AudioTraffic

Live review from Compilation CD 5 Launch Party A:

IMG_3736wtmk.jpg Setlist:

1. Better

2. Way Too Long

3. I Am Gone

4. Even Flow (Pearl Jam cover)

5. Lost City

Audiotraffic is one of those bands whose name I have only ever heard mentioned with more than a little nostalgia for when they were properly around. They also appear to have the ability to induce lunacy in people, as evidenced by this testimony from a certain sprightly madwoman. In either case, from what I’ve heard on their album and the slightly morphed version of the band that is Ovary Overdrive, their sound is right up the alley of anyone that was in love with 90s rock, which thoroughly implicates me. It helps that the musicianship in the band is top-notch but subtle – you realise how good they are without them having to shove the fact in your face. It’s a self-effacing fact that you may happen to notice just as you’re drowning in the last discomfiting, echoing chord that was played and you realise that the bass has slowly taken over the throttle. Or you might realise that the second that drummer Ferdie is given an inch and he pulls out a crazy piece of timing deflection from nowhere, all the while moving chameleon-like between sounding like Jimmy Chamberlin and Dennis Thompson.

But possibly the coolest thing about the band is their Alice in Chains-ish tendency for finding notes that make you uncomfortable in juuuust the right way but without overstating the case. (Note that this is different from the discomfort you feel when someone, say, misses a note or when styles clash.) The ethereal tones of the lead guitar help a lot, especially when there’s some muscle underneath (added, on the night, by Bryant from STW). It’s the lean-and-mean-yet-somehow-still-rich emotional oil-painting style that Blur perfected, and they definitely make it work. As if their sound wasn’t perfect enough, they pushed the last domino over with their cover of Even Flow and did it well (hook, line and sinker, all in one). Way too Long brought out some of the Steve Turner-style minimalist blues in the solo, but had some light touches of almost math rock-like rich guitar work, proving that you don’t have to browbeat a song into having a strong effect. I Am Gone had some really busy drums and an almost headbang-ey rhythm.

Now, I’ll spare you the every minute insignificant detail about the Even Flow cover that I want to describe, but it was interesting to hear the song being played by a drummer who plays ever-so-slightly behind the beat (unlike Abbruzzesse, who plays a bit before it). Odd, but interesting. He made up for that lag by a mind-blowing yet still-relaxed-feeling drum solo, which is comparable to every live version of the song I’ve ever heard (and that’s a LOT of versions). My only complaint is that they were slight lazy with replicating the riff, but that’s a minor thing. Lost City, with its sparkly guitars playing some really shreddy parts, did what any good band that came after the Smashing Pumpkins should do, which is to play a grindingly hard melody delicately and really earning any headbang-ey moments that you want to put in there. A terrific song to end a terrific set. If there was ever a band in HK that needed to seriously consider going Mach II, this is one of them.

— Shashwati Kala

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Live Review from Underground 56:

Their performance at Underground 56 was the usual quality and tism-inducing experience of happiness every indie audience member gleefully knows it will be. From the sound test you knew they were going to play loud and, with awesome Shepherds The Weak bassist Glen and Ferdie Best Drummer in the Universe on drums, it wasn’t going to figure any other way. That skinny drummer guy has a slight frame but somehow packs a big punch. He must have two or three adrenal glands producing six times as much adrenaline as the rest of us. The performance was a swirling mix of guitars and crashing, unrelentless rhythms, overlaid by Adrian’s vocals. Hmmm, Adrian’s vocals. Sorry, did I already say that?

Adrian da Silva’s voice is the eighth wonder of the world. He alternates producing such fragile sounds with high-intensity screamed passion. His versatile, perfect delivery has you holding your breath in wonder and tuned in intently so that you don’t miss one single precious utterance. Those sustained holds he puts on words is something all his own and just another artful dimension to their sound. Eddie Vedder had that kind of thing happening, too.

Adrian missed one or two notes, but on the Club Cixi’s non-too-great-sounding mikes, it wasn’t a problem for the audience. However the guy’s perfectionist attitude saw him look so crushed and apologetic it was touching. The second and only other time he slipped up, which again was not at all that evident to the chatty, drunk crowd, saw the whole band freeze-frame in complete silence and stillness for one surreal split second. The crowd stopped talking and gawked. You could see the band wondering if they were going to self-destruct because Adrian hadn’t hit his target high note. They didn’t and they resumed playing at precisely the same point they had left off at. Now THAT was funny. It was like watching a glitch occur on an old VHS analog video tape. Or was it a wrinkle in time caused by an interplanetary laser beam sent to Earth by the evil Lord Zargon on Alpha Zargonia Minus 367.6. Or did Audiotraffic just really spazz-out together in tight and elegant unison? (*emits hoots of laughter*)

Again no-one would have noticed or cared if the band hadn’t drawn attention to it. Antony Kiedis from the Chili Peppers did a lot worse during the Live Earth broadcast, which went out to the whole universe (and was probably why evil Lord Zargon retaliated.)

UG56 saw Audiotraffic’s sound harder, wilder and more energetic than previous times I’ve seen them. (One memorable time was in the marquee at RockIt a few years back where they were sounding more dream pop and shoegazing through the sultry, smoky, trance-like atmosphere in there.) Their set closer this evening was a cover of Sweet Child o’ Mine by Guns N ‘Roses with drummer Ferdie on vocals, Adrian harmonizing and Don’s guitar really going off in a burst of fine electric noise. (Hmmm, Guns N’ Roses. Chinese Democracy. Ha ha! Everyone from genuinely democratic countries gets that joke…except those dumb-arse Americans who voted for Bush …TWICE.)

According to guitarist Don the band has tentative plans to play around Asia. I can also see them gigging all around the UK fitting in perfectly with the healthy numbers of high-quality UK indie bands who play at the array of pubs, academies, town halls and local festivals from the Isle of Wight to Edinburgh. Australia’s Big Day Out Music Festivals in all the capital cities would lap this band up, too. I’m sending copies to the ABC radio people I know in Oz (hoping one finds its way to very influential Triple J Radio) as well as a couple of indie directors from my film life past. The word just has got to spread, my loving and servile minions. Along with other significant Hong Kong cultural exports, (Suzy Wong, dressing gowns with dragons on the back, Bruce Lee and Hong Kong flu), the phenomenon of Audiotraffic must be shared with the world. Go forth and spread the word!

BTW, while you are getting a CD for yourself and for everyone-you-know’s birthday, you might think about shelling out for one of their intriguing black on dark grey-green T-shirts. (No, I don’t get a commission.) Not the usual shapeless-mess-after-one-wash material, the shirts are a beautifully made and designed piece of cool pop art. They feature a simple, stark, solid shape of an amp (…kinda looks like the black monolith that lands on Earth from outer space and causes the early primates to first learn to kill each other in Kubrick’s film 2001…) with half-patched leads hanging out ready for the band to hook up to their guitars and start playing. I look as cool as Jim Morrison when I’m wearing mine. (No-one has actually said this to my face, but I know they’re definitely thinking it.)

Some tall friendly Canadian guy in the audience was glibly telling me that Hong Kong was all about ‘lowering your standards’ as he didn’t think all that highly of the home-grown talent here and had left before Audiotraffic’s set. Should have stayed and listened, my sorry friend. Your mindset is way skewed.
Isobel S. Saunders

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Live Review from Underground 49:

I’ve seen Audiotraffic before at an Underground, and had been a little disappointed by the band treating a friends-and-family size crowd to something of a half-hearted practice session. Perhaps it was the size of the audience this time, or just that the band had decided to put on their serious trousers. Either way, Audiotraffic rocked.
The first thing that was evident was the sheer quality of the presentation, with singer/guitarist/frontman Adrian having a voice of power and quality unrivalled by anyone else on stage tonight, even Shadow. For me, he’s not quite as good-looking, but several of the women in the audience would probably violently (or jokingly) disagree with me on that. Seriously, the guy has presence, and the whole band has poise.
One thing about being in a band in 2007 is that you’ve essentially 50 years of rock’n’roll music to draw on for influences and inspiration. When I was a lad, it was more like 25, which explains why my pre-university band couldn’t match anything at Underground 49. For talented guys like Audiotraffic, however, the weight of expectation increases accordingly.
My problem (certainly not Audiotraffic’s), is that I want every band with two guitars and a compelling idea to be as good as Radiohead. I’m bound to be disappointed, of course, and the moment came in the first number, with guitar solo that seemed just tacked-on to an otherwise solid song. Luckily the Underground crowd didn’t seem to share any of my hang-ups.
Much of the set was a blur, but a good blur of interesting songs well-played. One sure sign of the singer’s quality was that you could actually hear the words being sung. Bonus too that most of them weren’t too banal – although the slower song mid show had its moments.
High point was the excellent decision to throw in a cover version of the Police’s Message in a Bottle, complete with Stingesque “ee-oohs” and some great backing vocals by drummer Ferdie.
In an evening of great set-closing numbers, Audiotraffic kept up the trend, with a light song called Lost City (could they mean Hong Kong?) played tough, and climaxing with real power. The loudest applause was well deserved.
Paul M

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Live Review from Underground 17:

Audiotraffic make a welcome return to the Underground. I guess they’re the headliners tonight with a set that reprises most of their Rockit show. Track 2 is “The Running Man” starts to get into the FX wah wah fuzz bleep guitar shit that they do so well (and what I like best about them) Track 3 continues to remind me in spots of “Starstorm” by UFO live in Tokyo 1970, with a mindbending guitar solo. Track 4 is The Killerssong – great sheets of guitar noise melting into Husker Du or Bob mould Black sheets of Rain. Seemingly unprepared, Adrian kept up a stage banter with the audience and yes we still love Audiotraffic.
Nick Lovatt

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Live Review from Underground 9:

AUDIOTRAFFIC. The band’s third appearance at the Underground, and this time a semi-acoustic set, as they were missing their bass player. Adrian sat on a chair with his acoustic and still managed to exude sexiness (said my girlfriend. I couldn’t see it myself). Having seen the lads six times last year, it was refreshing to see this different kind of set, and they went down a storm with the sell-out audience. Clearly lots of Audiotraffic fans had turned up! Are they the best band in Hong Kong? No arguments from me. It was great to see some of the audience singing along with the original songs, they knew the words. The Underground is changing HK culture and Audiotraffic are leading from the front.
Max Wong
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Live Review from Underground 3:

2 months after wowing the Underground with their own special brand of rock, Audiotraffic returned for a triumphant reprise. This time going on first, rather surprisingly, thus the crowd was not at it’s height. Which was a pity, because they missed the classic Audiotraffic set, which never fails to thrill. Shortly after this gig, Audiotraffic won the local HK leg of Battle of the BAnds and will be representing Hk at the final in New Zealand next year. Frankly, the judges got it right, after seeing numerous bands in HK over the past few months, to my mind Audiotraffic are the best. rock on, Adrian!
Don Smith

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Live Review from Underground 1:

What can one say about Audiotraffic? The lads strolled on stage in their nonchalant way, having a hard act to follow, as PNS had created mayhem. But these boys are class. Although not having many songs (seemed to me about 5 or 6?) ,they were super-tight. The band’s main asset (according to my girlfriend) is the lead singer Adrian De Silva, who apparently is to die for. Other girls in the audience clearly agreed. He does have a great voice, I must say. The music reminds me a bit of Radiohead at their best, guitar-orientated rock but cleverly written with no horrible really long guitar solos to spoil the songs. The crowd loved them, and the shy de Silva bowed his head in acknowledgment. As well as the divine Adrian, they comprise Masaki on drums, Woo Joo Lee on bass, and Don Cruz on guitar. All these lads need is a break and they could be huge.
Don Smith

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