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part 3: sydney scenes & sounds

gail priest: ¼_inch, psh.live


FUKNO, 1/4_inch FUKNO, 1/4_inch
photo Aaron Hull
IN THE FINAL PART OF THIS SURVEY OF EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC ACTIVITIES AROUND SYDNEY (AND A LITTLE BIT BEYOND) I ATTEND ONE OF THE LONGEST RUNNING AND MOST NOMADIC EVENTS, 1/4_INCH, AND THE YOUNGEST OF THE BUNCH, PSH.LIVE, OPERATING OUT OF A NEW ARTIST-RUN-SPACE IN ROZELLE .

¼_inch

¼_inch began in 2002 in the heady days of the first wave of experimental audio events. Started by Aaron Hull and Julius Ambroisine, then students at the University of Western Sydney, it sought to complement gigs like Caleb Kelly’s impermanent.audio. Both took place at The Frequency Lab and while Kelly certainly programmed emerging artists ¼_inch had an arguably more laid-back curatorial approach, presenting more student works and a more diverse range of musics.

In 2005 Hull moved events to Wollongong (where he lives and works) still presenting occasional Sydney shows; however as of 2010 he has concentrated solely on Wollongong. Since 2008 events have been co-curated with Greg Hughes taking place in a range of venues including the iconic Headlands Hotel in Austinmer (now closed, the site slated for redevelopment), a modern industrial unit and various spaces around University of Wollongong. The night I attended, the venue was Yours and Owls, a cute café bar in the heart of Wollongong’s CBD.

It was hard not to expect a playful tone to the night with band names such as Gregisms, Wizard Bong, FUKNO and a DJ known as AKA. Gregisms is Dean English & Jariss Shead, students at the University of Wollongong, playing, to my taste, the most engaging set of the night. Using no-input mixing, voice, iPhone and various other effects they create sculpted layers of textured feedback, filling the harmonic spectrum to create an intense soundscape with satisfying internal logics and plenty of detail.

Next up was Wizard Bong—Fraughman (Steve Stuart) on guitar/vocals and Swerve (Steve Harris of DualPlover label) on analogue synthesiser/vocals. Perhaps their sound was too big for such a small room serviced by a non-attended PA, as even they admitted that they struggled to create any sense of structure or relative clarity within their particular brand of guitar assault cum big synth effects and vocal screamo. A shame, as listening to their tracks later online (http://wizardbong.bandcamp.com/releases) there’s definitely something intriguing going on there that sounds completely different from their live performance.

Final act for the night was local hero FUKNO who appeared with a yellow T-shirt fashioned into a balaclava with drawn-on smiley face, playing a range of electronics housed in a plastic bread-delivery crate. The music is noisy, crunchy idiosyncratic techno, with unpredictable squeals and squelches over great thumping beats that he bribes us to dance to by passing out tabs of “acid.” Maybe they worked as a few lads hit the one-by-one-metre dance floor. It’s a neat, well-executed parody (or extension of a form, I’m not quite sure which) and particularly amusing given the inappropriateness of the venue.

This session of ¼_inch had cohesion in its selection of acts, playful and chaotic as they were. Other events have had more serious approaches and the very presence of the gig in a regional city (admittedly one very close to Sydney) is important in terms of developing local musicians and the beginnings of an east-coast touring circuit for both interstate and international artists.

Defektro, PSH.Live Defektro, PSH.Live
photo Gail Priest
psh.live

It seems fitting to end this series on sound events in Sydney with the newest gig on the scene, PSH.Live. The PSH gallery is part of Anyplace Projects, a collective that negotiates between property owners and potential tenants to allow temporary use of unoccupied spaces for community and cultural purposes. The Terry Street warehouse in Rozelle includes the Blood & Thunder printing press, a screen-printing facility open to the public, a cinema, a band rehearsal room and artists’ studios. The PSH gallery is basically the garage of the warehouse, allowing one-night-only exhibitions, and also opens its roller door once a month on a Sunday afternoon for live experimental music curated by Romy Caen (also curator of Sound Series see Part 2, RT104) and Liam O’Donoghue.

The July instalment focused on handmade and home-hacked instruments. Anomie kicked off the afternoon with John Papert on cobbled together drum kit augmented with glass vases and objects and Mark Hall on pedals and guitar. Papert’s percussion has an orchestral feel, with deep tom rolls, cymbals, gongs and glassy boings on the vases, spacious and well integrated with Hall’s sheets of affected guitar feedback moving through a nice mix of rhythmic shifts.

Next up was Defektro (Hirofumi Uchino) who makes his own effects pedals and instruments. With a startling array of electronics on the table in front of him, his version of noise is curiously restrained and minimal with only a few sonic elements introduced at one time—a slow insistent beat, scraping metals, small taps and the occasional squall of dirty feedback. The effect is of small episodes of sound and I wish for more momentum in the middle section but he makes up for this with his shredding jet engine sequence near the end, augmented by a military-like parabolic speaker scattering sound around the small space in unpredictable directions. Of course it’s impossible not to mention the gas-powered sound cannon that shoots a burst of flame when the spring mechanism is hit, producing a surprisingly sweet clang and quiet whoomf. Defektro also sells his pedals, which are beautiful hand-made objects in themselves.

The final act of the afternoon was Mike Majkowski and Dale Gorfinkel working with extended techniques on double bass and vibraphone respectively, an interesting analogue complement to the earlier acts, and covered recently in RealTime (see Part 2, RT104).

Given the range of events discussed in this series of articles, one might wonder whether we needed another experimental music gig, however PSH.Live offers a point of difference by including an after-show discussion. The conversation following this performance covered instrument building and its political, economic and creative motivations as well as lively debate around the difference between experimental practices and experimental music. All the discussions are transcribed and published online, along with full sound files of each to the sets. This is a great resource (though difficult to find on the Anyplace site without the direct link from Facebook; www.anyplaceprojects.com/?p=129), and makes PSH.Live a vital addition to the culture of experimental music in Sydney and most particularly its documentation.

life cycles

The gig series featured in this three-part survey are key activities that ensure a vibrant spirit of adventure and innovation across a range of music practices including pop, improv, noise and electronica, which for better or worse can be defined as experimental in agenda. In addition to these events there are also venues that mount individual gigs such as Dirty Shirlows and the CAD Factory, and a few loungeroom events that wish to remain under the radar for fear of the imposition of town council regulations. There’s a range of activities more in the jazz realm such as 501, Colbourne Ave at Glebe Cafe Church, Impermanent Studio, Cockatoo Calling and regular SIMA events that also have an impact on the vibrancy of the non-mainstream musical landscape. While some of the events occasionally receive funding, allowing artists to be paid a small fee, on the whole these activities are fuelled solely by a passion to provide avenues for artists to explore their practice and for audiences to experience new sounds. This DIY model inevitably leads to short life cycles, although this survey illustrates that longevity is sometimes possible. As the impact of new liquor and public entertainment licensing laws is just beginning to be felt in Sydney, I look forward to seeing which events will thrive and what new activities will develop in the future.


¼_inch, curators Aaron Hull, Greg Hughes, performers, AKA, Gregisms, Wizard Bong, FUKNO, Yours & Owls, Wollongong, Aug 25; www.1-4inch.com; PSH.Live, curators Romy Caen, Liam O’Donoghue, performers Anomie, Defektro, Dale Gorfinkel & Mike Majkowski, PSH Gallery, Rozelle; July 31; www.anyplaceprojects.com

See also Part 1: The Silent Hour, Ladyz in Noyz, High Reflections (RT103) and Part 2: The NOW now, Sound Series (RT104)

RealTime issue #105 Oct-Nov 2011 pg. 36

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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