There is too much talk of cookie-cutter sameness and lack of originality and art in music these days, and not enough listening to what is actually out there.

Turn off the electronics, unplug yourself, walk out into the street listening and pop your head into a music house or two – something as new and lovely as Melbourne band Catch Release might be playing.

catchrelease1The idiosyncratic vehicle for New Zealander Tom Lee-Richards’ equally idiosyncratic songs, Catch Release is a really nice discovery – like stumbling across a small walled garden off a street you never knew was there, a garden of new dark plants and head-clearing perfumes. The six songs on their debut EP Asleep is a Friend of Mine come fully-formed from their own small revolving world.

The instrumental mix of Tim Hannah’s French horn and Navin Gulavita’s violin in with the guitar-bass-drums reflects the lyrical and melodic twists and turns of Lee-Richards’ songs. It is a lovely balance – poetry in both word and instrument: the band’s arrangements creating a shifting and translucent backdrop behind lines such as “Shared the sound of the ceiling/Under the misty spell…” or “Been swimming in my shoes again/Not sure they walk like the bleed/The swell could take me anywhere…”.

The addition of the orchestral instruments and the wider, deeper moods they create tempts one to use the term ‘cinematic’ but this music is too elegantly balanced for the bombast and ‘wide-screen’-ness the (overused, not least by this writer) term suggests. Quite the contrary, the songs have an airy openness and the instruments never become cloying or obscure the songs.

Special mention goes to drummer Bill Bate whose playing is nicely considered throughout – it is hard for a drummer to know what to play in music this finely held, but Bates picks his feels and timbres. The jazzy 6/8 groove of ‘Chasing Ideas’, the hand percussion of ‘Out of Sight’ stand out.catchrelease2

But it is ultimately Tom Lee-Richards’ songs and voice that all of Asleep is a Friend of Mine hangs from. And again, the voice balances and matches the songs, just as seamlessly as the instrumentation and arrangements. Whether a big song like ‘Freedom is a Squeeze’ or the mostly chamber-quiet closer ‘Sound of the Ceiling’, Lee-Richards’ voice is one which has that rare story-telling quality in its shadows and colours.

Asleep is a Friend of Mine is six songs only and yet it feels quite complete. Whether limited by restraint (artistic) or constraint (financial) it still leaves one feeling perfectly sated. Why do more?

Which does not mean to say I am not looking forward to more music from Tom Lee-Richards and Catch Release. Theirs is an original voice that can only flower and seed beautifully into the future.

The band’s website is www.catchreleaseband.com

Published March 2013 on theorangepress.net

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