Megan Alice Clune is a musician, composer and artist. Her work considers aspects of music, technology, the body and temporality. She is the founding member of the Alaska Orchestra, and has presented work and undertaken residencies across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America, including the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival (MA), Next Wave Festival, Underbelly Arts Festival, Performa 15 (NYC) and VividLIVE at the Sydney Opera House. Her new album If You Do is something special, a weird woozy work of folk electronics that feels somehow loose and ritualistic at the same time. She says it’s ‘an album about contorting the body (voice) through time (rhythm, pulse), repetition and form. The work is nostalgic for past futures: wishing for the technological optimism of the late 70’s and early 80’s.’ We think its beautiful, hypnotic and mesmerising, but if you told us it was actually a rescore of the 1973 folk horror classic The Wicker Man we wouldn’t be at all surprised. Regardless, If You Do sounds like nothing else, and it demonstrates such a unique relationship with sound that we wanted to know more, so we reached out to Megan for a Cyclic Selects. This is some of the music that influenced her over the last 18 months while writing If You Do:
Laurie Anderson – ‘Walking and Falling’ from Big Science (1982)
Laurie is a bit of a hero to me, I love this album a lot. She was able to encapsulate a lot in this collection of songs – and these ideas around technology are quite interesting. Combining this with her use of the voice and violin playing was a big influence on If You Do.
Laurie Spiegel – ‘Appalachian Grove I’ from The Expanding Universe (1980)
Another hero – and I’m so grateful to both Laurie’s for paving the way for female electronic musicians. The structure of this particular piece is really fascinating, it’s unfolding complexity throughout. I’ve been really fascinated with interviews Laurie Spiegel has given over the years, many of which you can find a lot on YouTube. I was really interested in how her electronic music is born from this interest in folk music and the hippy counter-culture of the 60s; in her early interviews there is a huge optimism about what the computer can offer to society which is quite fascinating to look back upon from our perspective today.
Ayami Suzuki and Leo Okagawa – Undercurrent/Wanderlust (2021)
DJ Screw – ‘Tell me Something Good’ from All Screwed Up Vol. 2 (1995)
I gave a lecture on sampling last year, and went down some huge YouTube wormholes when preparing it. While there is a lot to be cynical about regarding music streaming, I am grateful to YouTube for keeping gems like this around. DJ Screw is a super interesting artist, the way he was able to localise trends from the geographic centres of rap/hip-hop for his local community in Houston in his mixes. This is one of my favourites, but his Screw Tapes are well worth a listen if you’re in need of a wormhole to go down.
I spent several months in Tokyo at the end of 2019/early 2020. I saw Ayami play one of her first ever shows at a small club in Koenji and was totally blown away. Her music is completely transfixing, familiar yet preternatural. We have a similar technical set up – processing the voice through guitar pedals and effects – but the results are quite different. This duo, with another Tokyo friend Leo Okagawa, is such a gem. Leo’s electronics compliment Ayami’s voice perfectly, pushing it out of lush ambience and into something deeper.
Robert Ashley – Private Parts (1978)
I ended up buying a lot of cds in Japan as I found a lot of rare recordings in record shops and it was easy to transport them back to Australia in this format. This album was one of those finds. I’m completely obsessed with Robert Ashley, his philosophy around making music and this method of devising work. This release is a by-product of his TV operas made in the 90s. These operas were made collaboratively with a band of musicians, including Blue ‘Gene’ Tyranny and Joan La Barbara. I listen to this in the car as it’s the only cd player I have and it’s kind of perfect.
David Bowie – ‘Subteranneans’ from Low (1977)
Low is my favourite David Bowie album. It’s really dark and more introspective, and producer Brian Eno pushed him into some weird places on the last 3 tracks of the album. Subterraneans is one of these – a slowly pulsating semi-orchestral ballad of sorts that I gravitated to in the murky depths of 2020. And the saxophone solo at around 4’44” – well…
Maryanne Amacher – Sound Characters (Making The Third Ear) – 1999 from Fatal Attraction on Vimeo.
Maryanne Amacher – ‘Head Rhythm 1 / Plaything 2’ from Sound Characters (1999)
This album is a seminal work of 20th century music that completely changes the way that we conceiving of hearing. Until coming across this work, I had no idea that the ear can actually make sound – in Head Rhythm 1, Amacher’s music causes and is complimented by otoacoustic emission from the listeners ear. She is completely flipping how we often conceive of listening. Instead of a passive, absorptive act, listening speaks! I wrote about this work in my masters thesis, it was a great opportunity to get completely nerdy about this piece of music. I’m really happy to see her work get the recognition it deserves recently. There is a great video on youtube of members of Sonic Youth in her studio. Thurston Moore is there with his hands covering his ears because it’s so loud and Amacher is swaying with the music.
Underworld – Born Slippy (Nuxx) (1995)
I became weirdly obsessed with this song in 2020. I guess I was craving a sense of expansion – the synth line at the start creates an epic sense of space that I tried to emulate at different moments in If You Do. This song is also quite nostalgic for me, despite not being old enough to go clubbing in the 90s.
If You Do is out today via Room40. You can find it here.