When a band cross pollinate so many musical genres, it can become exciting to realise they are almost impossible to categorise.
Harmony’s performance at the newly-opened Good Hustle Music Salon at the Abbotsford Convent quickly demonstrated their ability to straddle the fence, dividing retrospective blues, gospel, and big-band riot rock – if such a fence exists?
First to warm up the crowd for Harmony’s earth shaking sound, was Olympia. Standing alone and appearing slightly vulnerable near the edge of the stage, Olivia Bartley introduced the sparsely filled room to her enchanting voice.
Eyes closed, the singer tenderly strummed at her guitar in a drugged, space pop lull, occasionally interrupted by a fiercely thrashing chord. It was quickly evident that Bartley had a lot of emotion to invest in her performance.
There was a beautifully minimalistic quality to Olympia’s dreamy sound. The accompanying drummer, bass player and trombonist, when all present, varied their dynamic very little. Most of the set’s ‘guts’ were a result of Bartley’s swelling guitar patterns and vocal looping, often comparable to a hybrid of Portishead and The Jezabels.
“Asia’s Lonely Heart” entranced the gradually filling room to mesmerising effect, and while the introverted nature of the music definitely left want for some greater level of band interaction, particularly during “Atlantis”, it was still easily appreciated without it.
Especially impressive was her ability to handle a blown amp quickly and professionally; no showy freak-outs or diva moments here.
Teeth & Tongue’s Jess Cornelius soon took the stage, boasting the sassy presence of a young Debbie Harry. Still swigging at her beverage, Cornelius ducked under her guitar strap and approached the mic with an energy that might say, ‘We’re ready. Let’s do this.’
Accompanied by a guest bass player, guitarist, and backing drum machine, the rhythmic hooks at the heart of the set were incredibly satisfying, quickly coaxing the crowd’s hips and heels out of their dreamy paralysis, with the pop momentum behind songs such as “Unfamiliar Skirts”.
With one arm slinkily snaking through the air above her head, Cornelius didn’t take long to demonstrate her diverse vocal range. Deep, husky verses built and crescendoed into near angelic, soprano ribbons of sound. Effortlessly managing the difficult balance between pitch perfect perfection and raw, emotionally honest performance.
Her innovative musicality and confidence in performing live was made clear by the rows of teeth constantly beaming up at her from the audience. They didn’t even seem to balk at her somewhat bizarre banter about deep vein thrombosis…
Overall, Teeth & Tongue perfectly encapsulated a seductive amalgamation of post-punk and indie synth-pop, but whatever meditative state the crowd were in leading up to their appearance, Harmony quickly and ruthlessly obliterated it.
Headed by guitarist/vocalist Tom Lyngcoln, the six-piece are a band like few others. As they began to play, an absolute wall of sound hurtled itself across the room, with each member throwing every fibre of their energy into creating a musical storm. It was startling, for sure, but not at all unpleasant.
“Cacophonous Vibes” best highlighted their unique fusion of styles, as the group seemed to be loosely divided into two segments: Alex Kastaniotis furiously pounding on the drums, Jon Chapple driving into his bass, and Lyngcoln’s powerhouse scream-singing, together forms perhaps a more typical noise-rock band.
Their differentiating factor however, was heard in the three-part gospel arrangements belted out by Amanda Roff, Quinn Veldhuis and Maria Kastaniotis.
At times sweet yet brooding, at others becoming confronting and brash, much of the set was begging for the ensemble to reel back just enough for them to actually listen to one another. In fact, many times members would lift their hands to their ears, squinting, just to be able to hear themselves sing.
Which isn’t to say Harmony isn’t incredibly captivating to witness live!
“There was something eerily dark and deeply sorrowful about their performance, magnified largely by Kastaniotis’ unpredictable, borderline experimental rhtyhms; and Lyngcoln’s guttural vocals – thick in his Australian accent. “The irony of me being the main singer here is not lost on me,” He mentions with a smile.
While the lyrical content, and at times melodies, were often difficult to make out above the wailing orchestra of sound, Harmony’s insistence on making the audience feel something was both incredibly apparent and inescapably heartening.