LAURA @ MOJO'S, SUNDAY JULY 10
I’m pawing at some mint leaves when the opening guitar notes from Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam” start buzzing out from my jeans pocket. A glance at the phone screen tells me it’s the Cool Perth Nights Boss Dogg.
“-Ello?” I shove a handful of mint into a little plastic bag.
“Do you wanna – ”
Some old lady is tugging the elbow of my jumper and trying to tell me something
“ – review”
“Nice jumper,” (Anonymous Nanna)
“Oh, right, thanks”
“ – Sunday’s show –“
“Oh! Yes. Definitely. I was planning on it.”
“I don’t mind if you wanna say our set was sloppy,” (Boss Dogg’s band had been performing). Sloppy… need to get yoghurt and beetroot for the dip. But first. Flat leaf parsley.
I trundle the trolley towards the dairy isle. The soft, brightly lit chill of the milk-wall reminds me of how my Sunday night had begun. A two-piece act strolling silently onstage and taking their respective positions between drum kit and Les Paul. RACE TO YOUR FACE do what their name says, but although they come at you with arresting swiftness, they don’t do any damage on impact; it’s more a soothing labyrinth of polyrhythm, harmony and slow-building intensity. The icy-clean guitar work of Chris Sorgiovanni is delivered with unbelievable nonchalance, considering it boasts the technical wizardry of Marnie Stern and the compositional prowess of Mogwai (big words, sure, but these are big sounds). I’ve long desired to see Hella live, to experience Zach Hill ripping me a new one; Lee Canestrini’s drum-pummeling belongs to a similar school and these guys exude similar vibes, though they lean towards soft-edged mellifluousness not unlike local collective Apricot Rail. The only downlights are when Race To Your Face seem satisfied to rest on the safeness of pedestrian post-rock pleasantry, which is something that hasn’t been noteworthy for at least ten years and in the meantime has become a cliché. But luckily, these moments are few and far between – for the most part, the razor-sharp dynamic drumming meets the tastefully mindblowing guitar in a way that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally rich, and I haven’t been so impressed by a local set for some time.
Yoghurt. Greek Style. This one looks good. WA made, that’s good, keep it local, carbon footprint and whatever. Oh yeah. The LONG LOST BROTHERS, that’s right. I’d been so emotionally massaged by the erratic yet lovely tones of Racey Facey that I was drifting into a dim hypnagogic realm, so I went for a stroll in the cool night air to wake up and for good measure, inserted a coffee from Mrs Brown’s into my mouth. Upon returning to Mojo’s, the LLB’s are about to fire up. Two guitars, bass and drums isn’t a setup that piques my curiosity nor arouses particular expectation, but I’ve experienced Andrew Ryan’s songwriting via Fall Electric and other things, Matt Rudas’ (Tucker B’s) wild genius, plus the respective excellences of Simon Struthers (Adam Said Galore) and Mitch McDonald (The Love Junkies, Sonpsilo Circus), so there’s an evident pedigree that adds gravity to the situation. Mind you, these brothers don’t carry themselves with the air of self-satisfied veterans or a ‘supergroup’ or any of that twaddle: on the contrary, the energy is more like that of a young garage band, altogether excited by the raw power and ugly beauty of rock music, and the wondrous range of possible sonic algorithms to be had with those four classic instruments and a couple of voices. At the same time, the songs do betray the members’ experience and gradually honed finesse: there is not much in the way of noodling of overt experimentalism, but these tunes are smart and totally transcend any kind of indie rock clichés. “China” – a soon-to-be single – has the undeniable quality of “good song-ness” even on first listen; its catchiness owes nothing to inane repetition, and everything to wise songcraft. “Black Navaho” and “Snakes and Ladders” are further pop gems with integrity: subtle but driving, and rough around the edges. I wouldn’t say – as Boss Dogg Ryan did – that it’s a sloppy set; its vaguely loose moments complement the (slight) blokiness of the overall sound well. I’d seen these bros before, but never listened closely enough to get as much out of their songs as they put in. This is a band that deserves a close, attentive ear, for their deceptively approachable tunes are rich with ideas.
I glide around the corner, past coffee and dog treats. On my quest for burghul (most unappealingly named foodstuff ever), I pass the dark chocolate and my mind is drawn yet again to Sunday night, now to the headliners, who’d finally made the journey across the great Australian Bight to play to their Perth fans over a decade since formation. LAURA are post-rock heroes in their hometown, since the substantial success of 2005 album ‘Mapping Your Dreams’ and subsequent tour with the monolithis ISIS. They’ve since released 3 more albums and an EP, toured with Cult Of Luna and Mono, and visited Japan. Tonight looks set to be a comparatively low-key affair, but in the most charming way possible; a sultry winding down of the week, a loud and brooding ‘up yours’ to the notion that Sunday night should comprise quietude and inactivity. Boasting cello, three guitars, a menagerie of synths, samplers and electro-acoustic drum configurations, the Laura live show is quite the parade of bodies and equipment. For all this, the sound is surprisingly neat and sparse – exploding into sprawling, dense jams only at the moments it most needs to. Unlike lots of “post-rock,” there are numerous lyrical tracts among the instrumental grooves and swells, though these are frequently clouded with reverb and effects. Across the hour-plus set, we hear many of the directions this genre can take: leaning variously towards metal, noise rock (dissonant guitar-feedback squeals make regular appearances), pseudo-orchestral arrangements and trip hop. There is, mind you, a definite unity to Laura’s sound, particularly notable given the band’s relatively long life-span so far. They’re certainly not reinventing the wheel, and often their tunes are more like moody vignettes than distinctive and memorable melodic or rhythmic statements. But those vignettes are captivating: dark, sweet yet earthy – like the beetroot I’m grabbing now. In any case, they put on a quality show, thick with energy and focus; and if their newer tunes tonight are anything to go by, Laura may be headed for even better things in years to come.
I return home with my many ingredients, which are multifarious and pretty exciting, though not more so than the numerous sounds that fed into the three sets on Sunday night. A storm now brews outside my window: but will it be a more refreshing storm than Race to Your Face’s, a more compelling storm than the Long Lost Brothers’, a darker and more dynamic storm than Laura’s? I doubt it. But maybe. It does look like a pretty badass storm.