Live review: The Raah Project in Melbourne
I waved my way through the clouds of fog-machine bliss and blue light haze into The Estonian House’s large art-deco hall. It was a rare moment. That ice cold twitch down the back of your neck, the curious moment of finally understanding what it must have been like for your ancestors; just as they broke into Balkans mausoleums to boldly liberate gold fillings, I too experienced the cool dread of entering a place devoid of life.
It was a Thursday night in West Brunswick and, unfortunately, this hall ended up just a bit too big for our evening’s needs. All the pieces were there; the bands were great, the venue beautiful, but with a lack of punters, it was somewhat of a struggle to build that necessary electricity.
DJ Mike Gurrieri was the first cab off the ranks, trying to breathe some life into the proceedings, spinning a well curated mix of ambient jazz and grooves to our audience of approximately seven. The tunes helped set the scene; a sense of borrowed nostalgia being toyed with all night, drowned in the lush lighting projection in this former cinema.
Tanzer sauntered onto the stage with her band, her soulful Shirley Bassey pop vocals front and centre, flanked by her ambient band, a garden of buttoned up floral shirts. Tanzer brought a sense of showmanship which kicked the gig into higher gear, decked out in leather jacket and high waisted jeans much like Olivia Newton John in that car film.
Strong, sultry, sharp vocals, the lone female silhouetted, piercing the silence of this old quiet hall.
There’s a habit of hack writers describing things as Lynchian.
Tonight was very Lynchian, creating a thick dreamlike atmosphere akin to Blue Velvet.
The Raah Project sold out their last shows, which is impressive. Tonight, however, we were scraping maybe a third capacity. Even the trombonist couldn’t make it, bringing them down to an utterly minuscule fifteen piece band. What really hit me was the string section. A sharp piercing violin trio morphing in and out of a quartet with conductor, composer and band co-leader, Tamile Rogeon, building intensity and then mutating, twisting the clean orchestrations with Ryan Ritchie’s anguished vocals and sparingly used dirty drum machine perverting it all with a much welcome grime.
It’s the juxtapositions that shine strongest with The Raah Project. What would normally be sampled, they cleanly conduct and orchestrate. The added darkness in their tracks like ‘Kill Me in the Summer’ or their delightfully weird Aphex Twin fusion ‘Jazzbar 2025’ joyously infects the sound with a darkness, making it shine all the more.
The electricity was strangled by numbers, but The Raah Project worked double time to embrace the intimate and make the audience that did come feel important and cherished.
Vibing off the punters, the band conjured up a fully improvised track with Ryan free styling, happily lashing together all the random thoughtless wank we yelled as suggestions into the core lyrics.
The Raah Project is a 16 piece band. They don’t have the luxury of time to participate in the theatricality of the encore, navigating all these people off and on the stage into and out of their specific blocking.
So instead, they warmly thanked us, and just stayed with us.
There weren’t many people, but those of us who stayed huddled together in this large hall and swayed and grooved with them through their goodbye, before ducking back out into the cool night air.
Review by Riley James.