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Live Review: Deafcult, Ultra Material, Police Force, Death Tourism

20 June 2016 | 2:49 pm | Josh Bruce

"Their sound is an upbeat take on the shoegaze oeuvre, reverb-heavy and riding on skittish rhythms and new wavey synth flourishes."

It's a late start tonight because of the footy, which just means that young local five-piece Death Tourism have a healthy crowd before them as they kick off proceedings with a strong set of vaguely unsettling atmospheric rock. The four-piece band conjure dark moods and undertones — their intricate guitar arrangements offset by fluid synth lines — over which Vanessa Marouso adds haunting vocals, her voice blending in like a texture of the music itself. At times it seems almost like instrumental post-rock as cinematic soundscapes build into climactic crescendos, while other songs favour almost math-rock elements, but everything they do has an easy synergy and the overall result is nicely immersive.

Changes between bands are rushed to make up for the belated beginning so soon the five familiar faces of Police Force are in position, the band members facing towards frontman Sam Hill and taking up poses of studied, stoic disaffection which they hold for the duration. Diverse electronic percussion underpins the guitar-heavy sound, the band locking into driving instrumental passages and riding the dirty groove for all it's worth. Hill's affected vocals reveal a detached fury that's matched perfectly by the grimly compelling music, the set building into a swirling vortex of droney repetitive trance before ending abruptly. Their new limited run 10-track cassette Formula 1 is probably not going to last long on this showing.

Although they're not assuming the traditional headlining role, tonight is all about local four-piece Ultra Material and their debut album Double Date (the title alluding to the fact that the band's comprised of two couples). Their sound is an upbeat take on the shoegaze oeuvre, reverb-heavy and riding on skittish rhythms and new wavey synth flourishes that house plenty of hooks and melodies. The vocals of bassist Sarah Deasy seem to float above the mix in their own ether, combining with the dense layers of sound and occasional harmonies to give everything a dreamy hue, while the bandmates seem to share an inbuilt simpatico and intuition which further serves these songs well. It's all warm and accessible and these songs will almost certainly bloom organically once aided by familiarity, augering well for their new record.

The quick changeovers mean that the fun night flies by in a blur, and suddenly the night's final act Deafcult are challenging our hearing and sensibilities in roughly that order. This band favour the heavier end of the shoegaze spectrum and tonight the four-guitar attack is compounded by the fearsome percussion of fill-in drummer Branko Cosic (Tape/Off) so they're louder than ever, but as always it's a contemplative (rather than flippant) volume which is heavy but somehow comforting. Amid the tuneful noisescapes dual vocals intertwine, peering through the dense mix and distortion, beauty emerging from the murk at regular intervals. Again there's an overt camaraderie on display and everyone seems completely on the same page, making it all measured and confronting and a whole lot of fun.

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It seems like you can turn over a rock at the moment in Brisbane and discover a cool new band doing their own thing underneath, and tonight's show acts as a great reminder of both the diversity and community so prevalent in this fertile scene.