REVIEW: Steering By Stars – “Cables”

Filled with ambient, relaxing, post-rock instrumentation, “Cables” moves between moments that draw you into their sensitive melodies, and moments that burst at the seams with intense rhythms and rolling drums.

Steering By Stars allowed themselves 3 days to record their debut, and as a result the release largely sounds like a live performance. It showcases their ability to merge songs together with minimal interruptions, and as a consequence “Cables” is less like a collection of tracks and instead much more cohesive, like a movie.

The band blend together piano melodies, most notably on the simple (yet incredibly effective) chords of “Closer” and the atmospheric layers of “Gloom”. Vocals are used sparingly and to nice effect, adding a bit of diversity to the songs and setting the band apart from other generic instrumental post-rock groups. The amalgamation of the ambient sounds with the melodies and drumming rhythms gives “Cables” something a little bit different. Which is a good thing.

Admittedly, I sometimes find it very difficult to write about post-rock. It goes without saying that a lot of it is atmospheric, beautiful, well composed, orchestral, and both tense and relaxing. All of this applies just as much to “Cables”. So where do I stop rattling off these clichéd terms and say something meaningful and interesting? What am I meant to say that you haven’t heard before that can draw you into this great release?

I have no definite answer, but I know this much. Steering By Stars have been making waves over in Adelaide, and their live performances are having an impact on their local scene. By paving the way for post-rock in an area where many people wouldn’t have heard it before, Steering By Stars are introducing a whole new range of people to an amazing genre. Although their style is blatantly influenced by post-rock, amongst other genres, it’s also evident that it’s slightly different. Don’t miss a chance to check out a band who are not only doing great things for their local scene, but who are paving the way for a genre and style that could, in the future, have a large impact on the way Australian music sounds.

Verdict: Positive

Check out “Closer” and “Ether” here.

Check out the brilliant clip for “Closer” below.

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INTERVIEW: Steering By Stars

Recently I was lucky enough to do an interview with Rory (guitar, backing vocals) and Tom (drums) of Adelaide band Steering By Stars. They’ve got their debut LP “Cables” coming out on Thursday the 8th of July, 2010, and I’ll have a review of it up very soon. But for now, enjoy!

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On The Tune: Firstly, congratulations on recording such a great album. I’m interested though, what made you decide to only release Cables digitally and on 12" vinyl? There’s been a resurgence in the popularity of vinyl, and digital downloads are a large part of music distribution now, but why leave out a CD release?

Rory & Tom: Thanks for your support, greatly appreciated. CD’s are somewhat of a redundant medium in our opinion. Sure, we still buy them occasionally, but they don’t really have the romanticism of a Vinyl, which is something we all enjoy, and why we chose to press to Vinyl. We recognise though that not everyone has a record player, and so the digital medium allows our music to be shared diversely.

OtT: You allowed yourself only three days to record Cables. How did that impact on the recording process? Was there a lot of tension in the studio, having the mindset that you had to get it right and there wasn’t time to mess around?

R & T: We actually only took two and a half days to record this album. I make this admission not in a gloating sense, but rather, that we just couldn’t squeeze out any more music. Having only three days to record we realised the importance of being well rehearsed and clear about what we wanted the record to sound like. It also meant that it had to be a live recording. The first two days were fantastic; we had almost tracked the whole album, with just finishing touches remaining. By the third day exhaustion had taken its toll, and worries both monetary and timely in nature had started to creep their way into our conscience, yielding quite an intense vibe amongst the band members. Because it was quite intense towards the end of the recording, I think some of that angst came out onto the tracks, which is probably a good thing!

OtT: At the moment it seems like the music industry is constantly telling us how much illegal file-sharing hurts everyone. However I’ve noticed a divide in the opinions of musicians. As a smaller independent band, what’s your stance on the file-sharing debate? Do you feel it hurts or hinders the artists, or is it somewhere in between?

R & T: Being a small band, and being unlikely to profit greatly from this release, we feel that file sharing is probably a good thing. Personally if someone in France gets hold of the record for free and enjoys it, or even gives it a listen, that’s probably better for our interests than profiteering. However, we can sympathise with the bigger bands, which need to support their touring and livelihoods. For them I imagine the business side of the industry becomes quite important.

OtT: The Australian alternative music scene seems to be warming to you guys quite a bit lately. Do you think Australia is going to develop a stronger post-rock scene in the near future? Do you feel like it is growing on people as a different style of music that many wouldn’t have been exposed to before?

R & T: We don’t really have any evidence to back this up, but we think post-rock is starting to make headway in the Australian scene. Maybe not typical post-rock, but you can definitely feel its influence in a number of Australian bands. We think its growing on people; we’ve had a few compliments from punters who have said that they wouldn’t normally listen to a style of music similar to ours, but that they really enjoyed it. We think post-rock is pretty innocuous and accessible.

OtT: I feel that Cables is one of those albums that you should listen to in its entirety, but on the other hand, there are moments, like single "Closer", that stand up on their own. Was it a conscious decision to make certain songs more accessible as individual tracks, or is that just how it turned out?

R & T: We had written ‘Cables’ as a single piece and we attempted to record it that way. However there are single tracks like ‘Dissonance’, ‘Closer’ and ‘Ether’ that have that single vibe. That being said, they weren’t intentionally written as singles, but over time it became obvious that they could stand on their own.

OtT: The tracks on Cables seem to blend together effortlessly, it’s a very cohesive album. Was it difficult to get the tracks to flow and stick together correctly?

R & T: We really love placing emphasis on the fluidity of our sets. Almost as much as we work on the individual songs, we work on the transitions between them. We wanted to create a contiguous listening experience for the audience. We thought that through not giving the audience time to clap etc, that they would be more captivated by the proverbial ‘journey’. We hate using that word. Perhaps we could substitute, ‘field trip’, or ‘excursion’, or ‘jaunt’. The thesaurus isn’t helping us right now.

OtT: How do you as a band interact in a live setting? Do you expand upon tracks, mix stuff up and chop and change songs, or is it essentially a performance of Cables?

R & T: At this point, we have chosen those aforementioned tracks that ‘stand on their own’, and mixed them in with our new material. We still try to provide that contiguous listening experience though, focusing on the transitions as much as the songs themselves. In a live setting this more often that not translates, but sometimes due to sound constraints, or audience vibe, I think it can leave us feeling a little vulnerable.

OtT: Do you have any plans to tour the other states anytime soon with your new album?

R & T: We are heading to Sydney to play a show at the World Bar on the 23rd July, and we are hoping to make it to Melbourne and Brisbane in August. Touring is definitely something we’d like to pursue!

OtT: Lastly, who are your favourite contemporary Aussie bands at the moment? Anyone you think we should be keeping an eye on?

R & T: We all have quite divergent musical tastes, so not according to genre or locality the following bands have really captivated our attention: Parades, Bearhug, My Disco, Absolute Boys, These Hands Could Separate the Sky, Box Elder, Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire!, and too many other Adelaide bands to mention!

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Thanks so much to Rory and Tom for answering my questions and to Emma and Samuel who helped organise it all. Look out for my review of “Cables” very soon!

REVIEW: It’s Just Vanity – “Here’s What You Remember From A Coma”

It’s Just Vanity hail from the United States. They mix relaxing, ambient post-rock, with what sounds like early-wave emo guitar stylings, and their first full-length is going to be given away for free very soon.

Lyrically “Here’s What You Remember…” is nothing short of evocative. With an opening line like “And nothing is as sad as watching you lay latent, so desperate for a hand, and god, I hate this,” how could it be anything but? Moving between the subtler, softer lines, and the throaty emotional choruses, they paint a picture for anyone paying enough attention. Granted, it is easy to zone out at points, just letting it pass you buy, but if you pay attention to the poetic and sincere lyrics you’ll be drawn into something that’s difficult to let go of.

“You keep sucking me in, I feel the pull of a chicago wind. I’m not here to be there for you.”

“I want me to fix you, so you can fix me too.”

“In the future my life will be one sidewalk.”

It really is the massive contrast here that helps set the pace and keep the songs interesting. Instead of your traditional post-rock sound, one second the guitar melodies are floating along, and the next you’re being rushed at by a pounding vocal line and crushing guitars. It lends an air of excitement to the band. Instead of waiting for some crescendo to build up, waiting for beautiful orchestral string lines to explode and release the tension, you get something different. Something just as worthy, just as interesting, and just as musical, yet something different.

“Here’s What You Remember…” is definitely a refreshing change, and a different take on established styles. Though I won’t claim this type of music hasn’t been done before  (because it probably has), it’s certainly new to me. The lyricism, the tension, and the relaxing atmosphere blend together to create something that’s really pretty cool.

Verdict: Positive

You’ll be able to grab a free download of “Here’s What You Remember From A Coma” from here from the 2nd of July to the 8th of July. Make sure you give it a listen.

REVIEW: Cerulean Crayons – “_BATCH1”

Unfortunately I’ve been incredibly busy lately, and On The Tune has been a bit neglected (as have the artists I’m working on reviews for – don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten any of you!). But I figured I’d do this up quickly tonight. I need to get back into the swing of making the time to post.

Cerulean Crayons is a one-man project by August Thomé, and I think his own words describe it fairly well:

“Cerulean Crayons is a music project with ambient guitar sounds recorded in a lo-fi fashion with an abundance of overdubs and little cerebral direction. It’s very lowkey, borderline dull, and the preferred listening experience would be while trying to sleep or while reading a book.”

I think “dull” sounds a bit harsh, but like some other post-rock it really can just be background music if you want. And it’s pretty good too.

“_BATCH1” is a release of 10 tracks, and it’s available for free.

August asked that I link you to Cerulean Crayon’s site: http://ceruleancrayons.tk/ (Don’t view it in Google Chrome. Firefox works fine for me though.)

You can download “_BATCH1” for free there.