Six months of music

Christmas already, and there have been a few additions to the music collection since mid-year’s round-up. Certainly enough to get through the summer!

black snake by wendy ruleThe latest album from Melbourne’s Wendy Rule was funded through Pozible and is now available. It’s well worth the listen, harking back as it does to her World Within Worlds album — meditative and moody, mixing pagan themes and love songs and not being shy about topping the five-minute mark. Plucked guitar, steel guitar, cello, flute set the scenes, with occasional tribal percussion breakouts such as on ‘Black Snake’ and ‘After the Storm’, and electro carnival on ‘From the Great Above to the Great Below’. ‘Home’ is another standout for its sheer yearning for a place that’s ‘more than a suitcase, a room’; Rewind wishes to undo the mistakes of the past ‘when I was fucked up and blind’; and ‘Ereshkigal’ — almost nine glorious minutes of it — shows entrancing layered vocals with tribal influences. Ideal for a winter’s night in or a lethargic summer’s arvo.

gary numan splinterBy contrast, Gary Numan‘s Splinter: Songs from a Broken Mind (Machine Music, 2013) is a full electro-industrial assault, harking back to the brilliant Jagged album. ‘I Am Dust’ opens in winning fashion while ‘Here in the Black’ brings in orchestral elements worthy of a soundtrack, a space explorer alone in the black, or perhaps drifting through their own inner void. Thematically, the album offers the usual touchstones: love gone awry, aloneness, lost faith. ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ is an EBM standout, while Numan varies the terrain with Arabesque elements on ‘Splinte’r, gorgeous percussion on ‘Where I Can Never Be’, piano on farewell tune ‘My Last Day’. As with Black Snake, there’s familiar material here, an artist playing to their strengths, but engaging highpoints making it a worthy of addition to the collection.

mona mur and en esch 120 tageMona Mur and En Esch swagger with menace on 120 Tage: The Fine Art of Beauty and Violence (Pale Music, 2009), a switchblade-packing duo stalking the city alleys and nightclubs in knee highs and combat boots. Half sung in German, half in English, the songs range from dance fuzz joy of ‘Visions and Lies’ to the grungy back-street feel of ‘The Thin Red Line’ to poppy ‘120 Tage’, all headlined by Mur’s cabaret sex-and-dare vocals. A touch of oom pah pah (‘Mon Amour’), elsewhere circus (‘Der Song von Mandelay’), some spoken word (eight-minute story of ‘Surabaya Johnny’), add texture — and introduce three Bertholdt Brecht/Kurt Weill covers as well. ‘I want to crawl in the mud with you and drag you underground,’ Mur sings on opener ‘Candy Cane’ — it’s an offer hard to resist, with the rest of the album dragging the listener down into a world of, as promised, beauty and violence. On ‘Eintagsfliegen’, ‘this is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for killing, the other is for fun’ gives the idea. ‘Snake’ is a sultry winner. The only annoyance is three minutes of noise tacked onto the end of chugging closing track ‘The Wound’. If this was a nightclub, it’d have a warning sign on the front door.

Mentioned previously, but must be mentioned again, just how superb is the latest Nine Inch Nails album, Hesitation Marks. Welcome to middle-age doubt, with all the studio genius Trent Reznor has to offer. Such superb songcraft …

Also on the playlist:

  • Tycho Brahe finish 2013 on a high with a new EP, Triplex Part 1. Cracking synth pop with ‘Castaway’, funky dancefloor bass on ‘Loveless’, instrumental ‘Arizona’ and, on ‘Lullaby’, a less characteristic touch of gloomier, moodier music.
  • Adalita, All Day Venus (Liberation, 2013): Second solo album from the Aussie rocker, delivers plenty of guitar-driven heartbreak and lonely nights. Highlight: ‘Warm Like You’, on which she sings ‘I was born cold, I’ll never be warm like you’. Adalita also plays bass on the enticing EP Let Yourself Be Free, by duo Dark Fair; the b-side is rockin’, too.
  • Finally got around to snaffling albums The Birthing Pyre and Somewhere Under the Rainbow by the Jane Austen Argument, another Aussie duo with a winning way with tunes set against an emotional, hip urban landscape. Tom’s high range — see ‘Bad Wine and Lemon Cake‘ — is worth the price of admission.


  • 2013: we have lift off, with a little help from Tycho Brahe

    Welcome to 2013! To get in the mood, here’s a shiny new clip from Brisbane band Tycho Brahe, courtesy of cool Lego clip maker Forlorn Creature:

    Now I’m sure there’s a little Depeche Mode in there …

    In other recent-ish news:

  • Talie Helene as produced possibly the most memorable quote of the Next Big Thing blog posts: ‘I heard the harpsichord DIE.’
  • NBT the second: Glenda Larke re-releases her debut novel, Havenstar, in digital format! One for my Australian Women Writers review challenge!
  • NBT the third: Charlotte Nash has (non-spec fic) debut Ryders Ridge on the way. First draft written in three weeks. You’d like to hate her, but … that’s just freaking awesome!
  • Graeme Hague has been giving away tunes with his ebooks — what a generous man!
  • Three new Aussie anthologies are showing off their tables of contents: Dreaming of Djinn, Next and A Killer Among Demons. [Make that four: this just popped out of my inbox: Nicole Murphy’s In Fabula-Divino]
  • And huzzah, a new review of Salvage (this one by voracious bookworm Tsana)! I love the way most reviewers have been able to get the idea across without going for the reveal.
  • Way to kick off a new year or what?!

    Brimstone stokes the embers, and other writerly news

    Brimstone Press is showing a pleasing glow of resurgent life after a meltdown earlier this year which saw press releases announcing much pulping of stock. The website carries three available titles, announces an Australian distributor and promises further titles to come.

    Another Aussie publisher specialising in the dark side is Dark Prints Press, who has announced a new anthology of supernatural crime stories and has also opened its doors to novellas.

    Which is a timely reminder that Twelfth Planet Press is looking for novels — send submissions throughout January.

    WA writer Martin Livings has flagged the cover of his forthcoming anthology Living with the Dead and it’s a beauty — just what you want for a 20-year retrospective.

    And you can get some insight into the issues surrounding the e-publishing revolution with a collection of essays commissioned by if:book Australia — High Tech Hand Made is free!

    And non-writerly but wonderful is the new single from Brissie band Felinedown, playing a New Year’s Eve gig with Tycho Brahe — damn shame to be missing that gig.

    Tycho Brahe and Psyche electrify the Espy

    It was arranged a week ago and barely publicised, but the Tycho Brahe and Psyche gig at St Kilda’s legendary music haunt the Esplanade Hotel (the Espy) was one of those cosy gatherings that fans salivate over for years after.

    Tycho Brahe, from Brisbane, operating in duo mode with Ken Evans on bass and vox and Georgina Emery on keys and backing vocals, opened for German-based duo Psyche in the Espy’s basement room: tiled floor, cats and dogs wallpaper, and oh the cute rudeness in the band room tucked away behind yet another flight of stairs!

    I was thrilled to hear Tycho cover Joy Division’s ‘Atmosphere’, Real Life and Depeche Mode; they pulled Psyche’s Darrin Huss, originally from Canada, up to take lead vocals on ‘Tainted Love’ with its neat segue into the Dr Who theme. They closed with a new track, ‘Love Rocket’ , and it was a blast.

    Ken reports that the home studio is operational once more, though work still remains to be done since the family home was submerged during January’s disastrous Brisbane floods.

    Psyche were largely unknown terrain for me — they have an excellent track on the Brisbane flood fundraiser Surge and Subside — and they put on an entertaining show, drawing on 30 years worth of material. Darrin was perhaps best described as exuberant as he pranced and yowled for the best part of two hours, giving it his all. Ken returned to do backing vocals on a Yazoo track (‘Situation’?), and there was another Joy Division cover (‘Disorder’, if memory serves) amongst others. ‘Gods and Monsters’ was one track that stood out in the EBM assault overseen by Stefan Rabura.

    It was a fun night with an appreciative crowd drawn from across the spectrum: fish nets, tight jeans, checked shirts, sloppy t-shirts. With such a great vibe, it was a definitely a good gig for the psyche.

    Good stuff while my back was turned

    We’re back, and a wee bit tired as the clock has turned over the 36-hour mark since we got up some morning recently in my beloved New Orleans, and here’s some of the stuff that’s been happening in my absence that’s too good not to share:

    Anywhere But Earth, launching today in Sydney, is all systems go at the online store

    Brisbane’s awesome Sarah Calderwood is interviewed on ABC Radio about her debut solo album! The song she sings in the studio is stunning.

    Beat magazine makes it official: The Tea Party have tested the reunion waters and found it warm enough to take another splash — cool!

    Kyla Ward has launched her solo poetry collection, The Land of Bad Dreams, with aplomb — see the vids! (Okay, this actually happened before we left, but we couldn’t be in Sydney for it, and it looks like it was a hoot of a night.)

    Oh, too: Macabre, an excellent overview of Aussie horror fiction, and Surviving the End, in which I have a story, are both available — the first as e-book showing there’s still some life left in the sadly collapsed Brimstone Press, the latter as a pre-order. Check out more happenings in Aussie horror publishing at From the Pit.

    Looking ahead: for those in Melbourne, wicked Brissie band Tycho Brahe support Psyche at the Espy on November 12 — that’s this Saturday. Sad, I was, to miss their Halloween gig back in Bris.

    And this time, my back wasn’t turned, because I was at World Fantasy Convention to see Alisa Krasnostein receive her press’s achievement trophy. A superb effort!

    I am a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This item is the personal opinion of the writer, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

    Spare some change for a flooded muso?

    My mates at synth-driven band Tycho Brahe have been washed out of their Brisbane home by the recent floods — luckily, they were able to get most of their gear — and their kids! — out before the flood water inundated their two-storey house — both storeys. Most, but not all, and the clean-up is costing a mint, not to mention the dislocation of renting and having your possessions, right down to your chooks, spread across spare storage space across the city. Tycho supremo Ken shows the studio damage in this blog post and says the easiest way to lend a hand is to pick up some merch from CDBaby. These guys aren’t just great musos, they’re great people: snaffle a cd or a download if you can. Your ears, and the band, will be grateful.

    Update: Ken and George of Tycho were in the Brisbane Courier-Mail talking about the flood impact; it’s a brief piece, but you get the picture.

    Tycho Brahe – live and free

    Tycho Brahe with us on our wedding night.

    Tycho Brahe with us on our wedding night. Pic: Kim Thomsen

    Tycho Brahe are an awesome Brisbane band who were kind enough to play at our wedding. They rocked out and were absolutely fantastic. They also produced a lovely cover of The Cure’s ‘Lovesong‘, which was our theme song.

    And now, I’m ecstatic to say, there’s a version of the cover available online. The ’80s-lovin’ band had an, um, interesting live session in a recording studio, in which they aimed to produce a ‘live in the studio’ ep. The ep is now available for free download from CDBaby. You might also like to sample their other output: maybe the uber-catchy ‘1985’ single or one of their albums — Atlantic is probably a good place to start, and work your way back!

    I’d also mention that the other band who played at our wedding, the divine Brissie Celtic outfit Sunas, have an album coming out kind of soonish through the ABC. These guys performed a simply beautiful instrumental version of ‘Lovesong’ for the processional, then added vocals while we signed the paperwork. And then they too rocked out! You don’t have to wait for the ABC album (I don’t know if their ‘Lovesong’ cover will be on it, but wouldn’t it be cool if it was?): they have a perfectly engaging self-produced album available now.

    Wedding background music

    While I’m reminiscing, here’s the tunes that were on the iPod’s wedding playlist for when our pals weren’t shaking Bar Soma.

    Angel, Massive Attack
    Beautiful Day; Lucky Day: Stringmansassy
    Ain’t No Cure for Love; Dance Me To the End of Love: Leonard Cohen
    I Let Love In; Into My Arms: Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
    Grace; Hallelujah: Jeff Buckley
    Fade Into You, Mazzy Star
    Beyond the Field We Know, Sunas
    Lovesong; Love Cats: The Cure
    A Promise Made (Wedding Day), The Cruxshadows
    Building a Mystery, Sarah McLachlan
    London Rain, Heather Nova
    Amazing, Johnette Napolitano
    I Love You, Jeff Martin
    Such a Night, Dr John
    Let’s Stay Together, Tina Turner
    White Wedding, Billy Idol
    Living Dead Girl, Rob Zombie (touring!)
    Science Fiction, Divinyls
    She Sells Sanctuary, The Cult
    Stripped, Rammstein
    Temptation; Shadows on the Mountainside: The Tea Party
    Seven Nation Army, The White Stripes
    Disarm; Ave Adore: Smashing Pumpkins
    Wild is the Wind; Heroes: David Bowie
    There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, The Smiths
    Love Will Tear Us Apart, Evelyn Evelyn
    Easy, Faith No More
    Come As You Are, Nirvana
    The Ship Song, Concrete Blonde
    Together in Electric Dreams, The Human League
    Paint It Black, Inkubus Sukkubus
    Last Beat of Your Heart, Mission UK
    Tainted Love, Marilyn Manson
    To Lose My Life, White Lies
    Zero, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
    What You Waiting For?, Gwen Stefani
    True Faith 94, New Order
    Temple of Love, Sisters of Mercy
    No Ordinary Love, Sade
    I Will Find You, Clannad
    I Do, Placebo
    If I Was, Midge Ure
    I Just Died in Your Arms, Cutting Crew
    Pictures of You, Berlin
    Evil Night Together, Jill Tracy
    Ampersand, Amanda Palmer
    Love in Motion, Icehouse feat. Chrissy Amphlett
    Vienna, Ultravox

    Sunday the 13th

    It’s a hard thing, this internet thing. Part publicity, part friends and professional network, part (public) diary: sometimes the privacy line is hard to judge. For instance, my fiancee and I made no announcements online about our engagement, feeling it wasn’t the kind of thing to be broadbanded about. Especially before our families knew (we got engaged overseas, and wanted to tell immediate family face-to-face where we could).

    But some things are too big to keep to yourself.

    So, here’s my news, or at least an overview: a week ago, Kirstyn and I got married. And it was a great day. A marvellous day. The staff at Bar Soma, a Brisbane nightclub I’d had occasion to frequent during my time in the city, were superb, and the club gave us just the atmosphere we were looking for. Celtic band Sunas played The Cure’s Love Song, instrumental and with vocals, in their own so-special way during the ceremony, and played two sets of very fine tunes, before handing over to Tycho Brahe to up the beats per minute with two amazing sets, including a splendid arrangement of Love Song and a cover of Atmosphere that I suspect had more depth to it than first appeared (will have to ask Ken about that!).

    The wedding was most definitely *us* — there were spiderwebs of icing on the cupcakes/cake and a raven on the wishing well and a gargoyle overlooking the guest book — and we had a grand time. We did our best to chat with everyone, but as is always the way, it seems, a few slipped through the cracks. And we felt keenly the absence of loved ones and dear friends, taken too soon, and lamented that we hadn’t been able to invite all we might have liked, and that some some we had weren’t able to join us. (If ever there was a curse, it must be the wedding guest list – at least there wasn’t a seating plan to worry about!)

    Our honeymoon was in Cairns and it was just the right mix of getting out and lazing about, with superb food within walking distance of the hotel. We drove to some sights, snorkelled on others, and for the most part simply coasted.

    The words ‘wife’ and ‘husband’ are still a novelty, and I hope that doesn’t wear off too quickly. I’m glad we’ve embraced them in an official capacity. They have, quite literally, got a ring to them that carries a great deal of weight — a ritual importance, if you will.

    We got home yesterday to find the real world waiting: emails and bills and the usual stuff (including two babies, two birthdays and a new home for a friend), and a very nice review of Kirstyn’s Madigan Mine that isn’t online but I’m sure she’ll share if she gets clearance to, and a job vacancy that I really must throw my hat into the ring for. But I like to think the ring on my finger will keep Sunday’s magic alive; it’s been blessed with the love of family and friends and is a sign of my link to a singularly remarkable woman.

    Onwards, then. Together.

    Brisbane’s goth scene – a clubber’s update

    I’ve been sidelined of late thanks to a major meltdown at my ISP, Optus, who sure dragged the chain sorting their gear out. But for now, at least, I’m back in the cyber game 🙂
    Haven’t got much to show for my absence except an article for the Courier-Mail providing a vague update on Brisbane’s goth scene. The article was spawned when some suit in admin noticed the amount of goths/emos hanging around in the mall and wondered how they could bear to wear all that black, coats and all. So I, for some reason :P, was asked to write something about it. I felt like asking if anyone had ever wondered about all the businessmen in their suits and how they handled the Queensland heat and humidity, but I figured that probably wasn’t as interesting …
    Anyhoo, the result: a yarn slashed to fit a standard CM tabloid page — but at least a *whole* page 🙂 And here it is, with a neat rundown of the core clubs playing gothic music for a predominantly gothic crowd.

    Which is a nice segue into a mention of having seen Dandelion Wine play their last Australian gig for the forseeable future, at Faith night club’s Love Cats night a couple of weekends back. Fans of Lisa Gerard/Dead Can Dance should enjoy this duo’s music, as it often involves medieval and world music elements played with synths, flute, guitar and dulcimer. I’m told they used to have a percussionist, too, which I think would round out their sound beautifully.
    Dandelion Wine are off to Germany to pursue their creative career. Cool, eh?
    And finally, kudos to Faith: the new venue in Mary Street is really something else. Spacious, decent dance floor and brilliant set lists (IMHO), with a nice long bar, lots of gorgeous sofas, a chill-out room, Korean restaurant next door … it’s a superb venue. Faith is running every Saturday now, rotating through its various theme nights.

    Coming up: Tycho Brahe and Leaders of Men at Atmosphere night club, Tank St, Brisbane, on April 18.

    I am particularly dark that I won’t be able to make the Midnight Calling gig on April 25, featuring one of my fave Brissie bands, The Wretched Villains.