David Evans is a field recordist, drummer and typewriter player from Melbourne, Australia. He is co-founder and drummer of Melbourne instrumental band This Is Your Captain Speaking, who have released three albums. Evans has also released five solo albums, including Suddenly Woken By The Sound of Stillness, made from recordings made along the Trans-Siberian Railway, Transitions, made from fragments of sound from everyday life, Domestic Cinema, composed from recordings of archaic equipment at the Telecommunications Museum in Melbourne, household objects, typewriter, and drum kit; and Internal Temporal Order, which was made in 24 hours using a standard acoustic drum kit, metallophone, brooms and brushes, and bits and pieces as part of The 24-hour Drawing Project. His latest album is Waiting for The Great Reset (Flaming Pines), which is composed from sound recordings made at Villa D’Este in Rome in May 2019 and in Melbourne during the strictest period of the COVID-19 lockdown in August 2020.
As you can see from the above reviews we’ve been fans on Evans work for a number of years. So we thought it was about time to ask him about the music that moves him.
You’d have to say that my own sound practice is emerging and unformed. My working style is a combination of trial and error and intuition, although I have called my approach to Waiting for The Great Reset ‘narrative field processing’, which involved a more conscious conceptual methodology. One day, I always tell myself, I will set aside a year to work on sound. For now, I can chip away at things. Gradually, a style evolves. On the margins of the margins, there isn’t much pressure.
In the meantime, although I’ve been lucky enough to keep my ‘day job’ this year, and even luckier that I could manage with the pay cut we were asked to take, it’s been a challenging time, and the pain of an intense personal tragedy in October seemed heightened by the increased anxiety and depth of feeling created by the pandemic. Through all of this, I’ve turned to music. One of the best things about being home so much has been the chance to indulge my tendency to obsessively focus on one thing and listen over and over and over. I would, however, like to publicly apologise to my partner for this: Lou, sorry for playing ‘You Know Who’ so often and burning the coffee pot when I was so distracted.
Discuss ten of your formative or favourite albums or tunes, says Bob Baker Fish. There is only one place to start. My 15-year-old self sits in Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, sporting a spectacular mullet and holding the first record I’d ever bought. Looking back, I can’t overstate how relieved I am that I never got the four band members’ symbols as a tattoo, which at the time I’d thought would be incredibly impressive.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! – F#A#α (Constellation)
Led Zeppelin – Good Times Bad Times (Atlantic)
At this time, at 15, I wanted to play the drums but I didn’t have a set, so I played in my imagination (in a style that was equal parts John Bonham and Ginger Baker, with occasional Neil Peart-esque flourishes). Good Times Bad Times is the opening track on Led Zeppelin’s debut album. (Before moving on, let’s acknowledge here that Robert Plant has said his lyrics for Led Zeppelin may have “missed the mark” or, as I’d put it, were outright misogynist.) Good Times Bad Times features Bonham’s impossibly fast kick drum as he plays what are apparently known as ‘triplets’. So swift was his playing that people couldn’t believe he was using only one pedal. It must have been a trick. Later, older than most, at 25, I bought my first drumkit and went to Au Go Go Records in Melbourne, famous for its wall of ‘musician wanted’ ads. I grabbed a few numbers and called up, dishonestly claiming I’d played in bands before and “was looking to get back into things after taking a break for a few years”. I turned up to auditions absolutely terrified, having never actually played music with a group of people. As someone said, “This one’s in triplets”, I nodded assuredly but had no fucking idea what they were talking about. They started their song, and somehow I managed to play along.
One of those auditions led me to join an ‘indie rock band’ called Vent for a few years, and then, through mutual friends, I met Nick Lane, and we went on to form a ‘post-rock band’, This Is Your Captain Speaking, with Dhanesh Trimmer. When I first met Nick, he played me Godspeed’s F#A#α album. Our band has nothing of the dark intensity of Godspeed, but I think we took something from this record. It’s so spacious. It uses a large ensemble, but the musicians are restrained. I heard how power comes from creating tension and holding onto it. As soon as you let it go, it’s gone. Hit that distortion pedal, and whatever pay-off there is, it’s fleeting. But hold onto something and shift it slowly, even imperceptibly, and there might be tension, but it’s beautiful.
Because of Ghosts – The Tomorrow We Were Promised Yesterday (Feral Media)
High Pass Filter – Audio Forensic (Shock)
After playing around Melbourne for a couple of years in This Is Your Captain Speaking, we found ourselves part of a zeitgeist moment, or perhaps even a footnote in the global history of post-rock. It was partly organic, and partly driven by the groundswell generated by Owen McKern’s wonderful Sunday afternoon instrumental program, Delivery, on 3RRR FM. Melbourne was teeming with lo-fi and instrumental bands. Me and Nick decided to organise a monthly night called Museum, which we presented for a couple of years from about 2005 to 2007 upstairs at the long-lost Planet Café in Brunswick Street, a former strip club. I did most of the work in organising these nights (Nick later claimed, “I’m an ideas man”), and there were about 60 instrumental bands from Melbourne that played, with some occasional touring acts from interstate. Being involved in this scene, we felt part of a community. It was a great time. As relative newcomers, we managed to coax some bands that we’d admired to come along and play, and High Pass Filter were a highlight. Hard to characterise, but known as an electro-dub band, High Pass Filter were ahead of their time, combining acoustic instruments, some unusual objects, and live processing on stage. I remember someone telling me once that Polyester Records had found a few copies of Audio Forensic on vinyl in their storeroom, so I headed to Fitzroy and grabbed one of the last copies.
A regular act at our Museum nights, and a band that we probably ended up playing more shows with than any other, was the trio of brothers, Because of Ghosts. They had a knack for combining organic and emotive textures with get-under-your-skin melodies. Last year, we played a reunion show at the Gasometer in Melbourne with Because of Ghosts, This Is Your Captain Speaking and fellow stalwarts of the 2000s instrumental scene, Laura and International Karate. I filled in on drums with Because of Ghosts and here was another learning experience. First, music that appears entirely fluid can in fact be carefully orchestrated. Second, it’s hard to match the natural chemistry of three brothers.
Low – Secret Name (Kranky)
Stars of the Lid – Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline (Kranky)
With sincere apologies to Messers Eno, Basinski and English, Stars of the Lid and Their Refinement of the Decline is my desert island ambient/drone album. From the moment the first note stretches out, this is a visceral experience. Ah, that’s better. Everything is going to be alright.
After moving on from the pompous drum fills of Neil Peart, Mimi Parker became my minimalist drumming hero. With a cymbal, snare and floor tom, and a pair of brushes, her synergy in Low with partner Alan Sparhawk is nothing short of spiritual. It’s down-tempo realism, but soaring. If ever two voices were made for one another, it’s theirs. During one really tough period of my life, all I could do for comfort was listen to Low. I never went to bed without Secret Name and the album that followed it, Things We Lost in the Fire.
Kate Carr – The Story Surrounds Us (The Helen Scarsdale Agency)
Aldous Harding – Designer (4AD)
I first saw Aldous Harding play on the tour for her Party album. She was wild-eyed and intense, and looked to me like a charismatic cult leader in her white stage clothes. At a sold-out Croxton Bandroom in Melbourne, 900 people were crammed into a pub rock beer barn and you could hear a pin drop. She reminded me a bit of Laurie Anderson, who had the same chameleon quality when I saw her live many years ago, her physical presence also seeming to change and meld before our eyes whenever she adopted a different voice. Aldous has such a strong and singular vision. Almost unbelievably talented, she is also completely devoted to performance. It’s very compelling. After Party, her brilliant Designer album took things in another direction again. I cannot wait to hear what she does next. Just don’t ask her what her songs mean.
Kate Carr’s work always seems to be so well thought out. It can appear austere at first, but perhaps that’s because everything unnecessary has been stripped away, and through repeated listening rich details are revealed. If it sounds effortless, it’s only because so much thought has gone into things. Kate’s back catalogue is varied, but has a distinctive character, and reflects her interest in place and, I would say, perhaps by association, people. I also think of Kate as a great democratiser of sound. She’s just released the 100th album on her Flaming Pines label, surely one of the most diverse and inclusive collections of sound experiments to be found anywhere. Seemingly always up to something, she collaborates and curates, and will call on people to get involved. This year she has also produced a radio show on field recording, and curated another one, Interiorities, made up of sound artists responding to the pandemic. In a word: inspiring.
Kali Malone – The Sacrificial Code (iDEAL Recordings)
Orville Peck – Pony (Sub Pop)
Sorry Bill Callahan and Jeff Tweedy, but Orville Peck won 2020 at my place. This man is a pure uniting force. What could cheer the heart more than seeing a group of friends dressed as Orville Peck for their high school prom? There’s no doubting Mr Peck’s sense of theatre and flamboyance (or, as a friend put it to me recently, “I’ll leave you to watch that baritone country singer in the BDSM mask”). Sure, he’s the best dressed cowboy in town, but rarely do style and substance combine in such equal measure. With some gothic sensibilities, some dreamy reverb-soaked guitar, and a touch of psychedelia, I could listen to Orville Peck croon all night about alienation, heartbreak and redemption along the lonesome highway. A cult outlaw hero.
It’s deep into the lockdown, and time isn’t what it once was. How did I miss Boomkat’s 2019 album of the year? “Almost two hours of concentrated, creeping organ pieces governed by a strict acoustic and compositional code”. Yes please. As soon as I press play, it hits me, right through my core, a feeling as hard to describe as it is viscerally soothing. Utterly emotional/spiritual, but with so many layers to contemplate. I’ve had housemates who would find this gradual progression a form of torture, but to me the pacing is just so right. An infuriated housemate once complained that some of the music I’d listen to sounded “like steam”, which I thought was a wonderful description. “Steam? How fantastic!” Can you just cue Kali Malone up on repeat with Stars of the Lid and let me float away?
You can find Waiting For The Great Reset here.