Australia is peculiar in that it loves home-grown music right now, but ignores its past. Maybe it’s cultural cringe but we’ll take a reissue of an obscure Chicago deep funk private press over anything that grew here. Allow me to elaborate.
Geoff Krozier creates some of the strangest music you will ever hear. It’s shamanistic outsider spoken word with a broad Australian accent merged post prog synth jams. This ‘high priest of exorcism-rock’ was also 1980’s Sydney magician of the year. Yet Geoff Krozier & The Generator’s Tranceformer will be released in November on UK’s Finders Keepers.
Alan Lee is a vibraphonist who was active from the 1950’s until the early 80’s. He ran the gamut of musical styles, from model to jazz funk fusion to soul jazz, even chamber classical. His music was extraordinarily lyrical and he helmed his own ensembles, even releasing a concept album to The Hobbit, with fellow vibraphonist John Sangster. A compilation, An Australian Jazz Anthology was released this month on UK’s Jazzman label.
Then there’s Australian singer Howard Eynon who will be reissuing So What If I’m Standing In Apricot Jam on UK’s Earth Recordings some 40 years later. Eynon was an actor, who had small parts in The Man From Snowy River and Mad Max. Yet it’s his wacky psychedelic freak folk from his 1974 private press LP that continues to astound. None of these iconic records can find a release at home. I guess we should be grateful that our colonial masters find value in our cultural heritage.
If you find “world music” a little too polished, with too many African superstars touring bands comprised of dreadlocked Frenchmen playing slap bass, then Sahel Sounds are for you. The Sahel region of Western and North Central Africa extends from Senegal to the Sudan, forming a transitional zone between the Sahara desert to the North and Sudanian Savanas to the south. It’s a part of the world that Portland based Chris Kirkley began traveling over a decade ago, armed with a guitar and a handheld recorder. The music he experienced and relationships he formed left an indelible impression, and he has returned repeatedly to countries like Niger, Mali, Senegal, and Mauritania ever since. In 2009 he formed Sahel Sounds, a record label specialising in music from the region. The beauty of Sahel Sounds is that there is no prettying up or westernizing of the sounds.
They first gained attention via their Saharan Cellphones compilation, where Kirkley discovered a booming trade in swapping music on phone cards in the desert. It uncovered one superstar in particular, the garage blues guitarist from Niger, Mdou Moctar, who they’ve since given the lead in their first film project – a remake of Purple Rain in the Sahara. Yet it’s the diversity of their roster that’s so impressive. Whether its ancient Tuareg vocal chants, early rudimentary African electronics, Bollywood inspired film music from Nigeria, or music from Mali street parties, Sahel Sounds feels real, and couldn’t be further from bass slapping Frenchmen.
Ridiculously prodigious, Daylesford resident David Thrussell keeps releasing incredible work. And if it’s not his own, he’ll even offer ridiculously obscure trainspotter nuggets via his Omni label, such as the jazz noir score for the 1971 Jean Seberg film Kill, by Berto Pisano’s and Jacques Chaumont, or out of print or never been in print Ennio Morricone, such as his improvised experimental music ensemble Gruppo Di Improvisazione Nuova Consonanza’s A Quiet Place in the Country.
Whilst you might know him under his Snog moniker, it’s his darker electronic Black Lung where he’s been most active recently. Last year he released The Great Golden Goal on the German label Ant-Zen, where the second half of the album demonstrated a certain structural freedom, and he’s pursued this approach more aggressively on this month’s Muzak From the Hive Mind. There’s something vaguely reminiscent of Tangerine Dream’s Phaedra, where they were just tooling around trying to work out how to use their instruments. For Thrussell though it’s a spirit of experimentation and a refusal to hemmed in by genres when it comes to structure – something that in this day and age where music seems to be 70% marketing and 30% actual sounds – is pretty much commercial suicide. That said with modular synthesizers becoming the latest musical fetish object maybe he’s not that crazy after all. And if you want further evidence of the death of music in this country, you’ll have to import this album from Germany, as there’s no local distribution.