Friday, July 1, 2016

2015's finest in albums!

This is so bloody overdue, so let's get straight to it! Iiiiiit's... the top twenty albums of 2015! Yes, 20! 2014 was, in my opinion, a slightly less exciting than usual year for new music, but 2015 more than made up for it with some absolute corkers, and once again, Neeso's end of year chart has been extended to accommodate all the radness! So, without further ado:

20. Dumbsaint - Panorama, in ten pieces (Australia)
19. The Basics - The Age of Entitlement (Australia)
18. The Black Dog - Neither/Neither (UK)
17. Purity Ring - Another Eternity (Canada)
16. Squarepusher - Damogen Furies (UK)
15. Bjork - Vulnicura (Iceland)
14. Batpiss - Biomass (Australia)
13. White Fang - Chunks (USA)
12. Jamie xx - In Colour (UK)
11. The Meanies - It's Not Me, It's You (Australia)

10. Hiatus Kaiyote - Choose Your Weapon (Australia)
9. The Sidekicks - Runners in the Nerved World (USA)
8. Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls (UK)
7. Faith No More - Sol Invictus (USA)
6. The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes (UK)
5. High Tension - Bully (Australia)
4. Battles - La Di Da Di (USA)
3. Royal Headache - High (Australia)
2. Clowns - Bad Blood (Australia)
1. Leftfield - Alternative Light Source (UK)

Yeah, what can I say? It was a bloody good year!As always, we can have a look over this chart and see that local music was again extremely strong! The top five in particular features three very strong albums from bands who were now onto their second long-player. They managed to capitalise on very strong starts and come out with even stronger products! And all up, the countdown featured EIGHT Aussie artists. Hang on, is that as much as usual? Still a good showing nonetheless. Meanwhile, we had six UK artists, four from the US of A, and one apiece from Canada and Iceland!

But you can't fit everything in the top 20, and heeeeeere are some honourable mentions!
Blanck Mass - Dumb Flesh
Boy & Bear - Limit of Love
Chvrches - Every Open Eye
Cosmic Psychos - Cum the Raw Prawn
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Dallas Frasca - Love Army
Fat Freddy's Drop - Bays
Father John Misty - I Love You, Honeybear
Floating Points - Elaenia
HEALTH - Death Magic
Julia Holter - Have You In My Wilderness
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Quarters!
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Paper Mache Dream Balloon
King Parrot - Dead Set
Kurt Vile - b'lieve I'm going down
Making - Highlife
Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat
Pond - Man, It Feels Like Space Again
Refused - Freedom
Silversun Pickups - Better Nature
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love
Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Sunn O))) - Kannon
Tame Impala - Currents
Tangled Thoughts of Leaving - Yield to Despair
Tesseract - Polaris
The Decemberists - What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
The World at a Glance - ...Will Travel
TTTDC - Acronym
Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Best of 2014! In recorded form...

Well, again this is quite an overdue post, due to me really not having the motivation to keep this blog up-to-date anymore, but the top 10 is always an important one, so here it is! Yes, it's a top 10 this time. I dunno, 2014 did have obvious highlights, but for me, ten albums seemed to do it, with the quality dropping off enough after those releases to make the others not really worthy of inclusion. It's a shame! But ah well, here's the ten big ones:

10. Antemasque - Antemasque (USA)
9. Luca Brasi - By a Thread (Australia)
8. La Dispute - Rooms of the House (USA)
7. Swans - To Be Kind (USA)
6. Owen Pallett - In Conflict (Canada)
5. Ceres - I Don't Want to Be Anywhere But Here (Australia)
4. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - I'm In Your Mind Fuzz (Australia)
3. Against Me! - Transgender Dysphoria Blues (USA)
2. Aphex Twin - Syro (UK)
1. The Smith Street Band - Throw Me in the River (Australia)

So as always, a bit of a geographical breakdown - four Aussies (including the all-important numero uno), four from the good ol' US of A, one Canadian (and a bloody talented one at that), and of course, that oddball electronica genius from Cornwall.

And for the honourable mentions, yes there were a few!
A Lonely Crowd - Transients
Actress - Ghettoville
Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else
Fucked Up - Glass Boys
Jack White - Lazaretto
Killer Be Killed - Killer Be Killed
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Oddments
Mac Demarco - Salad Days
Mastodon - Once More 'Round the Sun
Mogwai - Rave Tapes
Morning Glory – War Psalms
Mushroom Giant – Painted Mantra
OFF! – Wasted Years

Opiuo - Meraki
Pink Floyd - The Endless River
Plastikman - EX
Real Estate – Atlas

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 2
Saskwatch – Nose Dive
sleepmakeswaves – Love of Cartography

Sunn O))) & Ulver - Terrestrials
Swans – To Be Kind
Sydonia – Reality Kicks
The Algorithm – Octopus4

The Beards - The Beard Album
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream
Tim McMillan - Wolves of Stunz
Tycho – Awake

And now for the short-form things that are known as EPs!
5. The Occupants - Hindsight
4. The Basics - The Lucky Country
3. Sirak - Heavy Flow
2. Maximum Wolf - Maximum Wolf
1. The Bennies - Heavy Disco

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Best of 2013 - Albums/Other recorded things!

Alright, this is well overdue, so let's just fucking get to it. I did originally post a top 20 on Facebook back in December last year, but since then there have been a few albums that have caught my ear, and I've had to revise the chart somewhat with three new entries - namely albums from Bastille, Violent Soho, and The Bennies. This meant that the original positions 20-18 have been bumped out. They were, from 20-18; Biffy Clyro - Opposites,  Bonobo - The North Borders and The Bronx - The Bronx IV. Sorry guys! But without further ado:

20. Deafheaven - Sunbather (USA) 
19. Sigur Ros - Kveikur (Iceland) 
18. High Tension - Death Beat (Australia) 
17. The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer (USA) 
16. The Cat Empire - Steal the Light (Australia) 
15. Steven Wilson - The Raven That Refused to Sing (and Other Stories) (UK)
14. Bastille - Bad Blood (UK) 
13. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Push the Sky Away (Australia) 
12. Holden - The Inheritors (UK)
11. Violent Soho - Hungry Ghost (Australia)
10. The Bennies - Rainbows in Space (Australia) 
9. The Drones - I See Seaweed (Australia) 
8. Queens of the Stone Age - Like Clockwork (USA) 
7. My Bloody Valentine - mbv (Ireland) 
6. Jon Hopkins - Immunity (UK) 
5. Clowns - I'm Not Right (Australia) 
4. Nine Inch Nails - Hesitation Marks (USA) 
3. James Blake - Overgrown (UK) 
2. Fuck Buttons - Slow Focus (UK) 
1. Karnivool - Asymmetry (Australia)

So, that's that. We got there in the end! I think part of the reason it took so long is that last year, I found myself consuming a lot more new music than I usually do - which can only be a good thing. And you can certainly tell by the list of honourable mentions! Oh, and since I've made it a bit of a tradition each year to comment on how much of the chart was local content, I should say that eight out of the top 20 were Australian acts, which certainly isn't as much as previous years. And four of those were in the top 10. I dunno what it was about that year! Anyway, those honourable mentions: (perhaps a top THIRTY is in order next year!)

65daysofstatic - Wild Light
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Balance and Composure - The Things We Think We're Missing
Batpiss - Nuclear Winter
Biffy Clyro - Opposites
Bonobo - The North Borders
Boy & Bear - Harlequin Dream
Carcass - Surgical Steel
Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe
Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Daniel Avery - Drone Logic
Dead Letter Circus - The Catalyst Fire
Dick Diver - Calendar Days
Factory Floor - Factory Floor
Fat Freddy's Drop - Blackbird
Future of the Left - How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident
How to Destroy Angels - Welcome Oblivion
I Am Duckeye - Husband
Kadavar - Abra Kadavar
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Eyes Like the Sky
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard - Float Along - Fill Your Lungs
Kurt Vile - Wakin' On a Pretty Daze
Lorde - Pure Heroine
Melbourne Ska Orchestra - Melbourne Ska Orchestra
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group - Woman Gives Birth to Tomato!
Palms (US) - Palms
Pantha Du Prince & the Bell Laboratory - Elements of Light
Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt
Pond - Hobo Rocket
Russian Circles - Memorial
Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart
Tesseract - Altered State
The Bronx - The Bronx (IV)
The National - Trouble Will Find Me
The Ocean - Pelagial
This Town Needs Guns -
Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City
Wil Wagner - Laika

And the top five EPs! As usual, local content dominated this category!
5. The Bennies - Better Off Dread
4. On Sierra - Music to Crack Safes To
3. Sheriff - Roughhouse Hymns
2. Stockades - Stockades
1. The Smith Street Band - Don't Fuck With Our Dreams 

Top five songs of 2012:
5. Violent Soho - Covered in Chrome
4. Jon Hopkins - Open Eye Signal
3. Clowns - Eat a Gun
2. The Bennies - Party Smashers
1. Karnivool - We Are

Best live release: Dead Can Dance - In Concert

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Top 10 gigs of 2012

Another well overdue post, so again, no reviews for now, just straight into it! (If country is not mentioned, band is Australian.)

10. Flight of the Conchords (New Zealand) at Rod Laver Arena, 15th July. With support from Arj Barker (USA).
9. Shellac (USA) at Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, 19th/20th October. With support from My Disco (19th) and Blacklevel Embassy (20th).
8. Karnivool at Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, 5th-7th July. With support from Redcoats and sleepmakeswaves.
7. The Tea Party (Canada) at Palais Theatre, 14th July. With support from Georgia Fair.
6. The Darkness (UK) at Palace Theatre, 8th May. With support from Baptism of Uzi.
5. Battles (USA) at Forum Theatre, 28th January. With support from Witch Hats and Other Places.
4. Refused (Sweden) at Palace Theatre, 16th November. With support from Outright.
3. Radiohead (UK) at Rod Laver Arena, 17th November. With support from Connan Mockasin.
2. At the Drive-In (USA) as part of Splendour in the Grass, at Belongil Fields, Byron Bay, 27th-29th July. Other higlight acts also included Dirty Three, Jack White and The Smashing Pumpkins.
1. Roger Waters (UK) - The Wall Live, at Rod Laver Arena, 8th February. No support.

Honourable mentions from headlining, non-festival gigs, in chronological order only:
  • Devin Townsend Project (Canada), Meshuggah (Sweden), and dredg (USA) at Forum Theatre, 29th February. What a bill! Courtesy - of course - of the ever-reliable Soundwave Touring.
  • Aphex Twin (UK) at Palace Theatre, 6th March. 
  • Humans, Sheriff, The Sinking Teeth and Lubbock Lights/Seasuns at Gasometer, 19th April.
  • Fu Manchu (USA) and Black Cobra (USA) at Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, 6th May.
  • Dead Letter Circus, Fair to Midland (USA) and Twelve Foot Ninja at Ferntree Gully Hotel, 17th May.
  • The Butterfly Effect at Hi Fi Bar and Ballroom, 8th June. With support from The Khyber Belt and The Siren Tower.The final show with their singer of ten years, Clint Boge. A very emotional and special evening for all!
  • Trial Kennedy at Corner Hotel, 23rd June. With support from Ikarii, The Pretty Littles and My Echo.
    This was the final show of Trial Kennedy's farewell tour, and again, another one that pulled on the heartstrings a little!
  • The xx (UK) at Forum Theatre, 18th July. With support from Flume.
  • Jack White (USA) at Festival Hall, 25th July. With support from Lanie Lane.
  • The Black Keys (USA) at Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 31st October. With support from Royal Headache.
  • Sub Atari Knives (EP launch) at Evelyn Hotel, 9th November.
  • My Left Boot (album launch) at Cherry Bar, 22nd December. With support from King of the North and Sheriff.
And some festival highlights:
  • Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (UK) closing the Green Stage at Big Day Out, 29th January.
  • System of a Down/Slipknot (USA) back to back to close the main stages at Soundwave, 2nd March. Runner-up goes to a killer set from Mastodon (USA).
  • Golden Plains, 10th/11th March - nothing in particular stands out, just a great weekend at the Sup' as always.
  • Okera, Mushroom Giant and A Lonely Crowd, as part of the all-round excellence of Progfest, 8th September at the Espy.
  • Cup My Balls at the Tote, 6th November (surprise surprise, Melbourne Cup Day). Some of Melbourne's finest underground rockers including Sun God Replica, Harmony, Batpiss and Sheriff gathered to give Melbourne music fans an alternative to uhh, that horse race thing.
  • Fuck Buttons, Sigur Ros and Ben Folds Five, stand-out acts at another fantastic edition of Harvest, 10th November.
  • Primal Scream, Turbonegro, Itch-E & Scratch-E, Saskwatch... yep, Meredith Music Festival was fantastic as always! (7th-9th December).
Festival of the year goes to... Meredith, of course. Harvest a runner-up again. It's going to be hard to break that formula!
Best live Australian act: Karnivool
Runner-up: Sheriff, Sub Atari Knives

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The best of (the best of) 2012 - albums/physical product wise!

This, my friends, is well overdue. So I'll just get down to it! Presenting first, the top TWENTY albums of 2012. Yes, I personally felt that 2012 delivered so many goddamn good albums that it warranted extending a top 10 into a top 20, just to fit the awesomeness in! And even so, there are still some more that didn't quite make the cut that should've! Anyway, due to this being so late, I'm going to add reviews at such a time when I can be bothered, which might not actually happen ever. Who knows? Anyway, let's get cracking.

20. The Beards - Having a Beard is the New Not Having a Beard (Australia)
19. Redcoats - Redcoats (Australia)
18. Dead Can Dance - Anastasis (Australia/UK)
17. Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense (UK)
16. Adrift for Days - Come Midnight... (Australia)
15. Jack White - Blunderbuss (USA)
14. The xx - Coexist (UK)
13. The Siren Tower - A History of Houses (Australia)
12. OFF! - OFF! (USA)
11. Maximum Wolf - Spacescapes (Australia)


10. Breaking Orbit - The Time Traveller (Australia)
9. Okera - A Beautiful Dystopia (Australia)
8. Dirty Three - Toward the Low Sun (Australia)
7. Tame Impala - Lonerism (Australia)
6. Saskwatch - Leave it All Behind (Australia)
5. Ne Obliviscaris - Portal of I (Australia)
4. Alcest - Les Voyages de l'Âme (France)
3. Twelve Foot Ninja - Silent Machine (Australia)
2. Swans - The Seer (USA)
1.Spiritualized - Sweet Heart Sweet Light (UK)

Whew. What a quality year it was; like I said, there was so much good music that it just seemed like a top ten wouldn't cut it, in terms of fitting everything in. Something that's definitely notable about this year, like it was in 2010, is that bands from Australia made some fucking great albums! And it's a complete coincidence too; I don't favour a band any more (or less) just because they come from my home country, but it turns out that a LOT of the best albums released were from Australian bands. Thirteen out of the top twenty albums were from homegrown bands, and even more impressively, SEVEN of the top ten were Australian acts. Local music is good music! Anyway, so now we turn our attention to the best five EPs of the year... they were...

5. Birds of Tokyo - This Fire
4. High Tension - High Tension
3. Maximum Wolf - ii
2. Sheriff - Sheriff
1. Sub Atari Knives - Sub Atari Knives

These always seem to be local acts, don't they? I think it's something to do with the size of the acts - the bigger overseas acts are less likely to release music in the shortened form once they've established themselves, and tend to focus on producing actual albums. Whereas the local acts represented here (with one slight exception) are in a pretty early stage of their career, and at this point it seems to be better to just give everyone a quick taste of where they're at and what they're about, rather than put all their time and effort into making an album when most people in the music community aren't even aware they exist yet. Anyway, that's just my take on things! It's great to see once again that local talent ruled this countdown!

The year's top five songs:
5. Tame Impala - Feels Like We Only Go Backwards
4. Saskwatch - Your Love
3. Twelve Foot Ninja - Coming for You
2. Spiritualized - Hey Jane
1. Swans - The Seer

And the final award for best live release... a definite no-contest here!
The Chemical Brothers - Don't Think

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

And so ends yet another year!

Well, it certainly has been a while since I posted last, and it seems the frequency of blog posts decreased severely in 2012! But anyway, might as well get the 2013 ball rolling with my usual end of year post that comes out around this time. It's been absolute aeons since I last posted a live review, so I won't mention every gig that's happened since then, but I will say a few words about the gigs of November and December just to wrap things up. In terms of great music, it was a great year, and the concluding moments were no exception!

The first major event on my calendar in November was the amusingly titled Cup My Balls, an afternoon/evening mini-festival held, not surprisingly, on Melbourne Cup Day, at that iconic Collingwood venue on the corner of Johnston and Wellington Streets. Yes, the Tote. Acting as a great alternative for the Melbourne music faithful, most of whom probably don't give a fuck about horse racing, a swag of great local acts and their fans crammed into the venue for a fucking AWESOME barbeque, a healthy serving of alcohol, and of course, some rock 'n' fucking roll! Bands on the day included the likes of Harmony, Sun God Replica, Sheriff and Batpiss, among others, and though my memory of the day is understandably a little hazy, it's fair to say the tunes couldn't have been more solid!

A few days later, it was off to a venue just up the road, the Evelyn Hotel, as a relatively fresh act on the Melbourne scene, Sub Atari Knives, took to the stage to deliver another absolute belter - they've only been playing shows together for about a year, but the three musicians involved are no strangers to the stage at all. Vocalist Hugo Tremayne once fronted the experimental drum-and-bass outfit K-Oscillate, while funktastic bassist Nick Adams was part of the much-loved and much-missed Melbourne rockers Mammal, and drummer/electronics wizard Ben Ellingworth was arguably one of the driving forces of Sydney industrial/metal hybrid MM9. This particular gig was to launch the band's much-anticipated debut EP, which surprisingly manages to capture the band's intense live sound very well. And for the launch, another intense live show it was indeed! Making great use once again of a nifty split-screen light/visual effect, and cranking the sound desk to its maximum, those in attendance were certainly not hesitating to obey Tremayne's demands to "MOVE AND SWAY!", as he so viciously demands in the band's eponymous anthem Sub Atari Knives.

On the second weekend of November, it was time to make the trek in a south direction once again, to the absolutely gorgeous setting of Werribee Park, for the second edition of Harvest Festival. The festival launched itself onto the scene with great fanfare last year, and despite a few teething problems, it was agreed upon more or less unanimously by the punters - it was just a fucking great festival. The return of the festival was looking to be another cracker, with an exciting lineup bursting at the seams with an interesting, slightly left-field and very diverse collection of acts. With interest in the festival increasing significantly since its triumphant debut, the initial Melbourne date on Sunday sold out and it was decided that there would be a great enough demand for the event to be staged twice - the lineup simply repeated itself on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was the much-less crowded day, as punters very comfortably soaked up the sun and tunes. The lineup certainly had it all, and yours truly had an excellent day, seeing the following bands, in order of their appearance:
Los Campesinos!, The Dandy Warhols, Silversun Pickups, Mike Patton's Mondo Cane, CAKE, Ben Folds Five, Beck, Fuck Buttons, Sigur Rós. WHEW! It's hard to pick a highlight, really. Fuck Buttons took the cake for my favourite set of the day - after all, I had an absolute blast watching them play their first Australian shows as part of the ATP Festival in 2009 and the subsequent sideshow. They went on to release my favourite album of that year, Tarot Sport, but hadn't made a return visit down under until this festival, so I was pretty fucking psyched to see them, and they lived up to all expectations! As for the rest, Sigur Rós were always going to be amazing, Ben Folds Five were unbelievably fun (how can you go past a Song for the Dumped singalong?), CAKE were vibraslap-tastic, Silversun Pickups were incredible as always, and Mike Patton is fucking Mike Patton. That's about it really! More or less every act I saw was at the very least excellent!

Nobody could deny that November was a fucking GREAT month for live music, for only six days after Harvest, it was time to head to the Palace Theatre (via Mrs Parmas!) for a date with incendiary Swedish hardcore legends, Refused. After they announced to the world that they were "NOT FUCKING DEAD" earlier in the year, the always-resourceful AJ Maddah and Soundwave Touring quickly locked them in for an Australian tour - lucky too, as they would soon go on to say that the reunion was only to be a temporary one, so they could play some shows and leave things on a positive note. Quite simply, they absolutely SMASHED the Palace. Reunion tours can often be difficult things to pull off successfully, and sometimes things just don't quite seem to work out onstage - but not this time! The band played with unreserved passion and conviction, showing that they had not lost any of their fire. Unbelievable.

Radiohead. What more could you say about this band? It had been a long, long, eight years since the band last appeared on our shores, and when the news that they were returning broke, shit was lost, and tickets disappeared in an instant - and appeared on eBay pretty damn quickly. It certainly reignited the old scalping debate, but in November, all that was forgotten, as Messrs Yorke, Greenwood, Greenwood, O'Brien and Selway finally arrived on our shores - they also brought along a friend with them, with Portishead's touring drummer Clive Deamer coming along for the ride to provide extra percussive and drumming awesomeness. The band had some pretty goddamn high expectations riding on them, but it was fair to say they absolutely delivered on all counts - it was a marathon setlist (Brisbane got THREE encores!) filled with old favourites, exciting new tunes and some unexpected surprises here and there, accompanied by a visual extravaganza involving moving mini-TVs, trippy videos and lighting that could simultaneously induce, and cure blindness! 

The following week was Melbourne Music Week, and as always, the team involved did a pretty fucking outstanding job of making sure there was plenty of interesting gigs happening around this great city. The centrepiece of this year's festival was the much-talked about Where?House venue, an old building in the city in a state of disrepair/construction work. Giving the venue a bit of a makeover with the addition of a bar, a stage and various other little bits and pieces, it was observed by a friend of mine that "Melbourne's sort of got a little piece of Berlin now" as we enjoyed the electronic sounds of Vadislav Delay, Harmonic 313 and Tantrums on a Wednesday night. Unfortunately, the use of the venue was only temporary, but I can truly say it's probably the most interesting gig location I've ever experienced, and I can only feel sorry for those who didn't.

Cherry Bar, Cherry Bar, Cherry Bar. That little bar down AC/DC Lane hasn't been around as long as some venues, but it's quickly become synonymous with rock 'n' roll music in Melbourne, and not without reason. In recent years the bar has begun hosting the Cherry Rock festival, utilising the laneway space with a complementary stage in addition to the one in the venue itself. This year a second festival rolled along later in the year, simply entitled Cherryfest. With the help of Rob Macmanus's much-loved Heathen Skulls Touring brand, the festival scored two massive OS headliners in the form of New Orleans sludge metal demons Eyehategod, and the latest incarnation of the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group, a new band by the name of Bosnian Rainbows. But it wasn't all about the internationals - the day also featured a very healthy selection of local favourites such as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, King Parrot, Tumbleweed and even a most improbable reunion for cult stoner rockers Dern Rutlidge! It was certainly a fun day and night, with plenty of booze and good rocking tunes. Surprisingly the laneway didn't get too cramped either! And Eyehategod fucking SLAYED.

If there's been one band who have soundtracked my 2012, it's been Sheriff. I lost count ages ago of the amount of evenings I've spent enjoying these dudes with their southernpsychedelichorrorbluesrock sounds - and to be quite honest, they're pretty fucking fun dudes off the stage too. On the very last day of November, they got themselves the honour of supporting the ridiculously awesome, over-the-top heavy metal warriors Barbariön, as they plundered and pillaged the relatively new Footscray venue, the Reverence Hotel for a single launch. With the rowdy Vice Grip Pussies also in the support saddle, the night was, it's fair to say, a whole lot of fun, especially considering it was my first visit to the Reverence. I'd certainly been looking forward to it for some time, given that it's the new venue operated by the old team from the beloved and much-missed Arthouse, and the general opinion among those who've been there is the same - this little bar in the west is quite an awesome spot!

December's gigs kicked off in a big way two days later, as a small but passionate collective of those "in the know" made their way to a relatively unusual location for a gig - a park in Melbourne's north-west, for the long-awaited return of that mysterious event known simply as The Generator Party. It had been a while between drinks for this event - there was a much lower-key version held in 2011, but the last of the "original" run of parties had been held way back at the end of 2010. Anticipation was high for this Sunday afternoon, and it seemed that by the end of the day, everyone agreed that Generator Five had lived up to all expectations. First up, the location - TICK. It sounds so obvious to say it, but a good park location with lots of grass and trees does make for pleasant surroundings for a gig; furthermore it was just a stone's throw away from the location of the inaugural three, which was a good way to keep with the tradition set by the original. The second, and arguably the most important aspect of the day, was of course THE BANDS. And with the likes of Tantrums, The Hawaiian Islands, Them Bruins and A Gazillion Angry Mexicans (among others) taking to the stage patch of grass, there were certainly no complaints on that front! A nice day outside in the sunshine with rock and roll, beers and a barbeque - what else does one need to kick off summer?!

Any doubts about whether summer/December had truly arrived yet were quickly erased the following weekend, as Eskys were filled with Melbourne Bitter cans, and tents, sleeping bags and a whole lot of questionable food were crammed into cars. Said cars then set off on a journey toward a place that has become something of a second home for music lovers in and around the Melbourne area, and somewhere around lunchtime on Friday the 7th of December, the glorious realisation settled in - we were BACK AT THE MEREDITH SUPERNATURAL AMPHITHEATRE. 2011 had arguably been the biggest year yet for Meredith Music Festival; it wasn't really surprising that all the stops were pulled out, given that it was celebrating its twenty-first birthday. However, just because the party had reached dizzying heights the year before, that certainly didn't mean Aunty was about to do things half-arsed this time around, and Meredith 2012 was just as enjoyable as those that had preceded it. It's one of those festivals where just about every act can get mentioned as being enjoyable for at least some people, and certainly at the end of the weekend, if the question "Who was your highlight?" was asked, any number of responses could have followed. "Headlining" honours this time around went to Scottish psych rock stalwarts Primal Scream; they certainly lived up to all expectations, with the crowd giving them plenty of love for a Saturday night set that spanned music of approximately twenty years - three new unreleased tunes were given an airing, but it was the old favourites that truly delighted the punters. Why wouldn't you play five songs (in a thirteen-song set) from such a classic album as Screamadelica, after all?! Other than Bobby Gillespie and his friends, there was plenty of music to love across the typically massive three days. Local soul/funk juggernaut Saskwatch were responsible for creating one of the biggest boogies on the Sunday afternoon of Golden Plains 2012, and were rewarded with a prime-time Saturday evening slot for their return to the Supernatural Amphitheatre - and the audience absolutely loved them again. Mario Rubalcaba certainly put in a lot of effort over the weekend, making appearances behind the drum kit with not one, but TWO great acts - on Friday night, it was with the psychedelic jamtastic trio Earthless, while on Saturday, he appeared halfway through a ripping set by punk stalwarts Hot Snakes. Psychedelia was a variety of music certainly not in short supply over the weekend, with Pond opening the festival with a bang on Friday, with a few of their members taking to the stage again later that night with their "big brother" counterpart, Tame Impala. British legends of all things spacey and trippy, Spiritualized were certainly well-received too, as their cosmic anthems of love, loss and despair seemed to be just made to be played in the Sup'. Saturday night just had a lineup where all signs pointed squarely to good times - in between the aforementioned Primal Scream and Saskwatch, Australian heroes Regurgitator busted out a brilliant set which had everyone dancing and singing along (despite the fact they've just done a tour playing those albums in their ENTIRETY, there were LOTS of songs from Unit and Tu-Plang of course), and Norwegian deathpunk rockers Turbonegro turned up the volume and riffs considerably! After an excellent return of the Meredith Sky Show (it doesn't happen every year), the party rolled on to great effect, with the music taking a hard left turn into "dance" territory. A clever VJ mash-up set by DJ Flagrant was well-received for its inventiveness and nostalgic value; then cult Australian rave duo Itch-E & Scratch-E took to the stage. Dressed as their namesake cartoon characters, Paul Mac and Andy Rantzen belted out a technotastic selection of tunes from their small but impressive discography, and all those punters who were still awake (quite a few!) got their boogie on! Boredoms mainman Yamantaka Eye then took the reins, but by then most people, including yours truly, were well on their way to bed!

And a couple of weeks later, surprise surprise, it was back to Cherry, for MORE. FUCKING. SHERIFF! This evening was quite a momentous occasion, as they stepped up to the plate to support good mates My Left Boot, who were launching their cracking album Summer Songs. Along for the ride also were Melbourne's best two-piece-that-sound-bigger-than-a-two-piece, King of the North - so the night was looking to be quite the party to say the least! It's fair to say it absolutely was - Sheriff got the ball rolling with their usual stomping, swaggering rock and roll tunes, before KotN amped up the riff factor, and then the mighty My Left Boot brought the house down with their somewhat psychedelic flavoured but no less intense rock numbers - and how about that freakin falsetto?! Cherry Bar has a reputation for, well, getting a little bit loose, and it has to be said that quite a big night was had by yours truly and a few friends. It is the sign of a good night when you're helping your friend stick his amp in the back of a cab at 4:30am!

What gig then, to finish the year off, you ask? Well, it could really be no other band - no, it wasn't Sheriff, but another Melbourne group whom I've become somewhat obsessed with in the last couple of years; their name is of course Sydonia. Taking to the stage of Fitzroy's iconic Evelyn Hotel, on the last Saturday for the year the experimental hard-rocking four-piece decided to play a special set focused on their heaviest numbers - due in part to the fact that the bill featured a healthy selection of rather intense acts! Certainly a good gig to wrap things up for a year that certainly had its fair share of awesome live music!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Maximum Wolf - Spacescapes (album review)

If there’s one musical craze that’s definitely risen to prominence in the past few years, it’s that highly debated style of bass-heavy electronica known as dubstep. Known for its distinctive repetition of oscillating so-called “wub wub wub” synth patterns and ridiculously intense use of bass tones, what was once a relatively underground phenomenon has suddenly gone quite mainstream, and the sound has transcended several genre borders. Sonny Moore was once the vocalist for a post-hardcore group From First to Last, but you may now know him for packing out venues and headlining festivals worldwide under his Skrillex moniker. The members of British space-rock superstars Muse attended a Skrillex concert and were influenced by the phenomenon enough to include some of the style on their new album. And even closer to home, Perth progressive rockers Karnivool raised a few eyebrows in 2011 when they took along dubstep/drum and bass producer Shockone on the road for a full national tour, with the Perth musician taking to the decks for some very un-rock-and-roll DJ sets immediately prior to Karnivool’s appearance. Make no mistake, for the time being at least, dubstep is here to stay, and it’s apparently not just a sound for the “ravers”.

Which brings us to this here album – an entirely independent, and debut for that matter, release from a young Melbourne producer going under the appropriately animalistic alias of Maximum Wolf. Like the aforementioned acts, Maximum Wolf comes from a more rock-oriented background. Known to most in the Melbourne underground music scene by his last name Ramadge, or simply Ram, you may have come across him fronting the scuzzy dance-punk prty-starting trio Humans. However, there’s very little sonic overlap between Humans and Maximum Wolf, so if you’re expecting more of the same with the cleverly-titled Spacescapes, well, don’t. The album fires into life with Existence, which, at seven minutes and twenty-six seconds, comfortably holds the title of the longest track on the album. It is, as you would expect from a track of that length, a slow-builder; beginning with gentle chiming synth leads and some steadily rising glitchy beats. Some underlying bass rumbles set the tone nicely for things to come, with the tension rising until finally, POW! At around the five-minute mark, the whole thing disintegrates into a gloriously messy sonic overload of synthesised distortion and broken beats. You’re already getting the urge to dance around your bedroom/loungeroom like you’re out at your nightclub of choice on a Friday night, and it’s only the first track.

From then on in, Spacescapes rarely lets up in its intensity and energy – if you’ve ever been to a Humans gig, you know that Ram is one crazy character, and this is an album that won’t surprise you in the least. Though dubstep is certainly a prominent stylistic influence on his Maximum Wolf sound, he’s clearly willing to play around with other sounds and there’s plenty of EDM bases covered here – groovy electro-house in tracks like EE, some borderline trance in Mysterious, experiments in breakbeat on the likes of Jupiter, while some of the later tracks on the album delve into some chilled-out ambience (see Neptune) and effectively act to as a balance to some of the more intense moments on the album. Of which there are plenty. You’ll be hard pressed to find a track (on any other album this year really) with a more monstrous sound than Mystery, with its window-rattling subsonic frequencies and hyperactive rave-tastic beats. There’s a film clip online for that one too. It’s interesting to note that in recent times, there has been a bit of an increased focus in the electronic dance music scene on so-called “minimal” music and a “less is more” approach – obviously nobody informed Maximum Wolf, with tracks like Sharks and CME proving that MORE IS MORE. And if this album is any indication, hopefully there is indeed going to be more.

Key tracks: Existence, Mystery, Sharks, Jupiter