Fragmented Frequencies January 2012

Scissors and Sellotape is John McCaffrey. He lives in Northcote.  He also goes under the name of Upward Arrows and Part Timer and regardless of his non-de plume, the music is amazing. Originally from North England he settled here with his wife and child a few years back and continues to make amazing music that rarely receives a local release.  Last year alone he offered up Real to Real, a gentle understated release on Lost Tribe Sound as Part Timer, an album that lulls and seduces in equal measure. Later in the year he snuck in For The Tired and Ill at Ease on Frac-ture under the Scissors and Sellotape moniker, and it’s a work that deserves to be considered in everyone’s top ten. Except that like his Lost Tribe release it has no distribution in this country, which is nothing short of a crime.

It’s based on a session with frequent collaborator Heidi Elva who had befriended the priest at St Mary’s Church in Thornbury and negotiated 3 hours on the piano and organ in return for getting it tuned.

“Okay. I’m an absolute asshole,” offered McCaffrey earlier in the year when fragmented frequencies had the opportunity to sit down with the man behind the personalities.  “The idea was to go in there and record Heidi playing some fairly straight simple piano melodies and then afterwards I’d go in and add a bit of ambience to them and edit out some duff notes and add a little bit of pixie dust.” But it didn’t go entirely according to plan.

“I got the recordings home and I just couldn’t help myself, just chopping it stretching it, totally re-arranging phrases,” he laughed. “Within the space of two days I had three tracks. So I sent them to Heidi and she was like ‘No that’s not what I wanted at all.’”

The resulting album is sparse, gentle, and contemplative, like a series of melodic waves crashing down around you. There’s a strong electronic/digital element to the music, where McCaffrey has interspersed crackles, skips and beats, leaning heavily upon reverb and constructing a dreamy highly creative sound world that frequently beguiles and amazes in equal measure.

Goodgrief Commune are also local but much stranger. They refer to themselves as ‘punk-primitive free-noise,’ and their triple cassette document is ‘the Melbourne via Tasmania faux-skronk aesthetic in all its harmonically oversaturated glory.’  It’s noisy, messy, but somehow quite beautifully wrong. It features members of Snawklor and Mum Smokes and a bunch of other bands at their unruly best. They suggest it’s ‘evidence of many inner-city days spent indoors, hitting record on a found cassette recorder, exuding shambolic sonics to be captured on a stack of found cassette tapes; and rolling till the spools ground to a halt. The resulting mess is available at

The recent Australasian World Music Expo (AWME) alerted us to the notion that world music is on our doorstep. Wantok Musik is a label/ foundation set up by David Bridie and hosts some of the best and brightest from here, PNG, West Papua and Vanuatu. Artists include South Australian Indigenous desert dwelling rockers Iwantja who are clearly destined for great things with their Payla release of last year, PNG bass player Mogu, and the Incredible Moad Stringband’s gorgeously uplifting sounds. Wantok is a not for profit foundation that was established to generate and foster relationships between Australia and its neighbors, as well as support and release indigenous artists from the region. Check for more details.

Recently Bridie and a few others soundtracked Strange Birds of Paradise. The film screened on the 3rd of January on SBS and is available on DVD, documenting the Indonesian army’s atrocities in West Papua. It’s a secret and dirty war where 100,000 men, women and children have been murdered for resources and politics. The film uses the songs of assassinated musician Arnold Ap as a basis to delve into the regions sordid history. Ap is this regions Fela Kuti, their Bob Marley. At AWME it was West Papuan musician Ronnie Kareni made it real. His own father had been seriously assaulted by the military a week prior for assisting to smuggle people out of the country, yet he still came to AWME to deliver the message. “Music can be the voice of the voiceless he offers,” and that’s what makes labels like Wantok so important.   Check for more details on the struggle.

Best of 2011

Seun Kuti – From Africa With Fury: Rise (Cartell)
2nd slab of Afro funk power from son of Fela. Now he’s roped in Eno. A recipe like this can’t fail.

Balkan Brass Battle (Asphalt Tango)
It’s a brass off, full of spit and ego. Music to inspire heart attacks and savage drinking.

Scott Morrison
Incredibly classy organic field recordings and images gathered from the same place. Sound/video art has never felt so accessible.

Omar Souleyman – Haflat Garbia (Sublime Frequencies)
The best wedding singer ever came to town this year. It wasn’t so much his ability to work the crowd into a frenzy, rather it was his synth guy Rizan’s amazing Syrian techno. Absolute Joy. Check the track from the Northcote Social Club.

Blanck Mass – Blanck Mass (Rock Action)
Funck the Buttons, these icy metallic field recordings, like caverns of pipes in a bleak industrial complex sound like a bastard child of Phillip Jeck and a pre singing Eluvium, perhaps even Jean Michel Jarre if he chose to crank out the distortion from time to time.

Tinariwen – Tassili (V2)
A few albums in and these incredible Toureg’s keep things interesting by roping in the dude from TV on the Radio, Nels Cline and New Orleans Brass Band, creating some really interesting fusions of styles and ideas whilst still keeping their unique identity.

The Leafs – Space Elevator (Flaming Snake Records)
8 songs in 13 minutes = pure pop genius without the fat. Or anything else that could get in the way.

Constant Light – Observations 1 (Second Language)
Providing dreamy, krautrock influenced, repetitive and mostly instrumental washes of sound, with drum machines and droning synths, bubbling atmospheres and elongated loops, you can hear elements of everyone from Budd and Eno to Vangelis in these sounds if you wish to. I wished to.

Orchestra Peter Thomas – Orion 2000 (Omni)
Obscure lost library record from legendary German composer. It’s an attempt to return to the space theme of Rampatrouille with bigger brass, a chugging rock beat and out there studio effects. They don’t make em like this anymore. What a shame.

Pimmon – The Oansome Orbit (Room40)
Whimsical and melodic, yet it also develops into roaring, ferocious and aggressive crescendos. It’s complex, even the gentle moments are highly textural with multiple strange layers of sonics, bubbling around. words can do it justice.