Review of Live In Melbourne [12k2008]

Tokafi (.COM)

“You never know what’s going to happen next, and the moment you think you know, that’s the moment you don’t know a goddamn thing”, Auggie Wren, the unlikely und unlucky hero of Wayne Wang’s Smoke; tells his assistant Jimmy while enjoying a quiet second in front of his tobacco store, “That’s what we call a paradox.” In a world of unpredictability, bizarre coincidences and utter absurdness, an album like Live in Melbourne; seems like a zone excempt from the rules of this statement.

On April 14th, 2007, three closely connected projects met at the Northcote Social Club in Australia under the auspices of Room40 label head, sound artists and tireless curator Lawrence English for an evening of drones, microsounds and processed acoustic instruments. Melancholic piano chords were struck in a minor key, weightless licks dripped from the withered body of a guitar like million-year old drops of water from the ceiling of a stalagmitic cave, organs faded into oblivion over the course of an infinitely held tone, bird song duetted with silence and the blues of a rusty anchorage wrapped itself round a solitary Jazz Saxophone in a vain attempt of healing the wound a thousand wrong words had left.

Someone had obviously closed the door at the right moment, locking out all madness, stress, insanity, questions of politics and the confusion which goes with a world at war with itself. The sonic tapestries of Swedish dream weavers Solo Andata: Musical collage-poems without words. Three-piece Seaworthy’s airy dance on their guitar’s sublimated sonorities: An ocean of light sailed by a small ship. Taylor Deupree’s sustained harmony with faintly grating-noises: A blanket of warmth, rest and consolation. The stringing together of their contributions in a continous listening session: An album of graceful fluency, of delicate gestures and heavenly dimensions of quietude.

The paradox at the heart of this record lies in the fact that to arrive at this kind of balance, there must be contrast, friction and polarity both within each piece and between individual compositions. This is most obvious in the Solo Andata set, which counterpoints its finely ringing drones with a wild conglomeration of noises, ranging from distant drum rolls and nightly forrest hums to hiss and slow, wooden machine rhythms. The deeper one dives underneath the surface, the more a subtle chaos starts to reveal itself, beautifully bound together by the breath of tension and release.

Just after it has died away with an agitated scene of subtle metropolitan cacaphony, the pristine simplicity of Seaworthy takes over, intensifying rather than disrupting the experience. Even though it is by no means completely out of the question to somehow subsume all of these artists under the banner of drones, the value of such assertions is very relative indeed. Or to put it differently: Live in Melbourne works so well as a cohesive album, because its participants are anything but a faceless collective.

“Sure, Auggie. I follow”, Jimmy replies, “When you don’t know nothing, it’s like paradise.” This is a questionable proposition. For if this were indeed true, all those who failed to order Live in Melbourne directly from 12k until now may be better off than those managed to secure a copy – limited to just 500 copies, it has already sold out at 12k. On the other hand, the fact that such a quiet music can achieve such a screaming success must be regarded as one of the paradoxes, which make the world a great place to live in after all. – Tobias Fischer

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