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
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
I have a previously unreleased track on the just-released New Weird Australia compilation “Space Between Space”. It’s a Pay What You Feel download with all proceeds going to the Barpirdhila appeal, which supports Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander artists & community affected by COVID-19.
Relativity/Only Album Launch Thursday 25 March 2021, 8:30pm Avalon Bar, 387 Brunswick St, Fitzroy $10
My new album Relativity/Only (Nice Music/Shame File Music) will be launched later this month at Avalon (former site of Polyester Records). I will be constructing the sound sculpture that generated the music for the album (three turntables with suspensions and objects) for the event, and hopefully playing the tracks on Side A of the album on a “loop”, so to speak.
I will also be joined by Nick Ashwood and Michael McNab, and we’ll then play a “quartet” with the sound sculpture.
This will be my first live performance since September 2019!
My new solo album Relativity/Only (Nice Music/Shame File Music) has had a bit of a journey. It is my first solo 12” vinyl release, which makes it a bit special for me, so it seems appropriate that it’s had a winding path to realisation.
The album’s beginnings came from attempts to sonically document the main sound sculpture from my Stabilityexhibition of 2019. Basically, I was not happy with my own recordings of this complex sound sculpture, so I started fishing around for an engineer who had the skills and interest to record this multi-turntable driven beast. Ernie Althoff recommended Michael Hewes, who has done a lot of work recording Speak Percussion. Michael and I communicated by email in late 2019, when I sent him some demos and videos of the work, and it was obvious from those early exchanges that he got what I was trying to achieve.
We made tentative plans to record in his Richmond studio in early 2020. Throughout the summer, I honed the sculpture in my own studio space, working on sketches (see end of this post) to make it easier/quicker to set up in Michael’s recording studio. I also created and demoed several variations on the initial sound sculpture. By February 2020, I was in the studio with Michael, setting up for four different pieces, all based around 3 turntables and a suspended/swaying horizontal pole, and various percussive objects suspended from/placed on each.
I’ve since come to understand what I’m aiming at as a kind of percussive episode that is free from human intervention or ego, yet has enough variation and chance at play that the rhythms constantly shift. “Everything Is In Motion” documents a more honed version of the original sound sculpture from the 2019 exhibition, whereas “Drum Circle” is more kit focussed (‘egoless drummer’). The two flipside tracks “Only (Two)” and “Only (Four)” are more reductive, where the hits/beats have much more space between them.
Our initial mixing session was in March 2020, just as the Melbourne lockdown was looming. Later tweaks were done remotely. I was very pleased with how the recordings came out. Michael’s knowledge of mic placement especially bridged the gap in what my own amateur recording skills lacked. These recordings all involve five microphones around the sculpture, covering different perspectives and conveying a sense of physical space.
I really didn’t know what, if anything, I would do with these recordings. The exercise was initially for documentation, but I was thrilled with the end product. When Simon J Karis of Nice Music expressed an interest in co-releasing them with Shame File Music, I was very happy at the prospect of these recordings having a public life on vinyl.
And now here they are, with Tim Panaretos’ photography large and stunning on the front cover, hot off the magnificent new Program Records press in Melbourne and sounding crystal clear. I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I do.
Relativity/Only is out now on limited edition vinyl LP and digital formats from Shame File Musicand Nice Music, and on all streaming platforms.
Many thanks to Ernie Althoff, Michael Hewes, Simon J Karis, James A. Dean for mastering, and Nat Grant for generously donating some of the drums used.