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Adelaide Festival 2015- Unsound – Forest Swords, ATOM + Robin Fox, The Bug, Shackleton

 

Returning to the South Australian Freemason’s Grand Lodge for night two of Unsound Adelaide the anticipation was building for a night possibly grander the previous evening.

 

The throbbing live bass guitar of Forest Swords grinding over thick dub beats drew us into the main hall – a welcome sight to see some traditional instrumentation mixed with desk artisty. It certainly wasn’t all dub odyssey, with Matthew Barnes touching on Portisheadish trip hop beats, explorations into distinctly bluesy phrasing and somewhat Spaghetti Western guitar moments that gave me pleasant Ennio Morricone chills.

 

It is very difficult to describe what happened next when immersed into the RGB world of ATOM ™ & Robin Fox. Full body scans of laser light with visceral sounds that boil blood in a surreal sensory tennis match with Uwe Schmidt’s Germanic precision electro dance sounds and video projections. His luminous head projected above us – a demigod of the matrix reassuring us that the following treatment will be painless and liberating. Sensory overload was balanced with ambience of deep grey noise and indistinct swirling visuals – a respite for our synapses. You can’t dance to architecture and it is equally hard to give words to this performance that would be subjected to injustice if described simply as a sound & light show.

 

The Bug (Kevin Martin) proved to be a major crowd pleaser – bathed in haematological light, underpinned by siren driven loops, he delivered subterranean dub beats weaving below high frequency drone. He would also move effortlessly between open ended electronica and the framework of traditional song structures, working dynamic arches and minimalism as a counterpoint to his heavy artillery dancehall beats. Intermixed with eviscerating hip hop from Manga and a toasty Miss Red – the audience were in it penny for a pound. This did raise some interesting questions and discussion with my concert going companion about the propensity for Australian audiences to self-identify with music touching on themes of class struggle, in what is arguably a much more egalitarian society.

 

Lastly (Sam) Shackleton took us back into realms that one would be mistaken as thinking of as traditional techno sounds, although such an error could be made if one were not paying attention. Clever xylophonic arpeggiated sounds overlays old school beats, but builds in Tubular Bells fashion with simultaneously stripping back older layers. It was nothing short of painting through music. And throughout this thoroughly danceable symphony were very distinct melodies, sometimes like a folk tune, differentiating this electronic musical craftsmanship from the less adept IDM-meisters.

 

Will Unsound return next year under David Seftons extended tenure as Director of the Adelaide Festival, or have we experienced something quite special and unique over the past three years? There is no doubt Australia’s appetite has grown year on year – and it would be a shame for the momentum to stop now.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 18th 2015 | Filed in Events,Music,News,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Bohemian Melbourne: A Modern Retrospective

 

Absinthe.com.au have received the following Press Release on a very exciting event:

“Opening on 12 December, Bohemian Melbourne will weave the story of Melbourne’s bohemian scenes, subcultures and identities from the mid-19th century until today. The exhibition celebrates artists, writers, poets, performers, musicians and filmmakers who made their mark on Melbourne over the last 150 years including the likes of Marcus Clarke, Percy Grainger, Barry Humphries, Mika Mora and Nick Cave.

Bohemian Melbourne features a cast of colourful characters including well-known Melbourne iconoclasts – like Albert Tucker and Joy Hester, Tim and Betty Burstall, Frank Thring and The Skyhooks – and lesser known avant garde figures like Vali Myers and Val Eastwood. The exhibition also explores modern day bohemians such as goths, punks, burlesque and street artists.

 

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Along with individuals, the exhibition delves into places that have etched themselves into Melbourne’s history such as Heide, Montsalvat, the Savage Club, La Mama, the Pram Factory, the Crystal Ballroom and the Nicholas Building.

Bohemian Melbourne brings together paintings, photographs, prints, books, diaries, letters, costumes, posters and album covers along with a diverse selection of rarely seen film and video from the National Film and Sound Archive, the ABC and numerous independent filmmakers. The exhibition has been curated by the State Library of Victoria with advisor Tony Moore, Monash University historian and author of Dancing With Empty Pockets: Australia’s Bohemians.

Bohemian Melbourne will be a free exhibition in the Keith Murdoch Gallery at the State Library from 12 December 2014 until 22 February 2015.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a summer program of live music, film screenings, art workshops, walking tours, talks and pop-up performances.”

Full details can be found at at http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/bohemian-melbourne 

 

 

Posted by Jonathan on Nov 16th 2014 | Filed in Art,Burlesque,Cabaret,Culture,Events,Fashion,History,Literature,News | Comments (0)

Unsound Adelaide Review 2014-Lee Gamble, Cut Hands, Morton Subotnik, Nurse With Wound

After the organised cinematic elegance of Snowtown: Live & Stars of the Lid in rarefied surrounds on the first night, it is a nice contrast to return to the stone & ferrous girder Queens Theatre amongst a motley assortment of our experimental music devotees. Go read Adelaide Festival Director David Sefton’s interview with ABC – I really like this quote:  “There is a definite ‘people coming out of their bedroom’ quality to it. Though I totally empathise – I am one of those people.”  David, there is little doubt you are.

First up producer Lee Gamble enveloped us in a blanket of deep space ambience, while visions of neuronal & synaptic firing illuminated the back drop.  But not satisfied to leave us in a drone driven purgatory, a subtle beat driven subharmony evolves and grows until we find our own physicality unconsciously moving to vaguely gabba-esque rhythms, maybe even some drum & debased if you will. There was an impressive range of creativity here that painted not only in the palette of modern danceable avant-garde but seemed to draw on almost militant elements I associate with the Swedish dark ambient-industrial scene of the late 1990’s.

Cut Hands is the latest brainchild of William Bennett of old school industrial pioneers “Whitehouse” fame.  Immediately the stylistic cues reminded me of the playfulness of Yello (with considerably less Geneva beige) bouncing against flashes of more melancholic Dead Can Dance tribal renderings.  Powerful, danceable rhythms from Haiti, Cuba & Africa with stygian noisescapes tapping into something primal and chthonic.  I need to stress, it is definitely its own thing, it is not a simple recasting of traditional form.   But it is probably the first time I have heard a serious considered electronic exploration of Vodoun polyrhythms since Rodney Orpheus’s side project Sun God. There is a sentiment that William to an extent is experimenting not only with the music, but with the listener and/or dancer. Our Western brains try to process rhythms one way, and sometimes our bodies process them another way. Compelling stuff.

Morton Subotnik , being the only octogenarian on the bill, is as “old skool” as you are going to get given his pioneering work in electronic music in the late 1960’s.  Organic and analogue, his up front unapologetic minimalist opening in Silver Apples of the Moon forced you to shut up and listen, which people did. He may have worked sans drums, but the kids seemed to get it – picking up on the subliminal rhythms, an almost invisible waltz to the ear.  He built his sonic creations in layers, expertly sound sculpturing and revelling in the lux/nox interfaces. The applause he received was only confirmation to me that those attending are not looking for the next wave of dance music, but are happy to look backwards and understand the genesis.

Finally Nurse With Wound addressed us all with an unusual musical violence. Not brutal and physical, but more like psychological stress positions. Implosions of sound, internalised, almost vascular in their journey. Stephen Stapleton promised the possibility of unforseen collaborators on the night and that came in the form of Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar who is here for other performances within the Adelaide Festival.  His delivery of improvised echolalic screeches, intonations and electronically processed vocalisations added fuel to the screened backing film of incendiary near-snuff. The musical metastasis before us differed from some of the otherwise highly programmed acts previously in Unsound in that there was room allowed for error. Being principally improvised means that sometimes a musical passage was but a transition to moments of brilliance when the group telepathy was truly onto something – whether that be in the territory of deep drone or unexpected beat-monologue led guitar assaults in blue.

If the two Unsound Festivals to date are but scratching the surface of avant-garde musical ingenuity, then I say it is time to dig in the fingernails and draw blood with a third year.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 10th 2014 | Filed in Events,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

Unsound Adelaide Review 2014 – Snowtown Live (Jed Kurzel) & Stars Of The Lid

In stark contrast to the colonial decay of Queens Theatre that seems an ideal crucible for much of the Unsound line up, tonight’s first Unsound performance is instead within the more regal splendour of the Adelaide Town Hall. Pristine decorations, pipe organ, a reminder of days of Empire and our ties to Monarchy, it is almost ironic then that Jed Kurzel’s “Snowtown:Live” provides the undercurrent for a movie principally set in the suburbs of Salisbury North, in the boundaries of what was once the City of Elizabeth, named in honour of Her Majesty in 1955 as an experimental satellite town.

There is in fact a strange resonance to this unique performance of Snowtown: Live, here as part of the main arts festival in the city that housed the individuals that committed the Bodies in Barrels murders, as it is all closer to home for us.

Classic analog synths, live percussion & cello combined with a rich wall of layered guitars from Jed Kurzel’s ensemble, ambient feedback treatment reminding me strongly of Michael Brook but with considerably more isolationism. Images of housing commission homes, the corroding corpses of cars scattered on front lawns, the sickly sweet pastel shades of cheap lilac paint lining the interiors of dwellings.  How much is really a projected middle class distaste for a blue collar heartland, and how much is truly an awareness of the banality of evil given the events that transpired there?  It is a question I keep asking myself later in the interval amongst the glitterati of Adelaide arts personalities.

Musically there are themes that rise and return, one which reminds me of an unhinged reflection of Receurdos de la Alhambra, all melancholic tremelo, while another is underpinned in percussive panicked heart beats that switch between sequencer & skin.  Projected on the screen on the long road to Snowtown from the northern suburbs are the metal grain silos that appear like upright bullet casings, sentinels to the violence inflicted upon the eleven victims.

If Jed Kurzel & company’s sonic brilliance picked at a wound, then drone-ambient meisters Stars of the Lid were possibly the countering Balm of Gilead.  Brian McBride and Adam Wiltzie weaved a most unquiet void that combined with the projected visuals gave rise to feelings of time running out to some uncertain end.  The wave wash of harmony felt like an unsung polyphony of Gesualdo-proportioned interplay. Treated guitars gave rise to a crescendo of sound synonymous in puissance to that of a pipe organ, otherwise laying silent in the background. And supporting this structure, and sometimes rising above it, were the Zephyr Ensemble, who we last saw at the 2013 Unsound Adelaide weaving their stringed alchemy under Demdike Stare.

I looked around and saw some slumped in a soporific daze, not in boredom, but as in a methadonic anaesthesia. I myself re-emerged several times into lucidity from this beautiful catatonia, awakening into a sound as though I was at the heart of a hornets nest.

If this is what it means to be Unsound of mind, then may this musical madness never stop.

Posted by Jonathan on Mar 9th 2014 | Filed in Events,Music,People,Reviews | Comments (0)

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