Tuesday: The Ocean Party, The Galaxy Folk, Love Of Diagrams
If The Ocean Party’s set on Tuesday said anything about the young band, it’s that the many accomplishments they’ve bagged over the past year have probably been deserved ones. A glass wall separated both categories of people at the PBS headquarters that afternoon; the band was in the studio, everyone else was in the foyer. As it should be, I suppose. The local sextet mixed up their thirty-minute set with songs both new and old, with tracks like ‘Head Down’, from their new album Soft Focus conjuring a sense of the twangy, Triffids-like nonchalance that PBS has housed over the past thirty years. The performance was bound by a pop maturity that would have you think they’d been a band for far longer than they have. A charming introduction to the Drive Live.
Across the foyer a harem of guitars began to flare, and soon after the first act The Galaxy Folk began their own set in the opposite studio. Ethereal garage rock, you could say, saw a steady flow of reverberated chords and vocals as spaced as the band’s name would suggest ooze through the speakers and over the crowd. The set was characterised for the next half an hour by an overwhelming fuzz guided by a generous presence of melody: a recipe for garage music both wholesome and consuming. The fuzz remained until the very end of their set – and shortly after, Love Of Diagrams embarked on a continuation of the fuzz.
But fuzz was one of the few regards in which the punk veterans resembled the previous act; never mind The Ocean Party who they didn’t resemble at all. Love Of Diagrams’ began unassumingly. They played their spin on simple, riff-driven punk to the crowd’s delight, with front woman Antonia Sellbach exuding low, droning vocals to songs mostly sourced from their forthcoming album through Bedroom Suck Records. Luke Horton assumed vocal duties from time to time; the aforementioned fuzz doing little to render the respective singers’ voices as background noise. Rather, the lyrics were timed, clear, with their rhythm often married to the rigid riffs. The band’s set was a solid reminder that decade-long hiatuses don’t have to mean a thing – Love Of Diagrams can come and go whenever they please.
Thursday: Power, Kim & Leanne, Ausmuteants
Frenzy. If this day of the Drive Live were to be assigned any single description, that would probably be it. Power began the evening’s proceedings with the avid noodlings of a band whose material corresponds faithfully to their name, with their near-illegibile brand of punk serving as an ongoing invitation for the viewers to lose their sh*t. They did lose their sh*t; at least some of them anyway. While half an hour may seem a scarce amount of playing time to some bands, it was more than enough for Power – whose songs are such high-paced thrash-abouts that they were over within very little time. And that’s their charm.
Kim & Leanne are Kim Salmon and Leanne Cowie; both veterans to the Melbourne punk scene and thereby ideal candidates for a live PBS broadcast. Their sound was a shambolic melange of droning guitars and daunting, crashing symbols, Salmon’s voice oftentimes drowned out by his almost-obnoxiously loud guitar. However, with this said, maybe that’s how the set was meant to be, as people most certainly enjoyed it. A cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Dead Flowers’ emerged amidst the generated wall of noise exuded by the duo – going to show that despite the chaos, pop still had its place. Not only that, but it was recognizable too. Likewise, Ausmuteants clung to the goofier elements of pop music as though it had long gone out of style.
And I guess in this case it had.
“This is for fans of nu punk! One, two, three, four!” cried singer Jake Robertson at some point in the set. Arched over one of the band’s two synthesisers, he and his bandmates emanated some weird demented hybrid of synth, pop, rock’n’roll and of course, nu punk. Not only were the songs clearly composed with a miraculous sense of taste considering what they were, but all six of the band played with an energy unmatched by any other act all week. Basic riffs guided just about all of the songs, filled in their interims by blaring synths, wild guitar frenzies and the workings of a drummer whose sheer stamina seemed impossible. The set was as accessible as it was mildly insane. It was punk but it wasn’t; it was pop but it wasn’t. It was a balance best not to try at home, and it beats me how the hell they did it.
Friday: Time For Dreams, Habits, Primitive Calculators
Friday was a drum-free day, or at least it was absent of a drum kit, so to say.
Local duo Time For Dreams played a sedate set of what leaned towards the gentler side of shoe gaze. With instrumental duties divided between the band’s two members, front woman Amanda Roff took timely, steady plucks of her bass as her crystalline vocals rung out amongst a cinematic array of synthesisers played by bandmate Tom Carlyon. Drum machines and loops came to compensate for the band’s tiny membership, with the sense of minimalism instilled in the set strangely absent of any particular emptiness or pretense. At times Carlyon employed the vastly reverberated tones of his guitar; nudging the instrument away from its more typical uses in favour of a calculated dreamscape.
Electronica lingered throughout the next set too, with Habits seeming very much a midway point between the first and the last bands. Certainly the fondest dancers on the evening, the trio delivered an interpretation of industrial electro which at times seemed bouncy, at others slightly apocalyptic, but all the while coordinated down to an aesthetically obscure tee. Of course, what they could see through the narrow windows of the second studio prompted most nearby punters to bop rigidly in time with the songs; an easy task helped by beats that were consistent, interesting, and oddly industrial to the point of nostalgia. In fact, this set provided better leeway into that of Primitive Calculators than anybody there probably expected.
Now, if ever there was an example of a band operating in strange ways, Primitive Calculators (and Fleetwood Mac) would certainly be up there. It seems that while a thirty year hiatus was not enough to deter the band from reunion, it was enough to morph their sound immensely. The band devoted the entirety of their set to new material, with original members Frank Lovece, Denise Hilton, Stuart Grant and Dave Light joined by a couple of newer, younger members on backing vocals. Certainly they’ve retained scents of punk within their music; Grant regularly went at his guitar as though determined to inflict upon it some form of mortal injury. However, akin to the previous band, whiffs of industrial electro emerged throughout the set, with Hilton operating grating samples from her behind her synth. Hazes of white noise and feedback overcame the crowd as Hilton continued with slightly off-key notes that contributed to the songs’ rising and falling sense of technological melancholy. Whether surprising or not, the band’s revolution offended few if any at all. Adjustment is natural, and it’s for adjustment’s sake that we have institutions like PBS.