live music

PJ Harvey: ICC Sydney Theatre, Jan 22 2017

I suppose it’s the case that there’s no such thing as a bad PJ Harvey show. But it could be that there’s such a thing as an indifferent one. One that hits the right notes, but doesn’t have the emotional resonance you’d expect.


That was the case this evening. It wasn’t phoned in – not by any measure – but there was something curiously distancing about this evening’s show.  (more…)

PJ Harvey, The Tremors @ The Back Room Club, Byron Bay, 25/7/2004

This review is an example of my older writing. Eventually, I hope to have all my reviews archived here. The writing style is a little different, but then I suppose we’ve all changed in the past decade. (Yes, that means I’m cringing at that use of ‘incendiary’ too.)

Gigs where there’s some difference between bands are always good, and this evening’s show at The Back Room Club was no exception. The difference in this case was that the headliner, PJ Harvey, is the queen of come-close-but-stay-at-arms-length songwriting, at once embracing and spurning, while her support, The Tremors prefer to stay up close and personal; preferably trying to get a hand down your duds in the process. (more…)

Synergy Percussion plays Xenakis’ Pléïades

Timothy Constable of Synergy

Timothy Constable of Synergy.

I spent last night listening to Synergy Percussion perform Iannis Xenakis‘ fiendishly complex piece Pléïades at Carriageworks, an inner-city arts center with a fetish for polished concrete. In a fairly odd-sounding room – big, boxy and oddly free of reverb – six percussionists (and some surprise guests at the end of the piece) performed in a loose oval setting, on platforms. The audience was free to move around, and the performance was recorded for ABC radio. (Video was taken too, so who knows where it’ll be seen?)

A work of four sections, Pléïades (1978-79) notably uses instruments called sixxens, a word signifying the number of performers and the start of the composer’s name. They’re custom instruments, microtonally tuned, and Synergy had a set made for a previous performance. The piece, first played by Percussions de Strasbourg, has a title which means ‘many’, but also refers variously to mythological and astronomical matters. Each section addresses a different type of instrument – skins, metal, ‘keys’, – with one section being short for ‘all of the the above’. It involves a raft of instruments, to say the least.