Up until the point when the cathode ray began humming multiples of itself into the loungerooms of the progressive, Australia’s tentative masses were entertained by travelling shows, husband-and-wife acts in stage makeup swaying together on a narrow stage strumming banjos and singing songs like ‘I’ve been everywhere, man’.
Those who made the smooth transition from tent to studio were those who understood that each person watching television liked to believe they were being addressed personally. Expansive cathodic dissemination meant that the previous strategy of putting together an act and physically peddling it about the country no longer applied, usurped by omnipotent transmission. Henceforth ensued a scramble for ‘new talent’, an approach which over the course of decades mutated to the point when a coked-up Molly Meldrum issued forth from the mileu, gathering about him fellow androgynous-dick-brain blokes who made up bands like Sherbet and Skyhooks for the production of Countdown.
There was a rich vein of creativity running through this lineage, notably the founding in 1972 of Split Enz who, though a New Zealand band, were hugely successful in Australia, and had a major influence on bands like Madness. Also deserving of attention is Sister Janet Mead, whose rock version of The Lord’s Prayer spent 4 weeks at number one in the Melbourne charts in 1974.
Not much is to be found of this creative heritage these days, but for the singing of Rolf Harris songs in primary school, and late-night broadcasts of old countdown episodes. The vaudevillean larrikin was mediatized and then gonged off the stage with the cloyingly evil Hey Hey it’s Saturday, clearing the underbrush for subsequent generations to lay down more free-standing, internationalized cultural foundations.
Vanilla Triple Thick® Shake:
Shake Mix: Whole milk, sucrose, cream, nonfat milk solids, corn syrup solids, mono and diglycerides, guar gum, imitation vanilla flavor, carrageenan, cellulose gum, vitamin A palmitate. Vanilla Syrup: Corn syrup, water, vanilla flavor, caramel color, citric acid, pectin, sodium benzoate (a preservative), calcium chloride, FD&C Yellow #5, FD&C Yellow #6. May contain small amounts of other shake flavors served at the restaurant, including egg ingredients when Egg Nog Shakes are available.
(This information obtained from the March 2005 issue of Fortean Times - more detail to be found there).
*Not to be confused with the Progressive alt-hillbilly world jam rock Moss Piglets (I shit you not).
Easter soon. Anyone in local surrounds is welcome to join me for a neo-post-post-proto-pagan feast of colossal eggs, hot swastika buns and stigmata jam ball doughnuts. Maybe I shall organize for some of the neo-post-post-proto-punk bands which flourish along Australia's Eastern Coast to play musical accompaniment.
I am disappointed to find that there is no colossal egg recipe on line which I can link to, so I should explain: Take an ovine bladder, wash it carefully and set it aside. Next, take about 40 fresh eggs and carefully separate the yolks from the whites. Carefully fill the ovine bladder with the yolks and gently poach it in the oven, but don't cook it completely. Next, take a bovine bladder, wash it well, and place the par-cooked ovine bladder-yolk inside it (you know what's coming). Fill the bovine bladder with the whites, do it up and put it back into the oven to cook slowly. Voila! Colossal egg. Serve as you will.
I am still spewing up all over the place about all the good things I couldn’t afford, financially or temporally, to see during What is music?. Bless the shallow-mindedness of the Big Day Out promoter - presuming that people interested in the bands who are out for What is music? are happy to pay 80-odd dollars to be herded between one stage and another in the belief that they are witnessing an 'extravaganza' - under whose direction the ‘Onathons’ sound as though they became spaces of quiet contemplation, sonic molecules like Growing playing to just a handful of people.
And so to the week in visuality. Monday night gave us New 05, a mixed bunch, some of it fantastic. Most notable to my perceptual windows was Stuart Ringholt’s work which, like Stuart, is honest and forthwith, and glinting with a quiet sort of brilliance – the best sort. Laid out on tables are a selection of cloth-bound books, various in content. Some of them are manuscripts from Stuart’s workshops and processes, dealing with things like the emotional and mental states connected to public embarrassment. Others are reconfigurations of found books – a book of mediocre closeup facial photographs is transformed by simply cutting circles out of mouths and eyes, switching and rotating them to re-present a parade of earnest, gnarly mutants. One of my very favourite books is a conglomerate of two coffee-table books which were the same size, paper of the same weight and finish. One of the books shows emotive documentation of the Twin Towers collapse, the New York sky over the rubble photoshopped into a pallid swoon of musky yellow, sombre mauve and cold blue, the contrast filter up on the firemen, the saturation maxed out on the American flag. The other book is a showcase of Australian customized speed boats, all deep mahogany lacquers and streamlined Australian flags, rich glossy colours everywhere ploughing up the tannin-brown waters of regional Victoria. The books have been spliced together in accordance with colour, line and placement, and are so good to look at; the swooping almost-verticals of the towers’ last legs, before which the horizontal ridges of an upturned coca-cola truck are mirrored by the sleek corrugations of a custom boat’s prow, both sharing the same deep commercial red. Ruminations on power dynamics aside, this is a visually stunning arrangement, considered and simple. Likewise the sculptures which punctuate the wall, each a powder-coated little steel box with a tough mount, and each precision-wrapped in a different coloured veneer of horse hair. This being only a sample, it needs to be seen.
James Lynch created a wooden bleacher-like structure with beanbags and cushions, poles around the perimeter of Acca’s usually dull and cold back room holding a string of those different coloured, standard-sized lightglobes which I associate with New Year’s Eve parties my parents would put on in the eighties when I was a kid...I have a memory of our ‘breakfast bar’ replete with an array of casks, sugary wine coolers and other such nasty fare. My friend Rhiannon and I, reaching up as high as we could, were just big enough to reach the release mechanisms on the casks, walking up and down under the bench receiving descendant samples of booze into our mouths, and no doubt all over our pretty frocks as well. Cheeky little brats!
Anyway, back to James’ work, he managed (with mostly recycled materials) to imbue the attempted sterility of Acca with the vibe of a primary school fete (closedown capers!), this relaxing atmosphere in which a drive-in type screen showed one of his beautiful films, wherein dreams which people have had about James are animated in pencil and paint against grainy video backgrounds.
Mira Gojak also made beautiful work, slicing up wardrobes into wireframe cuboids and narrow sticks, crowded together to form totemic terrains about the wardrobe-frames which mothered them, Mira here envisaged as the father wielding a persistent narrow blade. More of Mira’s slivered plastic Ikea chair works were also on show, the forms multisected and then lined up forming these structures which seem so alive – like giant hump-backed sea slugs engaged in a psychological standoff.
The light in Destiny Deacon’s work was great at the opening, a dim jaundiced yellow which washed out all colour, so the crowds mingling in there looked like extras in a neo-noir production, then when they stepped out into the rest of the gallery it was like some cheesy Hollywood ‘waking from a dream’/’coming back from the dead’ dissolve back into colour.
All this followed by a comedy of piss and blindnesses outside the Winston Dumpling House which narrowly missed culminating in a night in the slammer for one of our incredibly gifted but at that point very drunk friends.
Watched Devil's Playground last night, a natty Aphex soundtrack accompanying Amish teens as they go through Rumschpringe, during which they are allowed to become immersed in what they understand as 'English' culture - which is to say, wild, huge parties in back paddocks, alcohol and drug binges, and a driven enthusiasm for white-bread consumerism.
I suppose it's sort of a blown-out version of your dad busting you smoking, and so making you sit down and smoke an entire packet in one go, after which you feel sick and poisoned.
It's interesting to see the way conventional American teen behaviour seems to be cultural confusion enough for the Amish kids, none of them seem (within this documentary, anyway) to become ravers or goths or the like. Perhaps they just don't relate to concepts of trend or style. I suppose they see everything beyond the Amish communities as some freakish sort of subculture in a way.
Went to the last What is music? event last night; Gang Gang Dance, Ooioo and Black Dice.
Gang Gang Dance was like Kate Bush became an alcoholic, got over it and converted to Islam, then started collaborating with the Magic Band – in a good way. I enjoyed their combination of messiness and melotonal grandeur. I enjoyed watching the drummer’s barefooted big toes working his double kicks like the hands of a bored but deft cashier on the register. The lead singer reminded me of some sort of woodland fowl the way she moved around the stage.
Ooioo were cool, ultra-post-modern Japan, a Rhumba flicking back its head to become country-and-western incidental music, very Frithy guitars all the way through, and a bass-player manipulating her headless bass as though she had some sort of organic relationship with it. The lead singer hitting some extraordinary notes, sounding something like one of those personal-alarms-in-a-can.
Black Dice were laughable – in a bad way. Waiting in a queue for the toilets I picked up a vice magazine which was lying around and flicked through it, when to my horror the pages grabbed me by the head and dragged me in, subjecting me to an extended monotony of bored coolness – oh no, wait, that wasn’t the vice magazine, it was Black Dice performing. Or more like Black Dice having a jam. We abandoned ship before they reached the tired end/took their finger off the one button/fret it had been on all night and switched their sequencer off. It’s not that I have a problem with repetitive music, quite the contrary. But there is a difference to me between considered repetitive music and lazy repetitive music, and this was definitely the latter. I like listening to Black Dice’s records but I would not recommend paying money to see them live, I would even debate bothering to leave the house if you had a free ticket.
On a far more interesting note, I thought I should share on a recent purchase which is steadily growing on me – Nova Popularna. I ordered this record from Germany unheard, but knowing it had killer potential, the first release on Decemberism, output of a Lucy McKenzie/Paulina Olowska collaboration. I won’t say I wasn’t lured by the pop-up gatefold either, which shows the layout of the illegal bar these girls opened in Warsaw for a month – this record being a compilation of artists who performed there.
The first song is by donAteller. This band is amazing. The March of the White Barbarians/Why? shifts effortlessly through its paces. An extended intro of Dadaist rally-calling conjures images of Kurt Schwitters happily retired in Cuba. A gear shift to an interlude of Shepherd tone lunacy culminates in a post-techno space freakout, and then un-sentimentally progresses to the alluringly matter-of-fact post-punkish female vocals of Why? – presumably from the chords of Bonnie Camplin – and slumping vampishly into a frozen sauce of a leg-kicking finale. This is one of the best songs I have heard for a long time.
Added to this, Marcin Dutka’s Improvization on Prepared Piano sounds like the result of somebody slipping a few rohypnol into Richard D James’ drink and then getting him to sign a contract agreeing to write a score for a broadway musical.
It is well worth a listen.
The night before last was a series of performances in a stormwater drain under South Yarra. You have to walk five or six hundred meters down this drain and then it opens into a spacious cavern. I do believe it is among the best, if not the best, area(s) for public socializing that Melbourne has to offer. The cavern was almost completely dark, with a stream running down the middle, the bands performing on one side and standing room on the other, behind which was a ledge about 5ft high which you could jump up onto and sit around on cushions. For the most part the various performers fell short of responding to the potential of performing in such a space, nobody utilised the presence of the connecting tunnel or the tendency of sound to get lost in the corners of the space. It was a really enjoyable night though.
In the past I have been sceptical of Sunn o))) due to their highly derivative approach to music. But after last night, I take it all back. Seeing (and feeling) Sunn o))) live was a magnificent experience. Stephen O'Malley said beforehand that he thought this would be the loudest show they had ever played.
The crimson fog in which they shroud the room is reminiscent of the sunset which Machen’s Lucian sees over the old Roman fort, the lure of the darkness revealed to him thereby. Standing on the raised carpeted structure around the floor, the frequencies made my trousers shiver on my legs, at one point it felt as though the sound had matched the natural frequency of my blood and it made my elbows buzz. Standing in the middle of the floor before the stage I had to remind myself to breathe, for the deepest whumping, pulsating outputs confused the reflexes of my lungs, stopped them dead. All about my head and shoulders I felt as though I had grown a coat of soft rabbit fur. The audience stood rapt as though before a massive, distant explosion. You could literally lean on the sound; you had to, otherwise it would push you off balance. People making their way down the stairs fell about as though drunk, their inner-ears hypnotised. In a wonderful finish, the larger of the frequencies seemed to dry out, still resonating at the same rate but each ragged pulse slowly being hollowed and cured, and then silence
in which you realized your bones had fossilized in your legs, and you felt five kilograms lighter, your head tending toward the ceiling like a helium balloon. Slowly the frozen crowd re-animates, tentative movement, the remerging waves of collective human speech sounding like a boiling pot of gravel and honey to ears which seemed to be shivering in time with the soul of the earth.
MP3 blogs are still ethically dubious to me. It is really gratifying being able to hear something new after it has been written of so tantalizingly and descriptively...but I think my problem starts when music is made publicly accessible, which is to say, many of the people who are getting it are strangers to the poster, and with no benefit to the artist. Usually when I burn someone a CD the act arises from a sense of mutual appreciation, and even though it is still ethically questionable to pass music around for free, there is a sense that it is contributing to cultural growth. This in turn demarcates an ethical space between consumption and exchange, which leads to another quandary; if financial transaction is extracted from consumption, how is consumption's moral aspect altered?
On the flip side, if something needs or wants to be popularised (the most notable example obviously being Grime) then MP3 blogging it is an excellent avenue, because ultimately the purveyors of this culture will reap the rewards. This then brings my musings full circle to the observation that a huge proportion of what gets posted on MP3 blogs is obscure and/or old, and so the hope is that the people who made/are making it will be pleasantly surprised by an influx of attentions/royalties or at least some cult status. Which brings me to the other issue, of cultural specificity. I was listening to the Resonance FM documentary on music blogs in which Simon Reynolds mentioned a heated debate which arose from increased prominence of locally-focussed music, as to whether said music was unfairly exclusive. This, to me, is ridiculous. Power to the locally specific! It provides a basis for diversity in the face of the onanistic powers of globalism. If we reached a point where everything was relevant to everyone on earth, there would be a slow, wet, deep cracking sound and we would become one writhing stratum of plasmic mud covering the face of the planet. Slowly we (I) would be atomised, becoming a pinkish shroud about our mother earth. And our (my) collective nebulo-receptors would realize that this, this is the rapture, primordial nirvana. The other mammals would peer up at the pale vermillion sky and snigger.
That said, MP3 blogs - nurturers of the heterogenous - have more good points than bad, ethically dubious though they may be.
The night before last, Condoleeza Rice and George Bush were in my dream. [How do these evil people penetrate my unconscious?]. The setting is blurry in my mind, but I remember it as some sort of kids’ roller-coaster with tiny cars, in a room which was all peach decor and plastic plants like a set from the Young and the Restless or some such. So I was sitting in one of these small roller-coaster cars facing Condoleeza, and looking into her face she appeared soft, almost pretty. ‘It’s strange’, I said to her, ‘how they make you look so ugly in the press’. The only other part I remember was when I was standing in front of Bush, about a foot away, quite repulsed by his physicality. I leaned in and said quietly to him, ‘doesn’t it make you uncomfortable standing this close to someone like me, when I could just...’ at this point I was going to put my hands around his neck and try to strangle him, but there were guards around and I knew they would bristle, so I just smiled, ‘...nothing.’