Ali E @ Workers Club
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Ali E @ Workers Club

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It was a drizzly Saturday afternoon in Melbourne, perfect for an afternoon of melancholic yet inspired music from some of the cities promising young stars. It was the launch party of Ali E’s debut solo album Landless, and she’d brought along some like-minded musicians to help her celebrate the occasion.

First up were Elephant Eyes, a four-piece fronted by Kate McMahon, who despite her slightly nervous appearance belted out her songs with a big soulful voice, ranging from sweet to sultry. The musical accompaniment was an intoxicating blend of pop, indie and jazz driven by Tom Fraser’s groovy bass lines and Michael Mazzitotta’s ethereal keys, held together by the sleepy rhythms provided by Stu Hazelman.

Next was Melbourne stalwart Ben Salter, who having played in countless bands and musical collectives for the last decade or so, is now playing in promotion of his first solo album The Cat. The small crowd were enthralled with his painfully honest and expertly crafted sardonic poems set to chords strummed from an old white Stratocaster. Despite his confession of having smoked too many cigarettes, his voice was in fine form. It was a stripped down, soul bearing performance from Ben without him having the comfort of a backing band, but all the more powerful for being so.

Finally the lady of the hour, Ali E, took to the stage, beginning her set with a solo instrumental, and with the cunning use of a loop station she added layer upon layer of haunting guitar tones. Although usually a solo artist, she’d brought along a backing band to accompany her who she introduced in stages throughout the next few songs.

The songs from Landless sounded great live, and with that haunting growl of a Fender Jaguar and her rich powerful voice, she’s likely to gain comparisons to PJ Harvey. She brings together the best of shoegaze, soul and alt-rock and adds her own unique twist to it. The title track from Landless sounded especially good brought to life with layers of eerie echoes before its seductive melody kicks in. It was an intimate and assured performance, and the perfect way for her to launch her record, and for the crowd to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.

BY ADAM ROBERTSHAW

LOVED: Elephant Eyes’ cover of A Few Of My Favourite Things.
HATED: The fact there were only about 20 people in the room for Ben Salter.
DRANK: Coopers Pale Ale.