The Liquid Project
The Liquid Project
It’s lucky that Perth has done relatively well controlling COVID-19, because if neo-soul group The Liquid Project had come from anywhere else, the pandemic’s social distancing rules surely would have rendered practice impossible: the nine-piece, comprised of Yoann Degioanni (keys and vocals), James Marelich (drums), Bryn Larkin (guitar), Arvis Del Vedado (bass), Lucy Iffla (vocals), Daisy Fanning (vocals), Julia Wallace (trumpet and percussion), Will Pethick (trombone), and Alannah Chapman (saxophone) – had the songs for their new self-titled album written prior to COVID-19, but they only just managed to give it the live launch it deserved on December 18 with a stomping show at the Rosemount Hotel.
Given the sizeable member list, there’s unsurprisingly a lot going on but it all comes together well. Psychedelic breakdowns are unleashed amidst cool jazz grooves and wholehearted soul vocals. The ambitiousness of the project makes more sense once you learn that the band are all present or past jazz musicians from the prestigious WAAPA school in Perth – such scope-meets-skill is what such a group of people would be wont to do.
The big band aesthetic of The Liquid Project lends itself to the journey that the album takes the listener on. There are noticeable peaks and troughs, vibrant funk acquiescing to mellow jazz melting into tender spoken word rushing into powerful disco. The opener Funky Psych Rock does exactly what it says on the tin: the groovy jam is a showcase for the band’s abilities, and a funky signpost of what’s ahead.
It’s followed by What You Know, which includes at its start a clip of the band chatting and laughing, perhaps before practice; the sound of camaraderie is purposeful, highlighting their connection and friendship. A high-stepping, pure-confidence rhythm then comes in, reminiscent of funk’s golden age figures like James Brown. The lead vocals on Milk are sweet, soft, and liquid-light, blowing in on a breeze through an open window. Twinkling keys then announce the similarly-beautiful Rainy Days, with both recalling the soulful work that Corinne Bailey Rae gave the world in the early noughties.
The band pride themselves on always ensuring that their music has a positive purpose and socially-conscious message and Starlight Cave is the most stellar example from the album. After a solemn piano line, an unexpected spoken word monologue arrives: “Fires tear across the land/ Racing the last of the light to the horizon I called home,” it poignantly says, discussing, of course, the recent bushfire crisis. “Why have we burned this world’s candle at both ends?” it later ruefully asks. A woozy guitar line straight from the Pink Floyd playbook weaves its way in (fitting considering Roger Waters’ lyrics often decry capitalism, destruction, and oppression); a plaintive saxophone later heralds this acid trip into the dystopian landscape that Australia has become recently, mostly of its own making.
The closing track Queen seems to be ending things on a similarly quiet and melancholic note before it sparks into life after the minute mark. Everyone gets a chance to show their talents once again in an explosion of stylish funky rhythm and disco atmosphere. The Liquid Project’s debut is bold and energetic and will win an audience both interested in dancing and thinking. And if you hear their funk and soul rolling into town in 2021, you’d be wise to check it out: music like this really needs to be heard live to capture its spirit.