What could be better than reclining with a beautiful girl by candlelight with the emotive yet soothing baritone of David McComb imploring the object of his affection to bury him deep in love? On The Triffids’ luscious 1988 single Bury Me Deep in Love, McComb expresses an all-embracing passion that can make all the difference. And given that a defining quality in the best Australian music is a commitment to free creative expression, these feelings are genuine but with a pinch of vulnerability. This thorough survey of the band’s finest moments across six albums and various EPs also reveals that McComb was coming up with the good stuff early on. Formed in Perth in the late 1970s, The Triffids’ remarkably consistent sound was characterised by strong melodies attached to arrangements and vocals with dramatic overtones. This combination couldn’t fail when the band travelled to the UK in the mid-1980s and was briefly lauded by the indie press. The overseas experience also inspired the flawless album Born Sandy Devotional in 1985, and its striking mini-epic Wide Open Road opens this collection which is a smart placement. The only sour note comes from John O’Donnell who concludes his liner notes by stating that the band played its final show in 1989 in “soulless Canberra”. This suggests O’Donnell might not know what he is talking about, as I’m sure those in attendance treated the band with the respect they deserved.
Drum ‘n’ bass tends to inspire militant devotion from its followers, but Shapeshifter have succeeded in breaking all the rules – while still keeping the infatuated DnB fraternity onside. They perfected their soulful, anthemic sound so perfectly with their third album Soulstice in 2006, they were effectively transformed into national heroes at home in New Zealand. So where to take it from there? The answer in this case was ‘deep’.
From the moment P Digsss’ glorious vocals ring out, The System is a Vampire is a beautiful and emotional journey, where the soul comes through stronger than ever before. Interestingly, the big drum ‘n’ bass theatrics have for the most part been shelved. The rapid BPMs remain, but it’ll never be music for the clubs in its raw form. The band have beefed up its jazzy side, and there’s a huge focus on soulful instrumentation, balanced out somewhat by its spacey, psychedelic soundscapes, but at the centre of it all is P Digsss, who’s been given more space to shine than ever before. He takes us to some exhilarating places here, as well as some deeply melancholic ones, and he truly is a soulful force to be reckoned with. The System Is a Vampire is a much more challenging affair, and Shapeshifter take us deep. It’s questionable whether as many people will go along for the ride, but those who do will be richly rewarded.
It seems odd to think now that there was a time, not so very long ago, when the idea of a girl singing with a full-on heavy metal band would have caused snorts of derision of the ‘it’ll never happen’ kind down at your local rock pub; of course we now live in more enlightened times and such bands have become so popular that some record labels have been formed to only sign female-fronted HM outfits... which must be a good thing, surely?
All of which brings us to Spain’s DIM. Beyond Infinity is massive in scope, faultless in execution but slightly soulless as a result. There’s an air of by-numbers about this, despite vocalist Maite Itoiz’ efforts to add something out of the ordinary; despite their grandiose pretensions, the likes of Come to Paradise and Ishtar come and go with little to catch the ear or hold the attention. That’s not to say there’s nothing to like here. Album closer, the superbly Gothic St Michael’s Nightmare succeeds where all before have failed, and there are moments – a riff here, a keyboard flourish there, some impressively orchestrated baroque floridity everywhere, which give you a sniff that something special may well eventuate from this project.
Will our patience be rewarded on future releases? I hope so, but for now there just isn’t enough going on here to recommend DIM to anyone but the most fervent fan of female vocalism.
Tech Label Beef Records has just released the third installment of their compilation series Prime Cuts. Deep House duo Shades of Gray were granted the task of piecing together the release and considering the team are the founders of the label the choice was not unexpected. Dj Schwa, or Michal Ruzicka, and Nick West are the names behind Shades and their usual blend off deep house, tech house and house is not lost on this album.
Surprisingly the compilation is unmixed, which is rare for a dance music release that is not an artist album. There is a bonus mix by DJ UONE, but the individual tracks are the CD’s core focus.
The album starts on a lighter note with a Pezzner remix of Shades of Gray’s Tango and actually follows this funkier, housier vibe for the first few tracks. The Kreon remix of Manjas’ Hann at track four moves into deeper territory, as does Shades of Gray’s House of Cards. The album ends on a deep note too, although Shur-I-Kan’s String Killer is an interesting combination of minimal sounds and clapping tech rhythm.
The album is a definitely not as deep as anticipated for a Shades of Gray release, however it is the housier tracks that give the album weight. Prime Cuts moves effortlessly from funkier tracks to the deeper tunes and it is this intentional combination that ensures the album is an easy listen.
Holy Fuck are the band of my dreams - a quartet that plays a full measure of dance music with guitars, drums, bass and analogue synths that they repatch on the fly. Known for their relentless melding of prog rock-styled techno, electronica- laiden heavy psyche rock and fresh as anything party rock stylings, they had won me over completely with the ostentatiously loud previous record LP; when Latin landed in my lap a week ago, I squealed with delight. Initially sounding very restrained - ambient opening offer 1MD sounds like atmosphere outside just before a storm hits - Latin has a distinct flow and agenda, building from funky house tracks at the begining before culminating in the second half with the kind of manic head-smashing intenseathons like P.I.G.S and Stilettos. A measured and mature progression, this forethought doesn’t detract too much from the spontanious joy that you feel as a listener, as whilst it’s an obvious build up, it’s an experience made the better from less potholes and bumps than their previous releases. From the outstanding die-cut typographical solution to their cover-art down to the stunning production keeping the glow of fun warm throughout, this is essential.
After a year of offshoot affairs, American blues-rock duo The Black Keys are back with their latest thumping album Brothers. Filled with catchy, visceral and heartfelt tracks The Keys revisit the raw and distorted production style that typifies earlier albums The Big Come Up and Thickfreakness, but at the same time delve into some new and refreshing territory. In Ten Cent Pistol the duo churn out a wall of guitars, organs and keyboards - enough racket for a death march. Motown-esque melodies can be found on Never Going to Give Up, and the track Unknown Brother sounds as if it is straight off John Lennon’s Imagine. References to classic 20th century R&B, rock and soul feature heavily throughout.
Dan Auerbach’s switch from deep delta utterances to a falsetto (that might be likened to Prince howling through a megaphone e.g. Everlasting Love, and his soothing but controlled vocals on ballads such as These Days), demonstrate his talent and versatility as a singer. We’ve heard his speaker-blowing wail for so long now it is genuinely surprising to hear him try another vocal style. Although Brothers lacks the cohesion and overall album concept of their first two classic records, they are heading back in the right direction and there are some catchy, stand alone and reassuringly authentic tracks - most notably Everlasting Light and Unknown Brother, both of which seem to grow on you the more you listen.
Recorded in a harbour side studio, this indie pop EP from Sydney five-piece Dusker is a ripper. The leading track is the highlight, immediately shouting for attention that this band is something special. Ellipsis has great vocals, backed by sparkling harmonies, and an incredibly catchy guitar line topped off with a tip-toeing piano. You’ll soon be singing along, vainly trying to match the magic timbre of Dee Hamilton’s versatile voice in the chorus, “They trick us into thinking / there’s no way / there’s always a way”. Switching from the brightness of the opener to a darker tone and from pop to rock, Dee comes on strong, punching out the passionate Disappoint Me. In Averting Tragedies, with its minimal instrumentation, she mixes the sweetness of Clare Bowditch with the harder edge of Alanis Morissette, resulting in an appealing bittersweet tone. Modern Wizardry, with its furiously chiming guitars, pays witness to our fascination with gadgets (yes, this is for all you iPad fiends). But we are brought crashing back to earth in the gentle Lake Cargelligo with a reminder that there are some things only people can do, in that “we triumph where machines fail”. An impressive debut with songs different in approach but uniform in genius, it will be playing in your mind long after the disk has stopped. (By the way, the offer of beers scrawled on the bottom of the press release has nothing to do with the enthusiasm of this review.)