Watch Amby Downs’ fascinating clip for Ngunmal


Tahlia Palmer is an artist of Murri and European background born on Whudjuk Noongar Boodjar (Perth, WA), working in a variety of mediums to explore history, identity and perception. Descended from a paternal line who survived dispossession and forced assimilation (NSW+QLD), and maternal Dutch grandparents who survived WW2, her art practice works on confronting the conditions that create and perpetuate inter-generational trauma, as well as finding pathways for healing. She releases ambient/drone/noise soundscapes under the pseudonym “amby downs”, named after one of the southern QLD stations on which her Murri ancestors worked in servitude.

This piece is an excerpt of a longer form work that comes from an audio visual installation. The fence sounds were captured by Lawrence English, and all other sounds were captured, created and edited together by Palmer. It offers something of a sense of foreboding, with highly resonant, metallic scrapes, clanging and a winding chain intersecting with birds and the natural environment. It’s a fascinating and provocative work that explores and articulates aspects of intergenerational exchange – a notion that is particularly fraught in a country like Australia.

This is what English has to say about it:

“Ngunmal and I Am Holding My Breath are two long form works that exist both as sound pieces and as audio visual installations. They are pieces that operate in the realm of the physical. They are loaded with a low frequency energy that breathes, sighs and yearns. There’s a sense of simultaneous constriction and expansion in her compositions, a quality that draws you in deeper and deeper. This depth is sensed as pressure. In some respects her sound works mimmic the research that feeds into them; even the smallest crack, the tiniest murmuring, can be split open to reveal an entire cavern of sound.

Amby Downs, and Palmer’s practice more broadly, asks us to make ourselves available. It asks us to be vulnerable to places and situations of not knowing, to be uncertain, to being unsettled. It prompts us to recognise within ourselves the way we operate in the day to day, and through doing so opens us up to experience these wildly intense, provocative and ultimately beautiful works.”

Ngunmal will be released via Room40 on the 10th of November 2023. You can find it here.


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Bob is the features editor of Cyclic Defrost. He is also evil. You should not trust the opinions of evil people.