Gunns, Rabbit Island, Mudlark, Doctopus
The Bakery, Saturday, July 5
In its dimly-lit, tacked-together tarped-up warehouse chic, the Bakery (God preserve it) has always served as a safe space for Perth’s outsider artists and dolewavers. It’s perfectly fitting for Usurper Of Modern Medicine’s Omniliberation album launch, fanservice for its tight-knit and big-hearted crowd. The lineup’s all about dudes with guitars messing around, and it’s very much in the spirit of Camp Doogs (the psilocibin-fueled Burning Man-lite WA festival attended by Usurper and inaugurated last year).
Usurper describe their music as “three-piece molten mind groove” (and, on their facebook page, simply as “therapy”). For all their psychedelic visual trappings – all-seeing-eyes and alchemic loops on neon fractal backgrounds – they’re a far cry from the abstract introversion of psychedelic rock like (sorry for the obvious Perth comparison) Tame Impala. Every unpitched wail, live vocal sample or all-guns-blazing drum groove is grounded very firmly in the moment, in physicality, in an unhinged (and borderline untimed) flurry of punk energy. Underined, italicised and bolded by frontman Steve Aaron Hughes’ onstage flailing, it’s not particularly introspective, but it is a lot of high-energy fun. Tonight, video artist COMBS has organised a very elaborate three-minute intro to the set: a spaced-out, vaguely Eastern women’s choral sample underlaid by images of forests and faceless Japanese mystics. It’s a dizzying summation of Usurper’s visual vibe – and it’s followed immediately by the aural Usurper, a quick bass flurry and a sheepish crowd address (“hey”).
Doctopus tap into the same benevolently IDGAF vein – pretty much the musical equivaent of the export cans piling up on a sharehouse porch. For the most part, it’s unrelentlessly petulant, “entertain me” stoner-fi, with occasional moments of neat guitar lines and gentle melodic arcs. a fuzzed-up distillation of backyard pissups and delayed adolescence.
A surprising addition to the line-up is Mudlark, filling in for The Dianas. A drum/guitar duo bordering on the avant garde, these dudes play with a postpunk severity not present in the rest of the lineup. Not that they lack any of the raw power or intensity that make Usurper so compelling – but every step of the way, these guys make it clear they’re not mucking around. In every double-time drum fill, feedback-ridden guitar jab and abrupt change of time signature, it feels fresh out of WAAPA (in a self-conscious, but very good way).
In a very full lineup, Perth veterans Rabbit Island and Gunns make appearances. Gunns get the goon-rock rolling early on, with bass-heavy, feedback-ridden grunge-pop. Rabbit Island is Amber Fresh and friends’ lyrically elusive, faraway dreamrock. For anyone who’s been milling around the Perth lofi scene for a while, the Omniliberation album launch feels a little bit like a family reunion, probably in Hyde Park with cask wine.