EP Walkthrough: Perth favourites Grievous Bodily Calm detail their new EP, Arc
Built from a hot bed of experimentation and improvisation, the group's three-track new release is rich with evolution.
As a mainstay within the Perth live music space, Grievous Bodily Calm have always felt one step ahead the rest. They're a group renowned for their forward-thinking creativity and experimental prowess, bringing together organic instrumentation and modular synthesis with a backdrop of experimentation and improvisation at their core; something that's been present in the group ever since their live debut, and crosses over to their recorded work - and its evolution itself - throughout the last few years.
Take last year's nine-track debut Repel, for example, which blurred lines between R&B, jazz, electronica, beat music and beyond with its instrumental ebbs and flows, twisting and turning in a way that tells a story even without lyricism (albeit a splash in the album's final moments). Their new-arriving three-track release Arc is another example of how the group are constantly able to push themselves into the unknown, further emphasising the experimentation that underlay their initial debut but in a way that moves it forwards, keeping things progressing into the future - even as a band that spend a lot of time there.
With its short duration in mind, Arc is quick to play its part in signifying the peaks of Grievous Bodily Calm. It's built entirely live, thriving off the band's improvisation that has made their live show a must-see in Perth and in recording, shines through a sense of fun and excitement that's near-impossible find in songs painstakingly pieces together bit by bit. Every next melody and every next note feels just as unpredictable as the last; that aforementioned energy keeping you on your toes as the record moves amongst genres held together by Grievous' charm.
What's new this time around, however, is the inclusion of a string quintet, who welcomes this kind-of orchestral undertone to Grievous's thick-layered instrumentation, adding further depth in realms that signify their forward-thinking creativity. These strings weave in and out of the band's stirring rhythms and melodies; trumpet, guitar, bass, keys and percussion moving with an energy that defines Arc amongst the Grievous Bodily Calm discography, with the exception of the title track's final moments where the strings take centre stage, basking in the limelight without the distractions around it.
"Arc explores different shades of melodic, energetic and emotive content," the group say on the title track. "The tune was refined through numerous writing sessions and live shows, searching for ways to evolve parts and subvert obvious choices. The string quintet provides a texture we’ve always wanted to explore. We wanted to maintain the feeling of the part played live without recording it verbatim providing a different but complementary live and studio experience."
The EP is one hell of an adventure, and you can take a dive into it below, alongside a track by track walkthrough that details its creation one song at a time:
Arc is our new three-track EP that was written, produced and recorded at home between 2019 - 2020. We wanted to progress our sound from our last effort Repel (2019) with further experimentation in production, collaboration and instrumentation. The EP features a string quintet, modular synthesis, highly processed live instruments, group improvisation, blurring live, electronic and produced sounds. Through the process of producing and mixing the EP ourselves, Arc is an authentic representation of our sound.
Josiah brought the demo of this one to the band in a fairly complete way. The aesthetic, beat and parts were mostly complete. Over the long process of refining this tune we’ve stumbled through an interesting cycle - jamming and rehearsing the tune affected the structure and production, which then, in turn, affected the live performance. Sync Step is a relatively simple tune with the complexity lying in the development of textures, layered percussion and harmonies. A notable feature is the drum and synthesiser interplay in the intro, which was achieved through feeding the drums through a modular synthesiser.
Mosaic is the first track we’ve written together primarily in a studio setting. We wanted to experiment with a different writing process through composing on Ableton instead of jamming. As a result, the direction of this track shifts through multiple contrasting aesthetics. The track title refers to the use of fragments of an initial melody which bloom into different directions, whilst maintaining a singular thread.
Arc is a bit of an odyssey. Alex’s original demo evolved through jamming, live shows and production into what you hear today. We’ve been closing our live show with this tune for quite a while and the ending features group interplay which builds to a climax. The addition of strings captures the essence of the ending and opened up possibilities for alternate orchestration. We were definitely taking influence from Yes, Drexciya and Debussy on this one.
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