1. I finish my red apple ale and walk around the streets for a bit. Loping past cathedrals and the magic apple sandwich bar. The v-shaped facade of Campbell House with its ’88-deco mint green-grid and sleepy palm fronds. Back in the hefty prism, the Perth Concert Hall, I take a red velvet seat; the suited virtuosi of WASO tune up prettily, the crowded room falls silent. The lead violinist and the conductor emerge briskly and applause erupts. But no time wasted. Here’s Juaquin Turina’s ‘Danzas Fantasticas.’ The mood is enigmatic, the delivery predictably effortless, even when the high strings are flashing out startling semiquavers that dissolve in steep decrescendos. Not much here I would Danza to, but plenty to conjure Fantastica imaginings: pastel-toned wanderings through the magical outskirts of little Spanish towns, like Quentar, where in the mountains I once followed a coquettish cat to a wild almond tree.
2. Later that night. The tattoo parlour on the Roe/William corner with venetian blinds like an accountant’s office, and the new stained glass windows of The Bird’s forthcoming sister restaurant (I think it’s going to be called “Young Love”). A friend at the ATM in a baseball cap: she’s got no ID and no money, but that’s not going to stop her seeing Terrible Truths. Enticing LPs on the merch desk that I can’t afford but make a mental note to scope out later. KITCHEN PEOPLE loading out, and my smile sinking briefly when I realize I’ve definitely missed them.
1. Some Ravel – but no, not the Ravel – to whet yr whistle. Plinking of the semi-aquatic variety and pirouetting woodwind melodies to open ‘Alborada del gracioso.’ That’s ‘Morning Song of the Jester’ according to most translators. Within the first few minutes there’s mellow orchestral interplay, bombastic rhythmic dissonance and then a sort of proto lounge-noir slink-along. Some really nice harp work and dynamic curviness. Some dank impressionist jazziness. Some requisite “exotic” pastiche, but nothing too hammy or crude. A moment’s glory for timpani and trombones; a big bright final chord that’s incongruously emphatic, almost comically so, and maybe that’s the Jester’s closing gag.
2. JIMMY CHANG, backed by some of the boys (Brod and George) from Spaceman, and Ben McD from Dream Rimmy, Ex-Sonpsilo Circus et al. Jimmy used to live in Perth and play more breezy math/post-rock type music with his project called Zealous Chang. The Jimmy Chang sound is more lyric-driven and swerves around from straight-up post-Tame Impala psych rock to spirited slacker jangle and even a bit of majestic, goofy guitar-disco. Impossible not to have a good time, impossible not to love Mr. Chang even if he was brandishing Dockers socks.
1. Up in the rear stalls, in front of the pipe organ, the choir emerges, all in black. Now we have Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Choros No. 10: Rasga O Coraçao,” which seems to rest on an enduring dissonance that makes the whole thing tense, dark, adrenalized. Some fearsome piano rumble and intense choral layerings. Nice one, Señor Villa Lobos! Nice one WASO. Then the comparably relaxed “Nights in the Gardens of Spain” by Manuel De Falla. Falla is supposed to be one of Spain’s most important 20th century composers, and this composition makes a strong case for it. The three-part piece is brooding, sparkling, evocative, shadowy, like a slow boat ride in the moonlight, a quiet cruise punctuated by heavy spray on the hull.
2. Chats with buddies, a rendition of the Carlton club song, red wine. TERRIBLE TRUTHS appear and remind me that they are a wonderful, singular band. Comprising Stacey Wilson (Rites Wild, Regional Curse etc), Rani Rose and Joe Alexander, the band were born in Adelaide before moving to Melbourne; they’ve grown to become much-loved post-punk torchbearers. Now at last their debut (self-titled) full length record is out and they are sounding like a band who’ve nailed their aesthetic and are loving making music. What is that aesthetic? It’s perhaps mirrored in the attire of the respective band members: two parts dark and minimal (Wilson and Rose), one part Hawaiian shirt (Alexander). These are gently fuzzy, mostly skeletal rock songs doused in dual vocals and brimming with percussive flair (plenty of woodblock, cowbell and restless groove). They sound great on stage, and broadcast a barely-restrained exuberance amid the deadpan cool. The album sounds great too, the yin-yang on the cover mirroring its symbiotic balance of roughness and polish. Nice one, Terrible Truths!
1. The moment the room’s been waiting for, or at very least the lady in the blue satin dress next to me (she’s told me several times): Ravel’s ‘Bolero.’ And not without good reason: it’s a great piece, a proto-minimalist joy to behold, its distinctive melody traded from instrument to instrument as the supporting arrangement covertly swells to a fiendish climax. When the piece finishes, the crowd erupts in a similarly fortissimo frenzy, complete with standing ovation. The cynic in me questions why the response for this piece is so much more enthusiastic, and concludes that people ultimately just love hearing what they already know, having their preferences affirmed, enjoying comfortable familiarity. But then, it is a truly great rendition. The snare player, who has the hardest job in the world at this particular moment, is flawless, with a remarkably subtle quietude in the early sections. Each soloist is a pleasure to hear. The orchestra guides itself along, conductor Asher Fisch opting to remove himself from stage. It’s really very impressive and totally charming.
3. Maybe the plush concert hall is a better place to sit and contemplate the artistry of music than a rambunctious bar but then, the big dark room kindles a sleepiness in me that The Bird doesn’t. Maybe DIY pop music promotes innovation and expression in a way that wheeling out the classics doesn’t but then again, maybe a lot of us sway to post-punk to massage existing preferences and remind ourselves (and our friends) that we are this or that, that we have a right to wear denim and smoke cigarettes. Maybe Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ and Terrible Truth’s ‘Don Juan’ both hold a crystal up to beams of life’s light that we might not quite apprehend otherwise. I suspect so.