The Rummage

Tag: Australia

. issue XXIV : vii .

. artist : overcast .
. album : 3:p.m. eternal .
. year : 2004 .
. label : bloody fist .
. grade : b plus .

Overcast

Overcast’s 3:P.M. Eternal, long in the works for Australia’s Bloody Fist (1997-2003), present relentless hits of disorienting cutups, crisp scratches, nifty breaks, gabber kicks and spitballing samples. The listener will be bludgeoned into the ground by this cacophony of pots-and-pans beats. 3 PM is messy, gloriously cheeky and terrifically involving.

Though it was composed on an AMIGA 600, each track sounds utterly fresh — except for those that are supposed to sound dated (“Cycle Recycled”). Apparently it wasn’t good enough for the overwrought Overcast, who writes that “the AMIGA 600 used for the making of this album was sealed and buried at the southernmost tip of Tasmania at 2pm on the 4th January, 2004,” and, later, “The promised AMIGA burial photographs will now appear inside the gatefold sleeve and not directly on the website. Did someone say marketing ploy? Pfft.” The IPA touch (/‘ouv kast/) on the cd is spectacular, and the lineart for Bloody Fist glows star type G, so I’m not sure if they really needed to offer more enticement for the physical product.

Horror highlights include “Gorky Parked” and “F-Projection” (sampling “Gorky Park” and “Intellectual Killer,” respectively), aggressive breakbeat numbers that exude suspens. “Gorky Parked” uses a masterful clock chime sample to lengthen the experience of the song, and “F-Projection” features spine-chillingly ambiguous cawing or crying (animal / human?).

Another standout, “Brains,” works from geologically crushing industrial sensibilities, heavy-handed beats, a tantalizing electro tendril, and a creeping sci-fi atmosphere (climatological: moistness … swamp). It also features a controversial, cutting sample from “Bush Killa” by Paris — projecting the assassination of George H.W. Bush — and do I think it’s a coincidence they’ve used this here, in a 2004 release? … no.

“Cycle Recycled” wends feedback around the Parkinsonian morse code clammy chatter of tinny tight beats and basso profundo laser effects. Indeed, it’s an effects-laden song as stimulating and uptight as it is kitschy, a retro blood-pumper and stomper. “Cycle Recycled” is the only cut that sounds like a computer decided to make it — but the 80’s counterfeit, slight-stilt, is gloriously old skool amidst Overcast’s other offerings.

Lastly, “Who’s Fxxing Who?” is an ode to the “Sydney/Newcastle diss war,” a brilliant closer that speaks more than any other track to Overcast’s abilities as an arranger and his sheer cheek. When your high-note ending is virulent profanity slung back-and-forth on the basis of residence and ‘scene’ … you’re on Bloody Fist.

by Brittany Tracy

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. issue XXIII : iv .

. artist : kirin j callinan .
. album : embracism .
. year : 2013 .
. label : terrible .
. grade: a .

Embracism

“Musician’s musician” is a dubious title, but one that is pretty apt for Kirin Callinan. He doesn’t have a Wikipedia page, but years on the road playing in Mercy Arms and Jack Ladder’s band have helped Callinan accumulate some friends in high places. He just finished a tour supporting Cut Copy, and now Embracism, which was produced by Kim Moyes of The Presets and released on Terrible Records, Chris Taylor’s label of Grizzly Bear fame.

Since Callinan’s musical peers have already signed up, his solo debut Embracism is a coming out party for everyone else. And man, is there something for everyone. The dynamic range that Callinan’s voice travels over the course of the album is pretty remarkable. This could just as easily be an audition reel for a Pixar film as it is a musical document. He howls like a whiskey-gurgling Stanley Kowalski through the refrain of “Victoria” in “Victoria M” and through the trials of presumptive erectile dysfunction in “Love Delay” — just as easily as he mutters inscrutably through the first two minutes of “Way II War.” He croons through the bitter syrup of “Chardonnay Sean” and “Landslide,” songs so melodramatic he makes a convincing case that he’s telling the truth even when he repeats “I cry when I listen to Springsteen” (“Come On USA”).

Callinan throws the kitchen sink at the listener in all aspects of this record, too. On one hand, you can definitely hear producer Moyes’ influence through the spitfire robo-chittering and handclaps that forms the percussive foundation for most of the songs on the album, as well as some timbral choices that would be right at home on a Presets record, probably most salient in the dog-whistle screeches on the title track and the faux-brass pomp of “Come On USA.” That being said, there is definitely no sense that Moyes encroaches at all on Callinan’s peculiar vision. Callinan compliments the mechanical backdrop of the album with capacious reverbed-out guitars firing out of a pretty elaborate pedal collection. These “guitars” span the tranquil echoes in “Scraps” and “Landslide,” the haunting melodies of “Halo” and “Stretch it Out,” and constitute the percussive robo-grinding in the climax of the title track.

What the album lacks in cohesion, it makes up for in intrigue. At 10 songs, Embracism has the curtain closed on it long before it overstays his welcome, and I eagerly await Kirin Callinan’s next move.

by Elliot Wegman

. issue XXII : i .

. artist : the liberators .
. album : power struggle .
. year : 2013 .
. label : record kicks .
. grade : a .

PowerStruggle

Afrobeat is popular all over the world these days, and Australia is no exception; in the last few years, we’ve heard a bunch of fine Aussie Afrobeat combos: the Shaolin Afronauts, Public Opinion Afro Orchestra and the Afrobiotics. Add The Liberators to that list. This is the second album for the Sydney-based 10-piece band, and it’s smoking. The Liberators share a number of members with world-class funk band Dojo Cuts, and Dojo lead singer Roxie Ray provides the only vocal here on “Water Somewhere.” Other than that, it’s an all-instrumental session with short songs by Afrobeat standards (none longer than 6:05), many featuring sour, pentatonic, almost Ethiopian melodies. In these three aspects, The Liberators sound quite a bit like the Budos Band. Another major influence is Antibalas: you can hear them in Colin Ho’s Ticklah-like trippy organ swirls and stabs (check out the beginnings of “Cairo Uprising” and “Dos Caras”) and see them in the explicitly political song titles. Antibalas’ Martin Perna and Amayo are big fans, and with good reason: this is top-shelf 21st century Afrobeat, definitely worth your time.

by Bill Lupoletti

. issue XII : i .

. artist : syndicate .
. album : appetite for destruction .
. year : 1996 .
. label : bloody fist .
. grade : a minus .

Syndicate

Appetite for Destruction was one of the earliest releases on legendary electronic hardcore label Bloody Fist. It combines breakcore and jungle with 8-bit sounds, horror soundtracks and hip-hop samples in a harsh, sleek slidewalk. It’s a chain-and-roller conveyor with flexion, commentary, and Splet-esque shine. Above all, it posits a kind of hawkishness in order to reprehend it, and, therefore, it’s two-for-one: thrill and censure.

The skanking, unconventional “Suicide” is too opulent but made to work, a nice gesture to the interpretable humanity of even taped electronic music or the liasons with dramatic ironies humans seem to need — each time this sequence comes around, the listener wonders, naturally, if Syndicate can pull it off. The incongruity of its delicate metronomic beats, fireside crackle and a vibe all floral curtains and sympathy cards is made sinister by the sample: “I’m the resurrector, be my sacrifice / Commit suicide and I’ll bring ya back to life.” Its organ tones create a sanctified and fatal cloister. “Nightmare V3” uses, of course, a door-defying beat, shallow and punchy, with horror strings that feel positively orchestral in comparison. It plays a double-dutch at the end; it shouldn’t be possible to give the linear run-around, but here it is. With an increasingly uncaring minor key and a B-movie exhalation (“Oh my goodddddd”) to close, Syndicate parodies their own hobbyism. “Live ‘N Love” begins with a scratchy, foreboding tremble, then buds a dub sample that’s articulated to imitate a qawwal with an optimistic tenor. The as-advertised “square wave kick drums” are not withheld — like a crowd of lemmings on a too-small platform, they runneth over. And just as with “Suicide,” “Love” becomes poesy in a tuneful resolution, a parlour room embrace or wedding dance of fond containment. “Appetite for Destruction” is a campy and fearsome record standout because it serves so well as an opener and lead in … its routine is exquisite and it sticks its landing. It’s not about “appetite” — it’s about gluttonous action, and Syndicate acknowledges what N.W.A. didn’t, using onomatopoeic approaches (e.g. illustrating, sonically, its “bang”) and a befitted broken record wind-up (“I do damage with a nine in my hand”). The break is more of a canyon-sized schism; at each phasic metamorphosis, one thinks it might, perhaps, spin out from there. But “Appetite” is too lengthy, and with distinct halves (one that’s clean, one that’s mussed), it forces the listener to confirm that it’s always only halfway through. “Jungle Fever” has nimble turntablism, reggae dub samples, and great beatbox work. Prominently featuring unidentifiable samples, “Jungle” is, to some extent, reduced to mere sounds: some slide-dobro-whistles; some samples buried (“hah!”); others reeled in, discarded and resubmerged (chipmunk); still others ambiguous in intent (“hmmm”). It’s one of Syndicate’s best, the beats and samples all beguilingly discombobulated.

Otherwise, “Wize Wordz” is a small song in a tired, unaware setting (a suburban creeper, a neighborhood horror). Maraca-shakin’ ornament meets the rest of Syndicate’s kitschy, often dissonant repertoire. The bass moguls as the song plays to close are winning as well. “Watch Me Bash This” is, they acknowledge, a silly statement (“Me, a maniac psycho” and “Pow — how you like me now?”), but Syndicate do what LL Cool J can’t by fleshing out and actually backing the attestations of the overstating rapper or horror soundtrack (so alike). “Bash” begins with a pow-wow wound round its “pow” and continues with a motile beat that’s powerful but futile, like a stair-stepper. Also note the surfy, wending, and coaxing eastern thread, the weathered troposphere, and the 4/4 drum corps complexity emergent as the song breaks (up). “Keep It Hardcore” begins tenebrously and slowly in horrific presentation. It utilizes zappy ammunition, turntable stunts and a frenetic pace. “Hardcore” is no joke — it positively hammers, and, as one of Syndicate’s harshest tracks, is perhaps too obvious and fatiguing. It does combine the same phrase repeated in the same verse of Run-D.M.C.’s original — as though it understands the entire middle of the verse to be irrelevant: “I’m takin’ the tours, I’m wreckin’ the land / I keep it hardcore because it’s dope, man” and “My voice is raw, my lyrics is law / I keep it hardcore like you never saw.” “Icepick” (“slowly through the temple”) certainly finds the grisly, sobering, slightly cliché mutuality between rap and horror. “Guerrillas In The Mist” makes good use of violence-in-8-bits effects and also arrives at remarkably life-like percussion production. The constant trilling of the beat — a relentless shuffle in which each is barely attended to — is a mass-production endeavor of oversize card shuffle in perpetual motion. Pneumatic lineshafts of beats seizure seismic upward, or else zip densely and dangerously (the perils of racquetball!) with precocious vivacity. “Guerrillas” is very clippy, indeed, and ammunition dispensation is its job (“Grab anotha clip / We guerrillas in the mist”). “Full Contact” celebrates the tiresome chipmunk voice, which is still hard to reconcile, especially so late in the album — that device hasn’t aged well. However, the small sampled “oh,” like a period at the end of each phrase, is a terrific ornamental touch and the completely unnecessary indulgence that makes the song. “Full Contact” is like a Mr. Game and Watch burlesque bugspray bell routine, or worse. It’s cartoony, unfathomable, and seat-shifty awkward, almost as awkward as Appetite’s closer, “Face Down Arse Up,” and the fact that yeah, you know this song and it was even scandalous (once). The vocals sped up without pitch control emerge like riot grrrl or Crass in an incidental genre crossover. The forgot-my-chute scream at the end is fabricated and theatrical … like the entire album.

Appetite is relentless and overstimulating in its repugnance, but it’s also pronated in a vexing way. It transports its listener to a place of mental apprehension and cultural reticence. Isn’t there a reason it’s called ‘horror’? — yes: it’s horrifying. By presenting camp that fails to grasp itself and themselves truly, impudently, coming to grips with it, Syndicate manifest the horribleness in question. Appetite for Destruction is provocative in a double-motion, and, therefore, it’s not an album to be taken lightly.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue X : viii .

. artist : self-corruption .
. album : history of clowns .
. year : 2012 .
. label : grindcore karaoke .
. grade : b plus .

History of Clowns

Self-Corruption’s History of Clowns is a recent grindcore effort that won’t disappoint. With brutal riffing and a barrage of cries, Clowns is a temperamental success, though in the traditional sense — a relief these days, where sounds are basted into appetitivity. Fortunately, there’s nothing tuneful, just a grindcore outfit down-to-business, even when they do break the mold. The fetid keyboard runs in “Mouthbreather” are mildewed and corrupt, keys all askance, surely, like the plastic incisors in arcade shootouts for pre-pre-teens. “Drop Out Do Nangs” is nail-on-chalkboard ambient rain — assuredly disreputable. Punks. The 90’s-mod of “Silence” disintegrates as Self-Corruption claw their way out of the trench. “Keep Calm And Carry On” fluently runs bass and cymbals under the chorus in a phasic, mathy mode. And the too-clean riffing of “Sickle Cell” evokes classic punk than grindcore — it’s not disagreeable, though a bit pastiche. Otherwise, History of Clowns is largely run-of-the-mill, though well-executed.

Vocals are shrill and incisive (re: Karel Hlaváček’s “Exile”); guitar-and-bass are staunch rather than showy, but proficient rather than scrummy; and the drums are intense and factorial — they runneth over — though scarcely imaginative. The authenticity of History rests in its impeccable tempo shifts: roughly every 15 seconds, the listener’s bearings are wiped again. Though sometimes the mere addition or subtraction of an instrument (with a certain pace) alters the tempo experience without a complete compositional severance (as when the guitar-and-drums hammering of “Ashphalt” is relieved with measured arena sweeps), most frequently, the change is utter and abrupt, and often lasting just as long as the listener needed to reorient. “On Flags,” the shortest composition (0:30) and “Keep Calm And Carry On,” by far the longest (at 4:22) are the choicest examples of compositional restlessness, though “On Flags” could be split into two, and “Keep Calm” grows through its branching, incorporating new elements as it goes (e.g. the oi calls, that nifty chorus instro).

So what’s good to hear? Well, nothing; and there’s even nothing for show. The album art is a grotesque portrait of a horde of clowns whose makeup drips like their faces melting: average people, sporting bowl-haircuts, comb-overs and bangs, aged before their time, and unhappy. There’s also a few severed limbs, and, impolitely, a pig. This is the ‘after’ picture, one supposes — invite this ‘clown’ to your party and you’ll feel like they look.

by Brittany Tracy

. issue X : iv .

. artist : template .
. album : drops one .
. year : 2001 .
. label : bloody fist .
. grade : b plus .

Template

An early breakcore masterpiece from infamous Australian label Bloody Fist, Template’s Drops One is a fractured, swaggering, feral piece of scratchy speedcore, with intricate drums panning in swathes, bright lightning-strike melodies blasting and recoiling, a squealing didgeridoo sample, and the obligatory creepy voice over — don’t dance to this record lest you be electrocuted by the accumulated static.

Pithy, cute “Intro” halts a sample to stutter out their name (“The basic template, template, template, template”) strung along a thread of kitschy samples, and closes with a batta-bing gesture. “21%” opens in stark contrast, a cold steel breakcore offering ceaselessly rolling; icy moguls and drippy drums castanet-stamping; mid-range snakes doffing skin after skin; ammunition-spindling Maxims dysregulated and firing in confused bursts; an eminently-timed bridge features a suave voice like Jonathan Schmock as the Chez Quis Maitre D’ in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “Did you know that we’ve got 21% of the world’s poker machines in Australia?” Instrumental fills fall into incredible comedic timing, clearing for the aggrandizing alternate affirmation, “Isn’t that incredible? / Yeah.” “21%” takes its time to waggle its way out the space lock in a waveform that’s positively calligraphical. “Fully Industrial A” is telephone-throated warping on hold over uptight drum-n-bass constructions; the crunchiest and most melodious track, “Industrial” sounds, in fact, just barely complacent in the coddle of the industrial age, evolving betwixt rotary pulls and pulse dials; the didgeridoo sounds like an 8-bit bagpipe; with drums like aggies dropped in a crystalline racquetball court slipshod shuffling board. “How’s Work?” is a pied marching band blast; an ant army drum corps marching through ‘Lightning Field,’ a busy signal and busy bee dance senselessly. It’s also the most layered track, with the muffled plopping of an impotent tupperware jug band competing with burnt, ruddy glitching in fifth gear. “How’s Work?” is, as a title choice, the perfect manifestation of Template’s coy, eyebrow-raised not-quite-humor, also evident in their choice of campy sci-fi-rhetorical samples. “Trash” is a hollow pots’n’pans clangor, fun (requisite Oscar The Grouch sample — check), but most one-dimensional. The sounds themselves are intriguing (clatters, gulps, and freeze-frame stammers), but Template excel most with dynamic compositions.

What does Template drop, exactly? A very-50’s matronly hubby (wearing brown knit, starched collar flared, jaw-to-chest pudge, gratuitous eyebrows, high-forehead, wristwatch, graying) cradles a warhead like a changeling infant, delight and solicitation on his face. This record was explosive — the label relates, “This was also the first Bloody Fist 12″ to feature hard-panned percussion. One irate caller to the Bloody Fist office accused us of ‘selling out’ due to the use of ‘stereo’. It really didn’t take much to sell out in those days.“ This exceptional novelty stands the test of time — in fact, it’s stronger for it, as the retro components are exponentially retro, so that Drops One is an anachronistic jostle between the far-past, the relevant-past, and the past-present. The Bloody Fist “punk aesthetic” reminds today’s crowds that a small rewind (and more trash, less flash) is obstinate at heart — and durable in legacy.

by Brittany Tracy