LIVE REVIEW: TIGERMOTH Boney, Saturday August 23

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Originally published in Inpress.

PBS presenter and DJ Bevin Campbell spins to an almost empty room, warming up Tigermoth’s vinyl launch with some dope underground hip-hop and future bass. Next up is Able8, Operatives producer and founder of Melbourne electronic label Uncomfortable Beats. Tonight’s set sees Able8 experimenting with bass and glitch-hop in front of a screen illustrating hilarious political parodies. Tony Abbott is the main star of the evening, with various caricatures depicting him in familiar situations: riding a bike, fucking a map of Australia, etc. The visuals become trippier and more ludicrous as the night progresses.

Amin Payne — future funk beatsmith and master of tasteful and groovy remixes — continues the beats feast. An avid admirer of Dilla, Payne’s beats are easily distinguished by their boom-bap percussion, jazzy samples and calculated synth arrangements. His music is incredibly clean and polished and his set tonight only verifies this. His funk remix of Kelis’ Trick Me is always a party-starter and by now, the room has accumulated an appropriate sized crowd.

Unlike the more melodic sets of his supports, Tigermoth delivers ambient psychedelic beatstrumentals, influenced immensely by Hendrix and eastern culture. Several years spent in Japan explains Tigermoth’s ardour for oriental music. He plays for almost 90 minutes, taking his audience on a trippy journey through Asian soundscapes. One minute we’re in a geisha house and the next, a Hindu wedding. His music is contemplative and colourful, a rich palette of foreign sounds and voices. After an hour, someone turns on the smoke machine, caking Boney’s top floor in a thick smog. Unperturbed by the blinding smoke, Tigermoth finishes strongly and thanks his audience. A unique producer and adorer of eastern instruments, his new LP Traversing Karma is a fruitful purchase for the more liberal listener.

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LIVE REVIEW: LITTLE DRAGON Corner Hotel, Wednesday August 20

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Originally published in Inpress (The Music).

On support duty tonight is Australian songstress George Maple – a recent Future Classic addition and manifestation of the current, dark R&B wave popularised by artists such as FKA Twigs and BANKS. Maple is incredibly sensual; draped in black with arms outstretched she dances hypnotically to the ominous electronica orchestrated by her zealous drummer and keyboardist.

Opening with Please Turn, a personal favourite, Little Dragon have their audience immediately – the congested crowd singing along with frontwoman Yukimi Nagano. Throughout the set, Nagano often turns the mic towards her audience, a clichéd action that usually becomes cringe-worthy when the crowd either doesn’t know the lyrics or doesn’t feel compelled to sing along. Surprisingly, this evening’s crowd stays afloat, their zealous vocals loud enough to be heard above the instrumentals.

Little Dragon breathe fire, puffing their way through a 90-minute set. Nagano is as perpetually mobile and vivacious as an Eveready battery. She sports her own instrument, a tambourine, which she uses in a number of theatrical ways to punctuate the beat: tennis racquet, mallet, etc. Dressed in a fabulous orange ensemble, Nagano dances robotically in her idiosyncratic fashion that is harmonious with the industrial synthesisers and mechanical percussion. The band perform a fair share of oldies and Nabuma Rubberband favourites, sounding tight and lush, particularly energised on bombastic numbers such as Klapp Klapp and Shuffle A Dream. Eagerly climbing over one another’s instruments, the players switch effortlessly between tools – the keyboardist’s swift transition to bass in between tracks indicating the addition of a bass guitarist would be futile. Nagano is completely absorbed in the performance, punctuating slower numbers with a kind of celestial disposition – swaying with palms outstretched while her eyes lock on the roof above the stage. The chorus hits and she turns back into a leadless puppy, reconnected with her audience again.

The crowd go mad for Ritual Union, impressing Nagano with their ardent harmonies. After thanking their audience, Little Dragon tease with a quick hiatus before jumping back on stage to perform Blinking Pigs and Twice, the latter a beautiful ballad that concludes with a long instrumental coda. Promising to be back soon, Little Dragon bid adieu to a satisfied crowd.

LIVE REVIEW: HIATUS KAIYOTE Howler, Wednesday May 14

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Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

It’s midnight and Nai Palm makes her debut crowd surf, a celebration of her 25th birthday. That girl’s got a lot to celebrate, from international endorsements to Grammy nominations. “A quarter of a century and I’m still here,” she teases from her mic, centre stage.

There are two types of Hiatus listeners; those that listen with creased foreheads and those that can’t keep still. The former don’t know what to make of them and the latter can’t get enough of them, assuming they’ve come across the coolest sound in contemporary music. They exhibit a kind of space soul, with grooves often conveying a somewhat unearthly tone. Imagine a musical E.T skilled in the art of keyboards, well that’s Simon Mavin, dancing over his instrument with uncanny dexterity. Paul Bender glides along the bass like Thundercat, layering the rhythm with polyrhythmic undertones that would fit right at home on Brainfeeder and Perrin Moss deliberately plays percussion on the off-beat, giving Kaiyote that slurred, delayed beat. It’s that suspended percussion and Nai Palm’s unusual phrasing and tone that really separate Hiatus musically from any other act in Melbourne. Palm’s body language is playful and vibrant; it’s her voice that seduces us. She has an unusual way of phrasing her lyrics, deliberately avoiding particular letters so it sounds like she’s either singing only scraps of the word or making up new ones altogether. She also uses a lot of vibrato, which ends up doubling as a guitar; played by some mad instrumentalist obsessed with eerie chord arrangements. Her unconventional image – head 3/4 shaved, tat beneath her lip – paired with her ability to sound like Badu one minute and a completely separate instrument the next makes Palm the most interesting woman in Australian music today.

Confined in a bandroom not dissimilar from the aesthetics of a ski lodge, the audience are mesmerised by the charming, unorthodox snow queen up on stage. Instead of singing Nakamarra as an ode to the desert, we can imagine the song as a homage to an infinite expanse of snow, belonging to some far off, distant planet with Hiatus Kaiyote as the house band.

LIVE REVIEW: ERYKAH BADU The Palais, Tuesday April 15

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Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

Acknowledging Badu as one of her musical inspirations back at a Northcote Social gig last year, Nai Palm was giddy when recalling the moment she found out that the queen of soul was digging her beats with Hiatus Kaiyote. Who would have thought that less than a year later, she and her band would be joining Badu on an Australian tour. The quirky, polyrhythmic Melbourne band are an acquired taste; drunk on off beats and complicated compositions. Their music isn’t for everyone, but those that love them – myself included – can’t get enough of them. They played a tight set, showcasing some new material. A band more suited to a less formal venue, their cover of Dilla’s So Far To Go was so dope that it was a real bitch being confined to the limited standing space. A killer set regardless, be sure to see them heat up the floor at their Howler residency next month.

Now, Badu. Dressed in a get-up that only she could pull off, the queen was wearing an ensemble of clothes that looked like they’d been picked off the floor of an op-shop. A headscarf, a Pharrell-esque hat, a flanny shirt with only the top button done up, those street pants that sag at the butt and then loosen up around the thighs and another mismatched thing around her waist. Like I said, nobody else could have pulled that off. She sounded great and performed well, despite it being nearly two decades since her Baduizm debut. She proved her range, switching effortlessly between vocals and rhymes. She also opened the beat in many of her tracks by slapping a vacant drum pad, quite well too.

Ignoring the Palais’ conservative aesthetic, she soon had everyone dancing. Unlike her early sets where she would come out with her turban, incense and spirituality, this gig felt more ghetto. There were a lot of songs that she didn’t sing that I wished she had and she dragged on a few choruses longer than was necessary. She also didn’t do an encore, which left her performance a bit abrupt. She had a habit of doing these exaggerated poses that came off as a little affected, due to the sheer number of times they were done. Her band was great, but nobody really took notice of them. It would have been cool if she’d added a horn player to the section, just to give the guys a bit of fair play.

She was eternally grateful of her audience and her setting and she often voiced it throughout the set. She improvised well when it came to spitting rhymes and she made us laugh a lot with her impromptu wordplay about loose headscarves. Ultimately, she delivered a thrilling set, however self-indulgent it may have been. Yes Badu, your legs and arse may be getting bigger, but you were and always will be twenty feet tall.

LIVE REVIEW: FAT FREDDY’S DROP Melbourne Zoo, Saturday March 8

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Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

Within every cloud, there is a silver lining. This is an antiquated expression, however it is ubiquitous and universal. If you can’t afford or can’t make it to an annual music festival, you may find luck in attending the side shows. Okay yes, an extreme example of clouds and silver linings and I guess more equated with the phrase “break even,” however for those of you who have mourned an inaccessible festival and then heard that your favourite headline act will be doing their own sideshow, I’m sure you can understand my choice of idiom.

Having missed out on seeing Fat Freddy last year when they played at the Forum in support of Blackbird and this year at Golden Plains, I was determined to get my hands on some Zoo Twilight passes. The Melbourne Zoo was packed with adults, children, teenagers and infants. It made sense that Fat Freddy close out the Twilight series for 2014. Sonically, their music encompasses dub, neo-soul, jazz, funk, roots and techno, yet in spirit they are a reggae band. Singing of unity, collectiveness and collaboration, Fat Freddy were the most appropriate ambassadors for the Zoo Twilight cause, uniting the entire audience in a collaborative fight against animal extinction. The vibe of the place was great. Young girls were perched on top of their father’s shoulders while their mothers handed them soda and snacks from picnic bags. Some were just chilling out on the grass on their rugs, while others performed what appeared to be premeditated choreographed moves.

Fat Freddy were unbelievable, even better in a live setting. The audio at the Zoo was flawless, the kind of quality that sounds good even through a shitty phone video recording. Dallas Tamaira – “Joe Dukie” – stood on the far right of the stage, a modest choice from the band’s frontman. A nice decision, as it enabled the horn section to stretch their wings between centre stage and the left hand side. The enthusiastic trombone player – Joe Lindsay – was a real treat. He danced and danced and danced for the entire two-hour set, mind you he wasn’t the most fit looking guy either. How he managed to exude that much energy and still be able to blow away on the trombone for two hours eludes me. The most informal out of all of them, he still managed to match their professionalism with his precision and range. The percussion was pre-recorded, controlled and manipulated by the beats man “DJ Fitchie.” The keyboardist – “Dobie Blaze” effortlessly switched between keys and synth and MC Slave – Freddy’s guest rapper – spat those rhymes from Russia with a real smooth Jamaican drawl, often freestyling effortlessly throughout the remainder of the set. The entire horn section were brilliant, their patience and skill enabling those extended gradual build-ups, climaxes and voluminous solo compositions that we know so well on hypnotic dub tracks like Blackbird and Shiverman.

I missed out on attending Golden Plains, but I got to see sideshows by Flying Lotus and Fat Freddy’s Drop, the very two headliners that I was most excited by on the festival bill. Fat Freddy blew me away, their two-hour set highlighted by the fact that the funds were going towards the prevention of animal extinction. A wonderful cause and a magical venue, I will definitely be attending the Zoo Twilight series again next year.

LIVE REVIEW: THE PREATURES, Northcote Social Club, Thursday September 12

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Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

For all you sorry motherfuckers that didn’t get a chance to catch a Preatures show last week, make sure you grab the next one. On Thursday night, the Northcote played host to a true rock and roll show which fused musical performance and theatre as a means of resonating with its audience long after its termination. The Preatures, a five piece outfit from Sydney, owned that stage and their audience to the point where their performance became cultish. Fiercely alluring, front woman Isabella Manfredi was like some sort of ancient Greek goddess, using her voice, eyes and body in a way that left her crowd writhing around on the dance floor. Rather than staring over our heads, she would keep her eyes locked on one individual for half a song. Her seductive gaze was simultaneously arousing and uncomfortable; a paradox that raised one’s intrigue even more.

These punk aficionados –with their black leather jackets, tight pants and doc martens, plus a couple of Stone Roses and Pretenders emblazoned tees – played a particular sound that dips a toe in a number of old-school flavours. On record, they are a rock and roll band dabbling in various pop melodies, but on stage they become so much more. Their theatrics and stage antics are frenzied and uninhibited, performed with an intensity that is reminiscent of ’70s rock and roll decadence. Manfredi fucks you with her eyes and co-vocalist and guitarist Gideon Benson sets your panties alight with his masculine howl. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more authentic, Manfredi’s $1000 leather jacket caught fire, due to it being left next to the lights. “It’s cool though” she remarked, throwing water over the jacket, herself and us. Ah, a true rock and roll performance.

Instrumentally, The Preatures were flawless. Manfredi and Benson’s voices were ridiculously sensual and powerful and their band played off that, showcasing dirty guitar and bass riffs and melodious drum patterns that transitioned swiftly from rock and roll into disco. Manfredi also played keys, creating spooky ’70s organ inspired compositions that took them into a Gothic soul paradigm. Manic Baby and Dark Times were crowd favourites, but it was the hit single Is This How You Feel? that got the audience really swinging. The band’s movements were contagious and soon enough we found ourselves copying the energy of The Preatures. Damn, did it get hot in there!

After they finished, any innocence the audience may have had was irrevocably stripped away. It now belonged to Manfredi and her delectable cult. As far as I’m concerned, she can keep it.

 

LOVED: The whole bloody spectacle

HATED: Not being up on stage

DRANK: Sweat

 

 

LIVE REVIEW: SNAKADAKTAL, The Forum, Saturday August 24

The Roman gods smiled down at us from their ancient ruins. Beneath, the classical instruments manipulated by Melbourne octet Velma Grove nicely complemented the decadent, antiquated aesthetics of the Forum Theatre’s architecture. A mixture of roots and folk, Velma Grove opened the night with an orchestral swell.

Outnumbered by the sheer collection of their predecessor’s acoustics, Fishing took the stage next. A minimalist future beats duo, Fishing’s primitive synthesised rhythms were eclectic and funky. Everyone was getting into the music, including a small group of dancers who emulated the movements of impassioned robots. Fishing were a great ice-breaker, their hypnotic beats and charisma claiming the attention of the entire crowd and hyping everyone up for the anticipated arrival of Snakadaktal.

Halfway through the set of the 2011 Triple J Unearthed High Winners, it became evident that The Forum was not the appropriate venue for Snakadaktal. The beauty of the dream-pop quintet lies in their fragility and mood and The Forum was just too big a venue to accommodate such a delicate sound. The vulnerability and palpable discomfort of the band validated the inappropriate decision to place them in such a sterile environment. They would have been better off at The Corner or an equally intimate setting. The soft and incredibly emotive vocals of both Sean Heathcliff and Phoebe Cockburn were drowned out by both the instrumentals and the noise of the crowd and inevitably lost within the cavernous Forum. The intricate guitar riffs and atmospheric reverb that define the quintet’s debut album were hardly distinguishable amongst the increasingly audible crowd. Although the echo of the guitars and bass were there, the essence of those delicate, dreamy guitar and synth hooks were lost, consequently making it impossible to define one song from the next.

Rather than staring directly at us, they stared over our heads and their expressions were inscrutable. The performance was cold and distant and people in the audience were talking throughout the most emotive tracks. The beauty, fragility and simplicity of the album was lost in the live experience; lost in the huge space and crowd. A real shame. Next time, I would love to see them perform at a smaller, more intimate venue.