion" is in second person, how do people usually respond to your personal writing?
I mean most of them are pretty personal, I suppose. But it’s good, I always get people coming up at shows and they genuinely want to get into a discussion about the songs and they really want to know what they’re about. And I always appreciate people that delve a bit deeper than the music, people who want to know what a song’s about and where it comes from. That’s what I care about as a writer. When people catch onto certain lines or the theme of a song, I really like being asked about it. Songs like "Bleed Confusion" - funnily enough it isn’t super personal, but I wanted to tell a story in that song. It is a little bit more of a narrative than the other songs are and it’s almost like a spoken word kind of thing. It does paint a picture so you feel like you’re there and you know what’s going on. I really love that song and I’m glad it made it onto the record.

Are you exclusively a night owl? What do you believe is special about that time? Did it fulfil its promise?
The short answer is yes it did fulfil its promise. I am a bit of a night owl. Most nights I probably wouldn’t go to bed til 2am anyway. The idea came about through a discussion with a friend who's a fellow writer. We were talking about creative hours and when the best time to write is and he was telling me about this interview that he’d seen where these other screenwriters were talking about this idea that midnight and four am were the creative hours. That became a seed in my brain, I thought it was really interesting and I’d never done it before. So I set out on this campaign to do it over the next two to three months. I just completely reversed my sleep pattern. I was a bit unwell in the middle. It took me ages to get my sleep patterns back.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of that Frank Sinatra record ‘In the wee small hours of the morning’ - it carries that really late night, lonely, isolated vibe and that’s how I wanted this to come across albeit a little more guitar-infused than a Frank Sinatra record. But it was really interesting; some of the songs that I came out with were really bizarre. A lot of them didn’t make it onto the record, the guys said I think this is a little too weird or doesn’t sound like us. We all have our own ideas of what people expect from us, and what we expect from ourselves and it people can be a little bit defensive and rattled when we’re all trying to decide what direction we should take. I do think the album changed from what I first thought it would be but that’s real and that’s how you make a record and we’re really happy with how it turned out.

There are some literary sounding lyrics on the new album “time is just a remedy covered in disguise.” What artists or writers inspired the writing process of twelvefour?

I do enjoy a lot of Oscar Wilde, anything he’s written. He’s a brilliant writer and he pushed a lot of buttons at the time. But a lot of films as well - you sort of notice with the music videos, there’s an 80s tinge that’s going to come with them. I was actually watching a lot of old horror films by this Italian director Dario Agento and he did films like Suspiria and his lighting is super 80s, like colourful washes of blue and green and red. So he’s been a big colour influence. Because I write in colours as well - you want a song to sound blue or sound green. And that’s why the neon thing was so strong with the album cover because we wanted it to sound a certain way.

Was it a conscious decision to make a concept album?
It was very intentional right from the start. Even though I hadn’t necessarily brought the whole band in on it. I thought it was better to have a really strong idea, at least an idea to base an album around, and then sticking to that idea. I was pretty strict with it too. I did stop at four AM on the dot and it was very deliberate to write the album like that because I wanted to say this was done completely between these hours and this was the result. More so to see if there was any truth to the idea in the first place and I think there was in the end but I certainly wouldn’t want to do it again.

How do you view the Australian music scene after touring overseas?
You do realise how small the Australian music scene is when you get over there. But having said that there’s a lot of really awesome Australian bands making a splash over there as well. There’s this huge wave of all sorts of music but it’s suddenly coming to the attention of people in the States. I don’t think it’s that sudden but maybe it’s just a little bit more mainstream than it used to be. I know when we’ve played over there, we’ve always found everyone to be excited and say thank you for coming all this way, we’ve been waiting this long. We didn’t really realise we had anything going outside of Australia in terms of live followings. We’ve been doing some pretty great shows in New York and Canada and all over the place which was at first a bit of a shock. It’s only going to keep increasing -this sort of Australian invasion, if you can call it that.

What would you say to young musicians who are in the same position you were in five years ago?
For any young musician, including little Sam Bentley, I think it’s important to be aware of where you want to go. I think a lot of bands and artists in general go into it with the wrong idea they want to be famous or whatever. You’ve really got to be smart about it and look at the long burning slow career not a ride to fame. You’ve got to be clever. Be original with your music videos as much as you can and your songs. Don’t follow trends just because they’re in at the moment. Write for yourself, don’t write to be recognised or to be famous. I think authenticity in music and feeling you’re injecting into your songs, people will totally pick up on that. I feel like the media in general, singing shows on TV and all that rubbish has completely ruined it for young people that are wondering how to make it in the industry because they see that and they think that’s how you should do it. I would like to think that the Australian youth are a bit more clever than perhaps the Australian media give them credit for. There is validity in working hard at your craft and playing those small venues and moving up the chain and doing it for yourself and not doing because you want to be famous.

Published on theAUReview

Friday, 21 August 2015

Julio Bashmore "Knockin' Boots"

Matt Walker aka producer extraordinaire Julio Bashmore is in good company on his debut album. In the style of fellow Brits Disclosure, he’s featured a palatable mix of rising vocal talents on his album, from South-African rapper Okmalumkoolkat to smooth soul artist Seven Davis Jr. But ultimately Bashmore has created a real feel-good record with throwbacks to early house and funky basslines to keep us dancing. It’s not enough that Adidas croptops and mini buns have now made their way into clubs, we also want the music to match our 90s UK rave obsession and Knockin’ Boots makes it a little more sonically real.

Knockin’ Boots really should have been called Knockin’ Beats. Bashmore is not joking around on this non-stop navigation through nostalgic soul harmonies, hi-hats for days and so, so many handclaps. There’s no denying this is dance music. Sure, you won’t find the distortion or up-down dynamics of what we’re used to in mainstream EDM but instead here the tracks glide into each other with a subtle coolness.

On opener and title track ‘Knockin’ Boots’ Bashmore kicks off the groove with a 1980 Jones Girls sample from “Dance Turn Into Romance” [“we danced and we danced.”] In some ways it’s easier to describe what the record doesn’t rather than does sounds like: it isn’t abrasive and it isn’t shocking. But a familiar untz-untz draws you in for a timeless listen even though most Julio Bashmore fans weren’t around the Chicago clubs where those sounds first emerged. And this record is a more digestible version of what Jamie XX or John Talabot have done to a vintage reintreptation of dance (in assuming there’s a crossover in the fans.)

From the loving and soulful (‘For Your Love’), to a disco dance single (‘Holding On’) and then more playful and experimental (‘Bark’), Knockin’ Boots is a record for music lovers. It can be a tough market these days – too variable and the record seems abrupt, too seamless and we get bored. Bashmore has moved away from his grittier, hip-hop infused Bristol background towards a shinier, smilier expression of electronic. And after a few years of remixes and online tracks, a debut album from him couldn’t make us smile more.

Published on AdamNOTEve.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Alpine + Pearls + Olympia at the Metro Theatre

It’s not often that a band will introduce a song by ordering the audience to dance more expressively, “not just this bopping up and down” as Phoebe from Alpine did. She momentarily turned the attention away from their colourful stage presence to the night as a whole. Despite joining fellow vocalist Lou in an uninhibited performance - playing with the mics, kicking, dancing and at times even rolling on the floor, she also wanted the audience to join in on the fun.

First, warm-up acts Olympia and Pearls took to the stage. Olympia performed solo on a stage full of equipment, but confidently switched from guitar, to keyboard, all the while filling the room with her commanding voice. Her Sia-ish haircut and metallic jumpsuit set the scene for the costumes to come from the Alpine girls. Pearls have a different style, dressed in black with rebel lyrics to match: “I got no soul and I got no money.” The venue was packed by 9:30pm and their set loud and solid from the get go.

We could only expect eccentric showmanship to come from the night’s headliners, and even before their own set began, Alpine surprised us sauntered on with hip hop classic in the background, ‘International Players Anthem.’ At first, ABBA came to mind when I saw Phoebe’s floor-length golden gown and Lou’s huge black arm ruffles. Their energy was insistent; from start to finish the two front women were jumping up and down, blowing kisses into the audience and waving their hands. All of which recalls the playful, party atmosphere of other eccentric indie bands Arcade Fire or Architecture in Helsinki.

They kicked off their set with ‘Crunches’ and stuck mostly to tracks off their June release Yuck. The record came to life when guest instrumentalists came on stage, two trumpeters on ‘Shot Fox’ and two violinists for ‘Foolish.’ Despite the two vocalists taking up most of the attention (it seems there is room for two big personalities on the same stage), the other four band members looked like they were having just as good a time, bopping up and down on the keyboard, singing along and slamming drumsticks.

By the end of the set, Phoebe and Lou set aside any nonchalance they had previously created from walking on stage to the Players Anthem and began to proclaim their love for Sydney by dedicating one track after the other to the audience. Unfortunately, some of their vocals were lost in the electronic production and background instrumentals on ‘Jellyfish’. However, their energy levels never dropped. Phoebe claimed, “I feel like I’m floating on a love balloon” and Lou thanked the audience “for understanding the weird and the wonderful.” It would have been a confusing affair for anyone new to Alpine but a gig to remember none the less.

Published on theAUReview.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Hermitude at the Enmore Theatre

Photo: Mikki Gomez

Hermitude seize the improvised element of a live rock show and run it through their own, and the effect is captivating. All I could think is why aren’t they performing at an overseas festival right now.*

Sydney’s Enmore Theatre crowd was rowdy an hour before the duo even took to the stage, thanks to warm-up acts Jayteehazard and Basenji. The whole night felt like a celebration of this decade (or what we have so far) in Australian music – with tracks like Flume’s 'Slasherr' remix and Basenji’s ‘Heirloom’ prepping up the room.

Hermitude have smoothed out their live show since their last hometown gig in 2013 – instead of a clear stop between tracks, their act now ebbs and flows through different dynamics, much like their latest album, Dark Night Sweet Light, already does.

They also have an animated visuals setup, which complements their music, travelling from exotic, tropical rainforests to white sandy coastlines and underwater coral reefs. At points, it looked like something out of Spirited Away with an oversized caterpillar and forest silhouettes. Again, I feel like this would translate well overseas, if not just as a celebration of Australian landscapes.

We started singing along early on when the duo played ‘Searchlight’ (“looking for a change/ Tell what I’m looking for”) interspersed with ‘All Of You’s well-known sample refrain (“hey baby baby.”) Despite the continuity of their set (both looked like they were hard at work on the decks, this was no typical EDM gig) El Gusto was scratching throughout and we got a glimpse of it on their trademark over-the-shoulder GoPro-like footage. There was an energy only a full house home crowd could provide, which led other-half of Hermitude, Luke Dubs, to exclaim, “Sydney, Sydney, Sydney…what a beautiful reception.”

The two played a flashback medley, including their Lion King remix into the track that got their name out, ‘Hyperparadise.’ It suddenly felt like we were at a festival, with hundreds of people clapping along, cheering on their friend’s shoulders and enjoying the moment sans iPhones. And just like a festival, whenever the boys leaned into the mic, the crowd screamed. Everyone was expecting to have a good time and so they did. But despite the rowdiness, there was actually quite a lot of breathing space up front – no one seemed too aggressive.

While the show was part of their current album tour, Hermitude didn’t shy away from playing old favourites, including the ‘Hyperparadise’ Flume remix following their original and ‘Speak of the Devil.’ As usual, Hermitude brought out special guests and vocalists onto the stage, with Mataya and Young Tapz adding to regular Chaos Emerald. It kind of felt like old mates were running the music at a house party – checking in occasionally but mainly leaving us to dance on our own.

In true rockstar fashion, they saved the best for last – signing off with new single ‘The Buzz’ before returning for an encore performance of 2012’s ‘Get In My Life.’ They may have sold out venues across the country but the duo still have their attitude in check, asking us to put our middle fingers up and party till the sunrise before the curtains went down.

*With follow-up research I found that Hermitude will play at the Hard Summer festival in Los Angeles in August.

Published on theAUReview.