Live Review: Oliver Tank + Hayden Calnin + Safia - Oxford Art Factory, Sydney (11.07.13)

Oliver Tank + Hayden Calnin + Safia - Oxford Art Factory

Oliver Tank has built himself quite a fan base on the back of last year’s Dreams EP. Its subdued tones and carefully cultivated soundscapes providing the perfect late night soundtrack for those quieter more contemplative moments that follow a reckless night out. Thursday night provided an opportunity to road test some of his new arrangements to an appreciative home town crowd.

Safia were a revelation early on. For such a young band they came have such a coherent and fully realised sound. They are another exciting electro-pop act that Australia seems to be producing in droves. Lead singer Ben Woolner has a lovely clear singing voice and all members had clear talent with their expensive looking collection of synthesizers, sequencers and electronic drum kits. Thier songs encompassed various genres of electronic music feeding off influences that ranged from dubstep, in the euphoric breakdown of ‘Listen to Soul, Listen to Blues’ to the fidgety, Flume inspired house of ‘Stretched and Faded’. One look at their tour schedule which includes supporting the likes of Disclosure, amongst others makes it clear that they’re an act to keep an eye on.

On record Hayden Calnin is a much more enticing prospect than he is live. His arrangements, at their best are deep and affecting have gathered comparisons to Bon Iver. These are earned on the back of his vocals which fade between a soaring falsetto and more earthen soulful moments. His on-stage set up prevented the music or his performance from becoming all that engaging with the audience. Taking to the stage solo and largely busying himself with equipment throughout the set to layer vocals and trigger pieces, it unfortunately resulted in the music washing over the crowd as background noise while awaiting the main set to begin.

Oliver Tank wandered onto stage a mass of wavy black hair and beard, looking dishevelled as if he had just wandered out of his bedroom. He set about building intimate, layered songs in which the audience immersed themselves. ‘Up All Night’ opened the set and with its chorus of “can you teach me how to dance real slow” had audience members swaying heads to the ceiling lost in the music. Throughout the set Oliver Tank managed to avoid the pitfalls that confront a solo artist releasing their bedroom compositions to a live audience. The music felt dynamic throughout the set with enough live elements injected alongside all the samples. Whether it was playing rhythm sections, infusing songs with a little bit of guitar theatrics, or just some smooth vocals there was always something that remained engaging about his set.

New tracks that were peppered throughout the set where received well and showed Tanks willingness to collaborate, whether it be tour mate Hayden Calnin – who surprisingly didn't join him onstage – or returning contributions from Fawn Myers. They introduced new elements to his sound that prevented the set from becoming too familiar. None went down as well as his collaboration with producer Ta-ku, which when announced was received with a roar of approval from the crowd. The twitchy rhythm was pure Ta-ku and added a more outright dance element than Tank’s solo works. The biggest reactions of the night though where reserved for the double helping of Snoop Dogg remixes that closed out the set. First up was his remix of ‘Beautiful’ greeted enthusiastically, but it was his re-working of ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ that got the whole room grooving. Who would have guessed what that song needed was a stadium ready guitar riff. It was the defining moment of the set and although most people will have left with the memory of another artists song, it meant it they left knowing it was a show they wouldn't quickly forget.