Just who are this trio of blokes? Dumbsaint are a Sydney-based group that combine elements of post-metal, post-rock and progressive music genres. They are unique in that they give equal weighting to the visual aspect of their live performances. Two of the three members are film students, so each song they create will have a visual accompaniment that is usually projected on-stage with the band.
While Dumbsaint have been around and playing in Sydney for a long time, this is their debut album.
So, what of it? Well, let's start off with the production. Simply put, the production is GORGEOUS. I've long been a fan of the production work that Tim Carr does over at Studios 301, but I think this might be the nicest thing I've heard from him. He's done a magnificent job. His incredible ability to capture the vibe of whatever music he is engineering, his work ethic, and his tireless attention to detail really shine through on this album.
The production maxim of the band seems to be a focus on organic, dynamic and natural sounds. Nick's drum sound is the most open I think I've heard. There's just so much room to breathe, and it really lets Nick's outstanding dynamic playing shine through the mix rather.
The guitar and bass tones show a similar merticulous attention to detail and texture. The guitar is crisp, clean and clear when it needs to be, and explodes into a wall of monolithic fat fuzz when tracks peak.
The first track 'Rivers Will Be Crossed' perfectly presents what I love about this band. The song-writing is outstanding. The musicianship of each individual is stellar - and as a trio they really know when to pull-back what they're playing to let other instruments ebb, flow and take the centre point when they need to. The song just continues to builds and weaves beautifully. The structure is just really engaging and very intelligent compiled.
And yet, as I finish listening to the entire album for perhaps the 30th time, I still feel like something is missing to make this an incredible, coherent album. Most of the tracks are great - if not awesome - but occasionally a track or section emerges the reminds me perhaps a little too much of the premordial slime and eggshells Dumbsaint have brought with them from the beginning - the stamp of some of influences perhaps being a little too great in a few select moments.
After speaking to the band I think I can pinpoint why this is. These songs were not written as 'an album'. They are essentially a collection of songs written over the last 8+ years that have happened to be on an album together, and I think the coherent concept of an album suffers as a result of that.
Now, for the mostpart the band really manages to hide this fact from the listener with some very smart song ordering -- but every time I reach the final movement of the final track off the album, I can't help but feel the lack of a final penultimate moment, a clear album closer to end the listening experience coherently. I keep expecting the next song to kick in any second. The last track 'I am an image' really fails to properly bookend the journey, and I'm just left hanging, a little confused as to why the music has stopped coming from my headphones.
Now these criticisms should be taken into context. This album is still incredible. What Dumbsaint have achieved has personally made me very jealous - and I think there should be clear recognition of this. However, that said, I do believe that the bands best compositions are ahead of them. Now that they have a solid, consistent line-up they can focus on constructing new material for the format, rather than having to select an albums worth of songs from a back-catalog amassed over many years.
It is Dumbsaint's mature songwriting, precise, dynamic musicianship, and attention to detail that puts this trio far beyond another cookie-cutter post-rock or post-metal offering. Fans of ISIS, Red Sparrowes, Mogwai, Russian Circles, sleepmakeswaves, Pelican and Tool should love this album. Infact, I would be willing to say that 'Something that you feel will find its own form' might just surpass, say, the latest Russian Circles album.
This is an extremely impressive album and I can't see where these guys take their music next. It has replaced Helm's debut album 'Keehaul... Volume 1' as my favourite Australian release within the style. I foresee a bright future for Dumbsaint, and I would implore you to go and check out their debut album over at Birds Robe Records.
I recently sat down and interview Cam of Melbourne's incredibly talented Five Star Prison Cell a few weeks before their highly anticipated new album M A T R I A R C H drops (June 4th, 2010). The band has been one of my personal favourite Australian bands for a long, long time – Ebolie/Serious Beak can't get enough of these fools – so it with great pleasure that I present the following interview.
(Reposted from my blog at 65 Degrees Music Cafe, which covers 'good music' instead of just grindcore)
Alright first up, what influences you guys (musically or otherwise) first as a band, and then as an individual?
Haha... I hate this question… Ok, like with anything, musical tastes change and evolve. Bands you may have loved grow less and less exciting either due to listening to them too much or the whole “like their old stuff better than their new stuff” sort of thing… So what influences us as a band? Probably not sounding like other bands… Or taking what we love about various bands and music and applying that to the music we create. Is that ambiguous enough for you?
We’re also movie buffs. We all like to read and discuss nerd shit, so that may come out in our music as I guess its kinda music for music nerds.
As for what influences us individually, that chops and changes all the time. Our music tastes are different, we all sort of branch out into shit that other band guys may not like (like when the rest of the band crank fucken Guns of Roses in the van and I am the one band guy who don’t care for them). It’s hard to say anything specific. Just music in general influences us; we’re always looking for something new to listen to.
How happy are you personally with your first two albums The Complete First Season and Slaves of Virgo?
Yeah that’s hard to answer… An album is a snapshot of what a band was like at a given time right? And bands move on and evolve in their craft, so looking back you kind of feel like what you do currently is better. I know I was happy as a pig in shit when The Complete First Season was recorded. We were less happy with Slaves of Virgo. There were some parts of it we would have done differently, and some laziness on the part of the producer – but now we have M A T R I A R C H we can hold all 3 albums up together and look back with a fondness for the first two that we didn’t have before…
So the answer is ‘Yes, we are happy’.
How would you compare the mindset of the writing and recording process of your latest album M A T R I A R C H (out June 4), compared to its two predecessors?
Definitely very different. I mean, first off you have the culmination of 5 years of writing, recording and doing shows together, so there is a natural evolution. There was also a huge focus on being better songwriters, letting the music breathe and build instead of chop and change riffs, or technicality for technicality’s sake…
And finally, the recording was a different experience with a different (and excellent) producer. We all had more input into everyone’s parts and we also had opportunity to take mixes home make notes and come back and get it adjusted, rather than doing a final mix and that’s it. So we are much happier with M A T R I A R C H as a band and we’re older, wiser, more jaded and our approach this time was much more focused.
The difference in production between The Complete First Season, Slaves of Virgo and now the few songs I’ve heard from M A T R I A R C H seem quite substantial. Were there any conscious changes you made for the new album?
Yeah; ‘step it up’. That’s always our conscious decision. Out do the last album in everything from production, to artwork and of course songwriting. The conscious change was to a) Spend more money and be particular about the production we want b) definitely use a different producer, just for the new experience and a fresh take production-wise on our music.
We also wanted to try hard to capture that live energy we have in the recording, that’s what we felt the first 2 lacked… that intensity of 4 dudes playing in a room, rather than being too overly produced and losing some of that.
Congratulations on the SWR sponsorship by the way. How did that come about?
Thanks man. I guess I have some folk at Fender to thank for that and the fact that they believe in and support what we do. My guy Heath came to a show in Sydney and pretty much offered it afterwards, which I was fuckin’ stoked about! The Fender (SWR/Jackson) crew have been nothing but awesome and we are honored to be their endorsees.
What guitar gear did Marek use on the latest album?
Marek used his Jackson of course. The main bulk of the guitar sound comes from a Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier, but we blended in some other amps just to vary the sound a bit. Those were a Sherlock, and a Marshall JCM 800. Some parts also have some different guitars in there.
Can you promise me never to use that kick drum sound on Slaves of Virgo ever again?
So unbelievably done… Don’t worry man…
Does M A T R I A R C H have an overall concept or a theme that resonates with you?
Yeah it has a meaning to us all – It’s sort of a mix of things. The themes that run through the album are women (hence the title), but not in a pissed off we were burned by a chick sort of way. It’s more a respect thing, or the power they have over people and the world.
Then we have the Sun, which is like a sign of new life, or new beginnings… The supernova on the front represents this. A Matriarch is someone who has the power to create and control life, same with a supernova. We are all made from material that originated from a supernova. In fact everything we know is – and a supernova can take that away just as easily. Powerful shit.
We also have a thing about Airsharks which is an in joke that I won’t go into here.
Could you explain the standard Five Star Prison Cell writing process? How do you guys pull everything together?
It varies with different songs, but that main process is this:
Marek our guitarist is a treasure-trove of fucked up insane guitar parts. What that guy has running through his head always astounds me. Then he takes that to our drummer and to paraphrase our Helm friend Lucas (who used to be in a band with our drummer), he takes a song you have written then almost writes a new song on top of it with his drum parts… So you may have an idea for what you want the drums to do, but once you give something to Marc he will have an even better idea. He is a very creative drummer.
So those two together pretty much come up with most of our shit and as a team of writers they are amazing. They work and work – obviously one can’t learn a Marek riff straight away so Marc drummer will take it home and come back next week with something completely unexpected and awesome.
During all that I put in my 2 cents, especially structure wise, and my bass parts are geared around complimenting what those two do. And of course our wordsmith Adam writes his lyrics which he is more than happy to share and take our input, so it is a very collaborative experience coupled with a deep respect with what each other does but also complete honesty. There are no egos, so if we don’t like something we just say it, what is important to us is what is best for the song. That may mean playing nothing.
That said, Marek has written complete songs, Marc may come to us with drum parts and we build on that, Adsy has written a few songs or given us a basis and even the lowly bass player has a few songs to his name in our 3 albums. Basically it’s a complete and utter collaboration.
The girl who sang on The Rise and Fall of Red Sparrowes off of Slaves of Virgo. Who was she? She was amazing.
Haha, That’s Rebekah Chapman, my ex girlfriend, who was of course not my ex at the time (or at least some of the time). She is a very talented individual and we are of course honoured she was a part of that album. She has collaborated with Adam in the past on Coitus Bund and can now be found singing in a girl-only a-capella type band called The Nymphs.
She is also a classically trained pianist and holds a music degree. Like I said – talented.
I understand that you’re a man of fairly diverse musical tastes. So tell me, what does Cam listen to after a hard days polyrhythmictechrape to unwind?
Hahaha… Right now I’ve discovered dub thanks to a sound guy up in the Blue Mountains, so I’ve been cranking various dub albums. Alongside that Mastodon continue to do it for me as well as Midnight Oil, Queen, Cypress Hill, Fleetwood Mac, Bill Withers – I like my 80’s and 90’s pop (which you well know Lachy) – Neurosis, Cult of Luna, Candiria (who I keep coming back to, I love the shit out of them), James Brown, Michael Jackson, Parliament, The Police, Prince and of course the mighty Ween… And that’s just some of the shit I listen to.
Apart from the above world famous massive bands, plenty of Aussie cunts manage to put a lot of bands to shame. I’m talking specifically about Squat Club who blew my mind, along with Adrift for Days, and Helm.
Heard any new, up and coming bands that have blown your mind lately?
Yep. Adrift for mother fuckin Days. Bring it cunts!
Also Helm rule the world and a band called Red Bee impressed the fuck out of us when we were up in the Blue Mountains a couple of weeks ago. There is a band in Wellington called Elephant of the Ocean who were nothing short of amazing when we played with them last year and who I am personally watching closely.
You guys have been touring quite heavily in support of this new album. Tell us about the experience of touring regional NSW, and whether you’d recommend it to other bands.
All awesome. That country town thing where they don’t get heaps of bands come through seems to work in our favor. The crowd is really vocal and seem to love what we do for some reason so we have been having great experiences. I would definitely recommend it to other bands.
Make sure you play with the local bands down there as they will always put on a killer show and you are guaranteed to play in front of their regular crowd who are keen to stay and watch the interstate touring band and if you do a good job you will be rewarded with regional lovin’.
You seem to be one of the few bands to brave a trip over to our cousins to the east – New Zealand. Can you tell us about that experience?
Excellent both times we went. What caught our attention straight away was the quality of the bands there. It may be an isolation thing but man, the creativeness, especially in Wellington, and the quality of the music is world class. It saddens me that we don’t hear about NZ bands more than we do, they are also the nicest people you will ever meet… Plus weed is like running water over there and everyone is keen to “have a sesh bro” (said in a try hard NZ accent)… Awesome place man. Awesome.
When are we going to see your nice faces in Sydney again?
You will see our nice faces at the following:
- 10th June @ Hot Damn
- 17th June @ Oxford Tavern, Woolongong
- 18th June @ The Empire Hotel, NSW
- 19th June @ Hamilton Station hotel, Newcastle
- 20th June @ Lucky Australian Tavern, St Marys (ALL AGES)
Any plans to tour internationally on the horizon? I’m surprised you haven’t already.
Yes! Definitely plans. We’re looking at going over late this year or next year. There are discussions in the works and our deal with Riot!/Warner affords us some cool opportunities... so more to come, but yeah, world domination is indeed part of our plans.
Thanks for that pal. Hear these jerks at http://www.myspace.com/fivestarprisoncell and be sure to look out for the new album M A T R I A R C H which is sure to be up there with the best of 2010.
There are no shortage of cool fucking gigs on this weekend. And here they are!
Friday the 12th of February
Grind and Doom and The Lansdowne Hotel
Adrift for Days, New Blood, Michael Crafter, thedowngoing and Beer Corpse - FREE!
Birushanah (JAP) at Dirty Shirlows warehouse
Birushanah, Whitehorse, Nunchukka Superfly and Kusum
Helm 'Vol 2 The Winter March' Tour at The Excelsior
Helm, Breaking Orbit, Germinine, Ire the Puppet
Sunday the 14th of February
Birds Robe at the Annandale Hotel
Darth Vegas, Slimey Things, Squat Club, Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes, Rockethead
$15 and 4pm
Alright! Today is New Years Eve and I'm at fucking work. How sad is that? In any case it has given me a quick chance to do my Top 6 Albums of 2009. Why my Top 6? Well, because I got to the 6th album I had selected and then grew bored.
Don't get too hung up on ranks and the like. What this list is meant to do is hopefully pique your interest in some music you havent heard before - so you can go check it out.
Overall I wasn't very impressed with the grindcore offerings of 2009. We had new albums from Napalm Death, Magrudergrind, Brutal Truth and Flagitious Idiosyncrasy In The Dilapidation which were all reasonable, but hardly groundbreaking or worth of intense praise. I think I'm at the stage where I really need to hear something different in a band, rather than a rehash of old genre cliches. The Kill's new live album was pretty fucking cool, but really most of those songs were quite old.
I'm definitely struggling to find grindcore that meets any of this criteria (and if you have any suggestions I'd love to hear it!). As for metal - well I'm fairly disillusioned and above all TOTALLY FUCKING BORED of death metal and most extreme genres. They are all too static.
In any case, here are my favourite albums of 2009!
1. Mastodon - Crack the Skye: You read correctly. I have dug Mastodon since Remission; and loved the heavy, sludge-ridden style they demonstrated on their first 3 releases. When Mastodon changed their tune in Blood Mountain, I no longer found the major identifiable elements that had let me previously enjoy the band. The production was comparitively thin, the clean sung vocals seems quite poor and inadequate, and that unabated crushing heaviness that I had come to associate with the band was no where to be found.
Then came Crack the Skye. I can only assume this is the album the guys WISHED they made the first time around. It is a fucking masterpiece of catchy vocal hooks (albiet slightly over-produced and clearly run through many filters), complex King Crimson-esque progressive passages, absolutely blistering guitar leads and wonderfully constructed songs. While Mastodon are definitely a band who people either seem to love or hate (infact my old man recently told me that he thought their album was terrible and was 'as bad as the stadium rock bands you used to listen to when you were 16') I definitely stand in the love camp. This album is a masterpiece, and it's ability to retain memorability and accessability while still being an absolute progressive rape is what it's all about for me.
2. Zu - Carboniferous: Apparently Zu have made 14 records since 1999 - so why the fuck hadn't I heard of them before? I only got this album a few weeks back, but it is fucking amazing. This Italian trio (drums, baritone sax and bassist) pulls out massive Meshuggah-styled rotating polyrhythms - but somehow they make it fucking dancable and catchy. How can a trio with no guitar be as heavy as Meshuggah? How can a seemingly endless supply of awkwardly ear-pleasing opposing rhythms and syncopations be so fun? I have absolutely no idea - but hark, it is so.
This is an obscene mix of metal, jazz, punk, noise and more. A huge warm fuzzed-out bass fits perfectly with a prominent live drum kit sound and the heaviness of baritone sax. A mix of The Melvins, Meshuggah, Hella (pfft) and John Zorn. Totally fucking crushing. Get into it.
3. Helm - Keelhaul… Volume 1: Alright so this album was technically released in the last few weeks of 2008, but I don't care. Helm hail from Queensland, Australia and play music stylistically similar to Cult of Luna, Isis, Jakob, Mogwai and all the rest. Listening to this band it is abundantely clear that Helm are not another derivative Cult of Luna band - how could they be? The average age of the band members is far above that of the bands they are so often compared to. By pulling in such a wealth of exprience and knowledge of music, Helm have provided is a refreshingly unique take on a genre that so often falls victim to rehashed Isis-worship.
They take their vocal and guitar melodies far beyond that of the aforementioned, and the fact that they are Australian - and can replicate their intricate melodies and dynamic shifts live just makes things even better.
4. Brian Campeau - Mostly Winter Sometimes Spring: Brian Campeau is the first Sydney local in this list. Born in Canada, Brian eventually moved to Australia. He is an absolutely incredible singer songwriter, with a voice that I would not hesitate to call beautiful or angelic. His music brings to mind the works of Thom Yorke or Bjork; incredibly emotive and usually vocal-driven. His tunes are marked by a meloncholy which stands in stark contrast to his amazing voice.
Brian is also an incredibly talented studio engineer - and it shows. He has moved far beyond being 'just another acoustic guitarist singer/songwriter' and flourished into an extremely complete musician with an amazing ear for sound textures and soundscapes. Mostly Winter Sometimes Spring acts as a concept album and takes the listener through a range of emotional highs and lows - but it is the completeness of this journey which really struck me. The entire album retains an intense emotional power - you can literally feel songs like 'Denial', 'Anger', 'Throwing Blame', 'Depression', 'Reinventing Myself', 'Acceptance' and 'Thankyou'.
To surmise; here you have a man with a voice so beautiful it should be illegal. His acoustic guitar playing (though sparse on the album) is truly unique and creative, and unlike anything I have ever heard. He has a very strong knack for setting mood through production techiques and soundscapes; not to mention his voice and lyrics. This album also features a wide range of guest musicians to provide double pass, saxaphone, brushes and other various touches. The music is seemingly stripped back, but holds a very distilled emotional power. Needless to say, I am floored.
5. Propagandhi - Supporting Caste: This was my first official taste of Propagandhi - and now I can really see what all the fuss is about. Furious ideallic punk rock tunes played at a frantic pace, but supported by very strong musicianship and incredibly articulate and intelligent lyrics. Over the years these guys have moulded into an incredible tight-knit unit, and coupled with their obvious intelligence and talent for lyric writing this launches them up into one of the best albums of the year.
6. Heroin and Your Veins - Nausea: I've been dabbling around with groups who play atmospheric, dark and doomy jazz. Bohren & Der Club of Gore's Black Earth was my first taste of the genre. The down-tempo jazz/doom on that album is far, far more crushing than the majority of "doom metal" I have heard. From there came an obsession with The Necks, and a taste of more atmospheric and cinematic approach from The Kilimanjaro Dark Jazz Ensemble.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I listened to this album from Heroin and Your Veins - the band's name definitely sounded like it would be a generic doom/drone band, so I was delighted when what greeted my ears was a cinematic spin on dark atmospheric doom/jazz, painting extremely moody aural portraits that combines the dark jazz of Bohren & Der Club of Gore with the spaghetti-western Morricone-esque touches of later Earth albums.
And for the record the new Mars Volta was fucking TERRIBLE.
Alright, it's another slow new day/week. So here is a list of killer bands you should familiarise yourself with. Be forewarned; most of them are not metal (which shoudn't really bother you if you have a taste in music rather than a taste in one genre).
Brian Campeau: an incredible acoustic singer/songwriter originally from Canadian, but now located in Sydney. Brian has an incredible vocal range matched with a very unorthodox style of guitar playing. His recorded works are influenced by the likes of Thom Yorke and Bjork; balancing soaring emotional vocals with equal parts minimalist acoustic recordings and dreamy atmospheric textures.
Five Star Prison Cell: a totally unique Australian metal band based heavily around the polyrhythmic complexity of Meshuggah with a healthy helping of groove. These guys are further differentiated by an extremely dynamic vocalist. There is definitely no other band like them; and after seeing these guys play last Friday I have to say they are probably the most insanely tight fuck-off musicians I have seen from a band in a long time.
Helm: I cannot say enough good words about these guys. They have taken the high points of Cult of Luna, Neurosis and Isis and transformed those elements into something really unique. Amazing clean sung harmonies accompany anguished screams and an endless back catalog of killer riffs, build-ups and meditations. Musically these guys fucking know how to structure a song. The more I listen to their debut album, the more I begin to realise that it will not take long for these guys to surpass anything Isis and Cult of Luna have had to offer - and considering my love for both those bands, that is not a small statement to make.
Hospital the Musical: the meeting of Botch, The Locust and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Insanely talented musicians making technically obscene, raging hardcore. Now that could sound like a recipe for disaster, but this bands flirtation with the experimental and dedication to constantly pushing their music in new directions make these guys Australia's best band in the genre since The Rivalry. Their new full length REDorphan is fucking amazing.
Looking Glass: these dudes hark back to the days when psychedelic rock ruled the earth with guitar-wielding gods with obscene narcotic-based diets. Without a doubt, this is THE BEST fucking band in Australia when it comes to stoner and psychedelic rock. They take the best elements of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix without ever sounding derivative. Their live presence is absolutely fucking crushing; and once more (as seems to be the theme) their musicianship is impeccable. Guitarist/vocalist Marcus is one of those rare virtuosos on guitar that makes everyone shut the fuck up and stare in disbelief at the maniac hacking at his guitar strings in total aural ecstacy. Fucking check them out.
Pirate: insane psychedelic and progressive rock. These guys are like The Mars Volta... if The Mars Volta were just 4 dudes playing intensely complex prog shit infused with such incredible groove-hooks and catchy rhythms they didn't need a vocalist to back them up. These dudes are relatively new to the Sydney scene; and fuck me if they havent got everyone's undivided attention.
Squid: two drummers, a double-bassist and two saxes busting out insanely catchy beats in stupid time signatures, and then proceeding jam and dance. I don't know what to call this other than a party jazz jam band, but that label hardly does the immensely talented band members any justice.