Slick & Sweaty Soul Jams: The Benjamin Witt Quartet’s Future Release Launch @ Jimmy’s Den

Tucked up stairs and out of the cold, Jimmy’s Den was in absolute full swing last Friday night for Benjamin Witt’s Future Release album launch. With support from fellow-locals the Mei Saraswati A’capella Group and The Dianas, Witt’s quartet served up a slick and sweaty mess of soulful jams that left Perth’s tune-hungry hoards well and truly satisfied.

To start of the night, we were treated to the harmonising charms of The Mei Saraswati A’capella Group, who took to stage just after 9pm. The audience may have been consumed in their own conversations at first, but it didn’t take long for this unassuming three-piece to command the room’s attention. As chatter ceased, their hypnotising harmonies hung vulnerably in the silence. Raw and unprotected by accompanying instruments, they relied on just smooth vocal stylings and bouts of body percussion (clicks, claps and slaps) to create an impressive blend of r&b, a’cappella, and gospel tones.

A'cappella_1The Mei Saraswati A’capella Group | Photo by Chris Davies

While clearly proving their vocal skills, what really made the performance such a joy to watch was the trio’s genuine warmth and onstage camaraderie. Between songs the girls exchanged playful banter, sharing tales of their former 9-member a’capella group, and how the best three (themselves) were the ones who made it. Their positive vibes really helped set the tone for the evening, and had everyone on board for the good times to come.

After final applauses for the Mei Saraswati A’capella Group, The Dianas got ready to kick on with their set. Made up of guitarists/vocalists Nathalie and Caitlin, and drummer John, the three-piece indie dreamers had this undeniably cool, carefree vibe going on that was reflected in the effortlessness of their chilled-out tunes.

Dianas_&_Mei_Saraswati_2The Dianas | Photo by Chris Davies

Lending influence to indie-pop greats such as Alpine and Two Door Cinema Club, The Dianas delivered a delectable blend of sun-stoned surf pop that had heads bopping around in bliss. Feel-good and fun, the whole set was all too easy to enjoy. However, they never quite reached the same levels of toffee-pop perfection as they did with their catchy track ‘Good Enough Girl’. With polished pop-sensible styling, this one had us floating on cloud nine.

Dianas_&_Mei_Saraswati_1The Dianas | Photo by Chris Davies

After stand-up support performances, Jimmy’s Den was packed, from the front of stage right back to the high tables. A projector flickered on, casting a grainy image of the Future Release album art, as Benjamin Witt, along with the band’s saxophonist, drummer, and double bass player, took their place on stage – signalling that the show was about to start. It was great to see Witt’s dedication to the arts community, raising awareness for the fight against funding cuts with an #istandwiththearts sign taped to his Korg synth.

In (dare I say it) a flash, they launched straight into ‘Whip Flash’ – a scratchy lo-fi guitar number from the new LP with immediate toe-tap appeal – before going on to showcase more of Witt’s exciting new work. It seemed the crowd were most excited by the more infectious dance-worthy songs from the album. With tracks such as TV Dinner , a gloomy multidimensional track loaded with funky bass and guitar, and Dead Fish, the most upbeat piece of guitar-pop, receiving the crowd’s screams of appreciation.

Benjamin_Witt_Quartet_2Benjamin Witt Quartet | Photo by Chris Davies

Given the album’s complex mix of different aural textures and styles, I wasn’t sure the live performance would stand-up against it’s recorded counterpart, and whether they’d be able to find the same sweet spot between all those opposing sounds. Thankfully though, the quartet didn’t disappoint. With help from some tight live drumming, slick sax and ridiculously funky double bass, Witt’s quartet recreated the album’s unique brand of afro-infused, lo-fi soaked blues synth-pop spectacularly.

Benjamin_Witt_Quartet_3Benjamin Witt Quartet | Photo by Chris Davies

Throughout the set it was Witt’s natural musicality and style I came to enjoy most. As a former member of The Chemist and a session musician for Empire of the Sun and Kevin Parker, it’s no surprise he looks so comfortable on the tools. But seeing Witt bring his own creative vision to life confirms he’s more than a talented multi-instrumentalist. He’s developed a real knack for providing a unique point of view while still being able to set apart what sounds good.

Benjamin_Witt_Quartet_1Benjamin Witt Quartet | Photo by Chris Davies

After witnessing the quartet’s live rendition of Benjamin Witt’s sublime new LP, there was very little I could fault. There were times songs extended into jam sessions that went a little too long, causing the crowds attention to drop for a moment. But really, considering the talent on show, a few self-indulgent jams from some real pros seemed like a silly thing to be bothered by. All-in-all: a fun and funk-fueled performance from the talented Benjamin Witt Quartet, and an exciting glimpse into Ben Witt’s refined solo-sound.