The Drones/Havila

HavilahThe Drones are an Australian rock group who rose to prominence during the early 2000s. They are influenced by an eclectic bunch of bands and soloists including Neil Young, The Velvet Underground, Bad Brains, Suicide, Green on Red, The Birthday Party, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and Nina Simone. Their sound has been described as The Birthday Party kick the shit out of Neil Young in Hendrix’ garage

Havilah is the fifth studio album by Australian band The Drones, released in September 2008 (Australia) and February 2009 (UK, USA) by ATP Recordings. The title of the album is a biblical reference to a Shangri-La-esque town (Havilah) with an abundance of gold. It is also the name of a valley near where the album was recorded.[1] The album debuted at #47 on the Australian album charts.[2]

The album was recorded at the mud-brick home of lead singer Gareth Liddiard and his partner/band bassist Fiona Kitschin, outside Myrtleford (at the base of Victoria’s Mount Buffalo).

“It’s like a little world unto itself in the forest. It’s a beautiful place. You can’t always find a good spot to record, but if you can find a house like this that’s a bonus.” – Liddiard[3]

“It was a great place to write and record. We were literally in the middle of a sub-alpine forest. We had no electricity, just diesel generators. It’d be just about the only record made on a diesel budget.” – Liddiard[4]

To shake up his songwriting, Liddiard was reading four books at once, and using internet packages to jumble words and create unimaginable phrases – a technique similar to the labour intensive ‘cut up’ techniques employed by writer William S. Burroughs and singer David Bowie in the pre-web era, where they cut up words on paper and jumbled them up.[5]

“I made a conscious effort to put my head in the sand. “You start working, you have a coffee in the morning, and any self-doubt falls away” – Liddiard[5]

The album was produced and engineered by Burke Reid (The Mess Hall, Gerling) who had to set up a mobile studio in the house, powered by a diesel engine.[1]

The first single lifted off the album, “The Minotaur”, was released as a digital single on July 29, 2008.[6]

The album was nominated for the 2008 J Awards in the Album of the Year category.

Nail It Down—-From the onset, you notice that indeed, this band easily fluctuates between a garage-ish feel and a remarkable gentle sound. The most striking thing for me is the up and down delivery of the vocal. The voice is heavily accented and the lyrics are vivid. This becomes a bit obnoxious for me at times, the band seems to dissolve in a bit of noise-core, but all in all it is easy for me to buy into the hype.

The Minotaur—-The delivered single off of this release, the music is a bit spotty…the vocal is delivered in a snotty form that is almost irresistible. the music becomes rather sonic at times…at other times it dissolves into a quiet that surprises me. this is aggressive and heavily influenced by underground sounds of the 80’s…this borders on genius for me.

The Drifting Housewife—-For me, a newcomer to this band, this is a pretty remarkable shift. This acoustic track has the vocal right in the middle of your face. The accent is so heavy you sometimes miss words as the track continues. The emotion is real though and it rises above any imperfection you could hope to find.

I Am The Supercargo—-This is so nice, I had to back it up a few times and listen to the intro over and over. This is another of those releases I have had sitting in a pile forever..waiting to be reviewed. I am sorry I waited so long. This is a huge song…even though it lacks some of the bombast of earlier tracks. the vocal is so real and full of emotion…you get sucked in whether you like it or not.

Careful As You Go—-Again, delivered in an almost acoustic form, this song really does show the softer side of the band…as well as the brilliant musicianship of the players. This is so nice and smooth…even though the vocal is very upfront, you lose nothing of the music in the process. This is wonderful!

Oh My—-Returning to a more upfront and abrasive sound, the band has that remarkable ability to fly back and forth between moods and emotions. This is nice…the vocal, again so heavily accented that you have to really listen to catch everything, is delivered in bursts and spurts that makes me smile. This is wonderfully warm and remarkably aggressive without being over the top.

Cold And Sober—-On this track, the band delves into Australian blues that really strikes a chord with me…I rather like this…even being the blues diffuser that I tend to be. this has a soul and a realness that you cannot deny….the lyrics are true and resonate with the every man..this is quite possibly brilliant.

Luck In Odd Numbers—-The latter half of this release has almost made me fall in love…much different than the first few songs, the past 4 or 5 tracks have resonated with me a great deal. The vocal gets under your skin and threatens to take a home in there. this will be something that I revisit many times in the next few weeks. I really love the band that plays behind this odd and quaint vocal.

Penumbra—-Slow and silent, the band delivers a landscape that is almost buried underneath the ultra strong vocal that paints a vivid picture full of graphic and readable lyrics. This is incredible…I love this band…where have I been? Lost in my pop and death metal I guess…this to me is the most magnificent track on this release…listen to this 100 times and call me…we will talk and talk and talk!!!!

Your Acting’s Like The End Of The World—-This is really a nice way to end this release…finally i have decided that this band reminds me of Blues Traveler!!! This has just that right tinge of the blues, a remarkable pop sensibility and lyrics that make you sit back in your chair and say Hmmmmmm. This is stellar.

****1/2 out of 5


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