E.P. Review: The Byzantines- Colourvision

E.P. REVIEW:

 

 

 

The Byzantines

 

 Colourvision

 

9.4/10.0

 

 

 

Colourvision is available via:

http://thebyzantines.bandcamp.com/album/colourvision-ep

TRACK LISTING:

C.F.C. (Colourvision Football Club)- 9.4/10.0

Punch On- 9.4

Black Teardrop Woman- 9.4

Cats Got Boots- 9.5

Spaghetti Western- 9.5

STAND OUT TRACK: Cats Got Boots

RELEASED: 20 September 2013
WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY: The Byzantines.
RECORDED AT: Hillside Studio.
MIXING AND POST-PRODUCTION BY: Luke Godson.
TRUMPET BY: Eric Santucci.
ADDITIONAL GUITAR AND PERCUSSION BY: Matt Hills.
ADDITIONAL SYNTH BY: Luke Godson.
MASTERED BY: Evan James.
ARTWORK BY: Alex Mullen.

GENRES: Electronic, Electronic Rock, ‘Britpop’, Indie Rock.

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These Australian innovators have a fond affection for British music: with a nod to Primal Scream; The Byzantines infuse drama, history and beauty- making Colourvision that rarest of musical treats.

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INTERNATIONAL acts have always provided me a chance to…

investigate what is happening in other parts of the world. The music industry in this country is growing and varied: producing quiet a few genuine drops of joys in an ocean of middle ground- when you do come across a phenomenal act, it is always a huge pleasure. A lot of time, foreign acts are overlooked: there is a concentration on home-grown talent- meaning that some terrific musicians struggle to make their names heard in the U.K. Over the past couple of years (when looking at international music) I have had the chance to feature quite a few U.S. acts: everything from Electro-Pop to Metal, through to ’70s Pop. Each time I investigate act, I am left with a certain sense: there is a freedom and diversity that few British acts possess. Maybe it is due to geographical issues; perhaps the music press in the U.S. (and other nations) is a little less critical and pressurizing: there seems to be a flair and adventurousness that I would like to see more of here- of course there are the exceptions to the rule. I bring the issue up, as my featured act provide something unique: they have British sensibilities and influences, but inject a beguiling blend of Psych-Rock and Indie- laced with an inimitable Australian charm and gutsiness. Australia -in my estimation- is a relatively untapped market: a nation that eyes should train themselves towards- as a lot of striking and effusive sounds are emanating from this golden land. The Byzantines have a filmic and cinematic blend: as if Quentin Tarantino were in a lab accident with James Bond- and the resultant progeny were trying to escape its foreboding confines. Mix in a measure of modern-day U.K. Indie influence, and you get a sense of what the band resemble. Let me introduce you to them:

Mike Pietrafesa- Vox/Synth

Rhys Overall- Guitar/Synth/Samples

Dave Zammit- Guitar

Jose Moucho– Bass

Johnny Zervas- Drums

The Byzantines, an indie-electronic-rock band conceived in nightlife from the sordid and shady streets of Adelaide, Australia.  An emerging local force, the band are described as having a predominantly British feel reminiscent of Primal Scream and early Kasabian. The five piece are a result of late nights and fast times spent around Adelaide. They come from a variety of musical backgrounds in producing an excellent blend of electronic based music, with strands of psych-rock and pop intertwined. The boys have spent the last 12 months earning their stripes on the Adelaide live circuit, releasing debut EP ‘ColourVision’, and collecting a slew of local and interstate support credits along acts such as The Belligerents, Conics, The Infants, Sincerely Grizzly and Pigeon. In late 2013 the band were also selected to perform at Revolver Bandroom (Vic) as the interstate feature act for the ‘Melbourne Fresh Industry Showcase’. Their debut EP ‘ColourVision,’ released in October of 2013 was engineered by Matt Hills (Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire!, Wolf & Cub) at Hillside Studios. The band enlisted the talents of Adelaide’s own Luke Godson (The Swiss, Luke Million) on production duties, giving their already attitude-laden sound that extra punch. It has been described by Music SA as “a brilliant blend of synth, fuzz bass, driving beats and well structured arrangements.”

There is enough (in the biography) to water plenty of mouths: few other artists mix so much variation and stunning back story into their locker- the press and adulation the boys has received pays testament to this unique brand of music. The guys are touring the U.K. and Europe very shortly: it will be great to hear the reception they are afforded over here- and how people respond to their music. There are not many acts in the world that perform the type of music The Byzantines do- Electronic Rock-cum-‘Britpop’- with such conviction and a sense of adventurousness. One of my biggest criticisms (when referring to new music) is the lack of passion and energy: there is a timidness and listlessness that is still ever-present and dominant. The Australian quintet are the antithesis of that: an indefatigable troupe of musicians intent on putting a spark back into music- and create songs that are ready-made for the summer.

As well as the likes of Kasabian, The Byzantines are inspired by the likes of Gorillaz, Primal Scream and Massive Attack: a distinctly British-born colour chart. That is not to say that there is no sense of distinction and individuality (to their music). If you are fond of the aforementioned groups, then you will find something relatable in The Byzantines’ music: an authoritative melting of ’90-modern-day elements; a stunning urgency and directness- as well as lashings of native tongue. You can hear sounds of 2014 Australia too: the boys presents sounds that are endemic and synonymous- a few of their local contemporaries have a similar ambition and projection. What marks the five-piece out from a lot of modern acts is their attention to detail: music is not just cobbled together and aimlessly recorded- there is a perfect mix of looseness and perfectionism. Songs come across as studied and incredibly well-considered- yet are instilled with a sense of ease and breeziness. The cinematic and widescreen motifs that are rife throughout Colourvision have earned huge plaudits: the idiosyncracies and bravery have paid huge dividends

From the very off, Colourvision makes its presence known. C.F.C. (Colourvision Football Club) starts with a flourish of organs, cymbals and keys: a rush and majestic build-up pricks your ears and stands you to attention. With embers of Icky Thump-era The White Stripes and Origins of Symmetry Muse, you can practically hear the opening credits roll: a hard-hitting and noir revenge flick is beginning life. Few E.P.s (or songs) begin with such a bang, so it is impressive that The Byzantines possess such instantaneous kick: the opening salvo is a punchy and balls-to-the-wall romp. When Piatrefesa steps to the microphone, his voice is filled with purpose and directness. Speaking to his subject (a lover or sweetheart perhaps), he implores them to “give me what you’re made of“: in an excited and direct coda the heroine (subject) is “Lighting up a Molotov.” Early hints of The Raconteurs and Primal Scream (in the composition) and Kasabian (the vocals) come through, yet what is axiomatic is the strength of our frontman’s voice:  it is one filled with direct longing, urgency and passion. As you digest views of an alluring figure, other images come to mind: balkanized football supporters and rampaging armies. Words proffering pitchforks and blood spiral in; in my mind perhaps two football clans come together: a pre-match showdown is being witnessed. Such is the power and prowess of the lyrics, that they get your mind working: various scenes and scenarios are conjured. When Piatrefesa sings “spread your love” (and drops to his knees), you can sense the conviction and meaning in his voice: they dance merrily in a wash of synths. and joyful electronics. The composition is impressively bold and captivating. Stuttering and robotic dark notes blend with multifarious lights: a whirlpool of synthesised sound marries alongside emotive and emphatic guitar, bass and percussion. With our frontman spitting blood (and the band summoning up a firestorm of mood and atmosphere), the track comes to an end- concluding an impressive start to the E.P. Punch On begins affairs differently (to that of C.F.C.): the sense of majesticness remains. A gong smash leads to bubbling and jumping synths.; guitar elongation and feline notes intersect and blend- the band are particularly impressive when it comes to ensuring tracks hit the ground running. Fist-pumping sonics commingle strikingly: leading to tales of a “tropical paradise” where its sights and smells buckle the knees. Whereas the previous number was built around various electronics and synths., here there is more emphasis on guitar and percussion: there is a definite Indie Rock flavour at work. Our frontman’s voice is inflamed and effusive: a passionate delivery brings vivid life to the track’s words. Where disparate junkies and proclivity-seeking figures lurk, “We don’t stop to think about the consequence“: whatever life throws at you, just roll with the punches- something we can all relate to. The band is particular tight and impressive during Punch On: the percussion is dominant and energised; guitar and bass notes are hypnotic and swirling- the synths. are captivating. Swinging guitar vortexes back our frontman’s mandates: he is the common man advising common sense. Black Teardrop Woman boasts an impressive futuristic-cum-Primal Scream opening. Juggernaut electronics and synths. mobilise and mutate. Our frontman is keen to disrupt the mood: implore (his subject/the listener) to sit back, strap in “and let the trip begin.” The mantra is repeated amongst a shuddering and vibrating audio swirl: creating a hypnotic parable that gets inside of your head. Pietrafesa turns in his most impressive vocal performance on the set: filled with passion and emotion, it is a compelling showcase. Words are stretched and elongated; others are quickly dispensed: keeping the sense of anticipation and unpredicatbility high. The song’s central figure is an alluring and dangerous one: someone whom causes our frontman to lie awake and wonder. The mood throughout the song is slightly darker than previous numbers: the synths. and guitars especially have a midnight and stalker-in-the-shadows quality. Modern-day Kasabian have a similar combination of sounds and shades- they do not deploy them as effectively as The Byzantines. The song’s raven-winged Siren is causing all manner of twitterpation and dislocation: compelling your mind once more to drift and imagine. By track four, a certain dependency and band uniformity has emerged: dizzying and spiraling synths. and coercive intros. are top of the list. Cats Got Boots (perhaps) sports one of the most fascinating introduction of the E.P. It is brief, yet draws in parping and ecstatic Jazz trumpets: together with buoyant synthesisers, the track gets off to a terrific start. Lyrical themes mix engaging and mythical sights; tempestuous central figures are present once more- as well as stark and eye-catching bon mots. Early lines look at truths and lies; Haitian queens and vivid emotional imagery (“the penny drops and the child dies“). After a tumbling and breathless chorus, echoing and anthemic guitar strands are traded: the song has an effective sense of punctuation, that keeps the music compelling. After this brief sonic presentation, our frontman is back in focus. Investigating strifes, business suits and “Growing up in underground“, there is a little more venom and outward projection here: a political edge comes into view. The song focuses on current issues and universal malaise: its messages can be extrapolated and relate to all. What hits me hardest (when it comes to Cats Got Boots) is the song as a whole. The vocals are as direct and urgent as any throughout the E.P.; the lyrics are catchy as well as purposeful- perhaps the composition itself does the most bidding. So much colour and texture is incorporated: authentic Jazz brass and ’90s synths. tangle with Indie Rock laddishness and Spoken Word interjection. By the time you have ingested all that is on offer, you are compelled to replay the track- in case you have missed anything. Completing Colourvision is Spaghetti Western. So far (in film terms) we have looked at charming Indie flicks; Rom.-Com. avenues and full-throttle chase epics- are we about to witness something that carries a six-shooter and crawls the desert? Short answer: kind of. The song is the shortest on the disc, yet wastes no time in making its voice heard. As with Cats Got Boots, we are treated to Jazz and Latin-infused brass. Here, the mood is more romantic and seductive: it sets us up for something a lot more epic. Early announcements put me in mind of a Tarantino soundtrack; bits of Green Day’s Espionage and Black Holes and Revelations Muse are in there- we are going out with a bang. Spaghetti Western changes tones and skin: guitar lines have Western flavours but also mutate into Prog Rock and Indie shapes. There is itinerary and storytelling throughout the instrumental: you can well imagine a grizzled hero stalking the desert floor; approaching a saloon, there is a show-down afoot- and only one man will survive. A great deal of epicness and excitement is concocted: it is as though the title credits are rolling after a huge blockbuster- leaving you wondering whether we will be seeing a sequel. Whereas the E.P.’s first four tracks had certain messages and ambitions, here there is playfulness: the band have done all the hard work, and are having fun- and leaving the listener with a big smile. Spaghetti Western is very nearly the standout of the set (Cats Got Boots wins that award): it is one that will always put you in a better mood- and destined to feature in a film some time very soon. By the end of the E.P., you sit back and asses all you have heard. The production is incredible throughout: clear and concise, no instruments and vocal lines get buried or muted- neither is there any over-production. The band as a whole is intuitive and close-knit: you can hear the affection and sympatico between the members. Percussion and drumming is authoritative and impressive throughout: in each track it not only drives forward the energy and mood, but adds weight and passion. The bass work is superb and tight: keeping the backbone in check, it adds so much colour and vibrancy to the music (kudos to Zervas and Moucho for their incredible work). Overall and Zammit’s guitar work is strong and stunning across the board: plenty of Indie Rock and ‘Britpop’ majesty is elicited- as well as soul and passion in spades. Synthesisers play a huge part throughout the E.P., and beautifully augment and define the songs- few bands mix synths. with guitars so effectively. The Byzantines ensure that all synthesiser elements are varied and different: each track (where they are featured) has a unique sound and identity. Pietrafesa’s vocals wonderfully mix hints of Kasabian, Primal Scream and Kaiser Chiefs- without employing any of these acts too compulsively. His voice is capable of going from a strong and blood-lust belt, down to a more introverted calm: the songs on the E.P. would be weaker and less impressive in poorer hands. The Colourvision E.P. is a brilliant testament to a band that have a clear sense of direction: they know where they want to go, and who they are. Each of the songs has its particular charms and recommendations: focus and urgency are high on the agenda, yet there is playfulness and cheekiness when needed. You will not only be singing along to the songs (after a few listens), but will force yourself to re-listen- so the quality and potency of the compositions can be fully appreciated. It is their first disc, but it points to a band with serious credentials and talents: it is obvious that they will be riding the festival waves (in the U.K.) very soon. I know they have received adoration and paen in Australia, yet are a lesser-known quantity here- that will all change when they come a-knocking.

Having thoroughly studied Colourvision (and the band themselves) I was stunned by the wealth of material on offer. Each of the E.P.’s five songs have their own personality: within the tracks is a huge amount of scintillation, force and passion. The boys have a fond affection and knowledge of the genres they play: the confidence and authority that seeps out of every track is hard to ignore. One of the most impressive aspects of The Byzantines is their originality. I would be hard-pressed to compare the quintet to anyone else: there are a few bands that tread similar lines, yet none with the same potency and nuance. The likes of Primal Scream and Muse can be detected in various songs (within the E.P.), but these bands are employed as stepping-stones: each band is used as a stepping stone; toes are never trod on. The conviction, urgency and stylishness of the music marks The Byzantines out as a band to watch: few acts do what they do as well as they do. I started the review by mentioning Quentin Tarantino: you can imagine each of Colourvision’s five tracks scoring one of his epic films. A lot of Indie/Rock bands either favour pure force or (what they conceive as) genuine appeal  and authenticity: they can often be bywords for timidity and recklessness. The Byzantines’ conviction and urgency means they can marry force and passion; tie in romance, sex appeal and cinema- and drape in dollops of sunshine and smile too. The guys have no intent on being selectively mute: they are going to travel far and wide to ensure their music is heard. In September, The Byzantines are heading to the U.K.: before travelling across Europe. Having seduced and entranced Australia, the quintet are going from strength to strength- I would not be surprised if new music was on the horizon. It will be fascinating to see whether an L.P. is in-the-works- I would love to see The Byzantines’ sound expanded across an album. That may be some time off, but for now, enjoy Colourvision: an E.P. that is as striking as any I’ve heard. For those that prefer their music heart-felt, urgent and uplifting- with swathes of kick-ass riffs and raw power into the mix, then check out the Adelaide crew. If you are in need of something to blow away your woes and stresses: get rid of the negativity, and replace it with something a lot more agreeable, then…

THIS is the band for you.

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Follow The Byzantines:

 

 Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Byzantines/197935706924007?ref=hl

Twitter:

SoundCloud:

Triple J Unearthed:

https://www.triplejunearthed.com/artist/byzantines

Instagram:

http://instagram.com/the_byzantines#

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The Byzantines’ videos can be accessed at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Byzantines/197935706924007?ref=hl#!/pages/The-Byzantines/197935706924007?sk=videos

 

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Tour dates available via:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Byzantines/197935706924007?ref=hl#!/pages/The-Byzantines/197935706924007?sk=events

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