Fragmented Frequencies Oct 2010

Bum Creek

This week Sinead O’ Connor ruined John Lennon for Fragmented Frequencies. It was during the Conversation Hour with Jon Faine on ABC 774am. She was relaxed and low key, but spoke with the kind of weary cynicism that you get from having been a ‘controversial’ artist for the ideas impaired conservative media over the last few decades. Whilst they discussed her refusal to pander to top 40 sexpectations, i.e she shaved her head and refused to dress like a prostitute, it was when she addressed record companies, and their total disregard for their own artists that the fatal blow landed.

“if you look back at who owned record companies you’re talking about arms dealers,” she offered, singling out EMI and suggesting that “when you’re standing there singing ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ they’re going to buy a whole lot of land mines with it, or sell land mines.” There was a certain sadness in her words, yet also an acceptance. She understood the beast. So now the beast can’t control her. If you want to lose your innocence too, you can find a podcast on ABC’s website. Then if you choose you can go and buy a newly repackaged/ remastered/ rewhored collection of John Lennon’s greatest hits, or the 20th anniversary edition of her I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got, out via, you guessed it, EMI .

It’s a notion that Godseed You! Black Emperor touched upon in a diagram on the back of Yanqui U.X.O, way back in 2002, detailing the links between the big four major record companies and arms manufacturers, yet it’s easy to ignore whilst searching for a greater good. We tap into the emotion of the music, not the profit margins. We want to feel. We want to believe. Yet for the majors the message is irrelevant. Unless it could impact upon profits. During the heyday of gangsta rap ICE – T was dropped from Warners for penning Cop Killer because shareholders were fearful of a backlash. Now he’s spent a decade as TV Cop. Irony anyone? Controversy is fine provided it’s contained within a comfortable framework. Like Lady Gaga. Does she really have a penis? She’s so weird isn’t she? The medium isn’t the message. The medium is the profit.

Indie producer of choice Steve Albini (Nirvana/My Disco) penned an instruction manual on the modus operendi of major labels back in the grunge heyday that still holds true today in our current Idol X Factor endorsed path to stardom. He talks about a trench of shit that you need to swim through just to sign a contract that will exploit you. When you get there you fight with someone else who wants it just as bad, before being informed that they want you to swim backstroke through the shit one more time. If you’re lucky enough to get signed he then calculates the amount of debt you will incur. Full article is here.

But thankfully the days of cocaine blowjobs are now over, with the empire is crumbling due to illegal downloading, Big news last week was you can become number one in Australia by selling 3,600 albums. How much did Thriller sell again?

But you don’t need to attach yourself to the diseased teat of major labels. Melbourne is blessed with a small batch of local independent labels, refusing to acknowledge that no one buys records anymore. Whilst they’ll make little more than they need in order to put out their next record, they’re also less likely to be responsible for having some kids leg blown off in a third world country. Chapter records for example, responsible for such luminaries as Fabulous Diamonds recently released Bum Creek’s debut album – on vinyl no less. A trio of melody impaired experimental lunatics, they’re kind’ve stupid, very funny, highly demented and slightly genius. To put out this highly non commercial fare is undoubtedly financial suicide, but it should be rewarded. But Chapter isn’t alone, Lexicon Devil recently offered up experimental musician and composer Anthony Pateras’ latest duo with Agents of Abhorrence drummer Max Kohane PIVIXKI, who have a previous EP on Sabbatical, who specialise in small run releases that highlight the darker side of experimental. Sensory Projects keep the local fires burning with the new organic electronica of Mystery Twin, whilst Mistletone frequently release albums that would never make it to Australia like the incredibly weird Prince Rama from Animal Collective’s Paw Tracks label as well as a slew of local artists. Then there’s Two Bright Lakes, Extreme, Psy Harmonics, and a slew of other optimistic fools driven by the love of music, not evil. But they need your help to survive. Don’t finance war. Support creativity. Buy local today.

Fragmented Frequencies August 2010

Tex Morton

If you were glued to the TV during the World Cup you know the ad. It was repeated ad nauseam until it became part of our central nervous systems, part of our circuitry, firing the synapses around our brains. Apparently a split second decision is all that stands between Wayne Rooney being knighted by the queen or living in a trailer park. Yes it’s that Nike ad where they spent gazillions roping in all the stars, none of whom fired in the Cup. Aside from Nike’s desperation to paint themselves as the breakfast of champions, Fragmented Frequencies was left with a lingering feeling, there was something familiar here.

Restless after the tense Spain Vs. Portugal draw, (and the 734th viewing of the ad) it finally crystalized. It was the music, this bizarre inspired hyper energetic meld of rock riffage and, well, yodeling. We’d heard it before. Retreating to the vinyl there it was. 1971’s Moving Waves from Dutch prog dudes Focus. The song was Hocus Pocos and it’s the kind of ludicrous nonsensical fusion that makes music great. Whilst the corporation has ruined it for us now, it does warm the cockles to know that thanks to Nike the band are once again knee deep in cocaine blow-jobs. This kind of creativity deserves reward. And so does the much maligned art of yodeling.

Everything you believe about yodeling is probably wrong. It’s not just a Swiss thing, though a few years ago the Age was heralding yodeling as the new yoga for the Swiss dinner party set. These days however you can find it in not just Austria and Germany, but New Zealand, India, even West Africa. Wherever there are lungs yodeling inevitably follows. There’s nothing like it. It’s possibly one of the most ridiculous sounds that can come from the human mouth, aside from the word “chillax”. It’s absurdly kitsch, yet also undeniably fascinating. Apparently developed over 10,000 years ago by herders attempting to communicate with their beasts at great distance, these days it finds itself acquainted with country music in the US. Gillian Welsch describes her style as ‘yodeling at underwater speed,’ whilst Mike Johnson promotes himself as America’s No.1 black yodeler. Apparently nothing says heartbreak like a good yodel.

In 2006 the Rough Guide to Yodel appeared in which Amsterdam based DJ Bart Plantenga compiled a bizarre collection of contemporary yodeling techniques. Perhaps most curious was the Berlin based electronic dub of Alpendub VS. The Man Cable, which is an impossibly smooth down-tempo electro groove fusion, though the Mongolian throat singing, yodeling and shamanistic wailing of Sainkho Namtchylak makes Yoko Ono sound like the lead singer of Matchbox Twenty.

In Australia yodeling is of course woven indelibly into our social fabric. In Kew in the 30’s councillors drew up a bill to prevent milkmen yodeling in the early hours of sunday morning. However despite the occasional freak kid on Red Faces, it’s our country artists who carried the flag. Like the father of country music in Australia, Tex Morton who recorded My Sweetheart’s In Love With A Swiss Mountaineer in the mid 30’s. But since then everyone from Slim Dusty to Smoky Dawson have had a crack and Tim McNamara’s 1954 Homeward Bound not only mentions the Dandenongs, but has him yodeling a train sound. Yet it begs the question: Where has all the yodeling gone?

Anyway back to the present, and Melbourne’s one man avant garde laser show Robin Fox opened a photographic exhibition last week at the Centre For Contemporary Photography. Proof of Concept is an exhibition of Fox’s visual practice, with images constructed via sound, yet unlike sound they’re frozen in time. “Basically I wanted to capture slices of audible time visually,” he offers. “Just capture a second or two and freeze it so that I could see what was happening in that moment. What I love about the exhibition is that it is silent and nothing moves. That’s really new for me!”

If you’re interested in catching some of his less silent and more agile work he’s putting on his laser show as part of Everybody Talks About the Weather II, on the 26th of August, where some of Melbourne’s most renowned experimental and noise artists take over the Corner’s big PA and abuse it for evil. Joining him are Oren Ambarchi, Marco Fusinato and Pivixki (pianist Anthony Pateras and Agents of Abhorrence drummer Max Kohane), who after a blistering EP on Sabbatical last year have dropped their debut LP Gravissima (Lexicon Devil), which has the label breathlessly referencing the likes of Goblin and Magma which can only be a good thing. If only they yodeled.

Fragmented Frequencies Sept 09

It’s probably around the time of the earnest chugging groove of Sala, track 36 of Japanese lunatic Dokaka‘s 88 track debut album Human Interface (Dual Plover), that the first seeds that you may be losing touch with reality really begin to take hold. It’s not necessariy its musicality, or it’s R&B groove, something it shares with the one minute nineteen Verb four tracks on, it’s that they’re surrounded by some of the most curious and schitzo attempts at music that you’ve ever heard. This is sheer lunacy, the kind of crazy obsessive outsider genius that is all too rare. The music is fine, a myriad of genres, quite experimental, carefully structured, short sharp and punchy, with most tracks clocking in at just over a minute. There’s a cartoony feel to Dokka’s blend of rock, pop, r&b, torch ballads and bad 80’s memories. But that may because he’s created this whole damn thing with his voice. He’s famous for his vocal only reinterpretations of Led Zeppelin, Slayer, and the Rolling Stones, though Bjork also enlisted his services for her own experiments with vocal music on her 2004 Medúlla album. Human Interface is his debut solo release and whilst sharing a similar manic weirdness with Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for voice (Tzadik), he also delves into highly musical areas that are nothing short of jaw dropping. Perhaps this is the evolution of beatboxing, a one man barbers shop quartet attacked by a rubber lipped banshee. Once you normalise this kind of lunacy you’re in trouble.

Speaking of outsider music PIVIXKI (Sabbatical) is a collaboration between local pianist/ composer Anthony Pateras and Agents of Abhorrence drummer Max Kohane. They sound exactly like the Necks would if they decided to kill their bass player, get tatts and listen to grindcore. Except the piano, which takes on an abstract flowery new music feel – except when Pateras pounds the bejesus out of it like all he owns are thumbs. Like all Sabatical releases ( it’s limited to 200 and is fascinating and frenetic, the duo fusing together effortlessly, constantly moving, not afraid to startle and get a little musical alongside their beds of atonal discordance.

Speaking of discordance Italian Dario Buccino has an incredibly strange new DVD/CD Corpo Nostro (Extreme). In the doco he speaks of wanting to create “hypnotic excitement and numbness,” two states of being that he views integral in altering consciousness. His music is created by beating large thin sheets of steel, the kind they used back in the radio days to create thunder, and he attacks it with an almost religious zeal. The DVD also contains a busking session where he encourages volunteers to have a crack themselves, and excerpts from some live performances, demonstrating his virtuostic range on this peculiar instrument. “It’s very odd how he disregards harmony,” comments an excited percussionist, as we go behind the scenes to view how this extraordinary work was put together.

New Weird Australia is a free download only compilation of some of the more interesting Australian music around. Many of these folks you haven’t heard before, though Panoptique Electrical who offered up his second album, Yes To Fear Yes To Desire (Sensory Projects) recently offers an unrelesed track and there are some really curious tunes by Kharkov, Broken Chip and Sam Price. My favorite is from the suggestively titled Cock Safari. When I got on their myspace I found a link to a band called Anal Cum Wolf. When I got on their myspace I found a link to Nigger Fart Dance Party USA. When I got on their myspace they had a picture of a David Hasselhoff record called Night Rocker, where he is dressed in leather rocking out on the bonnet of KIT. They also had a song called Farting Like a White Man which sends race relations back 50 years. Then my head exploded. There’s a new one each month.

Oh and yes. Don’t fret. Lightning Bolt. Here soon.