Hayden Calnin – CITY e.p & Sydney Show

You know I’m feeling for the White Rabbit at the moment;
Head down, running furiously along muttering “I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”
This post is all arse backwards. Hayden’s debut E.P Cities has been out for a few months now and the Sydney launch, which is the show I went too was three weeks ago. So where has the time gone? Who knows? Ask me when I’m dead.

I’d been patiently waiting for a return trip north from Hayden after seeing him with Gossling earlier in the year. This time round it was his gig (his first as the headlining act). No playing second fiddle, no time restraints, his set to do with as he will. The venue was FBI Social on the fringes of Kings X which was new to me. Well new to me these days, it’s a very different ‘Cross’ from what I remember. Opening for him were The Falls who I  enjoyed. I should have bought their E.P after the show. I do feel a bit guilty about that but it would have meant one less Hayden E.P to buy and I had a shortlist of friends I was shopping for. Anyway my buddy Peter got a copy from them, so that helped ameliorate my guilt a little.

It was a grand show!
I’d bought my tickets a few months earlier and was counting down the days; yes I don’t get out too much. So when I finally trooped up the stairs to the third floor of the Kings Cross Hotel it was with high expectations and I’m pleased to say I was not disappointed. Well actually there were a couple of small disappointments but they had nothing to do with Hayden’s performance. Firstly I was late getting back for his set (never trust the doors guess at a start time) so missed the impromptu wedding proposal before he took to the stage. Which was a bummer because I’m a sucker for schmaltzy moments like that. However I can confidently wager that For My Help will be played on the happy couples wedding night. And secondly he managed to lose his band between Melbourne & Sydney (careless of him I know – car troubles) so It turned into a solo affair. Which is a shame really because I was looking forward to that added dimension a band would have brought to his songs. Not just filling up the space with multiple instruments, he’s got that covered with his sampling and looping but I was curious to see how the dynamic of his music would change with a full stage of people. No matter It was still a great show and I’ll be patient and wait for the next time he is in Sydney.

I’ve only seen Hayden perform twice so lack any real authority to comment but I’ve seen several versions of his songs on the internet since I’ve been following his music; Live, Soundcloud, YouTube etc and some are slightly different to the others. I suspect every performance is a little different also and that there are no hard and fast rules. His songs are exquisitely constructed. They’re little be-Jewelled creatures, like Christmas Beetles or Faberge eggs or Tiramisu cake. Rich layers of sounds both found (people’s chatter, traffic noise, the elements) played and then processed and slotted into the songs. Rich seams of music and space layered over the top of each other or looping away in the background and often both at once. A lot of his music is not what it seems. He’ll play a chord on the keyboard and you’ll hear the sound of rain. Pick a note on his guitar and the E-Bow hidden  in his palm will bend the harmonics so that it’s a Cello or a Violin you’re listening to. He’ll sing a line and it will trigger that astonishing falsetto of his, harmonizing in symmetry an octave or two above himself. Surprises are everywhere which could get kind of confusing if you were to listen too his work literally. My advice, don’t take that approach. Let his music wash over you like moving water. Let it seep into your pores. I promise it will lift you. You’ll rise with it like a vessel on an incoming tide.

So how was his show? Well just like at The Basement the audience were almost reverential in there attentiveness. If someone had dropped a pin you would have heard it. As mentioned I was late getting upstairs so if he opened with Cities I missed it. I hope he did because it’s a killer track. One of my favorites. Even though the e.p is titled City it’s namesake song is not on it and really Hayden, take it under consideration it should be.
It’s as close to a ‘summer’ track as I’ve heard you do and as close to a ‘conventional’ single as well (yep, I’m harping on about it but if you’re not going to release it chuck it up as download somewhere 🙂 It will bring new people to your music.

Of course the e.p was what tonight was all about and you can head over here to buy it for the paltry sum of $6.99. It’s a great album. Something any artist would be proud of whether as a first release or with a dozen recordings under their belt. It carries its weight with grace. There are 5 tracks. Two versions of Winter at different tempos. Summer which was the first release. For My Help, the current single and a track called Shutters. Hayden’s background is film & sound and like Brian Eno (who’s the dot I connect him with) it’s very atmospheric music. He’s a little frugal when it comes to talking about his songs. I think I read somewhere that he doesn’t like explaining the lyrics, preferring to let the audience work them out or perhaps take what they want from them. Having said that he was a little more forthcoming at the gig. For My Help is pretty self-explanatory; the sometimes rockiness that comes with close friendships. The song Summer is a bit of a mystery to me and I’d like to leave it like that so I haven’t tried to work it out. Shutters was written about a house in Melbourne. A share house with big old storm covers that were broke shut and never able to be opened. In this clip Hayden talks about his e.p and gives a little background to each of the tracks. His comment at 4:25 caught my attention.
Winston Churchill once said:
“We shape our dwellings,
and afterwards our dwellings shape us.”
Which is something written in China Ink on the mirror outside front door; I always thought it a pretty astute observation.
Most records that you listen too will invariably throw up songs you lean towards but I can honestly say I have no favorites amongst the five tracks that comprise Cities. If you were to ask me which is the best song Brett? I’d have to list the last one I’ve listened too. They’re self-contained worlds these five little pieces; each complete in itself. However on the night Shutters was the one that stayed with me after the show:

It’s got a beautiful languid rhythm to it. Building slowly with washes of what sounds like those ‘rain sticks’ you played with as a child. Full of chimes and bells and this gentle staccato drum loop ploughing up the ground for his music. It’s a shimmering song if that makes sense. Full of incandescent light. For My Help was another high point of the show. I guess it’s the single though I’m not sure if things like singles exist anymore. Anyway it’s the song with the film clip attached to it. Shot by his friend Tom Milekovic who’s done a great job with the visual side of things. There’s more than a hint of desperation in that song which the film captures well. The night closed with another oldie, Dinosaur Stampede which was great too – It was all great dammit!! :-). It’s a deceptively simple song.  Well maybe not deceptive at all. He cranks the reverb up way beyond what any producer would probably advise and it just works. The guitar playing tag with the echoes and each carefully articulated word of Hayden’s. There wouldn’t even be a dozen lines to the song – Verse/Chorus repeated every different way and that’s it.
It’s beautiful.
I love it.

Here’s that film clip too For My Help that I was talking about. It’s a cracker!
And go buy his Album.
Personal guarantee. If you don’t love it. Ping me and I’ll refund you the seven dollars.

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