West Coast Oz by Wayne Stronell

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There is a place where the boundaries of hip-hop and beat culture are being stretched, skewed, and morphed to allow a growing community of alternative beat producers to step out onto the world stage, feeding off each others creativity, but maintaining their own style of experimentation and musical vision. If you were reading any other magazine, you’d be expecting this article to start reeling off names familiar with lovers of West Coast hip-hop, but in an all Australian issue of Cyclic Defrost that just wouldn’ do. Although the West Coast of the USA has obvious reference points for some of this features musicians, it’s more about a growing community of producers from Perth Western Australia, that are pushing the boundaries, experimenting with hip-hop, dubstep and electronic music, it’s not about trying to categorize this music as hip-hop, dubstep, wonky, IDM or whatever, as all of this new breed of producers seem to have their own distinct style, not allowing for easy genre categorization. While other cities seem to be following similar roads, the obvious example being Frequency Lab on the East Coast (but that’s worthy of a feature all of its own), Perth has surprised me with the depth of talent, all sharing mutual influences, yet producing such a varied palette of sounds.

I had been listening to In The Shadow Of Thunder Mountain by Naik, not being aware that Naik in fact hailed from Perth until about the third listen, getting hooked on the fresh psych hip-hop sounds; around the same time making contact with DOS4GW, after reviewing a three track demo of brutal electronic hip-hop and quasi-dub styles. After numerous emails my interest in Perth had expanded to include other artists I was not aware of; Diger Rokwell, YLEM, DJ Silence, Ta-ku, Vishnu, and Mathas, that’s when I realized how healthy and underrated the West Coast scene has become. No longer can we expect isolation to be a draw back to creative communities, Perth, although so far removed from Eastern Australian cities, is teaming with creativity, surprising listeners with their own take on emerging music styles. From the outside looking in, it seems like a vibrant community, all the artists seem to be friends, co-existing in our great Western city without ego, feeding off each others creativity, collaborating for events, producing cross media projects, nurturing a scene that our bigger cities should take note of. The Community Crew gives Perth’ producers a platform for performance, distribution, promotion and marketing, check out the full scope at www.thecommunity.com.au and www.paperchainpeople.com, you’ll find a wealth of information, and the means to purchase past releases.

DOS4GW doesn’ seem to enjoy blowing his own trumpet, but he should, producing music that is fresh and forward thinking, this crafted beat maker could stand along side other producers of crunchy electronics from labels such as Warp, Mush and Rephlex, underpinning his sound with a brutal overloaded electronics, but dabbling with styles varying from hip-hop, electro, IDM to dubstep and other strange quasi-dub hybrids. He’ worked with vocalists, and continues to do so, making beats for New Jersey crews GDP and Slangcorp. A promo cassette only release with GDP is floating around, with beats by DOS4GW and Melbourne’ Aoi, his productions also appearing on the GDP album to be released sometime in the latter half of this year. I have a feeling this will create some interest in the producer, especially overseas, with a glut of hip-hop now sounding as diluted as this weeks pop music, DOS4GW’ beats force the listener to pay attention, slapping you in the face with crunchy, distorted, and overloaded synthesizers, you may think Joker knows how to overload analogue sounds, DOS4GW pushes this even further, consuming the listener with a barrage of bass and beats that almost consume each other, creating a whole new level of sonic texture. I eagerly await his new release, the Suicide EP, that promises more instrumental carnage from a producer tipped for big things, if you don’ know his name now, you will soon. Check out more from DOS4GW at www.myspace.com/dos4gwhiphop, and jump off to his Bandcamp and Soundcloud pages to download some of his music.

Naik must never sleep. Not content with making one of the most refreshing Australian albums in recent years, Naik, or Sam Price (as he’ otherwise known), has a background as a filmmaker, producing WAMI award winning video’ for Downsyde, Birds Of Tokyo, and Antistatic. Co-founder of The Penguin Empire, which he channels this work through, recently allowed him to direct his first video for Eleventh He Reaches London, and co-producing the ingenious Cut & Paste quarterly DVD magazine. His music, Nature And Its Killers, is a hybrid of psychedelic guitars, twisted samples, overloaded synths and raw drums. His debut In The Shadow Of Thunder Mountain takes all these elements and weaves an organic thread through sounds more akin to progressive and psychedelic rock than hip-hop, but placing the crunchy drums to the fore, further nurturing the live sound with Astep on drums, and Kit-Pop on turntables. Working with Mike Burnham on mixing the record has assured all the analogue warmth has remained, and helped to spread the music of Naik to an overseas audience, it’s no wonder that overseas artists People Under The Stairs, Clark, Pharoahe Monch and The Gaslamp Killer have had Naik as support for their Australian visit. Check out more at www.myspace.com/iamnaik.

Diger Rokwell creates instrumental psychedelic music, influenced by hip-hop, world music, dub and everything psychedelia, injecting an eastern vibe to many of his tracks. Releasing the first in the “beat tourism” EP’, refining his ideas of a world music collide to just one region, the Khmer Kingdom of Cambodia, using sound sources from a journey to Cambodia. Jakarta Indonesia will be the sequel to be released sometime in 2011 as a beat tape, together with his forthcoming album We Are All Related, further exploring the realms of heavy psyched-out hip-hop instrumentation. Not since Combat Wombat and Monkeymarc productions has there been an Australian act that has successfully combined influences from around the globe with hip-hop and quasi-dub styling’, retaining the uplifting spiritual connection the music provokes. Not unlike Combat Wombat, Diger Rokwell seems to have a social conscience too, donating half of the proceeds from the Digerbodia CD to organizations involved with helping victims of Cambodian landmines. Check out more at www.myspace.com/digerrokwell.

YLEM orbits something altogether otherworldly, a producer and DJ, whose productions reflect his taste for the emerging beat sub-cultures, experimenting in the realms of dubstep and wonky electronic sounds. Expressing a need to take this new sound to Perth audiences, YLEM created WattHz in 2008, becoming promoter of the first dedicated monthly night in Perth. That desire to share an emerging music crosses over into radio too, presenting Bass Check on RTRFM 92.1 on Tuesday nights, allowing YLEM to further explore future sounds, and continuously evolving his own musical expression. The sound traverses the darkness of acts like Kryptic Minds, the intricate editing of Loops Haunt, a nod to Detroit and the roots vibe bootlegs injecting more reggae into the genre. Check out more at www.myspace.com/ylemusic.

The straight up hip-hop and post Dilla stylings of DJ Silence, Mathas and Ta-ku add to the rich tapestry of the Perth underground, together with the amazing future ambience of Vishnu, and it seems to be this close community of artists experimenting in different fields, and the access to like minded venues such as The Moon Late Night Café and The Velvet Lounge, have nurtured a fresh scene that continues to grow. I have only scraped the surface of something quite unique; the artists featured offering a cross section of Perth’ musical output, showcasing a melting pot of sounds. Like Auckland, Perth has proved that isolation can be a positive thing for a creative community, creating a rich and vibrant music culture. With the platforms of Bandcamp, Soundcloud and Myspace, it doesn’ matter where you are making music, reaching an audience worldwide is a reality. I implore you to investigate more.

Wayne Stronell

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