New Music

Listen: Gardland – Syndrome Syndrome

It comes as no surprise that Gardland, the Sydney techno duo we’ve covered extensively before, has chosen to record this debut LP in the desert. Gardland’s unchartable minimal techno focuses on blank space, like a planet left at its default setting, unthumbed and unmanipulated by god hands. On the evidence of ‘Syndrome Syndrome’ though, they’ve started to populate it. The track is unusually intemperate, haunted by a gathering storm that’s vaguely reminiscent of Hunter-Gatherer labelmate Gareth Psaltis.

This debut album, which is also called Syndrome Syndrome, releases October 29 through RVNG International. Pre-orders are open. We’re probably gonna have a bunch to say about it, be forewarned.


Two Sides of the Future: Multiple Man and Gardland Reviewed


For us, the relatively privileged, the appeal of the future now is iterative consumer technology and nothing else. Our simplest, most achievable visions of the future are usually dreams of services rather than conditions: the proto iPad in Inspector Gadget. William Gibson’s Cyberspace. Star Trek’s anticipation of the mobile phone. We learn from science fiction that, while consuming may get better, the world itself will probably get worse. The world in Zamaytin’s We may be impressive (modular bedrooms, sex with anyone!), and you may not be left wanting for much, but it’s an oppressive Commie nightmare all the same. Similarly, Dick, Haldeman, Bester and many others give us great tools in horrible worlds.

For the most part this holds true. Tools – objects, technology, gadgets – can only get better. Conditions – owning a house, having a safety net, living with a semblance of ethical comfort (not to mention those on the rough end of that ethical dilemma) – can only get worse. Yet we don’t see these current trajectories – the rise-and-rise of neoliberalism, the stripping of government and public services, the unaccountability of corporate criminals – as a dystopian future, yet at one point they were. We’re natives here: this happened slowly enough for the shock to not register. This is just the way it is, and besides, aside from objects and their iterative improvement, what actually constitutes an imagined future in 2013? Do we still imagine?


Brisbane duo Multiple Man make dark music, yes, but the darkness they conjure is more of an objective truth than a sensation you will feel. This debut cassette is stylistically adept: sunk, bass-oriented synth lines oscillate amid charcoal guitar distortion. Monotone vocals surface with the lurid haziness of a chewed VHS tape. Cabaret Voltaire, The Screamers and Chrome all come immediately to mind, if you know them. If you don’t, you’re probably more likely to imagine the techno action films you watched in the ‘80s: Videodrome, The Running Man, Escape From New York.

There’s no escaping the dead end of reminiscence. So instead, it’s better to ask why Multiple Man doesn’t sound as nasty as it probably should, or wants to. The reason for that, I’d suggest, is because there’s nothing especially alien nor bracing about these sonic decisions. It sounds antiquated, like a menace we’ve already shot down, picked apart and created names for. Multiple Man comes with no mythology and no reason to wonder. It’s purely what it is: a practice in style. Why they selected this style isn’t explained, as the elements that might signpost the fact that this was recorded in 2013 – lyrics, subtle sonic developments or fingerprints that are this duo’s own – are obscured by an embrace of reverb and griminess. They probably do it because they like it, which is fair enough.

This tape is enjoyable, even brilliant in terms of execution, but it’s hard to be invested emotionally in this music. Not everyone will necessarily want that, but I do – very much so. This particular strain of ye olde synth punk is so intrinsically linked to dreaded past imaginings of a future – the spiritual dysphoria and techno-fear of New Wave sci-fi; the ensuing popular culture that fed off it – that in 2013 it just sounds like an affectionate period piece.

Because the future is rarely imagined in terms of seismic change now, for better or worse. There’s no looming threat of forced progress. Instead we expect the opposite. In the evil empire, the futurists (Soviets) have been exchanged with luddites (Muslim extremists). The future we imagine now will be wrought by minute policy change (or lack thereof), iterative development, and the comfortable inevitability of preservation. The future Multiple Man trades in is no longer frightening. It seems innocent, and as a byproduct, you almost want it back. It’s the result of an anticipation of linearity: the technology will seize us because it can only get better and thus capable. It has, but it’s merely a distraction. Multiple Man is the future as past-tense, a remembrance of its potency. Linearity be damned.


Repetition is the Key

Gardland’s debut EP has a better hand in the spook stakes. The Sydney duo’s whitewashed minimal techno is one that’s frequently conflated with notions of ‘the future,’ and has been ever since production units like Berlin’s Basic Channel birthed this strand of minimal in the early ‘90s, three years after the Wall fell and thus, the end of a great threat.

Gardland’s template is as well laid as Multiple Man’s is, but the former duo have it easier. Their music isn’t comprised of gestures. There’s nothing vaguely didactic or persuasive about it. Gardland’s music is neutral: these 4/4s and oscillations can’t be challenged, because more than anything they resemble systems. Cold, non-sentient systems processing interminably. Gardland doesn’t explicitly ask you to feel anything: this music depicts a state, or a reflection of a state, of being. These sounds are reined by numbers and movement. It’s exacting, precise, unforgiving of error.

And yes, it’s a template of 20 years’ vintage, but it still feels epochal. It doesn’t deliver epochal sentiments like a modern chart pop artist might, but instead charts the ambiance of our condition. During the EP’s second track, ‘1767’, the record’s sole vocal passage emerges in the form of a neutral, female spoken word. These words stand out:

“Repetition is the key. We take it as a given that tomorrow the sun will rise in the morning, and we have no reason to doubt it.”

Amid a passive and unchanging surface of functional 4/4, these words are basically a manifesto for Gardland. Because this is eternity: this empty grey vortex of space, punctured by a steady immutable pulse, permits no development nor fresh permutation worth speaking of. Gardland’s music speaks of a condition where big change is neither dreamed nor expected. Gardland is what happens when there’s no New World Order to fear. If Multiple Man is tapping into an extinct fear, then Gardland live in the ensuing reality and strive to depict it.

Boy Bear

The Future

It’s gauche to conflate electronic music with ‘the future’ in 2013, but Multiple Man and Gardland are both borne of lineages that prize that association. It’s unlikely that either will penetrate the mainstream in Australia, nor even the sub-mainstream of community radio rotation or alternative print and online coverage. These audio dreamings are not hot currency. Best we lick our wounds to the sepia tones of blue blooded indie rock or affirmative, rags-to-riches Australian hip-hop.

And maybe that’s not so bad: maybe that’s the closest music can get to depicting what our condition manifests: the fact that we want and need music that makes us feel better. Maybe even our angry, demonstrative music need only be a catharsis, a placeholder for real rage, a place to withdraw to. No hardcore fan is going to burn a building to the ground. Rappers espousing rote liberal sentiments in Australia often appeal to the Southern Cross set. Many describe popular rock music as an adjunct to lifestyle – a simple marker of identity – but that in itself is a pursuit of some comfort, of camaraderie.

But that’s what distinguishes Multiple Man and Gardland, even while neither sound anything like the other. One is a fear and the other is what is, or should have been, feared. One has come to pass, the other is right now. There are no boyfriends or girlfriends, no growing up, no getting a job, no dead fathers or mothers, no butterflies in stomachs, no inchoate rage, no burgeoning nor bloomed sexuality, no incendiary politics or chest beating manifestos. They’re just states. One is old, the other is now. Before and after. But what’s next, if anything.


Multiple Man’s self-titled cassette is released by Major Crimes. Gardland’s debut EP is released by Hunter Gatherer. Both can be purchased at the source.

New Music

Listen: Gardland – Live at the Civic Underground


A live recording doesn’t usually warrant a mention here, but this Gardland set from a recent show in Sydney – in support of Oneohtrix Point Never – is pretty great, and available as a free download. The duo’s set is improvised on their usual analog setup and the recording is pretty good fidelity wise, so all you’ll need to do is have a few stiff drinks, close your eyes, and imagine you’re there. Music for ruined Soviet monuments and endless / permanent vectored grayscapes.

Gardland’s debut EP is out now. Check out an interview here.


Listen + Q&A: new Gardland EP on Hunter Gatherer


Gardland is the Sydney-based techno duo of Alex Murray and Mark Smith. Together they produce deep, minimal and abstract techno with a dedication to analog equipment. They’ve just released their debut EP through new Sydney imprint Hunter Gatherer, which the duo founded. The label hopes to promote “electronic music that is uncompromising, passionate and human” with “a focus on fostering organic musical personalities and artistic self-determination.”

Gardland’s debut EP is indeed uncompromising: it’s a lengthy four track affair that showcases the duo’s aggressively sparse and sometimes bleak take on minimal techno, recalling Berlin’s Basic Channel network as well as classic unrelenting Detroit aesthetics. We sent the few questions via email. Murray and Smith collaborated on the answers.

How long has Gardland been active?
Gardland began as the solo project from Alex but lacked the adventure and spontaneity he was looking for with techno. Meanwhile Mark was making tracks that were overly adventurous and raw; we hooked up, had a jam and immediately knew we were on to something. We began playing all improvised and analogue shows together which captured the sound we both felt was missing from a lot of electronic music.

How long have you known one another?
A few years.

There’s not a huge scene in Sydney (to my knowledge) for the type of techno you’re producing – can the club scene accommodate music like this at the moment?
Well, when people like Peter Van Hoesen and Silent Servant get booked then it fits in pretty seamlessly. However, without an international artist framing the audience experience then I guess it can be a risky thing playing abstract techno. Perhaps people’s expectations need the safety net of an established artist to frame their experience of local techno? But there is certainly a new sensibility emerging in Sydney that is more open to “difficult” sounds, that is willing and eager to be challenged. That’s what we want to be part of.

What kind of nights have you played so far? Who do you consider kindred spirits in Sydney?
We have a couple of blood brothers in the Anomaly crew. They recently brought out Dino Sabatini and have put on two ridiculously great parties in isolated bushland which really opened peoples minds to the possibilities of a well run party. Sometimes in Sydney it is difficult to choose a venue appropriate for experimental electronic music, so they created an inclusive and comfortable environment in the middle of nowhere and played amazing music all night. Also, Matt Costain and Magda have really contributed to Sydney’s access to good techno. Steffi was one of the best parties of last year and Matt has been booking inspirational artists all year.

‘Haut Mal’ is strongly reminiscent of Basic Channel, to my ears. What other influences – music or otherwise – play a role in Gardland?
Everything coming out on PAN Records right now has been blowing our collective mind. Lee Gamble totally ripped open what seemed possible. Avian and Mote Evolver have been injecting new life in to a hard techno scene that had descended into caricature previously. Raw hardware shit like Container. Morphosis is a direct inspiration for our live set and general workflow – no computer, all analogue and a willingness to leave human flaws in the music. Locally speaking, DJs such as Gareth Psaltis, Jordan Peters and James Walsh and the producer Asger Jorn have driven us to work harder and have made Sydney a more professional and inspiring musical environment.

Are there any specific visual associations that this music conjures for you?
Toulouse-Lautrec? Francis Bacon? James Turrell? Lenny Gash? Jannah Quill? Gareth Psaltis? Sarita Walsh? The last four have all contributed to the visual aesthetic of our label Hunter Gatherer; Jannah made our awesome cover artwork and logo, and her and Lenny are building some crazy installations for our label launch in early May. Gareth draws some fucked up shit (see the kangaroo on our website). Sarita has been a great designer and helped add a sense of professionalism. Things get messy when you try and tesselate visual and aural experience haha.

Is there more material in the works? What’s next?
So much new stuff. We have almost an albums worth of stuff to sift through. Our next signee Cassius Select has his first Hunter Gatherer release coming out in the not too distant future… and there’s some dope shit we can’t talk about right now too.

Have you seen the remake of Total Recall? Thoughts?
No. But it’s shit right?


Gardland’s debut EP is available now through Hunter Gatherer.

New Music

Listen: Gardland live on Spiral Sounds


Gardland is a relatively new two-man production unit from Sydney. Featuring Alex Murray from Bon Chat Bon Rat and Mark Smith, there’s not a lot of recorded material floating around at this stage, though the sadly defunct Life Aquatic blog did post about ‘Jaws’ back in early 2012. Probably the most meaty portion of recorded material you’ll hear from the duo comes in the form of this recent live performance on 2ser’s Spiral Sounds program (co-hosted by occasional Crawlspace contributor Daniel Gottlieb). It’s a 40 minute live improvisation that showcases the duo’s strange analog-driven techno, poised somewhere between stern dancefloor stylings and more freeform experimental sound design.

There was talk of a new EP coming in January, but that’s still yet to materialise. I sent an interrogative message to their Facebook account, to which they replied: “Got the masters back for the EP today, finally. It’ll be released on our record label Hunter Gatherer as soon as we finish laying the groundwork for that.” Good news then. In the meantime, here’s the full improvisation from the Spiral Sounds session, split into two parts. Put your headphones on for this. They’re supporting Oneohtrix Point Never at Civic Underground in March.