REVIEW
Dominic Valvona


Mick Harvey - Monolith Cocktail

Mick Harvey   ‘Waves Of Anzac/The Journey’
(Mute)  17th April 2020

Excuse the obligatory uninspired platitudes but Mick Harvey’s first soundtrack release in a decade is a most worthy and stirring orchestration for two poignant themes; the often forgotten story of the ANZACs and their sacrifices and loyal service during both World Wars and, later, Vietnam, and the ongoing crisis of child refugees and people seeking asylum in offshore detention centers scattered throughout the South Pacific atolls.

 

Though it’s been a long time since Harvey released a soundtrack the former Birthday Party bruiser, Bad Seeds and Crime And The City Solution instigator has been busy. Despite being ignored by the majority of press and blogs, his charmingly understated Four (Acts Of Love) album of afflatus paeans and lamentable covers and original numbers, was wholly embraced by the Monolith Cocktail, the only blog, to our knowledge, to both critically endorse it and grant it a coveted place in a ‘choice LPs of the year’ list. In 2014, Harvey alongside Crime and the City Solutions’ Alexander Hacke and Danielle De Picciotto and musical director Paul Wallfisch, formed the nursery grime musical outfit, The Ministry Of Wolves, for a set of theater performances. By way of the Pulitzer Prize winning author Anne Sexton’s, even more, macabre revisionist take on the original Brothers Grimm fairy tales, the acclaimed stage production also spawned an LP, Music From Republik De Wölfe. Inspired and finding it far more fun than he originally envisaged, Mick Harvey’s 90s English translations of the louche coffee society genius of wit, salacious and often dark humoured song, Serge Gainsbourg, were given a new lease of life that same year. To coincide with the anniversary of the bawdry polymath’s birth, Harvey’s moiety of homages, Intoxicated Man and Pink Elephants were re-issued, followed up with a small number of select live shows in Australia and Europe (including shows at Primavera and London’s Union Chapel). Invigorated by this return to the back catalogue, Harvey and his congruous band mates, which include the assiduous multi-instrumentalist J.P. Shilo and the no-less talented Glen Lewis and Hugo Cran, set up camp in Harvey’s Melbourne base of operations to record another two volumes of Gainsbourg prose, Delirium Tremens and Intoxicated Women. Fast-forward to this year and once more alongside J.P. Shilo, Harvey has been paying another homage. This time to the late knockabout foil Rowland S. Howard. Originally involved with and playing on the maverick’s Teenage Snuff Film and, later, Pop Crimes albums, Harvey has taken part in a tribute concert, whilst his label Mute have recently re-issued those two high influential totems.

 

The Waves Of Anzac/The Journey LP collects together two recent soundtracks of evocative timeless classical gravitas; composed and performed with an attentive touch, only occasionally revving up the unsettling electrified caustic waning specter of the late Scott Walker when scoring the most ominous, tumultuous of moods.

As a concatenate relative to Waves Of Anzac, at the end of last year Harvey collaborated (on yet another project) with Christopher Richard Barkes on the tragic WWI pliant The Fall And Rise Of Edgar Bourchier And The Horrors Of War. Before this and only now seeing the light, the soundtrack to Kriv Stenders 2015 directed Why ANZAC? documentary with Sam Neill was released to coincide with the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign. A campaign that featured the recently formed Australian And New Zealand Army Corps of the acronym title, commanded by General William Birdwood, the concentration of which took part in the ill-fated fight to open up a second front in the bogged-down war against Germany and her Ottoman allies. Even by the standards of the carnage on the Western Front and the badly laid plans of removed generals, this invasion of The Dardanelles was a tragic horror show. Audaciously planned by Churchill with certain fatal assumptions made about the Turkish forces who held the high ground, had knowledge of the terrain and were, unfortunately for the Allies, commanded by the military genius and future young Turk leader of a post-Ottoman Turkey, Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), many of the antipodeans most hardy, loyal and brave died on the beaches in a eight month slog against tenacious defenders. The final tally of 56,000 Allied deaths included 8,070 Australians and 2,721 New Zealanders; disproportionate figures considering the populations of these British overseas territories: a generation lost as they say.





Part of an ABC documentary series on ‘forgotten war stories’, the Aussie actor Neill presented a personal journey and family attachment to that sorry chapter; setting the Gallipoli and Western Front against a contemporary background of political division. Harvey for his part composed a mostly subtle, moving movement of short spiraling strings and atonal searing atmospheric leitmotifs. From melodious ripples to elbowed cello maladies, Waves Of Anzac is both a yearned and moody, with the final timpani and pealing bell tolled ‘The Aftermath’ being the album’s most dark. Though the focus of this album is Gallipoli, half of the tracks reference the ANZACs various actions on The Somme and in Mesopotamia during WWI, and their part in the defense of Greece and Crete during WWII. There’s even a piece of edgy reverberated trauma in motion music for a chapter on Vietnam. Though, in hindsight rather wisely, Britain declined to join the Americans, Australia and New Zealand unfortunately did.

A balance of stain glass lit annotations, the stately and aching; Harvey produces an articulate tribute to the horrors of war.

 

The four-part Journey performance is no less evocative, reflecting as it does the travails and terror of refuges making their way across the Pacific maelstrom towards sanctuary and the hope of asylum. Most of these unfortunate souls however, find themselves metaphorically washed up in detention camps indefinitely, marooned on islets such as Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island. Released in support of #KidsOffNauru, Harvey conducts a tumult mix of chamber and Baroque-pop, an oceanic waltz of dramatic swells and mournful torrents. Harvey and his The Letter String Quartet ensemble track that journey, from the ‘Pyramids’ like Radiohead signature beckoning and lamentable march of ‘Conflict’, through the confusion intense torrid of ‘All At Sea’ to the lulled ethereal choral ‘Hope’.

Classical music with an augmentation of the modern, Waves Of Anzacs/The Journey is an often-understated work of sadness, fear, trauma and also anger that stands well in any period. Harvey offers a moving testament of assured maturity to his subjects, connecting as he does, two different tragedies, from wartime and a so-called peacetime, on one sublime album.



Related posts from the Archives:-

Mick Harvey ‘Delirium Tremens’

Mick Harvey Live At The Oran Mor

Mick Harvey ‘Four Acts Of Love’

Rowland S. Howard ‘Teenage Snuff Film’ & ‘Pop Crimes’



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Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Album Review: Dominic Valvona

Simon Bonney ‘Past, Present, Future’

(Mute) 3rd May 2019


Arguably one of the great voices of Australian music over the last four decades, Simon Bonney is nothing if not proficient in taking hiatuses. Emerging from just the most recent one, five years after the release of the last Crime And The City Solution opus American Twilight – itself, the first album by the iconic alienated nihilists turn beatific augurs of country-doom in twenty years -, and twenty-odd years since the shelving of his third solo LP Eyes Of Blue, Bonney makes a welcome return to the fold.

Prompted by the decision of Mute Records to facilitate the release of that fabled last solo songbook, the Past, Present, Future collection is both a reminder, featuring as it does tracks from both the 1992 Forever and 1994 Everyman albums, and showcase for six previously unreleased tracks from Eyes Of Blue.

Caught in the industry merger machinations of the late 90s, the Detroit imbued-recorded Eyes Of Blue fell victim to the fallout of A&M Records, “dissolved” into the behemoth of the Universal Music Corp just as Bonney was agreeing a deal with them to release it. As a consequence, what would have been his third solo outing and the perfect bookend to a brilliant run of country blues inspired songbooks, instead sat in the vaults, waiting patiently to get released.

Not new material but a catalyst for projects going forward, this solo collection proves as prescient today as it did back then. Especially the beguiling cover turns homage (in light of the recent passing of Scott Walker) of the brooding maestro’s stately majestic lament to fading beauty and decadence, ‘Duchess’. Brought to Bonney’s attention during recording suggestions for Eyes Of Blue by his producer on those sessions, Dave Feeny, Walker’s sullen lyrical masterpiece proves a congruous fit for the Australian’s rich lap steel and Dobro resonator thumbed and waning country malady signature style.





The effects of time and the changing landscape are running themes in all of Bonney’s solo work. Echoing loudly with the ongoing divisive debate of the present, many of these beautifully articulated sad declarations feature a protagonist searching for their place in the world, set often to a kind of American West favoured by The Band, but also the Outback. Alienation is a given: Bonney’s own past travails richly mined; the teenage runaway leaving behind the vast rustic expanses of Tasmania for the city life of Sydney, via the Australian metropolis’s Red Light district and squats. It was of course where the fourteen-year-old outsider formed the first incarnation of Crime And The City Solution, one of four such phases, the next taking shape with a move to London in 1984 and including both Mick Harvey and Rowland S. Howard (alongside the equally notable Harry Howard and Swell Maps’ Epic Soundtracks), the third such version taking shape in Berlin (embracing musicians from the city’s post-punk and post-Krautrock scenes, such as Einstürzende Neubauten’s Alexander Hacke), and fourth, in Detroit.

The greatest panoramic opus, an unedited version of the Everyman LP’s leitmotif, is in three parts a grand sweep with military snap snares. Bonney in resigned fatalism almost, swoons “I’m looking for a life I can’t explain” as a full-on assault from all directions bombards him. ‘Ravenswood’, taken from the Forever LP, is in a similar Western mythos mode a hard worn thunder and rain-beaten plaints with the age-old “rain on, rain on, rain on me” yearn that sets our high plains drifter on a course for redemptive change. Following in its wake is a ran of highlights from both Forever and Everyman, including the Orbison plays twanged angel to the Lone Justice declaration ‘Don’t Walk Away From Love’, the Lynchian motel spell (complete with a bongo anguish) ‘There Can Only Be One’, and bowing Greyhound bust tour through Texas Rose country runaway ‘Where Trouble Is Easier To Find’.

Much of the Bonney songbook, delivered with earnest, deep timeless country-imbued veneration, aches, even worships, for a string of muses; an undying, unwavering love to both the unattainable and lost. One such elegiac object of such pathos-inspired yearning is Edgar Allan Poe’s famous Annabelle Lee –the metaphorical lamentable figure of the Gothic polymath’s last poem -, who appears on both the eponymous and title tracks from Eyes OF Blue. Lovingly conveyed, even if it marks the death of that lady, it proves symmetry to the album’s profound poetic loss of influence, desire and alluring surface beauty of Duchess. Eyes Of Blue, which makes up half of this collection, follows on from the previous solo works perfectly. A touch deeper, even reverent perhaps, but every bit as bathed in country suffrage. Salvaged at long last, that lost album offers a closure of a kind. Proving however, to chime with the present, far from dated, the Eyes Of Blue part of this collection is a perfect finish to a great run of epic, though highly intimate, solo opuses; the songwriting as encapsulating and grandiose, earthy as you would expect.

Bonney remerges just when we need him; back after many setbacks, but enjoying music again (he says). Past, Present, Future can also be seen as perfect compilation of that solo catalogue for both hardy fans of the artist and as an introduction to one of Australia’s outstanding talents.





Words: Dominic Valvona

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