Album Review: POND – Man, It Feels Like Space Again

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Fuark, would you look at that album artwork? Ben Montero, you’ve hit it out of the park…looking at the new POND album, without even having heard a song, you can tell that you will enjoy this album. One would have to be a cynical dick on par with a reincarnated Albert Camus who’s decided to become an editor at Pitchfork. And even then it would still be hard to resist the pull of an album cover so brilliantly exuberant. Rockstars and rocket ships combine in a crowded watercolour that would have Monet slashing at his shitty waterlilies. Damn, Montero, you sure know how to do a fucking album cover.

But what lies beneath the album cover. Sure, there’s been plenty of great album covers, and shitty albums. But never fear, because POND know that if they’re gonna have the gonads to hire Ben Montero to do the best album artwork ever, they better come prepared. You mess with the bull, you get the horns, or something to that effect.

Put bluntly, ‘Man, It Feels Like Space Again’ is a triumph. It oozes and pulsates with the sort of fucked up nonchalance that only an act like POND can pull off. There’s so much genuine oddity that unfolds over the course of the album that you’d never doubt for a second that Nick Allbrook, Joe Ryan and and Jay Watson are total freaks, but it’s so goddamn loveable that it feels like you’ve made the best new friends you possibly could. It’s like striking up a conversation with a hobo that offers you acid, and finding out that it’s just a dishevelled Jim McGuinn.

The freak flag flies high on the album, as guitars noodle, basses throb, synths signal the end of the world as we know it, and drums plod along with their eyes closed and grins plastered right across their heads. But then again, they always have, ever since the days of “Psychedelic Mango”. This time around, there is a lot more confidence, coherence and belief between the three that they are doing a really great album. They offer diversity, manoeuvring between surefire soon-to-be POND classics like “Zond” and “Outside Is The Right Side”, to something more experimental, like the acoustic Dylan-esque crooner “Medicine Hat”, and the warmly sci-fi “Waiting Around For Grace”.

The ability to flip between crowd-pleasers and introspection, and never lose the ability to write a really great song – that’s what makes POND the album that we adore. There’s hardly a falter or misstep, and yet each track feels uniquely its own. Put on “Zond”, and those squelchy blasts of flamboyantly-fucked guitar will force your limbs into all sorts of wacky angles. “Outside Is The Right Side” will have you strutting down the street like Stevie Wonder, throwing the moves like Patrick Bateman. And then, you can dissolve into bliss as the theatrics fall behind, and something like the title track takes you on a spiritual journey, the sort they only promise in cults.

POND have outdone themselves. They’ve presented us with something that looks, tastes and smells as organic as someone’s body odour after a week living on mushrooms in the Amazon. But enough exposure to some of the shit that psych can throw at you shows that this is a carefully plotted album. The production is spot on, not as squeeky as a Chilli Peppers album circa-2001, but not dirty enough to play a show in a basement of the local punk club. “Man, It Feels Like Space Again” rips into the stratosphere, on the search for new territories, and thankfully manages to bring along every listener for the ride.

Interview: NO ZU

NO ZU is an electronic project like no other electronic project. Formed by Nicoolas Oogjes in 2007, and spurred by the “Heat-Beat”, NO ZU is completely indefinable, a broad mixture of horns, beats and exotic vibrancy.

NO ZU are teaming up with Sal of the legendary 80’s group Liquid Liquid, and playing a very special show at Goodgod Small Club, this Friday, January 30th. I caught up with Nick and Sal ahead of the show to chat about influences, staying independent, and the “Heat-Beat”.

R: You have an electronic version of the project – why do you have multiple versions of the same music? 

N: Well, the boring answer is logistics. One of us might go on a holiday, and we can only do it with a couple people. The other answer is that I don’t see it as any completely set membership – it’s always comfortably evolving and mutating. Keeping it that way, changing all the time, and moving back to a big band, which we’re about to do in Sydney, that keeps it a great and exciting project.

R: There can be a lot of members in NO ZU. What’s the largest amount of members that you’ve had?

N: Well, this one with Sal involves nine members, and we’ve gone up to 11 before. So, we try to set a record each time.

R: In terms of bringing more members on, or less, which one do you prefer?

N: I don’t know, they’re like my children. (laughs) You’re ruining the band, you’re making me choose between them!

Not to sound really hippie sounding, but I do see NO ZU as a lifestyle, and that’s why I have that joke “Heat-Beat is lifestyle” –it’s tongue in cheek, but it’s really how everybody feels. There’s no set membership, or which version is better – it was the same when I started the project by myself in 2007. It’s exactly the same band, even when there’s 11 people.

R: You use “Heat-Beat” a lot – what does that mean?

S: [NO ZU] gets the heat going. There’s a lot of creative friction, which makes a fire, which creates heat.

R: One of the most impressive elements is the eclecticism of NO ZU’s sounds – where do you find the sources for these sounds?

N: I try not to intellectualize it at all. I never listen to a song and think, oh, we need to get that drop beat in there, or, let’s get a bass line like that. It’s more about mood, and how music and different art forms have resonated with me and the other guys.

S: Influences are best digested when they’re fully presented. In that, we can’t really tell where they’re coming from. When you can’t really tell where they’re coming from, that’s because you’ve totally digested it, as opposed to just appropriating it. You’re totally inserted in the music.

R: Melbourne is very much considered a home for producers, but NO ZU doesn’t really fit in this scene, and it’s hard to pigeonhole you as anything. Is that how you prefer it?

N: Of course. It’s never about joining a club, or look over and think that you’re part of some movement. I don’t see any excitement in being involved in that.

We were excited to be part of Cut Copy’s [Ocean’s Apart] Melbourne Music compilation. But the thing that’s brought us together on that is that everyone’s an outsider. We share a similar ethos – open-mindedness from different periods of time, groovy music from weird places, obscure music and popular music mixed together in an unpretentious way.

R: How would you describe you’re collaborators for the Sydney show, Liquid Liquid?

N: One thing that strikes me is the really good balance we have in the set now. NO ZU is well known for being maybe overly-bombastic, and crazy.

S: Let’s say excitable!

N: Yeah! We’ve learnt to pull back, and it’s definitely a more considered groove, and it’s a nice dynamic to have in this set we’re working on. For want of a better word, it offers an eclectic experience.

S: It shows a certain continuity…in different feelings, in different forms of groove music. Music that more addressed that body than the mind.

 

Catch NO ZU and Sal P playing this Friday 30th of Jan at GoodGod Small Club. Tix here.

Gig Review: Blank Realm

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Saturday, 24th January @ The Famous Spiegeltent

Fuck, there is nothing better than bedtime. 9pm swings around, and it’s time to hit the fucking sack. None of this grinding on a stranger until the sun rises its disapproving face. But Blank Realm, well, they’ve got that pull. There’s something about a band releasing the best album of 2014that makes this old miser want to shun his principles, and watch the shit out of a band that’s better than a Kevin Spacey marathon.

Midnight steamrolls the 24th into the 25th, but all yawns are suppressed as Blank Realm hit the stage of the intimate circus tent that is the Famous Spiegeltent. There doesn’t seem to be all that many people in attendance, maybe 100, but the atmosphere is one of complete adoration. Mottled lights sway across the stage as more stage fog sweeps forth than a production from the Royal Shakespeare Company. But the opening splashes of “Bulldozer Love” are enough to choke back the smoke, and light a grin up on every face.

There’s a very good reason why Blank Realm are considered the best live band in Australia, and, simply put, it’s because they are. Only a mere hour after watching TV Colours ruin my eardrums and bring me a gag reflex away from throwing up upon an unsuspecting crowd, Blank Realm still had the ability to astonish. A perfect storm of energetic, authentic and original made looking away from the stage a crime against humanity.

Relatively speaking, Blank Realm didn’t play too many songs over their hour-plus set, only about nine or so. But they made each note count, hammering every item with purpose and poise, and added special parts that those in attendance will most likely remember as being the frenzied finales that butts wouldn’t stop shaking to.

Musically, the band is spot on, despite some technical difficulties with Sarah Spencer’s keytar, which she thoroughly made up for by jumping around more than a 12 year old trying their first pinga. Watching Blank Realm on stage, it becomes obvious how different, yet essential to the final product, the band members truly are. The aforementioned Sarah Spencer is youthful energy incarnate, irrepressible in her mission of bouncing higher than any pogostick. Daniel Spencer (somehow) manages to turn his drums into a white-hot flurry, whilst also singing that beautiful yearning voice of his, which I’ve determined as something like Elvis on Quaaludes. Bassist Luke Spencer tries to mirror the effect of a mirage, twirling and twisting indefinitely whilst laying down some of the thickest and grooviest bass lines since Barry White was a sex god. And Luke Walsh became everybody’s new favourite guitarist, diversifying from crunchy Metallica riffs on an unnamed new song, to fluorescently depressed strums on “Baby I Can’t Reach You On The Phone”.

The neon aspects of Blank Realm’s music march to the forefront during their live performance. Sure, the onslaught of mottled lights that shrouded the band in a mixture of hazy purples, greens, reds and blues (much like their excellent “Baby…” video) helped, but the brighter-than-bright pop was somehow accentuated. It’s hard to think of a specific reason, but whilst Sydney slept, Blank Realm shone.

Another fantastic aspect of the show is Blank Realm’s ability to manoeuvre your emotions like you’re a Candy Crush jelly. The audience is stretched into glorious dancing territory during “Back To The Flood”, and a bonafide congo-line is formed multiple times. And then, somehow, they can transition into eyes-closed hurt, like the singed “Cleaning Up My Mess” or swagger-centric “Go Easy”. But the one mainstay of their performance is the ability to always keep an audience elated and transfixed – no matter the subject material, lucky attendees are ecstatic.

As the howls died down, and Blank Realm humbly moved on from the stage, it’s plain to see that, even though sleep deprivation is slowly killing me inside, these Brissy heroes had clearly moved everyone present. A fantastic set from a legendary band. Long live Blank Realm!

Top 5 Records: TV Colours

This world is ruled by facts. Gravity exists, Tony Abbott is a fuckwit, and TV Colours is the closest thing to perfection that we’ll get. In terms of classic albums, their “Purple Skies, Toxic River” record doesn’t just stand amongst the best of them – it flat out shames other records that we considered the best. It’s a riveting combination of a well-executed concept, high velocity guitar pulverisation, and the catchiest and most original songs of the decade, tied down with an authenticity that would make Billy Corgan cream. TV Colours is a band that means a great, great deal to me, and it feels impossible to truly communicate their significance. But I’ll try – here, listen to this.

If ever there was a record that could encapsulate the times that Australian society is living through currently, “Purple Skies…” is it. The way that Robin and co. so easily mouth everything that you’ve wanted to scream into your bedroom mirror is flawless. People will be talking about this album, and this band, for decades to come. The Drones’ ‘Havilah’, The Birthday Party’s ‘Junkyard’, and TV Colours’ ‘Purple Skies, Toxic River': perfect music to suit the perfect time. If you haven’t gotten yourself a copy yet, make like Donny Bradman, and get bowled over quick smart here.

TV Colours are making their way down Sydney way to headline Bad Day Out II with one of their legendary live shows. Also on the bill are Donny Benet, Bearhug, Unity Floors, Dreamtime, and a shit tonne of others. It all goes down at Petersham Bowling Club on Saturday 24th of Jan. Tix here.

To prepare the masses for the onslaught of terrific coming their way, and to get in the #Straya mood, I asked Robin from TV Colours to tell me about his Top 5 Australian albums. Thanks, and I’ll see you in the pit.

Top 5 Records – Robin From TV Colours’ Favourite Australian Albums

AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

I really loved ACDC when I was younger, I still do I guess, I think, to not, would be un-Australian right? And its Australia Day. 
That late 90’s was such a gross time for pop culture and ROCK! music and it had such an effect on me that I didn’t really listen to guitar orientated music at all. I snuck into this ACDC show in Canberra in the Summer of 2001, it was pretty Detroit Rock City, and anyway, I sort of look back at it as this completely defining moment where I completely 
changed into a BONE-afied rock DOG, suddenly Dr Dre 2001 was gone and I had Jailbreak instead, it was actually one of the first times I really listening to music in a retrospective nature, and 
y’know, that’s a massive gateway to allot  of music, I guess it seems kind of obvious these days especially with every song ever recorded being pretty easily accessed for free, but back then I basically just listened to just what-was-out -at -the- time sort of thing.

The Scientists – Pissed On Another Planet

I am basically highjacking this whole thing to tell stories about myself, buuut, yknow, I feel like half the reasons I end up loving albums is because of the nostalgia. Anyway when I was 19 I basically drove around in my first car listening to this non-stop, it was awesome.

I know everyone blabbers on about ‘Blood Red River’, which is great, WHATEVER, but I really do love their power pop stuff.  I miss my first car, 1986 Honda Civic, silver,  roaring down the highway, nothing to lose, I was free. My second car just got stolen, had it for 8 years, couldn’t give a fuck, see ya later.

The Eastern Dark – Where Are All The Single Girls?

Geez, I’m really clutching at straws here, is this even an album? Was the Scientists even an album? I hate Australian music, ha ha, JUST JOKING I LOVE IT. Buuuut anyway when I was about 17 I was reading my copy of Rolling Stone (such a cool dude) and it put me onto buy this compilation called Do The Pop.

Anyway so it was this compilation of all these Australian garage and punk bands through the late 70’s and the 80’s, and it just introduced me to all those sort of really important Australian bands from back then, The Saints, Radio Birdman, The Scientists, Hard Ons ayyynd of course The Eastern Dark. And of everything on that album I think I loved Johnny and Dee Dee the most, I just remember it as being one of those early instances in which I realised that punk and pop could mix pretty well, before that my only impression of that was that band Blink 182 ,  fuuuuuuck them, well, sort of, I have a very small appreciation for them, very very small, but only because of nostalgic reasons, sometimes I feel like a dog chasing my own tail.

Assassins 88 – Go Go Second Chance Virgin

Myyyyyyyeah look, I was in this band, but the only reason I was in this band is because I loved them so much, I never actually made it onto any of their recordings or anything, I was just a hired GUN guitar player for them live, well I wasn’t even hired I just sort of demanded I be in the band.

It was one of the first times I looked at Canberra and saw a current band I really liked, I guess one of the first times I realised that you didn’t have to live in a big city to make great music, I know that sounds stupid, and it was a stupid attitude, but I definitely felt that way for a while.

Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Primary Colours

I saw Eddy Current at this place called the Roxy in Melbourne on June 7th 2007, at 8:30. And, yeah, it was such a revelation, the songs were so simple.

It felt like every other gig I went to back then was just that sort of spiky post punk angular guitars (woo!) stuff y’know, , NOT THAT THERE WAS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT. I dunno, in a time when everything seemed so complicated seeing something so simple and so effective was really inspiring.

New: FOAM – Places To Go

It’s been a while between some straight up rawk, but FOAM are too good not to share with the 3 people that might happen across this web page when looking for Kurt Cobain erotica.

Good news for you perverts! The vocalist in this band sounds heaps like the grunge legend’s long lost son. Shit, he could even have been the naked kid from Nevermind!

But FOAM are more than just some grunge rip-off, they just happen to incorporate that loud-quiet-loud better than most. They hold their own with ease, with “Places To Go” providing a thrashy, no bullshit takeover of your mind. It’s packed with melody and a chorus better than any “Monkey Wrench”.  Once the song looms into the pummeling finale, there’s a 50% chance you’ll be passed out in ecstasy.

FOAM play as part of the SOLD-OUT MATES mini-fest happening this Sunday at the Lansdowne.

Video: Mangelwurzel – My House

Psychedelic, punk and jazz all blow chunks on each other in this new song and clip from Melbourne aliens Mangelwurzel. This track is easily the best thing they’ve done, a manic melting pot of horns, throttled guitar and vocals that shift as frequently as the winds of the Sahara.

“My House” is a true example of chaos being embraced for the better good – the result feels like Unknown Mortal Orchestra being waterboarded in Guantanamo.

The mania doesn’t stop at the music though; Mangelwurzel’s video is batshit crazy, as the Melbourne suburbs get the acid trip makeover. Fair warning – don’t engage with this clip unless you want everything else to suck shit by comparison.

Mangelwurzel make a rare Sydney appearance as part of Bad Day Out, along with TV Colours, Bearhug, Donny Benet and heaps more.

Video: Chook Race – Time

Living in the big smoke is one hell of a pain in the arse. People will spit on you for wearing a Total Control t-shirt instead of a 9-5 attire, and the coffee sucks.

That’s why Chook Race’s new pop song about not having time for someone seems a perfect fit for this haphazard lifestyle. Not only are the lyrics 10/10, but the music here is the sort of crimson sighing perfection that makes you want to move to town with a silly name like Dunedoo, or Melbourne. Having a band that’s so rock n roll they can switch instruments at the drop of a hat and still keep in time with the music is pretty cool too.

Chook Race are playing in Sydney on February 20th at the Seymour Centre, and February 21st at Black Wire Records with Nathan Roche, Weak Boys and Jack Lee.

New: Hoarse – Hoarse EP

Look, people get constipated. It’s an uncomfortable fact, but it happens to everyone, and it’s something we just need to grow up and accept, and focus our attention away from disgust, and towards doing battle with this evil ailment.

Enter Hoarse – they will make you shit yourself. Their music is a scorching laxative that’ll burn its way straight through your body with a fiery purpose. This is the closest thing to Pissed Jeans, The Jesus Lizard and Shellac that Australia has had in some time (probably not since Zeahorse and Milkmaids released their records a little while back).

This Hoarse EP is built by sharp brutality in much the same way Mordor was. Only this time, there’s no Hobbits that can save the realm, and humanity are fortunately thrust with these two minute revelations. “Deaf Drums”, “Crawling Like An Idiot”, and “Mule” are goddamn perfect.

Listening to this record makes me want to throw up out of my nose it’s so good. It’s as unrelenting and unforgiving as a doomed relationship, and considering my luck with the opposite sex, I’m more than happy to be bashed upon by something as great as Hoarse.

Video: King Tuff – Headbanger

Fuck, how great is King Tuff? He’s the man with a riff as big as Godzilla’s dick, and can bludgeon bloodlust into even the most stock-standard hippie dipshit. “Headbanger” is basically an ode to going hard in a rock club and making out with the perfect partner, and anyone who doesn’t like it is a terrorist of good taste. Get this live performance feat. Thin Lizzy font into ya.

New: Pale Heads – Transition Out

The best punk comes from the most unexpected places. That’s also a load of absolute fucking bullshit, because Pale Heads were guaranteed to make good music. Formed from members of Pairs, The Nation Blue, Harmony, The Drones and Batpiss, Pale Heads resume reads like a laundry list of things of bands that Tony Abbott’s daughter would listen to if she wanted to piss her dad off.

They live up to the sum of their parts as well, with their first track providing the sort of face-peeling, skull-churning, mind-blitzing fuckup that punk rock needs. It’s real punk rock, thrashing and amateur to the core, and blissfully charged with the single purpose of replacing your (now former) favourite band. If Total Control wanted to go to Pissed Jeans-levels of bombastics, this is what they’d sound like.