In 1992 Brendan Palmer and Toby Grime had a chance meeting on a Sydney train platform, bonding over a shared love of obsolete electronic music instruments, and decided to form an artist collective. This moment birthed Clan Analogue, Australia’s longest running electronic music collective, motivated by lack of support for live electronic music in the city’s then rock-oriented live music culture. The DIY ethos of an artist-run collective allowed members to pool resources and develop a range of projects, including live events and music releases in diverse areas of electronic music and art. From Sydney, Clan Analogue spread its branches to other cities throughout Australia as the 1990s progressed. Clan Analogue artists are now active in electronic music scenes all over the globe, and over the years they’ve boasted numerous innovative electronic explorers in their ranks including the likes of Pretty Boy Crossover, Dark Network, B(if)tek and Deepchild. To celebrate their 30 year anniversary they organised a number live events as well as releasing a homage to the Roland TB-303, Cognition 303: Bassline Deviations, featuring the likes of Honeysmack, KoSHOWko, and Andy Rantzen. To celebrate we invited label manager to Nick Wilson to take us through some of the collectives more interesting works over the last 30 years.
With the release of our new Clan Analogue compilation Cognition 303: Bassline Deviations, it’s surreal to realise that we’ve now been a presence in Australian electronic music for 30 years. I first played at a Clan Analogue event in 1995, then joined the new Melbourne Clan chapter in 1997, becoming increasingly involved over the following years in organising releases and events. From 2003 onwards I’ve had the eminent title of “Label Manager”, which I think involves channelling a somewhat random combination of local electronic music goings-on to the degree necessary to provide a semblance of order, structure, and even narrative. This list is not any kind of definitive Clan best-off. It’s just my own personal selection of memorable moments from our 30-year history.
Krang – “Escape Velocity” from Clan Analogue EP 4 (1994)
There were a bunch of electronic music collectives that came and went in both Sydney and Melbourne in the early to mid 90s I recall. Clan Analogue came into my conscious awareness when a housemate came home with this compilation vinyl EP. Some of the tracks were a little hard and fast for me, but this one by Krang struck a chord, hinting at some of the newer IDM sounds that were seeping out of the UK. The inclusion of a floppydisc of multimedia material showed an impressive grasp of technological possibilities on the part of this mysterious crew. Around this time (1994) a Clan Analogue posse came down to Melbourne from Sydney and did a showcase performance at Global Warming, a regular Sunday night fixture at Little Reata (now Cherry Bar) in the city. It was chaotic but inspiring. I filed it all away for future reference.
Telemetry Orchestra – “Twitch Kid” from Cognition (1997)
Clan Analogue seemed like a good avenue for live performances when I headed up to Canberra and Sydney to play at some of their events with my electronic duo Continuum in 1995. I didn’t pay a whole lot more attention to them for a couple of years. The compilations were stylistically a little random and seemed a bit patchy but I was hearing their name mentioned more often. Then the Cognition CD turned up in my household. The opening track from Telemetry Orchestra was a revelation. It grooved along but not in the heavy-handed manner of much club music of the time. A high-hat pattern, some dub delay, a post-punk-style bassline and sharp synth stabs puncturing the reverb. There was a striking sense of space, atmosphere, restraint, and some kind of menace. This was something to aspire to! The Clan were clearly getting serious.
Bean – “Theremin” from Pre Sense (1998)
By 1998 a Melbourne Clan Analogue had assembled. We had a chip on our shoulders, believing that we weren’t at the level of the Sydney Clan originators. The Pre Sense album was our attempt at finding Melbourne’s place in the picture. I contributed a Continuum track and played at the launch gig, starting to make a mark in organising stuff. The album was a mixed bag, but this one stands up today with its intriguing pulsating 303 bassline and rolling snare pattern. Overall Pre Sense highlights the forest rave inclinations of Melbourne’s electronic music scene at the time.
Disco Stu – “Xtropian” from Adult Themes (1999)
In the late 90s Clan’s Label Manager Gordon Finlayson managed to convince Festival Records to give us a $10,000 advance. This seemed like a big thing and around this time I started getting more involved in organising and promoting our releases. These were the days when Clan was at least vaguely in earshot of the mainstream music industry. This release stands up really well today to my ears – both funky and uncompromising in its sonic purity. What is an “xtropian”? I had no idea but it seemed like something I should know about!
Pretty Boy Crossover – “Disappearing Music for Face” from Habitat (2002)
In the early 2000s some new directions in electronic music were emerging which diverged away from club and rave culture. This suited me nicely as my own musical inclinations tended to be more in the areas of ambient and experimental styles rather than dance music. The Habitat: Environmental Sound Research compilation was an opportunity to capture some of these new sounds and to became more involved in compiling and managing Clan releases. Although CD sales were crashing at the time, Habitat garnered some critical acclaim and a nomination in the Australian Dance Music Awards. Hard to pick which track to include from a great selection, but this is a good one from Adelaide’s Pretty Boy Crossover.
Aeriae – “Nurse 2 Alyssa Type” from Victris (2014)
Winduptoys – “ghostDUB” from Double Exposure (2006)
By this time Gordon had moved overseas and I was doing my best to fill the shoes as Label Manager. He had done amazing work in embedding Clan Analogue in the consciousness of the Australian independent music industry. Now we were entering a leaner time, with release budgets being slashed, but as Clan Analogue was always an outsider’s collective I think we adapted pretty well.
I was really proud of the Double Exposure album on a number of levels. I had worked closely with Winduptoys to get their chaotic but intriguing live style honed into a polished collection of recorded tracks. I also invested time working with our then distributors Creative Vibes behind a fairly experimental release. We also took advantage of newly emerging avenues for digital download formats to release a promo EP with bonus non-album tracks and mixes. “ghostDUB” in particular has fond memories for me as it has my own guest synth contribution.
It seems to be the most leftfield releases that I think of most fondly when looking back at the Clan catalogue. Perhaps it’s the challenge of getting something quite uncommercial to the listening public and the joy of working with artists who have a very singular vision. I regard Wade Clarke (Aeriae) as a great undiscovered genius. I just wish he would perform a little and promote himself more so that others could discover his work! He also moves around between a bunch of different artforms, so maybe his shifting focus makes it a little harder to build an artistic brand. Perhaps he’s a good exemplar of the more well-adjusted modern artist – happy to dip into different areas of practice without being unduly obsessive about one thing. Stylistically this sits somewhere within the fields of glitch and IDM, with some interesting influences from baroque and film music. Michael Mildren – “South-Southwest” (2018)
Throughout Clan Analogue’s history we’ve maintained an emphasis on live events which explore the many approaches to electronic music performance and also allow new members to become involved. One of my favourite Clan events was a 12-hour non-stop improvised synth performance by Michael Mildren in 2016 at Bar 303 in Melbourne. We released a series of albums by Michael which followed up on his impressive live performance skills. Hard to pick which track to include, but he whipped this one up when he minded my Roland Jupiter 4 for a time. Kazumichi Grime – “Trinity” (2020)
Toby Grime is one of the founding members of Clan Analogue, who has gone on to build an impressive career in sound design. And despite his many great tracks as Kazumichi Grime appearing on Clan compilations throughout our history, we’ve never actually convinced him to do a release of his own.
The Distance release is my most recent effort in putting together a compilation. It tied in with some live stream improvised drone performances which we presented in 2020 during the pandemic. The drone format allowed artists to jam together from their own home studios without any syncing (or lack thereof) being an issue. The music also seemed to reflect something of the collective psychological headspace from that time. For the compilation I encouraged artists to create tracks as long as they liked. Toby turned in this fantastic 25-minute effort and made a great contribution to the livestream events too.Dylan Beast – “Still in Quarantine” (2022)
Every now and then I like to shake things up a little and see how the cards fall. During the formative years of Clan Analogue we saw ourselves in opposition to a dominant rock music culture in Australia. But many of the stylistic divisions have blurred over the ensuing decades. When we were approached by Melbourne artist Dylan Beast about releasing his electronic rock EP it raised questions of whether it fitted with Clan’s stylistic brand. Clan has always had an open attitude towards different electronic music styles, at least in theory, but in practice the valorisation of analogue gear and general nerdy aesthetic has steered us in certain directions. Dylan’s release was an opportunity to try something out of the square anyway, and I enjoyed taking on a more hands-on production role for this one.
Cognition 303: Bassline Deviations is out now via Clan Analogue. You Can find it here. And you can find Clan Analogue here.