You know when you go to a café or a bar and there’s some poor soul in the corner who’s explicit job it is to provide ‘background’ music? You’ve seen that forlorn looking troubadour who fills the awkward silences of faltering conversations, politely declining requests for Creedence Clearwater Revival, while singing into a microphone that they’re sure isn’t a) hygienically safe or b) switched on. It takes some sort of artist to transcend the contract of the background music and make people order another drink, just so they can stay a while longer and listen.
I’ve read about Bob Dylan taking over Greenwich Village in the ‘60s and I’ve listened through headphones for pin drops as Jeff Buckley shook the walls of Sin’ E. But I could only count on one hand the artists I’ve actually seen do it. Twenty-four year old Mcrobin (aka James McGuffie) is one of these artists. Possessing a voice of Buckley-level virtuosity, delivered with the controlled confidence of Chet Baker and an instrumental flair sharpened by years of studying Nick Drake’s finger-picking and Bill Evans’ chords, Mcrobin is the kind of musician that doesn’t even need to demand your attention; he already has it. While this outward brilliance hooks you in at first - like fellow Melbournians such as Lior and Hue Blanes,who cut their teeth silencing the clatter of cafes and bars - it’s his pairing of such refined musicality with damn good songwriting that keeps you there. No sooner was this recognised than with the release of his debut single Waiting for the Rain in 2014, which was a finalist for both the International Songwriting Competition and the Darebin Music Feast Songwriters' Award.
Venturing from his alternative-folk centre into offshoots of AM radio alt-country, slow-burning jazz balladry and intelligent indie-rock, Mcrobin’s debut EP, Fault Lines, sounds like the validation of a decade of songwriting self-education. Layered harmonies and subtle electronic textures recall the cinematic musical scope of Beck and Sufjan Stevens, while lyrically, the four songs offer internally acute observations of the external world. Whether staring out of his boyhood bedroom at the natural wonder of the North-East Victorian landscape or finding himself stranded overnight at a desolate American train station, Mcrobin harvests beauty from the everyday to shape couplets of Leonard Cohen-esque surrealism. Complimenting his lyrical approach is the constant sourcing of inspiration through the philosophy and discipline of Yoga, which provides an optimistic and life-affirming angle to Mcrobin’s words that mark him as one of the more unique songwriters to surface in recent times.
Recorded and produced alongside drummer/collaborator Jim Rindfleish and mixed by renowned engineer Matt Voigt (Big Scary, Oh Mercy), the sonically expansive Fault Lines teases at the possibility of many diverse future musical directions, as any great EP from a young artist should. All you need to do is keep listening.
A huge thanks to Jim for being my right hand man on this project. Couldn’t have done it without you. To Joe, Coops, Billy and Carl for your input. You all brought something really special to the songs and it was an honour to have you help me bring these songs to life. To all my friends and family for their continued support. I’m so lucky to have all of you in my life. Without you I wouldn’t be who I am and this wouldn’t be what it is, so thankyou. And finally, thanks to you, for finding a place for me and my music in your life. For all I put into it I hope there is something special for you to get out of it.
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