|Kusum Normoyle, Sean Baxter, Peter Blamey, High Reflections|
video still courtesy Kusum Normoyle
By around 2006 things were dying down: venues were scarce, event organisers became tired and/or got real jobs and the media arts bubble burst, taking with it the more audio focused university courses. But maybe this was the pause that refreshes because in 2011, along with a few of the older events that continue, there is another batch of regular gigs with new performers and new audiences. Over the next editions I will survey some of these, exploring their particular flavours (and flaws) and discovering ways in which artists are currently reshaping our expectations of music.
the silent hour
The Silent Hour is the latest addition to the experimental music scene, starting in January 2011. It is run through The General Store Gallery, William Street in Kings Cross, under the guidance of Ben Galvin with occasional guest curators. The shows are irregular but can occur up to twice a month and the programming so far shops across a range of styles from improv, audiovisual, pop inflected electronica and a hint of noisier stuff, with no sense of a rigid agenda.
A small but loving audience attended Session IV featuring three acts. Hinterlandt (Jochen Gutsch, from Germany now residing in Sydney) presented a jam-packed set on keyboard, trumpet, guitar, samples and vocals. He moves effortlessly through a lot of material and after 30 minutes it begins to feel overloaded, but it’s well-produced electro pop with complicated structures and warped edges. Scissor Lock (Marcus Whale) is a man about town, performing regularly at many of these series. His luscious rafts of sound made from layers of static and mangled voice form into sweet and abrasive crescendos that seem at once familiar yet unique.
Visiting German artist Max Neupert closed the night with a live data and video link up with THE! —Tommy Neuwirth, Clemens Wegener—in different locations in Germany. Writing only code they played a collaborative piece of shifting beats and bleeps that was complex and playful, making the most of the limited midi sound palette. In the following weeks Neupert also presented Satellite Zodiac, a gallery installation mapping the realtime data of satellites across our night skies with moving laser pointers. This forms part of an intriguing body of work concerned with modern astronomy.
While the rhetoric around The Silent Hour is somewhat overwrought and the title curious given the events are neither silent nor an hour in length, the intimate space, openness of curation and the enthusiasm of Ben Galvin make this series worth investigating.
|Daisy Buchanan, Ladyz in Noyze, Adelaide|
ladyz in noyz
Predominantly a Melbourne activity run by Lara Soulio, this was a tour to promote the CD compilation of the same name, with gigs in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Newcastle (Soulio is extending the work of Marlo Eggplant’s US compilations through Corpus Callosum). While there has been reluctance in the past few years (in Sydney at least) to create separate women’s sound events, it feels as though Ladyz in Noyz has a celebratory, non-righteous agenda that releases it from concerns about ghettoisation. The ladyz vibe was nicely reinforced by the venue, The Red Rattler in Marrickville, a fully legal artist-run theatre established by a collective of women in 2009, which has been a godsend to the alternative performing arts.
Refreshingly, there were four acts from out of town that I hadn’t heard before. Rites Wild (Adelaide) presented a set of songs made from big dirty synth sounds, pared back drumming (by a male) and distorted war chant vocals creating a Nico-esque dirge. Daisy Buchanan (Melbourne) on keyboard offered blizzards of shredded descending tones and dark, folky vocals, heavy on apocalyptic atmosphere. I particularly enjoyed Oranj Punjabi (Melbourne) who used a tabletop full of pedals and electrical boxes, setting up drones by singing into an electro-hacked tin can, her metallic thumps and big delays reminiscent of early industrial music. Finally Festive Jackals (Lismore/Melbourne) sculpted vocal utterances into thick layers of buzzy fuzz, their delayed shouts escalating into a nightmare soundscape that might have pleased Dante.
While each of these artists had their own methodologies, there were strong similarities in their dirty fuzz, bassy drones, submerged vocals and sudden stops. Onnie Art (Melbourne) offered a slightly different approach working with voice, electronics and objects (a tape measure flicked savagely) creating a more chaotic, comic performance. Kusum Normoyle (Sydney) gave us the most physical and brutal set, her screaming and feedback assault deftly crafted to form a thick but detailed noisescape. Normoyle aside (her signature is brevity), I was surprised that all sets barely topped 15 minutes. While particularly sensitive to artists overstaying their welcome I couldn’t shake the feeling that these ladyz should boldly demand more of our time.
While not yet a regular Sydney event, Ladyz in Noyz is certainly an interesting addition to the sound landscape. Lara Soulio has plans to make it happen here again, hopefully with more local involvement.
photo Paul Marshall
It could be argued that High Reflections kicked off the resurgence of sound activity in 2009. Caleb Kelly, curator of previous activities such as the seminal impermanent.audio and Pelt Gallery teamed up with Alex White who moved straight from running Electrofringe (2007-08) to take on Serial Space, the venue originally founded by Tameka Carter and Louise Dibben in 2008 that can also be credited with keeping the lights on through the dark times. Taking place monthly on a Saturday night it offered a more upbeat but no less edgy side of experimental music, drawing in elements from more alt-pop genres like metal, no-wave, freak-folk and psychedelia.
I use the past tense as the curators have decided to wrap it up with the final two nights taking place at The Red Rattler: a mini-festival presenting 17 artists, many in new combinations. One particularly successful pairing featured Jon Hunter and Nonemusic (Nic de Jong from Naked on the Vague) playing a sustained guitar epiphany. For the majority of the piece Nonemusic focused on a detuned arpeggio loaded with delay to create an ever-evolving sea of notes. Hunter exacted astounding sounds from his guitar—bubbling water, banshee howling and a truly bone-chilling wooden creaking like a ship in the process of breaking up. The cohesion between the two loosened as it morphed into a kind of broken pop song, but overall we witnessed a dynamic meeting of minds and guitars.
The second evening offered some magic sets. Long time favourites who perform rarely, Machine Death work with dirty minimalist pulses that build by infinitesimal layers, like intricate Japanese lacquer work, to enormous noise. If they’d pushed the volume just a little more in the latter tracks, we just might have reached that higher plain.
Sean Baxter on drums, Kusum Normoyle on voice and Peter Blamey on electronic emissions offered some hardcore extreme clamour. Normoyle prowls the stage, howling and triggering feedback that wraps around Blamey’s deep, electronic eructations, with all the spaces filled by Baxter’s metal pipes clattering over his drumkit: loud, dense and bracing.
However the real highlight was the psychological terror induced by Thembi Soddell’s performance. With the lights turned off and a request for quiet (even the rattling fridges were silenced), Soddell, hidden from view, created an amazingly evocative soundscape of unspecified but terrifying dread coming towards us slowly from a distance. An intensifying rumble augmented by half-human, half-animal shrieks reaches its zenith and then sucks back down, vacuum-like, to a ringing almost-silence, only to begin again. With a fine balance between augmented field recording and machine noise Soddell perfectly controls this exhilarating journey into her unconscious—or is it our own?
The final night of High Reflections was a fitting roundup of two years of diverse and adventurous programming and it is sad to see the end of another era. But as this current resurgence of gigs evidences, it’s all part of a greater cycle—there’s more to come.
Next up I’ll report on visits to Sound Series and 1/4 inch.
The Silent Hour, curator Ben Galvin, The General Store, March 31, www.the-generalstore.net/The_SIlent_Hour.html; Ladyz in Noyz —Sydney, curator Lara Soulio, The Red Rattler, April 10; High Reflections, curators Caleb Kelly, Alex White, The Red Rattler, Sydney, May 25-26, www.highreflections.org/
RealTime issue #103 June-July 2011 pg. 40
© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org