Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, I was lucky enough to catch Big Scary at Mercury Lounge in late April, while on their tour around the States promoting their new album ‘Not Art‘. Opening for Say Hi, Tom Iansek and Jo Syme graced the crowd with a mix of new tracks off their aforementioned latest album, such as “Phil Collins,” and “Invest,” alongside some more older upbeat favorites from ‘Vacation‘ including “Gladiator.” A true gem off of the recent album would have to be their first released single “Twin Rivers” which displays Tom‘s phenomenal piano skills. Seeing him slide his fingers across the piano creating an illusive sound of wind chimes is a true display of his mastery of the craft. Continue reading
Cougar Microbes headed to Austin, TX to experience SXSW 2014 in all it’s glory. Over the course of 4 days we witnessed some phenomenal performances in venues all around town covering every genre and sub-genre imaginable. As we had anticipated in our festival preview piece some of the biggest highlights came from those artists we weren’t expecting.
This is how it went…
Creepoid - Sailor Jerry House
We set off with a hint of preemptive nostalgia knowing that this would be the last day but thanks to Creepoid’s alternative rock we were soon re energised. Taking inspiration from early 90’s hero such as the Pixies, Sonic Youth as well as the timeless My Bloody Valentine saw this Philadelphia four piece knock us off our feet with how loud they were playing . The individual members each appeared to be entranced by the sounds they were producing providing an electric live performance that bordered on an exorcism.
Lion Babe- Butler Park
With the weather having been wet and cold over the previous couple of days it was a welcome relief that our walk over to Butler Park was bathed in sunshine. This was ideal to sit in the grass and catch Lion Babe, whom we have been biggin up for a while, going about seducing a huge crowd. Jillian Hervey, flanked by by trusted producer Lucas Goodman, starts her performance offering complex yoga poses before beginning Indie Beyonce performance. The duo grow in confidence with every track with “Treat Me Like Fire” proving to be a sure fire hit. If the audience were possibly unaware of Lion Babe before they hit the stage they were definitely well aware after.
Kishi Bashi – Cheer Up Charlie’s
Cheer Up Charlie’s was full to the brim when Kishi Bashi hit the stage and it wasn’t just because of the venues fabled Golden Ticket drink. On paper elements of electronica, a banjo, rock n roll drums and a violin should not mix… but Kishi Bashi, formerly a member of Of Montreal, not only makes it work but creates some wonderful musical moments sounding like a euphoric Beirut. While it is clear the man is a violin virtuoso it’s Kishi Bashi’s warm vocals that won us and the packed crowd over leaving everyone hugely thankful to have witnessed this euphoric show
Terry Poison – Speakeasy
For Tel Aviv based Terry Poison this is a return to Austin and they seemed hungrier than ever. Their music has gone through a few variations over the years but this updated lean lineup seems meaner than ever. With their apocalyptic electro-pop finely paced for this kind of performance frontwoman Louise oozed confidence as she danced around in a floral one piece without missing a note. At one point she climbed up on to one of the dinner tables which seems like the signal for several phones to pop out to immortalise the act. Guitarist/Keyboardist Anna seemed entranced by the show dropping calculated notes and provided a perfect vocal foil to Louise while bassist Bruno was coolness personified keeping the band fine tuned throughout. A superb cover of Lana Del Rey’s ”Blue Jeans” was possibly only surpassed by their own brilliant single “Gorgeous” which saw the room explode in unison.
Holy Ghost – Samsung Presents @ Milk Music Box
Holy Ghost! stage set up was awe inspiring and that was before a single note was played. With a backdrop of electronics and instruments the normally spacious stage at Milk Music Box seemed absolutely crowded. The 6 people on stage where each kitted out with their own synth keyboard and each ready to deliver their excellent post-dance racket. Credit has to go out to key members Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel who like the instruments around them were positively electric. Frankel was especially lively alternating between crooning, drumming enthusiastically and hitting keys multiple times delivering the ultimate performance. . With so much energy on display the venues floor was rightfully shaking.
Cut Copy -Samsung Presents @ Milk Music Box
As endings go few could have been more spectacular than catching Australian dance outfit Cut Copy at their euphoric best. This show was an authentic revelation with new and old gems peppering the set to scintillating results. The bands jaw dropping performance was as powerful as anything I’d ever seen. Guitarist Tim Hoey deserved particular praise bringing to mind a certain Jonny Greenwood with his introvert/extrovert delivery regardless of whether he was assaulting his guitar, accurately beating a synth or simply offering a solo from deep within the crowd.
Frontman Dan Whitford could be justified for feeling euphoric while overseeing the thing that he had started as a bedroom project soaring through the speakers. As the band’s mantra and recent album title ‘Free Your Mind’ flashed on the neon screens behind the 4 piece the audience took this to heart and participated in the best rave to happen in the entire country tonight.
This concludes our SXSW coverage for 2014 but we can’t wait to be back in 2015. Austin has once again offered the most fun and fulfilling festival experience we have been exposed to and we were delighted to be a part of it. Keep Austin weird!
And…. We’re back. After a small hiatus due in part to “real” jobs catching up with us and also that bastard Top Albums of 2013.
Here’s a new remix from Carl Craig for Australian minimal kings Audiofly‘s “Excuse My Wildness“. Don’t be fooled by the title, this is a lesson in control and dynamics that we can’t get enough of.
San Cisco have been plugging away in their native Australia releasing a debut release and catching the eye of famed radio station Triple J along the way.
The band recently released their sophomore EP ‘Awkward‘ offering up a lo-fi, quirky and upbeat mix of tracks that have stamped a smile on my face for the past few hours.
While their musical style has more in common with the likes of Camera Obscura and Los Campesinos! there is no reason why they shouldn’t make a global break for it soon like a certain other Aussie sensation we loved last year.
‘Awkward‘ is out now on the band’s own Island City Records
When tickets went on sale (very quietly) for Gotye’s gig at the small and gorgeously historic Wilton’s Music Hall, I had a hunch it would be my first and last chance to see Australian wonderboy Wally de Backer. The buzz was building (thanks to that ubiquitous music video) and pretty soon it would mean bigger venues, worse sound, and higher ticket prices. A friend had speculated that it might be a dull show (“just a guy and a laptop of samples”) but I went with high hopes to the worn music hall.
Wilton’s Music Hall is what all old great venues wish they were—unrestored. There are water stains on the vaulted ceiling, little paint left on the carved balcony, exposed brick walls and rough wooden floors. It is the oldest grand music hall in the world, built in 1858, and has since been used as a Methodist missionary, rag warehouse, and shelter during the bombing of London. It now gets occasional grants for restoration and maintenance, but I hope they don’t ever get around to fixing it up too much. That day it had been announced that “Somebody that I Used to Know” had reached #1 in the UK, so I felt pretty lucky to see Gotye with only about 150 other people.
The stage setup seemed a bit strange until I remembered that Wally is first and foremost a drummer, since his time with Melbourne rock trio The Basics. The layout (a nearly-full kit sideways at the front of the stage) allowed him to drum from standing, when not singing or sampling. After charming and adorable opener Gabrielle Aplin’s acoustic set, Gotye kick-started the show with “Eyes Wide Open,” the galloping first single from 2011’s ‘Making Mirrors‘. It was an ideal opening tune because Wally got to do a bit of everything—sing, twiddle with a sampler, and drum viciously. Between that and the fully-involved band, any concerns of the guy-with-a-laptop scenario were quickly dispelled.
The set included a great mix of highs and lows in terms of tempo and energy—slow jams like “Smoke and Mirrors” and “Bronte” (the latter performed with help from The Webb Sisters (Leonard Cohen’s vocalists) punctuated the upbeat romps that give the album its joyful Motown feel. The only real downside was the flow of pushy-shovey photogs nosing in front to get their shot, but I guess that is to be expected the week you go #1.
I was curious to see how the band would tackle “Somebody that I Used to Know” without Kimbra to vocalize the second half; my YouTube trolling had told me that either A) Kimbra would surprise us all and slink out from backstage to great squeals of audience excitement, or B) they would line up her vocal tracks and the band would awkwardly bob along. But when the moment came, Wally introduced a friend from Belgium, none other than Noémie Wolfs of Hooverphonic, to sing the part. She was perfection from the first note to the last wail, and actually looked a fair bit like Kimbra, so the song had all the lively energy and stage chemistry you could ask for.
The energy of the set and the audience seemed to increase throughout, so by the time they left the stage for four minutes to let you wonder about an encore, the hall was buzzing with anticipation. Gotye wisely capitalised on this excitement with an encore performance of three of the brightest, most clap-happy uptempo songs in his repertoire: “In Your Light” and “I Feel Better,” with audience participation hand claps, and finally “Learnalilgivinanlovin.” The last, from his previous album, has a Golden Oldies sound with a driving drum track—the perfect closer for a show that had ranged through the last six decades in terms of inspiration, samples, and feel.
I read a review the next day in the Standard by John Aizlewood that was more than usually bad. Normally I’d chalk that up to the generally poor quality of anything that finds its way onto the pages of that evening-commute shoe-rag, but I’ve seen this review circulated and used by many other sites and papers. The bit that bothered me about this review was that Aizlewood attempted to steer Gotye in the direction of a one-hit wonder, the wide-eyed Aussie startled by commercial success with his one fantastically popular single.
He literally suggested that Gotye would have trouble filling the 70-minute set, since surely the crowd would only know that one song. The problem with his theory is that this show at Wilton’s sold out in less than 2 hours back in November—long before “Somebody That I Used To Know” was charting anywhere but in Australia. His assumption must also seem silly to any who attended the show, since the highlight of the night, the song that really brought down the house, was actually “Hearts a Mess,” the haunting single off Gotye’s equally stunning but more downbeat album ‘Like Drawing Blood‘, released back in 2006.
I also read an idiotic review by someone from the Guardian who referred to “Somebody That I Used To Know” as having “minimal production.” Now, no Gotye song could possibly deserve such praise, since a track crafted entirely through production and post-effects hardly qualifies as ‘minimal’ in the production department. Secondly, Wally willingly admits that the single itself took 9 months to prepare and get exactly right, even before adding Kimbra’s vocals—longer than anything else on the album.
I guess if I had to throw stones at every concert review written by a journalist who knew very little about the band in question, I’d have, well, killer biceps on my throwing arm.
Cut Copy‘s latest album represents an intriguing pastiche of French house chic and indie rock adrenaline. It fuses a metronome precision traditionally associate with a “one-man-and-his-laptop” act with that warm feeling when band members feed off each other’s energy.
On ‘Zonoscope‘ it is easy to lose yourself in a sea of loops and twists as Dan Whitford delivers his vocals in uninhibited fashion only occasionally raising his tone to get your attention.That’s not to say the album feels indifferent as guitar riffs and drum rolls are shrewdly peppered where the Melbourne quartet need to gain momentum turning hooks into that must have afterparty sounds.
Cut Copy have taken the lessons learned on ‘In Ghost Colours‘ and translated it right in time for 2011 referencing a variety of artists along the way whilst managing to sound like themselves.
Cougar regular Olivia included ‘Zonoscope‘ in her year end list stating “originally not a big fan of Cut Copy, I have to admit that this album rapidly grew on me. You can tell that the Aussies have worked hard on it, and well, it definitely paid off!”
Belgian-Australian Wally De Backer found the winning formula with his 3rd album under the Gotye moniker. ‘Making Mirrors‘ saw the multi-instrumentalist bring his unique Sting-meets-Ceelo sampling appeal to a greater audience no doubt led by the success of lead single ‘Somebody That I Used To Know.
Cougar regular Emily, who also wrote this gushing review, added ‘Making Mirrors’ to her year end list describing it as “an enticing combination of Motown sensibilities, haunting vocals, and upbeat energies, all crafted through samples and warped instrumentation. Definitely my favourite new artist, or at least new to me.”