Hazards of Swimming Naked + Lion Island + Mr. Maps + Hunz
The Hi-Fi Bar, Brisbane
21st August 2010

Brisbane bands why has Webcuts forsaken thee? We try to make amends tonight seeing four in one go, but immediately the problem that plagued our last attendance at the Hi-Fi is evident. Webcuts suggests The Hi-Fi invests in some inflatable extras or rent-a-crowd to pad out the room in future. Credit to Hunz, essentially vocalist/keyboardist Hans van Vliet joined live by Phil Evans on bass and Richie Young on drums, who perform like it’s a full house of a thousand punters. Hunz’ glitch-pop is heavy on percussion featuring electronic drum pads, acoustic drums and drum programming, along with keyboards from the Martin Gore school of moody synth lines. With the rally against consumerism of “Soon Soon” comparisons to Thom Yorke are inevitable, with both sharing a high register vocal range and the bleeps and syncopated beats are similar to those of Eraser. The set ends with “You Said Hello” which sees a more playful, funky side of Hunz and has Hans severing his ties to his keyboard to get into the groove and relish the frontman role.

Mr. Maps are record label lofly’s version of Marvel comic’s Avengers as every member either plays in another of the label’s roster or are involved in running the label and its Hangar nights. Thus this gig being concurrent to a Hangar is slightly bemusing. Indie promoters of Brisbane please synch your Google calendars! The first time we witnessed Mr. Maps’ complex instrumental rock was in the round(house) theatre to mark the launch of their Mimicry of Lines and Light EP. Eighteen months on and the band have shed a guitarist, leaving all duties to fall on the nimble fingers of lead songwriter Chris Perren, and drummers have also changed with Jacob Hicks now in the stool. After tonight he shall be christened Jac Hits for the ferocity that he displays towards his kit. Recent double A-sided single “Nice Fights” b/w “Fly, You Monumental Mistake” both encapsulate the Mr. Maps experience in four minutes: intricate guitar fills, piano and cello that switch from soothing to thunderous as required, rapidly changing time signatures, epic middle eights (or is it a middle sixteenths?), breathtaking peaks and gorgeous lulls. Mimicry’s “This Mess is a Place” finishes their tenure in a triumphant barrage of noise that provides a fitting end for their last show for the year. Hopefully the break will enable their debut album Wire Empire to receive all the love and attention it richly deserves.

The first we see of Lion Island is Matthew Vale alone on stage with only his voice and acoustic guitar to earn the attention of the crowd, but one by one his fellow band mates join him on stage and the act balloons to a generous six piece (one more, violinist Skye, is absent). This is indie-pop set to widescreen mode and seeing how Belle & Sebastian, James, Tindersticks and The Arcade Fire are permanently on this writer’s iPod as soon as we see a glint of brass Lion Island have won us over. Still Vale knows that all the instruments in the world won’t mask poor songwriting, and thus the songs are full of melody supplied by himself on piano and Bec on trumpet and diverse textures courtesy of guitarists Nick and Adrian, which underpin Matthews warm tenor that bears more than a passing resemblance to Finn Andrews from The Veils. With only an EP under their belt their set is mostly unknown to the crowd but the songs are accessible and immediate enough to entice the casual listener from the get-go. A new song “Underground”, possibly off their forthcoming debut album, displays a rockier post-punk edge. In it Matthew states how his “body’s lost to the sound”. So was mine.

The most obvious difference between Hazards of Swimming Naked and the previous three acts isn’t in their sound but in their visuals. Bathed in rich reds, blues and greens that matches their aural atmospherics I can’t help wonder how much better the previous acts would’ve have been if they’d had synchronised lighting instead of “Hi-Fi house white”. An additional bonus is the crowd swelling in numbers and confidence so that they cross the moat between upper carpeted levels and the stage. While Hazards play post-rock somewhere in the vein of Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky and godspeed, the band are ridiculously adept at it. While Rick Anzolin on drums and Cameron Diery are the rocks on which the whole shebang rest on it’s the three guitarists who demand and divide attention. Gareth Rigden takes centre stage and does the majority of lead fills and solos, Chris Lait plays slightly more chords but also adds riffs too, while Adrian Diery plays a mix of lead, slide, and just general rocking the fuck out. But demarcation of guitar parts is a fruitless exercise in the end, instead you have to let each part compliment the others and allow the wall of sound to either infuse through you or wash over you. Drawn mainly from their debut album, 2009’s Our Lines Are Down, picking set highlights is a bit like choosing a lucky dip where all the prizes are the same, but special commendation goes to the beautifully intertwining melodies of “…and a Whole Assortment of Uppers and Downers”, the economic four minute wonder with clipped guitar “Sparks Fly”, and the closing paean to Italian horror director Dario Agento, “Don’t Cry for Me, Dario Agento” who should get the band to score his Profondo Rosso remake. Brisbane: three gigs across town, one venue chosen, four excellent bands seen. Let’s do it again. Soon.

Photo credits: Chris Butler, Caleb Rudd