Sunday, 5 June 2016

Tame Impala at the Sydney Opera House forecourt

Photo: SMH
It’s no small feat to play in front of an international landmark, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker knew this was no ordinary gig. “I can’t believe we’re playing here, with that thing in the background, just right there…” That thing was the Sydney Harbour Bridge, peeking out behind the sails of the Opera House, and viewed perfectly from the outdoor stage where Tame Impala were playing to an audience in awe on the Opera House steps.

The band has been a top Aussie musical export and festival staple for years now but when you take their live show out of a dark concert hall to an outdoor space, there is something to say for how their psychedelic comes to life under a starry night sky. But despite the atmospheric spark, it was a shame that noise restrictions cut the sound levels to a less than impressive level.

Most critics of Tame Impala devote words to their elongated jams, cosmic effects and captivating visuals, but what struck me the most was Parker’s humble approach to it all. He genuinely seemed overwhelmed, or at least a little nervous. He was the only band member to speak, which is normal for the group, but he did add more of a festival vibe to his announcements than we’ve seen before: “how are you guys on the side? And at the back?”. Funnily enough, Parker called for us to raise our hands in the hair and clap along like we were at a large-scale arena.

The group is famously Australian but we have had to share them with the world, for their numerous international performances. So it was pretty special to hear three albums worth of music in one show as if we got a glimpse of what their catalogue would look like together in the future. Their standout track from latest LP Currents “Eventually” was a standout at the gig. Parker’s yearning vocals were even more fragile live and the layers of instrumentation were a joy to watch come to life. 

The boys weren’t afraid to delve into overplayed tracks from their early days calling “let’s go old-school” for “Half Glass Full of Wine” and “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind.” And you can tell its been a good gig when no one leaves before the final strum of the final track of the final encore. Even with the beckoning summer night above. 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Dear Plastic 'Zero'

From the first note a husky female voice croons: “Do you want to know the meaning of life?” Hint: the answer is in the song title. Melbourne pop quintet Dear Plastic have released a new single ‘Zero’ which emanates part 90s apathy, part modern pop seduction and fits into the realm of something like the Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy.

For all the space synth and talk of “kings” and “queens,’” this track illustrates the lingering legacies of Bowie carried on by living lyricists and musicians eerily well . And in true Bowie style, among the minor chords and looping baseline, Dear Plastic put the power on the individual: “Reach out/you got it now.”

If you’re a fan the vocal distortion of Pond, the melancholy melodies of Big Scary or the strong, female vocals of The Preatures then chances are you will dig Dear Plastic. They don’t sound like any other Aussie act at the moment and sure, they’re not for everyone, but who isn’t curious to discover the answer to the meaning of life?

Published on AdamNOTEve. 

Majical Cloudz + Anatole at Newtown Social Club

It is one thing to sell out your first headline gig down under and it’s another to play to a room where you have the crowd’s full, phone-free attention. Canadian duo Majical Cloudz brought their Laneway 2016 set to the intimate Newtown Social Club for what proved to be a reflection on sombre emotions dispersed among witty one liners. The two donned their minimalist uniform (one in a white t-shirt, the other in a black t-shirt) and minimalist setup (only a synth board and mic on stage) for a show that was both soothing and confrontational.

But first, Sydney-based producer Anatole took on support duties with a mesmerising audiovisual set that had the whole room utterly focused, legs crossed and sitting down in silence. While kaleidoscopic visuals revolved behind him, [created by his friend Rory], Anatole was turning knobs and smiling as each layer built upon another in real time. His knack for subtly increasing tempo and playing with adored and familiar tracks, including “Say My Name” (eat your heart out, Cyril Hahn), made for a dynamic set that would shut down the argument of any purist who says that electronic production doesn’t move the heart strings.

As soon as Majical Cloudz came to the stage they received a huge cheer and their interaction with the audience was warm from the start. Singer-songwriter Devon Welsh maintained a melancholy blankness during his performance, but cracked jokes in between tracks. Meanwhile, producer Matthew Otto almost blended into the black curtains behind him as he made their records come to life. Their minor melodies and poetic lyrics felt naked in the tight, dark venue and unlike at a festival, we could hear Welsh’s every murmur (“Laneway was fun, but this is better.”)

When the stage is almost at eye level with the crowd, it is hard for a performer to cloud their intentions. It seems that the success of Majical Cloudz lies in their rawness (Welsh howls at one point) and all-too relatable lyrics (I’ll be honest/ I am afraid of love.) Although they showcased their new release Are You Alone?, the two finished their set with an old favourite, “Silver Rings”. In his awkward, yet endearing manner, Welsh thanked us for laughing and noted, “It would be good to play forever.”

Published on theAUReview.

Interview with Mr. Carmack

Mr. Carmack has established himself as a household name in bass music all the while maintaining an attitude of never trying too hard.

The Honolulu-born, Los Angeles-living producer is in Australia at the moment for a string of east coast shows. He took some time out before heading on his continent-spanning world tour to chat to PS about his writing process, dream rider and where he sees the electronic music scene at the moment.

What are you up to at the moment?
I’m good, I’m good. I’m at my house here in LA., in the kitchen currently. I just got a haircut.

That reminds me of Ta-ku who opened his own barbershop. I guess a lot of Australians heard about you from your collaboration last year (“I Miss You Most At Night.”)
Yeah, he’s started his own fucking store. I like it. Nah my buddy comes by and comes over and hangs out, smokes weed and cuts. Nothing too cray.

One of your last tweets for 2015 was “Reorganization can be a stem to inspiration.” What is that about?
I don’t mean complete reinvention. I just completely overhauled the bulk of my music and my computer, pretty nerdy stuff but very necessary. You need to have a moment to re-evaluate everything that you have, the things that you need or things that you don’t need, things that are necessary or taking up space. It’s kind of like cleaning your room you know. Except for me it took a week. I had so much music on my computer, so much music.

You have been unlucky and lost your laptop before, what kind of gear are you taking on your world tour? 
I actually lost it in my backyard here in LA. It wasn’t really lost, what happened was I blacked out and it got ripped out of my bag. I woke up on a bus in San Francisco with no backpack. I headlined my own show here in LA, which was sold out, and I got really, really drunk and all my friends left and then I ended up doing stuff I don’t remember. I regret it because there was a lot of good stuff on the laptop. But now I’ll be bringing two laptops – my production and my DJ laptop – a Traktor S5 and a midi keyboard so I can keep things tight and easy.

How are you feeling about the upcoming tour? 
I think the longest I’ve done is maybe 55 dates but that was spread over two and a half months. I think this is like 25 dates and it’s spread over three continents. It will be a really fun time, however touring is taxing on the body. It’s a lot of work, this continuous output of content – you work on something and two hours later you have to go catch a flight or one hour later you have to do an interview or in 20 minutes you have to go check into a hotel. So I can do as much as i can on the road but I’m focused on playing my new stuff like the red, yellow and white EP. It’s been a year since I’ve been Australia!

What are you most looking forward to about playing down under?
I love every part of it. I love Australia. I’m excited I’ll give it all I’ve got, play everything that I’ve made, playing my tunes you know. I just try to play my tunes and hopefully it goes down, you never know what happens.

What will you put on your riders in Australia?
Two handles of Jameson whiskey one bottle of Mo√ęt champagne and a towel. Sometimes when it’s not as strict – as much weed as possible. That’s pretty much it, simple.
I should start putting socks because as a touring artist you tend to lose underwear and socks at various hotels, so maybe I’ll think to put that on my rider when I come down. What’s an Aussie sock brand?

I don’t think it’s Australian, but Happy Socks are pretty popular.
Only if they make you happy when you wear them.

Artists like Flume praise electronic production because it means an instrumentalist can be self-sufficient. (Mr Carmack played French Horn in highschool, among other instruments.) What is satisfying about having that technology available to you?
I 100% agree with what Harley’s saying in that you have an entire orchestra at your fingertips and that you can repurpose an orchestra. You can get past the instruments and the sound and get into actual technical audio wave files and shapes and forms. You can get really into the building blocks of what makes a sound a sound and if you can harness that power you can literally make anything you want.

I think it goes beyond instrumentalism and beyond playing instruments and understanding core structure and musicality. It’s crazy. I could never, ever get bored of reusing certain sounds, say an ordinary door closing or a piece of wood getting cut or things like that. Computers have opened the floodgates to limitless creation.

I read in an interview with RL Grime that he thinks electronic music hasn’t peaked and we’ll always find a way to make music crazy. What do you think about that?
More and more I feel kind of jaded in that idea in that I hear a lot of the same sounds recycled and the same tunes. Even with me, I can tend to use similar sounds and create stuff that sounds “stale.” Music’s also taken on this thing where you’ve always got to create this new sound over and over. Every six months you got to reinvent and create and with technology you’ve always got to push for constantly reinventing new sounds new sounds, finding that limitless bank of sound. That can be really, really pressuring. it’s not conducive to sitting down for months or maybe even years of just sitting and cultivating one sound and working at it.

It’s only with that, with tireless hours of work put in, a new sound comes out, you know, a new thing comes out that you’ve never heard before. I guess on the surface level RL Grime is correct in that music will never find a glass ceiling but at the same time it’s easy to just get lost in the search for new sounds and not take time to appreciate and understand the existing music of yesterday and today. People don’t take time to listen to music anymore.

As well as listening to hip hop jams then you are also listening to classical music, given the Faure sample in “I Always Loved This One.”
Oh yeah I loved that. Classical is the best.

Finally, what advice do you give to young producers trying to get into DJing or music making professionally?
I’d say never stop being an apprentice, never stop being a student. There’s always someone to learn in music and someone to learn from, something to take in, so just be receptive to any and all forms of music and don’t be close-minded. Also save your money! I’m serious man.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Artists to Watch in 2016: Elk Road

Perth producer Elk Road (aka Rory Garton Smith) is a relative newcomer on the electronic music scene who is already making a name for himself. His debut (and only) single has been on high rotation on triple j and we’re especially curious about the music to follow from the Facebook videos filmed in his studio computer chair.

Before bursting onto our playlists with ‘Not To Worry,’ Elk Road unleashed dynamic remixes of palatable pop hits. Each one has its own flavour, with top quality control over vocal adjustments and danceable breaks. On top of that, Garton Smith showed us that he doesn’t shy away from harder sounds when he teamed up with fellow Perth bass-heavy producers Slumberjack to breathe new life into Carmada’s ‘Maybe.’

Elk Road was noticed by happy patrons when he performed at the Red Bull Stage at Splendour in the Grass this July and was noticed some more when he released his first original track shortly afterwards. If you’re a fan of Just A Gent, Yahtzel and LDRU, then chances are you’ll dig Elk Road’s sound. Garton Smith terms it “post-trap” on his Soundcloud page but putting genres aside, he takes cues from any solid track.

We’re not the only ones with an eye on Elk Road, who was also nominated for the WAM (Western Australian Music) “Most Popular New Act” award (narrowly missed to a win by Koi Child) earlier this year. He’s paved a way through super hyped Spotify and iTunes lists and an ever-growing list of talented Australian producers. If anything, it’s an indication that his creative soundscape is about to become a whole lot more familiar. It’s going to be hard for Garton Smith to stay on the down low in 2016.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Artists to Watch in 2016: Alphamama

She’s hip, she’s strong, she’s got one hell of a voice. Alphamama (aka Anita Meiruntu) prizes creative expression over digestibility and injects much-needed passion into music. It’s been almost three years since the release of her full-length debut album but following a great collab and new track, we’ve definitely got her on our radar for 2016.

Alphamama is like no other artist – her attitude is in check, and her voice soulful but strangely familiar and her music videos raw and unpredictable. In her latest creation for (what has been her first single in years) ‘Spit Me Out,' Alphamama touches on abusive relationship themes in a striking, delicate way.

You might also recognise her moniker from Set Mo’s latest track ‘Chasing Forever,’ where she lends her smooth vocals to feel-good summer song. It’s certainly upped her international coverage.

Never mind musical versatility, (with influences ranging from reggae to hip hop and funk) Alphamama is also a stylist, hair and makeup artist, and booking agent among other things. She also heads the God Queen blog, whose purpose is to bring about positive social change through art via a community of female artists.

Published on Purple Sneakers.

Interview with Boy & Bear

Most of us would need a break after performing 170 live shows across three continents but for Boy & Bear it was just the energy they needed to get into a new record before they jumped on a flight home at the end of 2014. We chatted to bassist Dave Symes about their much-anticipated third album Limit of Love, working with a rock legend and getting back to basics in the studio.
Hi Dave.
Good morning!
What are Boy & Bear up to at the moment?
We’re sort of starting rehearsals again now because we’re starting some shows in November and our new album’s coming out next week. So we’re getting it all up and running again to get this album out there and start playing and live again, which will be great.
When I saw you guys play at Falls 2012/2013 there was a full on mosh pit before the sun went down. Is this now stock standard for you guys or is it still enjoyable?
We love playing festivals, it’s a pretty amazing sort of energy if you have a great crowd like those festivals do. Falls Festival, Splendour – they’re amazing Australian festivals. Bluesfest is another great one. I don’t think you ever get sick of seeing a whole lot of people having a whole lot of fun to the songs that you’re playing. We definitely love doing the festival thing, it’s a nice change from doing your own show all the time.
Your guitarist Killian told triple j that the band decided to work more traditionally in the studio (with no overdubs in the process.) We see studio time romanticised in films such as Love & Mercy, but what are the challenges on the flip side?
I think the challenge, for us, in recording in this way, was to have the confidence to say this is actually the way you should be doing it. There’s so much technology out there these days, it’s very easy to give yourself way too many options and way too many decisions that you can always make later on, if you know what I mean.
So the way that we recorded live and the techniques we developed with our producer, Ethan Jones, was recording it all to tape and all of us in one room. It means that the sound is spilling into our instruments. So you have to keep everything you perform – there’s no editing and there’s no redoing. As a basic rule you’re basically capturing what went down altogether at one time.
I think the challenge for us was that you don’t have the safety net. It’s like walking the tightrope without having anything underneath it. But it’s not a new thing, it’s actually how records were made for a long time. I think at the other end of it, we love that way of recording – spending time together in the studio and getting great sounds and just playing music.
I’ve had a sneak listen to the record and the track “Just Dumb” stood out because it does sound like your live set with lots of layers and the instrumental jams.
That’s a pretty cool track actually because Ethan, the producer, he played a second sort of percussion/drum part on that. So that was a point of difference on that song which was a really nice thing. It was the only track we recorded late at night, like really late at night. Most of the things we worked during the day or into the evening but this one we were going to call it for the day and we said let’s just do it now and we set up and went for it. So it’s got its own sort of vibe.
What was it like working with Ethan Johns?
He’s like a big kid who just loves music and loves the sound of an instrument and loves a good song. He’s very encouraging, I think he brought the best out in us. I think we felt like we were collaborating with him at the highest of levels. He was interested in what we had to say. He’s open-minded, you know, he’s willing to change if it’s the best thing for the song. Working with him was really inspiring for us, I think we learned a lot.
The other thing is he is so experienced; he has a lot of stories. Everyday at dinner and lunch, which was probably an hour long, he’d basically just tell stories the whole time. But he had some pretty amazing first and second hand stories to do with famous bands, singers, studios. Coming from Australia, we were like “tell us that one again dad, the one with Keith Richards.” It was a little bit like a rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame of stories.
The cover art for Limit of Love moves away from your folk aesthetic – it almost looks like it belongs on an electronic record. Who created it?
Basically John, our piano/keyboard player, is a fantastic photographer and he’s always shooting on the road. So this is a photo that he took on the ferry from Vancouver, Canada to Victoria Island when we had a gig there. It’s probably 40 feet above the ocean so it’s actually taken from quite a distance of this beautiful coloured water and it’s an interesting texture because it’s quite rough water.
We had a meeting with the design guys at Headjam in Newcastle. They’ve done a bunch of stuff for us. We wanted things to be really simple and to reflect the way we wrote and recorded, simple and classic. In a way, it’s kind of cool you say electronic because in a way it outlines what we’re all about and not just the band name and the title and any sort of image. They chose this photo out of about 500 and we kind of dug it.
We wrote all the record in the south of Sydney down the coast so we did spend a lot of time by the ocean while we writing the music so it sort of tied in really nicely. And I like the fact that John’s the photographer, it’s his artwork.
What is the value of leaving your routine and physical space (from Sydney to Berry) to write music?
The reason for doing it, I think , is it’s nice to get to a space or an environment when you can just focus for a while.We’d hire a house on the coast for 7-10 days at a time and we did about three trips like this. We all live in Sydney and we do do some writing together, we might book 2 or 3 days in a week to get together but then everybody returns to their life or someone runs late because they had togo to the post office on the way. Life can get in the way, which is fine. But we find when we book this time away, it’s a really nice way to focus. Even when we stop jamming and writing, we might be cooking a meal and talking about the kind of music we want to make or listening to some albums that we want to check out or we can listen to our demos. We can work around the clock but in a really relaxed well. It seems to work for us. We all get on really well. We work well together.
Oh so there’s no band rivalries to uncover!
Ha maybe after this next tour.
And before the national Australian tour, guys are going back overseas.
Yeah it’s the first time the album’s coming out globally, at the same time, which is cool. It’s exciting. So we’re obviously here now, we’re doing a tour late Jan and February so we’re going to do some promo shows in Europe, the UK and America, and we’ll go back there next year if all things work as they could. We’ve been home all year, except for recording in England for 5 weeks. It’s been nice to spend time at home because last year we were gone for about 11 months over the year so it was a big one. But it’s amazing to have that opportunity.
What do you think of the idea that touring sucks out creative energy?
There is an interesting story for us this time. We finished our last show December 13 last year in Paris. We finished after the big year and a half all sort of with that feeling, you know, whenever you finish anything it’s slightly exhausted but really happy. We went back to London because we had to fly out of London to get home and we had to try and meet Ethan (Johns) before we went home because we’d already started to discuss the next record a few months before. We were just doing it for a practical reason, let’s do it while we’re here. It’s amazing, we got to the airport that night after having a two-hour meeting with him.
Now I don’t think that happens every time, we were lucky that we had things worked out. But I think that says a lot about how we ended up dealing with last year, we were definitely tired and you don’t have the brainpower to think of new songs but at the same time you get hungry for it because you’ve been doing the same kind of material for a year and a half and you do have a few new things that have come out of that.
What’s the best part of home shows?
I think it’s nice to play and have family and friends at the shows. When you’re away for a long time it’s nice to have that connection. We love playing at home. We’ve got amazing audiences here who have been there with the band since the beginning. We’re doing some cool venues this time, so it’s exciting. It’s a really nice grounding thing for us I think.
Published on AdamNOTEve.