An elf who won't stay on the shelf
Set Yourself Easy – Kent Steedman (self released)
Adjust your expectations. This is not a collection of Celibate Rifles-styled pyrotechnics -although some (notably, “Lockdown Shuffle” and the title track) could have worked for them.
Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that Kent Steedman has never been just about flamethrower rock. His work outside the Rifles has spanned the oblique, avant noise of Crent, the proto-boogie blues of Jim Moginie and the Family Dog, sonic adventurism with the Deniz Tek Group and live shows using Tibetan singing bowls.
With a sympathetic backing band, “Set Yourself Easy” shuns the obvious paths to explore a myriad of sonic nooks and crannies.
The first thing to say is it’s still largely about the guitar. Different textures and tones abound. Some tracks have an acoustic bed and most have plenty of serrated edges. The album was recorded at Jim Moginie’s Oceanic Studios on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and the dry, trannsparent mix features a guitar a side, for the most part.
The second thing is that Kent’s vocal at times sounds remarkably like his late bandmate Damien Lovelock – in both phrasing and tone. It’s a reminder that they were two different people who spent a fair bit of time in each other’s head.
They both shared a dry humour and it runs right through “Set Yourself Easy”. Social commentary too – and the media cops it, big-time.
Stylistically speaking, there’s a lot to get your head around. The songs range from a bluegrass-tinged shuffle to some earthy finger-picking and occasional sampled weirdness. The wordless, snaking “Tea Forest” hovers over an ambient backing track that’s hypnotically effective. Occasionally, the albuinm does the obvious: “Can’t Find Anything” is a hilarious state of confusion, played punk rock style. The lead break is vintage Kelvin the Elf.
“Inevitable Outcome” sets scorched earth fuzz guitar to a doom-laden beat, with Steedman sitting right at the edge of his limited vocal range as he flings pointed lyrical barbs about land rights. “For The One” follows hard on its heels and lightens the mood with acoustic jig stylings and a word puzzle. And “Now You’re Here” pairs buried, murmured vocals with a gorgeous acoustic guitar tone.
The plodding “Selectravision Mantra” is a much different beast to the Rifles song that inspired its title, eschewing high speed dynamics to takes on the Fourth Estate with a meat axe and some astonishing guitar work. “Jacobi” is its thematic cousin, bereft of lyrics apart from its introduction, setting things up for the enveloping closser of “Tea Forest”.
“Set Yourself Easy” will demand a bit from you but pays it all back with interest the more listens you give it. It’s available on CD on eBay here and the canny will bundle it with the recent Rifles archival release "Chasing Chocomel" here.