6majik9 – Applied Psychosis (CD-R)

6majik9 applied psychosis thumbMemory from childhood: scratching a crusted black sheet of paper with the wrong end of a paintbrush to reveal multi-coloured crayon fantasies beneath, subject to the desires of your five-year-old hands. Remember that feeling? It grates unexpectedly, the friction sends odd tingles up your arm, and the mess of swirls only becomes fathomable as an object-concept upon completion. You have to take a step backwards. This transition, from strange bodily reactions to slow realisation of a time and space that is specific in its abstractness, mirrors the first track of 6majik9’s album, Applied Psychosis.

One of a number of musical projects of Michael Donnelly, who once operated the Music Your Mind Will Love You label, 6majik9 lives within the Kyogle/Toowoomba tradition of soundscapes from beyond the city, of some form of what has been called psychedelia. That term, though, doesn’t quite capture the nature-infused textures on this album.

 ‘Light Rays Are Bent to Produce a Displaced Image’, the second track, moves away from the earthy and spectral opening track with layered atonalities more reminiscent of a floating space station. And then ‘Spinner Effect’ is textured and cog-like, and there are instruments being beaten, grated against and set into reverberations. At one point alarming bells are added. There is no timely silence here, rather a steady bombardment of noises to quietly agitate the listener.

Applied Psychosis sits in the witching hour, but there is also a sense of tugging away from it, of an almost dialectic approach to itself. Electronic and woody sounds clash: the tracks sway between environmental and technological evocations. I’m searching for some sort of hidden statement, a question, a declaration, within it. But there is no point, I suspect, and an absence of any of these is a strength rather than a failing. The plangency here will possibly set the listener at unease. Or maybe there is a statement, then. Maybe this album is a call to destruction of cities.

Label: Hashram Audio Concern
Release date: February 2013


Unwar – Activate Mantis Division Now! (CD-R)

unwar mantis thumbWherein Michael Donnelly proves that modern analogue synth improvisation needn’t have a Futurist or retro-Futurist agenda reflexively pinned to it. Donnelly’s work with 6majik9 and Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood has commonly evoked cragged and ruined rural landscapes, usually at night, and usually via the use of rock ensemble staples and other more folksy addendum. With Unwar, it’s just Donnelly and his synths, yet the result is eerily similar.

Unwar sounds like moments in-between, seized upon and studied closely. Tracks like ‘Spectral Paradox’ conjure images of the brief moments between a rural dusk and its total black night, when the sharper edges are shorn off the world and the absence of harsh light lends clarity. The synthetic colours throughout Activate Mantis Division Now! are rich and pleasing compared to their more organic counterparts in Donnelly’s catalogue, mostly because they lack the prickly percussive elements that lent a creeping quality to those old Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood moments. If those were a bleary-eyed trek through malignant shrubland, then Unwar sounds laid flat and staring at the stars. The foreign terror surrounds, but there’s a greater, more inscrutable terror above that’s far more engaging. And if you stare for long enough, you’ll probably see it.

To be honest, Donnelly’s more meditative synth excursions here easily surpass similarly inclined tracks from earlier records, and it’s hard to shake the feeling that this is his true calling: sensorily disorienting, THC laced synth improv. Track titles like ‘Cyborg Disease’ and ‘Carbon Memories’ aren’t speculative sci-fi so much as blazed nightmares borne of studying the darkness for too long. Meanwhile, moments like ‘Earth Life Assessment’, with its thick blizzard of swooping neon synth notes, reveal a daunting and moonlit birds-eye view of a world alive with invisible energies.

For an artist that has an apparent ambivalence to stately and measured capital C composition, these excursions sound purposeful and self-contained. And for someone who has usually kept quiet about the hows and whys of what he does, I’ll go out on a limb and say Donnelly’s work often translates as a challenge to the established notions of the Australian wilderness, because it manages to capture its mood without resorting to the usual earthy and sentimental sonics. Unwar sounds like the soil, the hallucinatory emptinesses, the eroded paddocks, the dust, brown trees and dams, all revealing an otherwise hidden sentience. Donnelly’s music often sounds like hundreds of tiny hidden species all singing their song at once, so why not lay spreadwing among them and hope they don’t bite? Where Donnelly roams, he probably has no choice.

Label: Hashram Audio Concern
Release date: February 2013

New Music

Listen: Unwar – Trinomial Expander

unwar mantis thumbUnwar is the solo synth-driven project of Michael Donnelly, he of Hashram Audio Concern, 6majik9, No Guru, and formerly of Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood (among many, many others!). We interviewed him very briefly last week. The track embedded below is from a new Unwar album called Activate Mantis Division and it’s among a new batch of Hashram releases which includes CD-Rs from Warden Burger, 6majik9 and Smoking Ruins.

I’d never really associated Michael Donnelly with synth music, which is something his True Dedicated Fans might scoff at (I’ve heard a bunch, but not all of his hundreds of releases). To me, and on the evidence of this track alone, Unwar acts as a more colourful and synthetic contrast to his other, more traditional ensemble-based improvisations. The sense of wandering somewhere foreign and unwelcoming still prevails though, and close listening can feel like pushing aside thick walls of foliage in order to uncover something dreadful. Similar painting; different palette, maybe?

Unwar has previously released at least one other album on Cyprus Hillsong, which can be downloaded here. Details on all the new Hashram Audio Concern CD-Rs can be found on the label’s website. We’ll endeavour to bring more in-depth coverage on each of them.


Hashram Audio Concern: A very brief, fact-oriented chat


Hashram Audio Concern is a label run by Michael Donnelly. Anyone who cares about weird Australian scree will recognise that name from various musical projects including Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood. Donnelly was also the operator of the ye olde Music Your Mind Will Love You label. The newer label released a tonne of stuff last year, after quietly launching in 2010. As a close follower of the MYMWLY catalogue, I was surprised, happy, and pissed off with myself when I realised there was heaps of new stuff that I didn’t know about.

Anyway, there’s a No Guru LP coming out on Hashram Audio Concern next month, so I thought I’d send Donnelly a few catch-up questions. Here’s how it went. While you’re reading, listen to this track from 6majik9, one of Donnelly’s many musical projects.

You launched Hashram Audio Concern properly last year, is that right?
No, it was late 2010.

Why did you decide to start afresh after MYMWLY?

What distinguishes this label from MYMWLY?
Multiple formats… digital, cassette, CD-R, vinyl.

Are the editions still as elaborately packaged as the MYMWLY ones?

What bands are you playing in nowadays?
6majik9, Mansion, Ffehro, Unwar, Terracid, Sixevenine, No guru, Sky Needle…

Does Brothers of the Occult Sisterhood still exist?

Are you still based in Kyogle?

What are you enjoying music-wise?

What Australian artists are interesting to you at the moment?
6majik9, Mansion, Ffehro, Unwar, Terracid, Sixevenine, No guru, Sky Needle…

What’s the story with the No Guru LP you’re releasing next month?
No Guru is a long-running Brisbane improv project initiated and maintained by Joel Stern. There’s No Guru was recorded in 2006 and reveals the band in rhythmic/ethnofraud mode. more importantly though, the album is released to celebrate and honor the life of Jeremy Nuske, who sadly passed away in 2010. Jeremy was a core member of not only No Guru but also the underground experimental music culture of Brisbane in the 2000s. The album also marks the debut vinyl release for Hashram.

Have you seen the Total Recall remake? If so, thoughts?
No. but I know for a fact that Dick is dead, thank fuck. if he knew what they did he would die.

No Guru’s There’s No Guru will release next month on Hashram Audio Concern. Check out the label catalogue here.