Tuesday, November 24, 2020
The last time Sunset Flips released a cassette (Jazz Powder and/or Disco Into Dust earlier in the year), I recommended that the punters of AST not necessarily waste their time with it. Alas, several refused to heed my advice and Jazz Powder proved to be the ‘sleeper hit’ of AST’s 2020 first quarter, being met with a polite ripple of enthusiasm. Well, forget all that cause I actually endorse Between Two Sheds, the SF’s closest thing to a ‘considered release’ up to this point in time.
Recorded in two sheds and over a couple of jams on the same Newcastle street in August / September, 2020. We’ve upgraded from the schooners on the cover of Jazz Powder to martini glasses this time, so this should let you know it is a far more sophisticated affair. Two Sheds bears much in common with the spirit of the Breakdance The Dawn school of no-thought (see more below). There is actually something approaching beauty here at times! A surprise to us as much as anyone. The new Sunset Flips setup of piano, electronics, tape loops, sampled percussion and occasional guitar makes up the palette of these eight ditties. Plenty of bumnotes, convincingly purposeful sounding piano improvisations and enough bloody ambience to fill an Aldi bag.
Between Two Sheds on Bandcamp
Live and fake live(s) on two strange dates.
Muura, the rare solo outpourance from esteemed improv-operator Matt Earle. Chairman of the long-running, deeply subterran Breakdance The Dawn label and board-member of such (loose) organisations as xNO BBQx, Sprot, Club Sound Witches, Love Chants and various others. This set (bootlegged by me) occurred at Melbourne record store, Sunshine + Grease in its third (and final) iteration in Clifton Hill on the 11/06/11. Truly life-changing stuff this, one of the best sets my eyes and ears have percepted. It really doesn’t matter that it’s taken me 9 years to shine the light on it, indefinite luster never fades. The recording drops out about 40 seconds shy of the conclusion, but that’s the way she goes. There is also a high-definition video, available on vimeo.com, wherein you can see every pore on Earle’s face, give it a search. This recording is one of the best examples I’ve witnessed of pure sonic alchemy - weaving magic out of the bare minimum - a practice amp, a horizontal busted bass guitar played with a mallet and chopstick (which falls over at one point during the set), a mic and a few pieces of junk’d percussion. Best left not described any further, try for yourself and see what you feel.
Sunset Flips is the Newcastle duo of Michael Liestins (Cock Safari, Mermaids, the Grog Pappy label) and Cooper Bowman (Troth, Tsap, the Altered States Tapes label). We’ve both held a long relationship with Matt Earle, having shared numerous past gigs and peace pipes and, as Sunset Flips, share a similarly loose approach to Soundplay. This was recorded live (in a sense) with an audience of a single cat outside the shed window in Wickham on 20/11/20. Some piano honkin, some loops and devices left to their own devices set amidst a haze of encroaching yuppie development. Try as they may, you can’t bend the weirdos straight.
Muura / Sunset Flips on Bandcamp
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
Following a 12” EP on Polish label, Syntetyk and contributing the searing “Healthy Correction” to an Altered States Tapes compilation earlier this year, Warsaw-based producer, Wiktor Milczarek, joins AST for his first EP. The connection to Dyktando was established via his friend (and fellow Polish artist) Chino, who’s 2017 tape, Old Practices, remains one of my favourite releases to grace the label. Where Chino mines various genres in his productions, Dyktando’s focus remains more firmly fixed on a mutant hybrid of EBM and industrial-techno. I have followed the Poland electronic scene from afar for the last few years and it has produced some of the most interesting club and experimental music I’ve encountered in that time, Dyktando being one of the most recent revelations. The entirety of this release, meticulously selected from work made from 2014 through ‘til last year, bangs with an assertive single-mindedness throughout. I find that EBM / industrial can often get stale quickly for me, especially over a full-length, but Milczarek keeps his feet firmly on either side of the “weird shit” and “immediately accessible” spectrum in perfect balance.
Rory McPike is known under various pseudonyms, including Rings Around Saturn and as one half of the excellent Turner Street Sound. 2200 has generally been an outlet for Rory’s more adventurous ideas and experiments than being strictly club (or dub)-bound and, for me personally, has always bore the sweetest fruit of his endeavours.
World’s Fare features some previously unissued, early 2200 recordings, in addition to more recent tracks informed by similar approaches that sit seamlessly aside one another. The album strays further from the single-minded raw, industrial techno of the first Black Iron tape and the dense, otherworldly electro of Live (both previously released on AST). Instead, these 8 tracks find McPike harkening back to the fused, beat-driven post-punk found on one of the genre’s highlights, ‘Outlaw’, taken from his first 12” on Cult Trip years back. The use of indiscernible vocals and guitar added to his more than adept production touches make for what feels like the fully cumulative 2200 release so far, both sonically and in its thematic grounding.
Croatia’s Strahinja Arbutina has forcefully sliced out a niche in the last five years over a slew of tapes and a few 12”s (for the likes of Bank NYC and London’s Natural Sciences amongst others), as well as running his own formidable imprint, low income $quad. Across them, Arbutina has been unrelenting in his pursuit of Total Heaviness, using all available modes of electronic assaultery. Assuming clubs are able to re-open again one day, I could envision many of the tracks from PKMMS throttling audiences from sound systems the world over in more adventurous sets.
Mikey Young is a name I’d hope would ring out in the ears of any discerning music fanatic of the last while. Mikey has lent his nimble fingers to the strings in bands like Total Control and Eddy Current Suppression Ring and click’d and drag’d a good portion of the southern hemisphere’s recorded output from “unlistenable” to “glistenable” in his mastering palace. He also quickly released two cassettes (and later vinyl) solo albums in succession in 2017, before disappearing back into his burrow. The few solo communiques to have been emitted in the interim have been contributions to film soundtracking, including 2017’s FANTASTIC independent Australian production, Strange Colours.
Where Your Move Vol. 1 and You Feelin’ Me? both adhered more clearly to song / pop forms, be they spacey Italo numbers or psychy excursions, this release effortlessly situates itself between the more ambient and abstracted moods of recent AST vintage. Mikey’s experience in atmos-carving for celluloid largely informs the mood of Curtains, his third solo album, many of these pieces starting their life as ideas for his scoring work. The pieces are instrumental, predominantly foregrounding electronics and (somewhat surprisingly) guitar, with occasional contributions from regular collaborators, Raven Mahon (of The Green Child) on sax and Al Montfort (of many things) on “lots of stuff”.
There are definitely enough pretty tones on Curtains to soothe the more adventurous of ambient-trekkers, but the regular wrongness that pervades these otherwise serene scenes is what really grips me. The teetering effect of the juxtapoz creating a sense of tension that won’t release, compelling you to tread on and make sure the chopper arrives to pick up the protagonist before the curtain drops. But this isn’t Predator, this is a cassette tape so all you can do is keep flipping it over in an attempt to find the resolution you so crave. It’s like a parable, ay?
I have no clear ideas about who they are or where African Ghost Valley hail from, even after doing a little digging. I am told they are an “Erythrean and Canadian” living in the “Swizz Mountains”, but how legit any of that is can neither be verified, nor is it ultimately important. The prolific output of African Ghost Valley weaves a consistent thread of ghostly (original, huh), nay disembodied miniatures that flicker mostly on the periphery, out of frame. They seem to tap the same hauntolgical forgotten futures convincingly proposed by Mark Fisher and sonically expounded by folks like The Caretaker, Korea Undok Group and, more locally, Hour House. PEG&X is a space where you’ll find more each time you stalk its halls, but it won’t always be the smoothest passage.
Amelia Besseny is the better half of experimental duo Troth (of which I’m also a half). Scene At The River is her debut full-length release (following a limited, self-released tape of rough recordings earlier in the year).
I first encountered Amelia while organising a series of gigs after moving back to my hometown of Newcastle, Australia two years ago. In the ten years I’d spent smoking it up in the big smoke, not a great deal had changed in Newcastle - the one guy who was actively making interesting music still made it in his garage, most of the few others who had previously no longer did. Everyone else in the city (town with cranes?) continued playing in covers bands and believing that the true path of virtue lay in being “signed” based on your JJJ Unearthed profile.
The exception to this was Impatiens. I first heard the few songs Besseny had available online after contacting the Newcastle Conservatorium in a last-bid seeking interesting local artists, one of her fellow staff members pointing me in her direction. The songs were relatively simple, yet experimental-inflected takes on synth-pop. Not only was she creating these in the complete cultural isolation of Newcastle, she was performing the songs herself live using a rudimentary assortment of hardware, a rare occurrence anywhere. The early Impatiens track, ‘Osaka’ (released on a compilation tape) is an undeniable pop hit. Besseny is a trained vocalist, however the instrumental compositions in her tracks have quickly evolved beyond being serviceable backings for her voice and now have a distinct character entirely of their own. Scene At The River’s recordings were made over a period of close to a year in-between other projects, so there are various moods captured throughout. ‘Cold Hands’ is possibly the closest to a straight pop song in the collection, ‘Lost Translations’ representing the furthest reach in the opposite direction. Along with them comfortably sits four more tracks that take Besseny’s grounding in classical and folk modes, but uses these approaches to reimagine a refreshingly unique interpretation of rhythm and pop.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
AST120 - TSAP - FLICKERING LYGHTE IN CAMPSITE 12” LP
After a 2019 tape on Total Black and another, titled Eating A Tree, earlier this year on AST Newcastle / Sydney duo Tsap finally spawn-forth this long-gestating LP. So far the duo, made up of Chris Colla (Orion, The No, early Low Life, etc) and Cooper Bowman (Altered States Tapes), have played two shows - one in a Sydney bowling club and another inside a former Go-Lo in Newcastle’s mostly-abandoned mall. This goes some way to illuminating what you can expect on Flickering Lyghte In Campsite.
As with their previous output, there is no fencing keeping the two captive and beholden to fickle generic convention. There are bleak, low-BPM techno creepers ‘Operating In The Dark’ and ‘Raising The Carnyx’, approaches to the furthest edges of the minimal-wave continuum in ‘Two Eyes Right’ and ‘Staircase Wit’ and iterations of Pagan House in ‘Faith In Stone’, ‘Indefinite Ancients’ and ‘Gorseddau’.
Altho’ the term is frequently bandied, this is one for the ‘trew heads’. I’m not sure even I completely understand it myself and I make up 50% of the hands that turned these knobs. In a time where much (techno or otherwise) barely reaches beyond the surface level, I can’t think of a better zone to occupy.
Featuring cover art by Nick Blinko reproduced in kind permission by Henry Boxer Gallery. Blinko is one of our favourite ‘outsider’ operators, a member of legendary anarcho agitators, Rudimentary Peni and The Magits.
The album’s back cover and insert images were chiselled by Sydney’s Yuta Matsumura, who we equally respect the output of.
Buy Digital / 12" (pre-order)
AST130 - TROTH - FLAWS IN THE GLASS 12” LP
Following sound installations in several galleries and cassette releases on Australian underground mainstays Moontown and Essential Minerals, Flaws In The Glass was recorded by Troth (Amelia Besseny and Cooper Bowman) over a period of a 4-week residency in Mt Wilson, New South Wales in January / February 2020.
Mount Wilson is an idyllic, historic village with no shops and very few permanent residents situated atop the Blue Mountains. In late 2019 and early 2020, the surrounding area (and Mount Wilson itself) were subject to some of the most devastating bushfires ever recorded in Australia.
Troth have turned their established ambient and experimental gaze on this landscape, attempting to authentically convey both the recent, charred tragedy and to celebrate the lush greenery that prevails (and was visibly beginning to re-sprout around them while the album was recorded). They’ve also turned their heads collectively toward experimental folk tracks, in the tradition of its use as a lens through which to view nature.
Many local sounds are used throughout; excited birdlife, creaking campfire steel, an out of tune piano in the village hall, benches on the schoolhouse grounds and the pipe of an incinerator in the studio’s backyard among them. To these, Besseny and Bowman have added zither, various electronics and their voices.
Although not directly referencing anything specific, some listening habits and thematic touchstones during it’s recording were the pastoral serenity of early albums by Cluster, Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Eno + Harmonia’s Tracks and Traces. Polish modern-classical group, Księżyc, and This Mortal Coil both also provided influence via their ethereal takes on folk music and pop composition respectively.
A portion of all sales will be donated to Firesticks (an organisation supporting Indigenous fire maintenance practice and knowledge) and WIRES (animal rehabilitation and conservation in bushfire-effected areas).
Buy Digital / 12" (pre-order)
Wednesday, July 1, 2020
Thursday, June 4, 2020
Pre-Order via bandcamp.
AST is finally making a t-shirt so you can show your support for strange Australian electronic music.
Killer design by Sydney artist Yuta Matsumura (Orion / Low Life / Oily Boys / et al) featuring the Newcastle skyline (before they knocked down the Penis Tower).
Available in either blue print on white shirt or orange print on black shirt.
Also available is a limited zine I just made called Universal Solvents.
The first issue features interviews w/ YL Hooi, Suburban Cracked Collective and Cube (US). Also included are two art-page contributions by funny person / punk drummer James Vinciguerra as well as some of my personal reflections on 90’s band This Mortal Coil and a small, but involved review section covering a few music and print curios of interest.
New Releases From Young Druid (UK), Petro & Crunché, Roman Nails, Sunset Flips + Compilations Available.
Big comp, lots of names, bargain value, good time. Opal Beau, Hitoshi Kojima, WRX, Foreign Beast (Sleep D), Rinpoche, LST, Orinokoflo, Impatiens, Beat Detectives, Sansibar, Beau Wanzer, Chino, Debris, Dyktando, Troth, Dwild & Cbow + Trevor.
After some fortuitous dot connecting n’ path-aligning last year, I was somehow able to convince John T. Gast that coming to the AST epicentre of Newcastle New South Wales, was a good idea. He was traipsing Australia’s big smokes on the company dime, but something about getting to dip his toe in the bogey hole and a home-cooked plate of dal must have appealed.
The night before in Sydney saw Gast pulverising a typically strobe’d and well-attended club show, the Sunday eve finding him in an all-but abandoned Croatian Club in Newcastle’s once grimy, now gentrifying ’inner city’. When he asked what sort of ‘vibe’ he should aim for in his performance, I said “whatever the fuck you want”. And ‘whatever the fuck’, he did in spades. This here is the document of it, recorded straight from the desk by Drillbit. His supports on the night were a star-studded array of the best that this town (and further south) has to offer: Troth (the homegrown dreamings of Amelia Besseny and myself), DPRK (a No Barbecuer, a formerly Severed Head, a Fauxbic and a man in a hat who’s name I don’t recall), Exmah (one of the Fisters) and The Mermaids (Newcastle noise menaces who share the same name as Cher’s 1990 dramedy film).
Under his usually preferred handle, Gast has spawned many releases that swiftly flit between dub, darkly minimal club music and ambience, but as the Druid, he instead channels a ‘Celtic pop’ sensibility. This set sees the concept throughly kneaded n’ stretched into an exclusively murked consistency. Following the set, Gast offered to bring a recorder to perform with the next time he visits Newcastle. Stay tuned for that (also, don’t).
This Roman Nails EP has been sitting on the shelf since it was recorded back in 2016, around the same time as the All Hardware No Tools 12”. There were a few unrealised plans to get it out there, but nothing eventuated so I thought it was better not to let it collect any more dust. I think most of the tracks have held up reasonably well, all things considered. New Terr retains the same blunt minimalism of the previous Roman Nails tapes on Where To Now, Night People, Future Archaic etc but ‘bangs’ a little harder at points, not necessarily a bad thing. Now that this is purged, there will possibly be some new RN tracks reared in the near future.
A new long-playing tape from the four hands and (at least) two heads of Petro and Crunch! Culled from their first half-dozen jams, these improvised experiments in beat desecration make for solid, tho’ fully varied listening. You can hear various forms of electronic pursuit; house, noise, tekkers, hip-hop (at least in pace) being minced into a wobbly slurry. Once (if) life returns to ‘normal’, I feel like Petro & Crunché would be one of the better things to encounter in a live setting. The way Chunks shifts between tracks and moods, it remains impossible to know where it will lead next. There’s the unease in entering the unknown, but also the excitement of experiencing something consistently fresh as it quickly mutates between evolution and de-evolution, often within a single track.
(OIL / LOOSEE CRUNCHE / WRX / IVORY WHIPS)
This was originally intended as a six-artist compilation I was asked to put together for an overseas label years back that never saw light. Here it is culled down to three of the six originally included, with the addition of a recent, locked-down side from Ivory Whips. Oil opens things up in his inimitably slick style after keeping things pretty damn quiet for awhile now. A slowburn open and quick escalation into full shuffle mode shortly thereafter, “life’s too short to fuck y’self over, y’know?”. Then comes the return of Crunché to AST with two severe cuts, one almost approaching a rhythm you can follow and the other rejecting the concept wholesale. Next up WRX dives even deeper into his deep bag of techniques for these three burners. Lastly, recently minted improv-electronics outliers Ivory Whips offer two beat-driven numbers ahead of another cassette release more in this vein than the comparatively narcotic, Meeting, released on AST a few months ago.
I’m not sure I’d really recommend this directly to anyone, or at least anyone who has grown used to what AST releases have largely been over the last few years. [The] Sunset Flips were one of the earliest groups to feature on the label, but it was a different time then, the free and liberated early 2010’s. But the SF’s too have changed, matured even some may say (unlikely). Rather than being a tape-loop and nois’d out affair, Jazz Powder and/or Disco Into Dust, finds them in the midst of lockdown laying down piano skronk and subtle electronic accompaniment (at a reasonable social distance of course, the shed it was recorded in is sizeable). Not sure how best to describe JPaoDID, but it’s definitely not ‘techno’ if that’s what you’re looking for. Maybe like The Necks if they didn’t know how to play and grew up watching ECW in various Western Suburbs of NSW. Yeah, that’ll work.
Sunday, May 3, 2020
DRY MOUTH - 20 TERRY FUNK GREATS
DRY MOUTH - 20 TERRY FUNK GREATS
DRY MOUTH - 20 TERRY FUNK GREATS
The final recording from Melbourne nitwits, Dry Mouth (Dr. Sean McMorrow and Cooper Bowman) dating from the way back, simpler times of July 2015. Possibly the best thing we ever did (whatever that means). Important side note: the woman choking me out in the insert is now a really famous wrestler in the WWE (hence the thematic subtext later added to the release) that we briefly met in the deep suburbs of Burwood, Vic in 2013. I kinda look like Eric Cartman in the photo. Quality stuff.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
The final full-length Kneeling Knave release has been out for the last month or so via Chondritic Sound. Although recorded not long after 2017's debut, Compliance, it's taken some time to appear. Although I couldn't feel more distanced from the project now, I think these recordings mostly achieved what I was trying to via KK, sound-wise and also thematically. I was doing my best to convey a complicated narrative concerned with personal experiences of mental health and it's treatment, in which nothing is clear-cut. The release ends on an appropriate note of transition and what I suggest could be interpreted as hope. There is also a limited version with a 7" that has two earlier tracks.
The below review of it also appeared on reputable source for all things static-filled and churning, Night Science.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
I’m not entirely sure how I came to be aware of Grotesque Circular Dance, but it’s proven to be one of the weirder / more interesting stories to result from the label.
I do know that I came across some videos of the experimental synth duo from Newcastle (my hometown) playing live at the local university in the early 80’s and needed to know more. Long story short, I was able to contact one of the parties responsible, Colum, and to have some dialogue with him about the band he shared with other member, ‘Bo’. I learned that they had never released anything while they existed, but that some recordings had been made and stored away. I somehow also later found out that Colum had attended the same high school and art school as my dad in Newcastle.
Not surprisingly, GCD and their other satellite groups, Ghosty & The Skeletons and Two Village Dinosaurs, were not especially well-received by Newcastle audiences at the time of their birth. It is something of a feat they were able to even access synths at the time, let alone master them, create excellent songs and torture the residents of Newcastle live. These recordings have aged remarkably well. Not only are they examples of perfectly executed minimal-wave / synth-pop songs, they are delivered with an inimitably Novocastrian sense of humour and absurdity. If there is any single release to be considered the legacy and convergence of paths I’ve tried to achieve through AST, I feel like this is it.
Limited release, includes booklet of archival photos, flyers and liner notes.
Troth (rhymes with oath) is a Newcastle-based duo comprising Amelia Besseny and Cooper Bowman. Nothing Still In The Stone Garden are the first considered recordings made together, although we have released two tapes (recorded later) via Moontown and Essential Minerals and a limited release of live recordings on AST since.
NSITSG was an installation in a Newcastle gallery in September 2019 featuring a video work by Greg Perano and a sound component made up of reel-to-reel and hand-cut cassette loops. We played our first show inside the loops for the event’s opening, a rehearsal of which makes up the A-side (we failed to record the set itself). The B-side is a collage of interventions made occasionally in the gallery during the exhibition’s duration. We have moved into increasingly more structured modes since these recordings (we have actual ‘songs’ now!), but have continued reflecting on the same themes of flux, chaos and beauty found in natural environments first touched on here.
After a debut cassette on Berlin’s Total Black last year, Tsap come crawling over to Altered States for their first sitting in its wonked halls. Tsap is a Sydney / Newcastle duo made up of Chris Colla and Cooper Bowman.
EAT was originally conceived as an ambient / longform listen based around some late night jams we had and loosely themed on an ascetic Buddhist practice of self-immolation. While the liminal tracks, titled Lacq I-IV, underpin the release, there are other distractions along the ascent. The Saint Of Rice Excrement vaguely calls to mind two of our great loves, Robert Turman and Nick Blinko, in one of the stranger compatibility-matches imaginable. Chant Reduction continues the chaotic, mutated house of our first tape and Crumbling Stupa features an eviscerated beat along with someone warbling as if they heard Scott Walker, took peyote and were left to their own (unplugged) devices in the mountains.
Expect the first Tsap LP, Flickering Lyghte In Campsite, later in the year sometime. At the very least, it makes more sense than Eating A Tree.
Completely improvised, loose spiral jams from the AST house band. No names given (or required), just an open pair of ears needed to enjoy.
Two songs by Newcastle duo, Troth, made up of Amelia Besseny and Cooper Bowman. Both take song-based structures and mulch them, sculpt them, into new forms. ‘Garland And Gauze’ does so via a densely layered hallucination of Besseny’s ethereal vocals drifting at the forefront of piano, drum machine, guitar and other wired implements. ‘On The Door’ is centred on a rudimentary harp and bass drum loop, with an actual dream recounted over the top by Bowman and some other clues sprinkled around.
Some “FFO” touchstones could include The Shadow Ring, Julee Cruise, This Mortal Coil and/or Gareth Williams & Mary Currie.
Locally produced and hand-assembled 7", limited to 50 copies.
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Ivory Whips first show. Loose spirals from malleable collective associated with the Altered States Tapes school of thought.
Tape coming shortly.