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.

20 minutes with SOUL SAFARI

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Originally published in Beat Magazine.

 

Soul Safari are a confident bunch. They’re about to release their new single The Weather and they are pretty damn proud of it. And so they should be – it’s fucking good. Boasting an impressive octet– led by the soul-drenched powerhouse vocals of Lisa Faithfull, these guys are doing everything they can to get their presence known and their music heard across Melbourne.

“It’s been a crazy week!” Taking a break from rehearsal, Faithfull and some of the boys took some time to discuss their new single and its anticipated launch party. Faithfull’s enthusiasm was tangible over the line, “We are really excited to release it. It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been recording the song since about May this year, so we’ve been in the studio, just sitting on it, waiting and waiting and waiting.” Even though the band have been playing together – not the same line-up – for five years, Soul Safari have only just found their niche and their new single The Weather personifies this re-defined sound, a sound which owes its influence to the likes of Badu, The Roots and The RH Factor.

The Weather tackles the universal struggle of balancing work and creativity, of pushing through the storm of routine in order to support creative pursuits. Faithfull elaborates, “I was sitting one night after work – cause I’d been working at a cafe at the time – and I’d worked all day and when I got home, my partner was in bed and the house was silent and I just sat there thinking ‘there’s this thing that you’re so passionate about but it’s quite a lonely thing, because when we’re creating, most of the world is asleep.’ You wonder if all the other musicians, artists and other creatives are feeling this way, you know, you work a normal job to make ends meet and then most of the money you earn from your normal job, you invest back into the passion you have. The bridge section is ‘dying to be alive’ and I sat there thinking ‘we literally kill ourselves to make ends meet.’  It’s a bit of an irony I guess, you have all these passions for something and you will kill yourself to get it, but at the end of the day you’re sitting there alone and no one may ever hear your music.”

An incredibly moving soul ballad, Faithfull is not shy in stating that it may be their best song yet. It’s honest, raw and universal; an ode to all those people who kill themselves every day to make ends meet. “We want people to connect with the song. People aren’t alone – whether you’re creatives or whether you’re someone working in a factory – you’re working your ass off and at the end of the day you get home and you’re questioning why you’re doing it. We just want people to be able to play this song and go ‘we’re not alone.’ It’s almost like an anthem for people who are trying to get by and trying to be noticed.”

In the months leading up to the release of their single, Soul Safari decided to shoot the music video in the Flinders street underpass, an event which coincidentally complemented the theme of the track. “We decided to film it there obviously because the song’s got that urban kind of feel. We also thought, ‘what better way to capture it than having business people walking past, kids on skateboards, etc.’ I’m singing like I would on stage and people didn’t even double back. I felt that everyone was going to stare and it was going to be really awkward, but it’s almost like they were so busy going about their day that even the things in front of them didn’t make them stop.

“One of the boys who did vocals in the male part of the song was dressed as a homeless person and we sat him in the spot with a sign that read WE WILL SING FOR FOOD. And the whole day, we were completely ignored, except for this one man who stopped and said to him ‘mate, I’ve got a bag of chocolate coated almonds you can have if you’re hungry’ and the guy sitting goes ‘oh nah mate, we’re filming a video, but thank you so much!’ The shoot proved to be an interesting little sociological experiment for the band and a complimentary visual for many of the ideas inherent within the song. “We wanted to capture that feeling of almost feeling senseless in the crowd,” Faithfull explains. With only one person acknowledging them, this feeling was more than manifested; as like many people out there, their art was mostly ignored and unappreciated.

On a more positive note, the upcoming single launch party is hardly something to disregard. Dominating the Espy’s Gershwin room will be Soul Safari and their stellar guests, which include funk queen Kylie Auldist, Cookin’ On 3 Burners and LABJACD, a mammoth outfit which will include 15 musicians, “a real hit you in the face set,” Faithfull enthuses.

“This one is going to be big. From start to finish we’re going to have people dancing. There’s going to be giveaways, like merchandise and promo cause we’re getting sponsored by some awesome companies. We’re going to have a walk of fame at the entrance, so when everyone comes in they can have their photos snapped and it will go up on our website. We just want everyone to leave the event going ‘Holy shit! That was the best line-up we’ve seen in Melbourne in a really long time.’ We want to show that live music and our style of music in particular in Melbourne is very much alive.”

Soul Safari are incredibly grateful to the artists joining them on stage and Faithfull is more than appreciative about this, “We feel so blessed to have them on board with us. As a band we’ve done some work with Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ drummer, Ivan. They’re awesome! I’ve done some work with Kylie through PBS. They did a Women of Soul series and I was on the line-up with Kylie. She’s someone we’ve respected for so long. Ivan gave her a call and she said she’d be happy to come along and have a sing. Having her as part of the show is such a blessing.”

Soul Safari’s humility is overwhelming and their unconditional love and belief in their music is inspiring. Their music is a movement, an image of perseverance and hope for all those artists out there struggling to share their voice.

 

Check out Melbourne’s neo-soul heavyweights SOUL SAFARI when they play the Gershwin room at the Espy on Saturday November 2. Joining them will be Kylie Auldist, Cookin’ On 3 Burners, LABJACD, plus DJ Vince Peach and DJ Mz Rizk.

60 minutes with JENNIFER KINGWELL

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Originally published in Lot’s Wife.

 

Meet Jen Kingwell. Born in Darwin, raised in Canberra and now based in Melbourne, Kingwell is gearing up for the release of her first single off her debut solo EP, The Lotus Eaters, due for release early next year. “Kissing in Tutus” is a bold declaration of resistance and love in the face of war and chaos and Kingwell is only a few weeks away from releasing it at the Empress Hotel in Fitzroy. Formerly known as one-half of the indie-cabaret sensation The Jane Austen Argument, Kingwell will be joined on the night by her new band The Garland Thugs. Sitting inside her cosy flat – complete with Film Noir artworks, scattered keyboards, an overstuffed bookcase dedicated to Jazz music and an adorable black pussycat named Maceo – Jen openly discusses her new tunes, The Jane Austen Argument, her nostalgia for Casio keyboards, her fascination with Greek mythology and her upcoming collaboration with Neil Gaiman, yes that Neil Gaiman.

It all started with a Casio keyboard, you know the one, that basic beginner’s instrument with the “cheesy backing tracks.” Laughing, Jen recalls her first instrument, the first medium that really kicked off her love for music. She even wrote her first song on it: a country love ballad. How old was she? “I was six,” she cackles. How cute. After graduating from the school of Casio, Jen went on to study classical piano, a study that evolved into the dream of wanting to play professionally. After high school, Jen was accepted into the Canberra School of Music. However, halfway through her degree, she dropped out. Her heart wasn’t in it anymore and she had lost her perseverance, “I didn’t have the disposition to stay in a music room by myself for eight hours a day, pumping out classical tunes.” She then did the polar opposite and began a degree in Electronic Music and Interactive Multimedia, where she stayed until graduation.

With a degree under her belt, Jen then took her boyfriend and bike to Central Europe, where she rode the streets, sightseeing with a delicious pastry under her arm no doubt. After doing a few odd jobs here and there, she returned to Australia, moved to Melbourne in 2006 and went back to school to study a Masters of Communication.

It was at RMIT where she met Tom Dickens, a cabaret aficionado who was in desperate need of a pianist for his upcoming show. They formed a duo and started performing under the name Tom and Jen, a temporary title that was officially replaced with The Jane Austen Argument. Did the name come to them whilst arguing about Miss. Austen perhaps? Laughing, Jen replies “I’m a huge Jane Austen fan and Tom can’t stand reading her. He is under the impression that all her novels are about doilies and balls. We needed a name and Tom came up with it I don’t know if he had been thinking about it for a while or if it just came to him – but we were at the pub and he was like ‘How about The Jane Austen Argument?’ and I was like ‘That’s a terrible idea!’ but it somehow caught on.”

A blend of cabaret and indie folk music, Tom and Jen were taken under the wing of the infamous Amanda Palmer, a kinship that led to the duo supporting Amanda on her Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under tour in 2011.

After three years together which saw the release of two EP’s and one LP Somewhere Under The Rainbow (2012) which was recorded in Seattle, Tom and Jen separated with the motivation of beginning solo careers. Will we be seeing The Jane Austen Argument again? “Absolutely! We haven’t officially stopped doing stuff.” So it’s like an indefinite hiatus? “Yep, exactly.”

In saying this, Jen emphasises the importance of moving away from the Jane Austen sound in her solo release, “I wanted to pursue something that wasn’t necessarily right for The Jane Austen Argument. I want to explore different sonic possibilities and weave in electronic elements. I want to push the limits of a three-minute pop song and I want to work with other musicians that are pushing the limits of their instruments.”

So what can we expect from the single launch with new band The Garland Thugs? Jen answers with a big smile, “Apart from the audience thinking ‘That was a fucking killer show!’ they can expect killer songs, a killer band and a really intense set with real audience connection. It’s also going to have a really lush, rich orchestral feel. Chad Blaster, my drummer, brings this real hip-hop element in, so there’s a real hard groove in there.” The band also features Jess Keeffe on electric cello and Adam Rudegeair – Jen’s partner – on bass.

The single in question, “Kissing in Tutus” is an ode to radical love in the face of revolution. Jen’s poignant lyrics focus on the powerful image of love as a tool of resistance. The words are supported by a beautiful piano composition, a string section and light percussion. An anarchist’s anthem, “Kissing in Tutus” celebrates infinite, universal emotion in a chaotic and uncertain reality. The idea came to Jen when she was recording The Jane Austen Argument’s debut LP in Seattle. “We lived in Seattle for around six weeks and it was just when the occupy wall street movement was kicking off. It was really inspiring to see this totally like, complete grass-roots swelling of resistance. I was really fascinated. The single came to me because I had the idea of this power of people who come together to resist something and want to change something rattling around in my head.” When she was at University, Jen was also a radical cheerleader for the G20 protests, another image of resistance that inspired the theme of the single. One particular image of the G20 protests stands out, “A while ago, I discovered a photo – which I haven’t been able to find since – of me and my partner at the time kissing in the street in our tutus. I just remember one of the cheerleaders saying that that was her favourite moment from the whole thing.” The beauty of “Kissing in Tutus” is further solidified by this deeply personal recollection.

While “Kissing in Tutus” sees its official launch in a couple of weeks, Jen’s debut solo LP The Lotus Eaters teases us a little more with its release date. Expected in March, maybe even early April, The Lotus Eaters takes its title from a much-loved story which Jen discovered as a child. The Lotus Eaters, a short retelling of Homer’s original story of the same name from his classic the Odyssey, tells the tale of what happens to Odysseus’ men on a small island dominated by lotus plants. These plants are narcotic and cause the men to become stoned, happily content in their apathy. By using Odysseus’ men as a metaphor, Jen’s EP is fundamentally about overcoming obstacles and temptation, avoiding indifference and lethargy and being enlightened about a specific purpose, “waking up from a dream that is keeping you down.” Funnily enough, most of the tracks off the new EP came to her in a dream, hence the essential themes of the record: Dreaming and awakening.

Before we round up our interview, Jen lets slip of a little teaser that is only mildly exciting, “One of the tracks on the EP is going to be an instrumental improvisation to a spoken word piece that I wrote and which Neil Gaiman will narrate.” Seeing as Mr. Gaiman is married to Jen’s good mate Amanda Palmer, this collaboration really doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Oh man, March/April is too far away, what a tease.

 

Jennifer Kingwell will be launching her brand new single “Kissing in Tutus” at the Evelyn Hotel on Friday October 25. Her debut EP The Lotus Eaters will be released next year. Tickets for the show are available via http://music.jenniferkingwell.net/album/kissing-in-tutus-single.