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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