Australian ambient folk
Ones To Watch: The Middle East

Bands come up weird when they’re from the hinterland. But in a funny way, they come up the same.

Take The Middle East, a band from the flint-tough dustbowl in north-west Australia, who sound, with their glockenspiel-to-acoustic-guitar band range, like another from the Iceland tundra, Sigur Rós.

In an unusual move from a hipster-hyped band, the leaf skeleton-soft vocals that spool out on their tracks often deal with God. The band all comes from a staunch Pentecostal background in Townsville, their native city, and with clear ‘the Lord’-referencing tracks such as ‘Blood’, they are pretty bare-chested about it.

The band’s singer Rohin tells Clash while on the road in Arizona: “I’ve abandoned myself to the fact that I’m not perfect, but God loves me anyway - the more I abandon myself to the fact that he’s God and I’m not, and that he loved me more than he hates me, the better I feel. Christ demonstrates all that pretty perfectly.”

So far they have toured with Doves, opened for Laura Marling and Mumford And Sons, and while the majority of their available music comes from a long 2007 EP called ‘The Recordings Of The Middle East’, from which the previously mentioned single ‘Blood’ was released as a single in March on the Chess Club label.

They have been compared to Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear, who they also toured with in Australia. One critic said a song on the EP was like “a jellyfish - there’s not much going on inside it.” Some of the band’s lesser output can indeed be distressingly ambient, and Rohin does mention that he is working on some film scores, for which this would fit. However there is a cobweb beauty to much of their music, which begins in the lullaby vocals and the intriguingly weird lyrics.

The band, which uses electric and acoustic guitar, drums, hand percussion, piano, glockenspiel and trumpet in their harmonies, are a seven-piece, and comprise of Rohin, Jordan, Jack, Bree, Mikey, Mark, and Joe.

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The MIddle East - Blood

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Rohin and Bree studied music together at uni - apparently Bree is “pretty much the only reason I passed my degree,” Rohin admits. “I’m a terrible student - I would straight copy what she did! The easiest possible way...”

This summer they travel to the UK for a series of shows, including Glastonbury, Somerset House and Latitude. They may here find a captive audience for the heavy Lord Of The Rings references in their music - this is explained with a straight admission: “I’m a bit of a dweeb, and err on the side of nerd as well.” Like the assonance.

The Middle East, making peace, not war in a zone near you soon.

Words by Miguel Cullen

Where: Townsville, Australia
What: Ambient folk
Unique Fact: Their guilty pleasure is ’70s church music.
Get 3 songs: ‘Blood’, ‘Darkest Side’, ‘Fool’s Gold’


Clash Magazine Issue 51

This is an extended version of an article that appears in the 51st issue of Clash Magazine. Pick it up in stores from June 4th.

Find out more about the issue HERE. Subscribe to Clash Magazine HERE.



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