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LIVE REVIEW: SOHN + KLO @ Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (29.01.15)

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This article first appeared on The AU Review.

Promotional material for SOHN’s current visit to Australia have mostly led with the whole London born / Vienna based thing, and it’s clear why. The talented multi-instrumentalist’s debut album Tremorswas unique and brilliant, even ground-breaking in a way, in that it took that foundation of a very British sounding electronic indie and swirled it together with an inherently European influence to create something fans hadn’t quite heard before.

His sweet, smooth vocal range and eccentric musical stylings shot straight into the hearts of a diverse range of music fans worldwide and led to sold out shows in Melbourne during his last Aussie expedition. The man is back in the country to play Laneway Festival, and on Thursday he took a detour in Sydney to give the fans a more intimate show at the Oxford Art Factory.

Melbourne natives Klo hit the stage in Sydney for the first time as the crowd began to trickle in. In fact, according to vocalist Chloe Kaul it was only their sixth live performance of all time, if you could believe. They warmed up the middle part of the evening with smooth samples and wispy dream-pop vocals. Synth scattered in and out of the intro track, setting the foundation for a strong set. Their sound in the early parts sounded something liken to indie blog favourites Noble Oak or even Keep Shelly In Athens. Their speedy, melodic meshing of drum and bass absolutely killed it. While their banter was of the shy-guy kind, the duo took to each track with masterful precision, playing a tight set full of catchy beats and an inherent cool-ness that could’ve had the average punter mistaking them for a headlining act, and justifiably so.

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The hooded figure of SOHN appeared, applauding the crowd as he kicked his headliner show off with one of the older tracks, “Warnings”. Deep, stormy grumblings, emotional bass tones and transcendent synth quickly filled the room like a hypothetical drip-tank, step by little step engulfing our ears and minds as the light show flourished around the centre figure. Sweet indie mixed with a sort of R ’n B vocal styling. It’s the kind of futuristic scene I’d imagine would go solid paired up with virtual reality goggles and SOHN (real name Christopher Taylor) played to it well, morphing the Oxford Art Factory into a futuristic theme park of sight and sound.

More melancholy tunes filled the factory floor with the latest single in the arsenal, “The Chase”, and it was clear from the beginning that SOHN has legit the most spot on vocals I’ve ever heard. This kind of performance deserves to be heard somewhere like the Opera House. It’s like, sit down, listen, fucking appreciate. That cavernous, sinking digital work and elevating melodies meshed together like long lost friends. “Tremors” began in the third spot like an old fairy tale, with spotlights fighting for the figure at the centre, an emotional rendition of the title track from his debut album picked up beat and had the crowd swaying and feeling these tunes with honesty.

After a bit of friendly banter, a brooding version of “Veto” played out with dangerous vibes. With the instrumentalist firmly at the front, we got back down to business, and that’s really what he was best at. Churning out perfection with every tune, every note and every tone in his voice, exactly on point. Innocently appreciative beforehand, the crowd stood to attention as “Bloodflows” began to play. The slow, minimalist intro guided by the now rose light show morphed into a furious race to the outdo, accelerated by strobes to pair with the emotion of the tune, blitzing and awe inspiring halfway point. “Tempest” is another one of his more minimalistic outings, in a similar vein to something like Imogen Heap, requiring solid stand-alone vocals. At several points during the rendition the crowd erupted into applause at the simple fact that it was unbelievable how much he just kept nailing line after line.

“Artifice” was a personal favourite of mine, kicking into gear after some of the more moody tunes, firing off with hardly any warning, a simple “Are you guys ready?” from the man at the front and we’re straight into it. Live, this one just transcends every expectation. It’s catchy, emotional, melodic and features electronics at their best. I gotta tell you guys, you can’t beat it. You just can’t.

With fleeting synth and a sweater down, SOHN finished up with “Lessons”, swaying back and forth and feeding off the crowd who were obviously impressed. The track, which spun like a ferris wheel, slipped up and down with a harsh robotic feel. When the breakdown came the whole factory floor were clapping in unison on the beat to take it out. The old fake goodnight scheme was pulled as always and they were back in an instant with their single “The Wheel” and it’s clear why they left the best until last. It’s a beautifully static track that is just mountainous when played live. Uniquely angelic vocals with fluttering falsetto once again permeated the final outing in Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory.

He’s been pegged as a musical virtuoso. And I’ll be honest, from the album recorded, I kind of got it, but I didn’t get it. After seeing this act live, it’s crystal. Fuck cleanliness, SOHN is next to godliness.

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LIVE REVIEW: St. Lucia & The Griswolds @ Oxford Arts Factory

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In the week leading up to it, I had listened to countless amounts of jungle-pop and ironed my flamingo shirt ready for the celebrations. Brooklyn based St. Lucia were in town with locals The Griswolds and already you could feel the tropics taking over Sydney. Flashy-coloured Hawaiian shirts draped the crowds lining the streets outside Oxford Art Factory in Sydney’s centre. The sign above the door humbly beckoned punters inside, reading “SUN: St. Lucia + Special Guests”. However, to those who knew what was in store for them, it was the calling card of something pretty special. The mouth of the musical paradise inside.

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At 9pm, locals The Griswolds took the stage in Sydney for the first time in six months, returning from a thunderous raid of the US and SXSW festival where they played an impressive nine shows in four days. There’s something exciting about the live show of a band whose catalogue has yet to be released. It’s like bearing witness to an entire show of teasers, and teased they did. From start to finish, The Griswolds grooved and swayed to their unique brand of indie, building massive amounts of hype for the upcoming album among crowd members that hadn’t yet heard of the quintet. The highlight of the set was only described as “the single from the upcoming album”, and was filled with scuttling guitars, powerful synth and the all-purpose tribal drums you find in most popular songs these days; all the while running alongside that pop undertone that made it so enjoyable. People coming for St Lucia a little early really got their moneys worth in this support as they closed with Heart Of A Lion, bringing the house down with it.

Strangely, the first thing I noticed about St Lucia was the wind machine directed straight at the lead singer’s hair. It was like something out of an 80’s glam rock show. It made it hard to focus on the opening track, The Night Comes Again, but that was short lived by the time they made it into the early days of the set with oldies like Before The Dive, blasting to life with sharp pianos and swaying limbs.

Halfway through is where the band really hit their stride, serving up the jungle jive, Wait For Lovewhich I had previously not paid much attention to on the record. But live, oh how different the situation can be. This was one of my highlights as they brought the Caribbean straight to Sydney city with layers and layers of percussion, tropical synth and choruses filled with love and positive vibes. The crowd met them there with beaming smiles – singing, dancing and jumping about the Oxford Art Factory floor like they were around an open fire in loin cloth.

It didn’t stop there. The band made it to their hit single Elevate, asking the locals to beat their Brisbane counterparts, jumping in the bridge. The whole of the floor bounced in unison as the song concluded and morphed into a cover of Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, the best part of the whole night. By god it was a glorious cover. I mean, honestly, I would have paid $45 to see them perform that cover.

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As they finished up it was quite clear a few songs were missing, they would be back in a few seconds. But just as everyone was ready for the members to slink back into an easier groove, they exploded on stage with the first single to effectively reach our Aussie radio stations with success, September. Suddenly, the tropical cyclone of palm-tree like tunes turned into an all out dance party and they finished the night exactly that way.

St Lucia delivered in every way possible. They were fun, musically tight, stylish and just made for a great night out, which is really the point at the end of the day. They play in Melbourne tomorrow night at the Corner Hotel and if you’re close by, I highly recommend you get into those tickets as soon as possible. I wasn’t able to take any decent video last night as usual so here’s a live acoustic version of my favourite song from the night, Wait For Love, performed on a sidewalk.

 

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