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Live Review: Holy Fuck, Blank Realm

1 May 2014 | 3:52 pm | Sky Kirkham

Holy Fuck haven’t just matched their recorded output, or their previous tours; tonight they’ve blown them away, and produced one of the best live sets Brisbane has seen this year.

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Their music can seem messy, borderline chaotic at times, but Blank Realm manage to create a state of structured chaos, accessible despite the noise, and the band display a rare ability to snap back from growling guitars into pop melodies at a moment's notice. There's not a big crowd here tonight to catch them open proceedings, but those who have made it down early are treated to an excellent performance, the band even managing to draw some early dance moves from punters.

It's been four years since Holy Fuck released Latin, three years since they've toured in any serious way, and with their new album 'in progress' for the last year, it's difficult to know what to expect. The recorded version of Holy Fuck is thoughtful, danceable stuff, but from the first track tonight there's an intensity, an urgency, to the live performance that outstrips anything on the songs' recorded counterparts.

Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh bob along to the beat behind a desk covered with mixers, synths, and more esoteric electronic equipment. Static roils from a tape-fed machine, and heavily distorted, incomprehensible vocals bubble away behind the melodies, with microphones often held in mouths to keep hands free. One of the best aspects of Holy Fuck is the way that they merge experimental sounds and approaches with a techno-funk sensibility, without sacrificing either aspect, and this is amplified live. The now-permanent rhythm section of Matt Schulz and Matt McQuaid maintain metronomic precision in the tracks, without sacrificing a sense of groove, and McQuaid's bass tone is rich and warm, providing an insistent pulse to the songs.

There's no set date yet for the band's next album, but a few new tracks are mixed into the show, and they mesh seamlessly with previous hits like Red Lights and Lovely Allen. The band show a perfect sense of timing, lengthening the builds and pausing for just long enough to ramp up expectations, so that when the tracks kick into high gear the audience is primed, writhing about on the dancefloor.

New single Sabbatics is a fitting closer, and even in an extended form it still feels far too short. Holy Fuck haven't just matched their recorded output, or their previous tours; tonight they've blown them away, and produced one of the best live sets Brisbane has seen this year.