Decibel – Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre, Perth 28/5/12


Five world and three Australian premieres on a Monday night – Perth certainly has a dynamism and urbane sophistication that may have once been somewhat lacking.

The second in Decibel’s home-town concerts for the year (the first was with Werner Dafeldecker & Valerio Tricoli) was held at the shiny new modernist sop to the arts community, direct from all those mining royalties – not that I’m a hater, it’s a lovely space and the Studio Underground reminds me of a venue with a similar name at the Opera House. Decibel’ events are always such, um … productions (without the music hall connotations); spectacularly minimalist and austere, yet friendly and inclusive. Maybe it’s the Reservoir Dogs vibe and the lack of “I am a SERIOUS musician’ schtick. Decibel are serious, yet accessible. They certainly come across that way tonight, choosing a selection of pieces that highlights the more melodic side of their individualistic muse.

Proceedings start out with delicate 12K via Steve Peters style poignant minimalism for David Kim-Boyle’ “Point Studies #1. The graphical score reminds me of planetary orbits, and forms an interesting backdrop to the proceedings. The Pateras piece sounds like the dada-esque playful avant-gaurdisms that I have come to expect from the Melbourne expat. The premiere of local electronic musician Joe Stawarz’ “Cells’ is reminiscent of watching stormy, tossing swells retreating to calm whilst listening to Music for Egon Schiele by Rachel’. The glowing Apple symbols make me ponder who doesn’ want a bite of the forbidden fruit these days (as I tap away on the Mac-top). Napoletano composer Agostino Di Scipio’ composition calls for the instruments to be exclusively tapped, a arachnid cacophony of micro-sounds until one bellow from Lindsay Vickery’ Bass Clarinet turns the space into feeding time at the zoo. JG Thirlwell’ Foetean queasy-listening lounge-jazz of the highest caliber features the whole ensemble, augmented by the impressive vibraphone capabilities of Callum Moncrieff.

Returning from the interlude, the audience is transported to the steely granite and endless vistas of King George Sound, via Amber Fresh’ “Torndirrup’. Exceptionally minimal, spooked sounds best listened to by the glimmer of a new moon on a deserted beach, it’s impressive how the ensemble commands the lower-case spaces, drawing the audience into the Great Southern. Decibel main-stays Lindsay Vickery and Cat Hope’ pieces show their respective compositional signatures. ‘Liminum’ strips Decibel down to Viola and Reeds, with a quick stomp on an effects pedal the strings sound like High Rise, or some equally epic Japanese power trio on PSF. Vickery’ “EVP’ is new music dragged backwards through a grove of prickly bushes, in slow motion. Lastly comes “Prowler’ by personal favourites Bohren und der Club of Gore. I’m excited to see a live rendition of this. Decibel play it pretty straight, in full-ensemble mode, staying true to the blue smoky doom jazz of the original. Another unique Decibel performance; then a personal challenge on the ride home through the still night, attempting to make it back without putting my hands on the handlebars. Mission nearly successful … who says you can’ have fun on a Monday night?

Oliver Laing


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Music Obsessive / DJ / Reviewer - I've been on the path of the obsessive ear since forever! Currently based in Perth, you can check out some radio shows I host at