Fragmented Frequencies Dec 09

There’s a sound, it’s brass, but it’s more than just brass, it’s the low end. It doesn’t just hit you, it goes right through you. It’s tuba, and it’s funky as hell. You might even say it swings. To find it you need to go several hundred km North East of Bucharest in Romania to the village of Zece Prajini. It’s hard to find because it’s not on any map, nor is there a sign. There’s not even a train station. Luckily for the locals the train stops for a couple of minutes so you can jump off there if you choose. It’s here that you can find the most amazing gypsy band on the planet. A German, Henry Ernst stumbled across them in 1996 after 15 odd years of traveling aimlessly through Romania. On his return to Germany he sold everything he owned and toured them through Europe. For them it was a chance to escape ‘this misery,’ to Ernst it was a revelation. He formed the label Asphalt Tango and continues to put out their music and that of a slew of other Balkan artists to this day.

The band is Fanfare Ciocarlia and they’ve just relased Live (Asphalt Tango/ Planet Company), 16 dangerous breakneck slabs of gypsy brass recorded live in Berlin in 2004, with an accompanying DVD of the same concert, as well as their previously released Brass on Fire feature, which shows the band rehearsing in their wet muddy and very cold looking home. The music is of course high energy, swirling, invigorating, intensely sad at times, at others nothing short of life affirming. It’s music steeped in tradition, yet they play with the speed and potency of punk rock. ‘Do you like it?’ they scream in halting English during the concert and the audience just erupts. It’s truly amazing that these 12 balding middle aged Romanian men could be responsible for such joyous feats of musicianship and beauty. In the film we see them in their village and it becomes clear that they’ve decided to build a church. Running low on money they tell the priest that they’ll just have to tour again so they can finish it off. So they did. They even came to Melbourne earlier this year as part of Gypsy Kings and Queens tour with Indian, flamenco, and Macedonian musicians and the results were nothing short of incredible. If you like music with soul and energy you need to track these guys down. If the speed and agility of the music doesn’t get you the tubas certainly will.

So you may be aware that the What is Music Festival is back again after a low key room full of noisy musicians last year. Tonight they’ve got the experimental night from Horse Bazaar Stutter programming and we see experimental legend Jon Rose, famous for playing outback fences, some improvised music from Clayton Thomas (double bass) and Claire Cooper (Chinese Harp), some kind of weird electronic stuff from Japans Hercel, and Poland’s Anna Zaradny who has a very stranage installation going on under some stairs on youtube, but who knows what will happen live. Thursday features a bit of laptop noise from the USA’s John Wiese, who they suggest will ‘obliterate your very being,’ alongside various local noise merchants. Though saturday is where the weird turn pro. 50/50 at the Iwaki Auditorium Southbank features 50 bands playing in 50 minutes, one minute each, no breaks. We’ve got everyone from Curse Ov Dialect, to Rank Sinatra, to Agents of Abhorrence, Candlesnuffer, you name it, there’s experimental, jazz, noise, rock, metal. It should be amazing, or shit, or both. Check http://www.whatismusic.com for full program details.

Finally Melbourne multi media Philip Brophy’s fetish for anime has been widely documented by, well, him, in his book 100 Anime. He’s just released Beautiful Cyborg 2 (Soundpunch), an ongoing series of musical portraits for key Japanese anime figures. The music is hysterically twee and artificial, quite electronic, an exploration of what he describes as ‘that gleaming white plastic heart at the centre of Japanese pop culture.’ It coincides with three other releases from Brophy including a new scores to experimental films and an easy listening muzak work comissioned by the Melbourne Planetarium.

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Fragmented Frequencies Oct 09

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If your curious about sound, about texture, about frequency, without the need for overtly musical elements like melody or percussion, in finding new ways to compose and construct sound, then Melbourne is the place for you this month.

Tomorrow the World is a mini experimental sound festival at the Westspace Gallery, that’s on currently and will continue until the 1st of November. Every day of the week you can trek down to Westspace to get your fill of curious and eclectic sound and media artists doing curious and eclectic things. Whether it’s a Philip Brophy or Adrian Martin slide night, improvisor Jim Denley or Norwegian guitarist Kim Myhr discussing their practice before demonstrating it via performance, or Marco Cher-Gibard and Rosalind Hall’s amazing audio visual sax/msp performances that need to be seen to be believed, you’ll get your fill of experimentation and innovation here. Hell it even ends on a boat going down the Maribrynong with sound artist Philip Samartzis who will use the boat and surrounds to create a site responsive sound performance. Perhaps most interesting is the focus on children for some of the events, with Eamon Sprod and Dale Gorfinkel taking an instrument building workshop, or a couple of weeks later Sprod and Rod Cooper taking the kids for a walk down the Maribrynong. This doesn’t sound like your usual monotonous chin scratching sound festival, where underfed students fiddle earnestly with laptops to conjure up terrifying and hurtful sounds that no one really wants to hear anyway. But you never know. Check http://www.westspace.org.au for the full program.

Western Australian Matt Roesner has released a couple of really interesting, quite minimal electronic albums that tread the boundary between sound and music on both Room40 and Apestaartje, though his latest is a 12-inch on UK label 12×50. He’s coming to Melbourne along with Perth shoe-gazers The Ghost of 29 Megacycles, a dreamy heavily reverbed Windy and Carl meets My Bloody Valentine three piece, who’s album Love Via Paper Planes (Sound and Fury) is due anytime. What’s more TGO29M guitarist Greg Taw will play live with Roesner, offering some drum textures and guitar drones alongside Roesner’s laptop and guitars. They’re playing Horse bizarre on the 22nd of Oct, the 23rd at Glitch Bar, and the Tote on the 24th all with different local supports.

Over the last decade or so Australian born French resident percussionist Will Guthrie has repeatedly demonstrated his ability to move between jazz, rock and quite musical realms into more experimental directions using contact microphones and junk to create these incredibly articulate musique concrete sound pieces. It’s pretty clear that the guy can play almost anything. Spike-S is a 7-inch on Norwegian label Pica Disk. And it’s mental, The first side is an all out assault of kick-ass pedal to the metal kit drumming. He pummels those bastards under a noisy drony mess of raw searing noise and it feels good. Meanwhile side b becomes much more tinkery and electro acoustic, focussing more on space, a kind’ve cut and paste reworking using elements of side A. It’s inspiring stuff. Check out http://www.picadisk.com for more details.

Keeping the French/ Australian relationship going French sound artist Cedric Peyronnet (Toy Bizarre) is releasing a 3-inch cd a month over a 12 month period, each with a new 12 minute piece composition. And crazily enough they’re all based on reports made to him by an Australian about a 1 metre square patch of the Atherton Gardens. So for example “Fog, drift, quiet, a lone red vine leaf floats…falls, flurry and plummet from the golden ash,” gets us an incredibly visceral almost glacial sound piece, with bird chirping behind a sharp metallic and quite thin oscillating drone. It’s incredible work. Each disc is limited to 50. Check http://www.k216.ingeos.org for more.

Finally Fragmented Frequencies can’t go past a Sabbatical night at the Empress, Glass, Drums and Piano. It’s Lucas Abela (evil glass blowing dude), Sean Baxter (Bucketrider) and Paul Grabowsky (Melbourne jazz alumni). It sounds absolutely wild and I have no idea what to expect. It’s on the 7th of November. Also performing are James Rushford and Joe Talia, a duo who earlier in the year released the curious electro acoustic music concrete Palisades (Sabbatical). Check http://www.myspace.com/sbbtcl for more details.

Bob Baker Fish

Fragmented Frequencies 7th Dec 08

The problem with Femi Kuti is his father Fela. How can you possibly compete with a legacy as immense as that? Or at the very least forge your own identity? It’s the Ted Whitten effect. What chance did Ted Jnr have when his father was Mr Football? If he played well, it was never as good as his father, and if he played poorly then he was an insult to the legacy. The solution? Retire at 25 and run a foundation dedicated to your father’s memory. So to with music. We’re so desperate for another piece of Fela that we try to build Femi in his image, willing him to commit just one more epic Afro-beat freak-out, and he regularly obliges. Femi was in his father’s band, so he knows the ropes, though he’d also no doubt feel the pressure. On his latest album Day By Day (Wrasse/ Filter) he does give us a couple of tastes of Afro-beat, and shares his fathers desire to meld politics and music, yet he also diversifies, attempting to move beyond his father and create his own path. He’s moved from sax to trumpet, and the music takes on a jazzier and at times a light, relaxed, and mellow feel, moving at a gentle cadence with the occasional brass stab. It’s definitely Femi’s most interesting and complex work to date, and solidifies his reputation as an artist in his own right. For those still yearning for the Fela experience, Femi’s brother Seun has enlisted Fela’s Egypt 80 band and is making his way to Womadelaide next year, and legendary percussionist and bandleader of Fela’s Africa 70 Tony Allen will also playing the Corner – both in March 09.

Another man with family issues is Lulo Reinhardt, grand nephew to gypsy jazz legend Django Reinhardt. In fact there is a certain similarity between Lulo and Femi. Both have an incredible affinity with their famous relative’s stock and trade, yet use it as a launch pad to explore their own musical whims. His Latin Swing Project (Toca/ Filter). begins with gypsy swing yet also dips into elements of samba, flamenco, tango and jazz influences. He’s in town and playing at the Famous Speigeltent tomorrow night. His musicianship is incredible, and his live show incendiary. He’s also got one up on Django: he has all his fingers.

Not only is there a new 2 disc compilation, but also an accompanying coffee table book for Dancehall: the Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture (Soul Jazz/ Inertia). With text and hundreds of photographs from Beth Lesser, it’s a definitive chronicle of the phenomenon which began in the 50’s in Kingston Jamaica with Coxsone Dodd’s sound system and has continued to this day. Lesser was there 27 years ago and her accounts come from this insider perspective as she talks of her experiences at sound clashes, The DJ’s, the police, the poverty and the political violence. The photos too are incredible. everyone from Sly and Robbie, Gregory Isaacs, King Jammy, everyone you could think of back in the day. It’s an incredibly creative time in the history of music, where the scene was experiencing a resurgence and the creativity was rampant.

Stutter is pleased to be hosting a four-way, a combined Christmas party with the excellent Sabbatical Record label (www.sbbtcl.com/sbbtcl), the dark brooding Sweat Lung (www.sweatlung.blogspot.com), the launch of issue 21 of Cyclic Defrost Magazine and their own celebration of a year of incredible experimental music. It’s on at Horse Bazaar on Wednesday the 17th of December.

Finally tonight, and when I say “tonight!” it’s with a high pitched squeal and a metal salute, Philip Brophy is living out his metal fantasies. Bare-chested and adorned with long flowing black metal-dude hair, flailing away at the drums, he will be flanked by two exuberant explosive dancers. No words. No guitars. No other visible instruments. Just a set of skins sandwiched by skin. It all sounds very wrong, yet it’s a performance to end the One of Us Cannot be Wrong Exhibition and it’s at the TOFF in town. And yes Phil, sorry to say but I know which of us is wrong.

-Bob Baker Fish