Its been 15 years since Lawrence English started his now global iconic label Room40, which now encompasses a cassette offshoot (A Guide To Saints) and Someone Good. Over the course of a decade and a half the institution has highlighted the gamut of aural exploration and sonic viscera, from Tenniscoats and Tim Hecker to Ben Frost and Bee Mask. The celebrations are resonating far and wide this year, with global gigs and tours underway (I was lucky to catch the end of English’s set at Café Oto in January, which also showcased John Chantler and Rafael Anton Irisarri, while he also just finished up playing Adelaide’s Unsound festival in March). The Open Frame shows have been massive - the Robin Fox lightshow looked goddamn amazing, while the Sydney Carriageworks show in July is huge (Jim O'Rourke, William Basinski, Grouper, Chris Abrahams, Austin Buckett...the list goes on)). But as always, the releases keep a coming. Here are a few from the year thus far.
Sydneysiders Marcus Whale (Scissor Lock, Collarbones, Black Vanilla) and Tom Smith (AKA Thomas William, fixture of Sydney’s experimental music scene) come together to Localities, one of a few excellent cassettes to come out recently on A Guide To Saints. The four track tribalistic alternamarch is their interpretation of journeying through neighbourhoods that are seemingly familiar yet remain unseen, the slight overlapping of parallel worlds that only the chosen few may experience. Rather than this be a Clive Barker urban S&M nightmare, however, Localities becomes a sinuous, propulsive heartbeat, palpitating synthetic jungle rhythms that are both sinister and jubilant, a neon necropolis of dead loves and living loathes. All abrasion and anxieties, and indeed tremulous triumphs, are washed away in the warm hum of closer ‘Kynemagh’.
Daniel Rejmer produces his own brand of frigid magnetic hell in the noise vibrations of his release Smedje. The cover art of the cassette is black with a fuzzy Xerox of a tooth – and that is pretty much all you need to know before submerging yourself in the electrified black seas of white static and wavering obliterations that exist within this 40 minute downward spiral. Yet it is fidgety, tetchy, forever restless – a constant battle for supremacy between myriad sinewaves of exacting strength and scrape. I listened to this tape for the first time some months ago after listening to Melbourne aural marauders Exhaustion’s experimental mind warp with Kris Wanders, and they melded into an hour of noise that was at once hypnotic, enervating and ecstatic in nature. Probably not for the faint of heart, but there is sonorous method beneath the abrasive madness.
Mirko Vogel is one of many Brisbanites who have found themselves tethered to the darker, colder climes of Europe. Going as Mirko, he has a rather colourful musical history, starting out as one third of Sekiden and having spent the past few years as an unofficial member of Cut Copy - but it is these brooding textural imaginings that are cobbled together in the niche moments of life (planes, trains, backs of touring buses) that signposts his real sonic bearings. There is a stillness inherent in Mirko's work that holds one in thrall, a frozen second forever caught in crystalline amber. He has a full album due out this month too - very excited about this one.
Opening Lawrence's show at Cafe Oto back in January was sound artist and producer Rafael Anton Irisarri. His method of oscillating drone majesty is probably better known under his The Sight Below moniker, but here he goes under his own name. Will Her Heart Burn Anymore is a burnished reflection of that. The EP was recorded in its entirety on New Years Eve of 2014, a sonic cleansing of what had been a turbulent year for the artist. It is the aural equivalent of being caught in a tractor beam in slow motion, the wind whipping clothes and hair, all noise - screams, sighs, moans - drowned out, with only white noise remaining, a choral epiphany of ambiguous temerity. Is this the Ascension, or the Apocalypse? Neither matters - all is burnt to ash in the end.
The Spaces Contained In Each is the exploratory collaboration between sound artists Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello. Roden brings a rounded aestheticism to Vitiello's atmospheric sound sculpting, giving an organic, breathing environment that is both febrile and moribund, with a dormant danger lying between the two. It's both lulling and tense - the truest feeling yet to being on the cusp of undiscovered territory, where the breathtaking beauty kicks the endorphins into action, but also cuts the leash of control to the quick. Let go.
And finally (for today at any rate) there is Variations Of Weeds, a eclectic work from Tenniscoats affiliate Ueno Takashi. The suite of ephemeral guitar platitudes is almost childlike in its tentativeness, innocence and curiosity - an ambient sojourn through the fast-forward of childhood discovery in a rainforest stillness.
You can pick up all of these, and many many more, right here.