October 13, 2019

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STONEFIELD – LIVE: REVIEW

August 6, 2019

Photo sourced from Good People/Bad Habits

STONEFIELD

Lansdowne Hotel, August 2

 

It’s not an easy line as a band in thrall to Black Sabbath and linear descendants such as Mudhoney to walk between sludge and dirge.

 

Admittedly, for some yet to be convinced by the style, not only do neither sound appealing, there is no difference: it’s heavy, it’s thick, it’s predicated on power more than melody, and can feel like you’re being slowly sucked into a quagmire of infinite length but precious little depth.

 

But done well - and this night showed again that the Findlay siblings of Stonefield can do it very well – that thick wall of sound can be an exhilarating as well as enveloping experience.

 

They layer coats of instrumentation, of which the voice is merely primus inter pares, and slowly revolve with a kind of centrifugal force that pulls you in their wake at first and then, before you realise it, making you part of the thickening, sludgy environment. You’re not sinking; you’re swimming in it!

Photo sourced from Good People/Bad Habits

 

With drummer/vocalist Amy Findlay’s voice less prominent in the mix than on record, sometimes being left more shouty than does her justice, you might expect guitarist Hannah to be the dominant figure (something which would be a given in virtually any all male/all ego lineup).

 

But mostly she prefers to carve out a space in that sonic wall, at times virtually as part of the rhythm section with bassplayer Holly. When she does step out in front, Hannah’s style is spare and focused, allowing her to make a point and retreat to the shared space.

 

It’s Sarah’s keyboards which often take the melodic lead, especially in bringing the strong edge of psychedelia that regularly surfaces and turns Stonefield from dark, satanic mills to swirling, swinging lava lamp parties. Likewise, while she doesn’t have the strength or flexibility of Amy’s voice, her singing, in support or in occasional lead, is the kind of colour that lifts the band further away from dirges.

 

In a live context, the relative weakness of Stonefield’s tunes compared with their drive, power and trippy swing, does stand out more. But there are compensatory factors, including the not-to-be-sneezed-at chance to plant your feet, rock your body and swing your (imagined or otherwise) long hair back and forth like this was 1972.

 

This review was first published by smh.com.au

 

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