The exhibition, like its forerunners, arises out of the complex web of social, political, religious, cultural and aesthetic considerations facing Australian, Asian and Pacific artists. APT8 retains the ability to personalise and resuscitate issues such as the framing of national identity in post-Soviet states or the economic challenges facing developing nations that we are too often distanced from.
Unlike its forerunners, such overt social issues no longer dominate APT8; as the exhibition has grown and matured so too have its works become more conceptual, intimate and subtle. ‘Necessary Additions’ sits at the centre of the spectrum that spans the deeply political (such as Khvay Samnag’s ‘Rubber Man’ -- a kinetic protest piece echoing Ai Weiwei’s ‘Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn’) to the wholly conceptual: Maria Taniguchi paints one small brick at a time until the large grid is completed and yet despite the regimented repetition the result is not uniform but shimmering and dynamic. This diversity in the very purpose of art, together with the diversity of mediums used to convey said purpose, makes for a refreshingly eclectic exhibition.
Jeremy Greenspan, the vocalist with Toronto electronic-pop duo Junior Boys, said the “sound” of the album was caught the day he bought a new overcoat (a big grey overcoat, actually – but – black sounded better according to Greenspan when he started vocalising some lyrics) and the sound of the material swishing gave not only the album’s title track but to the sound of the album itself.
It’s accurate – rather than wanky – and that sound is captured on these eleven new tracks making up Junior Boys’ fifth studio album, the first in five years.
I puffed down to the Red Bull Music Academy stage for the first time that day to catch Thundercat. It’s hard to be much more in demand than Thundercat’s Stephen Bruner right now. Outside of Flylo he’s basically the central figure of the whole afro-futurist revival and everybody wants a piece of that. Having said that, I wasn’t so into his last EP (although everybody else was): so noodly and almost bloodless, lacking musical oomph. On stage it was the complete opposite. Thundercat showed why he’s considered one of the best bassists in the business, his fingers flying like an agitated spider over his huge, eight-string bass. His drummer and keyboardist were similarly insane, all three of those guys embellishing Thundercat’s repertoire -those weird tunes and his fluting falsetto- with endlessly sick solos that just brought the whole thing roaring to life. The crowd was the quietest I saw, just looking on transfixed by the mastery going down before them. Pick of the day.
Meilyr Jones released his first single as a solo artist, Refugees, late last year, and when I heard it, I felt the kind of sting that only something really devastating can pack. Which is strange, because on surface level, it’s just a piano ballad, sung by another guy with that kind of overdramatic reverb raining all over his voice... Pity then that the long-awaited album it sits on fails to live up to its promise. It’s not that 2013 is necessarily bad; it’s more that it’s just not that good, if you feel what I’m saying.
Local boys Neighbour charmed the crowd with their energetic set filled with songs from both of their EP’s... The five-piece have been playing quite a few shows around Brisbane lately and it’s great to see them really hone their live performance. There’s plenty of banter going on too, which creates an easier atmosphere for the smaller early crowd.
Although there’s a large band behind INIGO, the real star of the show is vocalist Erin Fitzsimon, who brings personality and style in spades... Fitzsimon’s well-trained voice is unique and powerful, yet she uses it to compliment rather than dominate over the band. She clearly loves the art of entertainment, from her energetic dance moves and witty comments, the casual bantering between songs and even throwing out lolly bags to the appreciative crowd...
Emotional Mugger is about as wonky, off-beat and vital sounding as Segall and co. have ever been. An almost unheard of change of pace, this deep into his musical journey and an incredibly welcomed piece of abrasive, psychedelic pop. It's a manic, brain melting record that chugs along with an intensity of a functional, full-blown madman leading a circus of LSD-riddled animals into the void and all I can l do as a simple on-looker is to keep my brain from packing up shop and crawling out of my mouth and disappearing down the rabbit hole.
Ecca Vandal’s debut EP, End of Time, feels like she let off fireworks inside a building, and then proceeded to stay inside that building thrashing out power chords and spitfire anthems so consuming she remained unfazed by the burning building around her. Vandal’s music is so embellished with spiky riffs and impenetrable vocals she’d survive that fire too. Although travelling in the same vein as the first singles, there’s significant diversity across the output with plenty more room to move in her unexpected, unrivaled and unforgiving sound.
Bebek originally was the lead singer for Bijelo Dugme – the biggest rock band in the former Yugoslavia (from 1974 to 1984). Since then, Bebek has had a very successful career as a solo artist, spanning over three decades with numerous unforgettable hits.
Though nearly everyone knew the words to the songs, I think Bebek spoke in English twice. Many younger people whose parents came to Australia in the 80s were seeing Bebek for the first time and had clearly grown up listening to him when their parents played his music.
Shimchong is a bilingual play, with roughly a third of the words and songs spoken in Korean. I thought the two languages worked well, even though I don’t speak a word of Korean, and I liked the idea that different spectators would have experienced the play very differently depending on their heritage and language skills. The sections in Korean never felt too long, and there was always enough pantomime or background music or changes to the set to tide you over. Other people who saw the play found the foreign language disconcerting. But at the end of the day you have to wonder what is the bonus of going to see a Korean play unless there is something Korean about it. Don’t we want our Korean heroines to sound Korean?
It’s hard to qualify the sound of Nevermen. Is it pop-opera, avant-indie? It has an almost grandiose scale in places, an unnerving instrumental vastness that you’d expect find inside a Secret Chiefs album, but the mysteries here feel far less eternal and more like a National Treasure map. There are markers to look out for in its folds, landmarks to musical success, but when you shove them all together like this it just plays the sound of homogeneity. Despite that and themselves, there are some really wonderful moments on the album. Tracks like Treat Em Right, which actually embraces its own absurdity and plays it up like a bouncy castle made of Lego or Fame II The Reckoning, the album closer and only track to contain anything like breathing room, growth or payoff.
In the opening half of the show the band tore through the track listings. It wasn’t till after the first three songs, The Riverboat Song, The Day We Caught The Train and The Circle, that Simon Fowler, the five-piece band’s singer/songwriter, first spoke to the crowd, announcing, “Well, those were our three big hits, I’m sure that’s what you all came to see and you can all go home now.” The tone of the evening was a little off, especially for the band. I suspect largely due to issues they were having with guitar and sound. The three hundred strong crowd didn’t care. No one moved. The punters had come to witness a musical experience. It’s not often you get see a band play a whole album live and a most lauded one at that.
It seems that the enemies of Naked are conservative social elements like the cops, Domino’s Pizza, the Neighbourhood Watch and ‘White People Dreaming of Christmas’: the Australian dream of a house, two kids, two cars and a backyard crushed under the weight of expectations and perceived privilege. It becomes difficult to even notice the stellar job of their bass and guitarist in recreating the subtle lo-fi feel of bands like Slint and Unwound in most of their tracks. The prog-doom metal breakdown of Paul Walker Overture is a definite album highlight. The first name in Australian-tinged punk rock sing-a-long that comes to mind after listening to Pink Quartz a few times is Melbourne’s The Smith Street Band, although Naked aren’t at all interested in bringing together their peers in punch drunk camaraderie.
Comparisons will always arise for an artist who has had great success with a former band. In Hammond’s case it is easy to compare his sound to The Strokes as he is still making solid danceable indie rock but his performance delivered a new element that we haven’t seen in his previous fame. Hammond’s vocals are much more pleasing than that of The Strokes and it was great to see his solo work getting attention. If there is no future left for The Strokes, I don’t think Albert Hammond Jr. is going to lose much sleep as he has a great future in making and sharing his music.
They’re a three piece with three distinct pieces. The guitars are unhurried and unworried, often holding on single notes for longer than would generally feel comfortable, and sometimes careening into unfamiliar and discordant territory. The drums ebb and flow like tension and release and the vocals tie it all together. The lyrics sometimes come across as stream-of-consciousness, and maybe they are, I don’t think that lessens their meaning.
The rules are simple: two minutes on the stage, do what you will. And with these broad parameters, it’s no surprise the comprehensive range of voices heard. From middle-aged lawyers rhyming about depression and self-worth, raps about 21st century slavery (with self-devised beat-boxing), all the way to a maximalist post-ironic interpretation of misandry. Fortunately, there was a lot less cigarette smoke, pale make-up, double bass and melancholy than one might expect.
Alongside the open mic aspect, which featured sixteen ‘slammers’, seasoned professionals Manal Younus, Stephanie Dogfoot and Deborah Emmanuel were also present and ‘slammin’. Younus, Dogfoot and Emmanuel are all global forces of the slam poetry world with some TEDx speeches, Glastonbury sets, and published works behind them. They were very warmly received.
Since their inception they’ve garnered a loyal following, and for good reason – they have quite a unique approach to performance, songwriting and production in comparison to the majority of groups making electronic music today. A vast array of instruments are employed, from digital to analog, tethered together via midi and the music software Abelton. This enables novel forms to emerge, emphasising immediacy and spontaneous exploration. To some this may sound off-putting, but it results in tracks that are equal parts joyous, enjoyable and experimental.
As a follow up to 2014’s excellent Aussie Dream, the Blip have produced another piece of original electronic music. Oceans Of Love is, thank god, far removed from the faceless, drab by-the-numbers dance music that gets shoved down our collective gullet.
The crowd was filled with devotees of all ages, clearly a testament to the influence and excellence of their music. However, I’m just going to throw this out there, but there was something about a bunch of ageing 90s Caucasian kids dancing along and yelling ‘nigga’ that took a few moments of consideration. I would never doubt that the fans there thoroughly enjoyed the music, and that music is an almost universally enjoyable thing, but there is something about the origins of the music that seemed at complete juxtaposition to the socio-economical situation of the audience. I could have a point, or this could be yet another time where my paralysing political correctness gets in the way of me getting down. Nothing was right or wrong. Take it whatever way you want.
Mangelwurzel aren’t some middling prog-funk or fusion band with a token distortion pedal. This is the weird end of rock music, the people’s cauldron. And it’s the dual guitars that finalise this concoction. They meld together to sound like the work of seriously underrated Robert Quine, guitarist for the likes of Richard Hell, Lou Reed and Tom Waits. Through all the songs there are mangled jangles and strangled squeals, playing in and outside of the convoluted compositions, simultaneously undermining and extending the complexities of this weirdness. A rather rock ’n’ roll technique on a rather rock ’n’ roll instrument.
Ziggy Played Guitar was a night for charity, appreciation, and even mourning, but above all it was a celebration of an artist who inspired generations of people. The eclectic mix of punters at this sold out event is testament to the reach David Bowie had. There are people of all ages, musical interest and background at The Foundry, all connected by a love of one of the greatest musicians in history...
The bill includes local artists INIGO, Emma Dean, WAAX, Ed Guglielmino, Shem Allen, MKO Sun, Born Joy Dead and The John Steel Singers, not to mention the large number of guest vocalists and soloists who join the bands throughout the show.