2016 was a relatively quiet year for Moana, a band with two east coast tours already under their belt. After some notable recognition for their latest music and videos, there has been much anticipation for the release of their new single ‘Scarab’ and its accompanying music video. The tension was released on Friday 24/2 at Jack Rabbit Slim’s, and three more local bands – Yomi Ship, Marmalade Mama and The Chlorines – were there to help celebrate (building the anticipation just a bit more).
Instrumental prog rockers Yomi Ship were first onstage. The three-piece (with Jarred Osborne on guitar, Nick Osborne on drums and Jade Champion on bass) laid down a remarkably tight set, led by fill after gut-busting fill from Nick on the drums. Echoing guitar and anchoring base loomed above Nick’s virtuosic drums, moving between meditation and angst for a mood that was shadowy, methodically intricate, and a style that appears influenced by prog rock titans The Mars Volta.
Sound production was crystal clear, and the balance between instruments struck nicely so that the layers of drum, bass and guitar were crisp. Shifts in meter and mood were abrupt – but they were bang on, making that feeling like you’ve just been plugged into a different circuit, rather than it being simply jarring.
If you like instrumental rock, Yomi Ship is well recommended. Their talent is well beyond their years (Jarred is 18, Nick is 21 and Jade 17), and yet they’re surprisingly old-fashioned purists – the kind that rehearse like crazy and then go record every song on their album in single takes. What Yomi Ship hasn’t developed in stage presence, but they more than make up for in brilliant skill and smart songwriting.
After the break came Marmalade Mama with some of that good old unshaven blues rock. The Perth-based three-man show has been gigging like mad since their 2016 debut single Let Me Dream, this performance being a continuation of their inaugural crusade.
The first thing you might notice about Marmalade Mama is that they sound bigger than a three piece. Tom Cremasco (guitar) likes his distortion thick and fuzzy and his riffs big and bluesy. Patrick Smith (bass, vocals) also plays forcefully; he ain’t afraid to scream (in a good way). And Brendan Smith (drums, vocals) favours a heavy shuffle with plenty of cymbals. The combination is like plummeting headlong down an amp-lined tunnel of psych rock into the kiddie pool at a backyard piss up.
By this point the crowd had grown from non-existent to a few scattered groups, with one leather jacket-adorning group getting into it at the front row, bearing testament to Marmalade’s rockability. Sound quality was a bit muddy at Slim’s – all that reverb and heavy distortion are tough to control live – but then again, it is bluesy psych rock, so it fits. The important thing was that it was groovy, man. And it was. Check out Marmalade Mama on Soundcloud for a clean version, or check out an upcoming show for the full experience.
The Chlorines are a strange breed. Their sound is decidedly down – moaning lyrics strewn over a wasteland of alt rock like smog clouds over an industrial district. It’s a concept from singer-songwriter Owen de Marchi (guitar and vocals) that listens like a confessional of his worries and fears. Brayden Edwards (guitar), Tom Freeman (bass), Renee Tucker (slide guitar) and Alistair Flemming (drums) backed him up with morose twangs and chugging beats. It’s dark and ironic and post-folk, and the now quite healthy crowd drank and bowed their heads in due appreciation.
And then Moana took the stage. Each previous band had thanked Moana for having them at least once, each time to great applause. And Slim’s was about full at this point, with a crowd all loosened up and ready to receive. So by the time Moana made it to the mic (face etched in tribal warpaint), the cheer was at full volume – there wasn’t much else for her and the band to do but start playing.
A wall of ethereal vocals and twisted hard rock blasted out over the audience. The front-row crowd immediately started rocking, some of them writhing like Moana herself was behind her bass guitar. Vindictive and almost spiteful, the mix of dark psychedelia was woven by Moana Lutton (vocals, guitar, keys), Lochy Hoffmann (drums), Austin Rogers (bass), Mitch Hogan (guitar) and Alexandra Clarke (electric cello), and Jen Stevens (flute).
What everyone was waiting for, however, came at the end of the set. If Moana’s usual sound is a pagan spell, the new single ‘Scarab’ is a pagan hex. A lonely synth wind howls over the desert, summoning a swarm of grinding tones from guitar and keys to which Moana begins to chant her curse. With heavy power chords, tumbling tom-heavy drums, and a mantra-like rhythm to vocal lines, the influence of metal is clear. A very Egyptian breakdown about 2/3 through has Moana ordering you to “Look at the sun, look at the sky, look in Cleopatra’s eyes,” before throwing you back into the pit of despair to finish you (and the song) off.
The new music video was debuted on the big screen backing the stage at Slim’s as well, but we’ll save the particulars of this treat for those who access it online. Keep your ear to Moana on Facebook or Bandcamp for news!