The Outsider #1 | Select Music from Australia -- Part Two

Part two of two in a brief look into a small selection of experimental noise and minimal composition from Australia. This was a pretty busy week for me so I apologize for the lack of thoroughness in these reviews. I'll also be back in school as of next week so things might slow down a bit, though I will try my best to post at least 3-4 times a month. I am far from becoming jaded or exhausted by the blog world.

Vinyl Anthology (23five, 2004)

Gum was the duo of Philip Samartzis and Andrew Curtis that ignited out of a mutual love for industrial music in 1986. However, both Curtis and Samartzis explain that they could never have subscribed to the elitist and overall dead-end path of the industrial stream. Instead, Gum was a project that flourished outside any restricting archetypes. Vinyl Anthology is a two disc set containing the complete Gum recordings from 1987-1990. Their specific brand of static-soaked turntablism paved the way for people like Philip Jeck and other vinyl manipulators. Silly. Hypnotic. Funky. Noisy. Raw. And oh so Seminal.

Philip Samartzis
Soft and Loud (Plates of Sound, 2005)

While Andrew Curtis continued his artistic endeavors as a photographer, Samartzis continued along a musical path. Soft and Loud–also the title of his piece in the Variable Resistance exhibit, which, sounds to me like a shorter reworking of the material from this record–as Samartzis explains, is "an environmentally derived composition..." which was originally intended to be an 8 channel sound installation. The environmental recordings within are from various places in Japan, and were boiled down from hours worth of material with the intention of creating these "Soft and Loud" narratives. Samartzis's notes on the work delve further into the concept of this record and he sheds light on a few interesting ideas. In particular, his idea that Japan is a much more "muted" place than Australia is quite fascinating. And the music within too, is equally so.

Wind Keeps Even Dust Away (23five, 2007)

I realize that this list is heavily weighted towards 23five, but really, I can't help it when a label is consistently releasing such high calibre material. And it just so happens that the majority of the stuff hails from Australia. So sorry to anyone who sees redundancy in this post. Think of it as not only a highlight on the region but a label highlight as well.

This was the first disc of Tarab aka Eamon Sprod I had heard actually, the follow-up to 2004's Surfacedrift. I also reviewed his latest effort for 23five, Take all the Ships... on the Scrapyard in August of '09. Wind Keeps Even Dust Away however, remains my favourite. I remember giving an mp3 version to an old friend who requested some soothing music for her massage sessions. Fully aware of the album's more abrasive moments, I also provided her with a safety net: a loose mix of my own field recordings from one day down by the river that I had assembled into a 20 minute track. Sure enough, she opted for my mix over Sprod's, which, I don't know, I guess was just 'safer'. This was like two or three years ago, probably around the time this was released.

Wind. Keeps. Even. Dust. Away. As far as Sprod's sonic world goes, it seems to me as if it's infinitely vast and complex, from gentle gusts of wind to shattered glass to droning machinery to metallic clatter and everything in between. It's as if the guy can coax lush sounds out of anything really, and this album stands as a fine example of the possibilities that can be achieved in field recording composition.

Oh, and if anyone's interested, click here to download my field recording collage, which, at the time I named The Burlap Mines Recording Project.

Currently, the project is on hold.

Tim Catlin
Slow Twitch + Radio Ghosts (Dr. Jim's, 2003 + 23five, 2007)

Tim Catlin's work has always intrigued me. I think it's because what has always interested me in minimalism and experimentation in music is the idea of setting an instrument into motion by way of agitation. It's this unconventional way of understanding a particular instrument that allows Catlin to achieve his compositions. When creating his works, Catlin use various instrumentation (guitars mostly) that he resonates with handheld tools: ebow, electric toothbrush, fans, and other things that vibrate the surfaces and strings propelling his music along vast temporal plains, seldom changing and at times bordering the psychedelic.

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