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sound/music CD reviews

 Da Contents H2

May 1 2013
Jon Rose

April 3 2013
zephyr quartet
a rain from the shadows

July 17 2012
the wired lab
wired open day 2009

May 22 2012
ros bandt, johannes s sistermanns

March 20 2012
new weird australia editions: thomas williams vs scissor lock, spartak
jewelz & nippon

October 25 2011
avantwhatever label collection
gulbenkoglu gorfinkel; ben byrne; alex white; ivan lysiak

May 24 2011
disintegration: mutation

May 10 2011
blip (jim denley, mike majkowksi)

listen to the weather

March 22 2011
difference engine

November 22 2010
artefacts of australian experimental music volume II 1974-1983

September 20 2010
clocked out
the wide alley

September 7 2010
clocked out
foreign objects

August 23 2010
matt chaumont

July 26 2010
sky needle
time hammer

May 10 2010
mike majkowski
ink on paper

November 6 2009
new weird australia vols 1 & 2

October 26 2009
clare cooper & chris abrahams
germ studies

July 17 2009
erdem helvacioglu
wounded breath

rice corpse
mrs rice

April 28 2009
james rushford

joel stern
objects, masks, props

January 22 2009
loren chasse
the footpath

mark cauvin

December 12 2007
the splinter orchestra

October 24 2007
artefacts of australian experimental music 1930-1973

August 28 2007
akathistos fragments


various artists produced by le tuan hung; dindy vaughan
on the wings of a butterfly: cross-cultural music by australian composers; up the creek

May 1 2006
ai yamamoto

camilla hannan
more songs about factories

found: quantity of sheep

philip brophy

rod cooper

December 1 2005
anthony pateras
mutant theatre

December 1 2005
charlie charlie & will guthrie
la respiration des saintes & building blocks

dj olive

new belief system

jodi rose & guest artists
singing bridges: vibrations/variations

lawrence english

lawrence english
ghost towns

michael j schumacher
room pieces

robin fox
backscatter dvd


the necks
mosquito/see through

tim o'dwyer
multiple repeat

guns, cars & guitars

warp: various artists
warp vision: the videos 1989-2004

zane trow
for those who hear actual voices


Self release, 2005

Toydeath seems a bit of a misnomer for this Sydney band. Though the group has always based their work on "circuit bending"–gutting [and rewiring] whatever toys they could get their hands on–their skill is not in the carnage they reek but rather their ability to stitch the twitching remains back together to roam again like Frankenstein’s monster. Paradoxically, after a tune-up and voice box change courtesy of Toydeath, the toys are more alive than ever.

But just as Frankenstein’s monster came to question his place in the world, the band now seems to want something more and so we come to the major development on the group’s latest album Guns, Cars & Guitars–the appearance of actual songs. This is the focus of the first half of the album, both actual songs complete with lyrics and large slabs of songs taken from toys. Whether this is good news or not depends on your point of view. It certainly makes the band’s work more accessible and even 'sensical.' However, it also detracts from Toydeath's previous strengths as it relegates the sounds of screaming and malfunctioning toys to support the songs, rather than allowing the toys to sing for themselves.

I have seen Toydeath performances where they use the toys to great effect, both sonically and to produce a sort of storyline, the performance personas such as GI Joe and L’Booby relegating those behind the masks to mere players in a pantomime along with the other toys. However, this is largely lost in the band’s recorded output as their use of toys translates only as a refusal of electronic music’s current favoring of sonic purity and reverie. This alone remains refreshing, if definitely not new and places the group in a crowd of preset pushers and plunder artists. Perhaps Toydeath's is an art based in performance and such critique is unfair but without the visual reference of the toys themselves and the players' interaction with them it is hard to sustain attention.

Curiously the most interesting moments are towards the end as the songs begin to disappear and the tracks get shorter, slipping into one another–confusion grows and you begin to feel lost in some sort of absurd maze of lo-fi sound. There are certainly moments when the toys shine, most notably when allowed to speak for themselves, producing a low bit rate chorus of confusing half sentences and repeated questions, or better yet when urged to converse with others such as on the track Oh Barbie. Unfortunately though, Guns Cars and Guitars seems to see Toydeath in a bit of an identity crisis, unsure whether they or the toys are on show.

Ben Byrne

© Ben Byrne; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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