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Review: Tulalah – The Mule EP

July 9, 2013 by Josh Forner

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Like all good albums, or indeed releases, Tulalah’s debut EP – The Mule – has been a long time coming. It is particularly evident from the first track, His Grace exactly why that is.

It begins in a hopeful and uplifting guitar melody to which the lead female vocal of Bridie Cotter slips over the top of, and the ride begins. Tulalah provides a rich “wall of sound” experience, that is not dominating nor is it intimidating, as each sound provides a silky – yet crisp tone and attributes a major line of the story.

What is evident early is the high reliance on backing vocals. A rare occurrence is present in this band, a mystical 6-piece act in which every member holds a singing voice, and a repertoire, and has a part to play in the story, both instrumentally and vocally.

The oddly named Banana Fritterhead is track 2, which introduces a greater emphasis on the thick-sound of Oliver Bannister’s double bass, which is carefully recounted by the combined lead guitar works of Andy Clarke and Nick Roder. The guitars provide almost a shoegazer reminiscent sound at times with perfectly intertwining FX-driven guitar on one side and clean noted electric on the other; later this work is further accented by a clean, Spanish-influenced acoustic guitar incision towards the end of the second track.

Again, what holds you, and draws you to each song is the chorus of harmony applied behind Cotter’s lead vocal, along with the same ideal emanating from the arrangements behind. The brass section (sax & trumpet; both interchangeably & together) peel a haunting drone and a stubborn fullness that is so often missing from acts that go down this path – the melodic and, what I like to call “garden bed” route.

I call it this as these sounds provide a distinct imagery, in particular, when I close my eyes and let the sound reverberate from ear to ear and process itself inside me, I’m provided with the most vibrant colour – that of an extravagant garden bed – meticulously pruned and fed to bring out the utmost perfection from each flowering bud, of which the branches lightly flutter with each morning zephyr and one is felt to be lost in time, indeed marvelling at each individual shade and each bloom that surrounds.

Jeff Buckley is listed in Tulalah’s list of influences, which surprises me until Track 3 – Cost – begins, with Nick Roder taking the lead vocals, as the first thing I’m left thinking is of Jeff Buckley’s album, Grace, which was and still is a favourite of my mother’s. We are introduced to Glockenspiel on this track, which begins far more simplistically than the two prior, and whereas the instruments begin to build up about half way through, they stick to a simplistic formula – which as I always say, is never necessarily a bad thing.

Tulalah mix their tunes well and display an eloquent dynamism that I have certainly rarely before witnessed. Each note that is struck remains relevant as it breathes life into the next, and each song carries a message. It’s easy to be distracted from this by the incredible arrangements, but after a few listens your ears are dialled in to each part and to where the strongest listening cues appear. Mind you, the combination is married so well that it isn’t something to necessarily worry about, and probably not even something I should have written!

Tulalah tugs at your chest and allows your emotions to escape, almost involuntarily. It’s the hallmark of the most talented of songwriters – and in this case, more than one involved in each example.

Supermarket Scandal is a lower-beat number at the beginning, with which alterations are made to the timing in a few places to again play on the opposing feelings in the listener – dropped down only to be built up, and dropped again at the end, in effortless style. The 4th track on this impressive 5-track EP is much more concentrated on the vocal element and we are truly exposed to the dynamic range of Cotter’s lead and the harmonies, again layered by Clarke; Roder, (Guitars); Jesse Glass (Drums & Glock); Theo Conos (Ukulele, Sax) & Bannister (Double Bass).

It ends peacefully with Tully, another quieter track with which the Ukulele becomes more prominent. Tulalah’s “feel” and “presence” remains through the stunning way in which everything clasps together – tightly – like a complex jigsaw puzzle, that when placing the final piece just illuminates with a most perfectly captured moment; one that you feel is a shame that it ever ended, but one which you know that you can revisit and feel just as spirited, inquisitive and alive in as the time you first enjoyed it – and one that, you get the sense, will sound and feel better and better with each spin of the disc and each passing of each note.

Tulalah present a stunning debut. They are the next big thing in Melbourne’s harmonic & jazz-influenced folk/rock scene, along with acts like Texture Like Sun, Second Hand Heart, Leadlight and Melody Moon.

“The Mule” by Tulalah is the band’s first independent release, and is available to purchase at any of their upcoming shows. You can find out more by finding Tulalah on Facebook, Soundcloud and Triple J Unearthed.

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.

Author Details

Josh Forner

Josh Forner is a folk/pop songwriter from Melbourne, Australia and Virginia, USA. Forner was born in Melbourne on July 2 1988, and spent the first 18 months of his life there before moving with his parents to the town of Reston in Virginia, USA. At the age of 3, Forner and his mother returned to Melbourne, where he has stayed ever since.

Josh sings of love, primarily (wow, what a shock right?), but also on his list of ‘hot topics’ are politics, famine, poverty and - of course – landscapes: the folk writer’s favourite.

He’s played with some of Melbourne’s stalwarts including Timothy Cannon, Bridget Pross, Mr Brady, Pro Rata, Gabriel Lynch & Kyle Taylor, and has contributed two of his tracks to non-profit compilation CDs in the past.

Josh’s repertoire continues to grow. He released his first album, a 10-track LP entitled ‘Leading to Nowhere’ at The Workers Club on May 28th, 2013. Forner has since returned to the studio to begin work on a 5-track solo EP to be released by the end of 2013. Following that, he has plans for album number two in 2014.

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