The Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
May 21st, 2017
Supported by: Hemina and The Algorithm
Any time I hear the phrase ‘prog’ or ‘avant-garde’ these days I kind of just switch off. At this point in my musical life, I think I know what I like and where my tastes lurk. However, not exploring new things because someone has wantonly tacked a prog label to it is probably a good way to look like a crotchety old man! So I thought I’d swing by the OAF, brave their notoriously odd crowds and check out this little ol’ band called Voyager.
Overall, I’m glad I did, because I also got to see up and coming band Hemina (doesn’t rhyme with vagina apparently). First impressions of the band were through their opener ‘Fantasy’, a solid assortment of catchy riffs and ballsy vocals that’ll have you admiring the range frontman Douglas Skene possesses. However, as the set progressed, it seemed that the band had tried to cram the entire discography of While Heaven Wept into about seven and a half minutes, resulting in some jarring transitions and musical sections that fell flat or felt disjointed. This was only exacerbated by the confusing array of competing backing vocals, consisting of the entire band that would give any Code Orange fan a conniption. Overall though, the band is a cohesive foundation that could be built into a contender for the skyline of Sydney’s music scene. All the elements of a great band are there, they just need to be reworked and tweaked a bit.
The next band to take to the stage have been one of my favourite acts since their 2012 release Polymorphic Code. The Algorithm, comprise (probably) crazy robot drummer Jean Ferry and musical mastermind Rémi Gallego. Together, they create some of the most off the wall music out there today. Now playing live guitar as well as keyboards/programming, Gallego immediately dropped jaws as he opened with the frenetic and schizophrenic ‘pointers’. The live guitar added another layer to the already intricate show, giving it a lot more punch than can be heard on the album; very conducive to a live setting. With a light show that’s likely to cause brain malfunctions in the very old, very young and everything in between, the show pushed on, blasting through the bass heavy ‘hex’ and slowing things down with the smoother, accessible ‘userspace’. Every song saw the crowd intently gazing at the stage in sheer awe silently mouthing “this shit is good” while banging their head in time with the plethora of time signatures. The Algorithm truly are so damn unique, pushing the envelope with every release and I feel honoured to have seen them yet again.
You know that feeling you get when you listen to a band and it makes you open your eyes slightly in amazement and then you pull that face where you quietly approve of what you’re listening to — then realise that the band has been churning out critically lauded albums for roughly ten entire years so you palm yourself in the forehead? That was me at the Oxford Art Factory as I watched Voyager for the first time.
Initially, as they opened with ‘Ascension’, I was apprehensive. It’s not my favourite song in the world, and having never heard much else besides that, I was confused as to the source of all these overwhelmingly positive reviews. But my apprehension was quickly allayed as the set progressed and I saw what Voyager really are. The easiest way to describe their sound is like a half and half of The Devin Townsend Project and Between the Buried and Me, with a sprinkling of Monuments groove. It may sound like one odd cocktail but believe me, it goes down smooth. Not as smooth as Daniel Estrin’s vocal stylings though; his work on ‘Breaking Down’ evokes feelings of lazy clouds rolling through a summer sky and empty cathedrals echoing the rumbles of a strong wind. Very unique and very hypnotising.
The skill and personality doesn’t stop there though, oh no! Bassist Alex Canion often lends his vocal stylings to the mix, which add just the right amount of screamed heaviness to a specific part of a song to give it that extra punch. Besides being a good vocalist, Canion also boasts the credentials being of the coolest bass player since Origin’s Mike Flores and the goofiest motherfucker on stage, period. That’s what makes Voyager such a treat to see; every member of the band looks like they belong there and takes full advantage of that, whether it be leaning on each other to serenade the crowd or Simone Dow and Scott Kay duelling guitar solos across the stage whilst pulling a raft of faces at each other.
As time melted and Voyager’s set continued to wash through the venue, titular track off their latest album Ghost Mile was up. Darker than a lot of their previous songs that night, it hit all the right notes as it built up into its own earth shattering climax. Lights flashed, drums were smashed and the crescendo that was ‘Ghost Mile’ exploded. I would be wrong to describe the song as anything but massive. Ashley Doodkorte’s drum work seemingly pounding every note of the song into my bones, louder and louder until it comes to a close and the crowd reciprocates in an eruption of thrown horns and hoarse cheering. Song after song converted me a little bit more each time. Even their absolutely stirring rendition of ‘I Like to Move It’ ft. Rémi Gallego on… a fork (or something).
I could go on and on about the wonder that was Voyager, but I won’t. I’ll just end on a comment instead; I understand why I’ve heard no negatives about them, there fucking isn’t any. — Dylonov Tomasivich
- Misery is Only Company
- A Beautiful Mistake
- Breaking Down
- Stare into The Night
- To The Riverside/Ghost Mile
- Wonderful Day
- Domination Game
- The Meaning of I
- White Shadow