A brief history of Bird’s Robe…

Gilbert over at Echoes and Dust is a great supporter of Bird’s Robe and asked me to write a bit about the background behind how BRC and BRR formed and how it works – as well as where it’s going.

It’s only been 4 years since we kicked this thing off at the first show on June 6th, 2008 – but it feels like a lot longer. Took me quite a while to write this up, but hopefully it gives a bit of insight for anyone who’s interested.  There’s a lot of good events (and good people) I haven’t mentioned in this, but I’m sure I’ll get round to writing the complete collect histories of BR some day. In the meantime, here’s a “brief” introduction.

Hidden Currents – A Look Behind The Scenes of The Bird’s Robe Collective

sleepmakeswaves announce book release

Sydney instrumental quartet sleepmakeswaves have announced the publication of their first book, co-authored with manager and label director Mike Solo.

The book, a joint venture between bassist Alex Wilson and manager Solo, also feature vignettes and quotes from the other band members.
Tentatively titled “Being post: how to write love songs about delay pedals and influence people” the book is centred around the band’s fledgling experience touring Australia and internationally, as well as being a handy how-to (or how-not-to) guide for aspiring musicians in niche markets.
The band have released the chapter titles and summaries including quotes, as follows. No release date has yet been announced.

Foreword by Sarah Tout (RTR fm, Perth)
“Sleepmakeswaves…bring your ear plugs and your mouth guards”.
Ch 1: This is why we rehearse
“Watching our first ever festival performance and hearing how many bum notes were made, it was embarassing. Comparing that to the footage from our first
Australian tour just 5 weeks later, after 10 jam sessions preparing for it, we were hitting the sweet spot every night. This is why we rehearse.” – Wilson
“Play more, better.” – Solo
Ch 2: Real musicians work
“Imagine if you will, a world where each day, a different person writes an amazing song. A song so good that it goes viral and at least 10 million other people are willing to pay $1 for it.  Then it means that this person can quit their job and retire to a life of luxury, effectively removing them from productive society. This is the dream, right?  Wrong. If everyone did this, we’d eventually all be wealthy, with no one left to run the economy, build houses, serve food, or even grow food. We’d be screwed. Every musician, aspiring or wealthy, should maintain productive work, to keep our society afloat.” – Solo
“Get a f**cking job you lazy ass.” – Wilson
Ch 3: Just button up your shirt
“When you’re in a young touring band playing a niche style of music, you don’t have the money to afford accommodation. You need to stay at your friend’s places, sleep on the spare bed, or in our case, when in Canberra, sleep on the floor in the shed out the back. The shed window can’t be closed, so one night in winter, when it dropped below zero, I woke up from the cold. I just buttoned up my shirt and went back to sleep.” – Solo
“Buy a sleeping bag you idiot.” – Wilson
Ch 4: I have no time for people like that
“People who are intelligent, talented musicians, have great jobs they enjoy and are also good looking can f&*k off” – Wilson
“When you’re feeling stressed, do something different, like go for walk, or eat an orange.” – Solo
Ch 5: The burdens up being true
“It’s a tough situation, when you’re almost always correct. People then seem to relish in purposefully proving you wrong, they become antagonistic. When in fact you’re only trying to help them be better.  The trick is to feign ignorance every once in a while, cut your own grass down to size.” – Solo
“You’re right, Mike.” – Wilson
Ch 6: Lollies are for people
“I have no idea what this means” – Solo
“…” – Wilson

Ch 7: When in Rome…

“…adopt their accent, apparently.” – Solo

“When I was in the US, I found it more empathetic to speak in the native tongue, so that I could better endear myself to the locals.” – Otto Wicks-green

“If he ever does that again, he will die.” – Tim Adderley

Ch 8: How to win favours and influence people

“When we were in Brisbane last year, we needed somewhere to store our equipment. The hotel attendant wasn’t letting us use the baggage store room for some odd reason. So Kid pretended to flirt with him until he let us put our gear in.” – Solo

“It’s all in the hands.” – Kid

Ch 9: Everything can be fixed with gaffer tape

“In the US we were faced with being destroyed by excess baggage charges, so we had to strap guitars and pedal boards together to reduce the number of checked bags. This meant using a lot of gaff tape. So much, that we ran out on the second day of the tour and had to buy more before flying out of Philadelphia. We got some, returned the hire car, got to the airport via shuttle…only to find we’d left the gaff tape in the hire car. So we had to use half a roll of sticky tape and chewing gum.” – Solo

“American gaff tape is not as strong as Australian gaff tape. Buy it at home.” – Adderley

Ch 10: Philadelphia freedom

“After our Philly show, we went back to Rosetta frontman Mike Armine’s place. By the time we unloaded the car, finished chatting with his neighbours and waited while he put away his dogs, we had 45 minutes before leaving for our flight. The choice was either sleep or stay awake. Or in Wilson’s case, to take a walk, against Armine’s advice.” – Solo

“When the singer in Rosetta, a local, who owns 4 killer dogs and is a total badass tells you not to go outside, you don’t go outside.” – Kid

“Ok, if you’re going to be so butt-hurt about it, I won’t go.” – Wilson

Ch 11: I am my only worthy competitor

“Everything about me is maximal.” – Wilson


The first reviews for the book have already come through from the band’s previous members Tom Binetter and Will Smith

“It’s true. Otto does engage in Irish-speak and American-speak. He’s quite good. Unfortunately I didn’t get to the rest of the book, I had other matters to attend to. Remember that gig with Signal Hill? And the Boris gig at the Metro? Hehehe.” – Tom Binetter

“The book reads like a series of in-jokes only translatable by the band themselves. It’s utter nonsense. All up: a great read.” – Will Smith

All media enquiries and publishing offers can be directed to Mike Solo birdsrobe@gmail.com or via the book’s website www.Ihopeyourealisethisisajoke.com

Mike

Bird’s Robe’s favourite releases (and things) of 2011

Last year Alex and I put our heads together and came up with our favourite releases of the year. The task was made easier by the fact that the BRR label had only a couple of releases out and the general musical landscape was barren enough to allow some gems to shine out pretty clearly to us.

This year however, there’s been 20 releases on the BRR label alone! Not to mention the wealth of talent exploding around the world with so many amazing records, particularly amongst progressive/experimental bands.

So it’s a bit like picking your favourite child now. I tried to get around it by excluding re-releases from this list (Squat Club and Toehider appeared on last year’s list already anyway) but that still left me with a zillion minus 3 albums to choose from.

Overall it’s been an incredible year (as espoused in the last couple of posts here). I’d love to sit down and tell you the story of each release we put out this year (and those of our friends), as they’re all very special to me.

But as much as I know we all enjoy a bit of narrative, let’s get straight to the lists.

Here are my favourite releases, songs and shows, in no particular order.

Favourite albums

So much choice!

sleepmakeswaves…and so we destroyed everything

It’s a grower. After five listens, this album solidified as one of my favourites of the year. The production worthy of epic post-rock is all there – crystal clear instrumentation, a dynamic mix bringing every layer and element to the fore. But what really makes this album is the songcraft. Each track has a multitude of hooks to discover on every listen, which eventually burn themselves into your memory. There is diversity, from the soaring uplift of (hello) cloud mountain, to the darker In Limbs and Joints. But across the album, there’s one emotion that is consistent. The music is really hopeful. It may be a cliche by now to say that post-rock records get people through hard times, but albums like this make you realise it’s true. My favourite quote about this record comes from Daniel Roe of rockfreaks.net in Denmark “more than any other instrumental band, sleepmakeswaves make me feel.”  Me too, Daniel.

PirateLeft Of Mind

When I saw first saw Pirate in 2008, I got really excited. This was the kind of band we’d been looking for, something totally “prog” to bring to the Bird’s Robe shows we were running. I really loved their home recorded demo CD and when they finally released an EP, I loved that too. So when the guys told me the next album would have vocals on it, I was understandably afraid of change. The first taste I got was hearing ‘Animals Cannibals’ live and it reassured me they would still bring the rock. But what I wasn’t prepared for, was a track like ‘In The Balance’. When I heard that I got REALLY excited. The vocals, the playing, the arrangement, the production – everything just clicked. Although the album is definitely freaking nuts and a total prog-out, in my opinion, the band have started to mature. They come up with hooks galore right through the record and everyone gets to put their chops on display along the way. The whole thing is cemented by Tim’s brilliant drumming and sounds great. Love it and super keen to hear where they go next.

Toehider – “To Hide Her

Ever since I first heard Toehider online (through the OzProg.com site) I knew Mike Mills was a great guy. I love music where you can hear people’s character shine through what they play. Toehider has Mike Mills written all over it – he’s equal parts zany, introspective and genius, but overall just a good, talented dude. The 12 EPs took me a while to get through, but it didn’t take me long to put the offer to Mike to release his next work through BRR. The concept for the follow-up album changed a few times during the process and when he told me he was going to write in all basically in a week, I was a bit surprised, but didn’t for a minute doubt he would come up with the goods. The lead single ‘The Most Popular Girl In School’ is pop gold and it shows that Mike continues to put in a mammoth effort with his music. Although I’ve heard people complain it’s not as good as the EPs (and they have every right to I suppose), I don’t really think it’s fair to compare 10 songs to 100+. The album is every bit as good as any of the individual EPs and hangs together well as a full length. Can’t wait for the next one.

The Bird’s Robe Collaboration BandStill Scores

This one took a long time to get out! Partly my fault, as I needed to get it mastered. I sometimes have to pay for such things myself and hope that people are good enough to buy the album to pay it back. Luckily, this is darn good (so you should buy it!).

When I heard the first BRCB EP ‘Musodynamics’ – again, this is a theme – I got really excited. It was exactly what I wanted to come out of the collaboration project. Not that I wanted a particular sound, but I wanted something where everyone’s voice could be heard – and something gosh darn awesome. It was – and it totally set the standard for all future collaborative projects.

Everyone involved was suitably inspired and it wasn’t long before BRCB#2 and #3 were underway. Nick Soole’s superband is made up of Alex O’Toole (Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes, drums), Shan Abey (Pirate, guitar), Brendad Gloag (Day of the Meerkat, Face Command, guitars), Matt Williams (Captains, Adrift For Days, bass) and Lachlan Kerr (Godswounds, keys), plus of course Nick on vocals, guitars and production duties.

The project was inspired by a series of artworks produced by Jarrod Elvin (who does the Slimey Things art, look him up). As with the first project, the band didn’t show me anything until the tracks were ready for mixing. I knew Nick had it in his heart to top the first EP and whilst I thought doing a full album was pretty ambitious, the band certainly had the skill. Once again, it was a massive buzz to hear it – just five seconds into Hug Attack, I knew they had done something special. Everyone’s contribution is markedly clear, but again the music comes across as something different, like the freakish lovechild of their parent projects and Nick Soole’s imagination. It’s great fun to listen to and the chops are all there.

Captain Kickarse and the AwesomesNon Practising Pagans: B-sides Vol. 1

When Phil told me they were preparing a B-sides record, I was keen to hear it, but I honestly though it’d just be a bunch of leftover jams. In truth, these are well crafted songs, each with its own story and sound. The single ‘Don’t Wake Vincent’ is miles away from the frenetic rock of their last EP and announces the record as something different (hence the B-sides tag) – but really, it is still classic Captain Kickarse. In my opinion, it’s the band’s best release yet. The production is understated, but the playing is tasteful, the melodies and hooks are gentle and it makes you feel pretty good. It’s kind of like the perfect comedown after a Capt K gig.

AnubisA Tower of Silence

Anubis are a really unique band. I mean, obviously, they take their cues from Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes etc. But really, no one in Australia is doing anything quite like it. They have this brooding, yearning sound that really comes out in their production – but even more so when they play live, especially when the guys get stuck into the harmonies.

I came across the band back in 2008, as they’d been playing some shows with the (then) newly reformed Meniscus and I was pretty impressed. At the time they almost reminded me a bit of PFM (or maybe that’s just because I was listening to them at the time). Anyway, they just got better and better and it was a pretty comfortable transition to begin working with them. Their debut 230503 was pretty damn good and justifiably earned them a strong following internationally. So the expectation was high for the follow up.

The guys kept telling me they were going to top 230503. Which they did. ‘A Tower Of Silence’ comes together really, really well as an album. It has a bona-fide single in ‘Archway of Tears’ with its otherwordly guitar licks and snappy groove. It also has some of the best vocal harmonies the guys have ever pulled off. Not to mention the amazing artwork!  There’s not quite a ‘Disinfected and Abused’ moment on this record, but it’s matched by a plethora of other hooks, as the guys pile on the Anubis sound throughout the album and Dean and Doug’s guitars absolutely wail all the way through. Once again, it’s struck a chord internationally, bringing them even greater success and ensuring that I’m visiting the post office every week with a bunch of orders to ship out!

GrunGreenland

This really cooks live and on record it is gorgeous. The guys have come back to the live circuit with a fantastic band and have a top notch record that stands up alongside some of the best this year.  It really hit me just how good it was when I was driving to Canberra one lonely afternoon. Great driving music.

Favourite songs

There are heaps.

(hello) cloud mountain – sleepmakeswaves

Uplifting, soaring, full of hooks and complete with an epic guitar hero moment. Will’s best drumming on any SMW track and a triumph of Dax’s production. I fell in love with it on a winter’s day in my old bedroom, looking out the window at the sun shining across a bright blue sky. I never get tired of listening to it. The best thing I’ve heard in a long, long time.

In The Balance - Pirate

Tension and release. A wonderfully restrained experimental pop tune from Pirate. It builds and builds and builds and the release, when it comes, is awesome.  The groove is infectious and the production is superb. Again, one of the best.

The Most Popular Girl In SchoolToehider

Freddie Mercury would be proud. Mika might even be proud. Regardless, Mike Mills delves into the 80s to give us a classic boy/girl unrequited love adventure. Pop bliss with production and chops to envy. Vocally outstanding. This will stick in your head for months – it’s still in mine.

Into The Golden OceanPanzer Queen

Panzer Queen quietly released their second EP ‘When All Our Fathers Worshiped Stock and Stone’ in 2011 and were unfortunately unable to tour behind it due to some ill-timed injuries and lineup issues. However, the difficulties couldn’t hide the fact that this is probably their strongest track to date. It’s got a sweet undulating rhythm with shimmering guitar work and builds into a teetering crescendo that arches into the sky. In one word, glorious.

Archway of TearsAnubis

It’s got everything that makes Anubis great – vocal hooks, drums and bass locked into a hypnotic feel and guitar work galore. A fantastic introduction to this band if you haven’t heard them – and a fantastic track all-round if you have.

Hug Attack - The Bird’s Robe Collaboration Band

What do you get when you put six prog rock musicians in a room? Pop gold, apparently. Totally unexpected but at the same time, unsurprisingly amazing. It’s got hints of J-pop in there somewhere and should probably be the theme tune for an Anime cartoon or the next big kids TV show. Packed with upbeat shredding and ridiculous vocals, it’s incredibly good.

Fight Club – Meniscus

This is the kind of track Meniscus had been promising to write since ‘Pilot’ on their debut captured people’s ears. It’s got the classic slow cook that is Meniscus’ forte, but wraps it all in a series of perfectly timed guitar hooks. Ash Maklad has got Dan’s guitar sounds down to a tee and you can’t help but listen to this and think of the band’s powerful and memorable live show. Spine-tingling.

Strangers – Solkyri

Anyone who has seen them live will know this is monstrous. It’s painted in broad brushstrokes, but the subtle production from Dax Liniere brings out all the passion and exuberance the young trio pack into their live set. It’s early days, but I think this is the start of something special from Solkyri.

Ice Cream – Battles

I love the groove, the upbeat vibe and the undecipherable vocals. The video is pretty great too. Battles have loosened up and started making really fun music that belies the process behind the record. I love that this band is so popular around the world whilst still being such an inspiration to muso kids.

Fire Inside – Mish

It’s taken Mish 5 years to finish their debut album and it was well worth the wait. I don’t normally listen to a lot of heavy stuff but Mish blend emotions so well into their brutal riffery that it just works for me. The rhythm section is undeniably fantastic and there’s something about Rowls Hines’ guitar work and vocal delivery that makes you believe this band can do great things.

Deep Rivers Run Quiet – Tangled Thoughts of Leaving

So good. That rhythmic drop is so simple, but so effective, I could listen to it all day (and sometimes do). The energy of the band carries through so well and it’s my pick off their brilliant debut ‘Deaden the Fields’. The groove is a drummer’s dream.

Fallopian Tube Screamer – Injured Ninja

Perth group Injured Ninja quietly released a radicool album in April, to little fanfare. This track (and the accompanying video) is one of the best of the year, in my opinion. Groove and intensity, too good for you not to have a listen to it right now.

Nostalgic – Lander Configurations

It took 5 years to release, but …Of Smoke and Fire is finally out and full of moments like this that make you reflect on life. Nostalgic is one of my favourites from this beautiful release and it is evocative, dynamic and ethereal.

Favourite shows

January 16th – Annandale Hotel, Sydney NSW feat. BARONS OF TANG + CAPTAIN STU BAND + SLIMEY THINGS + CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES + ROCKETHEAD + VIOLENCE IN ACTION

First time seeing The Barons of Tang and man, they were good. Their frenetic folk-prog-metal-skirmish of a live show was insane. South Africa’s Captain Stu got things going with their ska-inflected numbers, whilst Slimeys, Captain K, Rockethead and ViA all delivered killer sets. Such a great start to the year =)

April 29th – Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney NSW feat. SOLKYRI + Meniscus + Grun + Lander Configurations

The Solkyri boys were beside themselves at not only launching their new EP and headlining for the first time, but being supported by post-rock legends Meniscus, Grun and Lander Configurations. However it was a sign of the respect and goodwill that the bands have for the young trio that these acts put their hands up to perform, with a packed room to show for it. The boys put in their best performance to date and sold a bunch of EPs. ‘No House’ is their low-fi introduction to the music world and has been greeted with solid support from Triple J’s Sound Lab, FBi and community radio. A good start for a promising young band.

June 11th – Featherfest @ TONE, Sydney NSW feat. RUINS-alone + UMLAUT + DARTH VEGAS + SLIMEY THINGS + SHANGHAI + GODSWOUNDS + SERIOUS BEAK + THE BZNZZ + THREE WISE MONKEYS + CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES

Without a doubt the most impressive Featherfest lineup to date. No need for further elaboration.

July 22nd – East Brunswick Club @ Melbourne, VIC feat. SLEEPMAKESWAVES + THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING + THESE HANDS COULD SEPARATE THE SKY + LUNAIRE

When 300 punters showed up to see sleepmakeswaves launch their album in Melbourne, we were simply blown away. Not just by the size of the crowd, but the all-round great vibe. The audience hung off every note the band played and stuck around long enough to chat and wish the band the best for the coming tour. It was a great Melbourne welcome and just another example of the city’s amazing love and support for live music. Sadly, it was to be our first and last show at the East, with the announcement several months later that it would be closing.

August 13th – PROGFEST @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney NSW feat.

The lineup speaks for itself, but when I got chills watching Solkyri, Dumbsaint, Pirate and Meniscus all in the same gig, I knew it was one of the best.

October 14th – Annandale Hotel, Sydney NSW feat. MISH + Meniscus + Nobody Knew They Were Robots + Sicaria

Mish killed it. I don’t get shivers watching metal, but this band, driven by frontman Rowls Hines’ invigorating stage presence, was an exception. Gosh darn awesome set!!

December 22nd – BRR showcase @ Annandale Hotel, Sydney NSW feat. SLEEPMAKESWAVES + Meniscus + Pirate + Toehider (acoustic)

What a great way to finish the year! Absolutely buzzing crowd all night, from Mike Mills’ tackling (and owning) ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on acoustic guitar, to Pirate weathering a broken, smoking guitar amp and Tim Adderley proving to be the duracell endurance bunny version 10.0. Of course the icing on the cake was Meniscus and sleepmakeswaves closing the night, the latter with one of their tightest and most powerful performances yet. It was a tad emotional, with Kid and Alex celebrating 5 years of bromance on stage (marking the start of the band). A full room singing me happy birthday was pretty sweet too… <3

December 23rd – BRR @ Curtin Bandroom, Melbourne VIC feat. SLEEPAKESWAVES + Meniscus + Pirate + Toehider

Maybe we timed it a bit too close to THAT time of year, but despite not selling out, the vibe at this show was right up there with Sydney. A bunch of new faces came together with the hardcore fans and showed great appreciation for their efforts. Probably the highest percentage of headbanging I have seen at any sleepmakeswaves show! And Meniscus launching their album needed their own dedicated merch girl to deal with the demand.

December 31st @ Peats Ridge Festival, NSW feat. sleepmakeswaves

Their biggest show to date and the perfect end to a wonderful year for the band.

2011 – the year of prog (part 2)

Well, what a year 2011 has turned out to be.  Overall, just fantastic, not just for Bird’s Robe, but for music lovers everywhere!

There was a huge number of absolutely fantastic releases from artists all around the world, a series of great tours that came to Australia and of course on a personal note, new friends, experiences and a little thing called marriage.

For this small label, Bird’s Robe Records, it was a breakout year. This is thanks largely to the breakthrough of a number of artists on the BR roster, who released stellar albums in 2011.

My last blog post took a global view of how good this year has been, but I’d like to start with a short chronology this time, outlining just how much fun it’s been for us over the past year.

January – 2011 kicked off with a bang, as South African popsters Captain Stu visited us on their first Australian tour. They teamed up with The Barons of Tang for an epic show at the Annandale alongside Slimey Things, Rockethead and more.

February – at this point, things were rolling along as usual. Feb saw New York post-metal outfit WATER TEMPLES visit Australia, with a couple of Sydney shows hosted by BR. The fantastic GRUN album ‘Greenland’ was launched at one of these shows and the young lads from SOLKYRI got a taste for the Lansdowne Hotel stage.

Meanwhile, in a lonely forest shack somewhere down south, a little band called sleepmakeswaves started recording…

March – with closure of the Excelsior Hotel imminent, we were forced to seek other venue options and hosted our first show at TONE in Surry Hills. On a Tuesday night, a Nerdstrobe gig featuring UK/Japanese artist Cheapshot brought the chiptune. And, we fell in love with our new favourite room.

April – In the first sign that we were starting to spread the word internationally, Sharon from legendary UK improv group THE A BAND got in touch with a view to organising a show in Sydney. Pulling together a veritable who’s who of local music was fairly easy when the opportunity was presented and whilst the resulting jam wasn’t the best thing ever, it was certainly memorable. Sometimes a clash of musical personalities produces as much entertainment as when it gels. Or not. Only the select group of attendees will know how it went down! That said, the throat-singing was probably one of the best moments of the set.

April also saw Melbourne’s Xenograft visit Sydney for the first time, playing 2 great shows to an appreciative crowd. The Duchesses played their final ever show and closed the night at the last Bird’s Robe show ever at the Excelsior Hotel.

Bringing things back up were those kids from SOLKYRI. They capped off the month by launching their ‘No House’ EP to a packed Lansdowne Hotel, alongside Meniscus, Grun and Lander Configurations. It was an exciting night for instrumental music in Sydney.

May – still buzzing, some time off was needed to prepare for the busy months ahead. Booking tours and organising release details is time consuming. Somehow, there was still time for super FLORENCE jam to sneak in a once-off performance of ‘Mogar’ and perform at Tone to farewell 10k Free Men and Their Families, who then headed to perform at NY’s Blip Fest.

June – The fun begins. Tatsuya Yoshida had contacted me some months before (through Nao Anzai, who brought Vampillia out in 2010) and it was perfect timing. Having RUINS ALONE headlining Featherfest was a massive buzz and probably my biggest undertaking since Menagerie 2010. I was lucky enough to manage the tour that headed to Adelaide and Melbourne from there, with my buddies CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES repping the Sydney scene proudly at each show. Yoshida was suitably impressed by the Sydney lineup of DARTH VEGAS, SHANGHAI, SLIMEY THINGS, THE BZNZZ, SERIOUS BEAK, GODWOUNDS, THREE WISE MONKEYS and Capt K, naming it his favourite show of the tour. Despite having to pull together Yoshida’s tour, the most arduous task this month was driving around and loading in the backline for co-headliners UMLAUT. The effort was worth it though, to have Bar McKinnon and his stellar band make a rare Sydney appearance at our event was something special. The event was bittersweet as it also marked SLIMEY THINGS’ last show for some time. They entered Brain Studios the very next day to lay down tracks for their next album.

MOUNTAIN STATIC visited Sydney to launch his new album ‘Research’ in late June and I had the pleasure of drumming along. Simon (TTT), Daphne (Rat Vs Possum) and Oliver (O+O) are great vocalists and it was a rare treat to hear them perform acoustically in Paddington Uniting Church.

KARNIVOOL also toured around this time and sold out too many shows to list here!

July – Three of the most-anticipated Australian post-rock releases of the year were due in 2011 and as luck would have it, all arrived in the same week! TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING and MENISCUS struck first, dropping ‘Deaden the Fields’ and ‘War of Currents’ respectively. Then, SLEEPMAKESWAVES came through with “…and so we destroyed everything”.  Justifiably, all three releases were met with strong support from fans and media, proving a launch pad for the rest of the year. sleepmakeswaves packed out 2 launch shows in Sydney and Melbourne, whilst Meniscus proved a significant drawcard on a wet and cold night in Sydney, leading to our quote of the year from guitarist Dan (see previous blog post). The Mars Volta arrived and played a synthy set at Splendour in the Grass, alongside Mogwai.

August – PROGFEST was back again, this time with special guest LAURENCE PIKE in Sydney and a mammoth prog/post lineup. Melbourne took home the most impressive lineup award however, with over 30 artists cramming into the Espy for a fantastic feel-good event put together by Tim Charles at Welkin Entertainment. The event continues to blend the experimental with the psychedelic, conservative and progressive all in one, straddling both rock and metal and catering primarily for a younger generation of prog fan.

September – Now buzzing on the back of strong album sales and airplay, SLEEPMAKESWAVES picked up the pace of their headline tour, hitting Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra and Sydney again, for supports with RUSSIAN CIRCLES and UNITOPIA. The best of these was definitely the epic bill on Sep 2nd at the Bald Faced Stag, with Perth’s TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING putting on a spectacular performance that egged everyone on to greater heights.

September also saw PIRATE officially drop their long-awaited ‘Left Of Mind’ album and set off on an east coast jaunt, hitting Melbourne’s Progfest, supporting smw in Gong and Canberra and headlining their own Sydney club show. Wowing many with their sheer brilliance and experimentalism brought the band to the attention of a whole new group of fans. This month also marked Will’s announcement he was leaving sleepmakeswaves to pursue his career priorities. Whilst a bittersweet moment, coming off the back of his brilliant work on the band’s debut album, it was accepted by fans generously and in good spirit.

This month CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOME quietly released their brilliant B-sides album ‘Non Practising Pagans’ and played their last show before going on hiatus ahead of writing for their debut album.

Classic prog rockers UNITOPIA played their first ever east coast dates, hitting Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney, with TOEHIDER and ANUBIS in support. With both bands having released their eagerly-awaited new albums the week of the tour, there was a definite air of expectation surrounding the shows, culminating in a fantastic show at the Factory Theatre in Sydney.

October – Japanese art-noise juggernaut MONO graced our shores, dropping an entire orchestra in Melbourne! Sydney got just the band, but with sleepmakeswaves opening up (marking their last show with Will) and the pleasing sound system at Manning Bar, it was good enough. This month also brought the welcome news that ANUBIS had topped German distributor Just For Kicks Music’s sales chart with ‘A Tower of Silence’, selling several hundred copies. Following the conclusion of their tour, sleepmakeswaves announced their new drummer would be Pirate sticksman Tim Adderley, with Tim continuing to perform in both bands.

As smw finished their tour, PIRATE were in the thick of theirs. The band hit the road supporting supergroup FLOATING ME (feat members of Cog, Karnivool and Scarymother), playing Canberra, Newcastle and Sydney. MENISCUS opened up the Sydney show and made a big impression, doing great business on the merch desk. Just a night earlier they did similar when supporting the album launch of prog-metal favourites MISH who at last released their fabulous debut to a roaring Annandale crowd. October also saw the release of THE BIRD’S ROBE COLLABORATION BAND #2 – ‘Still Scores’ – produced by Slimey Things’ Nick Soole.

November – Melbourne’s LAURA returned to Sydney, supported by Solkyri and Brackets, in support of their new album ‘Twelve Hundred Times’ – their first in 5 years. Pirate kept touring and SERIOUS BEAK launched their ‘Huxwhukw’ to a packed Lansdowne Hotel. MOGWAI, PVT, SEEKAE and HOLY FCK all came to town as part of the amazing Harvest Festival.

A bunch more exciting releases dropped, including PANZER QUEEN’s second EP, SQUAT CLUB’s remastered ‘Corvus’, VAMPILLIA’s ‘Rule The World/Deathtiny Land’ and the amazing RUINS alone album.

December – Hot on the heels of their first play on Triple J, TOEHIDER backed up with a re-release of all 12 of their EPs on ‘The First Six’ and ‘The Last Six’, 2 double album sets, through BRR. LANDER CONFIGURATIONS also finally launched their 5-years-in-the-making album at the Lansdowne Hotel in Sydney, to a rapturous reception.

Meanwhile EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY sold out the Metro Theatre in Sydney and blazed audiences along the east coast, whilst OPETH purveyed their new laid-back prog rock to sold out theatres across the country and OMAR RODRIGUEZ-LOPEZ brough the prog jams to a bunch of sold out dates, presented by Heathen Skulls.

Amongst all this, came the news that sleepmakeswaves had been invited to SXSW in Texas and would be touring the US in March.

But the best part of all, was our 2 end of year showcases in Sydney and Melbourne, featuring sleepmakeswaves, Meniscus, Pirate and Toehider. From a packed Annandale Hotel singing me ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mike Mill’s stunning rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ on acoustic guitar, it was a huge buzz and a great way to cap off the year.

The icing on the cake was New Year’s Eve at Peat’s Ridge Festival, where sleepmakeswaves played their hearts out to a massive crowd at 2pm on the Lyrebird stage. Winning over a festival crowd is no easy task, but the audience were super keen and showed their appreciation. So proud!!

BRR (and BR-related) ALBUMS RELEASED IN 2011 (including distro)

sleepmakeswaves “…and so we destroyed everything”

Meniscus “War Of Currents”

Tangled Thoughts of Leaving “Deaden The Fields”

Hinterlandt “Migration Motion Movement”

Pirate “Left Of Mind”

Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes “Non Practising Pagans”

Anubis “A Tower of Silence”

Toehider “To Hide Her”

super FLORENCE jam “We Always Knew It Would Come To This”

The Bird’s Robe Collaboration Band “Still Scores”

Mish “The Entrance”

Panzer Queen “When All Our Fathers Worshiped Stock and Stone”

Squat Club “Corvus”

Vampillia “Rule the World/Deathtiny Land”

Ruins alone “RUINS alone”

Serious Beak “Huxwhukw”

Akh-Naut “Wishing Well”

Lander Configurations “Of Smoke and Fire”

Toehider “The First Six”

Toehider “The Last Six”

PROGGY TOURS DURING 2011

Coheed and Cambria

Hawkwind

Jethro Tull

The Mars Volta

Mogwai

Holy Fck

Russian Circles

Ruins alone

Unitopia

Mono

Explosions in the Sky

Omar Rodriguez Lopez

Water Temples

The A Band

Cheapshot

Gang Gang Dance

…and already in 2012, DEERHOOF, BATTLES and DEVIN TOWNSEND.

That’s it folks, thanks for all your support and here’s looking forward to an amazing 2012!!!

- Mike Solo

Welcome to 2011 – the year of prog

So it’s been a while since I last blogged you but it’s for good reason – in that time the Bird’s Robe label has been set up and what with 50+ shows, a multitude of releases and publicity… it’s been hard to find the time to chat!

Anyway – over the past few months it’s become apparent that 2011 is the most exciting year for progressive music in recent memory. And it’s really VERY exciting.

First, let’s take a look at the outstanding depth and quality of the post-rock scene, even just here in Sydney – in 2011, we’ve already seen amazing releases from post-rock heavyweights SLEEPMAKESWAVES and MENISCUS; GRUN have poured their hearts into their first full-length since their Greenland days; newcomers SOLKYRI have burst onto the scene in style and what’s more, PANZER QUEEN and LANDER CONFIGURATIONS both have long-overdue releases on the way.

That’s not to mention the fact that Perth’s TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING have already dropped a superb full length, as well as Brisbane’s NIKKO, Melbourne’s LAURA, THESE HANDS COULD SEPARATE THE SKY and THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING all set to unleash new music later this year. Brisbane’s MR MAPS also have a fantastic bunch of material circulating.

They may not squeeze it in before year’s end, but work has already begun on recording for CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES, HAZARDS OF SWIMMING NAKED, DUMBSAINT, ADRIFT FOR DAYS and SCREENS’ forthcoming releases. CLOSURE IN MOSCOW also have a new album on the way, with a new lineup. Their debut album ‘First Temple’ is one of my all-time favourites so I have high hopes for their second. Let’s hope that their regular touring partners SECRETS IN SCALE finally release their long-awaited debut soon too. Their track Monkey Island is catchy as. BREAKING ORBIT and TWELVE FOOT NINJA continue to work on their albums as well.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg!

PIRATE will finally drop their debut ‘Left Of Mind’ this September, after a nearly year-long wait that suffered many setbacks, including bassist Ben’s surgery and recovery.  I’ve had to keep the long-finished albums in a secret compartment under my desk this whole time, but the select few to have heard the album know that this will be one of the best in a packed year.

Perth’s INJURED NINJA released Vs Skylazer earlier this year after blowing minds at SXSW and their buddies ELEVENTH HE REACHES LONDON have begun work on their next release too.  They are all packing out shows in Perth’s ever-impressive live scene.

The Melbourne prog underground is also threatening to explode – and this is the real deal folks.  Anon Islet Records (dare I call them a sister label??) have collected the works of a number of up and coming local heroes including XENOGRAFT, A LONELY CROWD, FRITZWICKY, JUSTIN ASHWORTH/GLASFROSH and ENNIS TOLA – who together have been selling out the Evelyn Hotel on a regular basis for their series of launch shows. We all know Melbourne is the king city for live music and sure this helps, but serious props have to go to these guys for consistent high quality shows – and to the fans for supporting great music.

Seriously though, there is MORE – one of my personal favourite musicians Mike Mills and his TOEHIDER project has joined BRR and will release the first Toehider album with us this September (yes, it’s really only their first album, following 12 EPs in 12 Months).  Everyone who is familiar with Mike’s work with Toehider, Template and solo will know this is going to be crazy good. No pressure dude. Plus, his killer live band featuring Ricky Evensand, Amy Campbell and Lachlan Barclay is probably one of the most fun prog bands you will ever see.

Fellow proggers ANUBIS will release the follow up to 2009’s critically lauded 230503 with a their second album ‘A Tower of Silence’. These guys have been working their tails off to top their last record – and they will do it.  They take their show on road to Melbourne in September – I challenge anyone not to be affected after seeing them perform ‘The Collapse’.

Another huge release on the way is the debut album – indeed, the debut anything – from Brisbane’s THE KIDNEY THIEVES. These guys have been flying the funk-prog flag high for over 7 years and I’m drooling over the possibility that I’ll get to finally figure out the breakdown section from that song (you know the one?) so I can air-drum with precision. Speaking of funk-prog FUJI COLLECTIVE and ROCKETHEAD have also put out new releases this year! And the SICARIA EP is finished and hopefully out soon too.

In metal land, MISH finally drop their long-awaited debut album in October – and NEOBLIVISCARIS may well have their debut done soon, as soon as JENS BOGREN finishes the mix. Internationally, DREAM THEATER, HAKEN and OPETH also have new toons on the way, whilst MECHANICAL BLACK’s video for ‘Speed Spider’ freaked us out a bit – and they have now begun work on their second album.

Folk-prog is expanding wildly too – THE CROOKED FIDDLE BAND’S ‘Overgrown Tales’ is certainly at the forefront of bringing this to the masses, along with their hardworking brethren THE BARONS OF TANG and DAVE CARR’S FABULOUS CONTRAPTION. Not really folk, but the Japanese operatic-circus-metal merchants VAMPILLIA have not one, but TWO new albums, which have the Pitchfork seal of approval and will see an Australian release soon!

Collaborations are running hot – BEN WEINMAN of DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and THOMAS PRIDGEN of THE MARS VOLTA announced they are working together on a studio progject; and after the success of last year’s Musodynamics, THE BIRD’S ROBE COLLABORATION BAND will release a full length album this year, entitled STILL SCORES and produced by Nick Soole of SLIMEY THINGS fame. Oh and of course SLIMEY THINGS have also begun work on their next album already!  Furthermore, an improv collaboration between CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES and SUPER FLORENCE JAM is currently being polished by MIKE MILLS (TOEHIDER/TEMPLATE) and will surface later in the year.

Whilse we don’t get to dabble in it as often as we’d like (because the bigger indie labels keep their acts close to their chests) the experimental pop scene is exploding at the moment – not only have PVT and SEEKAE both dropped new records and gone onto to even greater success, but the hard-working MY DISCO have finally started blowing up and those kids from GHOUL keep kicking goals… or scoring dunks… you know. MEGASTICK FANFARE finally released ‘Grit Aglow’ and consistently land choice supports and glitch bros. KAROSHI are following in their footsteps, methinks, whilst KYU just dropped a brand new video for ‘Pixiphony.’

Which reminds me of another band beginning with ‘K’ – check out Canberra kids KASHA (how’s that for alliteration?) – whose math-indie-rock stylings place them as firm FBi favourites but also all-round good dudes. Yes, they just dropped a new EP too. BRACKETS also have a new single out and seem to finally garnering much-deserved attention, whilst JOSH GIBBS will release another home-produced gem soon.

Even as I write this I realise there is yet more – MOUNTAIN STATIC’s debut album RESEARCH arrived mid-year, featuring Simon Gibbs (ex-TTT) and I had the pleasure of joining him on drums for his Sydney launch. His live band featured Oliver Hunter from O+O and Daphne Shum from RAT VS POSSUM. RVP have also completed a new album, recorded with NAO ANZAI and promise to enchant us all with their indie-prog jams.  Although the press considers them ’in’ with the indie scene/crowd (and look), frankly they are much more interesting and they give a good interview too.

Speaking of prog with tight jeans and fashion sense, whatever happened to FOVEAUX? I liked those guys.

Noise-improv-churners FORENZICS released their third album ‘Build Ruins’ with the excellent support of NEW WEIRD AUSTRALIA which is run by STU BUCHANAN of FBi, whose radio support of the experimental scene is superb and much appreciated – as is FENELLA KERNEBONE’S championing of everything from electronic experimentalists to post-rock artists on TRIPLE J SOUND LAB and ANDREW HAUG’s sneaky prog spins on THE RACKET.

The gorgeous wafting of VALAR’s new release will hit in August.  I know many have been waiting for this for a while.

SEX ON TOAST launched their Live at the Toff EP recently and CODA drummer JARED UNDERWOOD has a new project BATTERIE which will be revealed soon. And we’re still waiting for more new news on projects from SHANGHAI and GODSWOUNDS but with luck, they will be done this year too.

SQUAT CLUB will re-issue Corvus through BRR (remixed by Josh Head) and up and their pining fans can further rejoice with the news that supergroup SERIOUS BEAK will drop their debut full length in November.

Seriously – can you believe this? It’s utterly ridiculous BUT SO SO SO AWESOME.  If you’re not excited by now, go listen to ‘(hello) cloud mountain’ again and come back and you will be.

And that’s just the releases – the gigs have been better than ever -

Already we’ve had the classic HAWKWIND and JETHRO TULL tour, plus PRIMUS, COHEED AND CAMBRIA and THE MELVINS for Soundwave – as if that wasn’t enough, RUSSIAN CIRCLES, MONO and ALCEST are all coming this Spring.

Plus, WATER TEMPLES toured in Feb, PERIPHERY have sold out their short tour in July and MOGWAI and THE MARS VOLTA swang by for Splendour in the Grass.

Plus plus – UNITOPIA’s first Australian tour has got followers of InsideOut and epic prog fans in a general tizzy that there is finally a seriously awesome prog tour happening.

Add to that the fact that the legendary TATSUYA YOSHIDA (RUINS/ZENI GEVA) headlined FEATHERFEST with UMLAUT then enjoyed a packed club tour with Captain Kickarse and the good times keep rolling.

Locals sleepmakeswaves, Pirate, Anubis, Toehider, Meniscus, Solkyri, The Kidney Thieves and Shanghai have all completed (or are in the midst of) successful tours that continue to build upon their past successes and the juggernaut that is PROGFEST continues to expand with an east coast run this year as well.

Even despite the torrential rain in Sydney the past month, both Meniscus and sleepmakeswaves packed out Tone in Surry Hills – as well as Dan from Meniscus providing one of the best quotes of the year that tugged at our collective prog-heart strings:

“”When we started this band, people would say, ‘it was good but where’s your vocalist?’
And I’d reply ‘that’s our sound…it’s just us’.
Then they’d say, ‘well, why would you do that?!’
Well, it’s because… in the middle of July, when it’s freezing and pissing down rain and you can still fill a room with 4 instrumental bands… I’d say it’s worth it.”

- Dan, Meniscus, July 15th 2011.

*fist in the air, the other clutching shirt* yeah!

So in summary, the releases already out or due to arrive in 2011 (I’ll add titles later):

A LONELY CROWD ‘User Hostile’

ANUBIS ‘A Tower of Silence’

BATTERIE

BATTLES ‘Gloss Drop’

BIRD’S ROBE COLLABORATION BAND ‘Still Scores’ and ‘Panda Diplomacy’

ENNIS TOLA

EXPLOSIONS IN THE SKY ‘Take Care, Take Care, Take Care’

FUJI COLLECTIVE

JOSH GIBBS

KAROSHI

GHOUL

GRUN ‘Greenland’

LAURA

LANDER CONFIGURATIONS

MEGASTICK FANFARE ‘Grit Aglow’

MENISCUS ‘War of Currents’

MOGWAI

MOUNTAIN STATIC ‘Research’

PANZER QUEEN ‘When All Our Fathers Worshipped Stock and Stone’

PIRATE ‘Left Of Mind’

PVT

RAT VS POSSUM

ROCKETHEAD

SEEKAE ‘+Dome’

SEX ON TOAST ‘Live at the Toff’

SOLKYRI ‘No House’

SLEEPMAKESWAVES ‘…and so we destroyed everything’

TANGLED THOUGHTS OF LEAVING ‘Deaden The Fields’

THE CROOKED FIDDLE BAND ‘Overgrown Tales’

THE KIDNEY THIEVES

THESE HANDS COULD SEPARATE THE SKY

THIS IS YOUR CAPTAIN SPEAKING

TOEHIDER ‘Toe Hide Her’

VESSELS ‘Helioscope’

XENOGRAFT ‘Exit’

Works in progress:

ADRIFT FOR DAYS

BREAKING ORBIT

CAPTAIN KICKARSE AND THE AWESOMES

CLOSURE IN MOSCOW

DUMBSAINT

GODSWOUNDS

MECHANICAL BLACK

SECRETS IN SCALE

SHANGHAI

SLIMEY THINGS

TWELVE FOOT NINJA

WEINMAN/PRIDGEN ETC.

Needless to say – competition for a spot in our year-end favourites list will be VERY tough!!

In the meantime, do yourself a favour and start packing home lunches so you can afford to purchase and see live as many of the aforementioned releases and shows as possible.

New BRR releases are up as always at www.birdsrobe.bandcamp.com and shows are on the gig guide.

Seriously, did I miss anything?

Rather than embarassing me publicly, let me know and I’ll edit this thing to include it:  birdsrobe@gmail.com

sleepmakeswaves release debut album “…and so we destroyed everything”

Sydney based instrumental rockers SLEEPMAKESWAVES today release their debut album ‘…and so we destroyed everything.’ The culmination of two years writing and enduring numerous setbacks, the album sees the band at a creative high point.

The first single from the release, a driving melodic anthem titled ‘(HELLO) CLOUD MOUNTAIN,’ has been receiving airplay on Australian radio including Triple J and FBi, as well as generating considerable anticipation.

The album is a dramatic showcase for the band – glittering melodic hooks are embossed by Dax Liniere’s lush production and the band’s heaving musicianship. With an array of memorable and climactic sequences, “…and so we destroyed everything” signals the band’s continued desire to push into new musical territory.

Formed in 2006, the young group found initial success within Sydney’s burgeoning instrumental and progressive/post rock scene – with a bold approach to the genre, their captivating live show has earned them high profile international supports with the likes of Pelican, Russian Circles, Signal Hill and Unitopia, as well as festival appearances including Menagerie and Progfest. They have independently released three EPs and their cinematic production and ambitious songcraft has seen airplay nationally and internationally, including Triple J and the BBC, as well as considerable goodwill amongst progressively-minded listeners and journalists online.

Despite early success, the band weathered a difficult couple of years: Founding guitarist Tom Binetter departed (on amicable terms) in 2009, which saw the group contemplating their future. Pooling their resources, they found new life with guitarist and friend Otto Wicks-Green, at last settling down in 2010 to write and record their debut LP. Yet just before heading into the studio a large amount of cash and equipment was stolen from the band’s Sydney home, which saw recording plans thrown awry and further complicated efforts to deliver the long-awaited album.

The studio session, when it came, provided an idyllic escape from the problems that had preceded it. The album was recorded over eight days within a secluded house nestled deep in Wingello State Forest. The band constructed their own makeshift studio (documented online) and bunkered down to record with producer Dax Liniere from Puzzle Factory. Mastered in Los Angeles by industry veteran Howie Weinberg (Nirvana, U2, MUSE, Deftones, Tom Waits, Smashing Pumpkins), the album is evidence of the powerful results.

sleepmakeswaves will support their debut album with an extensive Australian tour in 2011, before heading to Europe and Asia for their first international shows in 2012. Tour dates (more to be announced):

Thurs 21st July @ TONE, Surry Hills NSW w/These Hands Could Separate The Sky + Karoshi + beaufields

Fri 22nd July @ East Brunswick Club, Melbourne VIC w/This Is Your Captain Speaking + These Hands Could Separate The Sky + Lunaire

Thurs 1st September @ The Zoo, Brisbane QLD w/Nikko + Tangled Thoughts of Leaving + The Rational Academy

Fri 2nd September @ The Bald Faced Stag, Leichardt NSW w/Tangled Thoughts of Leaving + Nikko + Solkyri + dumbsaint

Sun 11th September @ Hermann’s Bar, Darlington NSW w/RUSSIAN CIRCLES + more, 5pm – 8pm show only.

Sat 24th September @ The Patch Hotel, Wollongong NSW w/Lumiere + Pirate + Basil’s Kit + Reactionary Fri 30th September @ ANU Bar, Canberra ACT w/Mornings + Meniscus

Sat 1st October @ The Factory Theatre, Marrickville NSW w/UNITOPIA + Anubis + Toehider (Sydney Fringe Festival)
“…and so we destroyed everything” is out now through Bird’s Robe Records: www.birdsrobe.bandcamp.com

Bird’s Robe’s Favourite Releases of 2010

If you’re anything like us, the holiday season has long been a period of great mental anguish, not only due to the hard task Christmas shopping, essentially emptying your wallet for the loved ones in your life. But recalling your favourite albums released within the relatively arbitrary boundaries of the 12 months that make up the year that just passed can often cause confusion and self doubt. Do I limit the rankings to 10? Do I focus on one genre or many? DO I POST IT ON MY TUMBLR, BLOGGER OR FACEBOOK PAGE? Does anyone really care?

Luckily for Mike and I, there were enough excellent releases from acts in the Bird’s Robe Collective family that all these stupid questions just evaporate and we’re left with a burning desire to just make sure that everyone knows about them all. There are no rankings here, alphabetical order will decide the layout. No genre limitations either. We’re even committing the Internet-music-list-sin of including both full lengths and EPs! Shock and awe.

Click each of the covers to be redirected to a page where you can stream, buy or download all of these albums. Please, do yourselves a favour and hear all of these bands. Australia’s progressive/experimental output was actually completely phenomenal this year and this list is undeniable proof.

Adrift for Days – The Lunar Maria

Adrift for Days’ debut album feels like a somnambulist serenade, a brutally beautiful nighttime trip through dark recesses and caverns. Cinematic stoner/psychedelic/sludge/doom/drone that manages to focus, which is a rarity in the genre. The sounds here are thrilling too; lower than low guttural growls with enough breathing room for a slew of soaring effects both recognisable and veiled. Simply put, this album showcases the kind of band that, until Adrift for Days came along, Sydney lacked and severely needed.

Bird’s Robe Collaboration Band, The – Musodynamics

BRR-001. Representing the beginning of the next stage of BRC, Bird’s Robe Records, those 6 characters right there would be enough to make this release special to us even without the music being as truly thrilling as it is. A multidimensional high concept killer of an EP featuring members of Pirate, Squid, Fuji Collective, Squat Club, Slimey Things, The Bznzz and Captain Kickarse & the Awesomes, musically based on the laws of thermodynamics, though you don’t need to be a physicist to feel the propulsion of these pieces. Fans familiar with the aformentioned bands will hear their influence melded perfectly. This ensemble has set a high standard for future Bird’s Robe Collaboration projects.

Bright Quito Spring – Bright Quito Spring EP

Despite so far existing for less time than any other act in this list, Bright Quito Spring have carved out an assured niche in the Sydney scene. Lyrically cryptic, yet direct. Musically adventurous and subtle, yet confident. A band of extremes, this one, and the songs on the EP reflect this – the opening track”A Role In An Ad” jumping from yelped ecstacy to tidal washes of chords with unexpected turns throughout. They wear their influences on their sleeve, certainly, but instead of mimicking, it sounds like Bright Quito Spring are joining in on the conversation. An approach which many bands ignore.

Shanghai – The Battle for Mount Analogue

Long live the cassette tape! Sydney’s staple lounge/metal/prog crew Shanghai pay tribute to the 80s in spectacular fashion with this 2010 tape (!) release, expanding on the unparagoned vision they’ve perfected over the years. Genres and subgenres clash absurdly here, yet somehow the whole package makes sense. Maybe the glorious synth on opening track “The Birth of the Odyssey” just disorients me to the point that everything that follows naturally and beautifully, but even MORE likely is that the members of Shanghai are crazy-genius enough to pull off whatever they attempt and that I can’t help but question my sanity when I listen. I guess, hopefully, I’ll never know.

Slimey Things – Quantum Reality TV

Slimey Things are one of the most experienced and polished acts on the BRC roster. Considering, also, they are a band with such a unique musical perspective, it’s a treat to observe how they continue to grow artistically. This album builds on their earlier work, with an exploration of sounds and structures never before seen by the group. Taking cues from both Zappa AND Devo seems sacreligious, though Slimeys have never been a band to exist for anyone but those that really GET IT. If Sci-fi surf-prog, intergalactic-evil-genius-rock and ray-gun-new-wave sound like appealing descriptors then you may be among that group. And really, who isn’t?

Squat Club – Corvus

Better to burn out than to fade away? The boys in Squat Club thought so. Officially together for only 8 short months before disbanding, this group felt truly momentous. As anyone who had the opportunity to see them live would agree, it seemed incredibly important that these four gentlemen existed at just the right time to collaborate together and it’s a damn shame they couldn’t have wowed more of the world in doing so. Luckily, within this period of time, they recorded a spectacular full length album. Equal parts Secret Chiefs 3, Can, Battles and King Crimson, their songs are sometimes heinously complex - yet achieve a level of melodicism rare in most numbers-and-effects focussed groups. In two words: very special.

Ten Thousand Free Men & Their Families – MKE or BRK EP/Another EP

“Most Likely to Gain a Fervent Cult Following and Then Get Beaten Up By Them at His Own Show”. Tom Gilmore (aka ten thousand free men and their families aka 10k aka etc.) straddles the line between entertainment and harassment perfectly, consistently owning a stage by himself better than most “real” bands do with 4 or 5 people and dominating crowds the nation over with his painstakingly constructed yet brutal gameboy compositions. The two EPs Tom wrote and recorded this year only partially capture the damage that this guy can do live, yet they are still unmatched in terms of experimentation within not only the Sydney scene but also chip music in general. Done did it.

Toehider – 12 EPs in 12 Months Project (January – April)

What a project. What a band. What a songwriter. The singular vision of former Template frontman Mike Mills that began in May last year reached its spectacular conclusion over the first four months of this year. Releasing merely one EP is a task many artists find taxing, but the energy required to produce 12 EPs and have all of them be, well, actually really fucking good is just beyond me. Chronologically, “Untitled”, “Do You Believe in Monsters?” “Never Mind the Hallux” and “Done and Dusted” each traverse a rich musical landscape that is sure to enrich the existence of all who hear them. This is a 2010 list, so the spotlight here should really be on the EPs released this year, but honestly go back and buy all 12. This is important.

Vampillia – sspears

The only non-Australian act on this list and the first (of hopefully many) Bird’s Robe Records imports, Japan’s Vampillia probably deserve a special mention for definitely being the strangest band we’ve yet had to deal with, both musically and otherwise. When Mike first told me about them he described them as “freak circus monkey metal”, which written down is hilarious, but its the best descriptor of this album that I can imagine. Occupying the same theatrical and musical territory as Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Mr Bungle and Oingo Boingo, but with a healthy evil slant, this album will make you smile while rocking the fuck out of you. Oh and Protip: check out their videoclips.

65 Degrees Music Cafe BRC Write-up

The amazing guys at. 65 Degrees Music Cafe have written a way-too-kind blog post about The Bird’s Robe Collective’s role as a promoter of the experimental and progressive arts in Sydney:

It can take a lot to be able to build up a good rapport with key local venues, and it takes a lot of effort and skill to be able to promote a show successfully – let alone to navigate the superfluous complexities of the myriad of hyper-fragmented genres and scenes and their respective fickle fans.

Luckily, all is not lost. There are still some organisations who are able to promote live music very well; promoters who do manage to inspire confidence from bands, fans and venues alike. One such promoter is the Sydney-based The Bird’s Robe Collective.

After reading the full entry, explore the 65 Degrees Blog and the top-notch 65 Degrees Music Cafe store, which sells some of our absolute favourite Sydney experimental albums and band merchandise, including stuff from Squat Club, Anklepants and Adrift for Days. Seriously, get on those dudes.

Violence In Action

Sydney fans of musical improvisation, rejoice! In case you didn’t notice, the incomparable and unmatched Lachlan Kerr of Sydney progressive outfit Godswounds has developed, nurtured and massaged his incredible gamepiece VIOLENCE IN ACTION for you to witness.

From the Facebook page:

“VIOLENCE IN ACTION gets its name from a subversive take on the term “Violence of Action,” which refers to the climactic point in CQC (Close Quarters Combat) defense/offense as used by the U.S. Marine Corps. This connection also acknowledges the game’s link with John Zorn’s remarkable work in the Game Piece “Cobra,” which, itself, was based on a war strategy game of the same name.

VIA is not a singular game. VIA is a myriad of small games of varying complexity that make up the elements of a performance of the work. It may be said that VIA is like a martial art where any player in the context of the group must come to terms with a vast array of different skills and techniques that must be employed in endless combinations to survive (avoid getting a black dunce cap, as the case may be.) It may also be said that VIA is like a language comprising of gestures, words and idiosyncratic responses that the players and the conductor use to both limit and free the improvisational music that is the outcome of the work. Like Zorn’s Cobra, the game makes use of prompt cards and gestures. The latter exist as tools of both the conductor and the players, the former representing a movement from one game to the next”

If you are interested in participating in a rehearsal, visiting a show, or just viewing the complex rulebook, contact violenceinaction@hotmail.com.


Bright Quito Spring – “Bright Quito Spring EP”

One from the vaults, in a manner of speaking. Bright Quito Spring are a Sydney 4-piece who rose from the ashes of the amazing saxophone led progressive rock band Space Banditos, who’s dissipation caused much sadness here at BRC. When members Chris and Gonzalo told us about their new project, however, our initial excitement were as high as our expectations. We weren’t let down.

Taking a mixture of inspirations old and new, Bright Quito Spring come across as a punkier, looser Dirty Projectors fronted by two young Jeff Buckleys and backed by a couple of Johnny Marrs. This combination is utterly thrilling, and I can only imagine the amount that this band will achieve over the next few years, especially considering the high caliber of songwriting they are showing in these early stages.

Earlier this year (before bringing in a bassist) BQS recorded a 3-track EP, which I would highly recommend. Despite being self-recorded, the audio quality is incredible, especially the effort put into the vocals.

Click the image to the left (that’s their EP cover) to be led to their bandcamp page, name your price and download. I can assure you, you will not be disappointed!