Winter has not been a feature of my life for some years, in fact almost since the inception of The Re-mains we’ve found cause to be largely absent from it, whether in the Northern Territory, far north Queensland or Canada. But this year, as the band takes a hiatus from touring and I’m at Uni, here we are. Freezing….. We’ve launched the new album, Inland Sea in Maitland, Sydney, Yamba and Federal and next weekend, in Lennox Head and Nymboida. It’s selling well and getting radio play at various places….. The band is an eclectic beast, as always. With Shaun in semi-retirement, Tom Jones wintering in Darwin, Al Fisk tinkering in Sydney, CP (Christian Pyle) reprising his role on guitar and Darren Bridge the new bassplayer, it’s all new sets and relocating the sound….. Last weekend we played Lennox Head, Nymboida and a party near Alstonville. The band was in furious form and still recovering. Saturday night I’m playing solo at the Tatts in Lismore, opening for a band called the Little Stevies who are apparently making waves in the folk scene. In August I’m going south, to Goologong, where my mate Balfe aka Mush aka Craig Lawler (see his review of Inland Sea) and his beau, Josephine live, to rendezvous with the Lonely Horse Band for a week of songwriting on the ever contentious and lively issue of bushrangers, of which there are the ghosts and legacy of plenty in that region. August sees The Thoughtful Hussars return into action on the 26th, charging like the Light Brigade into the Gollan Hotel, where, supported by Captain Freedom, we’ll be playing a few new tunes and anticipating Dylanfest with a few run-throughs. On the 28th, The Re-Mains play in Brissie at The Old Museum, a venerable venue managed by the manager of Bang Bang Boss Kelly, a banjo-swinging mob from that part of the world who are launching an album of their own. …. In September a long awaited return to Darwin looks likely, with the return of Leigh Ivin to the band. We’ve been in discussion for a while about the possibility of recording some of the vast back catalogue of unrecorded country rock and roll classics (well, they’re classic to us – Country Rock and Roll is Number One, Coalface Annie, Sharks, Return to Lizard County, Beef Week Queen, Same Road … the list is exhaustive), and playing some reunion shows, culminating in a short stint at Tamworth Country Music Festival next year. A Darwin/NT run will be the first of these – looks like an interesting time. In October I’m playing Dylanfest at Coraki Hotel. Part of Darren Bridge’s growing musical empire, Dylanfest will be a celebration of the works of the great man (Dylan, not Bridge) by a variety of local and visiting outfits including Mick Hart, the man whose constant circumnavigations of the globe resemble those of Bob himself – and Hart did in fact support Dylan on one European leg of his never-ending tour a few years back….. The band I’m putting together for this festival will be known as The Antiquarian Filibuster and will feature the aforesaid impresario Darren Bridge on bass guitar, and on loan from Invisible Friend, Brendan Drinkwater on drums and Michael ‘Whitey’ White on electric piano and organ. …. I’m stoked to have this all-star lineup, as I’m really quite chuffed to be able to play a full set of Dylan songs at a proper festival. Dylan was personally responsible for lodging in my head the notion that I too, could write surreal and stream-of-consciousness narratives, whack a guitar and tootle on a harmonica and get paid for it and I’m returning the favour with renditions of Idiot Wind, Tangled Up in Blue, Jokerman, Sweetheart Like You, Just Like A Woman, I Want You, Lay Lady Lay, Mozambique, Oh Sister and possibly Series of Dreams….. This will be part of a busy month in which I am also supposed to be completing my thesis for Honours in Media. At the start of the month I’m playing Gibbostock in Nundle, a celebration of another great and strange man, Gibbo. That’s on the 2nd. These events are usually recreations of Nymagee Outback Music Festival in miniature, only with freezing cold instead of blinding heat as the central theme….. ON the 24th The Re-Mains, or a version of the band, will be playing Big Sunday at Tyalgum, in cahoots with Gleny Rae Virus and Den Hanrahan. These shows will also possibly feature the return of Leigh Ivin….. In November we’re on the bill of a small festival in Nymboida, again at the Coaching Station, owned by one Russell Crowe. His Museum of Interesting Things, on the site of this venerable building, holds a number of interesting props from such movies as Gladiator, Romper Stomper and Robin Hood, not to mention some of Johnny Cash’s gold records….. Later that month we’re also part of a bill at a big charity do at Lismore Turf Club at which The Hoodoo Gurus are allegedly also appearing. Stay tuned for more CRnR action.
Being a musician is about considerably more than playing an instrument. It’s about a life moved by artistic vision and emotion – a fraught word in the modern era. Like that other, highly nuanced casualty of the lexicon, ‘gay’, it’s been forced into an entirely other set of pants. Emotion in its truncated, graffitoed form has been circumscribed to those youth who feel that shanghiing the Goth credo is not enough, that as sole inheritors of genuine sorrow the emos need to annex it for their own private kingdom. But Ghost Mountain ain’t letting go of it.
This band’s lives are a subterranean mine of emotion, roiling and tectonically shifting beneath the amaranthine hills of the Byron hinterland. And where it breaks the surface, that’s where you’ll find Art Without Audience.
Engineered, produced and finessed in his usual inimitable style by co-founding member Christian Pyle (CP), this record is then broken down by Sal Yates, the other half of the equation. Sal’s voice, enormous, vulnerable, glorying in power and range, is as laden with the E word as was Johnny Cash’s in another realm entirely, so tightly woven with tantalising promise, searing passion and aching despair that every phrase sounds like a psalm from the Old Testament.
Arm that voice with CP’s masterful, deft and unrestrained knowledge of an electric guitars possibilities, and you indeed have high art, albeit aloof and oblique, grounded in high misty hills and constant, tropical rain. It’s my contention in fact that the mountain is question is music itself, and the ghost is the ephemeral, shifting emotion that haunts it.
Drummer Nick Edin and bassist Eben McCrimmon are adept interpreters of the raging and temperamental songs on this, the second album from the band. Two years in the making, it’s a potent mix of their signal slant on rock and roll with a determined and steady artistic vision. Envenomed at turns with Bryson Mulholland’s coruscating keys and CP’s own bristling voice, the result is a glittering treasury of blazing ardour and wilful collapse.
From the stately timbre of Government Arms to the Crazy Horse guitar tirade of I’m Gonna Face You, there’s a ruthless spectrum of styles lurching through the eleven songs. Delving into electro-pop with Everythings OK, the Mountaineers also tackle brooding alt-rock in Started a Fire, while Capsized Moon is as lilting and yearnful as Don’t Make Me Wait is majestic.
Easy Does It is a standout, not because I have an undeserved credit, but because of its simple melody and poised, sanguine lyric. The lover who sings ‘You swine, I’m coming to get you’, is the same who on Animal declares, “I’m not your animal, you’re not worth dying for”, and hexes exes when In Spite of Me shudders in full spate with “I’m getting over the game … taking time to write the lies that you breathe …”. She’s also the temptress who promises “If you really wanted this could be your song”, in Capsized Moon.
Like Ghost Mountain’s previous work, this album is more about subtle and dark than user-friendly. There’s few concessions to idiocy and the banal will slope away, unmoved. But if you like to tap into raw emotion and the elliptical truth of unfettered art, you’ll find closer The Whole compelling and its hot-tempered jealousy a door slamming on a volatile, irresistible album. Like a spurned lover, you’ll be hanging at the back windows, peering into that murky light.