Down by the train tracks in Richmond, the Corner band room tonight has an uncommon ambience about it. The red felt house drape has been drawn across the side stage, closing in the open space while a fog machine beside the drum riser puffs away behind opening act Mountain Static. Melbourne’s Laura are launching their much-awaited third studio album Twelve Hundred Times, and after a quiet year on the gig front for one of Australia’s best live bands there’s certain to be a solid crowd tonight.
Mountain Static is the current moniker of itinerant Melbourne-based musician Simon Gibbs, formerly of TTT (Tic Toc Tokyo). It’s a shame more people aren’t watching his set, as he hovers over an array of instruments, his stark vocals dancing between an almost yodeled delivery to a more spoken style. Building his songs with judicious use of looping, Mountain Static proves to be an apt name, touching on a wide variety of musical styles that seem to come from various corners of the high places of the world, equal parts from the monasteries and market squares. The sound suffers a little from the empty room, but nevertheless Gibbs is a captivating performer, impressively so for a one-man production.
Playing afterwards is Jarek, a local six-piece outfit that sit somewhere under the “post rock” umbrella, but with a decidedly roots-tinged take on the genre. Their unusual arrangements and use of horns are interesting, but unfortunately they just can’t seem to get the audience involved beyond a few fans at the front, and halfway back in the room there’s some serious competition from the chattering audience.
Stage fog wafting from beneath them, the main curtains part for Laura just past their 11:11pm start time, the delicate guitar and muted drums of “New Safe Containment” beginning a set sure to come heavily from their new album. The ominously slow pace of the song flows straight into the apocalyptic frenzy of “This Grey Earth.”
Andrew Chalmers’ vocals have made their way further into Laura’s repertoire on their new record, contrasting against older song “Every Light”, from the Japan edition of their album Radio Swan is Down. “Glint” is a short song by post-rock standards, but packs a hell of a lot of sound into its three minutes, with Nathan Biggin’s synth lines pulsing through a wall of guitar noise. “Mark the Day” has firmly cemented itself as a standout song since their 7” launch of the single earlier this year, the soaring melodies and Chalmer’s singing tying the rest of the band together with Shaun Albres’ metronomic drum beat.
Tracks like “Stone Seed” and “The Slow” showcase a subtle change in their direction as a band, ambient vocals and Carolyn Gannell’s haunting cello moving to the foreground, without diluting Ben Yardley’s volatile guitar playing or Andrew Yardley’s thunderous bass. Laura are jaw-droppingly powerful live, continuing to push boundaries in music like precious few other bands playing today. Twelve Hundred Times shows a band that still have plenty of tricks up their sleeve, and coupled with an already impressive back catalogue, let’s hope it won’t be so long until the next show.
– Shaun Thatcher