Prolific Melbourne based musicians Julie Montan and Joe Foley have just released a new visual album of their excellent 2017 album Ocean of No Time by their band Lovers of the Black Bird. The album has just been reissued on vinyl by Trauma Extinction in an edition of 100 so you should pick one up before they all disappear. Ocean of No Time is a hypnotic ambient pop record that floats in and out of time and space, and Montan’s visual album perfectly matches the atmospherics with an equally hypnotic aquatic journey.
Cyclic Defrost caught up with Julie Montan to get the lowdown on how this all came about and this is what she had to say:
“We’d always envisaged making a visual album. The idea was seeded back in 2015, when we were playing gigs to our early-day, cult-sized, outside-of-the-fringe audiences. Music nerds were coming up to us afterwards telling us that our set was reminiscent of Goblin’s soundtrack to Suspiria or John Carpenter’s Halloween 2. Fun fact: I used to open my Soft Rubbish set, when I was still playing solo, with the theme from Halloween 2. Anyway, that grand plan never came through because funding didn’t come through (aye there’s the rub Shakespeare) but that is beside the point because as a creative soul I have to immerse myself in a kind of flow state to be able to access the nether realms of my subconscious. Funding is just a hill to climb – or not. Ultimately the plans that were laid for what became the sonic underworldly Ocean Of No Time, emerged from what I would call a series of happy accidents and our dedication to the glockenspiel, guitar and voice in conversation with one another.
This album was written over the course of a couple of years 2014-2105. Joe Foley helped me realise the songs in their fullness as a suite, a symphony or an opus whatever you want to call it, we just wanted it to be solemn, we wanted it to be theatre and we got better and better at playing it as a story. Not in the stop-start way we had normally played songs in other bands we were in (Ciggie Witch, Monnone Alone, Soft Rubbish). We recorded and mixed with John Lee at Phaedra and Mastered with Simon Grounds, both I have worked with on many projects. Ocean Of No Time was originally released on 20 handmade cassettes and 20 CD’s back in 2017. In fact all our merch was handmade including; socks, t-shirts and band posters. A child of the revolution (born in 1974), small scale manufacturing has always had that old familiar human touch that people (like us) love so much. I remember there was a feeling of genuine appreciation for that kind of honorific. A nostalgia both missed and still relevant as evidenced by the fact we sold out of everything over the course of our – staggered over 4 weeks – tape launch at the Tote.
Fast forward to a holiday to Fiji in 2019 all expenses paid for by my Mum and Dad. It was just unbelievable (Bula Vinaka Fiji, I love Fiji soooo much). Unforgettable were the snorkelling expeditions in the Coral Sea teeming with living Coral and (psychedelic to my eye) Fish that live in symbiosis with the reef(s) estimated to have come into florescence between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. I remember having an underwater confrontation with a mother Anemone fish (Clownfish/Nemo) protecting her eggs in the Spaghetti Coral. She was terse and not slightly afraid of the human amphibian in her domain. She swam right up to my face, warning me to step off her spaghetti or else. Unbeknownst to her that being a mother myself I intended no harm to her babies and in fact, her tirade was melting my heart. I also recall these beautifully patterned fish called Triggerfish nibbling on my back with their massive horse teeth. They were gorgeous but annoying. I figured they were named for the way they triggered full body spasms each time the bastards nipped you while you were trying to enjoy the otherworldly electric blueness of their domain. Just like being attacked by flies in the desert, mozzies in the bush, or swarms of Pauline Hanson’s climbing Uluru, humans have to contend with the fact their presence is objectionable in the domains of others, meanwhile suck up constant adversity within their own. I also recall having a panic attack in the deep water. My goggles were leaking and I was freaking out. I felt as if I was going to drown but I tried to be cool about it: I called out to Joe “Joe can you come here please?” He swam over to me and I grabbed onto his shoulder. I confessed to him I was feeling really overwhelmed, and anxious. He supported me through that. That wasn’t my favourite dive of the holiday but it was still mind-blowingly amazing and just another experience really.
I upgraded to a new iPhone especially for that Fiji trip so I had a whole 64 gig to fill with movies and photographs and this is how I captured the footage of the coral and the fish you see in the film. Fun fact for the editing nerds: I had just over 7 minutes of footage to work with which I magically stretched into a 35-and-a-half minute film. That was neither an easy nor simple endeavour. Hours of work went into it, including pulling an all-nighter with Lisa Salvo, whose band On Diamond were originally intended as the recipients of the film. Between lockdowns 4 and 6 they had been booked for a gig where they had to play behind a safety screen. In the end they used other footage to project onto said screen and myself, I took the Little Blue Fish character and wrote them a new story. Joe had been shooting beautiful footage of our Fiji holiday and showing me. That motivated me to be a bit more proactive about my own documenting. Everywhere around us was water (and palm trees). We lived for a week in a hut made from wood and straw (Fijian word for beach hut is “Bure”, pronounced Burrreh) right on the edge of the Coral Sea (ex Nandi), and millimetres below the water’s horizon, flowing in its own oblivious time frame was a spectacularly vivid, slow motional world that resonated with everything I think about when I lie down and close my eyes. I am a highly anxious person and for the most part I find earthly life insufferable. Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to die by drowning. I’ve researched it and apparently it is painless and awesome, even though I’m terrified of deep water. Deep water and being in crowds of people are my only phobias. I’ve inquired into near death experiences by drowning and also Virginia Woolf’s suicide. Without knowing too much about how she planned it, I think she may also have fetishised the waterworld as a more ideal realm for the kind of sensitivity that possessed her.”
Ocean of No Time is available now on LP and digital and you can grab either here. Photography by Jonathan Griggs.