Following on from 2014’s Dogwood EP, Benefits of Solitude is DAG’s charismatic debut LP. An almost ornate take on catchy lo-fi pop, the LP cooked up by frontman Dusty Anastassiou and a team of Brisbane collaborators dropped earlier this year. While never without a guiding hint of optimism, the record delves deeply into the experience of living on the outskirts and struggling with the melancholy it entails. Despite the outfit’s meticulous recording ethos, the mammoth effort bleeds with charm. With frontman Dusty briefly returning from his Melbourne sabbatical the group convened to launch Benefits at Brisbane’s Empire hotel.
There’s an old saying that success is good for the artist, but failure is good for creativity. In a sense DAG embodies this. Onstage Dusty projects a focused yet relatable persona. Whatever may be the case in his personal dealings, to those present he’s an outsider hero, both an eccentric underdog and suave crooner. His voice deadpans, cracks and volleys in melodic bursts, sitting above bouncy rhythms and tumbling guitar licks.
The group tap into a left-of-centre Australian sound. But perhaps what really sets DAG apart is a versatile grip on songcraft. Carried by a competent undercarriage of rock, the group’s set feels like it can transport the listener anywhere. The homespun charm of Staying Up At Night veers into a “I’m so hot for her but she’s so cold” thematic of a Mick Jagger- Keith Richards composition while the sprawling Guards Down instils jangly post punk with a flare of outsider blues. Despite its downcast narrative, Not Fine Mind’s instrumentals come across as endearingly carefree. In contrast, the dragging tempos of more sombre tracks pull the audience into a weave of smouldering atmospherics. The set exemplifies an infectiously ragged polish, which is perhaps better heard than described.
With flood-related chaos keeping synth savant Scraps and Bangalow’s Wolf Shield from appearing, Bedroom Suck labelmates Primitive Motion were also eagerly on hand to fill the void. Eschewing some of their usual proclivity for dense lattices of electronic sound and reverberant duets, exemplified by beguiling material like Plant Me Deep from 2015’s Pulsating Time Fibre LP, the pair explored some looser improvisational inclinations. The musical polymaths’ set exemplified that their reputation as a cult Brisbane group is well deserved. Also making their Brisbane debut, DJ Diana Plaza (Nicholas Brocchi), closed out the evening’s event. Synthesising some of the energy of the night’s earlier acts into manic dance energy, the Brisbane local filled the floor with a hard-edged electronic mix.
Reviewer: Riley Fitzgerald
* photo taken from another gig