Sleep Decade & I, A Man_Boney, 12th March 2014

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Tonight’s gig at Boney forms part of a residency for I, A Man who are playing every Wednesday night through March with friendly support from other local bands, including tonight’s special guests, Sleep Decade. In lead up to I, A Man’s second album release set for April, tonight’s hump-of-the-week, low-key show is probably a good road test for their newish material. Continuing our New Year’s resolution to support more local and Australian live music, tonight the winning draw card was Melbourne’s I, A Man and band of who we have heard promising things about along with airplay on Triple J’s unearthed. Tonight we were equally looking forward to hearing fellow Melbourne folk Sleep Decade having recently heard their rather beautiful song Mexico. So while sitting at the bar indulging in the most delicious Snapper burger (thanks for the recommendation bar guy and mental note, the food at Boney is pretty good!), the 3 band members of Sleep Decade (I thought there were four?) shuffled on stage.

Having only recently discovered Sleep Decade I gave their album Into Spinning Lights a quick listen before the gig. It is an album stitched together by delicately stripped back songs that are layered only with the most marginal of instrumentation (somewhat like the song writing of The XX and the like). Their single Mexico is a good example of how minimalist song-writing with a simple beat, carefully selected string pickings and a delicate natural voice is all it takes to create something comfortably accomplished.

Tonight the band sounded very different to what I was expecting. The album produced songs seemed focussed on Casey Hartnett’s unique and honest vocals, but tonight the band appeared set to create a more drawn-out sound of looped guitar effects, distant bass notes and tepid drums. Not that any of these elements are bad, as there were some great moments to be had. I think I may heard them announcing that they forgot the cable to their keyboard/synth and if this was the case, the result had a definite effect on their overall sound. Sleep Decade are a band who really like to strip things back to where the timing and sound of silence is just as important as when an instruments are played.

This sound would sound lack-lustre to untrained ears as it is a rather skilful song-writing technique to master and damn easy to mess up. There were some nice little moments in their short set and Casey’s voice is so memorable with its delicateness, it does have you hanging on fine threads. It is also really nice to hear an Australian singer not afraid to sing in their natural quirky accent. Actually come to think of it, Casey really reminds me of Fyfe Dangerfield from The Guillemots and I think this is a nice comparison to draw.

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Image from ABC.Net

I, A Man have some great songs in the short four or so year career and when they meet in the middle as a live band, they really get it right and produce such a rounded and full sound. There were definitely some moments like this tonight when the band created a powerful rhythm that I would happily draw comparisons with The War On Drugs and the Local Natives, where instruments take the same road into a peaking crescendo.

Vocally the lads are strong with some nice harmonies thanks paid to the drummer, despite the fact that I couldn’t make out much in the way of lyrics, perhaps it was the mix, perhaps it was the 2nd pint I shouldn’t have had.

The highlights were the songs held together by the great rhythm of drums and bass guitar, particularly the second to last track (sorry didn’t catch the name of it), where the constant hum of droning single chord synths were introduced to create fullness and depth. It sounded great and you could tell the band loved it also; there were polite smiles all round. This was a highlight track and reinforced that as a band they are an important contributor to current Melbourne live scene. I look forward to seeing them in a larger venue with more punters and turned up amps.

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Venue – Boney

Artists – Sleep Decade I, A Man

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