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Review in MOJO magazine Jan 2014
With music that has been described as a mix of spectral dustbowl blues, vengeful hoedowns and pared back swoon songs the April Maze’s sound is for all-weather - to curl up with on rainy days or to dance to in a sun-soaked summer. The April Maze delicately fuse a haunting melancholy sound with dreamy tripped-out harmonies, lyrical cello, banjo, guitar and sultry vocals… think Mumford, Florence, and First Aid Kit with a cello
“Mayhew’s masterful guitar, Agam’s visceral, growling cello and her own dark twisted vocal…mean much of this is a series of inky-black fairy tales.” Mojo Magazine (4 Stars)
“Indie alt-folk, much influenced by the sound (and fashions) of 70s San Francisco, Agam’s voice a rich cocktail of dark molasses and sweet honey.” Folking.com
“Quirky, endearing and engaging, their songs are delicately sparse, with room to breathe and expand, an impression augmented by only sparing use of percussion…Finally, Australia has something to celebrate in 2013.” The Oxford Times
“An originality that is exciting and inspiring to experience live…with their rich, human vocals, the live show has an amazingly full and deep sound.” The AU Review
The April Maze consists of the quirky and charming indie darlings Todd and Sivan. The husband and wife duo joined forces 7 years ago in a share house in Melbourne then embraced the wandering minstrel natures of their folk forebears, living out of their ’76 kombi whilst touring throughout Australia, New Zealand, UK and Canada and sharing their music.
Their musical roamings have seen them play over 35 festivals, 20 folk clubs and 850 shows in conjunction with the release of three EPs and two albums.
In November 2012, their album ‘TWO’ shot into Spotify’s Top 100 most popular new releases and saw the pair placed alongside artists such as Mumford & Sons, Lana Del Ray, Pink and Usher.
The April Maze are distinct from many existing alt folk bands due to the pure warmth and honesty in their song-writing coupled with distinctive 70s vintage imagery and lack of pretence. Their music touches upon a range of emotions from mellow to upbeat, to guide listeners through their unique take on music.
The skilfully balanced harmonies gently unfold the narratives, with the soulful richness of Sivan’s voice, reminiscent of Cass Elliot, perfectly complemented by Todd’s intense, warm tone. The accompanying stripped back acoustic sound of Todd’s guitar and banjo mingles with Sivan’s breathtakingly beautiful cello parts and leaves the incredible impression of a full orchestral sound.
They are unashamed story tellers, providing insight into the inspirations of their songs with humorous candour at their live gigs whilst lovingly jeering each other on. They speak about ‘Don’t Let the Bastards Bring You Down’ being influenced by Sivan’s personal experience of bullying and ‘Winter’ chronicling the struggles of Todd’s love-lorn brother.
The couple perform with smiles and pure sincerity but also “an originality that is exciting and inspiring to experience live…with their rich, human vocals, between two people the live show has an amazingly full and deep sound” as the AU Review observed. Australian review site Timber and Steel has given similar praise, believing that the group’s music “moves you and seeps deep in to your soul, staying with you for days and weeks to come”.
Live Review Feb 2013 by Michael Aiken (AU Review)
The first two songs of the set didn’t particularly disrupt this image, though the second song in particular had a depth and feeling to it that isn’t done any justice by my previous paragraph.
By the time they played their brilliant original, ‘Oh Yesterday’ (from their debut album, Recycled Soul), they’d completely broken free of the pigeonhole and taken off. ‘Oh Yesterday’ sounds like acoustic trip hop, with singable hooks, emotional tension and an arrangement that makes very clever use of their minimal live setup (guitar, cello, stomp and two voices). It has all of the vitality and beauty that good folk music has to offer too, and an originality that is exciting and inspiring to experience live.
With each song The April Maze revealed further depths. Sivan’s use of cello is particularly memorable – in the course of one song she’ll play impeccable lead breaks, cover the bottom end (between the cello and Todd’s stomp you’d never want for bass in these songs) and build a whole atmosphere with judicious use of long and short bowing to highlight the drama. Along with their rich, human vocals, between two people this live show has an amazingly full and deep sound.
And then there’s the mood and manner onstage. Both players are smiling, chatting, so comfortable with their own voices that they sound like they never stop a moment to consider what they’re doing, they just DO IT, go wherever the song takes their voices, with flawless feeling and talent. For most of the show they were mesmerising to listen to, hypnotic even. Then in the finale, ‘I Love This Life’, a whole new level of wild, powerful energy leapt off the stage. The April Maze have been playing a lot of shows in a lot of cities up and down the east coast, including festivals and other large scale shows. Yet their performance tonight was so full of enthusiasm and immersion in the music, they may as well have been playing for 40,000 people.
There’s such rapport between them (perhaps not so surprising for a recently married couple), with their infectious smiling and occasional self-deprecation (and mutual deprecation), but their rapport with the audience came from seemingly small beginnings and culminated in the whole crowd singing and clapping with absolute fervor.
Their charm and confidence onstage are enthralling, and their adventurousness live is thrilling – they played two new songs, one “so new it’s not on an album yet” and another so new it was “written last week”; Sivan hardly had any cello worked out for that one, and made a point of explaining to the audience which parts were “where the synth will probably be”. They bashed out yet a third song full of an epic tale about Todd’s great-grandfather (an adventurous Jesuit, from the intro) which was cut quite short because “it’s a work in progress”. The audience loved it and welcomed all these treasures; the trust and warmth in the room was delightful, if not a little frightening at times (in a room this small when everyone else is singing along, as when they played Gillian Welch’s ‘Look at Miss Ohio’, one can feel conspicuously like the only non-inductee to the cult). They could have been in a stadium full of screaming fans for all the enthusiasm and insanity in their playing – they simply do not care and live and breathe singing and performing, with voices that sound like they don’t even realise they’re singing – just a direct line to who they are.
For all its bizarre unhinged cultiness, it felt like a real privilege to be at this show. At one point Todd and Sivan stepped out from the microphones and played completely acoustic, to “give people a taste”, to bring the audience even deeper into the experience of the live performance. It was astounding how good their voices sounded for that song. Anyone who gets the chance to see them on their current touring should jump at the chance – two years from now you will surely regret it if you don’t.
I said at the start that I’m not big on things hippy or folk, and The April Maze were totally both (and much more). And yet they won my love and admiration with their fantastic voices, genuine love of performing and brilliant songwriting.
To view review from it's original source please click here.