Fragmented Frequencies October 2014

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The last time I saw Brisbane experimental artist Cured Pink live he terrified me. It was at the Melbourne International Jazz Festival in 2011, as part of Overground, an attempt to suggest that jazz as a forward thinking innovative genre didn’t die sometime in the late 70’s. Cured Pink performed in a duo with percussionist Will Guthrie and it was alternatively violent, absurd and dangerous. With Guthrie on kit, Pink began by throwing around a steel drum filled with rocks before whacking a microphone against his head really hard and doing a back flip. It was ludicrous and physical, at times almost musical, but then Pink pulled out a heavy iron chain and began hurling it around haphazardly, repeatedly slamming it down inches from a respectful audience seated cross-legged before him. I honestly thought someone was going to die. When Guthrie erupted into a flurry of break beats I was in near ecstasy. It was the perfect mix of ridiculousness and genius.

Cured Pink has since morphed into a 4 piece band, but new vinyl label Another Dark Age have gathered together some of his earlier solo material into the 3 track EP II Put Aside that drops at the end of this month. It runs the gamut from the surprisingly cohesive to chaotic madness, beginning with dark unsettled violent house music, where his raw depravity somehow ends up on the dancefloor, and ends in a terrifying trawl through murky power electrics, musique concrete and what sounds like a pig grunting, from live recordings gathered in Australia and Indonesia.

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The Shape of Sound – Vol.3 Melbourne Australia (Iceage Productions)

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This third and final survey of the sounds of underground Melbourne highlights and celebrates the diversity of styles and approaches currently occurring in our midst.  It feels broader than previous outings, and that’s a good thing, acknowledging some of the progressive work occurring in more electronic and beat based territories.

The eccentric electronics of Worng are a prime example, they sound like zombie acid house music crossed with a John Carpenter score and are probably the highlight of what is a truly eclectic collection of music. It feels like this time around it’s less abrasive than previous outings, with unexpected additions like the gentle repetitive guitar noodling from the appropriately named Sleep Ensemble.

Em Vecue Aquieu also offer gentle meditative atmospheric ambience that’s lush and cinematic yet it’s aggressively ruptured by some piercing electrics of the following track, courtesy of scene mainstay Ollie Olsen, acting like a high priest of noise, corralling all the negative pitches and coalescing them into a cumulative muscular drone piece.

Parts feel like they were originally recorded onto cassette, and there’s a definite low fi wooziness to a lot of the material here, like the organ and drum machine haze of Rites Wild, which with its reverb and delay drenched washes of sound is simultaneously lethargic and strangely compelling.

Robin Fox offers electrics as a field recording, there’s highly textural music concrete from Mitchell Brennan, and Sean Baxter offers some brittle uncomfortable chaos. Matthew Brown’s low-key synthetic experiments are typically amazing, whilst Wife rounds out the collection, sounding like no input mixer feedback loops utilising the most difficult sine tone pitches on the album.

It’s strange and beautiful music, startling and even scary at times. Yet this is the sound of 2013 Melbourne in all it’s weird joyful diversity.

Fragmented Frequencies Jan 2013

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Dr George Merryweather was born in 1794 in Yorkshire England. Whilst he was a family doctor who later became a surgeon, it was his thirst for invention that has him remembered today. In 1832 he invented the Platina Lamp, which could apparently keep burning for a fortnight on a mixture of alcohol and whiskey. Couldn’t we all?

His Leech barometer, or Tempest Prognosticator caused a sensation in 1851. Putting 12 pint bottles in a circle beneath a large bell, each with a connecting metal tube, Merryweather then poured an inch and a half of rainwater into each bottle and deposited one leech. Influenced by the electromagnetic state of the atmosphere the leech would climb into the tube setting off the bell, warning of impending bad weather. And why 12 leeches? The more bell rings the greater the likelihood of a storm. Also he didn’t want the leaches to get lonely. The resultant machine looks like a strange miniature merry go round, and Merryweather was of the belief that it was highly accurate and envisaged a wide network of leech forecasters across the United Kingdom. Unfortunately cheaper alternatives not involving the use of blood sucking slugs became popular, effectively freezing Merryweather out of the weather prediction business and resigning the Tempest Prognosticator to a bizarre curio of history.

In 2010 Andrew Day (aka Nightswimmer) visited the home of the Tempest Prognosticator in Whitby Yorkshire. Fascinated by the instrument, Day felt inspired to make some field recordings of the site, including some underwater recordings nearby using a homemade hydrophone. He combined these sounds, heartbeat, trombone, zither, mandolin, guitar, bass, electronics and vocals to produce an epic 35-minute piece of sound. Interestingly it’s probably the noisiest work he’s recorded under his Nightswimmer guise, a project that you could previously describe as being lush, even ambient electronics. Despite the agitation, the piece, which moves through numerous moods eventually finds itself in an almost shoegaze electronic noise space, engaging with static and barnacles, yet find deeply melodic moments hidden beneath the chaos. It’s a fascinating work and it’s really great to hear him work not only long form, but with some more difficult sounds and textures, and ultimately still create a work of majestic beauty. He may have set out to make an aggressive noise piece, something a world away from his back catalogue, yet ultimately it appears he can’t help himself. You can listen for free or name your price here: http://nightswimmer.bandcamp.com/album/the-tempest-prognosticator-2.

Speaking of field recordings and speaking of free, Brisbane based composer and head honcho at the incredible Room40 label Lawrence English has just posted a double album on his website. Titled Songs of The Living And The Lived In (Room40), it comprises of recordings gathered over the last 10 years on his travels around the world. Songs of the Living is of course the animal world, monkeys, bats, frogs, Antarctic fur seals, even an incredible sounding Rhinoceros beetle. The lived in are environmental spaces such as a toy store, a subway, a cemetery gate, VLF During a solar storm, blizzard battering walls, you get the picture. There are strange buzzes, clicks and shuddering, these pieces aren’t edited, they’re just the raw recordings that English then uses to create his compositions. Not only is it interesting to get an insight into the raw material he uses, the sounds themselves are pretty incredible. Check http://emporium.room40.org/categories/room40 and download for free.

Finally tomorrow night an intimate concert will be occurring in Adam Simmon’s home studio in Northcote. With only 20 spaces available it’s first booked first served, and an amazing way to experience improvised music. The evening will focus on two duo performances. The first will feature Simmons and amazing improviser and cult of personality Jeff Henderson (NZ) on saxophones and the second will feature Hermione Johnson (NZ) on prepared piano and David Brown (Candlesnuffer) on prepared guitar. To book email Simmons: fatrain@adamsimmons.com.