Reviewed on Thursday January 15
Answering the question “What does Kirin J Callinan sound like?” again and again proves difficult. You could say he’s part industrial destroyer, part goofy ’80s enthusiast, who occasionally manoeuvres into hard-throbbing European electronica. It’s experimental, but not a parade of weirdness. And his guitar suffers from split personality disorder, frequently mimicking an interstellar broadcast. But this attempt at a description doesn’t quite illuminate what makes Callinan so gosh darn enthralling. A better response, perhaps, is that the KJC phenomenon must be seen to be believed.
While his Embracism LP is a brilliantly convincing ball of idiosyncrasies, it’s onstage that Callinan demonstrates the extent of his cunning individuality. And he’s not alone either. After moving unsteadily from solo performances into a full-band set-up, his live show has advanced considerably in the last few years, featuring the son of a tsar on keys/bass and a menacing humanoid sitting behind drums. For this performance, the band grew another member: essentially a man using video game technology (similar to a Nintendo Wii controller) to trigger sounds by slashing through the air. It was freaky-future shit, alright.
Shaking together this aforementioned cocktail of ingredients, a disorienting mess seemed imminent. But Callinan’s perverse powers of seduction made it all work out. Garbling away in a rugged Aussie tongue, at times it wasn’t clear whether or not he was joking. But that was hardly a matter of concern. It’s not that he reverts to silliness or depends on sarcasm – rather, his songs come across as a comment on certain pop cultural trends and stereotypes (including cheeseball FM radio and the masculine ideal, for instance), while also boasting clever songcraft and purposeful intent.
After the anthemic highs of ‘Love Delay’, Callinan encored with his a cappella and almost tuneless live staple ‘The Toddler’. A thumping number, featuring Seekae’s Alex Cameron, was to follow, before the rest of the band returned to the stage for a group embrace. Meanwhile, everyone who’d made it through this ride was left stupefied and beatific.