Kirin J Callinan/DCM/MACHINE @ The Tote
For Melbournians lucky enough to have caught his intimate and powerful set at Montsalvat earlier in the year, the notion of Kirin J Callinan taking the stage with the support of a full band may have been difficult to conceptualise.
Driven as much by his personal charisma as a performer as by the music itself, Kirin’s solo shows are profoundly idiosyncratic: to imagine that same idiosyncrasy dispersed across the mean of the musical egos that typically contend within the dynamic of your average band could easily have resulted in predictions of a watering down – or at least an incomplete delivery – of the bizarre and unique musical vision Kirin was able to relate, albeit with limitations, alone on stage.
With supports that reflected the clashing of genres within this vision, the night was opened by the criminally under-exposed MACHINE, presenting a set comprised of beautiful, cold, crystalline sounds that were laid out with artful restraint. The propulsive, delicately textured music created by the two-piece – comprised of Nils Arnold and Vijay Singh – had the Vulture thinking of Ridley Scott’s replicants: synthetic, precise, human and fragile.
Formed of a member each from Midnight Juggernauts (to whose record label, Siberia Records, Callinan is signed in Australia), and defunct psych-rockers Wolfmother, DCM offered a set of experimental electronica involving an eye-crossing degree of instrument swapping, with Daniel Stricker and Chris Ross flitting from one part of the stage to another, from keyboard to keyboard in a smoothly executed juggling act, during which they not once lost momentum, excepting the unavoidable interruption of the shorting of the Tote’s power supply.
Appropriate sonic grounds having been laid for his anticipated performance, the interim before Kirin’s set began saw the Tote bandroom filled to capacity and tickets sold out at the door, the mounting attention he has been receiving since his release of ‘WIIW’ and its accompanying video having made this appearance in Melbourne a subject of keen anticipation.
Starting on a slightly worrying note, the adaptation of one of his songs into a fairly banal synth-pop number cast grim predictions for the success of the full-band-experiment. It soon became apparent however, that the band Callinan had assembled had received proper instruction as to when to flesh out a song that formerly was spare, and likewise when to provide only what minimal support was needed in those moments when it was appropriate for their frontman to take sole and unique focus.
Perhaps cruelly, perhaps in a deserved moment of egotism, Callinan introduced his band – all of whom were anonymous behind uniform surgical masks – as “gimp 1, gimp 2, and gimp 3, with the ponytail”. Consideration for the musicians’ delicate egos aside though, the supporting musicianship was as it ought to have been; faceless and in the service of providing muscle to Callinan’s music where before it was somewhat fragile.
The effect of this support from “a band who do what I tell them to do”, made itself apparent in Callinan’s demeanour, his vulnerable, intimidated persona having been shelved for one entirely more macho. Hitting their stride most powerfully in their delivery of the recent single mentioned above, ‘WIIW’ demonstrated what Callinan is capable of with a band behind him, and in the assumption that the hype doesn’t overtake him, suggests his becoming of essential relevance to Melbourne punters when he next visits.
‘WIIW’ is available now as a digital download, with a vinyl release to follow on July 31. The release of his debut on Siberia Records has yet to be announced.