This weekend our family moved house. This doesn’t mean a whole lot for me in the grand scheme of things, as I haven’t lived there in years, but what it did entail was me regaining ownership of my prized collection of CDs. There’s nearly 1000 of them that I had to lug up the stairs and put back into alphabetical order on a few very tall shelves. But my God, it was good to have them back. While I’ve enjoyed picking up vinyl lately, CDs represent my entire youth as a music fanatic. Everything’s there, from my Miles Davis jazz phase, to my obsession with Queens Of The Stone Age and a whole bunch of fantastic records I thought I’d never hear again. Among the pile was a very special collection of work; Australian EPs. Some of my most beloved songs sit on these discs, from Papa Vs Pretty to Mercy Arms, Big Scary and Washington. I remember with great fondness discovering this music for the first time. But none as much as the wondrousness of The Middle East. That band, which left a gaping hole in the hearts of many music writers when they disbanded, featured many fantastic voices. And one of them recently released her first solo record.
Bree Tranter was an easy person to pick, even in a band with so many memorable members. For one, she played flute. But she also has this swooping, urgent voice that alternated between angelic sweetness and desperate despair with the fluidity in which we turn on a tap. When I stumbled across her solo material, which I heard a few times without knowing the artist, it wasn’t hard to figure that it was her. ‘Your Rhythm’, for those who haven’t followed Tranter since The Middle East disbanded, is a bit of a change in tone for her, but it’s one that’s welcome. It opens with a wonderful, snare-driven groove that recalls Simon & Garfunkel’s seminal ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’, but that’s where the similarities end, as Bree floats in and refocuses the music towards something far more sensual.
Peppered with her Fender Rhodes playing, Tranter’s band give her the space to transform her voice. Halfway between the soprano slam of Florence Welch and the breathiness of fellow Australian songwriter, Ainslie Wills, Tranter’s performance is nothing short of stunning. It’s ably assisted by a harmonic bed that swells into bloom with a series of interlocking parts; guitar inflections, shimmying bass and eventually, a full-blown horn section in the chorus. She’s obviously taken notes from friend and touring partner Matt Corby, who this year also expanded his sound far beyond what his fans thought was possible.
Artists are not one-dimensional, but because our brains have issues with categorising too many things, we often reduce them to this level. I’m so glad for the chance to be able to build on my understanding of Bree Tranter, because this is one of the more interesting pieces of music I’ve heard come out of our country in a while.
It turns out lightning can strike as many times as you will it. All you need is the talent.