Re-released in digi-pack, May 2002.
The end of 1997 saw Art of Fighting enter the studio to begin recording their debut release. Working with Nick Carroll at his North Melbourne studio, the band have delivered a 6 song set exploring expansive, involved arrangements within fully realised songs.
review:Melbourne’s Augie March and Sydney’s John Reed Club set the standard for 1998 for debut recordings. Then, in the middle part of the year, Adelaide band Fuge increased that notch to a higher beam. Now, that mark has again been topped. Melbourne band art of fighting’s debut EP, the very strange year is a stunning achievement, worthy of You Am I’s first up effort for sheer performance and potential.
Of course, art of fighting are not yet another You Am I rip-off. Far from it – art of fighting’s sound is unique and diverse (and yet so refreshingly catchy and melodic). By the time you've listened through the melancholic pop of “Sliding” (in which the virgin listener can marvel for the first time at Ollie Browne’s gentle eloquent poetry which is uttered in a distinctly hushed Australian accent) to Peggie Frew’s gentle and quiet vocals on the perfectly titled “Not Exactly Fading Away”, you know that this is something special.
Everything about this band pointed to big things a year or so ago – a fantastic pop-rock demo tape which contained the instantly hummable “the chorus is suffering” and “ahamay”, then the elegant slow-burner “You and Me on Mars”. And this is where The Very Strange Year picks up – it sounds like art of fighting stopped recording “you and me on mars” and immediately started with The Very Strange Year. The only really fast-paced number is “Wild Beast” – and even that has a distinctly slow-burn feel to it.
One of the greatest things about art of fighting is that you really can’t pigeonhole their influences. Certainly Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins used to be there, but these days, it seems that Ollie, Peggy and Cam have started to listen to quiet, more introspective music, such as fellow Melbournians Sandro and Paradise Motel, and even, to a certain extent, Will Oldham.
This is one of the best debut releases ever. The only dilemma is what to do when first opening the package – do you remove the sticker or leave it there? But that, in reality, is irrelevant – the music speaks for itself in the most beautiful way possible. Utterly amazing. - the Electric Newspaper
On Empty Nights, their second mini-album, the band continue their exploration of slowly-building themes that have expansive, involved arrangements within fully realised songs. Recorded in Melbourne with engineer Nick Carroll (who recorded their debut cd) during winter of 1999.
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’. That statement pretty much summarises the state the Australian music industry is constantly in. The Australian music industry is constantly in a state of flux – for every good band out there, there’s a whole heap more bad ones waiting in the wings (and usually getting signed to the major labels because their sound is very ‘now’). But the Australian music industry has it’s ‘sleeper’ bands too – bands that go unnoticed by the general populace but have a vast underground following. The wonderful Paradise Motel certainly falls into that category. The glorious art of fighting, whose new EP/mini-album empty nights has recently been released, probably fall into that same category too. Like Paradise Motel, there’s probably a fair chance that Australia will lose art of fighting to the UK in the very near future, with some smart small independent label signing them up recently.
So, before they disappear overseas only to return on occasional visits, art of fighting have given us their release for 1999 right at the end of the year. Much as The Very Strange Year was released in late 1998 after being recorded midway through the year, empty nights was recorded in June – August 1999 yet did not see light of day until mid November of that year. Much like The Very Strange Year, it is also one of the highlights of the past musical year.
For the first time in their recorded history – and here we’re including demo releases as well as their first CD release – Art Of Fighting have been captured in their best form in the studio. Recording again with sandro member Nick Carroll – who manned the boards on The Very Strange Year, 2 litre dolby’s El Caballo Rojo and s:bahn’s North Sea Clean – this time the clarity of the recording is outstanding. Ollie Browne’s voice is perfectly clear and pristine for the first time, while you can actually understand what Peggy Frewe is singing on her two tracks of this six track release.
Opening with the live favourite “Your Resistance” (well, it’s one of my favourites), the six tracks here are all quite elderly in terms of the prolific writing of new songs that seems to occur on such a regular basis in the Art Of Fighting camp. Virtually every time the punter sees Art Of Fighting the nervous statement ‘This is a new one’ is uttered at least twice. In effect, their two recording outputs to date have been documents of their past successes, which has made the wait for them seem even stranger as by the time The Very Strange Year and Empty Nights have actually seen light of day, the songs have either been abandoned or changed dramatically.
Of course, this does not mean that they are any less worthy – far from it, in fact. Listening to “Your Resistance”, “And We Follow, All Of Us”, “Empty Nights”, “Stay (On Your Will)”, “Standards I Once Had” and “Waiting” is a wonderful thing for this fan. It’s been months since Art Of Fighting have been in my neck of the woods, so having something tangible of theirs to listen to is a glorious thing.
Some fans of Art Of Fighting are complaining about the beautiful production on Empty Nights. They’re complaining because they feel that this clearness loses some of the all important ‘feel’ that is felt when seeing Art Of Fighting perform. Personally, I like the fact that these recorded documents are so beautifully preserved by Nick Carroll – actually being able to hear what Ollie and Peggy are singing is still a novelty seeing as usually they are drowned out by some enthusiastically drunk punter. Empty Nights is a fantastic release. Again beautifully packaged and lovingly encased in a digi-pak format, it could be the best fifteen dollars you’ll spend on music in 1999. - the Electric Newspaper
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