REVIEW: Further Earth – “Kingdom”

Further Earth have leapt out of the far western city of Perth, and they’ve certainly leapt with more force and confidence than you’d expect! Considering they’re such a young band, their balanced sound may come as a surprise. However it’s an interesting result of their musical history – each band member has years of experience playing with at least one other member. This is a group of musicians who know how things work, and are at the beginning of something that sounds very special.

The first thing I noticed while scanning the press release for Kingdom, Further Earth’s debut EP, was that it was produced by none other than Forrester Savell. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, Savell has worked alongside Birds of Tokyo, Dead Letter Circus, and Karnivool. His work with these bands has made it clear just how valuable he is to the Australian rock scene, and Kingdom serves to reinforce that even more.

Further Earth merge influences, throwing in a dabble of prog-rock, to the softer opening strums of the title track, to the racing pace of “Fierce Euphoria”, but the way that everything seems to mesh together so well really defines these guys from the get go. Rarely do you hear a debut EP with such consistency and flow. Rarely do you hear a band that can develop such an expansive sound so quickly, with so many individual and truly interesting layers.

Each instrument has a life of its own, yet fits in so well to create the whole. It is bands that can do this, that eventually develop a strong fan-base in the rock scene, especially in Australia. Karnivool and Dead Letter Circus are testaments to that fact. Kingdom has a huge amount of potential to get Further Earth very far, and with a few tours planned this year, I’ll wager that Further Earth will be attracting quite a bit more attention very soon. Grab Kingdom and see what it’s all about, and keep your ears open for a tour announcement!

At the very least, check their triple j Unearthed page and grab some free tracks.

REVIEW: A Family Of Strangers – “New Techniques for Beginners & Champions”

If you’re a regular triple j listener you’ll have no doubt heard of The Butterfly Effect. That said, you may not have heard specifically of Glenn Esmond, or his new side-project A Family Of Strangers. Created as an outlet for musical ideas that didn’t quite fit The Butterfly Effect, AFoS’ first release is entitled New Techniques for Beginners & Champions .

My experience with The Butterfly Effect is limited to their more popular singles and their 2008 album Final Conversation of Kings, with their prog-influenced, heavy style of rock, that’s both accessible and entertaining.

The warped beeping of “Lovely (The House at Number 23)” sounds initially like something further from home, but the reality is that this is an EP full of anthemic, accessible rock. This isn’t a bad thing, but those expecting something a bit heavier won’t quite get there. There are moments of surprise that will throw you, and moving between the rockier tracks and softer piano ballads, AFoS have got musical movement and variation nailed.

There are some great textures explored, and it feels like although there are similarities between AFoS and TBE, they could quite easily branch out on their own to form another entity entirely. One of the biggest pitfalls of the side-project is that it will sound too similar to everything else and never take off. AFoS have got considerable influence coming across, but with continued effort and with time, I believe A Family of Strangers will find their own feet and impress their audience with a completely new charm not seen before.

Verdict: Give it a shot. Although it’ll be more for some than others, but it’s charming and an easy listen.

Get over here and grab a free download of “Don’t Forget (03.03.03)”.

REVIEW: No Love For Lexi – “My Awkward Mouth”

Let me admit it right off the bat. I’m friends with a member of this band. That’s how I found out about them. I really don’t care if you think I’m being biased, I like their sound, deal with it. Anyway.

No Love For Lexi are an alternative rock band hailing from Melbourne, Victoria, and when they cite hugely talented musicians like Paul Dempsey and Michael Stipe as influences, you know at the very least they’ve got great taste behind them.

Fortunately, you don’t need to revert to such loose threads to enjoy this band. Beginning with a recurring, light jazzy guitar lick, before you know it they’ve launched into the anthemic chorus.

Stand by me, and not on your own.”

Musically it is your typical alt. rock style, but it’s quality stuff. When you’re a band this early in your career, I often feel it’s more important to find your feet and solidify yourselves before you move too far out. There’s nothing wrong with these songs, but the bands that ultimately stand tall above the pack are the ones that carve their own niche out. Fortunately I have enough confidence that these guys can do exactly that.

Vocalist Tom King doesn’t have a massive range, but he doesn’t need it. His voice lends itself well to the tone of the music, and it can hold when it needs to.

No Love For Lexi sound like they’re off to a solid start, and with this kind of material up for free on Unearthed, it can’t be long before they get a bit of airtime on Home & Hosed. They might not be experimental, they might not mess around with synths and tens of FX pedals, they might do things the traditional way, but sometimes it’s nice to have some quality respite from those bands trying to find the next cool thing to put in their music. No Love For Lexi keep it simple, whilst still showing talent in their songwriting and musicianship, and best of all, for their first batch of studio recorded tracks, these sound great. On par with other bands of their genre, and with the ability to take it further in the future, you should check them out. You won’t regret it.

Verdict: Positive.

Check out their MySpace page here.

Grab some free tracks from their triple j Unearthed page here.

LIVE: Karnivool, live at The Metro Theatre, Sydney (01-07-10)

Karnivool #5

One week ago, I embarked on a journey of epic proportions. Joined by one of my best friends and my dad, at approximately 8 o’clock in the morning we began a 7 hour drive to Sydney to see one of my favourite bands ever: Karnivool.

Doors at The Metro Theatre were set to open at 8pm, and not wanting to miss the opportunity to be up against the barrier, we lined up 2 hours early. Around 5 minutes after lining up, looking down the alley beside the Metro, who do we see but the one and only Ian Kenny! Deciding to take the chance while we had it, my friend and I walked up to him to see if we could get a photo before the gig. At first I wasn’t sure how he’d react – musicians such as himself must get asked for photos and approached by fans all the time, and it would probably get tiring. But he was the nicest guy, and was only too happy to have a quick chat and take a photo. It really made the night, getting to meet a musician from one of my favourite bands.

After that, we returned to the line outside the Metro. We were still basically at the very front, and the next 2 odd hours were spent chatting with a couple of people in line with us and a security guard (who by the way was one of the coolest security guards I’ve ever met).

The clock hit 8 and we all waited with anticipation for the doors to finally open. It took them about 10 minutes to let us in, and we walked (albeit very quickly) up the stairs to hand in our tickets and make our way inside.

Gay Paris #1

The first support act, Gay Paris, were on at about 8.30, so we didn’t have long to wait for some entertainment.

Initially, I had my doubts about Gay Paris. I checked out some of their demos and wasn’t terribly impressed, but their live show was something a bit more special. The lead singer’s style was out there, to say the least. Jumping all over the stage, talking with the audience, telling stories, rolling on the floor – it was all a bit odd, but it was interesting. He put a whole tonne of energy into it and it paid off. The guitarist I was closest to kept pulling surprised faces every so often, and did some awesome jumps during the tenser moments in their set.

In an instrumental sense, their material is full of loud rock hooks and quasi-punk-rock drumming, and it really does sound pretty good. The vocal lines consist primarily of deep growls, making most of the lyrics unintelligible from my perspective, but if that’s your thing then you should check these guys out. All in all, they put on an energetic show, and looked thrilled to be supporting someone as relatively big as Karnivool. So kudos to the guys for being interesting and warming everyone up – you did a great job.

MM9 #5

Next up were electro-rockers MM9. I was pretty excited to see these guys, having heard about their solid reputation when it comes to live shows.

They ended up being pretty entertaining. For those of you unfamiliar with them, they’re like a rockier version of Pendulum. The lead singer stood behind what looked like a small keyboard and a Mac, occasionally standing away from it and singing directly at the audience. The drumming was top notch, and was clearly tough work. The drummer had sweat pouring off his face by the end of the set.

Apart from a few troubles the guitarist had at one point, the set was flawless (as far as I could tell) on a technical level. It sounded good, and they interacted with the crowd, getting us all to sing along at a few points.

MM9 have recently released their debut “The Air Between”, and it sounds like they could begin making some bigger waves very soon. Keep an eye on them.

By this point the crowd was brimming with excitement. With each support act the mosh was getting more and more lively. With the curtains drawn over the stage, and the Karnivool guys doing a quick little sound-check to make sure everything was in order, everyone was getting fairly pumped.

The curtains opened, and we were given an empty stage. Everything was in its place. All we needed was the band. Then they came out.

Karnivool #9

The reaction from the crowd upon their entry was to be expected. It was enormous. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for.

Coming out on stage, Karnivool launched into the lead single from their latest LP “Sound Awake” – “Set Fire To The Hive”. And what a fitting beginning it was. The raw energy behind the song was matched only by the energy inherent in the audience’s enthusiasm. It felt like at least half of the mosh pit was singing along to every single word.

Karnivool then moved onto the rhythmically changing “Goliath” and LP opener “Simple Boy”, which saw guitarist Mark Hosking pick up a pair of xylophone mallets for the distinctive opening melody.

Karnivool #14

Everyone’s performances on the night were amazing. Drew Goddard’s extensive pedal set-up allowed him to recreate the majority of the studio sounds in a live environment, and when a band puts on a performance that’s so good you can hardly tell the difference between them and a CD, you know they’re something special. Ian Kenny’s vocals were amazing, and did not disappoint one bit. Jon Stockman’s bass playing was energetic and ferocious, yet still accurate. Though Mark Hosking was over on the opposite side of the stage to where I was, I couldn’t fault anything I heard, and Steve Judd’s drumming was superb, handling every time signature change and rhythmic nuance like the expert he is (I’m not sure why he had a plush bee on his drum kit, but it was cool none-the-less). In a sense I expected all of this. Karnivool are widely renowned for their live performances, and it really was a sight to behold, seeing 5 extremely talented musicians up on stage playing together.

Launching into “C.O.T.E”, one of my favourites from their debut album “Themata”, provided a nice contrast between their equally interesting songs from a few years ago and their latest material. At the end of the night, they really did quite a good job of mixing together old and new material. “Roquefort”, “Themata”, and “Shutterspeed” all got an airing, and the crowd loved it. These more mosh-friendly tunes really got everyone pumped up and excited.

Karnivool #7

Having already played through most of “Sound Awake” however, there was one final track to play before the main set was closed: “Change”. Having been alternating between “Deadman” and “Change” at previous gigs, I was glad they played the latter. It’s an amazing track that goes for over 10 minutes, and it really showcases everything brilliant about Karnivool: their ability to create moving songs, that despite their length manage to be captivating and beautiful. “Change”’s different sections fit together seamlessly, and this song is truly amazing. A brilliant end to the main set.

Karnivool #2

After around 5 minutes, Karnivool came out again to a rapturous applause. Everyone knew the encore was going to be something special – and they were right.

Bringing out fan favourite “Fade” from their “Persona” EP showed just how far Karnivool have come over the years. Moving from their early nu-metal influenced days, they’ve developed into a more progressive and unique group. I warned my friend earlier about “Fade”, and it turned out I was right – the mosh pit went off. Everyone loved it. I suspect that the New Day tour gigs could be the last gigs that they’ll play it. Maybe they’re giving it one last run before they put it on the shelf. I don’t have any evidence to justify it, but it’s just a feeling I get.

After “Fade” they pulled out the tour’s title track – “New Day”. Kenny’s hair was a little dishevelled, and they were beginning to look tired, but it seemed to me that Karnivool put in every ounce of energy possible, right up until the final notes.

All up it was an amazing gig. My friend managed to get one of Judd’s drum-sticks and a set-list, but the real prize was a drum plate thrown out at the end. It had been signed by all of the band, and was well out of my reach, going straight into the middle of the mosh.

I feel like I probably spent too much time taking photos and not enough time getting into the gig (you live and learn I guess), but regardless I still enjoyed myself a hell of a lot. It was one of the best gigs I’ve been too, and one of the most enjoyable. If you ever get a chance to see Karnivool, do so. For $40, Thursday was an absolute bargain. Make sure you see them before they start filling stadiums.

You can view a tonne of fairly good quality videos from the night here from ChezBerryxXx.

You can check out the whole set-list from the night here.

You can view all of the photos that I took here.

Also; check out the professional, and consequently much better photos taken by TheEnglishGentleman from FasterLouder over here.

triple j also managed to snap a few awesome ones. Take a look here.

BRAND NEW/TOUR: Birds of Tokyo – “Plans”

I’ve been wondering for quite some time what Birds of Tokyo were doing with the new album. They released new single “The Saddest Thing I Know” a while ago (the clip is in 3D if you’ve got a pair of glasses floating around!), but there were no details on the new album.

But, good things come to those that wait. And things don’t get much better than this.

Due to be released on the 23rd of July, Birds of Tokyo’s third album, which is to be self-titled, is looking to be amazing. As always, Ian Kenny’s vocal melodies are brilliant. The softer ambient atmosphere is a bit of a throw away from previous tracks like “Silhouettic”, but let’s not forget, in terms of alternative music BoT really are on the poppier side of things, which is not intended as a derogatory description at all. I can easily see this being the album where they really break onto mainstream commercial radio. For such a solid band they deserve it too. So perhaps self-titling this album is the beginning of a new era for the band. Regardless of whether this actually happens or not, it doesn’t matter. This track is great, and I’ll be picking up their new album on release.

Birds of Tokyo have also announced an up-coming tour. It’s going to be their “every album tour”, and will showcase their new material alongside their classics. The band are now “bigger, bolder, more refined and more fearless”. And it certainly looks like they’re planning one hell of a special tour.

Dates:

September 22, 2010 – Adelaide, SA

September 24, 2010 – Brisbane, QLD

September 26, 2010 – Hobart, TAS

September 30, 2010 – Sydney, NSW

October 01, 2010 – Melbourne, VIC

October 02, 2010 – Fremantle, WA

REVIEW: Celadore – “Distance Is A Gun”

 

Melbourne trio Celadore are touring their debut EP, “Distance Is A Gun”, at the moment.

“Distance Is A Gun”, the title track, is full of catchy hooks, and for a three-piece it sounds like these guys have some energy behind them.

Their unashamedly pop-rock influences show, and their embrace of these influences is really something to be proud of. Despite staying true to a style of music that’s been done time and time again, it’s a solid effort, and with the introduction of various off-beat guitar rhythms, it’s interesting enough for those of us who need a bit more in a song.

Lyrically, they feel a notch above their contemporaries, with lines like:

“closer to a stranger, than anyone i love.

the less space the better, distance is a gun.”

Celadore have crafted a solid song filled with catchy hooks. Keep an eye out for these guys, because once they get their break, they could be up there.

Verdict: Positive.

Grab a free download here.

Check out their clip for “Distance Is A Gun” here.

REVIEW: Timothy Nelson & The Infidels – “Sleeping Alone”

It’s undeniable that Timothy Nelson & The Infidels have a sound influenced by country music. There. I said it and it’s out in the open. Now get all of those possible misconceptions out of your system, because these guys are a bit different.

Mixing folk, country, and rock, Timothy Nelson & The Infidels have been building up their fan base in Western Australia for a couple of years now. Timothy has two WAMi awards under his belt already, one of which is for “Sleeping Alone”. These guys are a solid act.

But what about the song? Well, “Sleeping Alone” begins slowly with a bendy lead guitar line over a softly strummed acoustic, but once the full band kicks in, all sorts of musical textures come into play. For a song over 6 minutes long, has its highs and lows, and moves between them effortlessly.

For a group so influenced by a genre I generally disregard, Timothy Nelson & The Infidels sure know their stuff. Lyrically strong and different from your average folk band, they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. But with the guts to write they kind of music they want to, and with a debut LP on the way, this is gonna be a band to watch out for.

Verdict: Positive.

Listen to some of their stuff on their Myspace page.

Also; grab what I understand will soon be an exclusive download of “Sleeping Alone”, HERE.

REVIEW: Sleep Decade – “Spilt Ink EP”

Sleep Decade have a unique and “experimental” (in the loose sense of the term) take on indie rock. Their infusion of unconventional rhythms and layering, mixed with the comfortable and familiar elements of dramatic indie rock that other bands have already paved the way with, really sets them out there as a band that can keep you interested, without pushing your boundaries too far. Which is a good thing. Granted, there are artists that push musical boundaries and conventions a great deal, and some are amazing artists, but it’s refreshing to have something so different that’s so easy to enjoy.

Casey Hartnett’s emotional lyrical content resonates easily without being complicated, and without being so obvious as to feel condescending or clichéd. One of the marks of a great lyricist is someone who can tread this fine line. Hartnett’s vocal style compliments the dramatic changes in the music itself. Moving between the emotional crackle of someone on the brink of tears, to biting frustration and longing, Hartnett’s vocal style is not only unique but fitting.

“All I Want” is a perfect example of Sleep Decade’s use of extreme and dynamic shifts in pace and tone. Beginning with only a guitar riff and Hartnett’s wavering and uncertain vocals, the song takes a turn around the 2 minute mark and launches into sections of racing percussion and vocal extremes.

“Spilt Ink” closes the EP, but its soft-spoken delicacy is both a blessing and a curse. It juxtaposes with “All I Want” nicely, and it’s contrast like this in EP’s which can really draw you into a band. But unlike the other songs it doesn’t feel like it has a musical progression. The acoustic guitar lines feel like they drag on, and even though the whole EP sounds like it’s had more heart and soul poured into it than you would expect, unfortunately “Spilt Ink” just doesn’t feel like it’s executed properly. It doesn’t hold interest like the other songs.

This is a forward thinking band who set themselves apart from the pack, and I get the distinct feeling that they create their music on their own terms, and don’t pander to the whims of critics, or try to imitate the style of established bands.

If I’ve drawn any conclusions about Sleep Decade, it’s that they do things differently. And when it pays off, it pays off very nicely. From the anthemic chorus of “All I Want” to the softly-spoken “Mexico On My Front Porch”, this EP is close to brilliant.

Verdict: Positive.

Grab some tracks off the EP here.

FEATURE: Anyone up for some post-rock?

So you’re up around midnight. Browsing the internet, chatting to friends, reading a book, killing time just because you don’t feel like sleeping, whatever. Then you encounter the inevitable question: what do I listen to next?

It’s too late to put on something loud and aggressive. You’re too tired to put on something bouncy or poppy. You’re feeling too apathetic to want to listen to lyrics. You just want something nice to listen to.

I feel it’s times like these where post-rock is the only answer. Or, you know, something classical or orchestral or whatever if you’re into that too. But post-rock can be pretty good.

Anyway, short of putting on some Sigur Rós (I can vouch for “Takk…”, it’s quite nice, though it’s quite lengthy at just over an hour), you can try some work by Explosions in the Sky.

EitS are an American post-rock band, and their second-most recent album “The Rescue” is available for free from their website.

The band recorded it and mixed it in only two weeks. It contains eight tracks (“Day One”, “Day Two”, “Day Three”, etc.), each of which was written in a day. The next 6 days were spent mixing the record. It was inspired by an incident on tour when their van broke down, and they had to wait 8 days for it to be fixed. The band were broke, and ended up spending the 8 days in some nice person’s attic.

For me, post-rock can sometimes be a bit like background music. I know that sounds bad, like I don’t appreciate it or pay attention to it. But usually when I listen to it, I like just letting it pass me by. Explosions in the Sky proved to be a very similar experience.

All I’ll say is this: I enjoyed it. I can’t say it’ll prove to be anything revolutionary to post-rock fans, but to anyone wanting to expand their tastes and try something new, I see no reason as to why you shouldn’t check it out.

Grab a free download here.

BRAND NEW: The National – "Bloodbuzz Ohio"

“Bloodbuzz Ohio”, the new track from The National, has been floating around the internet as live bootlegs for a while now, but today it was premiered on BBC 6 Music. Shortly afterwards, it was made available as a free download from the band’s website.

Matt Berninger’s deep vocal melodies are present, as expected, and they don’t disappoint. However don’t expect any “Mr. November” style shouting on this track. The drumming seems to have taken a slightly more off-beat approach than previous material (in a good way), but it’s so subtle that it’s almost not worth mentioning. The string arrangements sit at the back for the majority of this song, effectively adding flourishing undertones to the track.

“I’m on a bloodbuzz. Yes, I am.”

I’ve got a good feeling about “High Violet”.

Grab a free download here.