Australia - Full Moon 105 - 04/24/05
Cam Butler + The Devastations + Tarantula
Rob Roy, Fitzroy, Melbourne, AUS 9.4.05
This Cam Butler gig was a recommendation from Luna Kafé contributor Brian Stradrook - it's always good
to receive tips from people whose taste you can trust. And I had the pleasure of attending the gig with
none other than Luna Kafé founder Håvard, who happened to be in Melbourne for a business trip, all
the way from Oslo, Norway. All in all, a lovely piece of synchronicity for a Luna Kafé-tastic event!
But what was it like? I was especially drawn by Brian's recommendation as Cam Butler is the guitarist in
Australian instrumental trio Silver Ray, whose elegant and emotive instrumental music has charmed me whenever
I've been lucky enough to hear it on the radio. Here Cam debuted his new solo album Go Slow featuring
the Shadows of Love strings.
But first came Tarantula, a string quartet that teased some interesting and atmospheric melodies from their
instruments, which included a wonderful-sounding xylophone. They succeeded in layering pretty, meandering lines
that created simple and evocative tunes reminiscent of Penguin Café Orchestra. And their final piece was to
accompany an old film about Ned Kelly's gang that Havard had, coincidentally, been viewing the day before at
a film archive in Canberra.
Next up were The Devastations. I'll admit that they had a strong, moody sound similar to Tindersticks or the
Bad Seeds, but fuck are those guys vain - it really marred what was a reasonable set of songs. I turned around
and a swooning arc of thirty-something women were transfixed to their every studied move. Sickening, and bloody
annoying. I tried to put this out of my mind, but the nail was hammered in their creative coffin when I started
paying attention to their lyrics - hideous clichés throughout.
Thankfully Cam Butler steered well clear of any performing pretensions and launched straight into his material.
For most of the songs he set up two or three layers of delayed harmonic loops on an effects pedal, and then
jammed another melodic line over the top. And then to add further depth to the sound the string quartet swelled
and whined underneath. The songs were simple, but the power came from the warmth of the tone and the sweetness
of the melodies.
The chattering of the crowd did get to Cam at points, which fed into some of his more aggressive guitar work,
but thankfully he managed to present his set without losing his temper too badly. I'm sure all the talkers were
there for the Devastations. Fuckers.
Copyright © 2005 Tim Clarke