|Sky Needle, Time Hammer|
Fortuitously, Sky Needle’s 7" vinyl disc Time Hammer arrived on my doorstep just after I was given a turntable (having been bereft of one for the last decade). While the group Sky Needle was not known to me (named after the Brisbane architectural folly built for Expo 88 and then purchased by millionaire hairdresser Stefan), two of its three members, Joel Stern and Ross Manning, are Brisbane experimental music stalwarts and they have found a kindred spirit in visual/sound artist Alex Cuffe.
Each plays a curious home made instrument—Stern on “latex pump horn,” Manning on “elastic dust shovel,” and Cuffe on “speaker box.” The result is a joyous, wonky kind of sound, curiously reminiscent of 80s post-punk, crafted into two reasonably tight tracks that are not so much funky as kind of…thunky.
This is a music in which the raw materials of the instruments (including elastic bands, a kitchen dust pan, old speaker housing and lengths of garden hose) are allowed to shine, introducing alternate harmonics and tasty timbres. The plunky twang of Manning’s dust shovel wraps around the chewy rubberiness of Cuffe’s speaker box, punctuated by the nasal honks of Stern’s footpump operated horns (a much more pleasing tonality than a stadium full of vuvuzelas).
Side A offers “Sweet 16 Snorks” which starts with driving buzzy bass notes that play in and around the higher string line, offset by staccato horn hoots and clanging pulses. This weighty intro quickly shifts into a higher, looser and lyrical interplay of strings and horn swoops, only to shift again into a third section of more agitated rhythms, handclaps and jangles. There is a real agility to the structural shifts in this piece, evincing the experience of the artists.
Side B gives us “The Stain” which offers a looser approach with minimalist rhythm figures, occasionally hinting at dissolution, which unevenly accumulate until an abrupt halt. I wish Time Hammer had been a 10-inch single so I could really see where "The Stain" might go.
Almost danceable and strangely cute, Sky Needle’s Time Hammer makes a fine start to my contemporary vinyl collection.
© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to firstname.lastname@example.org