‘Into the Flame’
Australian honey-voiced artist has overwhelming delicacy of fire and delicate amber to his voice.
Availability: ‘Into the Flame’ is available via: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Into-Flame-Matt-Corby/dp/B00658QIZM
The solo acoustic market is difficult to master these days…
because there are so many contenders, standing along the road, hoping you’ll slow down and buy their wears. There is a slew of- predominantly male- solo/acoustic ‘troubadours’, many of them saying the exact same thing. It is encouraging that the lure of public appreciation, and the personal satisfaction of recording music, attracts so many people to record. But there should be a modifiable quota. Unless you have an exceptional voice, insightful and thought-provoking lyrics and sound, and a like-able and vote-swinging personality, you shouldn’t be allowed in. It may be a harsh ultimatum, but there, frankly, are too many musicians and artists. People with genuinely prodigious talent, are often subjugated and temporised; rallying hard but never given their due plaudits and appreciation.
Matt Corby is a curious case. For a start he is Australian. It is quite uncommon for Australian talent to be heard of to the U.K. shore. The vast majority of the music we hear, and especially new music, has its origins within our borders, or from those in the U.S. Rarely we get other forms of trans-continental wonder, but I am at a loss to remember the last time I heard a fantastic Australian solo artist. Perhaps not too strange in this day, but noteworthy, none-the-less. Matt is a mere 22-year-old, who, has already released 4 E.P.s since 2010’s debut ‘Song For…’. Over the last year he has been nominated for 2 awards at the Australasian Performing Rights Association Awards, as well as being labelled by many in the music press as ‘The Next Big Thing’. There are not many negative things one can say about Corby. He was the runner-up of Australian Idol back in 2007, and I’d hate to thing that that has anything to do with his ensuing success. I hope not, as I genuinely loathe talent shows, who are concerned with fame and sob stories, rather than finding talent. If you appear on those shows all you want is exposure and fame. Recording music should be done honestly and out of the spotlight, and not in front of four clueless morons, who eat up every pathetic ‘who gives a shit’ story of tragedy you have to offer. I’ll stop the rant, but safe to say my irreligious disregard is backed up by the best acts and musicians in the world. There is a lot to adore about Matt, though. He has a hardy work ethic, and as well as his ferocious output over the past 3 years, he has been touring extensively, and garnering a steady and loyal following in his native land, as well as over here and farther afield. He has quite an incredible set of pipes. I’ll get it out of the way by saying that he is not, as many people have labelled him ‘the next Jeff Buckley’. Buckley is one of the greatest voices in history, and is my music idol. Every man who can sing in a falsetto or has any hint of sensitive to their aesthete are lazily labelled as the king-in-waiting. Buckley may have been a modern pioneer for sensitive male songwriters, but he also had a cataclysmic range that has not been equalled since. He hated to be compared to anyone and if he were alive today, would have hated people being compared to him. He was there first, and cannot be overthrown. Corby is his own man and although not quite in the same league, he has his own spellbinding appeal. If you start being bunged in with other artists you always have to live up to that and lose your own personality. ‘Into the Flame’ shows a huge array of emotion and influence, but combined, shows a fresh young voice, who is eager to create his own legend.
Having attracted the most attention and listens throughout the Internet, is the E.P.’s lead-off track ‘Brother’. It has been covered extensively, and has even won its author awards back in Australia, and has superseded the E.P. itself, creating its own fandom and atmosphere. The E.P. has been on sale for nearly 18 months, but has been gathering a fierce momentum, since. It is in no small parts, due to this track. It begins with a brief falsetto bird call, which heralds a delicate but punchy drum beat. The vocal pattern continues. It is a mixture of high and low chorusing, backed by steady percussion. The atmosphere then calms, to allow Corby’s voice to introduce itself. It is quite a whispered and husky vocal at the beginning, having shades of Patrick Watson, as well as ‘Five Leaves’ Left Nick Drake. It is tremulous and breathy. The arc and interplay of the song’s trajectory is quite appealing. Whilst it begins with a curious blend of whimsy and delight, and then fades to a more incentive and cultured vocal, it does not advance as you would predict. Just as you think we are settling in for a languorous and emotional ballad, the excitement and upbeat carnival of the intro steals back in. There are bits of Hayden Thorpe, circa ‘Two Dancers’, during the rises: a pleasing and ear-catching tenor. I know the comparisons are creeping in to my analogy, but it is hard to not hear snatches of other singers. It is, however, completely faithful and lacking imitation; they are just colours of Corby’s rainbow. The trilling and ululation continues, before a gin-soaked growl enters, and a new phase is uncovered. It is impassioned and afflicted: “Somebody call out to your brother/He’s calling out your name”. There is an old blues sound to his voice, earthy and ravaged at times, that is an impressive counterpart to the high falsetto vocal displays throughout the tracks more rambunctious moments. When he sings: “You cower in the corner”; his voice ramps up and the Joe Cocker-esque tribal growl intensifies and hits the ceiling, as the lyrical meaning and emotion is brought into full focus. The backing piano and percussion acts as a metaphysical gut punch, and just as the tension becomes unbearable, the pressure subsides, and a calmer, more soothing vocal comes to restore order. The words are emotional and scarred: “Acknowledge you were afraid”; and yet again, before your heart and senses can relax, the guttural chorus comes back, swinging and punching, before the track ends. ‘Brother’ is admirable and highly memorable. Through its usage of vocal and musical sharp mood swings, it creates a tangible tension, and evocative atmosphere and has all the hallmarks of a future classic; getting the E.P. off to a terrific start. 9.5
With a blue-tinged intro, it brings to mind the music of legends Robert Johnson, B.B. King and Muddy Walters; albeit it, a more modern, electric rendition. The guitar noodles, and wiggles and dances with baby steps, creating a loose feel that also manages to hold interest and build up the track’s promise and intrigue. The vocal mandate is similar to that of ‘Brother’: a low-pitched blues and soul confessional, punctuated by falsetto bursts, ‘Souls a’Fire’ is awash with nascent emotionality: “…the raging sea beats at your door”. It is an assured performance, and one that will grip you. Corby’s voice sways, swoons, rises and falls and will not rest. The music behind the man is unobtrusive but forceful, summoning up emotion and weight all on its own. It is the kind of track that one could imagine sound-tracking the titles to a gangster film or series. It evokes images of alleyways, dark streets, neon-lit clubs and mystery. There is a pleasingly authority to Corb’y’s rock belt. He has a grit and gravel-stuffed candour and force, and can imagine he could easily tackle a grunge or heavy metal number and infuse it with authenticity and panache. Although not quite as intriguing or as strong as its younger sibling, ‘Souls a’Fire’ demonstrates what a strong and compelling voice Corby has. He doesn’t need histrionics or to pirouettes up and down the octaves all of the time. He can hold attention just fine when he finds his own voice. 9.4
Beginning in a similar vein to that of ‘Brother’, the ambiguous ‘Untitled’, begins with coos, and angelic intent. It is the longest track of the set, but to my mind, probably the best as well. The vocal is still and heart-wrenching. The backing is simple and tender, offering appropriate support. but letting the vocal shine through. The lyrics are intelligent and sweeping: “Pride swallowed me and lead me astray”, and through a series of metaphors, and striking verbal imagery, an epic and tear-tinged tableaux is presented. The vocal keeps you compelled throughout, switching as it does from a soft and shy whisper, through to a throaty bellow. The mood is never downcast or depressive, as the charm and beauty of the voice keeps it engaging and universal and compels repeated listens. In an industry where there are many emotional numbers; many saccharine and plastic soul, Corby has managed to pen a mature and heartfelt track that is restrained and passionate where it needs to be, and punctuated and enthralling when the song so requires. It to my mind is the standout cut from the E.P., and shows Corby is not a songwriter to be pigeon-holed or subject to comparison. He creates a unique and new sound that will capture you and leave you wanting more. 9.7
The final track of ‘Into the Flame’ begins with tinges of country as well as modern soul too. The guitar intro is happy and spirited. The vocal to ‘Big Eyes’ is again a softer beast. There are shades again of Watson in the verses. There is a similar sound to the vocals, but Corby is joined by Bree Tranter, of the Australian band, The Middle East. She has a gorgeous sound to her vocals. It is calming and electrifying, and provides a welcomed alternative to Corby’s voice. The two vocal paths seldom cross, instead taking lines and verses between them. The song is calming and soothing but does not stick in your mind the same way as the previous tracks; but provides a great end, still, to a wonderful E.P. 8.8.
There are a lot of positive and recommendations, I can provide after listening to the E.P. I have been aware of Matt Corby for a little while, and have listened to a lot of his older work as well. He has an incredible vocal range to him, and is not confined in that sense. He has the option to do pretty much anything he wants with it, which means as a songwriter he has more options and a greater range of subject matter. He could easily nestle raw blues numbers, alongside folk numbers. It would be great to find a more upbeat rock sound for a future album. I feel he has the ability to be a terrific rock singer in the mould of Robert Plant, and will be intriguing to see whether there are going to be any harder, more effusive tracks in the near future. The songwriter is mature and studied throughout. They are not prone to cliche or nauseating-hyperbole; instead switching from striking to poetic. It is impressive from a songwriter so young. Similarly the music throughout is varied and interesting. There interesting guitar lines and switches, and the percussion and piano work throughout is especially noteworthy. The fact that Corby has not become a media puppet, and been chasing fame is commendable. He is busy working away and trying to get as many people listening to his music as possible. I know ‘Into the Flame’ has a lot of fans in Australia, but few people have mentioned it to me, here. I think it deserves a much wider demographic, and legion of fans, as acts and artists like this come around very seldom.
If I were to offer suggestions I would like to see a range of sonic diversity. As mentioned there is potential for huge expansion and scope, and the inclusion of strings, guitars and a harder rock sound, would increase his palette and give him exciting options as a songwriter. He has kept a fairly faithful sound for the duration of his career, but if it were to remain so for years to come, it may sound worn and trodden. He has immense talent, and would be great to hear that at work. Finally I would urge him to check out Patrick Watson, the Canadian songwriter who has gained popularity in his home land. Forget the Buckley parable, to my ear he sounds unbelievably similar to Watson at times, and although it is a terrific sound, one is enough. He has the ability to supersede his talent, so needs to stray away from sounding too much like Watson for too long. As well, there are one or two many vocal gymnastics in the early part of the E.P.; switching from falsetto to growl and back again within a few seconds. It is an impressive trick but used too often for my liking and adds no emotional reverence; it sounds a bit like showboating.
Niggles aside I cannot wait for an album from Matt Corby as I loved the E.P. and was stunned by the maturity, range of subjects and sounds within 4 tracks. If you have not heard of him, I would suggest you listen to his music now, and get on boar, because he won’t be a secret for too much longer. He is a talent that…
… will burn into your soul.
Key Track: ‘Untitled’