Sunday, July 4, 2010


Monday, April 19, 2010

Dan Lewis, the man behind Special Award records, has thrown together a glorious collection of bands for his Swan Vs Raptor compilation CD, most of who gather to celebrate its arrival. The main stage is lit by strings of red and amber flower-lights, while the second stage is set in the adjacent dining room. Some highlights include:....

Lehmann B Smith who is joined by six singer/percussionists to deliver a set of broken Christmas carols as sung by the Flying Nun stable. Twisted lyrics, a reedy voice and sorrowful demeanour clash wonderfully over the stark sixties pop stylings and the mid-afternoon crowd respond warmly.

Monica Sonand, now known as Mononoke, is a transfixing performer. Facing us, synth on either side, she sways to the rhythms and infuses her warm sample-driven songs with a subtle drama that never strays into stridency. Songs like Turpentine (sample lyrics: ‘I punch myself in the face to remind me of your taste’) indicate a Goth sensibility that never gets in the way of the songs.

Melodie Nelson, aka Lia from Sydney group Moonmilk is a fascinating mix of echoing girl-group pop with a steely laziness; as if Jesus and Mary Chain produced an album for Julee Cruise. It’s a bewitching and wonderful set that makes you wish she’d make the trip down more often.

Owl + Moth (actually one Oliver Hunter, an autoharp and a loop pedal), looks like Patrick Wolf, sounds like Antony, invents a language like Jonsi, plucks like Joanna and has a small legion of adoring fans. His take on Ace of Base’s All That She Wants is overshadowed by his own compositional skills and deft use of a loop pedal, something few acts seem to lack today.

Raquel Solier aka Fatti Frances plays a life-affirming set of warm, intimate and muscular electro-pop before returning as drummer of The Ancients to anchor their winding indie rock; has there ever been a more talented group of musicians who put so little effort into vocalisations? Pavement-esque guitars underpin distracted murmurs and it sounds fantastic.

The Motifs showcase new material that is as beautiful as anything they’ve ever played, Frightening Lights and The Enclosures deservedly garner many new fans while Darren Sylvester continues to deeply impress, now with added guitar solos and that beautiful clash of his strangulated voice over warm sustained chords.

Closing the evening are Denim Owl whose clattering percussion, rich synth chords and bubbling melodies brighten the twilit Dining Room. Reclaiming their titular song, Swan Vs Raptor is a highlight. The band that covered it for the compilation, Woollen Kits, meanwhile provide a perfectly judged ending to the evening. In the several years since their inception, their musicianship has, if anything, become more limited while their songs get shorter, their lyrics more bizarre and their show more and more enjoyable. Possibly the only way the word refinement could be used in relationship to this band and their dynamite set. A glorious day, and, as every artist says, ‘thanks to Dan!’.

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