Tip of the Spear

His first album was named Subversive.
This latest release: Tip of the Spear.
The liner notes credit his militia – a long list of vocalists alongside a couple of instrumentalists that feature on the new album.
Track one is titled First Casualty.

There’s a pattern here, right? You can see where this is heading.

The media release Pat flicks me reads almost like a warning:

“His latest offering is on that good Melbourne hip hop, soul, jazz tip. While it will still put him on an ASIO watch list, the sharp lyricism provides informed articulated critiques as well alternatives to the current dominant paradigm. Delving into ideas, theory and reflections around homogenous culture, economic structures, resistance, systems of learning, illegal detention, invasion, collective depression, utilitarian norms, love and more.”

For some artists, their art-making, politics and activism are one and the same. Patrick Marks, aka Pataphysics, is such an artist. In track 2, Frames, Pat protests oppressive political structures. In track 3, Shake The Roots, he protests greed and corruption. More protests follow. Track 4 – The dumbing down of the citizenry through mass institutionalized schooling. Track 7 – War, dispossession, colonization. Track 8 – Australia’s abhorrent and dehumanizing treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. You get the gist.

Now, I do love a good protest song. And it’s obvious this album is full of them. So Pat really ‘had me at hello’ so to speak. But what is even more impressive than his intelligent and critically thoughtful lyric, is that the album really holds it’s own musically.

Pat is a fine electroacoustic songwriter, producer and composer with a style that hints at an array of brilliant musical influences across genres. On my first listen-through of Tip of the Spear, I heard traces of the likes of John Coltrane, Jimi-freakin’-Hendrix, the great Stevie Wonder, home-grown legends Hill Top Hoods and even Run DMC and Soul II Soul. Now that might say more about my listening exposure than anything else, but it also says a lot about the eclectic nature of Pat’s unique sound.

On this album, he raps and plays trumpet, flugelhorn, guitars, bass, drums and piano – plus old-skool music tech machines like Moog, MPC and Rhodes piano. The album is heavily produced but it’s not over-produced. Ultimately what ties it all together and makes it work as one cohesive sound, is a warm, fuzzy, at times dirty and distorted analogue acoustic wash that sits beneath all the jazz, funk, hip-hop and soul goodness.

Standout tracks for me include:
Prologue – delightfully dirty and distorted.
Learned – fast raps, funky riffs and gorgeous vocals by Alysha Joy.
Today – this is the “feel-good” hero track. Totally hits the mark. Love.
Let we Forget – where do I even start with this one? It can’t be classified or labelled musically at all and that’s where it’s brilliance lies. Weirdly, it reminds me of arcade games from the mid 90s. There’s gotta be a Mortal Combat sample in there somewhere!?
Binary Star – soul-full flugelhorn sweetness makes way for even sweeter vocals and lyrics.
Disturbance in the Frequency – trippy sound design.

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Tip of the Spear is a really, really good musical offering. Listen or download on Spotify.

A bit about Pat:
Beyond his work as a producer/composer/performer, Sri-Lankan born Pat Marks, is the Music & Arts coordinator of R.I.S.E (Refugees, Survivors, and Ex-Detainees), running ongoing music, beat making, and poetry workshops, as well as providing recording & production for young artists. He also lectures in music at The Australian College of the Arts. Read his full bio on his website.

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