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Album Review – Mod Cons (Fidel A Go Go)

Mod Cons, Fidel A Go Go

Mod Cons is the debut album from Brisbane newcomers trio Fidel A Go Go. It’s a seven-track tour de force – equal parts hard rock and math-prog, down-tuned to a menacing roar. Three djentalmen giving it their all!

** edit – since writing the below, I have realised that the track order on Bandcamp is different to Spotify, which means references to track position (e.g. “opener Turbostein…”) may be incorrect **

Opener Turbostein is a counting exercise for masochists, should you be foolish enough try to decode it, or otherwise a fun experience in wrong-footed head-banging! Triplets over straight fours, short bars, shorter bars, heavy accents drop like bombs! The rhythmic intensity builds over a steady tempo and it’s done.  Super solid introduction to the band and a showpiece for drummer Toby Aitken.

Turbostein is one of two instrumental tracks, along with Track 5 (Speechless – geddit?!) and these two are definite standouts for us. The complex interplay of guitars, drums and bass is more than enough substance for each song, and the presence of a vocal in either would undoubtedly shift the focus away from these elements, which would be a shame.

When the vocals do turn up (Track 2 – Holiday Special), they take the spotlight. Duncan Beale wields a light, agile tenor over a bluesy guitar/bass groove in the verses, switching effortlessly to a harsher, more aggressive tone for the chorus. His voice breaks up with ease, introducing a rough edge, bringing a classic 90s tone to mind (Alice in Chains!). This is a definite favourite, swinging from light to heavy between verse and chorus, and wedging a killer guitar solo into the end of the middle section. It’s first rate – eminently shareable and will undoubtedly attract attention on radio, playlists and podcasts.

Final track Fadings again sets up a relentless dark groove, combining insistent guitar lines with a drawn-out, reverb-soaked vocal. The middle section is a perfectly-timed shelter from the storm – the arrangement is stripped back to a filtered guitar paired with a sustained lead line and layered vocal harmonies, finally giving way to Knights of Cydonia-style guitar arpeggios (or is it JS Bach?!). I’m not sure who is playing what here (Beale or fellow guitarist Nigel Bishop), but both parts are accomplished and expressive, and the combined result is mesmerising.  This is a great section, showing the range that the band can access, balancing out the brashness in tracks at the harder end of the spectrum (Bottle Rocket, White Water).

All in all, a remarkable debut but the depth of experience in this band is far beyond “first album” stage. The group take diverse influences and combine them into a unique sound, with the songwriting and performance skills to hold it all together. Stream it in all the usual places or, better yet, buy a copy on Bandcamp and provide the band with a year’s worth of streaming revenue in one go (and nothing for Applefy!). Catch them at Banshee’s (Ipswich) next Saturday 18 June.

A Life in Stages

Elbury – A Life in Stages (2021, LP)

Presenting our new album! This latest work, a follow-up to 2017’s Haunting Ground, originally carried the working title “the 2019 LP”, which was later replaced by the “the 2020 LP” and, eventually, “the 2021 LP”. Finally, with two months left in 2021, we agreed on a title for this super-extended, pandemic-disrupted, always-second-guessing, second album project – “A Life in Stages”.

Have a listen now on Apple Music, Spotify, Bandcamp and most major platforms.

Elbury is a different band to the group that produced Haunting Ground, both in membership (Brooke joined on keys and transformed the band just in time for the 2017 album launch) and in creative process. Involvement in a songwriting club (at least for Edward’s output) meant that there were many more songs (or fragments) to choose from, when putting the track list together, and a more rapid approach to song writing has resulted in lyrical content that is more ambiguous, more economical and more open to interpretation. Add to this strong contributions from Michael (Popular Hero), Brooke (Rose and Red Arrow) and Luke (Violet Town), and the result is a more diverse album than our previous release. The fifth voice – Tam’s light and pure harmony – is woven into most tracks on the album, and provides long-time listeners with a link back to some of Haunting Ground’s finest moments.

A theme to unite the work of multiple songwriters can be elusive but, ultimately, the idea of passing years, and recalling specific times in our lives, emerged as a common thread and was captured succinctly in a line from Passport – “a life in stages”. Whether it’s reflecting on a past love (Rose, Violet Town), yearning for a more innocent time (Popular Hero, Hollow, Sugar) or dreaming of eternal youth (Pickle),
the songs capture the joy, grief and loss we can feel so strongly for times gone by, and for our former selves.

Lead single – Whispers – was completed early in the project and launched in December 2019. It went on to claim a surprise bronze medal placing in the 4ZZZ Hot 100 for 2020. The pre-COVID Whispers launch show at the Paddo Substation feels like another lifetime… or maybe just a different stage.

So, we present our latest work, but these are not new songs for us anymore, and the desire to get on with the next evolution, and get started on new recordings, is a strong pull. Talk again soon.

Album Review – Measure Once, Cut Twice (Treehouse Letters)

“Measure Once, Cut Twice” is the debut album from Brisbane piano-guitar duo, Treehouse Letters. Ten tracks of beauty, sadness, hope and yearning; the mostly unadorned guitar-piano arrangements leave these feelings unmuted and close to the surface.

Treehouse Letters is Dominic Pinzone (guitar and vocals) and Ethan Butler (piano and vocals). A dig through Spotify reveals a 2019 self-titled EP, and the band have released two advance tracks from the album – Wake Up Mary in August and Fall to the Ground in November, via a delightful hand-drawn animated music video.

This is a great place to start – Fall to the Ground opens the album, perfectly expressing a complex “resigned-but-still-hopeful-sadness” in the opening piano phrase. The band claim Bob Dylan and Paul Kelly as influences but, for me, the shape of the verse melodies and the richness of the lead vocal bring Elton John to mind, in the best way. Lyrically ambiguous but allusions to death and burial bring a slight chill, as the song reveals itself. These themes reappear, and more overtly, later in the album (the beautifully harmonised, spiritual-tinged Be Here Now) but whether death is the literal subject or a metaphor is a puzzle I haven’t cracked yet (nor the meaning of the album title, for that matter).

I’m a bit obsessed with the second spot in a track listing – the position of choice for so many sleeper hits (Counting Crows – Omaha, R.E.M. – Try Not to Breathe, Radiohead – The Bends… I could go on.). Which is why a slow-burn piano instrumental (Is Your Affliction Dear to You?) is such a brave and interesting choice here. Taking the yearning of the first track to deeper levels, it becomes an overture for the album – almost a reset after the first track, allowing the listener a chance to get lost in reflection and the mental images that are conjured up (for me – a lazy afternoon, sunshine, nothing is wrong but vague dissatisfaction hangs).

Throughout the album, beautifully crafted light jazz piano interludes punctuate verses and choruses, and this is a real strength of the arrangements – lightening up the mood at times, where the song content goes into heavier or more thoughtful territory. It’s a great balancing act – an emotional push-and-pull; light and shade that extends my appetite for the music. See Track 3 (Lovely) for a case in point but there are lots of great examples.

In the fairly infrequent moments when there is obvious use of layering, this is again thoughtfully and effectively done (Lovely – again – and Track 8 How Do You Like It? are good examples). I’m torn on this – I would like to hear more layers of voices and instruments and a “bigger” sound but the simple arrangement is central to what works about the album. Another balancing act, and again they have struck a good mix.

Other quick shout-outs for lead single Wake Up Mary, with beautiful guest vocals from Brisbane singer Ebony Walker and country stomper Silver Town – probably my favourite but that’s a hard call. It’s got a great energy!

“Measure One, Cut Twice” lands Feb 20 on streaming platforms and you can (and should!) pre-save it now. Have a listen and look out for a show – Treehouse Letters are well worth a look.

Lucid Safari @ Collies & Co. 30/10/2021

Collies and Co. is a café in Samford Village (with resident Border Collie and puppies) who recently hosted a morning of original live music, as part of the Moreton Bay Live and Local project. We were lucky enough to catch Lucid Safari, a new reggae-rock project fronted by Brisbane musician Daniel J. Lewis.

Let’s start with the fourth song – Lady – which lands November 18 (pre-save now!) and is a good showcase of the genre-mix the guys have got going on. Here is my internal dialogue – “it is definitely reggae, unmistakably, but am I hearing hints of Pink Floyd (Live at Pompeii era)?? Hold that thought – is it Ocean Alley? Sticky Fingers?” It’s a great combination of all these things – as advertised, Lucid Safari deliver a costal-reggae-vibe that is all their own.

Till the End takes the second spot on the set list delivering a smooth, driving reggae feel and I am there with them – cruising in a top-down convertible! Flickering Lights and Liquid Dreams roll into each other with Dan and guitarist Braeden Hall (who joined the band two days prior – you wouldn’t know it!) stacking the Stratocaster tones, as they wrap rhythm and counter-melody around the classic off-beat grooves. Drummer DJ brings home Liquid Dreams with an all-out punk beat and, before I know it, we’re into a slick cover of Arctic Monkeys’ Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? (with a reggae twist).

Later in the set, Always On My Mind, takes a slower approach before Sunshine and Fever Dream pick it up again. By now, I’m settled in – no more analysis and comparison – just enjoying the Lucid Safari show (but maybe some solid riff passages à la Osaka Punch through this section??).

I caught up with frontman Dan after the set and realised what I’d just heard was his heart and soul – the sound he wants to be known for. Following an epiphany in the spring of 2019, Dan honed in on this idea.  He wrote set-opener – Walking Free – the very next day (and the rest is history!).

Today at Collies and Co. Dan and Braeden are joined by DJ and bass man Shane Kumar (also a new arrival). DJ keeps it impeccably “in the pocket” and Shane reinforces the low-end with confident, inventive bass lines, beautifully locked into the rhythm.

Their penultimate song is a confident cover of Ocean Alley’s Confidence, before original tune Delirium – the title track of their forthcoming EP (coming early ’22).

In between each song Dan keeps you engaged; Shane and DJ always in the pocket (oh I already mentioned that, well damn it needs to be said again) and Braeden only two days old in the Lucid Safari world; this is obviously a well-oiled machine and well worth a place on your list of local bands to see. Their website proclaims “bringing good vibes, immersive grooves and catchy hooks, Lucid Safari has the crowd in-step to their offbeat flow” and we can heartily endorse this message.

Passport!

As we enter the home stretch on this super-extended, pandemic-disrupted, always-second-guessing, second album project, the time has come to release Passport into the wild. Passport was the last song written for the album, sneaking onto the track listing when it was still incomplete, but with enough promise to win a spot.

Lyrically ambiguous but evoking a feeling of being lost in your old haunts, unable to find your way back home. In the end, Passport is about trying to make a journey back to somewhere in the past – but that could be a place, a time in your life, a state of mind. Elbury bassist and film-enthusiast, Luke, took up the task of bringing these feelings to the screen, and put together a music video through the course of 2021.

The video presents a simple trip on a suburban train as a metaphor for a more personal or spiritual journey, with the protagonist seemingly contemplating some other destination. Through dream-like sequences, the faces of colourful personalities in our Brisbane communities blend in and out. They progress through their personal vignette – most of which were improvised – and disappear from view.

The idea was to capture their reactions, in reflective moments, spurred on by either hearing the song or having it explained to them. Each person was invited to design their own moment, and we were looking more for the instant emotional impact than a pre-planned shot.

Armed with a handy camera to truly capture the spontaneity of every person’s “moment”, we bore witness to the possibility of all being included on that journey of reflection.

Heroes & Villains is out now!

Another album, another beautiful video by Patrick Delaney! This time around, he has helped us bring our vintage-love-song-soft-rock-slow-dance number, Heroes & Villains, to life! Between the Morningside School of Arts and the bedroom and bathroom at Mike’s place, we captured the nerves, pitfalls and triumphs of a school dance and, as an added bonus, the band got to play on a stage under lights for the first time since before the pandemic!

Heroes & Villains stars Tahlia Downs and Daniel Hutton and they both worked perfectly in the roles! Direction and concept development by Patrick Delaney. Music by Elbs.

Featured post

“Whispers” takes #3 in the 4ZZZ Hot 100!!

A massive shock for the crew early in the evening on New Years Day – “Whispers” had landed the #3 spot in the 2020 4ZZZ Hot 100! Massive thanks to all the Zed crew who supported our 2020 efforts, especially Simon at Zedition, the OZONE team and Tina at Goldilocks Folk. We’ve never actually had a song that was eligible for voting, let alone making the countdown, let alone making the Top 3! Huge thanks also to everyone who took the time to throw a vote our way.

Have a listen to “Whispers” (and its humble B-side “Half the Night”) at elbury.bandcamp.com and see what all the fuss is about 😉

New music soon!!

“Whispers” launch!

Our launch show for “Whispers” at the Paddo Substation was a great night – big thanks to Treehouse Letters for bringing the cool tunes and the good vibes, and everyone who made it along. We were overflowing out into the footpath, which was a great feeling! Check out some snaps from the night below, including original artwork on the CDs by David Turner (@slowdukespress).

And make sure you give the tracks a listen on Triple J Unearthed below (and rate, and review!).

Whispers
https://www.triplejunearthed.com/embed/8846486

Half the Night

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