Features, Reviews

Mining Memories: on NUN’s debut LP

F1010008CONTRASTWhen NUN plays live, a seemingly endless array of cables spew forth from tables of analog equipment, watched over blankly by Steven Harris, Tom Hardisty and Hugh Young. In front of it all extends a lead to the microphone of Jenny Branaghan, who contorts herself under thickets of smoke and a projected dome of white noise. In the right light, it can look like Branagan is being controlled by the wires of a demented puppeteer. At other times she looks like she’s thrashing against cabled restraints. Her warbling vocals accompany music which recalls some distant childhood memory of a perverted horror movie, and that’s probably where the mental images come from. Nun’s record is similarly inclined: it’s deliberately otherworldly.

Branagan’s vocals are chilling throughout the record, starting with the cringing shouts of “let me piss on your rich mother’s lips” on the painfully slow opener ‘Immersion II’. The album art consists of grainy nondescript images shot in monochrome, while the song titles referencing David Cronenberg and Uri Geller recall mysterious moments of the past rather than anything in the present. It also looks abjectly to the future: “Going to the cinema in the future is really grim” is emblazoned on the inner-sleeve and spat alongside references to replicants on ‘Kino’. It’s a record that’s inspired by imagery and phenomenon that is simple enough to identify – from ‘70s/‘80s cinema to the early synth-punks – but it’s thrilling nonetheless.

NUN is a band that has come from mixed sensibilities. The fact that their synth-punk/electro aesthetic comes from musicians also involved with Woollen Kits and Constant Mongrel may be surprising to some, but there’s a different set of rules for NUN. For some of the reasons listed above NUN excites me like few other recent bands have, but for the same reasons they’ve been swiftly dismissed by others.

Pick Your Context

In an unusually fiery comments thread on Crawlspace, the phrase “stylized nostalgia” was recently used to describe NUN. While the commenter intended it as criticism, I actually think it’s an appropriate description. I don’t think that referencing the past in an intentionally stylistic manner immediately makes music unimportant, forgettable, or as another commenter put it: “as relevant as Jet.”

nun6In the case of NUN, half of the appeal for me is the idea that a band can tap into some kind of distant memory and add a modern relevance to it. This is probably a generational symptom (I wasn’t old enough to experience the ‘80s, for example) or a result of personal philosophy, but I think many would agree that there’s a freshly defined context to current Australian underground music that transcends the influences it may contain, especially for those who have only participated in it recently.

For longer than I’m capable of remembering pop culture has been referential, so the idea of a band being just another loop in a chain of recycled ideas is irrelevant to me. I’m not inclined to dwell on any perceived similarities between, for example, NUN and Suicide, because I really don’t find that interesting. I feel like the comparison between a four-piece from Melbourne and a duo from New York is increasingly misinformed when there is a much more accurate local context at play.

What I do find interesting in modern Australian music is that it has come to exist in its own bubble in both space and time, to the extent that it lives within a context that is self-defined. Perhaps unusually, I tend not to address bands in terms of their place in a 50 year musical history or as compared to bands overseas. Instead, when I listen to NUN I see them as contextual siblings to bands like Chrome Dome, M.O.B or Multiple Man. I actually feel that ignoring NUN for reusing ideas from the ‘80s comes from a lack of appreciation for context rather than an acknowledgement of a greater one.

When it comes to bands I like that dabble in nostalgic sounds, much of the appeal comes from the fact that you can subconsciously feel and identify the source of their influences. These bands and the relatively recent rise in their popularity among a new generation (see Angel Eyes, Primitive Motion, Flat Fix or Lace Curtain, all of whom are reminiscent of ‘something’) comes from a form of extra-sensory nostalgia. For me, most of the exposure to the sounds applied by NUN comes not from an encyclopaedic knowledge of the history of electronic music, but of sub-conscious infiltration via the influences that flowed on from that. These can include film soundtracks, lingering aspects of past Top 40 hits and the primitive sounds of 8/16/32-Bit video game soundtracks. For a band participating in ‘stylised nostalgia’, it’s almost like they’re mining memories I didn’t know I had.

Too Much Culture

NUN’s Jenny Branaghan has talked previously about how her desire to re-watch Videodrome led her to write the song ‘Cronenberg’, and more generally, the routine absorption of horror films as a child via her older brothers. The cultural experience of a child or teenager is different to the more conscious one experienced as an adult. As an adult, experiencing culture is more deliberate: you choose to watch a film based on reviews or discussing it with friends, and you more or less know who Hans Zimmer is. As a kid, you watch a slasher flick just because someone put it on after school, or you play Castlevania on your neighbour’s Sega with the soundtrack playing incidentally for hours at a time. In that sense, hearing aspects of those distant, sub-conscious influences now elicits a different response compared with the music you’ve actively sought out as an adult. Acts like NUN elicit the same feelings within me that I used to feel as a kid: an unknown rush that comes from not fully understanding what is going on in Scanners, but watching intently anyway.

There’s probably a broader reason bands of a nostalgic ilk are rising in prominence, and while it’s not limited to bands of an electronic bent, I think it’s especially prominent in that realm. In my social circles there seems to be a general desire to return to simplicity in many regards, perhaps due to the realities of a modern life that we didn’t grow up expecting. So dramatically has exponential technological progression occurred, that it’s almost like there’s a push to reclaim what dropped out of vogue in the process. See the way ‘retro’ has affected fashion (the rise of the ironic ‘90s t-shirt for example), the fetishised acceptance of tape decks and turntables, or here, the re-emergence of the analog synth.

Meanwhile in mainstream culture, films are stuck in a race to be increasingly larger in scope, and AAA video games consist of artfully crafted video sequences that eventually fold away into actual gameplay. Personally, the return to what felt like the more honest or relatable mainstream culture of my youth is inspiring and exciting. I will never again be mystified by Blade Runner like I was as a 13-year-old, but NUN’s LP makes me feel approximately similar to how that movie did the first time around.

Boundaries

NUN’s LP may have been created with evocations of the past in mind, but I don’t think that makes it any less sincere or honest than someone who is trying to forge new frontiers through experimentation. I think the amount of sincerity involved in forcibly trying to ignore aspects that artists of the past have addressed would be equal to those who happily go with whatever sound comes to mind, or those who set the boundaries of recalling a certain era. I also don’t think those three philosophies need be at war with each other.

My interest in synth-based electronic music has mostly been piqued by Australian artists of the last five years, any of whom may fall into any of those three philosophies of intent: Lace Curtain, Primitive Motion, Angel Eyes, Flat Fix, Lucy Cliche and Superstar are examples. NUN are unlike most of those bands, but they all seem to fit into something common, via an aesthetic that’s hard for me to place other than that they all dabble to some extent – intentionally or otherwise – in a nostalgia that I can only experience hazily. They may not all be setting out to mine sounds of their youth, but it interests me because they’re often mining mine.

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Nun’s debut LP is available through Aarght Records.

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In My Natural Way: Tralala Blip interviewed

tralala blip bodyTralala Blip’s newly released LP Aussie Dream is a joyful and strange record. The electronic instrumentation has a bright beauty which somehow avoids veering too far into twee territory, and the half-shouted vocals indicate a freedom of expression quite rare in an age where everything kinda sounds like something else.

The five-piece from Lismore, consisting of several differently-abled musicians, has undergone several line-up changes since its formation in 2007, but Randolf Reimann has always been at its centre. A former member of Sydney hardcore group Massappeal, Reimann has grown the group from fairly humble beginnings into a unit which has now toured Europe as part of the Unsound Festival.

In the interview below, Reimann outlines the origins of Tralala Blip and how the group fits into the country’s experimental music scene(s). Aussie Dream is now available through Disembraining Machine.

The new record is excellent but it’s the first I’ve heard of Tralala Blip. Can you tell me about how the band formed and what you’ve done so far?

Tralala Blip formed at the end of 2007. It started with me giving electronic music workshops for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. At that time I became aware of how bad existing music programs were for people with disabilities living in regional areas around Australia. At the time, music programs usually meant a singalong situation with a facilitator strumming their guitar while others sung along or banged a tambourine.  When I witnessed this, I just got angry. It seemed lazy, patronising and was obviously boring for the people who were participating. I had a lot of gadgets at home from years of making electronic music and i knew a little about singing from my years as vocalist for Sydney thrash/punk band Massappeal. So I started taking the bits along to a disability service in Lismore and encouraged people to start composing their own original songs.

By around July 2008 the 12-15 members of this loose collective had written about nine original compositions. We decided to do what a lot of bands did around that time and start a MySpace profile. We also compiled the songs and released a CD-r titled Tralala Blip presents Soundbeam Sessions Vol 1.

By the the end of 2008, the disability service that we got together at every week informed me that none of the 16 participants were interested in continuing the project.  Something did not seem right to me because i knew that some of those 16 or so people were developing very quickly and were very passionate about Tralala Blip.

Over the next couple of weeks I was approached by at least five people from the ensemble asking me why they were no longer coming to the hall to make songs. My response was “well according to the day service, you chose not to continue.” The look on these artists faces was total bewilderment. Something was obviously flawed in this services procedure regarding people making informed decisions about their choices. I was pissed off to say the least!

In 2009 we began operating independently of the disability service. We stopped operating as a program and naturally began functioning as a band.  At that time, Accessible Arts in Sydney encouraged me to deliver some workshops so along with Jacqui O’Reilly of Accessible Arts we delivered workshops at ElectroFringe Festival Newcastle, Sydney Powerhouse Museum and Carriageworks Theatre Sydney.  We became good friends with local sound art collective Sound Crucible and began doing regular gigs too. Our first gig in Brisbane was with Sound Crucible head honcho MuttBoy and was at a Disembraining Machine night at Alchemix Studio. After that gig, as we were loading gear back into the van, Joel Stern of Disembraining Machine asked us if we would like to record an album for their label.  It took a couple of years but our new LP Aussie Dream came about from that initial conversation.

In 2011 we recorded a beautiful collaboration with Muttboy called Tralala Blip Meets Muttboy In Atlantis. That 12 inch on Blue vinyl is available through Sound Crucible.

We toured Melbourne and Bendigo for that record in 2012, playing with our friends Mad Nanna.

Through our association with Sound Crucible we came in contact with Lawrence English of Room40 records. Lawrence has been very supportive of us and has given us quite a few gigs in Brisbane over the last few years.  We also recently released a cassette on his A Guide To Saints imprint. that cassette is called Submarine Love Songs.

Lawrence also work with us on a theatre work titled My Radio Heart. This work featured music by Tralala Blip as well as us performing as main characters in the show. My Radio Heart just finished it’s Sydney season last week.

Oh, and in 2013 Tralala Blip were invited to perform at Unsound Festival, Krakow, Poland. Which of course was absolutely amazing!

tralala2Tralala Blip meets Muttboy in Atlantis (2011, Sound Crucible)

 

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Tralala Blip’s Aussie Dream (2014, Disembraining Machine)

Has the group shared the same line-up since its formation?

Mathew Daymond and myself have been in Tralala Blip since the beginning. Lydian Dunbar joined in 2010, Zac Mifsud joined in 2011 and Phoebe Rose did her first gigs with Tralala Blip at Unsound last year and My Radio Heart recently. Phoebe also runs an artspace/venue in Lismore called The Wasp Factory.

 

Tralala Blip is described as having a differently-abled line-up. Does this affect the sound in any measurable way, that you can describe?

Within the first week of our initial jams back in 2008, I thought we sounded like a cross between early Animal Collective and Bruce Haack on heavy sedatives. Also, I was so blown away with the lack of ego and the lack of self consciousness, and because of these omissions from the music making equation, the resulting self-expression was truly original. It was just people being people. It was not dissimilar from early punk/post-punk gigs i witnessed in Sydney during the ‘80s. It had the same raw self expression.

In the beginning we used to all use my personal collection of instruments but now, everyone in Tralala Blip has their own instruments. Everyone in the band gets paid professionally as artists. My Radio Heart for example, was in creative development for over two years, and the theatre companies involved, NORPA and Urban Theatre Projects, treated us the same as they treat any performer/artist. So early on in this creative development, we all used some of our wages to get new instruments.

Our abilities and disabilities when it comes to using these instruments is a little complex. An instrument like the Tenori-On that Zac uses wasn’t designed as a conventional instrument anyway, and people are crazy for modular stuff these days and in part, I would say that is because they inspire different approaches to composition. Mat has an MS20 and the patch bay begs for random experimentation. Mat’s approach to using this machine is not dissimilar to many who have this same machine. Phoebe does not have a disability and she makes more random noise than all the rest of us.

 

Aussie Dream seems like a provocative title for a record, especially during the current political situation. What did the band have in mind when naming it?

The cover illustration is by Mat and it was titled Aussie Dream. Joel Stern loved the illustration and suggested leaving Aussie Dream as the album title. Mat did that illustration a few years ago and it had more personal meanings for his originally.  Not far from Lismore there is an ongoing coal seam gas protest, and Mat is very much aware of what is happening in the town where he lives. Like most of us Mat has political and environmental concerns and is vocal about them.

He recently said this about the illustration: “Aussie Dream is full of songs about Australian dreams and nightmares. Politically, there are many Aussie nightmares right now. But this record is titled Aussie Dream and we must dream up positive futures. I did this cover illustration a long time ago. Disembraining Machine really liked it and I think it suits our songs that are inside this cover.”

 

What else inspires the sound of Tralala Blip?

Humour. Kooky experimentation. We all like different stuff. Recently Lydian’s choice for warm up dance tune before My Radio Heart was Hot Chip’s ‘Keep Falling’. Lydian’s favourite chill out music is currently Primitive Motion’s Worlds Floating By. We all absolutely loved Nate Young’s set at Unsound and we used Factory Floor’s ‘Lying’ in My Radio Heart.

 

Aussie Dream is a pop record, yet the group seems to have found a home among more stern, experimental artists when they play live. Is this where the band belongs?

This question may better be answered by the stern, experimental artists. But as much as we all love pop music, experimentation and improvisation have always been a prominent component to our operation. We have long found kindred spirits in the more experimental scenes, especially in Brisbane. People into more conventional pop music are unaware of our existence, and usually have a very narrow view of what pop music is and are very exclusive.  we love our friends who dwell in the more sonically inclusive realms of music.

 

Finally, anything coming up in the future? More shows, releases?
Now that the season of My Radio Heart has concluded, we’re looking at gigs in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. We are doing a remix for UK artist Forest Swords who saw us at Unsound and loved us. and we’re writing new tunes for a 12 inch.

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Tralala Blip’s Aussie Dream is available through Disembraining Machine.

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Sonic Country: Lynton Denovan of Sacred Product and Satanic Rockers interviewed

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Lynton Denovan is probably best known, for the moment at least, as the driving force behind the widely adored Satanic Rockers. The group released its first LP last year and then disintegrated, but Denovan has several other vehicles for his songwriting. These include Encounter Group, a three-piece including Tim Wood and Jeremy Courbrough, and Sacred Product.

Sacred Product is Denovan’s solo vehicle, which has released material on labels including Alberts Basement, Heinous Anus and most recently Quemada Records. The latter comes in the form of a double 7 inch entitled Wastex, which quickly sold out at its source.

In the below interview, conducted by email, Denovan talks the factors that separate these musical projects, how Australia’s underground music scene is currently healthier than his native New Zealand’s, and the unlikely influence of a 16th century Russian tsar.

How would you describe your music or aesthetic sensibility if asked by someone you don’t know? And would that answer change if you were asked by a family member?

Hmmmm, my musical aesthetic is quite simplistic as I am self-taught on the guitar and don’t have the interest in making complicated sound overtures. Everything hangs off the colour of the sounds, mood wise, and the meaning contained within the words. Word Rock! Sounds religious! If I was describing my music to a family member or friend I would jokingly say it is blues/metal/noise song rock.

Haha, fair enough. It’s interesting when you say ‘moods’, as it seems there is a very tight / designed aesthetic that you are kinda working towards through your artwork and guitar playing. There is a looseness to the band but there is also a tightness, if you know what I mean.

I think the mood or thematic thing is tight because I’m a one man band. I can veto an idea quite easily if it doesn’t work. I throw away ideas if they don’t fit, which is crucial in order to get something that I can live with. If I’m not happy with the end result then it’s a goner.

Editing and rearranging lyrics is the biggie, while riffs and rhythms come very easily as I know straight off if the sound has my kind of attitude.

I think good ideas can be strangled if they are over thought or too clever. Keeping it rough but with firm meaning is my method, and most of the work is in trying different arrangements of words until it works. I base all the recordings around tight drumming with a self taught loose guitar style – that’s my sound!

I know you’re obsessed with lyrics – reading them, and reading while listening to the records. Is this because it makes the experience of listening to music a bit more personal… a higher level of engagement? How do you write your own lyrics? I feel it’s either something one obsesses over, or kinda blurts out.

Hmmm: (for me) lyrics are blurted out then savagely edited. I’m a big fan of lyric sheets. The rock music I love most always has a strong lyrical element. I get quite bored with music that has nothing to say – there’s a lot of life out there in the world both good and bad that is worth experiencing or commenting on. Music is not only about hammering drums and plucking strings.

Who are your ultimate guitar playing heroes, either living or dead, local or international, and why?

For guitar heroes, I’d have to say Dave Mitchell from Ghost Club (who may still be performing occasionally in New Zealand). He knows how to screw the guitar up into a ball of paper and unfold it at surprising moments. He has an intensity to be reckoned with. Players who worship the fact that they have just paid off a fancy vintage Fender usually bore me with preciousness: gotta break it to make it.

I like a lot of cathartic metal playing too, especially early ‘90s Darkthrone. Panzerfaust hits it heavy how I like it! Fenriz, the mainman of the band, plays guitar on this one and he has an anti-performance and anti-muso stance that I respect. Maybe the politics can be easily disposed of though. Mick Turner on those Venom P. Stinger records is quite mindblowing too, for his precise swathes of chords.

What are your thoughts, being a New Zealander, about the musical legacy of the country? I’m especially curious about the weirder edge, the unknown bands, the furthest away. New Zealand bands seem to bridge a balance between rock and roll and the outer spectrum. I’m talking about bands such as The Dead C, SpaceDust etc.

New Zealand music, hmmm. There’s been a few highlights – Skeptics, late period Snapper, Sferic Experiment, Axelgrinders, Mindfuckers, And Band, Perfect Strangers, Axemen – I could make a long list! Although I am a big fan of digging up music history and celebrating it I wouldn’t want to rest too much on the ‘legacy’ aspect. There’s a breed of music coming out of New Zealand that seems to want to recreate a twee ideal of the past. I prefer to push on and look at what is happening in the world now.

Is Encounter Group your most recent project? How does the dynamic of a three piece appeal to you? Is it a continuation of or natural flow from Satanic Rockers, or a different project entirely?

Encounter Group is a break from Satanic Rockers. My interest in ‘Satrocking’ had finished and I wanted a different underlying rhythm. The swampy beat was quite fun for a while but I am more inclined towards snare and kick punchiness. Also, Satanic Rockers was a bit more collaborative whereas the Encounter Group material stems from my solo recordings (Sacred Product). I gotta make sure my ego doesn’t make this one boring.

I wanted to ask about the artwork for all of the projects. Is there an overriding theme, or is it more just an aesthetic choice? With the Sacred Product LP was the cover drawn for the record, or was it an image you saw and liked?

There’s definitely an aesthetic vibe to the kinds of images I am drawn to. Previously I have spent a lot of spare hours looking at battle worn faces from World War 2, especially the ‘bad guys’. In the last year I have become more interested in showbiz characters such as Oliver Reed (I drew his face on the Sacred Product double seven inch cover) and any larger than life type characters. They may be controversial, but they seem to put themselves fully on the social table unlike a lot of politicians whose faces seem grey and unrevealing. I find faces very intriguing.

The LP cover I painted especially for the album. I had an image in my head one day of a cow (which is sacred in some parts of the world) spilling milk all over the paddock. It is the first time I have done an animal face and it seems imbued with human characteristics. Animals, as far as I am aware, don’t waste resources but humans do. I’m not sure if this dichotomy is a totally tight packaging concept but it is very visually appealing and links in with some of the lyrical messages contained within the record.

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Would you say you ‘fit’ within Melbourne’s music scene, or do you see yourself as more on the fringe? Is there any advantages to being a band in Australia, as opposed to New Zealand. Any drawbacks?

I prefer the scene in Australia to what is going on in New Zealand at the moment. I grew up seeing a lot of awesome music as a young man, but I feel the culture back home is generally retrospective and is not supporting the current innovators. Instead we are constantly told about the great things that emanated from the 1980s. Some of it is very inspiring, but things need to get with the times. I feel Melbourne and Australians in general within the ‘underock’ scenes are very supportive and enthusiastic in actively nurturing the things happening now. I find this most encouraging and in turn I want to see others excel in their craft.

In this way I would say I fit within the Melbourne music scene. More in the spirit of getting things done rather than sounding similar to other practitioners, and I do prefer to work within a diverse music scene rather than be part of a bumflap wearing tribe. So yes, it is a lot easier. Without the support of Albert’s Basement, Mad Nanna and Heinous Anus among others I would probably still be making ten CD-Rs of my music and guiltily trying to swap them for beer at the pub!

The other thing is that people over here are unashamed about asking me what the songs are about and singing along, which beats having five people reluctantly pay two dollars for a show back in New Zealand  with their arms crossed! Another thing is that the wages over here make it an easier possibility of touring overseas which I find exciting.

Could you pinpoint a particular song of yours and explain what it is about?

‘Cup of the Great Eagle’ is the name that Peter the Great – a notorious tsar of Russia during the 16th century – gave his immensely intimidating drinking vessel. According to the historical biography written by Henry Troyat he would make visiting diplomats drink straight vodka from this cup to the point of vomiting. Peter’s court was apparently well known for eating, drinking and sex binges. He’d also make fun of the clergy by forcing them to have public sex in front of everyone. It seems like diplomatic politics during his reign far surpassed Led Zeppelin’s most disgusting moments, with the main difference being the threat of execution. In those days a sign of being a man was based on consumption, and it also tied in with the idea that the more someone could eat the healthier and more vital they were.

Peter the Great is also known as the father of modern Russia and he extended his territory greatly into Siberia and also had a passion for building a naval fleet. He’s a larger than life character – probably made larger through consecutive storytelling – and he seems an interesting counterpoint to these currently ‘voted in’ baby holding photo op grey men who represent private banking interests in the name of politics.

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Stress Zone: Per Purpose interviewed

feb 2014 (8)
Following a series of short releases including two 7 inches and a 12 inch single, Brisbane group Per Purpose released its first full-length LP late last year. Entitled Circle the Stains, it was the culmination of a conspicuous evolutionary leap for the group which first reared its head on the 2011 Warburton single.

While the line-up has changed since the group formed in 2010, singer and guitarist Glen Schenau has driven the group since its formation. An early member of Kitchen’s Floor, and also the songwriter behind shortlived Brisbane trio Marl Karx, Glen is also a distinctive photographer of both the Brisbane underground music scene as well as, to a lesser extent, its interstate counterparts.

The interview below was conducted via email, several months after the release of Circle the Stains. The group will release a new 7 inch entitled Bathing Suit Sand through new Sydney label Bechamel Records next month.

Do you feel a sense of relief having Circle the Stains released, or has it limited you in the sense that you have to compare, conquer or move on from it?

Relief yes, in that it is something I had envisaged a long time ago come to fruition: out and available. But (I say this) with the condition that it’s sort of hampered by some group circumstance change. To put bluntly, our drummer and Bedroom Suck Records operator Joe Alexander moved away from Brisbane to Melbourne just as he himself released the LP (on Bedroom Suck). I made the decision to replace him, so now the LP for me represents a breakdown of sorts.

But like any other release we’ve done as Per Purpose, we’ve already moved on, and I’m eager to right all the sore points that Circle the Stains means to me personally: barre chords, lengthy things nixed. I know they all say it, but I feel the current batch of songs, which will comprise a follow up to Circle the Stains, are the best bunch yet and make the last four year rigmarole worthwhile.

It seems like within Per Purpose balance is a really important thing. There seems to exist an intricate balance between the tones and rhythms. Would you say the guitars work around each other, or against, especially in the new lineup?

Before Mitch [Perkins] joined Per Purpose, we had experimented with an extra element that’d run up against my guitar in the same tonal space a few times, most notably with Josh Watson playing violin on the Warburton 7” and beyond. Otherwise, dissonant recorder blurts, scrap metal clutter etcetera (are there) to create something more than just your average all-male, caucasian, bread-and-butter angst rock clutter. While putting together all the songs for the LP I began to play with the idea of having another guitarist in the band to play that ‘Agent X’ part permanently.

To answer your question, Mitch’s guitar playing snakes in and out of cohesion with my own. Both with and willfully against root and bass notes; an esoteric freedom from my increasingly simpler structures. It’s a duo dynamic I had envisaged – or hoped – would allude to other guitar pairs like the Magic Band, Arab on Radar, Contortions or even Bird Blobs.

The album has a very visceral, energetic production to it, it almost sounds live – commanding the listener’s full attention. Was this your intention or a happy accident?

To continue on with that ‘Agent X’ speak, I was really happy with what Mitch had bought to the band, and the way the two guitars sat within the songs. So, with us all rehearsed and ready after having just toured the Warburton 7″, we did the LP in two days at the Hangar in Brisbane with Luke Walsh mid-2012.

I had initially planned to have it all done live in that session, and while we did treat and mix the result, after a few months I decided to redo the vocals and add extraneous overdubs and all sorts. That extra work took place over about an extra four months, but the initial intent, to capture the instrumental side of what we do live, is all there. Guitars sliding in and out of each other, rhythm section precision, we wanted all that straight and dry, honest and documented.

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Is the band essentially a ‘live’ band? It feels that way. With the album were you trying to replicate that or was it the other way round?

I always thought deeming a rock band as a ‘live’ band is a bit of a cop out. Songs are written to be performed and inevitably (hopefully) listened to. I say cop out unless in the case of strict improvisational groups where any and all performances are the idea, where it’s different every time. Making the live output important and completely unique with each ‘live’ set. Per Purpose perform songs that are written to be performed and inevitably (hopefully) listened to.

For the last few years though, we have only performed what is the newest and latest – therefore unreleased material. So in that regard, Per Purpose exist in the present time as a ‘live’ band, only the most valid and true to right ‘now’ parts are what we play, today. Anything already recorded gets nixed instant. Closer and closer, drab, drab, drab, drib. We’ll get there eventually, you’ll see.

Do you sit down and write ‘songs’ and then work them out as a group, or is it more a jam, a feeling or a riff expanded?

Up until the most recent batch of songs I’d sit down and fully realise structures and lyrics myself and then present them to the rest of the band. Being in a band where you are doled out parts to play can be pretty demoralising sometimes, so I’ve begun to loosen up my grip on the goal and let it grow within the more than adept group of musicians that make up Per Purpose. With Mitch and another guitar integrated into the band now, my approach to writing songs has been stripped down and freed up a lot in that an initial idea or part, usually a bass part is all I’ll show the others, and we go from there. Less and less has been my mantra. No more odysseys.

If you could interpret based on the players in the band, and the intentions you have for future direction, how do you envision your style to evolve, say for a next record, or in the future?

The next record is almost completely fleshed out. Since late last year, and Matt Ford replacing Joe Alexander on drums, we’ve only been performing songs that’ll make up the next album. With this latest batch of songs I made a conscious effort to fulfill some of my ideas and plans that I had with my first band Marl Carx, meaning stripping composition back to relative conventions, the difference now being that I’ve played with fire: full blown barre chords, und me byrnes sound better as a result.

There’s a renewed social consciousness to the latest batch, with a party consideration I had not considered till now. Colour me cliche’ if I ask myself, ‘what purpose for my music?’, but I stop dead before ‘available for parties’.

I say, as a rule of thumb, striving for the right mix between abstract and dead dumb.

I wanted to ask you about your ongoing photographic archive of live bands you maintain. Are you interested in photography, or is it more a need to document something that might otherwise have no records?

The photos are an effort to document what is a constantly growing and mutating performance culture that, through my own obsession with the recent past, I know will have it’s place in the future where there are new nerds who would like to know what band x looked like. Any interest in photography I’ve developed since has been a result of this almost excessive film compulsion.

I might just add that the whole camera’s undertaking I took is a continuation of what I started in 2008: a bootleg blog in the same vein called ‘Permanent Dirt‘ where I’d make awful recordings of mostly all the bands I’d see with my iRiver mp3 player, sometimes with a photo and always along with a vague summary of each set.

Around the tail end of that period, I was lucky enough to perform at one of Shaun South’s Summer Winds events in Melbourne, performing with the previously mentioned Marl Carx and Kitchen’s Floor. I saw it as a great opportunity to document said event – an event which represented everything I found exciting about music, and perhaps while my efforts weren’t so refined back then I like to think with my photos I’ve put together a little database that encapsulates nearly everything potent and exciting since then. And soon since thereafter now. My five year Kodak plan.

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Circle the Stains is available through Bedroom Suck. The group will launch a new 7 inch through Bechamel Records in Sydney on April 4. Details here.

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Features

The History of Dissent: Freejack interviewed

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 7.44.18 PMFreejack’s Untitled Documents volumes 1 and 2

The two Freejack cassettes I own come packaged in crudely photocopied slips decorated with hand grenades and assault rifles. The music on the cassettes is a similarly crude, lo-fi minimal techno. These items seem nasty. They feel like contraband.

It is not uncommon at the moment for musicians associated with hardcore punk or noise to experiment with techno music. Like hardcore, techno can be relentless and ugly, and like noise it has an absorptive element: factors peripheral to the music can shape the identity of sounds which might otherwise seem neutral of tone and feeling.

Blame it on the hand grenades, but Freejack sounds hostile to me. The way the music comes packaged positions it as a series of instructive signals, or communiques, rather than just sounds. These tracks sound like shivs in the arsenal of a secretly waged war. Their calmness is sinister because rather than shout and threaten, these productions breathe deeply and steadily in the shadows.

Freejack is the work of Melbourne producer Liam Osborne, who has previously played in hardcore group Flesh World, and produced as Synthetic Texxxture. The four tracks spread across these two cassettes are sonically arid and ungenerous. They sound like the bare scaffolds of more colourful and assertive productions.

I tried to write at greater length about the tapes – because they’re fascinating and addicting – but couldn’t manage anything coherent. Instead, I emailed Osborne a series of questions, and here’s what he sent back.

You’ve previously played in punk band Flesh World. How long have you been making electronic music?
In one form or another for around two years now. My first experiments were jamming with casiotones and loop pedals, which quickly changed into samples, synths and drum machines. It’s not too dissimilar to playing in Flesh World in the sense that my role was to kind of help cobble the elements together, organise practice, write riffs, come up with suggestions for composition as well as being the front man. It’s just now I only deal with machines.

Where is Flesh World at, at the moment?
Dead. Flesh World was a teenage band: it was our transition from adolescent to young adult, for the founding members, both geographically and emotionally. That’s not to say that I view traditional band structures or punk as a teenage pursuit, just that Flesh World was a time and place. We have a reissue of our first EP and a new EP recorded around three years ago coming out on No Patience this year.

What do you get out of producing techno that you don’t from playing in a punk band?
Autonomy foremost. Not relying heavily on anyone else to realise a project is very freeing. Outside of that it’s mainly a frustrating but very fulfilling series of operations, trying to build a song that resonates with you as well as being structurally sound, while fitting into some self-imposed idea that you [determine] at the beginning of your session, or completely changing your expectations. I have been in a state of writers block for a while now, which is possibly the most frustrating position.

What has inspired the sound of Freejack, sonically or otherwise?
That particular project is all my house and techno stuff, I guess, the stuff that’s not too sonically aggressive or harsh. The inspiration comes from a wealth of European and American techno past and present. The way I consume dance music usually comes in the form of mixes, so I guess it’s the faceless stuff I like. Outside of that I like to mainly listen to industrial or early electronic artists for cues: Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, Severed Heads, RJF etc. The aesthetic is inspired by militancy – the fetishism of left-wing activism and industrial unionisation – so the two elements make sense together.


What interests you about left-wing activism? Early industrial stuff – like SPK and Throbbing Gristle – seemed more interested in the extremes of the right, especially fascism.
I guess it’s being in opposition of what has become a well-worn topic in underground music. I mean, it makes sense when your generation is coming out of a world war, to find fascination in the ‘enemy,’ and to acknowledge contradictions in society. Also I understand the fetish of fascism and Nazism: the symbolism is powerful and creates strong imagery and music.

That said, I personally find the history of dissent much more interesting, and the contradictions in the new left make better source material. I am not dogmatic or fervent in my dismissal of this imagery, I just want to do something that resonates with me, and as somebody living in a time of constant surveillance and human rights abuse, anti-state violence makes more sense.

The Untitled Document cassettes are both packaged in slips decorated with rifles and grenades. You’ve tagged Freejack as ‘Militant Music’ on Soundcloud. Why?
This has to do with my label. I think it’s very important to brand music that doesn’t have lyrics, or samples with immediate reference points, with a strong aesthetic identity. I’m interested in the history of anti-state militancy, anarchism, student activism, trade unionism etcetera and I think it’s an interesting pairing for techno and industrial, which are two genres that theoretically came out of the working class: Detroit techno being made by the kids of auto workers, and Industrial coming out of post-industrial Britain and the decimation of industry.

freejackThe first Freejack cassette, entitled Evil Millenium, was also the first Future Archaic release.

As objects, the Freejack tapes feel like they’re aiming for a similarity with samizdat, or illicit propaganda. The slips are hastily photocopied, and there’s a makeshift quality to the art. Is that an effect you were aiming for?
I guess mainly the effect is [borne of] a simple and effective dispersion of information, but it’s also the aesthetics of an era bygone which used pamphlets and posters as its means of communication. It’s disingenuous for me to say that this is an effective means of communication to a broader audience now, because of course we have stronger means of communication now, but I’m a culture fetishist and the output of organisations like the Situationist International, Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers, RAF, SLA, The Weathermen, The Black Panthers and a multitude of different Anarcho and Marxist organizations I find historically and aesthetically very engaging. Especially paired with pumping, moving, mechanical music.

A lot of musicians known in noise and hardcore circles are moving into techno nowadays. Why do you think this is the case?
Trend I guess, but I have quite a postmodern idea about music and subculture in general, that is: why would you ever stick to a genre and place your flag in the ground? I guess when I was younger that was my downfall: I was too fervently and dogmatically into punk music and that was it. That being said, it can feel bad being engaged in a mass exodus, but I think the general consciousness changes and that’s not always a bad thing and as long as people make good tracks and not just make the music completely gentrified and within the genre then it’s a positive I guess.

What kind of equipment do you use?
Just whatever I can cobble together, I’m not a gear fetishist at all and I think you can make good music with anything. I have a synth and a few drum machines and groove boxes.

Is Future Archaic limited to only releasing electronic music?
Not at all, it’s a blank canvas. I want to release a lot of harsh noise and punk in the future among other genres and projects.

What happened to Synthetic Texxxture?
It was a learning curve. I started to become exposed to other music that made me re-evaluate those tracks. It was fairly uncritical and just making music for the sake of it. Freejack and various other projects now are more refined and streamlined.

What are the other projects you’re currently involved in?
I have another solo project called BAADER which is harsh noise, rhythmic noise, Industrial and power electronics kind of stuff. I am currently jamming in a new punk band and I have a few bands that have yet to jam but should be coming to fruition in the future.

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Freejack’s Untitled Documents Volumes 1 & 2 are available through Warehouse Music Disposal. Freejack will play at Goodtime Studios on February 28 with Flat Fix, Asps, Word of Life Church SS and Von Einem, among others. Full details here.

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