Post To Wire
Alt-country, folk, blues & rock'n'roll
This Is Not A Dream
On their their third album, Melbourne band Lost Ragas take their brand
of psychedelic country music further out into the cosmos, though its
title and various thematic references suggest the territory they're
exploring is our internal subconscious and its relationship with the
realities of the modern world.
They're a band in the truest collective sense but the songwriting
centres around Matt Walker and Shane Reilly, who split the songs 50/50
this time around. That said, there isn't a clear sonic and poetic
delineation between their respective songs. They all incorporate
mystical, swirling psych-pop elements, that add colour and
otherworldliness to what are essentially songs from the template of
classic country music, whether that's the smooth tones of the Tulsa
Sound, Willie Nelson-styled balladry or the arch-songwriter shapes of
Harry Nilsson, Jimmy Webb and Randy Newman.
Opener ‘Keeping Up With Yesterday’ is an audacious start, on the back of
Reilly's soaring string arrangement. Walker's ‘Just Wastin’ Time’ is a
melodic honky-tonk number that switches between earthbound and
daydreaming moods. ‘I Broke A Heart’ demonstrates how inventive they can
get with guitar and pedal steel sounds, adding a Twin Peaks vibe to a
Roy Orbison-styled croon. ‘People Funny’ takes the sonic gumbo approach
to the outer limits with its tough groove. ‘Black Rose’ on the other
hand plays it straight, allowing its perfect mix of melody and
melancholy to ring true.
This Is Not A Dream is populated by songs that touch on reality vs.
inhabiting one's self-created world. There are some heady concepts at
play yet the band never overcook them. The real stroke of genius is the
way they've married those ideas with a symbiotic musical universe. They
may be part of the Americana scene but Lost Ragas aren't the
stay-at-home types, they're adventurers looking to explore new and
psychedelic frontiers and the transmissions they're sending back are
Review by Marty Boulton
Sydney Morning Herald - Sticky Carpet
September 5, 2019
album of the week
This Is Not A Dream
(Brown Truck Records)
There's a line Matt Walker sings at the end of Morning Star, the second
track on Lost Ragas' follow up album to 2015's Trans Atlantic Highway,
that hints at the sense of exploration and adventure in their music.
Long hailed as a cracking live outfit, Walker and his bandmates don't
rush to record, opting instead to seek out lyrical inspiration and just
the right mix of blues, roots and psychedelic pedal steel that brings
the whole shebang together in a genuine, considered fashion.
"The beauty of endlessness, gazing up at the morning star," Walker
sings, and you just know he didn't find this line sitting in his
"The last time I was in
the desert, it wasn’t really the desert. In fact, we didn’t venture far
past Broken Hill, but the release of open landscape was still a
Exploring the great unknown can help you find a place for pared-back
reflection and inspiration. If you’re lucky, maybe even a spirit animal
– though in Australia, it will likely turn out to be poisonous. When
Lost Ragas frontman Matt Walker decided to clear his mind prior to the
band’s next national tour, however, he really didn’t skimp on space.
“This is a step up in the adventure stakes, I’ve got to say,” he says.
“I’ll be hiking through the Flinders Ranges for a week before the tour.
I’m going semi-desert, sleeping beneath the stars, in caves. Hiking
around trying to find The Lost Sound, something like that. I’m
definitely thinking of the next Ragas album, so it may be a little bit
like that Mighty Boosh episode, wandering around looking for wisdom. One
of the mates I’m going with has a portable recorder; I’ll have a few
instruments with me. I think we’ll definitely do some recording out
there, but what it leads to, who knows? We’re doing it all cowboy-style,
sleeping with no tents. There’s one night in the cave on the side of a
mountain, so you hope it’s going to be inspiring out there.”
There’s always the chance Walker might come across some kind of human
subspecies that’s been living in the caves undisturbed for centuries and
is now baying for blood, but that’s always the gamble with creative
exploration. While this hike will cover new ground, Walker has had the
opportunity to visit vast swathes of Australia over the years. He is a
seasoned solo performer, but has also earned great acclaim with The
Necessary Few, Ashley Davies, Tex Perkins, Archie Roach – the list goes
on. Suffice to say, he has had a front-row view of the shifting
Australian music scene.
“The whole Americana renaissance is something I’ve definitely noticed,”
he says. “Festivals we’ve been getting picked up for are getting more
aligned with this movement, like Dashville Skyline in the Hunter Valley
and Out On The Weekend in Melbourne. But I think Australian music has
always had a strong country scene. There are so many artists, and if you
look back there’s a really strong Aboriginal scene aligned with it too.
There’s a whole culture of great country singer-songwriters in the
Aboriginal community, all over Australia.
“Maybe I’ve noticed a change here just because I’m Melbourne-based, but
it feels bigger now then it used to be. Someone told me that Northcote,
just out of the CBD in Melbourne, has the biggest number of country
singers in all Australia. Which is a strange place for it; you’d feel
they’d be all up north. I think in regional and outback Australia, it’s
probably one of the biggest styles of music for the last hundred years.
I’ve been around a while now, and I’ve seen different scenes, different
subgenres in the roots scene, bubble to the surface. Whether it’s garage
rock or blues, your John Butler and Ash Grunwald types, it’s always
interesting to see how it’s all growing, but it doesn’t really affect
what you’re doing yourself. There’s so much work going on inside your
own head to make music, it’s more a sideline interest to see what the
local scene is actually doing.”
While Walker certainly brings a great amount of experience to Lost
Ragas, he is quick to emphasise that he is hardly the life and soul of
this party – it is very much a group concern. “It’s not just Matt Walker
and band. We all contribute, and the guys do fucking amazing harmonies,
switching around instruments. It’s a real collective.”
Their most recent release, Trans Atlantic Highway, has already met with
a great critical reception and will likely introduce Walker and co. to a
whole new set of fans. Happy as they are to find themselves with the
attention, these dark horsemen of the alt-roots scene are pretty
detached from accolades, and remain quite conscious of keeping the
integrity of their songwriting intact.
“You don’t want to sound too confident in your own sound, which I’m not
at all. I’ve always been a believer in…” he pauses to consider. “I
really play music for myself. It’s a contradiction, of course, because
then you record it, you play live shows and hope people like it, but my
main drive to pick up a guitar is kind of selfish. It’s just something I
need to do. I think a lot of musicians are like that, though some
musicians maybe have too many idols. I’ve certainly got them, but I
almost put them on a pedestal where I would never, ever try and emulate
them. They’re too out of reach. If I try and write anything, it’s the
essence of the honesty that the artists I most admire have.
“Dylan once said when he was starting out, watching the old blues guys,
it wasn’t really the notes they played or the words they sang; it was
about the look in their eyes that was the inspiration for him. That has
kind of rung true for me, too. I like artists who boil their words down.
Sometimes, one or two lines can leave enough out that the listener or
reader can make up the missing part. It creates something that I don’t
think you can do otherwise. Something that resonates.”
Lost Ragas play Dashville Skyline, Hunter Valley, Saturday October 3 –
Sunday October 4, and are also appearing at Lazybones Lounge on Friday
October 23. Trans Atlantic Highway is out now independently.
- See more at: http://www.thebrag.com/music/lost-ragas#sthash.sk3iwmec.dpuf
Walker and the Lost Ragas
The great thing about
things coming together naturally, is that when they form the bond is
effortless, and the result is something more than the sum of its parts.
And so Matt Walker and the Lost Ragas arrive with their new album,
In 2012, Matt released a stunning record (In Echoes of Dawn)
largely recorded, written, arranged, produced and played by himself.
Every instrument, every breath, every idea formed over time in his own
recording space - the 8 Track Shack. But once you have finished such a
project, there are decisions to be made, shows to play, and the road to
travel. It’s hard to do this alone. You need a band.
In some way shape or form, all of the Lost Ragas have worked with or
around each other over the years, but never with the line-up as it is.
Matt Walker - guitars / vocals
Shane Reilly- pedal steel / guitars / vocals
Roger Bergodaz – bass
and Simon Burke - drums
Each member of the band offers a wealth of experience, and a taste for a
song. This bent toward the song’s best interest may sound like a simple
desire, but it’s not as common as you might think.
In Echoes of Dawn is such a gentle record, and as such, the early
shows as the Lost Ragas we're tentative, gentle affairs, but over time,
the line-up injected new songs, and developed a sound that is familiar
and yet totally on its own plane. A sparse, Baron Rhythm section
approach, layered with captivating guitar textures, creating something
that is delicate yet powerful, laid back and intense. The live shows
have moments quiet enough to hear a pin drop, and powerful enough to
drive a nail into the ground.
It grew into something much more than just some guys playing another
guy’s record. That would have crashed and burned. Walker was brave
enough to let everyone make it their own from the outset, and so they
did. In Echoes of Dawn is, quite frankly, a record too beautiful
to be recreated, and too involved to be copied. So the Lost Ragas
didn't walk that path.
They played shows, and they continued to develop the Lost Ragas’
sound. A sound that allows for the space within a song to be taken
somewhere new each time. Leaving the path without losing the way
At some point, talk of a new album came up. The band is filled with
songwriters and producers, and guys not always playing their first
instrument, so this was always going to be a process far removed from
what Matt had just come from, and in fact having been a solo artist for
so long, may have been a process never experienced before.
And so, Phantom Ride was born. Recorded over a number of sessions
in mid-late 2013 at Tendertrap Studio with the steady hand of Bergodaz
pushing the faders and the entire band providing a mixture of songs that
were to go through ‘the Ragas’ and take on an entirely new form. This
was no longer a solo experience for Walker.
"Phantom ride" refers to a genre of film made popular late in the 19th
century where the directors would strap a camera on the front of a
moving vehicle. The effect was to see everything moving in front of you,
but no clear indication of what is propelling the images. The "phantom"
is this invisible force.
It is an album put together by four people driven by songs. The premise
was to keep the record simple, keep the takes as live as possible,
minimize overdubs, and for each song to have a character of its own but
to fit with the rest. When you have a song that can stand up on its own,
it is surely the musicians' purpose to stay out of the way, do only what
is required and allow it to do what it will. I think if you asked any of
the Lost Ragas, they would all say that that is one of the true
pleasures of being in the band. No one is stepping on anyone else.
Unless, of course, that is what's required …..
the Phantom Ride.