Song of the day – 185: Sky Needle
Without a doubt, Joel Stern is one of my very favourite Brisbane people. He’s enthusiastic, forward-thinking, righteous, good-humoured (so that’s four counts he’s got me trumped on, then). He regularly puts on evenings of improv, noise, punk, esoterica and just plain weird shit at his seemingly omnipresent Disembraining Machine (you can find recordings of every single show he”s put on at the above link) and is always ready with a homemade musical instrument when you’re looking or not even looking for one. I believe he’s a bit of a dab hand when it comes to recording bands as well… wouldn’t know (hint hint). It’s folk like him – and of course Lawrence English and Eternal Soundcheck and Blank Realm and Velociraptor and dozens more – that makes Brisbane such a fascinating place to be living in, away from the rather distorted gaze of the mainstream and ‘alternative’ mainstream, even.
Anyway, it all came together at Matt’s one-year celebration last week, amid the wonderful down-at-heel surrounds of the Tribal Theatre, where alongside a hundred or so ragtag misfits, outcasts and questing students, I got to view Matt Kennedy’s own personal aesthetic in grainy, shaky, hand-held, black and white film: house parties in Adelaide, in Melbourne, in Sydney and of course house parties in Brisbane.
There was footage from slightly more conventional gigs, but there the aesthetic faltered slightly. It wasn’t so intimate, so analogous in sound, so revealing. Likewise, when he strayed away from filming bands that didn’t fit into the weird post-punk/math-rock amalgam so clearly delineated by Knee Chin playing live in front of the big screen tonight – or alternately some weird form of drone/repetition/psych rock as so brilliantly consumed by Blank Realm – it felt odd. So Royal Headache – those ‘bed-wettin’ bad boys’ – performing live in Brisbane went down a storm with the crowd: it must be said there was a suspicion the crowd was almost entirely made up of members of bands featured in Matt’s documentary, myself included: but watching Newcastle’s dance-chafed Alps felt plain dull. Yes! To The Stabs and their elongated use of feedback. Yes! To Native Cats and of course the mighty Bitch Prefect, the intriguing Scraps and the oddly disturbing The Fighting League from Canberra (even though, or perhaps because they seem to bring all the worst of macho hardcore punk with them). But no to Extrafoxx, who felt like plain bad pub rock.
So. Um. I seem to have got a little sidetracked here. I just wanted to put in all the preceding commentary, a) because I thought it was worth mentioning, and b) as a presage to the fact the band that totally grabbed my attention was one unfamiliar to me, although not entirely as it turned out. Sky Needle. Brilliant and humorous use of repetition and homemade instruments and hanging wall percussion and weird-as-weird-as-weird vocal stylings and stripy socks and air pumps and distorted (NOT loud) sound and psychedelic and featuring, of course, our own Joel Stern as one of four. (I believe: I was rather enthralled by his socks). Fucking great, no really nice, stuff.
As Matt rightly comments about Sky Needle’s seven-inch ‘Time Hammer’, “Brisbane’s Sky Needle are one of the best experimental noise pop bands in Australia right now. They create a completely unique take on pop convention where the instruments involved are invented and constructed by the band themselves. What results is pure alien space noise from the cosmic junkyard.” Go track down a copy from Joel now. There’s only a handful left!