Underwater Casino - Dom Mariani & The Majestic Kelp (Head)
It's winter in Australia so it's time to launch a surf album. Not sure of the logic of that but "Underwater Casino" is not your average instro' surf effort.
Dom Mariani should need no introduction - not with a c.v. that includes the Stems (Australia's best '60s-inspired '80s band) and DM3 (Australia's best '80s rock-pop band). While there were hints of surf guitar shining through both of those bands (not to mention a brine-soaked project like the comparatively short-lived Stonefish), this is a different mouthful of seaweed. Mariani's underrated guitar-playing is to the fore, but on the whole it's a musical mix that's more laidback than loud. Like Morricone paddling in the shorebreak and then apologetically treading sand over your loungeroom while sipping cocktails.
If there's an intersection between lounge and surf music, Majestic Kelp have pinpointed it. It's a place that's about as far removed from "Bombora" as you can be and still smell the salt air. There's nary a hint of volume merchants like Davie Allan or Dick Dale, either. While, for some reason I can't put my finger on, Sydney's Wetsuits missed the mark with their album (which charted similar waters), the Kelp manage to throw up the odd arresting moment ("Tremelo Sun", the languid title track, the more upbeat "Indian Ocean" and the trad-surf-goes-drifting "Let It Hang").
The core band (Mariani, drummer Robbie Scorer and bass player Stuart Loasby) is augmented by occasional keyboards, percussion and sitar. It's on Head Records, the label owned by Joe Camilleri (Jo Jo Zep & the Falcons, Black Sorrows - names you reckoned you'd never see here).
If you like you like to stay between the flags and hit surf that's no more than a foot high, "Underwater Casino" will rate repeated spins. A pleasant enough afternoon in the shorebreak if you're not expecting to ride the wild surf. Tasty.