The 10th and final instalment of the Surface Noise series is out today. Wow, what a journey. The first volume of this split series between Shame File Music and Iceage Productions came out in 2014, each one is a split between two artists contributing live recordings. How it worked is that me and Peter James would invite the initial artist, then that artist would nominate someone else to share their release with, a concept I always liked. And the final one, Surface Noise Vol. 10, appropriately is a split between me (with Barnaby Oliver) and Peter. Mine and Barnaby’s track is a live recording from an intimate performance at LongPlay in 2019 (seems so long ago now), and Peter’s is from Make It Up Club in 2012 (that IS a long time ago!) Get your copy through Shame File Music.
This newly released two-track set makes no attempt to conceal the ugly, knobby seams and blemishes inherent to physical media and fusions or exhumations thereof; like a zealous dig through the bargain cassette bin at your local thrift store—old answering machine archives and sound effects collections and obsolete dictations and forgotten world music thrown (in)discriminately into the “yes” bag—“Here?” stitches an abstractly (yet disturbingly) coherent sequence from voices mangled to oblivion and harsh analog ephemera, while “Secret” plays with sputtering negative space, radio squawks, and sporadic bursts of raucous, chattering chaos made even more gleefully caustic by the hiss and screech of the low-fidelity playback. Moments of warm beauty also lurk quietly in the marshes of both halves, only briefly emerging when absolutely necessary to avoid wasted impact: a flutter of buzzing drone like a ray of light through the dust, a snatch of familiar innocence amidst bedlam. Lovely stuff – Noise Not Music
Here?/Secret (Shame File Music) is anew work of tape compositions reimagining voice and the reverberant influence of collaboration.
The seeds of this project were planted during Melbourne’s hard COVID lockdown of 2020, when I could not access my studio and the majority of my equipment. After several months of not making any new music, I felt it imperative to do SOMETHING, and looked at what I had around me at home:
– An old Tascam 4-track cassette porta-studio
– Some cheap Walkmans
– Some cassettes that had been generated over several performances and rehearsals around 2015-16.
I devised a compositional procedure for laying out excerpts from these cassettes on the 4-track tape, including changes of tape speed, panning, tape reversal (by flipping the master cassette), changing tracks, etc. I also included some field recordings of local frog populations, and a recording of record gifted to me by Kerrie Farnsworth, who had found it in a drain in Kiev. I transferred the results in bulk to digital and slowly edited them down with a more conscious and less-process driven aesthetic driving the resulting compositions. The results regularly astounded me as I played them back; this feels like something completely different from what I’ve previously created, and in that spirit I’ve decided to share them.
Voices include Jen Callaway, Chun-liang Liu, Michael McNab, Shani Mohini-Holmes, Elnaz Sheshgelani, Tony Yap, and others unknown/anonymous.Available digitally and as a limited edition cassette/art object hand-made by visual artist, Simon Fisher. Each cassette case has been transformed by into a unique object d’art, with a painted cassette case featuring a unique cover, containing further unique full colour sleeve and inserts, plus liner notes. Hand-numbered edition of 17 copies only.
Clinton Green […] presents a new LP and again the turntables play an important role, like in much of his recent work […]. Unlike in the work of many other musicians with the same apparatus, here [it is] to hit upon objects around it. In Green’s case, this is mostly percussion objects, drums, and bells. The cover has a better wording for this process; “beaters and objects suspended from an overhead swaying horizontal pole strike percussive objects on three rotating turntables”. I assume Green moving around these turntables, placing new objects, removing old and keep the music vibrant and energetic. The one thing this is not is static. One may suspect that the rotation of the turntable leads to a steady rhythm, which Thomas Brinkman once cleverly turned into dance music, but none such is the case here. On this LP we find four pieces, two on each side. It is difficult to tell the two per side apart; on the first side everything is fast and on the other side everything is slow. That is an interesting choice, I think but it works very well. Side A is a wild ride, chaotic mostly, from moving and removing all these objects around the three turntables, a hybrid of sound, ants crawling around sort of thing. The two on the other side are meditative touches, scratches upon a surface and is of delicate sparseness. Here too nothing stays the same for very long, or, maybe not at all. It shares, however, the same love for the chaos as on the other side, which curiously ties both ends together. This is another most enjoyable record from Green, […] a fine example of the sort of turntable usage I enjoy very much. – Vital Weekly #1296
Note: despite what the review, I did not move objects around the turntables during the recording of these pieces, the variation is build into the sound sculptures, largely facilitated by the swaying pole beaters are suspended from.
I have a previously-unreleased track on this new digital album Let Your Freak Flag Fly: 3CR Community Radio Compilation #1.
My track “Three Turntables from Ernie” was recorded in December 2017, working with three stripped-down turntables and Tibetan bells generously gifted to me by Ernie Althoff.
The album also features Ernie Althoff, as well as Robin Fox, Facetoucher, Furchick, Judith Hamann, Mary Doumany, David Brown, and many more. All proceeds go to Melbourne community radio station 3CR.
Here’s Undecisive God’s 2003 monolithic ambient/drone guitar album, on Bandcamp for the first time. CDR version also available. Maybe a misstep including a cover of Sonic Youth’s “Mote”, but credit to their influence at the time should be paid, I guess. The rest of the album I still like a lot, and can listen to it now like it came from someone/somewhere else
“My Umbrella Is Another Word for Community” is a kind of appendix to THIS Ensemble’s sprawling “Brown Paper Business” double album released earlier this year. “My Umbrella…” was recorded live in 2014, and like the group at the time, is alternatively frenetic and deeply meditative. “My Umbrella…” is available on CDR, which neatly fits inside the “Brown Paper Business” limited edition wooden box as well (purchase the “Brown Paper Business” boxset and get “My Umbrella…” free if you haven’t already).
Clinton Green Relativity/Only – Lately, my cat has been more anxious than usual. She runs around and gets into things more often when I’m not in the best moods, because I don’t have the energy to play and keep her from getting bored. To get her to chill out and stop going nuts at 3 AM, I’ve started putting videos of birds and squirrels on the TV so that she’s got something to focus on and feel like she’s hunting. She gets enraptured with this stuff and will watch it for hours, and it does its job at calming her down, but it’s had an unintended side effect—now I’m addicted to it too. I’m mostly amused by her amusement—it’s adorable when she swipes at the screen trying to grab a little critter or when her head whips in the direction that a bird flies off screen—but it’s also pretty good visual stimulus. We’ve watched all of the videos on the incredibly titled Birder King channel together, some multiple times; it’s officially a family bonding activity.
The cat, likewise, seems to enjoy some things that I’m into. It’s well known that cats mimic the habits of their owners when they’ve bonded, and she’s pretty much attached to me at the hip. She follows me from room to room, expects to be fed when I’m eating, and has a spot on the couch imprinted with her shape right next to the spot that’s shaped like me. My favorite thing, though, is that she gets enamored with the music I listen to when I play it from my laptop speakers. Relativity/Only is a recording of a kinetic sculpture at work, and the resulting sounds are strictly percussive—metal on metal, drums being struck, wooden objects being dragged across surfaces. She seems to especially find sounds like these fascinating; she’ll stand by my computer and stare, rub her face against the speakers, and circle around me trying to figure out the source of the sound. This is already one of my favorite types of music, but I’m particularly likely to play an album repeatedly if it gets a cute response from the kitty.
This album, probably due to its dynamic stereo panning that makes it sound like there’s something moving around the room, has gotten a response out of her more dramatic than anything else I’ve played. It’s one of my favorite musical experiences I’ve had this year because of how I’m uniquely able to share it with my cat. It gets me thinking about how personal experiences can elevate a piece of art, and sometimes those experiences can be so narrow that it’s hard to imagine it ever applying to someone else. Relativity/Only might not end up being your pet’s favorite album, but I now mine has good taste—she learned from the best. —Shy Thompson
THIS Ensemble “Brown Paper Business” – Melbourne’s Shame File Music has long been one of Australia’s most important experimental labels, both unearthing and reissuing the country’s long-forgotten noise, musique concrète and tape music from the 70s and 80s, as well as releasing new albums from some of Australia’s leading experimental acts. In January, the label put out one of their most ambitious releases to date: a wooden box, housing two CDrs, which contain a single, two-hour performance by the roving, malleable performance troupe known only as the THIS Ensemble.
The music here truly defies description, but let me try anyway. There’s plenty of spoken-word and tape loops, and instruments half-played or possibly just shuffled around the stage. On top of this, on the first track alone, I think I can make out maracas, a slide whistle, a dripping faucet, a balloon rubbing against a metal pipe, jangling keys, wind buffeting a microphone, a rice cooker, and two guitars. While much of the proceeding 110 minutes operates in the same register of shifting, unplaceable sounds, the ensemble do manage to cover a surprising amount of ground, sometimes veering into rock, jazz, noise, acousmatic drone, and trancelike percussion circles. Through all this, the spoken poetry, full of lopsided phrases and wordplay, and delivered in an absolute deadpan, both anchors the diffuse material and cuts through the air of monastic seriousness which typically attends a two-hour, avant-garde performance. At times, even the performers can be heard laughing at what they themselves are doing onstage.
In this way, THIS Ensemble embodies something I love about the Australian avant-garde underground: it is both ambitious and self-deprecating, not afraid to poke fun at its own extreme weirdness. Experimental music is weird! It can be pretty silly stuff. This isn’t to say that Australia doesn’t have its own share of stuffy, self-serious sculpteurs du son. At its best, however, the scene balances its adventurous inclinations with a flair for the comedic, giving audiences and performers alike permission to stop holding their breath. Brown Paper Business is a fantastic distillation of this ethos. At two hours, it can be a taxing listen, but its slowly shifting landscape and slyly circular structure reward a more-than-casual engagement. Brown Paper Business is huge, yes, and frequently very difficult music, but it is also one of the most fun experimental albums I’ve heard in a long while. Gird your loins, and take the plunge. —Mark Cutler