Reviews of music and personal experiences by Chris Hearn


So, it's been well over a year post my last post. I went on tour again. I think I have a lot more to post about now. Stay posted.



CD 2006 Self-Released

Matt Kennedy is one of my favourite people in the entire world. We first met via mail, he ordered some CDRs from me, and over time sent me copies of his early cassettes including “Opaltruceminxx” (collaboration with James Dee, now just called Minxx), “Rich Parents” (also with Dee and his then-housemate Kieran, recently of Deaf! Deaf!), other solo projects such as “Whip is Whisk”, and his main band at the time, French Horns. He would post them off with letters printed on the back of photocopied pages from books such as The Catcher in the Rye, and throw in garb like essays he wrote in high school with red pen corrections all over them. In turn I sent him as much as I could offer and we started to collect each other’s back catalogues.

We were introduced in person the first time when I was playing my second ever gig with my Alps project, together we were opening for Die! Die! Die! and he was down in Sydney with French Horns. He’s almost short, stares at his feet a lot and scratches his head before answering questions, but quiet as he is, he has his quirks. Once Matt threw couches off someone’s balcony at a party. Another time at a festival we played together he seemed fascinated by a hill in the distance, and kept remarking on what might be on the other side. At the end of the day he disappeared and after we looked everywhere for him we noticed his tiny figure off in the distance, fading out into the backdrop of the mysterious hill.

Matt Kennedy is a Midas of sorts, with that finger of golden touch generally pissing blood out all of the scratch plate of a left handed guitar, or a saucepan welded onto a drum kit. Everything he does is great. Look!Pond though, takes Matt’s talents and ideas above and beyond everything else he’s done. The demo tape with the red man on the front appeared in my mailbox like a beacon of hope for punk rock in Australia. It opens with the early-Swans-like bass heavy sludge of Kitchens Floor, followed by a breakneck drum machine kicking into Pikelets, probably my song of 2005. Matt said the song is a Big Black ripoff. And I can’t totally disagree, it does sound a lot like Big Black, but I can’t turn on it, because it’s like a song a young Albini never wrote but should have. It ranks up there with the heaviest, fastest and most powerful, if it had have been included on the tracklisting of Atomiser or Bulldozer, it would stand out as one of the best.

Matt recorded the 4 song demo, followed by a 3”EP, both alone with a four-track machine, playing every guitar, bass, drum, keyboard and vocal part on his lonesome, proving himself to be an absolute master. It was always his intention to do Look!Pond as a band, but the bar was set pretty high for his musicians and it took a while before the camp came together. Finally Matt was joined by his long term collaborator James Dee on bass, and old On/Ox drummer Alex on drums and saucepans, and work started on the full length early on in the lineup.

At the end of 2006 Look!Pond released their album themselves after only playing a small handful of shows. Of the nine tracks on the album, seven were previously released on the cassette and 3”, but all were reworked with James and Alex. Not much change was made to the Arab on Radar-ish songs of the second EP, perhaps due to Matt having the band idea in mind when originally creating them. However on the three songs from the cassette “Kitchen’s Floor”, “Pikelets”, and “Park”, they abandon all industrial/punk power, drop most of the bass from the guitar sound and loosen everything up, giving them a feel more like some of their Australian post punk contemporaries like Vincent Over the Sink. The album certainly isn’t void of industrial power though, I have found myself skipping through to track 7 to hear the mighty build up towards the albums closing number, a song of somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes of sludge anger meets hard-hitting precision. Track 9 alone could make the entire album, and despite my attachment to the demo tape, I feel it to be their magnum opus.

I have told everyone all over the world that Look!Pond are the best band in Australia, and that’s for one reason, because they are.


Hit the Jackpot "Clowns"
CD 2006 Fucken' Stoner Records

I first saw Hit the Jackpot play at Belladonna DIY Fest 2004 in Wollongong NSW. I didn’t catch much of their set because they were on at 6:00-6:20pm as the doors were opening and I was at the end of the line. I wasn’t that interested at first, but later picked up their self-titled EP and it slowly grew on me. I like that about a band.

Being South Australians, and busy running what might be Australia’s premier (maybe someone can clarify this with me?) CDR label, Fucken’ Stoner Records, HTJ didn’t make it up to NSW much, and whenever I was in Adelaide I missed them. The next time I saw them I was opening for them in December 2005 on a show with Sweet Raxxx and Kiosk. By that time they’d recorded their debut album Clowns, but were screwing around with the art, or on getting it replicated rather than just burning it or something, so they were selling a 3 track CDR with three Clowns tracks: Dead Tree, Daryl Hannah, and Jarrod. I immediately got hooked on that and listened to it frequently for the best part of the next year. I spammed their myspace profile all the time and bugged them to put the album out quicker. I made it to Adelaide at the end of May 2006 on tour and they were still screwing around with the artwork.

Clowns finally came out in the last half of 2006, around September I think. I got a copy just before I left the country but didn’t get to listen to it ‘til I got home. There’s one thing disappointing about it, and that’s that it only has 8 songs, and they are really short songs. In fact it doesn’t clock in much longer than the EP.

It’s easy to compare Hit the Jackpot to Beat Happening. They play loosely, falling in and out of time, but never so much that it’s irritating to listen to. The beats are simple and driving, playing the drums with one stick and one shaker, and minimal kick. The bass glides around the drums and the vocals sit low in the mix. It’s hard to say who in the band is playing guitar in each song - I’m pretty sure it’s shared around - but the guitars might just be their trademark, the parts a bit more complex than the other instruments. Power chords doubled with discordant melodies, like a more aurally distinguishable Wipers, or a more heavily distorted Sonic Youth. Mostly-guitarist Kynan once told me that people always imagine that their guitar parts are really complicated and are surprised when they see how simple they are to play. That’s because they uses some really creative tunings though - he could get away with being much less humble.

Kynan and Jess have a house that they built a recording studio into, and that’s where the album was recorded. They did a fucking tops job. I bothered Kynan about recording my next album for me, and I hope that I will eventually get around to going back to Adelaide and actually do it.


Birchville Cat Motel “Our Love Will Destroy The World”
CD 2006 Pseudo Arcarna

Campbell Kneale has a Venom T-Shirt. Campbell Kneale has a Mohawk haircut. Campbell Kneale signs his e-mails by pressing enter two or three times followed by CAMPBELL. Campbell Kneale has a doom band called Black Boned Angel. Campbell Kneale headbangs while he performs.

But Campbell hasn’t always been metal. Or else he probably would have strayed using the word cat in the name of his best known project. Or he might have spent his time smoking spliffs and listening to Sabbath, rather than beating us all at life by getting a degree allowing him to make a living teaching art to Catholic school girls and getting months of paid time off every year to spend going on tour. Not to mention just how pretty some of his earlier material is.

“Our Love Will Destroy the World” is an album that I doubt surprised anyone. It only makes sense that Birchville Cat Motel would follow suit with Campbell and release a metal album. And with ridiculous popularity of the new doom/sludge/black metal, it was probably a good time. Have they played Sunn O))) on the OC yet?

I’m staying with family as I write this, and a minute after pushing play on the CD player a 3-year-old walks in and asks me ‘Is Mummy vacuuming?’ Droonnnnneeee. Then Mummy actually does start vacuuming. But yeah, nice comparison there, right on. The drums kick in after a couple of minutes, a loose variation between a snare and hats at around 140bm like a slightly slower blast beat and the usual electronic bagpipes, delayed recorder, etc builds up intensely into track two which is pretty close to what you might call a “song”. A nice steady 4/4, feedback, and something for the Boris fans, building into, wait, real guitar chords! The third track takes a brief break from the feedback that starts at the beginning of the album and follows right through to the end. It’s a nice radio-length slow melodic number that could fit anywhere on a post-rock record, saved only by the sludge preceding it and the organ noise that follows for 5 minutes on the forth track. The disc concludes with a synth-heavy song with plenty of sharp sounds from all directions and more steady drumming.

I’ve listened to around 10 of Birchville’s recordings, and I hate to say that despite its accessibility, this is probably my favourite. The thing is, it’s probably how accessible this CD is that makes it so damn good. It flows like a real album, the songs aren’t too long, and all of the noises have a point and go somewhere, rather than just floating on the same drone for an extended period of time and then fading it out. I loved Chi Vampires, it was the first Campbell record I heard close to feeling like an album, but there was that point in the middle where you’d zone out after by 25 minutes into the second track (which went for 30 something). Not that that was a bad thing, it just became an album that you’d put on while you were doing something else, rather than something that you could pass time listening to. “Our Love Will Destroy the World” contains some previously released recordings, and with the amount of produce Campbell and many of his new drone contemporaries are guilty of releasing and in such limited runs, it seems positive that he could look back upon something and notice how it stands out against some of his other material, and see a context where it would comfortably sit, making something worth keeping in print. In that sense, and also musically, it is the one of his albums that you could file next to The Dead C’s records as an important document of the New Zealand and wider international underground.


Ambitious Lovers “Stranger Can I Touch You?”
CDR 2006 Warren Street Youth Records

I fly from Dublin back to London and for the first time have a place to sleep (having spent my first few days sleeping in the arrivals lounge at Heathrow), so I drop my bags and head straight out to a show of The Dead C/Charalambides at The Luminaire. After getting on the wrong tube, missing buses, and walking in the opposite direction, I get in just as The Dead C play their first chords. I stay in the one spot the whole gig and for it’s duration this kid with sheepy brown hair keeps looking at me like he knows me. When The Dead C wrap it up he turns to me and says ‘Are you Chris?’, and it’s Joel, from Brisbane, who I’d met a couple times while I was on tour, and he’d posted me his band Ambitious Lovers’ first two CDRs. He’s in England for Christmas to stay with his sister who’s just moved over, so we exchange UK mobile numbers and agree to meet up for some other gigs.

I see Joel the next week in a record store in Notting Hill and we’re looking through the goods pulling stuff out and saying ‘heard this?’, and I without thinking run into an Arto Lindsay record that’s only 3 quid, pull it out, and Joel looks a little dismayed as I ask his opinion. ‘I’d heard there was another Ambitious Lovers from the 80’s but I didn’t know they were a band people were into’, he say's or something along the lines. I explain the DNA/Zorn etc connection to him and get an ‘oh’, then I put it back and we move on.

Later, we go to see Scout Niblett and Joel pulls out a copy of his new Ambitious Lovers CDR. I am immediately pleased to see some of the most creative packaging I’ve seen in a pretty long time. The front and back are a full colour digital print of an original painting by someone called Allan, who apparently named the album and perhaps even put the packaging together, though on that it’s not specific. The printout is on some pretty thick stock, which has glued to it on the inside two CD cover-sized pieces of cardboard probably cut out from a box picked up from a supermarket. The little information supplied with the CD is printed on stained old yellow paper, each paragraph torn from the sheet and some edges burnt, and glued to the card with fresh dollops of black paint spattered on the corners. The CD sits in the middle in an unattached sleeve like a sandwich, and it’s all held together by a piece of string tied with a bow.

Having no CD player, I don’t get to listen to the album until a few weeks later when I’m up north. I knew this was a four-track recording, and honestly wasn’t expecting much out of this album. Their earlier recordings are fairly amateur, the ukuleles and Joel’s voice often fall out of tune, scale and key, the only thing constant being their sincerity. But on “Stranger Can I Touch You?” Joel’s voice is more than bearable, in fact I’d even go as far as beautiful, a mixture of quiet falsetto and belting straight from the stomach. The second Ambitious Lover Miriam also gets a larger singing part on the album, with many of the tracks written as duets, and also taking the lead on two tracks. Joel and Miriam’s voices both contrast and compliment each other, the latter showing a lot more classic beauty against the raw emotion of Joel’s tremelo-ing.

Of all the bands in Australia trying to fit in with the new DIY folk movement, Ambitious Lovers are one of the few that have managed to pull off the elsewhere already overdone ideas of junkyard percussion, fragmented song structures and cheap alternatives to the acoustic guitar. If not only for the uniqueness of their voices, but also for taking the time out to write a balanced mixture of hooks and content. The recording is just the right mix between lo-fi warmth and analogue clarity, and despite the limits of the standard cassette tape, to give an idea, the album would probably fit more comfortably on the roster of Young God than K Records. And there might be room in there somewhere for a well-flowing record full of memorable songs like these.


This is a blog created for the purpose of reviewing CDs/records/tapes that I have been given or traded for, whilst on tour myself.