Monday, 23 May 2011

Electro Classic Jukebox: Wolfsheim.

Hailing from The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, Germany, Wolfsheim were a rather brilliant synth-pop number who released a smattering of memorable "darkwave" tunes until their dissolution in 2005 due to disagreements as to what direction Wolfsheim's music was going to ultimately head toward. Comprised of neighborhood pals Marcus Reinhardt and Peter Heppner (who joined the band after Marcus' brother Oliver departed), they released seven albums throughout their career that, though bordering on the melancholic, still soared with a certain elegiac charm. No single of theirs is probably better known than the ground-breaking "The Sparrows And The Nightingales," off their 1992 debut album No Happy View, so of course I thought I'd share it today. Mein Gut, these are some mighty powerful synths at play here, and the lyrics are both epic and thought-provoking, providing one with an orchestral, majestic tone. 

Have you had your helping of Wolfsheim today? I have. So here's some for you and yours!

Gig Review: Gary Numan.

14 MAY 2011

If anybody out there had any doubt whatsoever that without Gary Numan the electronic music landscape would be unrecognizable today – then all that nameless person would have to do to be irrevokably convinced would be to have headed towards and gained entry to Gary Numan his own bad-ass self performing his seminal 1979 album The Pleasure Principle in its entirety; authentically re-constructed, to boot. This is the show I saw on the 14th of May – a soggy autumn Saturday evening, and the excitement level of my fellow attendees was cranked to eleven and beyond.

Opening band Severed Heads, one of the founders of the Australian electronic music scene, came out of self-imposed retirement for the express purpose of supporting this tour. Basically two blokes (one of whom was main man Tom Ellard) on keyboards and a loop machine with a projection screen behind them (on which grotesque computer-generated images seemingly created in the early days of digital graphics played), Severed Heads' sound was all spidery and jittery synths married with a disco drumbeat and bizarre sound effects and vocal distortions. The techno-flavoured music filled the ornately decorated expanse of the Forum Theatre, which was only half-filled with punters, who seemed only slowly to be getting into it. Sadly, it wasn't until their last song that Ellard said, "Well, here it is. The song you've been waiting for us to play," before launching into their best-known track, 1984's "Dead Eyes Opened." Suddenly, everybody on the dance floor began dancing, and the energy level spiked.

At 10.15, Gary Numan came out to play. The Forum was filled to capacity, and as soon as the opening notes of "Airlane" hit the crowd went fucking bonkers. True to promise, not only did he play the entire Pleasure Principle album in its entirety, it was played authentically, meaning there were no "improvements" (as if that's possible) or updated means of playing the music, or "re-mixes" or "re-imaginings." There was Gary and four other blokes on the stage. Four synthesizers. A set of drums. And the euphoria that can only be described by hearing Mr Numan and company play live one of the most important albums in existence period.

I'm telling you: the music was positively alive there in the expanses of the old Forum Theatre. The synths were crisp and exact, the drumming was dynamic and lively, and Numan's voice pierced the darkness with an immediacy and verve; it still resounded and sounded as fresh as it did when the needle first met the grooves of the vinyl way back when I got the album in 1985 as a fourteen-year-old scrawny brat.

The crowd lapped it up, looking as happy and contented as I've ever seen an audience be. There was the general feeling that this was more an event than merely a show; the euphoria was quite infectious and addictive and palpable! Punters held their bottles aloft as they sang along to such infectious classics such as "Conversation" ("WE ARE NOT GODS / AND WE ARE NOT MEN …") and "M.e.," which, being my favourite track off the album, was just freaking brilliant. What's that? Did the crowd go crazy when "Cars" played? You bet your sweet ass they did! And thus did Set #1 come to a close.

Set #2 was selections from the old (namely, 1978's Replicas) and the new (Jagged and Pure mostly). Kicking things off with the chilly and oddly spooky "Down In The Park," the second set of the evening allowed Gary Numan and his merry band of men to express the rockier and more industrial side of Numan's oeuvre. Chunky-ass guitars, heavy beats, and throbbing bass exemplified a rather meta-moment in Numan's show – Numan taking and perfecting a genre of music that owed its very existence to Numan's music in the first place. As my wife C. said to me during "Haunted": "Nine Inch Nails was inspired by him, no?" And we all know the answer to that. 2300 die-hard Numan fans with love and respect in their eyes and movements collectively lost their shit when Numan, bearing a mischievous grin, broke into "Are 'Friends' Electric?"

Damn right, Gary. The world of electronic pop music wouldn't be recognizable today without your prescience and forward-minded assault on the senses we know now as The Pleasure Principle. An absolutely enchanting evening.

down in the park
the fall
when the sky bleeds
everything comes down to this
are 'friends' electric?
a prayer for the unborn
i die: you die

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

New Music: Ladytron.

Well, here it is – Ladytron's newest single, "White Elephant." (Sorry, but only on UK iTunes for the moment.) Their fifth studio album, Gravity The Seducer, will be released later this year on the 13th of September! How about that?

I gotta admit: I really enjoy the beguiling nature of this track. There's something wistfully majestic about it, and Marnie's vocals are as brittle and ethereal as ever. What do you reckon? Here it is.

Monday, 16 May 2011

The Cure At Sydney Opera House.

Just a friendly reminder to my readers in beautiful Sydney, NSW – The Cure will be performing live their first three albums (Three Imaginary Boys, Seventeen Seconds, and Faith) on the evenings of 31 May and 1 June, 2011 at the legendary Sydney Opera House. The shows will be 180 minutes long (with two intervals), and will feature a revolving lineup of musicians present and past who have indelibly moulded the spirit of The Cure

three imaginary boys
robert smith - voice + guitar
simon gallup - bass
jason cooper - drums

seventeen seconds
robert smith - voice + guitar
simon gallup - bass
jason cooper - drums
roger o'donnell - keyboards

robert smith - voice + guitar
simon gallup - bass
jason cooper - drums
roger o'donnell - keyboards + percussion
laurence tolhurst - keyboards + percussion

This is going to be a show to remember – so if you're in Sydney (or plan on being in), you really can't do worse than go. We here at SDU HQ insist! Here's Robert Smith & company performing "The Drowning Man" off of 1981's Faith in 2005. Absolutely brilliant.

The Dead Will Dance Again.

On the 12th of May this year, one Mr Brendan Perry wrote on his forum wall:
"Hi all,
I have been talking with Lisa Gerrard this past week with regard to recording a new DCD album this coming winter. We hope to complete the album by the summer of 2012 and then embark on an extensive two month world tour in late 2012. I will be posting updates from time to time with regard to our progress ... and remember ... you heard it here first and yes it is official!
All I can say is: WOW. This is great news. The last time Dead Can Dance had performed onstage was in 2005; me and a few of my mates were lucky enough to have seen them at the wondrous Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California. I mean, these are the folks who unleashed Spleen & Ideal on the world, had enchanted an untold number of people with the stoic mysteriousness of The Serpent's Egg and its enigmatic "In The Kingdom of the Blind, the One-Eyed Are Kings," had brought back from the grave the musical stylings and instrumentation of civilizations that had been long vanished from the popular culture (thus, of course, their name), and had mystified with their vocal prowess – Perry's deep and assured resonating timbre, alongside the lovely Gerrard's spookily breathy falsetto – and the deep imaginings of fables, incantations, rituals, and heretofore forgotten myths that the music aided in awakening. And let's not forget their mastery of the almighty hammered dulcimer. No, let's not forget that. 

So let us rejoice that after nearly seven years (thirteen years, if you count the last song they actually recorded, "The Lotus Eaters," which appeared on their best-of compilation, Wake, in 2003), DCD is once again going (fingers crossed) to grace us with the mysticism and wonder of their musical trappings. Excited!

Here, from 1993's most excellent Into The Labyrinth, is the remarkable and hypnotic "The Ubiquitous Mr Lovegrove." Goddamn, what a great song this is.

And here's "Rakim," from Toward The Within, their 1994 live-recording of their 1993 sold-out world tour. Listen to that hammered dulcimer playing!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Gig Review: Cut Copy.

5 MAY 2011

Cut Copy brought their shimmering white-light disco stylings back home to Melbourne on a beautiful and crisp Thursday evening at the stately Palace Theatre in the CBD, and my wife and I were there to breathe in the intoxicating fumes of one of the more reliably consistent live acts I've had the pleasure of seeing multiple times. But this was the first time I've seen them as a quartet as opposed to a trio, and funnily enough my wife C. and I were standing next to a nice looking couple near the mixing booth at the beginning of the show (we'd missed, sadly, the opening band, The Holidays) when the gentleman leaned over and told us that he was the bassist's brother-in-law. He pointed at his partner. "That's his sister," he muttered, sounding as if he'd had a few beers. Her brother, of course, would have been Ben Browning, who was brought into Cut Copy's fold for the recording and touring of their third full-length album Zonoscope. Browning's sister looked rather embarrassed, and then they moved on to another location; I'd reckon she probably said something like this to him later: I'd really appreciate it if you didn't say that to strangers again. Who knows; C and I found it funny and rather charming. I'd probably tell people if I was related to a member of Cut Copy.

But I digress. At 10 sharp, the lights went down and the lilting notes of the instrumental "Visions," from In Ghost Colours, began streaming from the speakers. Segueing perfectly into "Nobody Lost, Nobody Found," the 90-minute set sparked into life, bathing the sold-out environs of the Palace in a delectable feast of sparkling guitar-based synth-pop that not only reminded one of the halcyon days of the best of the '80s, but also revealed a bopping '60s mentality that wouldn't have been out of place on a Beach Boys record. Of particular notice were the tracks off the new album, which – man, oh man – they positively shone, they were so damn tight and achingly beautiful. "Need You Now," the slow-burning and powerful first single off Zonoscope, practically soared through the ceiling with Dan Whitford's angelic vocals and Erasure-reminiscent synth loops. "Take Me Over" never ceased to delight, what with its impossible-to-shake-from-one's-head catchiness – as I said before, a great driving song. A shimmering surf-rock feeling washes over the sunny "Where I'm Going," and the chants and droid-dance quirkiness of "Pharaohs & Pyramids" gave the audience a taste of the influence Kraftwerk has had on their musical palates. But, I was most curious about, what was "Sun God," that 15-minute behemoth of majestic synths, boisterous percussion, squalling guitars, and dreamy rhythms, going to sound like in a live setting? Fucking awesome, is the answer. I'm telling you: It was simply crazy. Say what you will about the Cut Copy live experience – "Sun God" was different. They just went batshit. Crazy feedback, an extra drummer, a video screen in the centre of the stage displaying objects blowing up in slow motion in a desert somewhere, aggressive lighting, and, simply put, four dudes on stage grinning like idiots and having the time of their lives made this a bloody standout. 

Oh, Cut Copy: your live shows are turning into events. And that's a great thing. After two encores, they finished with the gorgeous "Feel The Love." I think the crowd filing out of the Palace Theatre felt that way about Cut Copy's music. It was amazing, and I for one cannot wait to see what they do next.

Here's 28 seconds of "Sun God" I filmed on my iPhone:


nobody lost, nobody found
where i'm going
so haunted
corner of the sky
lights and music
take me over
pharaohs & pyramids
hearts on fire
sun god
need you now
out there on the ice
feel the love

Oh, and here's Cut Copy performing "Saturdays" live for NYC's Fearless Music.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Album Review: Seekae.

©2011 Rice Is Nice/Popfrenzy

Sydneysiders Alex Cameron, George Nicholas, and John Hassel – better known as electronic "ghetto ambient" trio Seekae – have released their sophomore LP +Dome and connoisseurs of intelligent and thoughtful music everywhere can rejoice. "Ghetto ambient." This description of their sound, half-jokingly coined by the band to describe their ebullient and emotive crossbreeding of ambient electronica and glitchy experimental pop. Being a record that generously rewards repeat listens, +Dome expands greatly from where its predecessor, 2008's The Sound of Trees Falling On People (GREAT album title, BTW) left off. It builds on the kick-ass 8-bit fuzzy electronica and ambience with a stellar washing over of layered beats, string arrangements, sampled noises, and the heavy bass one might expect to hear at a late-night London drum 'n' bass club. And there's glockenspiels! Bloody glockenspiels! I don't know about you, but I'm crazy mad for glockenspiels.

The magic begins with opener "Go," with its slow-building guitars over a snare drum and a throbbing bass, releasing finally with the aural imagery of a stream of icy cold water trickling over a field of pebbles as we launch into "Blood Bank," which I think of as a beautiful melding of Kid A-era Radiohead and Crystal Castles. "Two" invokes images children playing, it's so delicate with its intricacies and fragmented percussion. The lovely "Gnor," with its sparse strings, swells with emotion – I'm reminded of a sunset, the colours of the sky changing minutely as the sun bids adieu. There are so many surprises and wonderful moments on +Dome; I won't try to tell you about them. Rather, this is a record that demands to be listened to multiple times. There's always something new lurking in the background or just around the corner that hasn't been noticed before. Fucking amazing. One of the best records of the year, so far.

Here, for your listening enjoyment, is "Mingus."

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Video Disturbeo: Nine Inch Nails.

Hard to believe that it's been seventeen years since the release of Nine Inch Nails' second long player album, 1994's The Downward Spiral, isn't it? Yet sitting back, popping it on, and breathing in its intoxicating fumes of dissonance, mayhem, hard-edged social (and religious) commentary, intricate craftsmanship, and – yes – utter beauty ... it's still very much a relevant record, and it's still the powerhouse motherfucking masterpiece it was when Mr Trent Reznor first dropped it on the 8th of March, 1994 (see, I knew it was a Pieces). From the opening razor-like squalls of "Mr Self Destruct" through to the seething anti-Christianity crusade of "Heresy;" from the thoughtful and morose ("Hurt") to the gleefully profane and anarchic ("Big Man With A Gun"); and to the deliriously lush one-two punch of the trance-like "Eraser" and "Reptile" – The Downward Spiral is very much an album of brilliant ideas that consistently hit their mark. There's not a flat moment on this fucker; it's just that awesome. But no song on this album hit the clubs and radio the way that "Closer" did. Decidedly radio-unfriendly (well, in the "we're so afraid of the F-bomb" USA at least), what with its chorus of "I want to fuck you like an animal," "Closer" still went on to reach #41 in the Billboard, #25 in the UK, and a huge #3 in Australia. 

So is it correct to assume that, with such a bruiser of a song, Reznor would want to go all out and release a video that's just as shocking? Of course it is. Directed by Mark Romanek (who went on to direct the under-appreciated Robin Williams thriller One Hour Photo, and is in theatres now with Never Let Me Go), this artfully creepy and horrific little film manages to push many squeamish buttons with its abbatoire imagery and pseudo-religious iconography. Full-frontal BDSM nudity? Check. Pulsing chunks of meat nailed to furniture? Check. Reznor licking a nipple-shaped microphone? Check. Holy crap, there's even a crucified monkey! Here it is, in all its squirm-inducing glory (F-bombs intact as well). Need I say it's NSFW?

Nine Inch Nails: Closer (Uncensored) (1994) from Nine Inch Nails on Vimeo.