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.”
Originally Emily was going to write a ‘Weekend Videos’ installment for Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know‘. Instead we liked her post so much we ended up turning it into a full album review. Here is what she had to say about the video:
‘Somebody That I Used To Know‘ has been the belle of the YouTube ball lately with almost 9 million views in the past 3 months (97 are from me). The clip reminded me of what a music video should be: a visually stunning accompaniment that enhances but doesn’t explain or narrate the song. The track itself is deliciously simple, with minimal instrumentation and vocals that alternate between bare confessional in the verses, and heavily layered harmonies in the refrain.
‘Making Mirrors‘ is the third studio album by Melbourne act Gotye, released in August. Gotye (pronounced gore-ti-yeah) is really one-man wonder Wally De Backer, armed with a sampler and the kind of home studio set up any musician would kill for. When he’s not drumming for indie rock trio The Basics, De Backer builds catchy songs on and around his own recorded samples.
But before you throw him in with Girl Talk (though who doesn’t love Girl Talk), it’s worth mentioning that the hook samples are obscure and generally brief, not the sort of recognisable licks that find their way onto a Kanye West album. Legend has it that De Backer began sampling after he inherited a hefty collection of old LPs from an elderly neighbour, which explains why most of the samples aren’t immediately identifiable. With this newest album, De Backer relied heavily on live recording drums and acoustic instruments, and then sampling and manipulating them for the desired effect.
The album has already supplied 3 impressive singles—the most recent, “Somebody That I Used To Know” is deliciously simple, with minimal instrumentation and vocals that alternate between bare confessional in the verses, and heavily layered harmonies in the refrain. It’s a formula that also works in the album’s first single; “Hearts a Mess” is catchy and powerful, more uptempo than “Somebody” but more haunting as well.
Every track on ‘Making Mirrors‘ showcases De Backer’s talent for crafting enjoyable and ear-grabbing tunes, but one track stands out above the others lyrically: “Eyes Wide Open,” the second single to be released. Even with a fairly complex instrumentation (including the catchiest gallop beat ever recorded), it’s still the vocals and lyrics that project the most. The song, which De Backer describes as a “dystopian vision” of the world’s future, is the first that he wrote in what we might consider the ‘traditional’ way—he constructed the song and then worked samples and live recordings into it, as opposed to building the song up from samples.
The rest of the album is a surprising mix of light and dark, with a few heavy songs interspersed between upbeat jams. But the real magic in this album is the pure joy that comes through most of the songs—they have the magnetic delight of motown, that tambourine clap-happy energy that has always made the Golden Oldies so irresistible. “I Feel Better” is the best example of this, since it could probably pass for a Four Tops song, with a twist.
De Backer records, produces, and mixes all the music for Gotye, and recorded ‘Making Mirrors‘ in his parents’ barn. I should probably pretend that it is his ingenious use of original samples, or his knack for production, that makes this album so solid, and the songs so dynamic. But truthfully, the songs stand on their own as well-constructed and memorable tracks, regardless of the recording methods.
As most music snobs, I profess to love analog and sniff at all things digital; but it is a more and more irrelevant point of reference these days, when even ‘live’ recordings are manipulated to fit modern standards of perfection. ‘Making Mirrors‘ is a pleasing combination of both, with layers that blend live and sampled tracks in a way that pop music hasn’t seen yet.
Step aside, Kanye.
Post by Emily
The last time we wrote about The Middle East back at the beginning of 2010 we envisaged great things for them. Just as we were getting excited by the prospect of the release of the Australian‘s full-length debut ‘I Want That You Are Always Happy‘ we found out they had decided to call it quits.
Here is the video for first single ‘Jesus Came To My Birthday Party‘ which showcased how much potential the band had. Hopefully the memebers will return in some form or another in the future.
‘I Want That You Are Always Happy‘ is out now on Missing Piece Records