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Album Review

by Kirin J Callinan


Review Date
31st July 2013
Reviewed by
Paul Larsen

Imagine trying to solve a Rubik's cube blindfolded. Now imagine this particular Rubik's cube is also hopelessly broken and prone to yelling in your face at random intervals. This is what a first listen to Kirin J Callinan's new record feels like. He’s been orbiting the Sydney music scene for several years now but Callinan has only recently unleashed his first solo creation, Embracism and much like the man himself, it’s equal parts warped, shameless and brilliant.

Embracism is by no means the easiest record to digest and it's also impossible to pigeon hole as no two tracks feel like they belong to the same artist let alone the same record. Callinan's uniquely raspy and faltering vocals are the only crutch you're afforded to guide you through the labyrinthine collection of noise rock guitar, demented drum machines, acoustic numbers and the occasional love song.

Thematically, the record pinballs from one subject to the next at massive pace but Callinan somehow manages to hit the mark every time. The industrial synth-fest of opening track 'Halo' is countered immediately with confrontational title track, 'Embracism'; a testosterone soaked comment on a violent society, underpinned by competing bass and synth tracks. Callinan's particularly raw vocal sound here is the result of intentionally over-indulging the night before recording - whether that counts as suffering for your art or not is debatable but the resulting rawness is gripping nonetheless.

When he's not hung-over, Callinan's vocal sound and patterns have a distinctive Bowie feel to them. 'Come on America' even feels like an updated take on Bowie's 'I'm Afraid of Americans' with its satirical swipe at US bravado. We pinball on again from here to the Jarvis Cocker styled ballad, 'Victoria M', in which Callinan finds a full (and again very Bowie sounding) singing voice for the first time.

Where Embracism excels is in the moments between the madness where ideas can be fleshed out more fully and tone is harmoniously matched with tune. 'Chardonnay Sean' is one such track. Bookended with a remorseful, effect laden guitar, it's a very personal song which peaks with a celebration of acoustic guitars and stadium-sized drum fills before withdrawing suddenly back into the dark again. As a purposeful juxtaposition to that moment of peace, the Nine Inch Nails infused onslaught of ‘Stretch it Out’ and ‘Way II War’ step up next to knock you down and drag you towards the finish line.

Embracism is a raw, abrasive and completely unsolvable record, which is also what makes it so good. It's challenging and confrontational but it's also manic, honest and deeply rewarding.


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