Matt Bailey : The Book Of Illumination
I remember walking into the Old Bar a few years ago. It was a Sunday night in the winter months. Being Melbourne, it was cold and dark outside; the only poor souls foolish enough to head out that night seemed to have congregated in the cavernous confines of the Old Bar. There was a guy on stage who looked vaguely familiar, in that Melbourne music sort of a way: beard, guitar, enigmatic disposition. The music was sparse and evocative, the musical equivalent of a poetry reading that has the audience hanging off the end of every verse.
That guy was Matt Bailey, once of Paradise Motel, and more lately of Lee Memorial. Bailey’s latest record, the Book Of Illumination, is true to his evocative live show. The music is haunting, spacious and captivating; the narratives rich and textured. Bailey’s guitar is nowhere to be seen, replaced by a piano and a supporting cast of harmonies and the odd moment of West Coast saxophone. Bailey sings like a man revealing uncomfortable truths to a world reluctant to see the painful reality of its contradictory existence. Bernadette reaches infinite emotional depth; Boys Of The Harbour is allegory for a romantic quest almost, but not quite realised. Kurnaz mixes free jazz freak-out with spiritual-shaped harmonies, Jacob Joe is a slick pop track stripped back to its bleeding raw base format and the simplicity of Home betrays an honesty brought to life with a wicked pop sensibility.
Not long ago, on a Friday night when the local music audience appeared to have fled en masse to Golden Plains, Bailey again held court at Yah Yah's. There were eight people and the proverbial dog there to witness the set; it should have been 800, and some. Such is the inconvenient truth of local music attendance.
BY PATRICK EMERY
Best Track: Home
If You Like These, You'll Like This: SCOTT WALKER
In A Word: Illuminating