RAVE CAVE by SKY NEEDLE
Edition of 500 LP’s on Negative Guest List (April 2012)
performed on self-made instruments by
Sarah Byrne (vox, percussion)
Alex Cuffe (speaker box bass, strings)
Ross Manning (string panels)
Joel Stern (leg-horn, electronics)
sideA: Rave Cave / Raft Werk / Radical Fire / Rest in a Well / Lemur
sideB: Two Way Solo / Sundown Gents / Bar Take Away / Cannibal
David Keenan – Volcanic Tongue TIP OF THE TONGUE 29 APRIL 2012
The first couple of broadcasts from this amazing group from Brisbane Australia were some of the most defiantly original sides of outsider rock/pop to reach these ears in many, many years so it was with some excitement that we unpacked this one, the debut full-length from Joel Stern, Sarah Byrne, Alex Cuffe and Ross Manning playing all their own invented instruments. The feel is still of a fantasy Godz-play-Moondog session but given the space to really stretch out the group reveal themselves as equally proficient in radical free improvisation. Byrne’s vocals are particularly boggling, ululating all over the honking, scraping, huffing rhythms and melodies with an elastic a-formal approach that has few parallels but that orbits a similar universe to Meredith Monk and Amy Sheffer. The group’s tonal palette is truly singular odd, with brokedown rhythms illuminated by percussive tones and sawing folk drones in a way that sounds like Tago Mago played with nothing but Harry Bertoia’s sound sculptures. Indeed, their evisceration of song is every bit as far-reaching as Damo-era Can, building to peaks of nowhere with a hands-on tactile feel that is supremely satisfying while Byrne works mysterious/evocative tongues around every starry shape.
This is atavistic folk music w/a heady hobbyist edge and the kinda sublimely out atmosphere that says ESP-Disk like nothing else. If the newly activated ESP really had an ear to the underground then they would have snapped this group up: Rave Cave is easily the equal of any of the original label’s wildest avant/rock releases. Right now Sky Needle are one of the most radically original and self-sufficient performance units in the world and this is one of the most beautifully skewed releases of the year. Truly, you never heard such sounds. Simply can’t recommend this enough.
Shaun Prescott in Mess and Noise
Sky Needle should’ve sucked. Time Hammer, the Brisbane group’s first 7”, was an instrumental affair performed on homemade instruments. It had its charms, but it was difficult to imagine ever loving the group because the concept was far too cerebral. The group laboured to draw attention to its means, and as great as it sounded, you couldn’t help but imagine three guys playing strange instruments in a room somewhere. Probably with sheet music, as inapplicable as that imagery may be. If music can only conjure visions of it being performed, then it has failed.
Sky Needle is no longer about the instruments. Rave Cave’s liner notes bear no mention of an elastic dust shovel or latex pump horn. With the release of their Neckliner cassette last year, and the introduction of Sarah Byrne on vocals, Sky Needle has become a mood: a set of hazy, amorphous imagery. And while they don’t sound much like their label mates Mad Nanna, the mood conjured here is similarly narcoleptic, like the weird lucidity one experiences just on the edge of sleep. Sarah Byrne seems to (because who knows, really) trade in the kind of nonsense one speaks if awakened sleepwalking. That’s just the way it sounds.
Sonically, it’s reminiscent of the zones Hi God People or Sunburned Hand of the Man explore: it’s ambiguously foreign-sounding music that suggests an affinity with methods and traditions far beyond the group’s ken. There are vaguely Eastern-sounding string drones purring beneath Byrne’s vocals, but there are also brass-reminiscent timbres lurching in the mix, normally in step with the group’s stalking, low-tempo temperament.
The band definitely sound like they have “jams” rather than songs. Each track seems derived from some blank-stare hypnosis, a kind of lumbering inertia wrought by the ensemble’s tendency toward persistent tempos and barely perceptible crescendos. Yet each song has its own set of colours and its own subtly different way of achieving these ends, and the record has a sense of momentum as a result.
Despite the wielding of never-before-wielded instruments, Sky Needle’s actual approach isn’t reinventing the wheel. But there are colours and textures here you’ve never heard the likes of, which makes this record essential listening if you like staring at walls and imagining things. Which you all should, every now and then.
Little Big Chief
“more home made fried greatness. expands upon the sound found in the second 7″ greatly. dunno how to place this in the current pantheon of music coming out of the amazing AU. cataclysmic and far reaching? hell bent on individualism, this refuses to be placed correctly. it’s got some bangers in the mix for sure, but spaced out enough to connect with the audience that has already been wrapped up in the first two releases. what the fuck do you want? another VU comparison?”
Lee Parker – The Thousands
Rave Cave, Sky Needle’s new longplayer, is a totally organic music experience. If you like to ingest a fairly steady diet of rock/punk/electrically powered music, you will be either delighted or irritated to take part in this reprieve from said rabble. While that good stuff is indisputably, ‘good stuff’, dependency on only the good worries me, and thus, Sky Needle’s LP is a welcome deviation. It was an awakening to hear this while lying on the couch in darkness. But then it didn’t work whilst driving, and maybe I hated it for that particular commute. I wagered that this recording could transform the dullness of grey car interior to Rave Cave; it didn’t. But heard in the right mindset, this music consistently triggers thoughts of tropical landforms, ornithology and a vague image of the ghastly home-made instruments that have produced these sounds. Sky Needle present us with a hypnotic, tonally therapeutic creation, both bizarre and ingenious. A full range of frequencies clanging against pulsing, wobbly bass-like thumps (all created by unidentifiable sources), all mingling with crystalline, haunting vocal incantations. But it’s not avant-garde fluff, like I’ve made it sound. The groups penchant for repetition and relative brevity means there are ‘hooks’, ‘riffs’, and ‘licks’, although they’re in an alien musical language. Good to listen to at high volumes and have your ear drums exfoliated by tones you forgot existed.
Matt O’Neill – The Music / Inpress
Sky Needle beggar belief. The Brisbane quartet define their sound through self-made instruments. Joel Stern plays parping horns made from soft-drink bottles and bike pumps. Alex Cuffe has wrought some kind of bass-related instrument out of a speaker box. Ross Manning is credited solely with ‘string panels’. Rounded out by vocalist/percussionist Sarah Byrne, their rumbling, primitive sound is impossible to ascribe to any specific instrumentation. Forget genre.
It’s fantastic, though. This is why Sky Needle are so unbelievable. A description such as the above fills the mind with images of noise, abstraction and self-indulgence – or, worse still, quirky kitsch. Sky Needle, though, simply rock it. There’s an unpretentious streak of fun and funk that runs through the band’s work that makes it hard not to love everything they do. Rave Cave is arguably their best work yet. Released strictly to vinyl by respected local imprint Negative Guestlist (the label run by the much-missed Brendon Annesley), the band’s latest album finds them condensing their sprawling sound into nine concise nuggets of sound.
The formula is fundamentally the same for the majority of pieces – Sarah Byrne’s washed out vocals echo over noisy, percussive soundscapes – but it’s amazing how many variations in mood Sky Needle can find for their raw, ephemeral sound. Radical Fire rides a rumbling, swampy, primal bass figure into a hypnotic, unwholesome groove; Rest In A Well sounds both jazzy and pastoral in its seesawing horns and plucked string textures; Two Way Solo slithers menacingly by in a six-minute drawl. It’s not music easily described – but it is music easily enjoyed. It’s music that’s as immediately filthy as it is undeniably artistic. Music very much deserving of your time, in other words.
Tribal trashcan hootenannies direct from the cavern by Spencer Grady in Record Collector
This debut long-player, from Brisbane’s premier proponents of homemade instrumentation, makes little sense. If anything, it’s even more perverse than the group’s recent Creepertown 7”, which cast a lineage tracing back to Captain Beefheart and a bunch of ESP-Disk’ outsiders.
This time the quartet have gone even further, unravelling polyrhythmic interplay into a disjointed slur of junkyard clamour, mining the heart of a particularly fractious garage sale over which vocalist Sarah Byrne contorts like an agitated banshee (equal parts Meredith Monk and an annoying caterwauler I hear busking the London Underground during my morning commute). Beneath a box of coiled springs and industrial wheeze, Joel Stern summons the spirits of Crash Worship and Einstürzende Neubauten on his self-made leg horn, making like a broken Albert Ayler puppet noosing strings to the rotors of a whirring extractor fan.
For a record that sounds as if it’s continually falling apart and occasionally pushes the patience with its oddball cranks, Rave Cave kicks up some pretty vivid shapes when the lights are dimmed. Unlike anything else you’re gonna hear this year. And that’s got to be worth something, right?
This one came through with a lot of other records, and all signs pointed to me to leave it go, but with Negative Guest List showing attention to Australian doldrums seekers Sky Needle (whose singles I punted to other reviewers), how bad could it have been? This bad: bass, clarinet or sax (not gonna bother to find out which), metal percussion and a woman chanting nonsense. Every track sounds like a fit, and this clashing, aimless, repetitive collection of sounds never gets any more appealing at any point in the runtime. Can’t really tell what they’re going for, and to be honest I’m surprised they have enough of an attention span to see an entire album through, Sounds like free, dumb rock to me. Turn it down, please. (Doug Mosurock)
“like Siouxsie meets Kate Bush” Clearspot
It’s high time to get back to caveman simplicity with the dissonant groove drones of Aussie freak-pop outcasts SKY NEEDLE. In a music scene so chock full of way-out-there dancebeat envelope pushing, the broken clanking of glass bottles and distorted xylophones is a gentle and groovy change of pace to get your brain boppin’ and your ears poppin’. Hailing from sunny Brisbane, Australia, SKY NEEDLE are not concerned with modern conceptions of instrumentation and arrangement, using their deliciously fucked-up “unstruments” like speaker-box basses and leg-horns to rocket up into a stratosphere of rattles, hums, buzzes and vocal flutters like a clunky old car vibrating itself to bits at high freeway speeds. This music defies genre and spits phlegm in the face of categorization — too ambient for pop, too groovy for noise, yet somehow emotional like Ray Bonneville. With their fresh long player “Rave Cave,” SKY NEEDLE take a lunge directly for your puny puppet brain, making you feel exactly what they need you to feel. Check the tune “Two Way Solo” to get a taste for the funkiness, and once you come to terms with the alien sounds, spin “Radical Fire” to start the booty shakin’. SKY NEEDLE will snatch up every little thing you thought you knew about music and fire it all straight to the heavens, dancing to the tune of everything crashing back to earth. – BOSTON HASSLE