Various Artists – The Shape of Sound Volume 2: Melbourne Australia (Iceage Productions)


If you are wanting to discover some of the raw, noisy and experimental music currently being birthed in Melbourne, then you could do worse than track down this collection from Iceage Productions. The first volume shone a light into the warehouse spaces, galleries and sleazy pubs of Melbourne’ inner city backstreets, revealing a bunch of innovative artists, from lofi noise merchants to refined experimental guitarists, offering a platform for those who rarely receive airplay or attention.

Volume 2 follows a similar modus operandi, even down to the presence of a couple of well-respected artists who have been involved in the game for a long time. On the previous volume it was the Primitive Calculators, here it’s Arthur Cantrill offering an unreleased tape loop/ field recording. Cantrill is an innovator in experimental film, and has been since the 60′, composing his own soundtracks to his work, developing his own unique approach to sound. His piece here, Island Fuse feels like a regular field recording of birds and nature before the birds start delaying followed by a few abrupt cuts. The treatment becomes very apparent, sending the recordings into almost electronic territory, yet it never loses that warm earthy organic feeling thanks to its ingredients. Ernie Althoff has been involved in the Melbourne improvised music and experimental music scene since the 70′, often using turntables as the basis for amazing sound sculptures that often operate as machines. This piece, Jila 9 continues this theme, with the mechanics whirring around, objects brushed and struck, vibrated, scraped, it’s slightly incoherent with Althoff using multiple techniques, all of which sound like they would be quite visually interesting. In fact the mind boggles when you speculate as to what he’ actually got set up and working with.

Elsewhere Barnaby Oliver (Infinite Decimals) drops by with some gentle meditative guitar, as do Monolith yet they’re a little more drone orientated and there’ a certain sense of impending doom lurking within the sounds, there’ the immensely satisfying psych noise feedback jam of Bonnie Mercer (Grey Daturas), and Undecisive God provides an excerpt from Ularu, a shimmering solo guitar piece he recorded for a previously silent Arthur and Corinne Cantrill film.

Dark passenger’ searing drone work feels like some kind of audio treatment prescribed by a health professional, simultaneously searing and hypnotic yet betraying an underlying power and strength. Oranj Punjabi offer up a demented fractured almost cartoonish take on what once may have been world music, and there are exclusive pieces from The Penguins, Galactagogue, Mad Nanna, Admin Blg, and the noisy Screwtape.

As a resident of Melbourne I only knew 7 of the 13 artists presented. Most compilations barely scratch the surface, what the Shape of Sound Vol.2 and its predecessor do is dive down beneath and extract some of the more incredible sounds and artists currently in operation – artists who despite offering unique and progressive sounds are in danger of being ignored or overlooked.

Bob Baker Fish


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.