Review: Lupa J EP Launch Party at The Chippo Hotel, Sydney, 11 November 2017
A fixture on the Sydney electronic scene, the 19 year old violinist-turned-EDM-wunderkind has been blowing up venues for the last four years with her unique blend of art-pop and deeply layered electronica. If the turnout was anything to go by, Sydney fans are absolutely loving it. Saturday saw her pack out the Chippo’s basement space with bodies and bass, and some incredible support acts in Gussy and HVISKE, who set the tone for a night of raw emotion and heavy beats.
Gussy, with strong support from Marcus Whale, brought an honest vocal sensuality. reminiscent of an early Michael Hutchence or Roxy Music, combined with the smooth moves of Michelle Pfieffer in Scarface. The crowd was captivated by a smooth ambience, and cut with driving bass and sharp lyrics. Gussy seamlessly combined a modern edge with nostalgic softness, establishing a tone of honesty and experimentation.
HVISKE brought us screaming back to earth with a sound much bigger than the room; pounding bass, distorted howls and relentless beats made for an act that demanded your attention, and they got it. Sitting somewhere between Gesaffelstien‘s ‘Pursuit’ and Kathleen Hanna, an impressive performance from Kusum Normoyle saw her screams manipulated to smash through the deep dance tracks, in a dark, aggressive catharsis that got everyone moving.
While Gussy brought the raw emotion, and HVISKE brought the raw power, it was Lupa J who tied it all together with her tactful balancing of the two.
Her soaring, layered vocals merged into deep and dreamy soundscapes, begging comparisons to Kate Bush and Kimbra; artists who also walk the fine line between expressive experimentation and commercial appeal.
‘Moth’s running beat gives the illusion of being chased down, and is simultaneously anxiety inducing and alluring; a sonic reference to the lyrical theme of overwhelming beauty standards.
Another gem from the EP was the seamless combination of the two central tracks ‘All Talked Out’ and ‘Ring Empty’ into a 10 minute, haunting epic, showcasing some impressive songwriting prowess.
The repeated lyric of “Show me the house you grew up in” from ‘Keep Back’ echoed through the space, referencing the EP title, A House I Don’t Remember, and it’s central theme of hidden memories. The words hit harder with every repetition, reinforced by the trailing and layered instrumentation.
Lupa’s band did an amazing job to push through some minor technical issues, supporting her with massive drum tracks and distorted strings, breathing life and dynamism into the performance. On stage, Lupa J commands your attention; she’s focused, emotive, restrained and yet mesmerising to watch. Flitting between chest voice and falsetto, from Kaoss pad to violin, she seems to be a jack of all trades, and exceptional at all of them.
This was on full display in an inspired cover of Radiohead‘s ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’, showing off dueling violins and an evocative vocal perfomance. They also gave us a crowd pleaser in the form of the Triple J remixed version of Lorde‘s ‘Homemade Dynamite’. The comparisons with Lorde are unmistakeable: They’re both young, female, experimental art-pop-EDM performers, producers and writers, with a similar vocal tone.
It’s possible this breakout EP launch could be a rare intimate view of the band before they blow up with their rumoured upcoming album. Her fan-base, the building radio hype, her production and songwriting skills mean Lupa J won’t be on the fringes for long, so see her while you can. She is destined for much bigger things than the Chippo basement.