Throughout the 1980s and 1990s LOUIS TILLETT provided a commanding and distinctive presence on the Australian alternative music scene. He was a softly spoken individual, yet it was his rich baritone singing voice (once described as “burning like a deep wound… like it’s oozing from the cracks of a tomb”), characteristic keyboard technique and exceptional song writing skills that earned him a reputation as an artist of considerable imagination, authority and conviction, and as a sideman of redoubtable stature. In addition to leading groups like the Wet Taxis, Paris Green and the Aspersion Caste, his work as a backing musician with Catfish, Ed Kuepper, the New Christs and Tex Perkins kept him firmly in the public eye. Louis’s first band, the Wet Taxis, commenced life as an experimental outfit in the manner of fellow Sydneysiders Severed Heads and Scattered Order before taking on a tougher 1960s-influenced direction. Their classic debut single on the Hot label, ‘C’mon’ (1984), boasted an authentic garage/R&B sound heavily influenced by such American garage/punk bands as the Moving Sidewalks, We the People and the Chocolate Watchband plus legendary Australian group the Atlantics (who originally issued the song as ‘Come On’ in 1967). Alongside the likes of Died Pretty, the Celibate Rifles, the Lime Spiders, the New Christs, the Hoodoo Gurus and the Eastern Dark, the Wet Taxis came to epitomise the Australian garage rock sound and aesthetic of the 1980s. The band’s only album was the appropriately named From the Archives (Hot, 1984). The 1960s garage rock sound served the Wet Taxis well, yet Louis was constantly in search of new musical terrain to explore. This led him to the acoustic-based No Dance side project with Died Pretty’s Brett Myers and Celibate Rifles’ Damien Lovelock (one EP, ‘Carnival of Souls’ in 1984) and the improvisational jazz/blues-influenced Paris Green ensemble which covered material ranging from Mose Allison and John Coltrane to Ray Charles. Following the release of the Wet Taxis single ‘Sailor’s Dream’ on the Citadel label (1987), Louis folded the band and immediately recorded his debut solo album Ego Tripping at the Gates of Hell with support from a stellar array of local musicians including guitarist Charlie Owen and drummer Louis Burdett. The album relied upon a brooding intensity for its emotional effect, yet there was always a lighter more positive side as displayed on tracks like ‘Trip to Kalu-Ki-Bar’.His next band the Aspersion Caste included Owen, Burdett, ex-Wet Taxis guitarist Penny Ikinger and a powerful horn section and was heard on A Cast of Aspersions (1990) and its astonishing single ‘Condemned to Live’. A Cast of Aspersions was an eclectic and potent exploration of mood and emotions driven by Louis’s booming baritone voice and smouldering organ, jagged guitar lines and the swinging brass arrangements. Louis kept the Aspersion Caste on the road (including performances in Europe and New York) until 1992 when he recorded his next solo album Letters to a Dream. In 1995, he collaborated with Owen on the album Midnight Rain before they joined Ken Gormly and Jim Elliot (from the Cruel Sea) as backing musicians for Tex Perkins, on tour to promote his 1996 solo album Far be it From Me. Louis released his last album, Cry against the Faith, in 1999. As well as travelling overseas and succumbing to bouts of ill-health due to his well-publicised battle with alcoholism, he continued to put in occasional live performances around Sydney (often with help from Gormly and Elliot). An ABC-TV documentary produced a few years ago on the man, A Night at Sea, provided rare insight into his role as a performer and his struggles with personal demons. He has now emerged in 2005 with renewed vigour. All of which brings us to his new album, The Hanged Man, an exemplary return to form and a solo release in the truest sense. Louis recorded The Hanged Man in Bangkok, Thailand in July 2004 with a local engineer called O, and it focuses squarely on his skills as a song writer, producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist par excellence – a remarkable achievement from a remarkable musician. The deep connection to the blues/jazz/swamp rock feel essential to his sound has remained, yet there is so much more. One only has to listen to the nine brilliant tracks to hear the emotional outpouring on offer here. Louis has opened his heart and soul, faced down his demons and overcome his fears in the most cathartic way – song writing and recording as personal therapy. With lyric lines throughout the album as compelling and insightful as the following: “… shows me the journey I must make” (‘Ocean Bound’)“… I now have some hope, this will keep me afloat” (‘Four Walls’)“… the main thing I want is these voices to stop” (‘Through the Dream’)“… I pray for redemption and hope for a sign” (‘Prayer Before Dawn’)“… it all seems to go away with the start of a brand new day” (‘Around You’)“… I’m looking high I’m looking low, now it’s clear what I must do” (‘It’s Alright Now’)and “… a dream fulfilled, a love rebuilt… I’ve returned to a perfect friend, the journey’s end” (‘Teary Eyes’)…this is Louis embracing the very joyousness of a bright future. The Hanged Man features music as vital, beautiful, emotional and uncompromising as any in the history of Australian rock. Take the time to accept this incredible musician and his art.