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.

A Band Called Life/ LCD – Sunshine and Grease

Sunshine and Grease is a gallery space and record store with a decidedly experimental bent. On this chilly thursday night we’re knee deep in the Melbourne underground, a place where weirdness and stupidity call home.

What’s so refreshing is that these two bands aren’t your earnest chin stroking experimental artists who treat their knob twiddling with the gravity of a UN tribunal on human rights. Instead both have a firm handle on the absurdity of their actions. And this makes it fun.

First up A Band Called Life, a duo, one masked, the other wearing a ‘pop it like it’s hot,’ t-shirt. They have a casio keyboard, cymbal, laptop, and cassette player and they use them scattered like medicated pre schoolers with syndromes. Over this mess they recite nonsensical poetry, often with different texts at the same time. “I’m really enjoying saying things into the microphone between songs,” offers the t-shirt as they trade in jokes with the audience. One exuberant lass telling the tale of her friend who dreamt she slept with her grandfather. “But it was only because he had just died.” The only time this band can make sense is when you’ve got the flu, you’re whole body aches, it’s 3am you’re desperate for sleep and your eyes hurt. They’re unbelievably terrible, but very very funny.

LCD (Lowest Common Denominator) are the best noise band in Melbourne. They’re ridiculous, with a table full of electronics, bowed electric guitar no input feeding back mixing board, a couple of synths, not to mention their mason cards and dice, this duo do absurdity with flair. Dressed in matching aprons and chipmunk punk LP covers on their heads they hand out propaganda pamphlets, and gesture importantly to each other over this bizarre creeping drone music that quietly ascends into difficult pitches and noisy madness. You get the sense that their interplay is nonsense and you hope it is, but you never know. It’s their 10th anniversary show. They haven’t played in 2 years. It’s a crime. Experimental music needs them.

Bob Baker Fish