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.

     

    Advertisements
  • Wendy Rule unveils new tracks

    singer wendy rule with snake tattooMelbourne singer Wendy Rule played her last hometown gig last night before setting off for another northern hemisphere sojourn. She was backed by her usual band of William on percussion, Rachel on cello and husband Tim on guitar and Indian flute, though a guitar hassle meant Tim was sidelined from time to time.

    The 303 Club at Northcote was bunkerish, hot and intimate, with carpet on the sloping floor for the sitters and sofas around the walls that sported eclectic paintings that tagged this an alternative, innocuous venue.

    The sound was superb, controlled by Siiri Metsar who has produced previous albums for Rule and will be producing her next one, due to be cut mid-year. With just three new songs under her belt, Rule admitted she had her work before her, but expected her forthcoming trip to North America — including a week at the desert retreat that has already proven a creative space for her — to help fill the gap.

    Amid standards such as ‘Artemis’ and an impromptu ‘Hecate’ — the guitar refused to downscale for ‘Creator Destroyer’ — and ‘Deity’, Rule unveiled her three new tunes, at least one of them for the first time.

    ‘Home’ carried a longing to putting down roots somewhere uncrowded; ‘After the Storm’ (I hope I remember this rightly) was a tour de force of swell and crash, mirroring the lightning storm and nature-scented morning after that inspired it; and ‘Black Snake’ was a ripping, pagan ode dedicated to the serpent leading not to expulsion but self-discovery and actualisation.

    Other songs on the night, spread across two sets and broken by anecdotes and personable chatter as stage fans were turned on and instruments misbehaved, included the infectious percussion of ‘Wolf Sky’, the gorgeous harmonies of ‘Horses’ and a capella ‘My Heart is like an Open Flower’, as well as several from her most recent album, Guided by Venus.

    This was a wonderful gig to start the year with, and one that offers the promise of a winning album to come if that desert country continues to weave its magic.


    Wendy Rule at the Caravan Music Club

    wendy rule

    Melbourne’s Wendy Rule played ‘south of the river’ on Saturday night when she took to the stage at the cosy Caravan Music Club, at Oakleigh’s RSL Club. With a cemetery for a backyard, it was a suitable venue for the pagan singer-songwriter, given a cabaret air with the red-and-white checked table cloths and candles.

    Saturday’s gig drew a small but appreciative crowd on a wet night on a soaked day — my sister had retreated, saturated and mud splattered, before the main act at a vineyard concert earlier in the day — and it was a shame there weren’t more on hand to hear a wonderful performance.

    With the air scented with white sage and red wine on stage, the gig was engagingly laid back. Rule was effervescent as always but with an extra sparkle in the wake of her recent wedding, and husband Timothy on stage with guitar alongside regular companions William Llewellyn Griffiths on percussion and Rachel Samuel on cello. I love the cello in particular, such a great accompaniment to Rule’s hybrid brand of folk/rock/world/jazz, the notes penetrating all the way to the spine.

    There were several highlights over the two sets, timing in at around an hour and a half and leaning on latest album Guided by Venus: an a capella Celtic ballad in ‘John Riley’, stirring ‘Wolf Sky’ and ‘Artemis’, a fetching rendition of ‘Horses’, two promising fairytale-inspired tunes being worked up for side project Don’t Be Scared, and Rule and guitar providing the encore, ‘La Vie En Rose’ (I think).

    The sound was superb and the lighting rig sufficient to embellish the dark, romantic mood evoked by Rule’s music.

    The night was well worth venturing out into the rain for, well priced and well presented. Blessed be, indeed.

    Wendy Rule, Midsummer fairies and the Christmas club

    wendy rule

    Wendy Rule

    It’s Midsummer tomorrow here in Melbourne and we’re in the swing of the season with drinks tonight and what should be a fab outing to the Botanic Gardens for A Midsummer Night’s Dream tomorrow. We kicked off last night with Wendy Rule’s Fairy Ball at the gorgeous Thornbury Theatre (except for the loos, which smelled like a bat cave by the end of the night, and the absence of napkins to accompany the scrummy finger food).

    Rule is a Melbourne singer-songwriter with an international reputation in pagan circles. She and her guitars were backed with cello, vibraphone, percussion, violin and clarinet last night, playing two sets that included songs from her forthcoming album, Guided by Venus, as well as favourites such as Wolf Sky, Artemis and Hecate.

    The first set, heavy on slow songs, struggled to make an impact over the chatter and the delightful squeals of children dancing and playing with balloons, but the second, ramping up the tempo and volume, got us where we needed to be, and filled the dance floor.

    The most powerful gig I’ve seen Rule play was in a delicious venue in Brisbane, a converted church, where, to judge by the vibe and appreciative quiet in the room, the audience was mostly pagan, there not just for the music but for the message as well. There was a similar atmosphere last year when Rule and cellist Rachel Samuel played a gig in our backyard. That was a different ‘our’, and a different backyard, but the magic of that night endures.

    A highlight of last night’s gig was Zero, a song Rule dedicated to the energy of creativity. Midsummer was a good time, she said, for looking ahead to projects about to begin, and back to those accomplished. A time to take stock, and draw up energy for the year ahead.

    Sitting at the gig, watching the parade of fairy wings and glitter faces, I was reminded of a recent discussion on Radio National about atheism. The discussion itself was illuminating, offering a wide variety of experiences explaining why callers did not believe, or had abandoned their belief, in a deity. (The Life Matters episode was anchored off a new collection of essays about atheism, 50 Voices of Disbelief co-edited by Aussie Russell Blackford.)

    The program’s website has a comment board, where one delightful respondent opined that those who didn’t belong to the Jesus club had no right to celebrate Christmas. So, presumably, all these little fairy kids in front of me, prancing and laughing in their colourful costumes, were denied a present under the tree because of their parents’ non-Christian beliefs. As if Santa Claus has anything to do with the Christian faith. Given the festival has been appropriated from pagan origins anyway, how downright cheeky and short-sighted. And, of course, how bloody typical of the fascism that turned me off organised religion in the first place.

    Humans are social animals who like to feel they belong. I get that. What I don’t get is that we make this feeling through a policy of exclusion. You can belong to God’s love club, but only if you meet certain requirements. Otherwise, you burn, and good riddance to you. Is this “with us or against us” approach really the best social construct we can find?

    Don’t get me wrong. I fully appreciate the commonsense laws, fundamentally Christian, that grease the wheels of modern Western society. The do unto others, the shalt not kills and covets… a lot of these make perfect sense. But to tell me who I should love? To dictate my path to understanding my spirituality and my relationship with the world and the people around me? To tell a whole lot of other people that they’re damned because they belong to a different club, and treat them as such? I don’t think so.

    Christmas is a time to get in touch and share the love. We should be doing it all year round, but we’re busy, aren’t we? But to take time out as a community, to draw a breath, once a year, and remind ourselves of who and what’s important, of our blessings and our achievements and our goals, well, that seems a good idea to me. Regardless of which club you belong to.

    Merry Christmas. Or whatever you call it, and however you celebrate it. Enjoy, and share the love. Blessed be.