RTRFM's DISTANT MURMURS FESTIVAL @ ROSEMOUNT HOTEL, SATURDAY JAN 16
A wide-open Saturday, a train and a bus to the North Perth Plaza… Apparently it’s too hot for me to even drink Beer in the Beer Garden – my body wants pure hydration – so I guzzle some water and stand under the Rosemount’s misting nozzles. Thank goodness for the discernibly cooling effects of BAHASA MALAY who’s starting up as I arrive, the multi-skilled Nora Zion today joined by Brendan Jay (Wednesday Society, Mental Powers, Weapon Is Sound) and Matt Aitken (Gilbert Fawn, Gulls). The set is sprawling and weird: full of hard-to-place samples, obscure rhythms and disorienting tones. But it’s tastefully wrought, beautifully performend and underpinned by ace songwriting sensibilities, making it a wonderfully well-rounded listen to start the day.
ORIGINAL PAST LIFE follow-up and although I’ve seen/heard them before, I’ve never caught them sounding like this. Whereas I’ve previous experiences OPL in noise/free-improv mode, today they let a string of patient, mellow, post-rocky instrumentals flutter in the humid breeze. It’s a soothing counterpoint to the sets I’ve seen prior, and a perfect ambience for the mid-afternoon swelter. Inside the Rosemount’s main room, POOL BOY offer a free ride on a gently chugging ghost-train, pushing through synthetic synth-cobwebs, rickety canned beats and dark, captivating vocals. This band makes great sounds that deserve to go “straight to the pool room.”
ATRIPAT takes over in the beer garden, nonchalantly broadcasting a web of intricate and arresting electronic compositions. While at times they feel digital to the point of being clinical (and maybe that’s part of the aim), these are thoughtful and often moving explorations – I’m excited for Atripat’s 2016.
Soon, inside the Rosemount-adjoining 459 bar, I find REGULAR BOYS doing their regular thing. Which is playing really nice garage rock/guitar pop with a heart of gold. Emphatically casual guitar bands are a dime a dozen at the mo’ but these boys have something special, which includes (1) being really great instrumentalists and (2) writing bloody lovely songs full of melodic interest and (3) visibly having fun the whole way through; truly a pleasure to behold.
Back outside the sky is getting dim and the ever-haunting ERASERS are floating towards you with dense organ drones, echoing vocals and stark, rattling drum machine. While Erasers’ sound is rooted in its minimal palette and meditatively consistent approach, tonight shows an interesting progression: a peculiar opening track that pits mechanically interlocking synth riffs over a beatless, abstract drum loop. These subtle interventions are the kinds of manoeuvres that keep Erasers’ stylistic growth ticking over, and sound all the more intriguing amid their steady, hazy sonic landscape.
The sly genius of local percussionist PHIL STROUD (ex-The Chemist) has recently revealed itself on Perth label Good Company’s second 12” release (GCR002 – Phil Stroud, The Forest / Yemaja). But tonight things get wild in three-dimensions, and Phils’ recruited a full live band (including keys, seed pods, extra drums, bass and wooden flute) to flesh out his expert rhythms. The result is a fiendishly tight, jazzy, patient and spacious trip into the outer spiral-arms of some exceptionally soulful galaxy.
I have to miss some of the set though, because it’d be a crime not to catch a bit of MINING TAX, who are just increasingly killing it every time I see them. The lo-fi, cheekily political synthpop duo are whipping up a hi-vis storm in the 459 room, blazing through bangers like the superb ‘Footy,’ and when I walk in vocalist Alex Griffin is already crowdsurfing his way towards the sound desk. Later in the night I will see his brother also surf the crowd. It is a good night when you see two separate Griffins surfing a crowd.
In the main room, I’m treated to a pleasant surprise from a band I’ve never heard before: SALARY (Fka Celery), who I’d been told were super messy and joke-y. Maybe they were in their celery (salad?) days, but now they’re a super resolved-sounding, spirited indie pop band. With sax, piano accordion, multiple majestic vocals and rollicking chord progressions they recall the likes of The Polyphonic Spree or Broken Social Scene, with a distinctly Western Australian twist.
DIGER ROKWELL takes over the beer-garden now with his hippy-hopperly synth-shuffle funk-trundle, daydreaming euphoniously on guitar as he is apt to do, with very special guest appearances from Ben Witt (shredding!), Felicity Groom (belting and throwing shapes!) Shy Panther’s Dan Fragomeni (crooning with intensity!) throughout. It feels like a cool weird variety show, which is a nice way to ring in the night’s final hours.
ALZABO blow our heads off with their thunderous sludge-cum-thrash wall of sound; SHY PANTHER return to the live circuit with their smouldering jazz-tinged rock, KITCHEN PEOPLE produce a mile-a-moment blizzard of punk abandon and Alex Griffin says it best as he dances in front of me: “They always seem to have an extra gear.” Indeed.
DISTANT MURMURS is an accurate name for a line-up like this if you live anywhere but Perth: most of these acts, after all, play relatively rarely outside of their hometown, and “anywhere else” is a long way off. To our ears though, these are immanent rumblings, town-criers on our doorstep. And while my gushing about these bands might at times seem hyperbolic, it still only goes part way to expressing my enthusiasm. Shows like this really make you click yr red heels together and murmur “there’s no place like home.” What a time to be alive.
Photo by Billy Bowen