In A Word – ‘Epic’
Darwin singer-songwriter Ben Evolent is a poet.
That much is clear upon a listening to much of the music he has put out. Lyrics come first for Ben (aka Joshua Tarka) – but he is not merely a lyricist, given the diversity, depth and substance of the music he pens to go with his philosophical meanderings.
Ben Evolent’s music is truly multi-genre, be it indie, rock, pop, blues, country rock, reggae-rock and everything in between. With the diverse talents of the musicians in his live band, he can easily deliver these styles as best suits his writing and vocals, and can make something truly wonderful whatever mood he is in when he puts pen to paper.
Some artists are style over substance. Ben Evolent, an NT Song of the Year award winner, is both substance and style, and he has both in spades. This is self-evident in his long awaited debut full-length album ‘Wanderous‘, out Friday June 26th and with a live launch at Darwin’s Happy Yess on that evening to kick off the post-COVID-19 live gig regime.
This ten-track opus is inspired mostly by Ben’s pre-fatherhood wanderings around the globe seeing all the sights, experiencing all the experiences, feeling all the feels and writing all the songs that have made him a well-respected member of the Darwin music scene. One track was written over a decade ago and finally gets an airing – this is an album that was just dying to be made.
The considerable combined talents of his backing band (Damien Whitney on drums, Stuart Higlett on lead guitar and Tom Anderson on bass) lend an extra professional edge to a band album from an already very professional solo performer. Together they have come up with an album on which all songs are eminently listenable, radio-ready and guaranteed to move you. There are the subtle influences on certain of the songs that come from the band – Higlett lends his Pole Top Rescue rock punch throughout; Whitney’s country-rock chops are clearly evident, and there is a reggae-rock number that is pure Tommy Anderson groove. If you have been around the Darwin live scene for any length of time, you will know what I mean.
Now to the songs.
The first thing that hits you with this album is the production. Recorded at Masters Studious (Palmerston) with engineering work by Duane Preston and production work by Ben Allen (aka Broadwing, who also adds his considerable vocal talent here and there), the team have brought out the best of this beast of an album. EQ your sound system/phone/computer for this because it is worth it.
The album starts off a little reserved with ‘Hotel Shelter‘ – the track is a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll and fulsome without being too busy. This one hits you subtly and is perfectly placed at the beginning of the album (the reality is though that you can kick this album off anywhere in the track list and be instantly hooked – the placement of this track is icing on the cake). ‘Shiver‘ was issued as a single/video a year ago and hasn’t aged a bit – it is very representative of the big band sound that Ben Evolent looked for and found. Check out the video for this track here:
‘Golden Age‘ is a reflection on those times in one’s life when everything was ‘good’ – when youth and exuberance was spent in the pursuit of travel, experiences and living life to the fullest. For Ben, this song represents that period in his life and he chose a very unique way to capture that feeling for the accompanying music video, released earlier this month – Ben put the call out to his fanbase to send videos of those golden moments in life. The end result is this ‘compilation’ video clip (produced by Foldback’s Jean-Eddy Moutou). It encapsulates the very sentiment of the ‘Golden Age’ that Ben is singing about – check it out here:
The fast-paced ‘Tales‘ is Powderfinger-esque in it’s structure and vocal style; ‘Cassanova‘ is very definitely radio-ready and should be plugged as such – a slow rock number with an MGMT feel, the vocals sit just right in the mix and show Ben’s formidable vocal power- this is a standout.
The slower-paced ‘Cards‘ is an epic, full-throated track in every respect, and then we get a change of pace with a very bluesy (in a ZZ Top sort of way without the shtick) ‘Wander‘ – but this isn’t Texas and the lyrics have depth – also shades of Oasis in this one.
Things get a bit heavy and even more bluesy with ‘White Lillies‘ – this is boogie-overdrive and will get you up and moving your feet – I can’t wait to hear this one live. Think Grand Funk Railroad if you are a bit older. ‘Bodies‘ is the reggae-rock number that lets Tommy shine on the bass – he is in his element with this one. This song is a great diversion that adds texture to the album with an alternate sound and a clear message of anti-violence.
This brings us to the last track – ‘Happiness‘ – a sheer joy to listen to and the older track mentioned above, finally getting an airing. Softer, indie-rock and lyric-heavy with a message. A nice one to sway out to – it makes one wonder why Ben waited so long to bring this one out. It gets heavy and moody about 3/4 of the way through before rocking out to the end. This one is for the radio too.
“When I was a solo traveller it’s very easy to pick up a book and finish off a song really quickly (but) when you’ve got kids and whatever, that inspiration, when you’ve got it, you really have to make the most of it”
This album has been over a year in the actual making after the receipt of a grant, with Ben and the band having many rehearsals to get things just right before getting in the studio. As Ben notes, this made for a better product at the end of the day, with everyone invested in the process before recording, rather than the way things have been done in years gone by with everyone getting in the studio and then working out how things should sound. Planning and execution was everything, especially now that Ben has two young children and is essentially a stay-at-home dad.
The creative process that Ben goes through is very much driven by his mood – or as he agreed, ‘as the wind takes you‘. Says Ben: “So if I sit there and have a guitar, I’ll come up with a song anytime. I can pick up a guitar now and make up a song. It’s just about the writing it. So when I was a solo traveller it’s very easy to pick up a book and finish off a song really quickly (but) when you’ve got kids and whatever, that inspiration, when you’ve got it, you really have to make the most of it. I find it a bit forced to go ‘right, you’ve got to be creative right now (snaps fingers).”
Now – what does an artist who has such a great work under his belt do when it comes to getting it out there live in a COVID-19 world? Ben’s plans of an East Coast tour were thwarted by the pandemic crisis (he is not alone in this, obviously). But Darwin punters will be able to catch Ben and the band live at the Happy Yess when he launches ‘Wanderous‘ this Friday June 26th under strict social distancing protocols. With support from Emma Rowe and Lilly Sideris, the limited tickets are sure to move fast so don’t delay in getting yours pre-sale for $15.00 +BF here:
or $20.00 at the door – this is a courtyard gig with doors at 8.00pm.
*If you want to pre-order ‘Wanderous‘, you can do so here:
and no doubt Ben will haver some CDs for purchase at the venue.
Foldback will be at the Yess for the launch this Friday so make sure you come along to say hi to us and catch some sweet post-iso live music. With an album this epic, the live event is sure to be huge – support your local artists and help make live music great again.