CHURCH OF THE OPEN SKY CD BY THE BREAK
Monday, 15 March 2010

CHURCH OF THE OPEN SKY
CD by The Break
Available from www.bombora.net.au

A long time ago in a galaxy far away there was a band called Midnight Oil that was a really big deal for Australian rock audiences. Particularly audiences with a leaning towards all things surfing. Then there was a crack in the reality vortex and Midnight Oil disappeared, and in its place there was suddenly a tall, bald guy hanging around with Kevin Rudd. Weird, huh?

It’s taken a few years, but finally the old reality vortex has spun back to earth and out has tumbled The Break, and music-loving surfers are back in business.

During their years in the wilderness, Oilers Jim Moginie, Rob Hirst and Martin Rotsey have kept busy with solo releases and collaborative projects (including the Angry Tradesmen, stonking it up on the 2006 Delightful Rain production that kicked open the surf music floodgates for the Bombora Creative label). Then in 2009, two events took place that suggest the blind hand of destiny is in fact guided by a force that likes loud twang and a big beat.

Firstly, Jim Moginie opened up his Oceanic recording studio and started wondering what kind of mischief he could get up to with his old bandmates. And around the same time, the three Sydney guys reconnected with Brian Ritchie – the bass player from Milwaukee’s the Violent Femmes - an old mucker from their international touring days who’s now immigrated to Oz.

An informal jam soon escalated into a set of take-no-prisoners recording sessions, and now Church of the Open Sky is ready to attract the faithful. The original premise might have been to recreate that classic ’60s surf sound, but along the way it’s mutated into something more muscular and interesting. The traditional elements are in place - Fender Jazzmasters, whammy bars, tube amps with lashings of reverb and tremolo and rolling tom toms galore. Add in Ritchie’s rippy bass, a bit of sci-fi stylophone, a dash of Gregorian chanting . . . hey, it’s “Wipeout in Space”. In 3D.

There are the full-tilt rockers like “Cylinders”, “Five Rocks” and “Massacres”. (Most of the songs are named after surf breaks. Which is good.) Or the lowest common denominator workouts like “Birdman” or “Groyne” which would make Link Wray sound pretentious. There’s the cataclysmic grandeur of “Winkipop”, the widescreen atmosphere of “Blasket Islands”, the Pet Sounds styling of “Mystics” and the general loopiness of “S.Q.U.I.D.” and “Oyster Stomp”. And then there’s “Phobos-Grunt” - think Pink Floyd meets Sandy Nelson at Twin Peaks. Yes, something for everybody.

Most obvious of all, though, is the sound of a bunch of really good musicians having a lot of fun. Midnight Oil was one of the most inspiringly powerful acts you could ever hope to experience. With the Break, Moginie, Hirst, Rotsey and Ritchie revive the power to propel their crackpot surf tunes into another dimension.

Church of the Open Sky is released on 16 April. The Break has already hit the road and will be supporting the release with some selected live dates including the Byron Bluesfest. Be worth seeing.

 – Ian Cameron



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