Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Reggae on the smell of salty air - The Beachniks

I’m sure I’ve commented here before how one of the wonderful things about music is its inexhaustible ability to surprise you. Whether it’s through musicians who do things in completely unexpected ways, and they turn out just right, or whether it’s simply by finding something wonderful that has been there for years and you just didn’t notice it, music really is a bottomless pit of riches.

Of course, for me, those discoveries and surprises are coming thick and fast with so much music - even music that everyone in the world, except me, knows - being unknown to me until now.

But one band that I discovered purely by a chance chat over drinks the other night has been one of the more delightful of those discoveries – Victorian surfcoast-based Beachniks, with their debut album from 2002, The Many Moods of the Beachniks, and their follow-up Trombone Bay, two years later.

You’d expect music from the surfcoast to be pretty breezy, to have the smell of salt air in it, the feel of sand in its toes, and the taste of a cold beer on its palate. The Beachniks has all of that, but that’s only a very small part of the experience of this band’s music, which brings a much more cosmopolitan experience to the beach. There’s the cool breeze of reggae there in Murray Walding’s rhythms, waves of jazz infused brass from Jeff Raglus’s trumpet, and an easy pop flow in his vocals; a jiving, funky undertow from bassist Evan Jones.

The debut album’s many moods are all bathed in sunlight, sometimes sheltering a little pensively in the shade, like in ‘Auntie Jean’, sometimes out there dancing in the cool glow of a summer sunset, like in ‘The Mountjoy Parade’; the lumbering laziness of ‘L.A.G.O (Late Afternoon Glass Off)’, with its laid-back rhythms, its settled, not-worried-about-anything bass, roused with a drink or two from the brass and Randall Forsyth’s guitar.

Trombone Bay takes you a bit further afield, with some more spacey, psychedelic flavoured music, like in ‘Crater 41’, and ‘The Rhyll Thing’, with electronics that take the ocean across to other galaxies; or there’s the brief but beautifully pensive ‘Gellibrand Quirk’, with its soft, sustained harmonies pulsating beneath a sad, romantic trumpet that holds you in its arms while the waves wash around you; and, of course, there’s the sensational title track, with boppy Latin beats and a trombone that laughs and sneers and sings and dances and does a whole heap of things that I never knew a trombone could do.

It’s great to see music as original and as likeable as The Many Moods of the Beachniks and Trombone Bay coming from local musicians (well, local for me, anyway) whose main aim is simply to create good music, fusing genres and then putting their own stamp on it – music that brings bits from this or that corner of the globe, and beyond, and mixes it all with some of that sea air, with that special smell to it, that blows in from the ocean, only between Queenscliff and Apollo Bay, and only when the wind is just right.

If you get a chance to catch the Beachniks sometime, it’ll be worth it – wherever you are, and however far you have to travel to get there.

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