From Twin Peaks tributes and beloved locals on a victory lap, to axe-wielding bearded men, musical adventures are many in June.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between squawking brass and synthetic basslines in this Melbourne duo’s songs. A lot of their earlier music felt like it was just part of the wake of Pitchfork-approved megastars such as Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear or Bon Iver. But Big Scary’s latest album, Animal, sees them morph into something far more complex; talk-rapping, disco and soul. Dub and something sounding like a flute solo. Rock drums and break-beats. It’s a mercurial mix but something they can truly call their own.
The band had a breakout year in 2016, with Animal being nominated for Triple J Album of the Year and single The Opposite of Us charting in the top 20 of the Hottest 100. This marks the last time the band will be touring that album – you’d do well not to miss out.
NGV Friday Nights: Grouper
Liz Harris (aka Grouper) was raised on a commune in California practising the teachings of Armenian mystic (and composer) George Gurdjieff.
According to Gurdjieff’s philosophy, humans are constantly in a state of sleep, and consciousness is merely another facet of this dream world. Grouper sits in this netherworld between wakefulness and slumber with pastoral folk songs buried beneath a blanket of drone and reverb. Woozy experimental passages can give way to clearer vocal melodies, mimicking those moments where lucidity is indistinguishable from sleep. She’s been compared to 1980s acts on British label 4AD (Cocteau Twins in particular), but her music feels utterly tied to the golden-dusk of her home.
Grouper plays the National Gallery of Victoria, Friday June 16. Tickets here.
Xiu Xiu Plays the Music of Twin Peaks
Jamie Stewart recorded his first song as Xiu Xiu alone on Christmas Day after attending a “terrible” nightclub in San Jose. In a 2006 interview he said: “Xiu Xiu came from feeling stupid and lonely and then wanting to dance it away, but having the club and its music only magnify that stupid and lonely feeling.”
Xiu Xiu’s cover of Rihanna’s Only Girl (In the World) is a pretty good example of the way Stewart and his band members subvert the dance floor to reflect feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Covering something less dance-oriented, but arguably more revered, Xiu Xiu will rework Angelo Badalamenti’s iconic score for Twin Peaks. (Perfect timing for anyone who’s been enjoying David Lynch’s equally weird new series.)
The work was first commissioned by GOMA for a Lynch exhibition last year. They’ll also perform the piece at Dark Mofo 2017.
Thursday is the pick of the two nights in Melbourne; the band will be supported by Alessandro Cortini, touring member of Nine Inch Nails.
Xiu Xiu play the Substation, Thursday 22 and Friday 23 June. Tickets here.
Kirin J Callinan
Whether playing the pop genius, earnest balladeer or art-project provocateur, it’s sometimes hard to know how far Kirin J Callinan’s tongue is stuck in cheek. By now he’s probably pretty sick of people talking about the time he attempted to provoke an epilepsy sufferer into a strobe-induced fit at Sugar Mountain.
But provocation is part of his schtick, and now he’s ‘gotta live with it. The absurdity of The Toddler – a live favourite – has left many a first-timer bewildered. Love him or hate him, the man puts on one hell of a show. It remains to be seen whether or not the audience at Crowded House’s recent Sydney Opera House reunion show were ready, though.
Experimental electronic music is often devoid of humour, but in many of Vakula’s best tracks, the wobbly chuckle of a bassline gurgles under the surface.
The Ukranian producer’s influences are wide ranging. His 2016 album Cyclicality Between Procyon and Gomeisa veers from dub-techno to boogie with classic-rock guitar licks thrown in.
Before that record, Voyage to Arcturus took listeners on a celestial journey on which ambient synths and delicate bongos bubble new life into existence. Think Sea-Monkeys on acid. Somehow the mad influences gel into expansive, psychedelic albums. Expect the same from his Melbourne DJ set.
Ephemeral folk music, experimental soundtrack re-workings and gender politics can be engaging musical projects, but sometimes you just want to rock out to a big dude wielding an axe. Barabarion are six ludicrous men with sweaty curls, beards, gladiator outfits and tunics. Many guitar solos are guaranteed. There will likely be fire, or at the very least, a lot of screaming about it. They might not have the costume budget of Gwar, but they’d definitely win a punch on.
Barbarion play the John Curtin Hotel, Friday June 2. Tickets here.
Elysia Crampton is a trans woman artist of Aymara descent, a group of people indigenous to the Andes in South America. She’ll play tracks from her recent album, Demon City, where clattering snares roll over the top of steel drums, guttural chanting and screes of electronic noise. The music will be accompanied by Dissolution of The Sovereign: A Time Slide Into The Future, an audiovisual play that seeks to bridge Aymara oral histories with Crampton's experiences of being a trans woman.