Fragmented Frequencies Nov 12

A couple of weeks ago Fragmented Frequencies managed to catch local experimental musician Tim Catlin’s Overtone Ensemble. A quartet, they each played a homemade instrument constructed with a series of aluminium rods that looked like TV antennas. Wearing rubber gloves coated with rosin, they would stroke these rods, making them resonate, creating this amazing pitch of sound that just hovered in the air.

It was a truly unique sonic experience, approached the kind of class and rigour that we’d expect from Catlin. His most recent release, on beautiful white vinyl no less is his second collaboration with prolific Dutch producer Rutger Zuyderfelt, aka Machinefabriek and is called Patina (Low Point). They’ve followed a similar modus operandi as Glisten, where Catlin sends over a bunch of prepared guitar sounds that Zuyderfelt then processes. This time Catlin has his new toy, a prepared sitar (which he also contributed to Children of the Wave’s latest album) as well as guitar and it’s resulted in a quite gentle drone based work, interspersed with fragile flecks of guitar, looped recordings of record surface noise (which is a little ironic) and gentle chiming guitar. It’s an album that offers the space and stillness of Oren Ambarchi’s work on Touch, yet possesses a wider palette and greater complexity. This is truly innovative, immersive and beautiful work.

Last weekend The Infinite Decimals launched their new DVD, an audiovisual opus in which the Melbourne duo of Barnaby Oliver (guitar/piano) and Don Rodgers’s (Bass/percussion) improvisations are married to Paul Rodger’s images. Removing emotive song titles, each release thus far has featured a different array of infinite decimals, thus the DVD is titled 299 792 458 M.S 2012. At times it sees the musical duo somewhat more subdued, having to do less now that the images are providing some sort of contextual cover. Though it might also be because these days Don gets all his existential noisy chaos out of his system playing with the Paul Kidney Experience.

There are multiple techniques at play here, everything from animation to heavily processed images on a city street, though the visuals come in and out of sync with the music, at times seemingly wedded to the sounds, at others the objective seems to be to highlight the difference.

They’ve also just released 0.10992905085008 , another 4 tracks of instrumental goodness, including a 26 minute live recording from a show at Loop in 2011. Check http://infinitedecimals.bandcamp.com/ or facebook page.

After a recent outing with the Congos, California based Texas native Sun Araw has returned with a new album of deconstructed electronic squiggles. Inner Treaty (Drag City/ Fuse) is a typically inebriated mess of sounds that should be conflicting, yet somehow manages to mass into some sort of vaguely coherent whole, referencing everything from dub and reggae to r&b and experimental music. At times we’ve entered spiritual jazz territory, others experimental noodling. It’s scattered, ramshackle, carefree, feeling lose and improvised. The tunes feel static, never really going anywhere, they just appear almost fully formed, play out for a bit before finishing and then we’re onto the next. Yet somehow that’s not a problem, in fact it’s an apt description of the Sun Araw effect: All the rules get broken but that’s what makes it great.

With Melbourne electro Cumbia pioneers the Cumbia Cosmonauts it’s always been difficult to tell where the DJing ended and production began. In fact that was part of the joy of their sounds, a unique fusion of the old and the new.  Their latest release Tropical Bass Station (Chumsa Records) sees them creating much of their own sounds, and moving closer to a club vibe, utilising dub techniques, almost hi life guitar, and all manner of things that don’t fit into most peoples conception of Cumbia. Yet that’s the point, this outfit have moved well beyond the cumbia moniker, now they truly are cosmonauts. They’re launching the album this Friday the 23rd at the Northcote Social Club with Congo Tardis #1 and Lamine Sonko & The African Intelligence. They’ve also just been announced as support for legendary Syrian wedding singer Omar Souleyman next month.

 

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Fragmented Frequencies Feb 11

If you ever wondered about the incredible power of music to create change then look no further than North Africa. Though the protests in Tunisia that have since spread through Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya were initially sparked by outrage over the death of Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi who set himself on fire, protesting the corruption that he experienced on a daily basis under the regime, it was music that united the people and provided the momentum for the revolution.

Around the time of Bouazizi’s self immolation, a 21 year old kid who still lives with his mother, Hamada Ben Amor began uploading his hip hop music onto Facebook under the name El General. It was music heavily critical of the regime and a huge gamble as this kind of outspokenness universally led to arrest by the security forces. In fact his music had previously been censored within Tunisia. He didn’t perform live and wasn’t allowed to produce cds, in fact social media was the only outlet left open to him. The video he released, a grainy hand held video camera against a stark background is only him and his mic, rapping in a militant Tupac influenced style. And it created a sensation with thousands of downloads. Rais Lebled (Head of State) is the kind of ridiculously ballsy statement that could only be made by youth, documenting the frustration and anger that he felt via lyrics like “Mr. President your people is dead/many people eat from garbage/ and you see what is happening in the country/misery everywhere and people who have not found a place to sleep/I am speaking in name of the people who are suffering and were put under the feet.”

El General was arrested by security forces on the 6th of January as the the Tunisian government cracked down in a desperate effort to cling to power, arresting hundreds and killing protesters in the streets. It was a time when people were disappearing and grave fears were held for El General’s welfare. Yet on the streets something remarkable was happening, the protesters were chanting his song, and thousands of people united by his voice began demanding his release. More than likely it was his newfound celebrity status that kept him alive. You can only imagine how Amor felt when finally released from the most harrowing experience of his life to discover he was the voice of a revolution. His music later spread to Tahrir square in Cairo and not only has he since played a concert in Tunis but he has a regional tour of Tunisia, Greece, Senegal and France in the works and record labels calling. Earlier this month he released a new song, something of an ode to an Arab revolution, suggesting that Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, Libya all need to be liberated. Stardom beckons. Some chose Australian Idol. El General choose facebook.

Meanwhile closer to home improv duo (plus visuals) Infinite Decimals launch their third album 2.54421781 (Dreamland Recordings) tomorrow night (Thursday the 3rd) at the Empress. Having been a regular presence around town over the last few years, their music tends to be a slow build, jangling guitars and bass with the occasional piano or percussion. There are crescendos and noodling and most pieces tend to be long and transcendent, the textures eventually melding into each other until you forget you’re even listening to music. Supports include Bonnie Mercer, a duo of Mitchell Brennan and Lara Soulio as well as a rare performance from Melbourne’s most underrated and ludicrously genius noise duo LCD (Lowest Common Denominator). Also check out some free remixes from the first Infinite Decimals album on their (that name again) facebook page.

Finally keep an eye out for some of the Womadelaide artists making their way over to Melbourne such as Turkish gypsy band Harem’de who’s master percussionist Yasar Akpence who told fragmented frequencies, “every day i do a finger exercise that makes my fingers fast. After that my fingers fly.” He played on saturday night, however there’s still time for Brazilian weirdoes Os Mutantes, and particularly Syrian techno wedding singer Omar Souleyman who’s show promises to be out of this world.

Fragmented Frequencies April 2010

There are few things in this world as flat out insane as Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels (Select Audio Visual). Whilst his music is renowned for its weirdness, humour, and creativity, this film makes his music seem normal. It plays out like a confused freak power mash up between Neil Young’s Human Highway and The Monkeys Head directed by a room full of monkeys typing the collective works of Shakespeare.

It’s apparently a critique of the insanity of life on the road, which apparently like the film is bizarre and virtually nonsensical. Frank Zappa appears in the film only as a musician and never singing. He is played however by an uncomfortable looking Ringo Starr, who wanders around in a number of peculiar skits voicing strange oddities and watching people smoke towells. Keith Moon meanwhile pops up in drag as a nun. It’s the result of way too much coffee and the belief that the nonsencial and confused actually means something. Touring can make you crazy, and watching this film can too. You know you’re in trouble when the director, Tony Palmer utilises the liner notes in the booklet as an opportunity to correct all the lies that Zappa spread about the film and take credit for any semblance of narrative, but he does himself no favours, because seriously, if you think this is narrative then your world must be pretty fragmented. Then there’s the London Philharmonic Orchestra who find themselves in the middle of this chaos, providing backgrounds to some very odd spoken wordplays. Apparently it works best on LSD. It couldn’t hurt.

Infinite Decimals are the Melbourne experimental duo of Barnaby Oliver (guitar) and Don Rogers (bass) who walk the line between music and sound in a really interesting way. They’ve just released their debut album 0.18232323… (Audio Actions), which comprises of two pieces, the first a mesmirising shimmer of sound that clocks in at almost 7 minutes and the second, a more difficult elongated piece that develops through repetition and subtle changes into a kind of chugging slab of guitar noise. There’s an almost engine room mentality, rhythmic, mechanical, a locked groove that elicits hypnotic qualities in the listener as the two instruments begin to feel like the one entity. They’re launching 0.18232323… at 3pm on the 24th of April at the Empress with some other great experimental musicians including Tim Catlin.

Speaking of Catlin, his recent duo recording with precocious Dutch producer Machinefabriek, Glisten (Low Point) is nothing short of incredible. Due to its subtlety and lack of bluster (aside from the final third of Haul in which the sound builds into white noise) Glisten’s peace and quiet serves to lower the heart rate and train the ears to operate on a micro level, to appreciate even the smallest gesture. It’s an incredibly still work, Catlin’s prepared guitar drones and Machinefabriek’s manipulations are understated and beautiful, the layers of sound coming across in slow gentle carefully controlled waves, demonstrating the experimental can also be both elegant and restrained.

New Waver is a local artist who is concerned about the social fabric of our society. Particularly Fitzroy. His latest album Bohemian Suburb Rhapsody (Spill) ‘looks at inner city life…exploring culture production and consumption, class relations, romanticisim and real estate.” It’s filled with songs like Hey Dude, which to the strains of the Beatles Hey Jude he wails lines like “the minute the area’s looking hip, we’ll through you out and rent it to bankers.” The video is a camera crusing down Brunswick st. What a passionate man. It’s normally $900,000 but special price for you is free download. http://www.spill-label.org/nw