Live Review: Monolith Festival, Melbourne

Monolith Melbourne Destroy All Lines
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Monolith Festival

feat. Karnivool, Cog, Ocean Grove, Plini, sleepmakeswaves, Reliqa, Yomi Ship

PICA, Melbourne

Saturday 26 August 2022

Australia hits well above its weight when it comes to excellent prog-rock and post-rock bands. Belgium does well, possibly because dunk!records is based there. Japan has an incredible scene, especially with the math-rock offshoot. America is obviously well represented, but that’s a given because America is huge and is there anything that they don’t dominate at? But honestly, give me the choice, and I’d most want to see Australian post/prog bands.

Monolith Festival was my chance. When I first saw the announcement I was almost too scared to hope. The lineup seemed too good to be true. Karnivool AND Cog? I’d consider coming over for either one of those acts, let alone both of them together. But this is the time of covid. A time of ruined dreams and cancellations and postponements and lockdowns and all those nasty things a pandemic can cause. It was too risky.

And sure enough, the gigs were postponed. But this worked for me. It meant that it took us to a time beyond extreme border restrictions and mandatory isolation. Travel was viable again. I could afford a glimmer of hope.

I’ve come to Melbourne for gigs a few times in the past: Into It. Over It. and Download Festival. Both were amazing, truly treasured memories. It was time for a hat-trick. Monolith Festival, here we come!

Yomi Ship

I arrived at PICA with my friend Francie half way through Yomi Ship’s set. Navigating Melbourne’s public transport had proven more difficult than anticipated, with some train services being closed for maintenance. PICA – Port Melbourne Industrial Centre for the Arts – was a cool spot. As the name suggests, it was in the port area. It used to be a warehouse of some sort, that had been repurposed as a venue. A bunch of old shipping containers had been converted into bars, and there were a few bars spaces that didn’t look quite so industrial. It was covered in corrugated iron and the walls didn’t come down far, giving it a half open-air feel – like an industrial gazebo of sorts. There was a designated area with picnic tables and an assortment of food trucks, and the obligatory merch tent and portaloos. It was a great set up.

Perth’s Yomi Ship – named after a Yu Gi Oh card – were a trio playing very technical-sounding post-rock. It was fairly laid-back, despite some time-signature changes that bordered on jarring. Melbourne had put on an unexpected beaut of a day, and this dreamy music was wonderful as we enjoyed the sun.

Reliqa

Reliqa is one of the acts I hadn’t heard of before seeing the Monolith line up. I figured I better check out all the acts about a month ago, and was blown away with how much I loved their music. They’ve been on very heavy rotate ever since.

I came in with high expectations, and Reliqa more than delivered. They draw from a range of styles, with elements borrowed from prog-rock, metalcore, djent and and similar alternative styles. They’re a young band, but showed great mastery as musicians and songwriters. Frontwoman Monique Pym stood out especially with her powerful pipes.

Mikey from local metalcore band Gloom in the Corner came on for a guest spot on their latest single “Safety”, with some pretty heavy hardcore vocals. After that the band previewed unreleased material from their forthcoming EP: I Don’t Know What I Am. I tell you what: it’s great music. Uplifting passages, thunderous breakdowns, infectious riffing – I was absolutely lapping it up.

I was very impressed with their set. Note Reliqa down as a band to watch out for.

Reliqa Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade Reliqa Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

sleepmakeswaves

Back in 2017 I tagged along with Montana post-rockers Ranges on a two week tour across America. I saw a lot of post-rock bands during those two weeks, especially because the tour involved a few days in Vermont at the inaugural dunk!USA festival. I remember discussing with Ranges guitarist Joey Caldwell what it took for post-rock bands to stand out in a live context. They need either memorable melodies or great energy. Anything less, and they’re just not up to par.

sleepmakeswaves have both. Delicious riffs, interesting effects, great dynamics. And energy! Such energy! I’d seen them open for This Will Destroy You when they came to Wellington in 2015, hot off a three-month long tour. They, well, destroyed TWDY. Their energy was incredible. I’ve long awaited the chance to see them play again.

Sound check for their set had me giggling. Certain frequencies had the corrugated iron on the roof of the venue rattling sympathetically, like the wire snares on a snare drum.

Right from the opening notes of “Tundra”, I was transported into my happy place. Pure euphoria. It reminded me just why Made Of Breath Only is one of my favourite post-rock albums. As I already mentioned, they are an incredibly energetic band. And that energy was contagious. The three string players were bounding all over the stage, leaping up and off the foldbacks. I could tell there were some issues with the bass guitar because a roadie kept coming up to adjust the pedal board and swap out the lead, but I couldn’t hear anything wrong.

They dismissed their music as mere “interlude songs”, but honestly, their set was the highlight of my day. It has been a tough few years. I wouldn’t usually consider myself a happy person and life is often a struggle. But sleepmakeswaves made me experience such elation that I struggle to remember when I was in such joyful spirits.

sleepmakeswaves Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade sleepmakeswaves Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

Plini

The sun had set by this stage, so the lights finally looked effective onstage. It was quite comical how much stage smoke was deployed, with the band often engulfed in clouds.

Like sleepmakeswaves, Plini plays guitar driven instrumental music. But I’d call Plini technical guitar metal, rather than energetic post-rock. I’d seen Plini play in Wellington once at a sold-out gig, in many ways reminiscent of the Intervals gig that had taken place maybe 6 months before. It was a great night.

I don’t have too much to say about his music. It’s a lot of widdly widdly wizardry. Once you’ve heard one of his songs you’ll have a fair idea what the rest will sound like. Very tappy and technical, bridging the gap between melodic and heavy.

One of the reasons that I love the prog/post styles of music is that the artists are often pushing their abilities as musicians. Plini doesn’t put on much of a show – he’s quite unassuming and self-deprecating – but he is a phenomenal guitarist. And his band members also have to be incredible as well. This was an act that you just stand and watch, mouth agape, in awe of their talent.

Plini Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade Plini Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

Ocean Grove.

Now you have to understand that I am from New Zealand. The internet does wonders for connecting us all, but some big Australian bands just don’t have a presence over the ditch. I’d never heard of Ocean Grove. But based on their streaming stats, and the of bands they’ve opened for, I’d wager they’re pretty big here in Australia.

I gave them a few listens online leading up to Monolith. And to be honest, I never lasted long before switching to something else. I didn’t really get the appeal. But they made sense live. Their music was definitely more commercial sounding and catchy, something I could easily imagine gaining radio play. And they had great presence. They’re local to Melbourne, so I imagine that many people in attendance had seen them plenty of times.

Their sound reminded me of Limp Bizkit and Sum 41, switching from rapping to hook laden choruses. Their visuals weren’t exactly cohesive, but you can tell they’d put some thought into their image. The singer wore a boiler suit, and the lead guitarist had a skeleton hoodie and sequined jeans.

They encouraged everyone to get up on shoulders and crowd surf, with singer Dale Tanner jumping out into the crowd rows of the audience himself.

Ocean Grove Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade Ocean Grove Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

Cog.

Cog are incredible. How can a mere trio be such a powerhouse act? One of my mates put my onto them a when I started university and I was instantly hooked. Cog were old news by that stage, and inactive. There was the wonderful side project from The Occupants that they released around that time, but I thought Cog was over. Thankfully after a few years, Cog reunited, released a few singles, and I was able to see them play on a trip to Sydney. It was everything I wanted and more. I even caught one of Lucius’ drum sticks that night, but regretfully left it in the hotel room when I returned to NZ a few days later.

They were obviously a huge drawcard for tonight. Looking around, you could see most people singing along to most songs. Guitarist Flynn Gower mentioned that they’d been coming down to Melbourne for close on 25 years, and felt that Melbourne was a musical home for the band.

As is the case with every band on the bill, the musicians in Cog were amazing players. All three of them sang. I was especially in awe of drummer Lucias Borich. He had a huge DW kit, flanked by sample pads with a huge Zildjian gong at the rear. And splash cymbals for Africa. He seemed like an octopus at times, utilizing so many different percussive elements in his playing.

Some of the mix wasn’t quite right. Flynn had two microphones with slightly different effects (I’d seen Faith No More’s Mike Patton do this in the past too) and the secondary one wasn’t working for the start of the set. And the samples from the drum trigger pads were a lot louder than the band at times, but all in all, none of this really detracted from the gig.

Everyone knew the songs so well, so it was neat to see how the band gave these songs live treatment. The song “Open Up” (A Leftfield/Public Imaged Ltd cover) stood out somewhat, having a more dancy/electronic feel. I loved the handful of songs which had extended jams, with “No Other Way” having an especially big build up. 

Bassist Luke Gower was having the time of his life. You could see him dancing and grooving onstage, even between songs. You could even see how much fun he was having as he sang some of the non-lyrical vocal parts, playing with what his voice could do. I chatted to him briefly after his set and he said to me “oh yeah, you could tell that tonight was a great set”. I have to say I agree with him.

Cog Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade Cog Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

Karnivool

I dreamt of becoming a music journalist as a teen. Imagine being given albums to review, getting passes to concerts, interviewing rock stars. I never managed to make a career of it, but I did start this music blog so I’ve had a taste of it. My favourite magazine at the time was Rip It Up, a long standing NZ music mag that was celebrating its 30th birthday around the time I started reading it. Annual subscriptions worked out cheaper than buying each issue, and you’d get a free CD too. From memory I got a Velvet Revolver album the first year. The second year I got a CD from a band I hadn’t heard of: Sound Awake by Karnivool. I’m so grateful for that. I wonder if I would have ever discovered Karnivool if not for that chance subscription bonus?

That album was a game changer. As a teenage bogan, I was dutifully a huge Tool fan. This was a band who came incredibly close in terms of musicianship and feel, yet didn’t feel derivative. I loved the moodiness, the emotion. As a beginning drummer, I was in absolute awe of the drumming. There are plenty of brilliant drumming moments found within, but the intro to “The Caudal Lure” stood out, because Steve Judd plays around the beat. I couldn’t comprehend it.

I was even more fortunate to see them play at Big Day Out the following year. It was amazing, but criminally early in the day, and not a very long set. That was 12 years ago. I’ve craved more live Karnivool ever since.

Sound Awake remains one of my favourite albums. Now and again I meet someone who is a fellow Karnivool fan and it feels like we instantly form a special bond. I remember chatting to some of the guys in OHGOD (who opened for Karnivool in South Africa) at dunk!fest 2018, who share my reverence for the Vool. And my mate Josh (Tides of Man) talks about touring with Karnivool, and just being completely floored as he got to watch them from side of stage every night on tour. They’re on another level.

Tonight was the night. I would have come over just for Karnivool. I couldn’t miss Karnivool AND Cog, along with the other incredible bands.

Karnivool Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

They’d hung a huge transparent curtain in front of the stage during set up and sound check. I couldn’t tell what the point of this was from where I was to the side, but I assume it added a theatrical element, dropping to the floor half way through their first song.

As I said before, Sound Awake is a huge album for me, so songs like “Simple Boy” and “New Day” were big highlights. But they treated fans to works from throughout their catalogue. Their encore was their newest song, “All It Takes”, followed by “Fade” – one of their oldest.

It had seemed like most of the crowd had been singing along to Cog’s set when they played. Well for Karnivool, it seemed like that number had doubled. It was a sight to behold, seeing everyone mouth along to the words, arms in the air. One of the best moments was the outro to “We Are”, which the band slowly faded out to. It felt magic, everyone singing along in unison at the last notes lingered in the still night.

Karnivool Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade Karnivool Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

Monolith Festival was a huge success. Incredible bands, great venue, sold out show.

Karnivool guitarist Mark Hosking to summed it up well: “If there is one thing that this tour has made abundantly clear, it is that Australian music is alive! And here! And relevant!”

The pandemic stole a lot from us. But it didn’t defeat us. And tonight was a testament to that. Great music unites people, and reminds us what we have to live for.

Let’s do it again. Add Meniscus to the lineup. I’ll come back to Australia for that in a heartbeat.

 

Words and photos by Joseph James

EP Review: Adoneye – Sessions

Adoneye Sessions Album Cover
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Adoneye are one of the best bands in Wellington. Certainly one of my favourites, at any rate. I proclaimed my excitement for this forthcoming release in my end of year reviews for both 2020 and 2021, and it’s finally here: a five track EP called Sessions.

Like almost every amazing band, Adoneye are greater than the sum of their parts. I know drummer Jignesh Jasmat from local prog-rock band Ovus, so clearly he has some great chops. He’s that guy that has twice as many cymbals as I do on his drum set-up, along with the skills to actually make use of them. I actually used to work with bassist Jesse Hill, and have been to countless jams at his house. He played in Opium Eater, which are hard to describe (I’m going to go with avant-garde prog-metal), but he’s an absolutely outstanding musician with the capability to play any genre. And then you’ve got Dean on guitar, that weird skinny stoner guy you see at parties who blows you away when he starts playing guitar. Dean is a phenomenal songwriter, and you can see the passion when he starts to sing.

Adoneye

Adoneye onstage. Image: Supplied

One reason I love Adoneye so much is because they straddle a variety of styles that I love, and pull it off with such talent. Take opening track “Beautiful Aliens”, for example. It’s bookended with beautiful, tender fingerpicking. Dean coos into the mic and Jesse’s vocal harmonies add just the right boost. It’s sweet and serene, but segues into a grungy anthem. Dean is borderline shouting, and the fingerpicking has switched to hard strumming. And before you know it, we’re back to the calm as is nothing ever happened. Such brilliant dynamics!

Jig is a monster on the drums. It’s borderline criminal how well he pulls off some of his fills and flourishes. Tumbling down the toms, adding a choked accent on a splash here and there, it adds such flavour, but sounds so subtle and feels effortless.

Jignesh with Adoneye at Newtown Festival

Jignesh Jasmat with Adoneye at Newtown Festival 2022. Image: Will Not Fade (Originally taken for The Mousai)

“I Eat Foxes” is the song that always sticks in my head the most, not least because of its interesting title. There’s this little repeating pause they’ve written into the bridge that lasts for slightly longer than feels comfortable. Just to throw you. Or to add an extra challenge. It reminds me of the crazy intro to “Living is a problem…” from Biffy Clyro’s Puzzle – almost written just to show off how tight they can be as a band. This is music for musicians.

Also, the lyrics “I’m like a stone, you show me how to live” are definitely Audioslave references right?

I think one thing that gives Adoneye a point of difference is that they’re a rock band with an acoustic guitar. How many rock bands can you think of like that? I’m not talking about switching it up for a token ballad. This contributes to the homely feel of the music. Even if Dean is screaming (as he does when he gets into it), Adoneye’s music just feels nice.

The mix and levels are great. We hear Jesse’s fingers travelling up and down the fretboard with basslines only a freak like him could pull off so casually. We hear Jig’s wee flourishes and snare rolls. We hear Dean plucking each string. But it’s all balanced, and none of the elements overpower the others.

Sessions is an outstanding debut offering, one that the members of Adoneye should be proud of. It showcases their fantastic skills as songwriters and musicians. And it just feels great. It’s chill, it’s driven, it has a comforting warmth that hits the spot for me every single time. Highly recommended.

Jesse Hill of Adoneye

Jesse Hill on bass. Image: Will Not Fade

Adoneye links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adoneyeband

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/6A4iO9CBPB567Oswy19Epv?si=I5RFkG29Soicb1GkklTG7Q

 

Written by Joseph James

Live Review: Jakob at San Fran, Wellington (June 2021)

Jakob Hiboux San Fran
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Jakob

w/ Hiboux
Saturday 5 June 2021
San Fran, Wellington

Hiboux San Fran Bern

Hiboux San Fran Tom

More recorder!

Hiboux San Fran Declan

Hiboux San Fran Duncan

Hiboux San Fran Lester

Local post-rockers Hiboux have gained a lot of great support slots over the years – Alcest, Tortoise, Head Like a Hole, and recently, Mono. But it seemed overdue that they’d get the chance to play with Jakob.

Something I like about Hiboux is that they’re not afraid to play with the lighter shades of music. They’ll get a good groove happening without resorting to loads of riffs and distortion. It’s quite refreshing for me, as someone who likes to listen to lots of heavy music. Their music is meticulously crafted and you can tell. I couldn’t help myself though, and heckled them with a shout of “more recorder!”. I got a few laughs, but I meant it, I love the sounds they come up with and would happily listen to more.

Jakob San Fran Jason

Jakob San Fran Jeff

I’d actually flown to Auckland after work on Friday to see Jakob play at The Tuning Fork, so you you may as well give that review a read too. It was the same deal in Wellington: Jakob playing their legendary opus Solace from start to finish. They even played the same two encores, “Blind Them With Science”, and “Resolve”.

I’ve seen Jakob play here at San Fran at least half a dozen times now. Many times it has been their own gigs, and I’ve seen them support Russian Circles twice and co-headline with local doom heroes Beastwars. They’ve gone on record stating that San Fran in Wellington is one of their favourite places to play, and considering a Jakob gig at San Fran is never shy of perfect, it’s understandable.

Jakob San Fran Jules on guitar

Jules on guitar

One punter was getting extra into it, waving his arm up over his head like you see people do at hip-hop gigs. I have no idea what was going through his head, but he began to try and crawl up onstage from the side, earning him a few menacing looks of disapproval from Maurice on bass.

The lighting was especially cool at this gig, with each member of the trio standing with LED panels directly overhead. It looked like the stage fog was actually coming out from these panels too.

Jules from Spook The Horses came up for a stint on guitar, the same role Jason from Sora Shima had played the night before in Auckland. There were a few gasps from those in the crowd who knew Jules and were surprised by his appearance, which much have earned him major cred amongst his friends.

I don’t have too much extra to say that I didn’t cover in my review of the Auckland gig, but it was still a real treat seeing them play the same set another time. The bass was louder this time, which was good. All though it was earth-shatteringly loud for a period, making the room shake and causing the band members to cast alarmed looks amongst themselves and dial a few knobs on the speakers.

I think everyone there had a great night. A few of us had been to Auckland as well and it was still a treat.

Sam from the band distance with the set list.

Words and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Jakob at The Tuning Fork 8th Birthday Celebration

Jakob Tuning Fork
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Jakob

w/ Proteins of Magic
Friday 4 June 2021
The Tuning Fork, Auckland

The Tuning Fork Jakob

It’s been quite some time since our Aotearoa instrumental heroes Jakob have treated us to a gig. They opened for Alice in Chains in Auckland back in March 2019, but I went to Download Festival in Melbourne to see AIC, so it’s definitely been a few years since I’ve seen Jakob last play

.And what a way to emerge after such a break, playing their seminal record Solace in full to celebrate the 8 year anniversary of Auckland venue The Tuning Fork.

This was my first time at The Tuning Fork and I thought it was a great venue. Nestled in the wing of the march larger Spark Arena, TTF offered a better setting for those medium tier acts. Nice and long with a bar situated at the rear on the side. It was an ideal size for a gig of this size, feeling intimate but not too tight for the sold-out crowd. Festoons were strung across the ceilings, and although they weren’t on until the end of the night, I thought they looked great.

Proteins of Magic Tuning Fork )

Opening act Proteins of Magic started the night with her haunting music. Maurice from Jakob was gushing to me about her, saying how he’s been listening to her music heaps lately, and that she’s got some serious cred as the former bassist for Dimmer.

She used her synth with some backing tracks to create a sparse sonic base, and then built upon it using a looping pedal, adding layered vocal harmonies. Oh, and she rocked out on flute. Not something that you see at most rock gigs. She cast a spell upon us during her set, with layered vocal on vocals and otherworldly sounds.

Proteins of Magic Tuning Fork

Damn, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy seeing Jakob play. There are moments where I just shout out loud because it’s so good, an exasperated cry. I can’t put it into words easily – I’ve been raised not to discuss my feelings like all New Zealand males – but their music stirs something deep within that I can only react to by tipping my head back and making weird noises. Am I possessed?

Ask any post-rock fan around the world, and Jakob’s album Solace is regarded with much reverence. Post-rock is a genre that initially was about surpassing the boundaries of rock music, but has in many ways become stale and uniform. But Jakob have always managed to sound like themselves. And they stand out. You’ve got to be pretty good if bands like Tool and Isis are inviting you on international tours.

Jakob Tuning Fork

Those opening notes of “Malachite” signaled that something special was about to unfold. The guitar builds, layer upon layer, slow and moody. The drums are primal and repetitive. The rumbling bass ties it all together. It’s mesmerizing and enveloping. And then they’ll unleash the distortion pedal. And the world unfolds and fall back on itself. You get knocked back by a sonic wall of fury. And you welcome it because it makes you feel something that you can’t describe, but at least you’re fully alive in that moment.

“That’s enough of that”, they joked, “We’re far too old for that kind of carry-on!”

They’ve got a great sound. I love watching them and seeing how it all unfolds. Watching guitarist Jeff Boyle letting the notes rise and swell and he deftly picks the strings and rolls the volume knob in one motion. Watching how Maurice Beckett – the once hairy behemoth – now shorn but still a beast of bass – drums and shakes on the body of his instrument to unlock those deep rumbling tones within. Watching how drummer Jason Johnston creates that percussive pulse by laying into his toms. Watching how the trio all communicate with each other onstage with knowing looks that only comes from years of playing with each other.

Jakob Tuning Fork

I’ve tried to emulate their sound myself. Johnston sometimes plays with mallets, and with the snares wires thrown off, opening up the cymbals and giving the snare drum a deeper hollow sound, as opposed to the usual “crack”. It’s such a cool sound that I copied this method when recording a single for my own band last year, aiming to replicate Johnston’s style.

Jason Lurman from the band Sora Shima came onstage for a guest spot during the song “Everything All Of The Time”, playing the guitar line first recorded by Tristan Dingemans of HDU. Lurman was clearly having the time of his life, grinning from ear to ear and rocking backward and forward as he held an e-bow to his guitar strings.The guys all exchanged a bit of banter onstage which caused a few laughs.

Jakob Tuning Fork

As you have probably gathered, I’m a big fan. There’s something special about a Jakob gig. That album, Solace, deserves a spot in the pantheon of the greats, and seeing masterful musicians deliver those songs in a live setting is something to behold.

They left us with a passing comment: “See you again soon, hopefully with a new record!”. We all responded with cheers.

Words and photos by Joseph James

More photos to come