Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Live review: MIUC August 17th - KIM SALMON & DAVID BROWN

David Brown (left), Kim Salmon (right) at Make It Up Club, August 17th, 2010

Kim Salmon and David Brown reprised their appearance at the Overground component of the Melbourne Jazz Festival for this Make It Up Club set (they've since performed at Stutter and as part of Salmon's month-long residency over November at The Old Bar). The term 'punk legend' gets bandied around with indecent ubiquity, but it's hard to avoid it when discussing Kim Salmon in the context of the Australian music scene of the 1980s/90s. His groups The Scientists and The Surrealists anticipated (arguably bettered) Grunge and he was part of the original line-up of the Beasts of Bourbon with Tex Perkins that cut the epochal album The Axeman's Jazz in 1984. While The Saints' Chris Bailey or Ed Keupper may have enjoyed greater mainstream visibility, it is Salmon who most deserves to be considered Australia's equivalent to John Lydon. He certainly shares the PiL leader's experimental teenage passions (Can/Bitches Brew/Beefheart/Sun Ra) and you can hear elements of those influences in such exemplary locked groove psych as 'Human Jukebox'. The Scientists' 'Set It on Fire' and Beasts of Bourbon's 'Save Me a Place in the Graveyard' are mesmeric engines of simmering aggression built on the juxtaposition of fractal riffage and cruising freakbeat. The title track of the Beasts' 1990 release Black Milk unfolds with all the pagan blues momentum of a late 60s Dr John voodoo rock session. Salmon continued the experimental side of his career with this set which he began with slide guitar and wah-wah, alternating tonal clusters with sonic roots in the blues amidst flavours of Dieter Moebius in dada guitar mode or early Kraftwerk 'Ananas Symphonie'-style Hawaiian exotica weirdness.

As anyone remotely familiar with the Melbourne experimental scene will know, there are two David Browns. One is the astringent electric master of sustain and distortion and missing link between Robert Fripp at his gnarliest and the unfettered explorations of Derek Bailey; the one who, in a duet for Stutter with Cat Hope last year, submerged the interior of Horse Bazaar in a double bass lavastream of sonic viscosity, air waves roiling with microtones and overtones in subatomic conflict/resolution. And there's the (relatively) quieter, deep listening one of the prepared guitar who performs on this occasion. His instrument of choice is a hollowbody, festooned with various metal appendages, some struck and allowed to resonate, producing a range of buzzing, rattling timbres. Brown's prepared guitar is a beguiling sound world unto itself, his playing an exercise in disciplined command over a deceptively restricted sound palette as demonstrated on the releases Wakool and Mimosa. For this set, his textural sensitivity blends in and leavens Salmon's methodology which, in this era of digital sampling and Ableton Live processing, could be described as art brut concrète.

Salmon has two dictaphones hanging around his neck and he uses them as primitive time machines in the experimental vein of William Burroughs, Ian Sommerville and Brion Gysin, generating and overlapping temporal striations to which Brown adds real time counterpoint. The two-chord Hawaiian blues theme is played back into the microphone, a trebly, distorted simulacra used as accompaniment for more low-end bluesy lines. Various feedback sonorities, dirty and fractured, begin to intersect. Another dictaphone in ultra slow playback mode is added to a sustained whine from the hollowbody, Brown manipulating it by placing a finger on a resonating string.

Strategies utilising electromagnetic interference gradually dominate the performance: Salmon unplugs his guitar and uses his thumb to create rhythmic manipulations of the cord signal; Brown drops chains onto the guitar's face and moves metal held close to the body, generating dive bombing variations in tone that suggest hydroacoustic Doppler effect and conjure sonar pulses sucked into chasms. Brown then sets to rubbing an agitator over the guitar body, a whirring milk frother that strikes the strings and resonators at oblique angles, coaxing shifting metallic timbres. Towards the end of the set he summons distressed whale song by gently stroking the guitar with rubber mallets while Salmon's slowed down dictaphone recordings of deconstructed blues descend into a soundscape pitched between ethereality and electric mud. This is process music at its most enjoyably unhinged, where final destination is irrelevant and the accumulation of detail in drifting simultaneity all.


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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Live Review: TUCCERI/FEBBRAIO/ELLIS - MIUC August 17th

Dan Tucceri (far left) and Julian Febbraio (far right) being introduced by Make It Up Club host Sean Baxter (centre)

Dan Tucceri plays through a Marshall amp, the brand name of which has been detourned with masking tape so it reads 'arshole' - a winning touch from the outset and one that sums up his whole eclectic approach which owes a good deal to the Mr Bungle school of psychopastiche. He begins playing guitar with violin bow over a rumbling drum intro, drawing on a tradition of extended rock technique that stretches from Jimmy Page (via The Creation's Eddie Phillips) to Makoto Kawabata.

Julian Febbraio's blast drumming over a series of crashing, portentous keyboard chords from Tucceri and Leonard Ellis suggests a collision of the neo-prog high drama of Mars Volta and Acid Mothers Temple in their black metal phase, eventually resolving into a version of Fushitshusa's 'Pathetique 1'. This piece seems to be a particular touchstone for the local experimental scene; Tucceri says he was introduced to it by Oren Ambarchi who has had a longheld fascination with Keiji Haino. (Ambarchi seemed to be drawing inspiration from its well of mystical modality, measured cadence and transcendent disconsolation for an excoriating Melbourne avant-power trio performance with Rob Mayson and Matt 'Skitz' Sanders at Stutter last year).

The Tucceri/Febbraio/Ellis axis follow their alternately ascending/descending series of power chord shock waves into the rumbling timbreland of Sunn O))). There's a tendency for some artists working in that stylistic nexus comprising noise, dark ambient and black metal to associate the Sunn O))) brand with a certain static approach that you could call the pursuit of transcendent states through extended duration or power drone coasting, depending on taste and level of patience, but various elements give Tucceri's outfit some welcome textural marbling. The addition of Shane van den Akker on metal vokills and some excursions into Acid Mothers Temple outer space radio signal territory via Leonard Ellis' synths shows this outfit open to borrowing from various modes but not slavishly following their particular teleologies. That rich blend of ambient doom metal and avant-rock psychedelia that Sunn O))) and Boris created for their collaborative effort Altar is perhaps a good point of comparison.

Julian Febbraio (far left), Leonard Ellis (centre) and Shane van den Akker (hair visible only, far right)

There is a quieter solo guitar passage made up of spiky, dissonant phrasing that gives the ears a chance to recover while still keeping things on edge and over which the spirit of Haino again seems to hover, but this time the beshaded one's more ambient side (the ruminative 'Where Shall Released Time Go Next?' from Purple Trap's decided... already the motionless heart of tranquility, tangling the prayer called "i" comes to mind). When the black metal power trip returns, Tuccero decides to push the performance angle into the hellfire zone and summon the Industrial avatars of Faust, Einsturzende Neubauten and Test Department with a bit of grinding action, bringing the set to a spectacular conclusion.

This group is utilising some piquant elements in a non-idiomatic way, but seem to be still in pursuit of a sound that's more individually coherent. While the postmodern mixology of Mr Bungle is an often obvious influence, they don't have that group's live capacity for instantaneous Zornian/Zappaian genre-crossing and that's a good thing; the slower, more porous stylistic transitions suggest a liminality from which true originality can still emerge. Given this group's youth and energy, that seems a more likely proposition than not.


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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Live review: MIUC August 17th - QUE NGUYEN


Que Nguyen is a sound designer, co-founder of the Within Earshot collective, composer and performer with an interest in the use of voice within stereo/surround composition and live performance. Her Make It Up Club set begins with a slow, doomy machine pulse a la Coil, a buoy bell tolling on some distant sea, synthesised helicopter rotor blades whirring in and out. The appearance of these latter sounds acts automatically as cinematic madeleine for filmgoers of a certain age, but overall this piece isn't any Apocalypse Now-style assault on the subject of the Vietnam War. There does appear to be an element of biographical sound montage in the piece, perhaps recounting a recent visit or a sonic description of her parents' former life in their home country in the form of an audio verite parade. The set consists of a shifting cinematic montage of sampled sounds, alternately proceeding in a linear fashion or by laminal intersection: festival and street sounds, cymbals, drums, cock crows, gongs, child singing groups, laughter, traffic. Nguyen sings scraps of folk song over the sound elements, her cadences possessing an almost American Indian quality at times (though perhaps that is more due to the cultural default setting of Western ears trying to identify mysterious folk forms - thanks to Daryl Rabel for passing on this theory). As various patterns and motifs emerge out of the samples, those whirring blades, whatever their sonic significance, often reappear to dissect everything else. While a strong programmatic aspect is suggested, a thematic thread connecting the vocals and soundscape isn't palpable in the midst of the performance; possible interpretations - a desire for immersion in ancestral connectivity, say - come to mind more after the event. That minor quibble aside, Que has an appealing singing voice and genuine skill in audio collage construction. The individual components of this set were appealing enough overall to warrant further investigation into this young artist's oeuvre which can only deepen with maturity.


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