Before worming my way into a journalism career, I worked in retail.
I loved it, the solitude, quietly minding a small shop in a small shopping centre; the store’s music was selected at my discretion and most of the time, I would choose The Kite String Tangle.
Sitting alone at the Brisbane Powerhouse (21 April) felt eerily nostalgic as I waited to watch the Brisbane producer perform with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO).
QSO entered, making a brief introduction: “We usually perform classical music. Beethoven, Mozart – dead people,” (laughter ensued). “It’s wonderful to instead accompany a young, local musician.”
The Kite String Tangle (Danny Harley) finally walked on stage, flanked by his drummer and back-up vocalist; without a word he sat at the grand piano and unveiled a beautiful, new release, ‘All About Her’.
“Hiya,” he said, sheepishly. “Thanks for coming out. That was very nice of you.” The audience chuckled, Danny continued. “I’d like to welcome a good friend of mine to the stage, we’re going to perform a couple of songs together. Tiana Khasi.”
Despite the original being pacey and heavily embellished with electronics, the group executed a stunning, stripped-back rendition of ‘The Prize’, the synthesized ‘drop’ replaced with a single guitar that gently strummed the melody. ‘All I Need’ followed, slow and soulful, Tiana’s vocals were faultless, she exited with a smile afterwards.
“Has anybody heard of the band Seekae?” Danny asked. “I came across an unofficial video that accompanied their song ‘Void’, it featured footage of a space shuttle launch that failed and crashed. I remember watching it over and over – I became obsessed with it, I studied it. This song is named after the shuttle. And it was called ‘Challenger’.”
The Kite String Tangle performed ‘Know By Now’ next, pausing again to welcome Dustin Tebbutt to the stage. “I remember begging him to collaborate with me. He said no,” Danny teased. Dustin added: “He won me over in the end.”
Dustin’s soothing sentiments proved a prime ingredient when mixed with TKST and QSO; ‘Illuminate’ was lovely, a banjo then featuring in ‘Evergreen’, Dustin revealing: “My Dad once fell asleep beside me in the front row of a gig. So if you’re dozing off, it’s okay – you’re doing it in honour of him.”
‘The Heights Of Trees’ maintained the high precedent set by TSKT’s surprise album, ‘In A Desperate Moment’, another orchestral ballad beneath touching lyrics. He then shifted from the piano, relocating to the drum triggers, orchestra quietly building to the beginnings of discography heavyweight, ‘Arcadia’.
While ‘Selfish’ is one I’d frequently skip over, the song was an undeniable set highlight; QSO transformed the supposed ‘dance’ track into an incredible work of art, dripping with emotion. By the time ‘This Thing We Got’ surfaced Danny appeared very settled, infinitely at home on stage; the track maintained the set’s fast pace, brass instruments blaring the riff in the chorus.
‘Fickle Gods’ came next, impassioned words paired with intense instrumentals; Danny briefly thanked the crowd before closing the set with the final song on his self-titled album, ‘The Devil You Know’.
QSO remained on stage after TKST exited; they stood, silently, facing the crowd’s standing ovation. Danny and his accompanying musicians eventually returned, offering his thank you’s before announcing: “This is the song that started it all.”
Audience members gasped with excitement as TKST surrendered his shimmering debut, ‘Given The Chance’; each shifted from their chairs to their feet, transforming an orchestral, sit-down performance into a fully-fledged rave.
While TKST may be a solo artist his band deserves recognition; the back-up vocalist demonstrated an extraordinary multi-instrumental ability, the drummer never missed a beat. QSO were exceptional from start to finish, every bit as awe-inspiring as you’d expect. In an age of computer-generated music, it was breathtaking to witness a group of talented musicians humbly conquer the traditional brass, wind and strings.
As for TKST, it’s interesting to consider that Danny choose electronic music as his medium. Lyrics so thick with emotion are usually the stand-alone element, accompanied sparsely, usually acoustically, but instead he’s chosen to accentuate them with layers of digital and recorded sounds and the combination, while unusual, is quite dazzling.
Even so, his mini album, ‘In A Desperate Moment’ has bravely ventured from dancefloor fillers entirely, instead thrusting his heavy-hearted composing to the forefront.
Still, it was a creative risk well taken. The record is as tear-inducing as it is uplifting; particularly ‘Challenger’ – I too was obsessed with that same Seekae song and clip. Danny’s version might even be better.