After a period of quiet, Melbourne duo Legendary Hearts has a new cassette releasing August 19 through Not Not Fun. The sound will be familiar to anyone who enjoyed the 2012 release Music From The Elevator, which we unhelpfully described as “patently pleasant music losing its will to pleasure”. More telling is that this is the combined effort of Angel Eyes‘ Andrew Cowie and Superstar‘s Kieran Hegarty. Describing Legendary Hearts as an instrumental mix of these groups is pretty accurate, though ‘Accelerate’ seems to indulge in the dubbier end of the spectrum.
Flat Fix played the first Crawlspace Presents show in Melbourne last year and it was one of the best sets I’d witnessed in a long time. The duo of Cooper Bowman (Altered States Tapes) and Nick Senger (Castings) have played pretty frequently around Melbourne of late but there’s been little news on the release front, until now.
It’s a pretty neat fit that the first Flat Fix release, as yet untitled, will issue as a cassette through Not Not Fun later this year. We don’t have a more specific release window nor the cover art (that image above is not the cover art) but anyone keen to get their hands on some of the material aired during Flat Fix’s live shows will be happy to hear that both ‘Cerulean Blue’ and ‘Hope to Cope’ feature on the tape, along with the below embedded ‘Information Doubles’.
Moon Wheel is the solo project of former Melbourne resident Olle Holmberg. A former member of Pissypaw, Holmberg has strong connections with some of Melbourne’s stranger pop groups including Superstar and Fabulous Diamonds. We’ve covered his music before here, here and here. He has a debut solo cassette due through Not Not Fun Records in March, so in anticipation Nic De Jong sent Holmberg some questions touching on the artistic effects of geography, the influence of Clara Mondshine, and the dozens of apt activities one may engage in while listening to Moon Wheel.
To begin, could you give us some insight into the origins of Moon Wheel – in particular the name, and an account of the circumstances surrounding its coming-to-be?
I was sure I came up with the name, but a friend of mine swears he coined it. It must have been a pretty good suggestion to feel so natural to me that I stole it without knowing. I’ve since found many references to this combination of words that are quite interesting in their own contradictory terms. I’ve found it to be: a kind of hubcap for cars, a website that sells ‘historical items’ from Germany (1919-1945), a kind of hippie menstruation calendar, a Tibetan Buddhist term for the third eye, and a medieval astrological volvelle (among other things).
You have a tape slated for release on Not Not Fun. How did this come about, how long has this set of songs been in gestation, and will it be the first Moon Wheel release?
When I first heard a track called ‘Die Drachentrommler’ by Austrian meta-musician Clara Mondshine played at the wrong speed (33rpm instead of 45rpm) I freaked out. It was unlike anything I’d ever heard. It tied together the electronic and the acoustic sounds in a way that felt incredibly natural. It was electronic but sounded like wood. There was something about it that made me think of Moondog. The percussion timbres and playful rhythms were incredibly exciting. At that point in my life as a musician I was looking for a way to do just that. This track became the key to creating the music that I first put under the Moon Wheel banner.
‘ÁlæifR’ was the first piece. This and two others came about in a flurry of improvisation and experimentation. I sent a demo of these three tracks to Not Not Fun, who responded positively. I told them I’d send them the rest of the material “soon”, but didn’t tell them this was all I had. It took about two years to finish writing the rest of what became the album. There was about 100 minutes of material that I edited down to 36 minutes. I was surprised and relieved to learn that they were still interested after all that time.
This will be the first proper album release, but there was a single track released on a split cassette with Ill Winds in Berlin last year, on a new label called Noisekölln Tapes. I actually wrote that piece specifically for you, Nic. I think you’d just left Berlin and I imagined your mind would be in a weird and fragmented place. It’s a composition consisting of a high pitched dissonant chord fading out over the course of 20 minutes, as a low pitched consonant chord fades in over the top of that. It’s meant to induce a peaceful state of mind in an attentive listener.
Assuming you record at home, what part does recording music play in your daily life? Do these songs evolve over long periods of recording and refinement or are they more impromptu and off-the-cuff?
I go through long periods of inactivity waiting for inspiration to strike. Sometimes it’s something I’ve seen or heard. Other times it’s a feeling that I can’t put my finger on. Writing the material is like fishing. I’m not a trained musician, so my approach is intuitive and technological. I will spend a day tinkering to find or construct a palette of sounds I find appealing. Then I’ll dive in and start improvising rhythmic and melodic material in short parts. Once there is a backbone I’ll often improvise a lead line over the top in a single take. I find a good composition comes out of a very specific time and place as a succession of connected events. Detailed revision or refinement never worked for me. I’ll listen back to the recordings over a long period of time and sometimes slow them down, speed them up, or cut out parts that are inessential. I think of the recording as the documentation of an imperfect attempt at unraveling essential mysteries.
Are you able to recreate specific songs live?
I used to try to take apart and re-perform the songs in a live setting, but found it too constricting. The only way to really connect with an audience is to show them how the process works and take them with me on one of my sonic fishing trips. If they seem too bored I can always just chug out some 4/4 and an atonal bass line. Doesn’t take a lot to make bodies move.
You have lived in Sweden, Australia and Germany, that I know of. How, if it all, have you noticed these relocations impacting the way you approach and create music?
Obviously Australian and German music cultures are radically different. It was a real eye-opener seeing how the overtly rational Germans attach such honest spiritual connotations to dancing to techno music. I couldn’t help but be intrigued, and the influence sunk in.
If you accept that geography, in the widest possible sense, has a tangible impact on your making music, where are some places that you would like to live and record in the future? Where would be fruitful places for Moon Wheel to visit on musical business?
Where you live determines who you become. As long as music reflects who you are, where you live will be inseparable from music. Personally I am becoming increasingly dissatisfied with life in big cities. Therefore I am planning to spend some time walking south. I’ll try to find a beautiful and quiet place somewhere along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean where I can live simply until I feel that is finished. Over the alps, Trieste, Croatia, Montenegro.
The track titles on the cassette seem split between names, natural or organic phenomena (‘Arecaceae’, ‘Brontide’, ‘The Weather’) and also some esoteric or mystical figures from Europe’s past (‘Walpurga’, ‘Valhöll’). How much can we take from the titles themselves? How do you see the relationship between electronic music and the natural world, and what is your relationship to history?
We are bioelectric machines. All the things we deem unnatural aren’t actually so. The illusory dimension of time is a side-effect of the limitations of human consciousness. If you imagine music-in-itself as an object consisting of all music that has happened and all music that will happen, then the act of creating or hearing music is analogous to somebody lost in the woods at night, shining a torch that partially illuminates the darkness. Or perhaps time is the needle of the multi-dimensional record player of the universe. Our musical intuitions are but tracing the grooves of the texture of history.
Are there certain types of daily activities that you envisage Moon Wheel providing apt accompaniment for?
Checking aljazeera.com in the morning, jogging, masturbating, untangling cables, writing postcards, sorting spare change in to plastic jugs of different colours, deleting old SMSs, trying to find you keys, data backup, waiting for a phone call, peeping on your neighbour, feeding cats, washing your sheets, playing chess, soldering, watering plants, braiding, watching scones bake, throwing out old magazines, laying in your bed thinking about what you were doing exactly seven years ago, drinking fizzy multi-vitamins, chatting on IRC, looking at photos of ships, making an Excel spreadsheet, mashing potatoes, tearing out a page of a library book.
There is a tension on the cassette between tribal, almost-danceable rhythms and a certain kind of meditative distance or restraint. As an inhabitant of Berlin, do you feel a corresponding tension existing between the omnipresent dance culture and the other more restrained rhythms of daily life? Or are they happy, necessary and well-suited co-habitants / co-dependents?
I’ve had some hypotheses on what contemporary German dance music culture is, but I think it’s safest to leave explanations alone. As an outsider I can only experience it as a spectacle and can only guess what it really means. It could be deeply related to history; could have something to do with guilt and release from it; with community and worship; with Ordnung and its dissolution; but all I can really say is that it has been very interesting to experience and that I ultimately do not feel in a position to extrapolate on it.
Moon Wheel’s debut cassette will release next month through Not Not Fun.
Moon Wheel – the solo project of former Pissypaw member Olle Holmberg – will finally spawn a proper release next month in the form of a self-titled Not Not Fun cassette, following a split cassette with Ill Winds last year. The now Berlin-based artist recorded this track in 2010 while he was sharehousing in Melbourne with members of Fabulous Diamonds and Superstar, living the rock ‘n roll / elegant Australiana dream. “I was inspired by having lots of spare time, lots of instruments and music equipment laying around, and having been introduced by Matthew Brown to Austrian meta-musician Clara Mondshine,” he told me in an email.
The track below, ‘ÁlæifR’, was the very first track Holmberg recorded under the Moon Wheel name, and will feature on the cassette. ÁlæifR translates to ‘ancestor’ in ancient norse, and is the Scandinavian root of Olle – the artist’s name. The clip was shot in Sweden by Holmberg and Hannah Schiefelbein in the summer of 2011.
‘ÁlæifR’ won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who has listened to and absorbed some of Moon Wheel’s other publicly available material (both of which also feature on the cassette). It’s probably the most immediate though, its gentle retro synth melodies and muted percussion recalling several modern takes on ye olde BBC Radiophonic Workshop sonics. The Mondshine influence is very apparent too. We await the full cassette with mouths unflatteringly agape.
The name Rites Wild conjures visions of violent or malevolent ecstasy – of sparagmotic dismemberment and sublime highs. The purpose of that type of rite has long been lost on the western world, and in the absence of any real ecstatic expression, we’re now encouraged to drone on in monotone with barely any sensory deviation. We’re like what Clov observes when he surveys the audience through a telescope in Beckett’s apocalyptic stage play, Endgame: “I see… a multitude… in transports… of joy.”
It’s telling that Stacey Wilson has named her own label Heavy Lows. Its few releases are akin to Rites Wild: they’re similarly spartan in tone, but they share a weird optimism with the label founder’s own work that is important in light of this release. With Rites Wild, it’s almost as though Wilson is trying to reach for some form of ecstatic release by way of devotion to a minimal, brooding, quietly angry music.
Ways Of Being doesn’t change much from her M.O. to date. Its bulk comprises songs already released on cassette EPs over the last 18 months, with a couple of newer tunes rounding the package out to LP length. It presents us with a raft of anaemic drum machines, glowing synths and guttural vocal intonations, meshed into cerebral dubscapes and dirgey organ preset waltzes.
The most striking thing about this collection is the way it balances the cosmic with the intimate. On one hand, each element is tailored to sound as though it’s reaching for the cusp of perception. Drum machines and vocals are cloaked in immense reverb, and walls of delayed texture unspool endlessly into the distance on tunes like ‘Detached Living’. The title track spins a web of resigned, melancholic pop, which is squeezed through a sifting phase shifter to give the impression that its perimeters are slowly warping. Wilson’s vocal on ‘Work Ethic’ is so obfuscated by the burgeoning effects that it seems (appropriately) like a disembodied invocation. But the overall sound of everything is focused, almost muted, and utterly contained, as though by the sleight of a carefully disciplined hand that’s corralling each strand into the strictures of a small loom.
It certainly feels ritualistic, but not in any wild way. If it is reaching for some unattainable sublime, then it fails unequivocally, and this is what makes it so compulsive. It’s the thing that gives the aimless reggae clip of ‘Minimal Where’, or the star-gazing resignation of ‘Ill Health’, inexplicable drive and purpose. It’s what imbues the exquisite and demented waltz of ‘Seasonal Shine’ with a kind of galling, tragic beauty.
It’s meditative – it illustrates what we find at the end of the day’s drone, lighting the distant and intangible contours of what little hope we can still cherish in the depths of each insular, quiet night. Similarly, it’s transcendent and slow – it reaches for catharsis with a thoroughly uncanny discipline. How are we to tear ourselves from these oppressive screens, but with slow perseverance?
Label: Not Not Fun
Release date: October 2012