Thursday, 19 May 2016

SELF-REVIEW - Dreams Out of Reach

It's no secret we've been a bit slack around here with the review lately. We've been busy with... stuff. Work? Stuff. Anyway, The Raffaellas decided to be total champs by doing us a solid and reviewing their new 'Dreams Out of Reach' EP for us. Peak laziness on our part or the bright, new future of music journalism? Only time will tell, but for now... here's vocalist Pat Santamaria's review of his own band's EP. Enjoy! 

by The Raffaellas
and reviewed by The Raffaellas' Pat Santamaria

There is very little to disagree with about The Raffaellas’ latest unrequested musical proffering, ‘Dreams Out of Reach’. The four-track (four and a quarter if we’re being generous) EP unceremoniously slipped into the otherwise vibrant Australian music scene earlier this year and took its place within the somewhat-heard-of- in-Melbourne- but-for- the-most- part-anonymous band scene with a quiet, defeated dignity; like that drunk guy at the party who won’t leave even though he has clearly pissed himself, so just tries to ‘hang’ outside; ‘Nah, nah, let’s stay out here, it’s really nice out here…’

This EP is an ‘older’ EP for the four Melbourne musicians, principally in that they have aged since their previous release. This is a clever move by the group. It utilizes the general passage of time to ensure that the word ‘mature’ might be used to describe the actual music. The hiatus between releases turns out to have been a deliberate ploy, with the band hoping that excitement levels in the Australian music scene would spike in the lead up to the release. Indeed, punters ranged from ‘Oh, are they still kicking around?’ to ‘Yeah like I spose I’d listen but I probably wouldn’t go see them… does that make sense?’

While ‘Dreams Out of Reach’ certainly is a more polished sound for the edgy-as-a-beach- ball foursome (a positive mostly attributable to producer, Oscar Dawson’s having a hand in things), can the sound be called more mature? Not necessarily. The EP does, however, feature a brief instrumental intro-track, which sounds something like an idea that a mature band might have. Oddly enough, it is a highlight (and not just because it’s over quickly, which thankfully, it is).

The EP’s title ‘Dreams Out of Reach’ is plucked unwillingly from a verse lyric in the EP’s opening track, ‘Control (Had it, Lost it)’. This track is by no means a disaster. Santamaria’s vocals are on point, if not a touch uninteresting. Though as a vocalist he has some ability, his expression is at times as though he has adopted the practice almost by necessity; like the amputee learning anew to write with his left hand. At least he sounds like he means it. The lyrics, in short, are weird; the chorus posits the repetitious hypothetical –‘if I followed you all night’. While some things in the annals of music should be done all night (love making, dancing, rock and rolling, generally party practice, and any séance worth its money), following someone around is probably not one of them. If it’s a metaphor, we don’t get it. Sounds more like a threat; a threat from the guy who earlier notes that, ‘you’re playing unobtainable, but it keeps me occupied’. Stay away from this man.

Fortunately, if not awkwardly, the mood lightens. ‘Streams’, the first single from the EP is, as it sounds, a stream of consciousness. The Raffaellas’ upbeat songs have a tendency to rely on a singular, repeated phrase constituting a chorus. It’s not a new concept - and not necessarily one to hate - but is this lyrical laziness? Probably. ‘Streams’ shuffles along adequately, not asking too much of the listener, but not necessarily disappointing them either. The song is at its strongest at the mid-point instrumental section, where a lead guitar line repeats itself over a series of swelling minor chords over-washed with reverb. Dawson’s production is also best here.

Other moments of note in the EP occur at the commencement of ‘Happiness/Hollow Sound’ where an interesting chord progression meets Santamaria’s monotonal, melancholic melody to decent effect. ‘Singing in the Blood’ - a song about how love changes with age (the title snatched from a Paul Kelly b-side) – marries War on Drugs with Springsteen with Real Estate and Cloud Control.

The EP is a good one given The Raffaellas’ history; or at least, as previously noted, it isn’t disagreeable. This, however, might be the ultimate problem for the band (and for others like them). Perhaps these days bands, musicians - artists of any sort - must either do something entirely disagreeable or entirely great. This is what people respond to. ‘Dreams Out of Reach’ is entirely neither. Thus, the dilemma for The Raffaellas: what to do? Do you keep doing what you’re doing? Keep writing music as it comes? Or do you try to elicit a response? Ride the trends, or dash them? The Raffaellas should decide. Apparently they are nice guys. Apparently they can play live. This EP, however, just doesn’t answer any questions.


A tad critical? We think so. You can decide for yourself when you get your hands on the 'Dreams Out of Reach' EP over at Bandcamp. Not only is it excellent music (there's our quick review), but you get to support local music. Everyone's a winner!  

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