Live Review: Kalacoma, Tetrahedra, VHS Dream

25 February 2016 | 2:15 pm | Tim Kroenert

"This is the kind of band Radiohead might hear in a club and think were interesting enough to borrow from."

Melbourne dreampop duo VHS Dream paint the Evelyn all shades of mellow in their opening set, layering effects-heavy guitars over programmed drums and synth, with Mayzie Wallen's plaintive-but-pitchy vocal half-buried in the general fuzz. There's not much variation in timing, tempo or tone — aside from the occasional shred or shriek of guitar from chief sound-maker Matthew Hosking — but they are captivating enough, and for those of us who have shown up early to see them it's a fitting lead-in to the more adventurous experiments in sound to come.

In geometry, a tetrahedron is a three-dimensional figure consisting of four triangular faces and six straight edges. Knowing that doesn't really illuminate Tetrahedra's live show except to the extent that it suggests there's a certain amount of nerdiness involved — in the best possible way. The Melbourne five-piece's set is rather like the aural equivalent of a math geek's exercise book; annotated, time-shifting sonic diagrams with constituent parts that include Hudson Whitlock's precise and complex drum lines, Lena Douglas' hypnotic repeating synth, and a captivating jazzy vocal from Maddie Otto. It's tight and transfixing (not bad for what it is since, according to Otto, this is their first show in months) with more than a few twists; a new song even brings a vaguely Caribbean flavour.

Before they even start playing, Kalacoma have won tonight's 'most beards' trophy — count 'em: five beards from five members. (To be fair, they wear them well and this is Fitzroy, after all, where such things seem to matter.) Tonight is the fourth show of their four-week residency at the Evelyn, during which they've been refining a loops-heavy approach to their live performance. It's clearly paid off. What looks to the eye like a standard rock five-piece (guitars, bass, synths, drums and vocals) hits the ear as a carefully orchestrated, prismatic ambience: loops and samples repurposing the live instruments on the fly, and the techno gimmickry augmenting the band members' musical proficiency to create something immediate and fresh from one moment to the next. (A special shout-out should go to the sound guy, who does a stellar job keeping all tonight's sonic shenanigans in balance.) It's tempting to compare the resulting sound to Kid A or Amnesiac, but really, it's probably more accurate to say this is the kind of band Radiohead might hear in a club and think were interesting enough to borrow from. It's really excellent stuff.