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Live Review: Grails, The Rational Academy, Turnpike

23 October 2012 | 9:51 am | Brendan Telford

More Grails More Grails

An intimate crowd arrives early to catch the brilliant Turnpike hand in another stellar performance. Willing to play with their own music, expanding and contracting their frenetic art punk at will, the set weaves between a schizophrenic instrumental, and their stop-start caterwaul of abrasive abandon. The airing of new track Even Predators Are Eventually Prey is incredible in its knife-edge tension. Can someone remind us why these guys aren't the biggest thing ever?

Turnpike may be an incredibly difficult act to follow, but another local institution in The Rational Academy manages the task with stately aplomb. Kicking off with a new track, the quartet dive deep into a swelling crescendo of guitars that ebb and flow throughout The Zoo in metronomic waves. Yellow Pony packs an emotional punch, while there is little respite from the massive sound that they dish out, although Ben Thompson's soft vocals stand as a refined juxtaposition. Offering up a twist in a final track more reminiscent of a doom drone act, the band has done their best to leave the crowd emotionally spent.

Such strong opening acts mean nothing if the top billing can't punch above its wait, and it isn't long before Portland's experimental instrumentalists Grails show Brisbane their heavyweight chops. Surfing along a progressive rock angle not likely witnessed since Germany in the late-'70s (Back To The Monastery is especially epic), the six-piece craft out an aural odyssey that is at times both garish and hokey, but utterly essential. Every member offers pinpoint precision on a plethora of scattered instruments (there is much musical interchange throughout the set) to the point of mind-bending perplexity. The Eastern influences on the likes of Reincarnation Blues occasionally rear their head (leaving some of the most lasting impressions, which are all done on relatively standard instruments of the live arena), and the drawn-out jams are breathtaking, but the band are at their most mesmerising when they put the noodlings aside and hit the crowd with a rolling wave of noise. For all of their dexterity, Grails know how to rock. It's at these moments that you can feel the crowd's heart collectively skip a beat, for this is when they are at the height of their powers. Unconventional artists who revel in sensation and composition, Grails prove tonight that not only can instrumental music be technical and emotive, it can also be otherworldly.