…all of those broken down cowboys with their hearts on their sleeves. They go down so fast they fall so easily….
It was the first 15 seconds that echo, with a single guitar strumming an indie rock beat that first grabbed my attention. Follow with a build up of drums, bass and harmonica, add the distinctive resonating edgy vocal, and that was my introduction to Melbourne singer/songwriter, Michael Plater and a song I still can’t get out of head, Pretty Maids.
With a sound that’s been described as indie, folk, a little bit country, almost gothic and with “noir” influences, it’s this distinctive guitar and vocal that creates a mood that separates Michael from the crowd. It was last year at a PJ Harvey Tribute show that I first discovered Michael Plater. I couldn’t tell you which songs he performed on that night but his voice and performance style left a lasting impression. Although in some ways reminiscent of The Triffids, Velvet Underground and Lloyd Cole, his sound has a singularity that separates him.
So it was on yet another hot Sunday Summer evening that I ventured to The Tote in Collingwood for the launch of his second solo album, Mythologies, a follow up to the critically acclaimed 2012 solo debut, Exit Keys.
Supported by four other acts, Michael performed after the first three supports. First up; Bronwyn Adams, a one woman show with a haunting eclectic quality that was part performance, part poetry. Next, Henry Hugo, who currently resides in one of my top places, Switzerland. Vocally reminiscent of Nick Cave, his songs have a deep rich sound with a slow almost hypnotic guitar and beat. Having been completely unfamiliar with his music, (as it’s a departure from what I usually listen to), I’ve since played his recent release, Noctuary Songs, and May Queen, is already on repeat.
And now for the main event. The set list began in his typically understated style, without fanfare, but from the first guitar chord of the ballad, Reflections of a Dream, Michael had command of the room. It’s not often at a gig, that the audience is completely absorbed in the performance. Next up, We’re All Drunk Again, with its Americana feel, first appears a light fun song but actually has quite a dark edge. We Lit the Lamps, slow, intense and full of emotion followed. Then, other favourites; The Officers Mess and Pretty Maids, both with a more acoustic feel that builds. Finally, it’s the guitar/harmonica combination in, Old Victories, that draws me in.
The songs are ballads, stories and emotions accompanied by a strong rhythmic or acoustic indie guitar sound and beat. Sometimes add percussion, sometimes not. Sometimes indie rock, sometimes more folk. Each song has the right balance. To me, it’s almost as if the music is there to enhance the words, thoughts and ideas. Lyrics of introspection and observation accompanied by great chord combinations and that vocal, is what really holds my attention.
The set of six new tracks, then finishing with, Rings of Smoke from his debut album, was over too quickly. I was just settling in.