Allanah Stewart is an artist from Aotearoa/New Zealand, currently living in Melbourne, Australia. As well as her work in various experimental music projects, she is the presenter of a monthly podcast radio programme called Enquiring Minds, hosted by Noods radio, which explores old and new, lesser known and well known sounds that loosely fit under the banner of experimental music.
Jen Callaway is a Melbourne musician, sound and performance artist, photographer, and community services worker raised in various parts of Tasmania. Current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People; and upcoming film Here at the End, by Campbell Walker, as actor/co-writer.
Isha Ram Das is a composer and sound artist primarily concerned with ecologies of environment and culture. He works with experimental sound techniques to produce performances, installations and recordings. He was the 2019 recipient of the Lionel Gell Award for Composition, and has scored feature-length films and nationally-touring theatre installations. He has performed at institutions such as the Sydney Opera House; Black Dot Gallery, Melbourne; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; Metro Arts, Brisbane; Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney; and Boxcopy, Brisbane.
Dylan Robinson is a xwélméxw (Stó:lō) writer, artist, scholar and curator, He is Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Arts, and associate professor at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He is author of Hungry Listening, Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, published by University of Minnesota Press.
Megan Cope is a Quandamooka woman (North Stradbroke Island) in South East Queensland. Her site-specific sculptural installations, video work and paintings investigate issues relating to identity, the environment and mapping practices. Cope’s work often resists prescribed notions of Aboriginality and becomes psychogeographies across various material outcomes that challenge the grand narrative of ‘Australia’ as well as our sense of time and ownership in a settler colonial state.
Australian musician Sean Baxter died on 15 March 2020. Part of Melbourne's improv scene, he is described by musician Anthony Pateras as possessing “a unique aesthetic vision and intellectual depth, mixing highbrow philosophical concepts with punk sensibilities in how he lived, spoke and played. He was pure energy.”
Drumkit and percussionist, Sean was an Australian improviser who forged an international reputation as a bold explorer of percussive possibilities both as a soloist and through his work with the acclaimed avant-garde trio, Pateras/Baxter/Brown. Focusing on the use of extended techniques applied to the conventional drum kit, he utilised an arsenal of metallic junk and other percussive detritus to expand the sonic palette of the percussion tradition. In addition to Pateras/Baxter/Brown, he was involved in many collaborations and was drummer for groups The Throwaways, Bucketrider, Lazy, SxSxSx and Terminal Hz.
Thomas Ragnar is an artist based in Singapore. His work is often underpinned by collaborations, affinities and research with experiential methodologies.
Alessandro Bosetti is an Italian composer, performer and sound artist, currently based in Marseille. His work delves into the musicality of spoken language, utilising misunderstandings, translations and interviews as compositional tools. His works for voice and electronics blur the line between electro-acoustic composition, aural writing and performance.
Lin Chi-Wei is a legend of Taiwanese sonic art, whose practice incorporates folklore culture, noise, ritual, and audience participation.
Mat Dryhurst is an artist who releases music and artworks solo and in conjunction with Holly Herndon and the record label PAN. Dryhurst developed the decentralised publishing framework Saga, which enables creators to claim ownership of each space in which their work appears online, and a number of audio plays that derive their narrative from the personal information of listeners. He lectures on issues of music, technology, and ideology at NYU, and advises the blockchain-based platform co-operative Resonate.is.
Sean Dockray is an artist, writer, and programmer living in Melbourne whose work explores the politics of technology, with a particular emphasis on artificial intelligences and the algorithmic web. He is also the founding director of the Los Angeles non-profit Telic Arts Exchange, and initiator of knowledge-sharing platforms, The Public School and Aaaaarg.
Author of Hearing the Cloud (Zero Books), Emile Frankel is a writer and composer researching the changing conditions of online listening. In his spare time he runs the science fiction and critical fantasy publisher Formling.
Bridget Chappell is a raver and theory bro currently living on the unceded nations of the Latji Latji and Nyeri Nyeri people. They make music as Hextape and organise parties in drains, observatories, and other natural amphitheatres. They founded and run Sound School, work with young musicians behind bars, and make experimental sound technologies to challenge police sirens.
Holly Herndon experiments at the outer reaches of dance music and pop. Born in Tennessee, Herndon spent her formative years in Berlin’s techno scene and repatriated to San Francisco, where she completed her PhD at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. Her albums include Platform (2015) and Proto (2019).
Candice Hopkins is a curator, writer and researcher interested in history, art and indigeneity, and their intersections. Originally from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Hopkins is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation. She was senior curator for the 2019 Toronto Biennial of Art, and worked on the curatorial teams for the Canadian Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale, and documenta 14.
Raven Chacon is a composer, performer and artist from Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation. His work ranges from chamber music to experimental noise, to large scale installations, produced solo and with the Indigenous art collective Postcommodity. At California Institute of the Arts, Chacon studied with James Tenney, Morton Subotnick, Michael Pisaro and Wadada Leo Smith developing a compositional language steeped in both the modernist avant-garde and Indigenous cosmologies and subjectivities. He has written for ensembles, musicians and non-musicians, and for social and educational situations, and toured the world as a noise artist.
Lisa Lerkenfeldt is a multi-disciplinary artist working in sound, gesture and performance. Central to her practice is languages of improvisation and intimacy with technology. Traces of a personal discipline and form of graphic notation are introduced in the online exhibition 14 Gestures. The associated recorded work Collagen (Shelter Press, 2020) disrupts the role of the common hair comb through gesture and sound.
Haroon Mirza is an artist who intertwines his practice with the role of composer. Mirza considers electricity his main medium and creates atmospheric environments through the linking together of light, sound, music, videos and elements of architecture. Regularly showing internationally in group and solo exhibitions, Mirza’s work has also been included in the 7th Shenzhen Sculpture Biennale, China (2012) and the 54th Venice Biennale, Italy (2011), where he was awarded the Silver Lion.
Shanghai native 33EMYBW (Wu Shanmin) has been an active member in the Chinese music scene for over a decade. She has also performed at CTM and Sinotronics in Germany, China Drifting Festival in Switzerland, and SXSW. Her 2018 album Golem, released on SVBKVLT, was met with critical acclaim and voted one of the best electronic albums of 2018 by Bandcamp. In 2019 she released DONG2 EP under Merrie Records Beijing, and will premiere her sophomore album Arthropods (SVBKVLT) at Unsound 2019.
Alexander Garsden is a Melbourne-based composer, guitarist and electroacoustic musician, working across multiple exploratory musical disciplines. Recent work includes commissions from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Speak Percussion, Michael Kieran Harvey and Eugene Ughetti; alongside performances with artists including Tetuzi Akiyama (Japan), Oren Ambarchi, Radu Malfatti (Austria), Julia Reidy, David Stackenäs (Sweden), and with Erkki Veltheim and Rohan Drape. From 2014 to 2019 Garsden was Co-Director of the INLAND Concert Series. He has taught through RMIT University and the University of Melbourne.
Annika Kristensen is Senior Curator at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne.
Arben Dzika is an artist whose practice involves working with various media including, but not limited to: sound, image, word, and performance. His work primarily seeks to reflect on, interrogate, and play with technologies, systems, and human senses. Within his practice, he works as a producer and DJ under the moniker, Dilae.
Audrey Schmidt is a writer and editor based in Melbourne, Australia. She is a regular contributor to Memo Review, co-editor the third issue of Dissect Journal, and has written for various publications including Art Monthly, Art + Australia and un Magazine. She co-founded Minority Report with Adam Hammad in 2018 and released one online issue that was available until the domain expired in 2019. Audrey sits on the FYTA (GR) Board of Advisors.
Autumn Royal is a poet, researcher, and educator based in Narrm/Melbourne. Autumn’s current research examines elegiac expression in contemporary poetry. Autumn is the interviews editor for Cordite Poetry Review, and author of the poetry collections She Woke & Rose (Cordite Books, 2016) and Liquidation (Incendium Radical Library, 2019).
Bianca Winataputri is a Melbourne-based independent curator and writer researching contemporary practice in Southeast Asia, and relationships between individuals and collectives in relation to history, globalisation, identity and community building. Currently working at Regional Arts Victoria, Bianca was previously Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the NGA. She holds a BA (University of Melbourne), and BA Honours from the ANU where she received the Janet Wilkie Prize for Art. In 2018 Bianca was selected for 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s Curators’ Intensive.
Brian Hioe was one of the founding editors of New Bloom, an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in 2014 in the wake of the Sunflower Movement. Hioe is a freelance writer on social movements and politics, as well as an occasional translator.
Chi Tran is a writer, editor, and an artist who makes poems that may be text, video, object, sound, or drawing. Chi is primarily interested in working with language as a means of coming-to-terms. Their work has been published by Incendium Radical Library Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry and Liminal Magazine and exhibited at galleries including Firstdraft, Sydney; Punk Café, Melbourne; and ACCA, Melbourne. In 2019, as a recipient of The Ian Potter Cultural Trust Fund, Chi spent three months in New York developing their practice with renowned poets including Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Fred Moten, and Jackie Wang.
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is a Hong Kong–Australian artist, living in Sydney. Working across music, performance and installation, Rainbow is interested in the copy and how the ways in which it can disrupt Western notions of ownership. Central to Rainbow's work is the circulation of knock-off objects, sounds and images in global media. Her work positions the counterfeit as a complex sign that shapes new myths, values and contemporary commodity production.
Dale Gorfinkel is a musician-artist whose stylefree improvisational approach informs his performances, instrument-building, and kinetic sound installations. Aiming to reflect an awareness of the dynamic nature of culture and the value of listening as a mode of knowing people and places, Dale is interested in bringing creative communities together and shifting perceived boundaries. Current projects include Prophets, Sounds Like Movement, and Music Yared as well as facilitating Art Day South, an inclusive arts studio with Arts Access Victoria.
Danni Zuvela is a curator and writer based in Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Her research is informed by interests in feminism, activism, ecology, language and performance. With Joel Stern, Danni has led Liquid Architecture as Artistic Director, and continues to develop curatorial projects for the organisation.
Eric Avery is a Ngiyampaa, Yuin, Bandjalang and Gumbangirr artist. As part of his practice Eric plays the violin, dances and composes music. Working with his family’s custodial songs he seeks to revive and continue on an age old legacy – continuing the tradition of singing in his tribe – utilising his talents to combine and create an experience of his peoples culture.
Fjorn Butler is an artist, researcher, and event organiser. As an artist, she works primarily in sound and performance under the name Papaphilia. As a researcher, she interrogates how biological discourses are used in neoliberal/colonial governance structures to shape the political. Fjorn's research informs her writing on sound-poetics and the challenges this framework poses to anglophone notions of property. She is also co-director of Future Tense and co-curator of Writing and Concepts.
Freya Schack-Arnott is an Australian/Danish cellist who enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist and ensemble performer of classical and contemporary repertoire, curator and improviser within experimental music, electronics, popular and cross-disciplinary art forms. Schack-Arnott regularly performs with Australia's leading new music ensembles, including ELISION Ensemble (as core member) and Ensemble Offspring. Her curatorial roles include co-curator/founder of the regular 'Opus Now' music series and previous curator of the NOW Now festival and Rosenberg Museum.
Gooooose (Han Han) is an electronic music producer, visual artist and software developer based in Shanghai, China. His current releases include They (D Force, 2017), Dong 1 (D Force, 2018), Pro Rata (ANTE-RASA, 2019). Gooooose's 2019 SVBKVLT–released RUSTED SILICON received positive reviews from media including boomkat, Resident Advisor, Dusted Magazine, and The Wire. Gooooose has performed live at CTM (Berlin, 2018), Nyege Nyege (Kampala, 2019), Soft Centre (Sydney, 2019), Unsound (Kraków, 2019) and Recombinant (San Francisco, 2019).
Harmony Holiday is a writer, dancer, archivist, director, and the author of four collections of poetry, Negro League Baseball, Go Find Your Father/A Famous Blues, Hollywood Forever, and A Jazz Funeral for Uncle Tom. She lives in New York and Los Angeles.
James Rushford is an Australian composer-performer who holds a doctorate from the California Institute of the Arts, and was a 2018 fellow at Academy Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart. His work is drawn from a familiarity with specific concrète, improvised, avant-garde and collagist languages. Currently, his work deals with the aesthetic concept of musical shadow. James has been commissioned as a composer by ensembles including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (Glasgow), and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, and regularly performs in Australia and internationally.
Jessica Aszodi is an Australian-born, London-based vocalist who has premiered many new pieces, performed work that has lain dormant for centuries, and sung roles ranging from standard operatic repertoire to artistic collaborations. She has been a soloist with ensembles including ICE; the Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide Symphony Orchestras; and San Diego and Chicago Symphony Orchestras’ chamber series. Aszodi can be heard on numerous recordings and has sung in festivals around the world. She holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium, an MFA from the University of California, and is co-director of the Resonant Bodies Festival (Australia), and artistic associate of BIFEM.
Kt Spit (Katie Collins) is an artist and musician based in Narrm (Melbourne). Lyrically and visually her work explores subcultural narratives and challenges dominant representations of loss, grief, and true love. In 2015 Kt independently released her debut album, Combluotion, and in 2019 will release a visual album entitled Kill the King.
The Convoy conjure illustrious soundscapes from the abyss of chaos, revealing hidden worlds of the imagination as the performance takes form and infuses with subjective experience. Using instruments of sound, light and smell, The Convoy enchant space with themes of tension, evolution, entropy and regeneration. Sensorial immersion transports audiences through highly dynamic environments that shift and blend into one single, breathing moment. As entity, rather than singular, Immy Chuah is a guest within The Convoy on unceded land.
I’m interested in what can be done with one’s identity and the space around it. Both my body and mind, touching everyday feelings between the rational, the playful and the political. Of course, this is often to do with my disability and my sexuality. My work has been focused on access, and the lack of it — to places, people’s minds and opportunities. I find plasticine is a great subverter of space and potentially of people’s minds. And the continued flexibility of it is something I am really enjoying — covering or filling up gaps and playing with crevices. But I’m finding that my work is drawing more and more to spoken word as a powerful format.
Sarah McCauley is a Melbourne-based music producer, editor and writer.
Neil Morris is a Yorta Yorta, Dja Dja Wurrung man. He is well known in Narrm/Birraranga for his musical project DRMNGNOW, a project built on subject matter tackling the colonial nature of the Australian construct and how that affects contemporary society upon this land. The work is unapologetic, clear, and deeply poetic. It hints toward Morris's extensive experience as a spoken word artist in Narrm since 2015. Morris's work is triumphant in the face of severe adversity often imbued in a quite fortified melancholy, a powerful marker of the survival of First Nations peoples in the now.
Natasha Tontey is an artist and graphic designer based in Yogyakarta. She is interested in exploring the concept of fiction as a method of speculative thinking. Through her artistic practice she investigates the idea of how fear, horror, and terror could be manifested in order to control the public and how fictional accounts of the history and myth surrounding ‘manufactured fear’ might operate as a method of speculative fiction that determines expectations for the future.
Mat Spisbah is a New Media curator with a unique portfolio of programming that seeks to integrate non-traditional artistic methods and emerging technologies. Having lived in Hong Kong for 14 years, he is connected to the region’s art and culture, and has created professional networks with artists, curators, galleries, promoters and industry professionals across Australasia. Portfolio highlights include the debut Australian performances of north Asian artists including: Howie Lee, Rui Ho, Meuko Meuko, Pan Daijing, Alex Zhang Hungtai, Tzusing, and Gabber Modus Operandi.
Mandy Nicholson is a Wurundjeri-willam (Wurundjeri-baluk patriline) artist and Traditional Custodian of Melbourne and surrounds. Mandy also has connections to the Dja Dja wurrung and Ngurai illam wurrung language groups of the Central/Eastern Kulin Nation. Mandy gained a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Aboriginal Archaeology in 2011, worked for the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages for six years and is now a PhD candidate studying how Aboriginal people connect to Country, Off Country.
Lucreccia Quintanilla is an artist, writer, DJ and PhD candidate researcher at Monash University. Her writing and art have been published and exhibited both within Australia and internationally. Quintanilla’s practice is a collaborative one that manifests into outcomes within galleries and also as events and performances outside of that context. She regularly speaks at panels and symposiums on themes within her research, has received grants for her projects and residencies, and has taught at university level.
Amanda Stewart is a poet, author, and vocal artist. She has created a diverse range of publications, performances, film and radio productions in Australia, Europe, Japan, and the USA, working in literature, new music, broadcasting, theatre, dance, and new media environments. Amanda collaborated with Chris Mann for many years in the Australian ensemble, Machine For Making Sense (with Jim Denley, Rik Rue, and Stevie Wishart), as well as in other contexts. Her poem ‘ta’ was written in honour of Chris Mann’s extraordinary vision and work.
Holly Childs is an artist and writer. Her research involves filtering stories of computation through frames of ecology, earth, memory, poetry, and light. She is the author of two books: No Limit (Hologram, Melbourne) and Danklands (Arcadia Missa, London), and she collaborates with Gediminas Žygus on ‘Hydrangea’. She is currently writing her third book, What Causes Flowers Not to Bloom?.
Ivy Alvarez’s poetry collections include The Everyday English Dictionary, Disturbance, and Mortal. Her latest is Diaspora: Volume L (Paloma Press, 2019). A Fellow of MacDowell Colony (US), and Hawthornden (UK), her work is widely published and anthologised (twice in Best Australian Poems), with poems translated into Russian, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Born in the Philippines and raised in Australia, she lived in Wales for almost a decade, before arriving in New Zealand in 2014.
Nick Ashwood is a guitarist, composer, improviser and performer from Nipaluna/Tasmania now residing in Sydney. His focuses have been exploring deep listening, harmonic space and the possibilities of the steel-string acoustic guitar by means of preparations, just intonation, objects and bowing.
Berlin-based composer-performer Johnny Chang engages in extended explorations surrounding the relationships of sound/listening and the in-between areas of improvisation, composition and performance. Johnny is part of the Wandelweiser composers collective and currently collaborates with: Catherine Lamb (Viola Torros project), Mike Majkowski (illogical harmonies), Phill Niblock, Samuel Dunscombe, Derek Shirley and others.
Megan Alice Clune shifts between musician, composer and artist. Primarily, her work explores both the concept and aesthetics of ambient music through sound installation, collaboration and performance. Megan 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.
Andrew Fedorovitch is compos mentis. Andrew Fedorovitch embodies professionalism in every aspect of his life, including music.
Shota is an artist working in Australia. He makes sound-based works for varying contexts. He has had the opportunity to collaborate with a multitude of artists from varying disciplines. Shota is currently an honours student who is associated with the Plant ecophysiology and Ecosystem processes lab at the University of Sydney.
Sonya Holowell is a Dharawal woman, vocalist, composer and writer working across new and experimental genres. The contexts for her work, and the forms they take, are diverse and deeply questioning. Her practice comprises interdisciplinary collaboration, improvisation, multi-form writing and conceptual composition. She is also a workshop facilitator; a curator of the Now Now Festival; lecturer in experimental vocal practice; and a co-founder/editor of online arts publication ADSR Zine.
Alexandra Spence is an artist and musician living on Gadigal country in Sydney, Australia. She makes installations, compositions and performances based on (everyday) sound and listening. Through her practice she attempts to reimagine the intricate relationships between the listener, the object, and the surrounding environment as a kind of communion or conversation. She has a current, near-spiritual, obsession with the animation of material and object through sound. Alex has performed and presented work on radio, in concerts, festivals, symposiums and galleries worldwide, and has two releases: Waking, She Heard The Fluttering, with Room40, and Immaterial, with Longform Editions.
MP Hopkins is an artist based in Sydney, Australia, that is concerned with how to record voices that are not really there, and ways to make voices that are there not sound like voices. He makes audio recordings, performances, and texts.
Joel Stern is a curator, researcher, and artist living and working on Wurundjeri land in Melbourne, Australia. He has been Artistic Director of Liquid Architecture since 2013. In 2018, with critical legal scholar James Parker, Stern curated Eavesdropping, an expansive project addressing the ‘politics of listening’ through work by artists, researchers, writers, detainees and activists from Australia and around the world.
Georgia Hutchison is a cultural development practitioner and arts executive in Naarm/Melbourne, and Executive Director/CEO of Liquid Architecture. Her practice as an artist, educator, organiser and strategist crosses contemporary art, music, design and social justice.
Rob Thorne (Ngāti Tumutumu) is a new and original voice in the evolving journey of Taonga Puoro. His debut album Whāia te Māramatanga (Rattle Records) is a deeply felt and highly concentrated conversation between the past and the present—a musical passage of identity and connection. Using modern loop technology and traditional Māori flutes and horns made from stone, bone, shell and wood, Thorne creates a transcendent aural experience that touches the soul with timeless beauty. Every performance of Whāia te Māramatanga is a stunning and very personal exploration of the spiritual and healing qualities of an ancient practice.
Michiko Ogawa is a performer-composer specialising in the clarinet, born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. She performs not only classical repertoire but also contemporary and experimental music, including free improvisation and film soundtrack work. In 2019 she was awarded a doctorate (DMA) from the University of California San Diego, with a dissertation focusing on the film music of Teiji Ito. She is in the beginning stages of writing a biography of Ito’s life.
Curious about the tender intersections between art, life and friendships, Emma Nixon is an emerging curator and writer. In 2018 she completed a Bachelor of Art History and Curating at Monash University and co-founded Cathedral Cabinet ARI in the Nicholas Building. In Melbourne she has curated and written about exhibitions that investigate subjects such as abstraction, the domestic, care and collage within contemporary art.
Fayen d’Evie is an artist and writer, based in Muckleford, Australia. Her projects are often conversational and collaborative, and resist spectatorship by inviting audiences into sensorial readings of artworks. Fayen advocates the radical potential for blindness, arguing that blindness offers critical positions and methods attuned to sensory translations, ephemerality, the tangible and the intangible, concealment, uncertainty, the precarious, and the invisible. With artist Katie West, Fayen co-founded the Museum Incognita, which revisits neglected or obscured histories through scores that activate embodied readings. Fayen is also the founder of 3-ply, which investigates artist-led publishing as an experimental site for the creation, dispersal, translation, and archiving of texts.
Debris Facility Pty Ltd is a para-corporate entity who engages im/material contexts with the view to highlight and disrupt administrative forms and their embedded power relations. Deploying print, design, installation, and wearables as the most visible parts of operations, they also work in experimental pedagogy and perforated performance of labour. They are a white-settler parasite with theft and dispossession as the implicated ground from which they work. They currently hold contracts with Liquid Architecture, Victorian College of the Arts, Monash University and Debris Facility Pty Ltd.
Timmah Ball is a writer and urban researcher of Ballardong Noongar descent. She has written for The Griffith Review, Right Now, Meanjin, Overland, Westerly, Art Guide Australia, Assemble Papers, The Big Issue, The Lifted Brow, the Victorian Writer magazine and won the Westerly Patricia Hackett Prize for writing.
Jessie Scott is a practising video artist, writer, programmer and producer who works across the spectrum of screen culture in Melbourne. She is a founding member of audiovisual art collective Tape Projects, and co-directed and founded the inaugural Channels Video Art Festival in 2013.
Christopher L G Hill is an artist, poet, anarchist, collaborator, facilitator, lover, friend, DJ, performer, sound pervader, publisher of Endless Lonely Planet, co-label boss; Bunyip trax, traveller, homebody, dancer, considerate participator, dishwasher, writer, bencher, eater, exhibitor: Sydney, Physics Room, Westspace, TCB, BUS, Punk Cafe,100 Grand street, Lismore Regional Gallery, Good Press, Gambia Castle, Conical, GCAS, NGV, VCA, Mission Comics, Slopes, Art Beat, Papakura Gallery, Neon Parc, UQ Gallery, Tate Modern, Connors Connors, Glasgow International, Sandy Brown, OFLUXO, New Scenarios, Margaret Lawrence, Flake, Utopian Slumps, World Food Books, Sutton, Rearview, Joint Hassles, a basement, a tree, Innen publications, SAM, Chateau 2F, etc, and tweeter, twitcher, sleeper, Biennale director (‘Melbourne Artist initiated’ 2008, 2011, 2013, 2016, 2018-20), DJ, retired gallerist Y3K, conversationalist who represents them self and others, born Melbourne/Narrm 1980c.e, lives World.
Iliass Saoud was born in Halba, Lebanon in 1960 as the sixth of eight children of Wakim and Nadima Saoud. Escaping the Lebanese Civil War in 1977, Iliass migrated to Canada pursued a BA in Mathematics from Dalhouse University in 1982. In 1987 he married Janice Joseph (Fakhry) before settling in Australia to raise his family in 1997, owning a variety of small businesses including the Gaffney Street post office across from the Lincoln Mill’s Centre in Coburg from 2005-2011. Currently, Iliass works part time at a local newsagency and is an avid Bridge player and a dedicated grandfather of one.
Dimitri Troaditis works in the Greek-Australian media. As a poet he has been extensively published in Greece and in Australia in numerous literary journals, websites, blogs and anthologies. He has published six poetry collections and two social history books so far. He has organised poetry readings in Melbourne for years and translates others’ poetry. He runs poetry website To Koskino and was a resident of Coburg for 19 years.
Luisa Lana was born in Australia in 1953. Her mother Nannina had arrived in Australia in 1950 with a 3 month old son, and worked for many years on the sewing room floors and her father Angelo worked on the docks where he helped unionise the Italian workforce. Luisa and her brother were latchkey kids, as they looked after themselves in the morning and ran the ‘Continental’ deli in the evenings. Luisa attained a teaching degree, then a postgrad in Social Sciences, and twice studied Italian at The University for Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. Luisa married Luigino Lana, a Venetian migrant who operated a mechanic business in Brunswick for over 30 years. She devoted her life to being an educator and a mother, teaching Italian to English speakers and English to generations of migrants from around the world. Currently Luisa is translating her father's memoirs from Italian to English, and enjoying being a Nonna.
Anabelle Lacroix is a French-Australian curator, writer and radio contributor. Working independently in Paris, she is based at Fondation Fiminco for a year-long residency focused on the politics of sleeplessness (2020). She has a broad practice, and a current interest in experimental practice, working with performance, sound, discourse and publishing. She is a PhD candidate at UNSW Art & Design.
Geoff Robinson is a Melbourne-based artist working on Wurundjeri country. Robinson creates event-based artworks that utilise the temporal qualities of sound and performance and the spatial conditions of physical sites to unravel the durational layers of place. Robinson has presented projects with Titanik, Turku; Bus Projects, Melbourne; Liquid Architecture, Melbourne; and MoKS, Mooste, Estonia. He was awarded the Melbourne Prize for Urban Sculpture 2014 and completed the PhD project Durational Situation at MADA, Monash University, Melbourne, 2018.
Mattin is a cross disciplinary artist working with noise, improvisation and dissonance. His work Social Dissonance was presented at documenta 14 in 2017 in Kassel and Athens.
Elena Biserna is a scholar and independent curator based in Marseille (France), working at the intersection of social, political and public spheres.
Tobi Maier is the director of Lisbon’s Municipal Galleries, and recently presented Mattin’s Expanding Concert (2019–2023) a four year long concert distributed in time and space through different media: 5 public interventions in 5 different galleries in Lisbon, and 5 texts published within the city.
Clare Milledge is an artist and academic, she lives and works between the lands of the Arakwal people in Bundjalung country (Broken Head, Northern NSW) and the lands of the Bidjigal and Gadigal people (Paddington, Sydney). She is a Senior Lecturer at UNSW Art & Design and is represented by STATION gallery.
Alexander Powers is a choreographer, performer and DJ from Naarm. In 2019 they premiered their first full length choreographic work Time Loop at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, receiving the Temperance Hall Award at the Fringe Awards. Under the moniker Female Wizard, they are known internationally for their forward-thinking DJ sets. They’ve performed at Golden Plains, Dark Mofo, Boiler Room, Hybrid Festival and Soft Centre and held a four year residency at Le Fag.
Zoe Scoglio’s (often collaborative) practice explores the space of art as a site of study and sociality to engage the radical imagination towards alternative ways of being, knowing and relating. Current research takes critical and collective somatic approaches towards response-ability in these times of ecological collapse, within settler colonial conditions. Past projects have taken place within varied contexts, on top of mountains and under full moons, as large collective choreographies and intimate encounters.
Tricky Walsh is a non-binary artist working in New Norfolk, Tasmania, who works both collaboratively and in a solo capacity. Their projects focus on both spatial and communication concerns in an increasingly speculative manner and while they use a diversity of media (architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, sound, film, comics, radio) it is foremost the concept at hand that determines which form of material experimentation occurs within these broader themes.
Kengné Téguia is a Black Deaf HIV+ cyborg artist, who works from sound deafinitely. #TheBLACKRevolutionwillbeDEAFinitelyLoud
Angela Goh is a dancer and choreographer. Her work poses possibilities for disruption and transformation inside the aesthetics and conditions of technocapitalism, planetarity, and the post-anthropocene. She lives and works in Sydney, and has toured her work across Australia, Europe, the UK, the USA and Asia. She received the 2020 Keir Choreographic Award and the inaugural Sydney Dance Company Beyond the Studio Fellowship 2020-21.
Jannah Quill’s deconstructive exploration of electronic instruments and technologies manifests in electronic music production and experimental audio-visual performance and installation. Jannah modifies existing technologies (such as solar panels) into innovative light-to-audio systems, used with software/hardware experimentation and modular synthesis to carve a distinct voice in electronic music and art.
Tom Smith is a Melbourne-based artist, musician and researcher whose work combines video assemblages, experimental performance, speculative fiction, electronic music, websites and critical writing. Tom’s work is concerned with the politics and poetics of computational systems, the contradictions of creative economies, generic digital aesthetics and music as a mode of critical inquiry. Tom is also one half of music production duo Utility, and runs an independent record label called Sumactrac with Jarred Beeler (DJ Plead) and Jon Watts.
Pris Roos grew up in Rhenen, the Netherlands. Her family migrated from Bogor, Indonesia, to start their own toko in the Netherlands. Toko is the Indonesian word for shop, and they sell non-Western food (products). Roos grew up in the toko, a space of being together, and full of colours, smells, food, stories and images of immigrants. The toko is a source of inspiration for her artistic practices. Stories that are normally not heard find their way in her works. Roos makes portraits of immigrants that she meets in the toko, on the streets or in her surroundings of the South of Rotterdam. She visits them at home or invites them to her atelier. The stories are translated into painted portraits, videos, installations and spoken word performances.
Winnie Dunn is a Tongan-Australian writer and arts worker from Mt Druitt. She is the general manager of Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Sydney University. Winnie’s work has been published in the HuffPost Australia, The Saturday Paper, Griffith Review, Meanjin Quarterly, SBS Voices and Cordite. She is the editor of several anthologies including Sweatshop Women, The Big Black Thing and Bent Not Broken. Winnie is currently completing her debut novel as the recipient of a 2019 CAL Ignite Grant.
Jon Watts is a Melbourne/Naarm based musician, designer, 3D artist and animator. His music has been released through cult labels SUMAC and Butter Sessions, and he is currently Senior Multimedia Installer at the National Gallery of Victoria.
Pan-Pan Kolektiva was established in March 2020, as a research group on listening. Pan-Pan is a standard emergency call based on the acronym Pan which stands for Pay Attention Now.
Nathan Gray is an artist whose recent works use voice as their medium, taking form as lecture-performances, radio-plays and documentaries, DJ sets, narrative and rumour.
makik markie yammamoroto
Leighton Craig is an artist living in Meanjin/Brisbane. He has been in a number of bands (The Lost Domain, G55, The Deadnotes et al) and is currently a member of the duo Primitive Motion with Sandra Selig.
Anne Zeitz is associate professor at University Rennes 2. Her research focuses on aural attention, the inaudible, the unheard, and the polyphony in contemporary art. She directed the research project 'Sound Unheard' and she co-organised the eponymous exhibition at the Goethe-Institut Paris, Paris and exhibition 'Échos magnétiques” at the MBA Rennes, Rennes in 2019.
Melissa Johnson is Associate Professor of Art History & Visual Culture at Illinois State University (Normal, IL). Her scholarly research focuses on the histories of craft and its intersections with modern and contemporary art. She is currently working on a project that explores artists making work in response to the writings of Virginia Woolf. She’s deeply interested in situating her academic writing and her textile-based work as parallel practices, and is working on two writing and textile projects, “Woolf Words” and “Haptic Investigations,” and a project on mending and repair.
Diego Ramirez makes art, writes about culture, and labours in the arts. In 2018, he showed his video work in a solo screening by ACCA x ACMI and he performed in Lifenessless at West Space x Gertrude Contemporary in 2019. His work has been shown locally and internationally at MARS Gallery, ACMI, Westspace, Torrance Art Museum, Hong-Gah Museum, Careof Milan, Buxton Cotntemporary, WRO Media Art Biennale, Human Resources LA, Art Central HK, Sydney Contemporary, and Deslave. His words feature in Art and Australia, NECSUS, un Projects, Runway Journal, Art Collector, and Australian Book Review. He is represented by MARS Gallery, Editor-at-large at Running Dog and Gallery Manager at SEVENTH.
Noemie Cecilia Huttner-Koros is a queer Jewish performance-maker, writer, dramaturg, poet, teaching artist and community organiser living and working on Whadjuk Noongar country in Boorloo (Perth). Her practice is driven by a deep belief in the social, political and communal role of art and performance and in engaging with sites and histories where queer culture, composting and ecological crisis occur.
Josten Myburgh is a musician based on Whadjuk Noongar boodja country who plays with techniques from the worlds of electro-acoustic music, radio art, free improvisation, field recording and experimental composition. He co-directs exploratory music label Tone List and the Audible Edge festival. He has performed in South Africa, the United States, and throughout South East Asia, Europe and Australia. He is a Schenberg Fellow and a student of Antoine Beuger and Michael Pisaro.
Aisyah Aaqil Sumito is an artist and writer living near Derbarl Yerrigan on Whadjuk Noongar Bibbulmun lands. Their work reflects mostly on personal intersections of disability, queerness and diasporic ancestry in so-called 'australia'. They have recently made text-based contributions to Runway Journal and HERE&NOW20: Perfectly Queer, Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery.
Michael Terren is a musician and educator from Boorloo/Perth. Grounded in experimental studio-based practice, his work explores the social construction of the technologies of music’s creation and distribution. He is a sessional academic teaching music at two Boorloo universities, and in 2019 finished a PhD thesis entitled 'The grain of the digital audio workstation'.
Joee Mejias is a musician and video artist from Manila. She is co-producer of WSK, the first and only international festival of digital arts and new media in the Philippines and co-founder of HERESY, a new platform for women in sound and multimedia. She performs as Joee & I: her avant-pop electronica solo project.
Myriad Sun are an experimental audio/visual/rap trio from Walyalup (Fremantle), Australia, composed of electronic producer Ben Aguero, Mc POW! Negro, and Limit Bashr. Additional performers: Mali Jose, Billy Jack Narkle and Polly-Pearl Greenhalgh.
Jasmine Guffond is an artist and composer working at the interface of social, political, and technical infrastructures. Focused on electronic composition across music and art contexts her practice spans live performance, recording, installation and custom made browser add-ons. Through the sonification of data she addresses the potential of sound to engage with contemporary political questions and engages listening as a situated-knowledge practice.
Sounding Together comprise of the following performers: Rhys Butler (alto saxophone); Simon Charles (soprano saxophone, shakuhachi); Eduardo Cossio (electronics, writing); Luke Cuerel (alto saxophone); Jim Denley (flute, writing); Julia Drouhin (voice, electronics, objects, images); Jameson Feakes (mandolin); Be Gosper (voice, objects); Noemie Huttner-Koros (voice, writing); Lenny Jacobs (percussion); Annette Krebs (amplified string instrument); Annika Moses (voice, images); Josten Myburgh (clarinet, alto saxophone, editing); Dan O’Connor (mastering); Stuart Orchard (guitar, objects, editing); Daisy Sanders (voice, movement).
Yan Jun, a musician based in Beijing uses a wide range of materials such as field recording, body, noise and concept. Yan Jun: “I wish I was a piece of field recording.”
Katie West is a multi-disciplinary artist who lives on Noongar Ballardong boodja and belongs to the Yindjibarndi people of the Pilbara tablelands in Western Australia. The process and notion of naturally dyeing fabric underpin her practice – the rhythm of walking, gathering, bundling, boiling up water and infusing materials with plant matter. The objects, installations and happenings that Katie creates invite attention to the ways we weave our stories, places, histories, and futures.
Simon Charles is a composer and performer based in Noongar Ballardong Country (Western Australia). His practice reflects an interest in the instability of compositional structures; as friction between musical notation and perception and interactions with place. He has performed at Serralvés Festival (Porto), The Wulf (Los Angeles) Studio Rotor (Berlin), Vigeland Mausoleum (Oslo), Avantwhatever Festival (Melbourne), DATA (Marseille), ANAM Quarttethaus and the Melbourne Recital Centre.
Tiarney Miekus is a writer, editor and musician based in Naarm/Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Age, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow (Online), Overland, Memo Review, un Magazine, Art Guide Australia, Swampland and RealTime. She is currently editor and podcast producer at Art Guide Australia.
Liang Luscombe is a Naarm/Melbourne-based visual artist whose practice encompasses painting, sculpture and moving image that engage in a process of generative questioning of how media and film affect audiences.
Thembi Soddell is a sound artist best known for their powerful acousmatic performances and installations in darkness. In 2019 they were awarded a PhD from RMIT University for their practice-based research titled, A Dense Mass of Indecipherable Fear: The Experiential (Non)Narration of Trauma and Madness through Acousmatic Sound. This research developed a novel approach to understanding lived experiences of anxiety, depression and trauma using a medium (abstract sound) with the unique ability to reflect the intangible nature of the inner world.
James Parker is an academic at Melbourne Law School and long-time associate curator with Liquid Architecture. His work explores the many relations between law, sound and listening. He is currently working on machine listening with Joel Stern and Sean Dockray.
Eloise Sweetman loves art, misses her home in Western Australia, all the time loving Rotterdam where she became friends with Pris Roos whose artwork Sweetman speaks of. Sweetman is a curator, artist, writer and teacher working in intimacy, not knowing and material relation. She started Shimmer with Dutch-Australian artist Jason Hendrik Hansma in 2017.
Cecilia Vicuña's work dwells in the not yet, the future potential of the unformed, where sound, weaving, and language interact to create new meanings.
'In January 1966, I began creating precarios (precarious) installations and basuritas, objects composed of debris, structures that disappear, along with quipus and other weaving metaphors. I called these works 'Arte Precario', creating a new independent category, a non-colonized name for them. The precarios soon evolved into collective rituals and oral performances based on dissonant sound and the shamanic voice. The fluid, multi-dimensional quality of these works allowed them to exist in many media and languages at once. Created in and for the moment, they reflect ancient spiritual technologies—a knowledge of the power of individual and communal intention to heal us and the earth.'
Camila Marambio is a private investigator, amateur dancer, permaculture enthusiast, and sporadic writer, but first and foremost, she is a curator and the founder/director of Ensayos, a nomadic interdisciplinary research program in Tierra del Fuego.
Las Chinas is the cosmic coincidences led to the meeting of Chileans Sarita Gálvez and Camila Marambio in Melbourne. Their shared reverence for the ancestral flautón chino from the Andes Mountains lead to playful explorations of its unique dissonant sounds and thereafter to experimenting with atonal signing and other technologies of the spirit.
Influenced by Chilean feminist poet Cecilia Vicuña, the now deceased poet Fidel Sepúlveda, the musical ensemble La Chimuchina and the chino bands from the townships of La Canela and Andacollo, Las Chinas honours the ancestral tradition by enacting the principle of tearing each other apart.
Bryan Phillips A.K.A. Galambo is a Chilean/Australian artist working in community arts, music and performance, using sound as a means to facilitate engagement with others. His practice has mainly been developed in Chile, but after completing his Masters in Community Cultural Development (VCA-2013) he has become involved in projects with artists from Timor-Leste, Indonesia and Australia.
Douglas Kahn is an historian and theorist of energies in the arts, sound in the arts and sound studies, and media arts, from the late-nineteenth century to the present. His books include Energies in the Arts (MIT Press, 2019); Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (University of California Press, 2013); Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT Press, 1999); Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of Digital Arts, edited with Hannah Higgins (University of California Press, 2012); and Source: Music of the Avant-garde, edited with Larry Austin (University of California Press, 2011).
André Dao is a writer, editor, researcher, and artist. His debut novel, Anam, won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. He is also the co-founder of Behind the Wire, an oral history project documenting people’s experience of immigration detention and a producer of the Walkley-award winning podcast, The Messenger. He is a member of the Manus Recording Project Collective.
Poppy de Souza is a Meanjin (Brisbane) based researcher affiliated with Griffith University and UNSW. Her work focuses on the politics of voice and listening—broadly defined—in conditions of inequality and injustice, including the relationship between sound, race, and conditions of (not) being heard. Poppy has previously worked in community arts and cultural development (CACD), and with the national Film and Sound Archive as a curator on australianscreen.
Andrew Brooks is an artist, writer, and teacher who lives on unceded Wangal land. He is a lecturer in media cultures at UNSW, one half of the critical art collective Snack Syndicate, and a member of the Rosa Press Collective. Homework, a book of essays co-written with Astrid Lorange, was recently published by Discipline.
Behrouz Boochani is a Kurdish-Iranian writer, journalist, scholar, cultural advocate and filmmaker. He was writer for the Kurdish language magazine Werya. He writes regularly for The Guardian and several other publications. Boochani is also co-director (with Arash Kamali Sarvestani) of the 2017 feature-length film Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, and author of No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison. He was held on Manus Island from 2013 until 2019.
Emma Russell is a critical carceral studies scholar and senior lecturer in crime, justice and legal studies at La Trobe University, Australia. She researches and writes on policing and criminalisation, prisons, detention, and activism. Emma is the author of Queer Histories and the Politics of Policing (2020) and co-author of Resisting Carceral Violence: Women’s Imprisonment and the Politics of Abolition (2018).
Dylan Martorell is an artist and musician based in Narrm/Melbourne Victoria. He is a founding member of Slow Art Collective, Snawklor, Hi God People, and Forum of Sensory Motion. He has performed and exhibited internationally, including projects with; Art Dubai, Asian Art Biennale, Tarrawarra Biennale, Jakarta Biennale and Kochi Muzirus Biennale. His work often combines site-specific materiality and music to create temporary sites for improvised community engagement.
Jim Denley is one of Australia's foremost improvisers. Over a career spanning four decades his work has emphasised the use of recording technologies, collaboration, and a concern with site-specificity.
Noah Simblist works as a curator, writer, and artist with a focus on art and politics, specifically the ways in which contemporary artists address history. He has contributed to Art in America, Terremoto, Art Journal and other publications.
He is also an Associate Professor of Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jacqui Shelton is an artist and writer born on Barada Barna land, central QLD, and based in Narrm, Melbourne. Her work uses text, performance, film-making and photography to explore the complications of performance and presence, and how voice, language, and image can collaborate or undermine one another. She is especially interested in how emotion and embodied experience can be made public and activated to reveal a complex politics of living-together, and the tensions this makes visible. She has produced exhibitions and performance works in association with institutions including Gertrude Contemporary, the Institute of Modern Art, West Space, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Tarrawarra Museum, and with Channels Festival and Liquid Architecture. Shelton has shown work internationally in Milan at Care-Of, and at NARS Inc in New York City. She teaches photography at Monash University and in the Masters of Media program at RMIT, and holds a PhD from Monash University.
A Hanley is an artist currently living on Wurundjeri Country in Melbourne, Australia. Their practice uses sound and media to explore relations among queer ecologies, attunement, situatedness, and speculative practices. Engaging forms of performance, installation, and collaboration, Hanley's work is interested in audition as an affective practice and the possibilities of sound and technology to support and alter the sonic expressions of humans and non-humans.
Patrick Hase is a digital media artist and researcher, focusing on work that often involves digital interfaces, experimental web design, and collaborative a/v. The entwined practical and theoretical aspects of his work are interested in exploring the embedded cultural and emotional impacts of how people are extended into the virtual via digital processes and designs.
Xen Nhà is a documentary maker and artist with a background in creating intimate dialogues and storytelling across sound, film, and texts. Their work explores the confluence between personal and collective narratives and the cultural politics and responsibility of listening. They are currently living in Melbourne on unceded Wurundjeri Country.
Philip Brophy writes on music, among other things.
Coco Klockner is an artist and writer living in New York City. Recent exhibitions include venues such as The Alfred Ceramic Art Museum, Alfred, NY; Interstate Projects, Brooklyn; Guadalajara90210, CDMX; The Luminary, St. Louis; Bass & Reiner, San Francisco; Lubov, New York; ONE Archives, Los Angeles; and Egret Egress, Toronto. They are the author of the book K-Y (Genderfail, 2019) and have published writing with Montez Press, Real Life Magazine, Spike Art Magazine, and Burnaway.
Lu Yang (b. Shanghai, China) is a multimedia artist based in Shanghai. Mortality, androgyny, hysteria, existentialism and spiritual neurology feed Lu’s jarring and at times morbid fantasies. Also taking inspiration and resources from Anime, gaming and Sci-fi subcultures, Lu explores his fantasies through mediums including 3D animation, immersive video game installation, holographic, live performances, virtual reality, and computer programming. Lu has collaborated with scientists, psychologists, performers, designers, experimental composers, Pop Music producers, robotics labs, and celebrities throughout his practice.
Lu Yang has held exhibitions at UCCA (Beijing), MWoods (Beijing), Cc Foundation (Shanghai), Spiral (Tokyo), Fukuoka Museum of Asian Art (Fukuoka, Japan), Société (Berlin), MOCA Cleveland (Cleveland, Ohio). He has participated in several international biennials and triennials such as 2021 Asia Society Triennial (New York), 2012 & 2018 Shanghai Biennial, 2018 Athens Biennale, 2016 Liverpool Biennial, 2016 International Digital Art Biennale (Montreal), Chinese Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale, and 2014 Fukuoka Triennial. In 2020, Lu Yang was included in Centre Pompidou’s exhibition Neurons, simulated intelligence in Paris. In 2019, Lu was the winner of the 8th BMW Art Journey and started the Yang Digital Incarnation project.
Jason De Santolo (Garrwa and Barunggam) is a researcher & creative producer based in the School of Design, University of Technology Sydney, Australia. He has worked with his own communities as an activist and advocate using film and performance, protest and education to bring attention to injustices and design solutions using Indigenous knowledge.
Kynan Tan is an artist interested in the relations and conditions of computational systems, with a focus on data, algorithm, networks, materiality, control, and affect. These areas are explored using computer-generated artworks that take the form of simulations, video, sound, 3d prints, text, code, and generative algorithms.
Snack Syndicate, two rats (Andrew Brooks and Astrid Lorange) living on unceded Wangal land; texts, objects, events, meals, and publics.
Spence Messih is an artist living and working on Gadigal land. Their practice speaks broadly to sites of pressure, power structures, materiality, and language, and more specifically about these things in relation to their own trans experience.
Tina Stefanou born of Sophia and Yorgios Stefanou is a first/second generation Greek-Australian. Emerging from an East Melbourne hospital on 21 November 1986. She is thirty-four years old. Now based on the unceded lands of the Wurundjeri people in Wattle Glen, Victoria. With a background as a vocalist, she works undisciplined, with and across a diverse range of mediums, practices, approaches, and labours: an embodied practice that she calls, 'voice in the expanded field'.
Tom Melick is the co-editor of Slug and part of the Rosa Press Collective and Stolon Press.
Trisha Low is a writer living in the East Bay. She is the author of The Compleat Purge (Kenning Editions, 2013) and Socialist Realism (Emily Books/Coffee House Press, 2019).
It is from this perspective that we must begin any serious appraisal of Nixon’s practice in the 1980s, as a complex network of practices that raises important issues about the relation between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ systems of display, between artists and the critical reception of their work, and between medium specificity and a broader conception of the artist’s work.1
That’s Francis Plagne writing in the first issue of Discipline on artist John Nixon’s role as a curator and publisher in tandem with his painting practice. Francis declares upfront that the piece is ‘chiefly historical’. It is, and it exemplifies Francis’s thoughtful approach, as an art historian, to critically excavating the procedural and contextual complexities of how one can redefine an artist by a close reading of his/her evidential output.
As we shall see, Francis developed a working relationship with John. It was an intergenerational one — the type with which I confess discomfort, as I am old enough to have lived through many supposedly epochal cultural moments, nearly all of which I found tedious, insular, self-important and even pathetic. But Francis I’m sure entertains a more refreshing view. Ten years ago when that article was published, he was part of an emergent Melbourne wave that re-adjusted a critical lens on concept-heavy (or ‘concore’) artists like John, who forged ahead prior to the millennial merger between the institutionalism and globalism that bore our current ‘contemporary art’. I regard Discipline as the locus of a crucial shift from Art Theory to Art History in Melbourne.2 ‘Theory’ in the 1980s and 1990s was endlessly waved (post-modernistically in the former, post-colonially in the latter) as an incursion into the stultifying discourses which held the art world in place. ‘History’ back then was not au courant in the visual arts — unless it was theoretically framed. ‘Theory’ dissolved in the new century because it was always insubstantial — or rather, it deliberately discounted legitimate substance in order to conjure a ‘critical atmosphere’ of ideas talking ‘around’ the artwork.3 Enter curators, who breathed in this atmosphere — too much. Like an artificially introduced species, they overtook and reshaped the art world with great force. Their vogued pretensions left obvious holes, leaving historians like Francis to aver how one could engagingly dissect art, while holding its most conventional aspects and aspirations in clear analytical light.4
Francis’s other writing for Discipline is on Matt Hinkley (No.2, 2012); Elizabeth Newman (No.4, 2015); and Thomas Crow (No.5, 2019). ↩
Editors Nicholas Croggon and Helen Hughes announce in their opening editorial that ‘(…) what is needed is some discipline (…) to pause, to look, to read, to think, to write, to make — and the discipline to publish.’ I’m using that as a manifesto to write this profile on Francis. ↩
For a contemporaneous perspective on the counter-formalist interpretive ways of viewing Australian Art, see Rex Butler (ed), What Is Appropriation? An Anthology Of Writings On Australian Art In The 1980s & 1990s (Brisbane: IMA Publications, 1996/2004). For a historical reappraisal of these methods, see Helen Hughes & Nicholas Croggon (eds), Impresario: Paul Taylor, The Melbourne Years, 1981-1984 (Melbourne: Surpllus/Monash University Museum of Art, 2013). ↩
This is a method Francis has consistently used in his reviews for Discipline and MeMO Review. ↩
I wonder if Francis has listened to much of John’s purportedly nearly 400 Anti-music tapes? I personally would find such a task painful, as nothing leaves me colder than artists radically forwarding the idea of amateur performativity. I think John’s near-endless iteration of his thought-gesturing of form (i.e., ‘paintings’) is fascinating and far superior to just about any other international attempt to cross-wire Beuys’s white boards with Malevich’s black squares. That doesn’t mean the ‘music/anti-music’ he produced bears the same weight or carries the same effect. Francis must have a sympathetic ear for the politics of amateurism, as he performed occasionally in John’s group The Donkey’s Tail. He also served as music director twice for The Gertrude Ensemble: a gaggle commissioned by John to generate concerts of Colour-music, where a range of musicians performed to his paintings as scores (in 2012 at Gertrude Contemporary Art Space, and 2017 at the Ian Potter Museum of Art).1
My preambular linking of Francis to John has a whiff of ‘father-searching’, but I’ll be employing industrial-strength room deodoriser to give Francis his own room (one with startlingly distinctive acoustics). I’m only momentarily framing him with John in order to position Francis not for the purposes of a ‘profile’, but as a figure in a wider landscape. Francis states he is ‘a Melbourne-based musician and songwriter whose work engages with both popular and experimental music’. That’s his landscape; as a figure, he’s an art historian. It’s a remarkable conjunction that is rarely if at all achieved. Francis methodically — for as with John, it’s bound to be well thought through — transfigures John’s ‘anti-music’ into a decade of ‘not-anti-music’ releases and performances (the solo releases of which will be the focus of this article).2 This output does not require the museographic polemics utilised by the plethora of artists who turn their Duchampian hand to music-making; Francis releases records and does gigs. If we can make a portrait of Francis, then, it would be like a reversal of John’s own open-ended series of abstract paintings he programmatically titled Self Portrait (non-objective composition) (1981-2021): Francis’s visage will be apparent, but only under the most obfuscated manoeuvres.
A similar curatorial project is the West Space concert series of 2012 put together by Francis and Joe Talia, which featured many musicians Francis would conscript into his recordings, including Joe, Alexander Garsden, Yuko Kono and Samuel Dunscombe. John would curate something similar with the An evening of musik series at West Space between 2017 and 2020, in which similar performers were included. ↩
Francis collaborative releases include Food court with James Rushford and Joe Talia — as Food Court — (2014 LP, Kye); The Painter’s Family with Andrew Chalk (2018 cassette, Mould Museum); and Two Words with Crys Cole (2018 LP, Black Truffle). ↩
A Francis Plagne record is instantly identifiable. His quasi-falsetto voice always sounds like it’s about to quaver, but it somehow manages to produce a smooth continuous tone. An acoustic guitar is always somewhere near at hand, feigning accompaniment yet always too convolving. It seems designed to demonstrate how he can barely pull off his own composition. Obvious adjectives to insert here would be frail, innocent, guileless, and amateur. I’m amazed it doesn’t repulse me, because I treat all delicate vocalese as manipulative theatrical posturing. Yet I feel there is a resignation to artifice in this busking entity, seeing as it seems to be performing its own inability to be a song or to be sung. This might be a key molecular dynamic of how Francis’s songs work.
While Francis studied and now teaches in Art History, his connection to recorded music history reminds us that all musicians these days are impressive historians. The seminal figures in his musical landscape would include Van Dyke Parks, Brian Wilson, Jack Nitzsche, (early) King Crimson, Joni Mitchell, and Robert Wyatt. All these singer-songwriter-arrangers traded in progressively difficult propositions on song form, melodic logic, and musical narration. As such, Francis can then be matrixed into an even wider continuum which includes Arthur Russell, Scott Walker, David Sylvian, Richard Youngs, Jim O’Rourke, Dean Roberts, and Joanna Newsom. (I’m limiting myself to obvious references here.) The point is that Francis is part of a long-reaching, soft underlay of mildly irritating song-craft upon which the conventions of pop song idioms dance. It’s a field of singer/songwriters who are neither oppositional, alternative, nor revolutionary, as their love of the history of song in its conventional guise drives them to unproblematically counter the perceived wisdom of broad appeal songwriting.
I hope you’re following me here. I fear if you’re overly ‘art oriented’ (or ‘artist privileging’) you might miss this obvious but important point: the history of song is devoid of modernist deconstructive antagonism, because a song will always accept anything you think might be ‘anti-song’, rendering the concept a near useless tack. When Francis’s songs go off-kilter, change key erratically, stumble into a maze of disconnected parts, or dissolve into atonal sonics, they are still songs. Most of his songs are vocal — even if they only contain a few lines which unexpectedly crop up somewhere in a song’s hidden valley. If this article is a commissioning of his portrait, then the representational content is his voice, his lyrics, his singing. But this troubling troubadour does not strike a pose against the velvet trappings of an ornate chamber, but places himself within a voided realm of abstract discontents — ‘non-objective compositions’ as per John Nixon. Just as John alchemically (as per Duchamp) dissolves himself into his black squares, orange fields, and silver crosses, Francis similarly reconstitutes himself (his voice) within the framing devices of his songs.
Even though the figural presence of a singer-songwriter persists, the evidence of such often contradicts the findings. Certainly Francis’s voice is the aural fulcrum of all his songs, not due to the assumptive primacy of voice, but because all musical accompaniment corresponds to the precise decibel emission of his voice. The instruments are responsively played with mannered and measured execution, hovering between controlled technique and executed slippage. The classic Plagne tempo is about 80 bpm — the rhythm of a child at kindergarten nodding its head left to right, or you walking along a path on a sunny day without a care in the world. While the songs’ arrangement, configuration and denouement can lean towards performative experimentalism, an aura of Pop orients the ear toward lighter spectra, far away from the post-Cagean sonic explorations associated with the likes of the Wandelweiser composers.1 This is Francis archly playing with the inconvertible non-negotiable divide between his stated zones of ‘popular and experimental music’. If he resides in terrains aligned with experimentalism, his welcoming of Pop prompts many questions: what is Pop doing here? What do we do with it once it’s here? Should it even be allowed here? Less a gesture toward inclusivity and more a strategy of multiplicity and simultaneity, the two realms are aligned through their unfit, and — as we shall see — locate each title from his recorded output a precise position within the Venn overlay of the popular with the experimental.
Of course, the singer-songwriter’s fixture is built upon a bard’s lyrics. Francis must attach sizable significance to his: most of his records contain printed lyric sheets. I’ve spent my life detesting literature even more than visual art, so I excuse myself from considering the lyrics too deeply. But I also detect that their impenetrability is a given, and that their poetics are cryptographic in nature. Some traits are perceivable. The tense is always present continuous, either locating Francis as an observer to an event in front of him or at the time of his remembering. Rather than a Dada/Tszara collaging of semantics or a Beat/Burroughs fracturing of phraseology, Francis’s thought-stream is akin to note-taking, list-making, thought-capturing. Its phrasing seems unedited, proposed, summarised, and documented. This is counter to the music, which is archly determined, assembled and sequenced, resulting from elaborately rehearsed songbook crafting (chords, refrains, modulations, codas, etc.). The words are transitory, floating sensations; the music generates the currents for their airborne journey. I don’t profess to understand a single word written, but I remain in thrall to the way the music holds its lyrics at bay.
The opening track to Francis’s first record Idle Bones (2006 CD, Synaesthesia) is a harbinger for the next decade and a half. ‘The Ballad Of The Snail’ thrusts us in front of a rickety stage in a suburban church hall; an amateur music theatre club is running through its chops with visions of Broadway. It’s all boater hats, spoon-playing, braces, bike bells, floorboard tapping, barber shop harmonising by peach-fuzzed boys, clucky electric bass, upright piano vamping and strolling, and snare drum rudiments. Then one and a half minutes in, the same ensemble is reconfigured with a different mic placement to perform a moodier down-tempo take on what we just heard. Acoustic guitar and xylophone hug the aural spotlight; the singing seems softer, deeper, and assured. Then at the two minute mark, things take a dub turn: the bass is centre, the upright piano returns, and Francis’s multi-voices fractals into a Beach Boys homage. A cross-fade at three minutes hushes his doo-wop into near-atonal choral humming and whispering, breathing with a heaving harmonium. The voices wither; dual trap drum kits return to simultaneously entrain and interrupt. Finally at the four minute mark, a tape edit returns us to the opening theme, presented as an alternative take played in a different key by piano, marimba, bass, and shakers.
Almost a decade later, Atticus Ross would construct a much glossier version of this with some amazing ambient smearing of actual choral fragments of The Beach Boys in the biopic Love & Mercy (2015). Ross merges sound design and score mixing by sourcing their recordings as sonic evidence of what goes on in Brian Wilson’s mind. In the opening of the film, we zoom out from the black void of young Brian Wilson’s (Paul Dano) ear canal as we hear the first of these meta/mega-mix collages.1 The film capitalises on two rewrites of the Wilson mythos. Firstly, the Don Was documentary I just wasn’t made for these times (1995) which exposed the fraught relationship Wilson held with fraudulent psycho-therapist Dr. Ugene Landy. Secondly, the new millennial remastering and reissue of misinterpreted records like Pet Sounds (1966) and Smiley Smile and Wild Honey (both 1967). Maybe Francis saw Brian Wilson at the Melbourne Concert Hall in 2002 when Wilson performed Pet Sounds in its entirety, backed by an ensemble headed by guitarist Jeffrey Foskett. The concert was memorable in its reconstruction of a post-traumatic mythic figure live on stage, as well as the tantalising live instruments simulating the studio-phonic textures of the original recording.
For these historical reasons, Brian Wilson had become a central figure who survived Pop, in contrast to the plethora of artists who never came back from the mortal brink bordering volcanic fame, desired equally by Pop artists and the recording industry. Francis’s take on Brian Wilson is a mix of un-ironical fandom, secular worship, and forensic fossicking. Foregoing reverence, this opens up experimental possibilities for his own dive into the black void of Brian Wilson’s ear canal. Furthermore, this suturing of pop devices into experimental techniques has its own post-Wilson lineage, stretching from Slap Happy and Henry Cow to The Flying Lizards and (early) Scritti Politti. These are not Francis’s references, but part of the wider landscape within which his records can be positioned.
Aptly titled on the soundtrack release as ‘The Black Hole’ (2015 CD, Capitol). ↩
Back to Idle Bones. Immediately after the opening ‘The Ballad Of The Snail’, Francis detourns his own record like a disingenuous invigilator with three noisy pieces. ‘A Death At The Funeral’ (droll title indeed, in fact all the titles for this album were provided by musician Mark Harwood) is a compressed hors d’oeuvre of distant horns (think Bill Fontana’s bay soundscapes and Pauline Oliveros’ gasping piano accordion) and narcoleptic organ chords (think Eno’s use of Frippertronic tape delay). ‘The Subsequent Fire’ drags field recording and musique concrète onto a theatricalised stage, peaking with inside-piano noodling, plucking, and knocking. ‘A Twitch Of Denial’ merges close-miked sounds of detritus being rummaged, violins played badly, detached percussive embellishments, and an upright piano’s upper register ivories being fretfully tinkled. (These last three pieces make a distant connection to the evocative collapse of sound/field and music/room in the work of Annea Lockwood, Greg Goodman and Ross Bolleter.)1
The bulk of Idle Bones dips into the cross-currents of pop and experimental pools, each track having clearly defined sections whirling in one or the other. The longest track ‘Clouds Collect’ starts off like a John Lennon demo, but is spliced into abject studio noise-making typical of Yoko Ono. In fact, this record could be theorised as a concrète ballad to John & Yoko, especially considering how aware they were of their problematised marriage between pop and experimentalism.2 And while the greater share of the record is comprised of vignettes of sono povera sound effects, musicalised noise and tape manipulations, their rupturing by saliently pop song cycles (e.g. the sequential triplet of ‘Idle Bones And Sinking Ships’, ‘The Ballad Of The Boars’, ‘Spare A Thought’) could be less a matter of art school avant-fuckery and more a precise consideration of how recorded pop music is full of artists versed in the history of phonology.
See: Annea Lockwood, Annea lockwood (1977 cassette, New Wilderness Audiographics); (Greg Goodman [with Henry Kaiser and Jon Rose]) - The Construction of Ruins - The Australian Site (1982 LP, The Beak Doctor); and Ross Bolleter - Secret Sandhills and Satellites (2006 CD, Emanem). ↩
Their best statement among many they made would be the infamous dual records by the Plastic Ono Band: Yoko Ono / Plastic Ono Band and John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band (both 1970 LPs, Apple Records). Each wordless cover features what appears to be the same sunlit snapshot of figures in a landscape — John and Yoko leaning against a riverside tree — but their positions have been switched. One record is rock/pop; the other is noise/art; yet they look the same. ↩
Recorded from 2005 to 2007, Francis’s sophomore album Francis Plagne (2007 CD, Synaesthesia) would appear to overlap with the production line of Idle Bones. But in comparison, its focus is less on journal notation and audio snatches and more on a fragmented, yet holistic self-portrait as per the record’s title. Concept records come to mind: Van Dyke Parks’ hyper-reflexive Song Cycle (1967 LP, Warner Bros.), Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s self-deconstructing Trout Mask Replica (1969 double-LP, Straight) and Faust’s concrète rock The Faust Tapes (1973 LP, Virgin). These venerable urtexts of modern song-craft initiated how the haphazard, restless construction of songs in the studio could render the singer/musician’s identity in a state of continual flux. Call it late (or very late) Futurist/Cubist approaches to music-making for the recorded world, wherein figuration and abstraction were no longer opposed but merged, compressed, and reconstituted. This, then, could be Francis’s clearest statement on how to use the studio and its instruments to produce his own Self portrait (non-objective composition). It complexly merges diary, journal, library, and inventory into a suite which fuses self-analysis with self-construction.
The cover image is an uncredited black and white photograph of two people (one in a boater hat, the other possibly a child in a shade hat) sitting amidst urban rubble in front of an upended piano. A Futurist bomb has been dropped; playing the piano now requires the production of noise. It’s an archaic image in many senses, but maybe Francis is that child, tinkling the irradiated ivories in the remains of the school hall evoked on the previous album. Certainly, boxy piano vamping and jangly steel-string guitar strumming is present. The difference, though, is the solid shape many of the songs take (‘Wings 6ft Leather Briefcase’, ‘A Chance Exposure to a Distant Rumbling’, ‘A Broken Tale’, etc.). The in-between simultaneity of pop and experimentalism continues to pepper the album, and similar to the songs’ crafting, the ‘experimental’ pieces feel more formed than malformed. ‘La Luna’, ‘The Last Days of 1614’, ‘Dead Birds and Mops’, and the interlude of ‘Replace U with an A’ bear a live ensemble feel about them (they aren’t) as if they’re generating an audio mockumentary of a Fluxus performance (which is what happens whenever ‘artists’ have a go at performing music). I seriously doubt the veracity, purpose, and effect of the continual return to Fluxus, which to me sounds as 1960s as the Mary Poppins (1964) songbook (boater hat reference not intended). Why do I have time for Francis’s parlay of the same? Because I sense a performative remove. The integration between layers of lo-fi and hi-fi are deftly handled; the eventfulness is an illusion; and their placement accrues textual weight within the album as a whole. These concrète moments sound like the preformed/raw ingredients of the performed/cooked ‘songs’ (a strategy at the core of The Faust Tapes). It’s a questioning which governs the procedural outlay of the record.
Again, the ‘songs’ stand out — this time by virtue of evoking a ‘band’. A partially modish contemporaneity is evident, but not to the record’s detriment. The mid-2000s was the crossover era for Wes Anderson bookish droll nerdiness and Michel Gondry music video plasticity: faux nostalgia, fake innocence, fraudulent insouciance was everywhere — especially if it evoked creative communal rituals performed at summer camp. The music of this phantom realm always seemed to simulate early 1970s Christian soft rock performed by kids learning instruments for the school marching band. (It’s mostly a white American phantasm.) The tell-tale sonic sign is the glockenspiel1 and Francis Plagne is not shy of its metallic sheen (the instrumental ‘Maidenhead Before Grandchild’ sparkles accordingly). Overall, a psycho-geographic space is designed, creating an imaginary landscape that surveys how music might be made in campfire tents, city park picnics, or as part of creche junkyard playgroups left inside to be creative while it rains outside.2 Despite the cuteness of this trend, it links to the living historical pursuit that is at the heart of pop music, wherein so many songs are simultaneously of their time and outside of their time (or, childlike and adult at the same time). Not surprisingly, this multi-historical play-acting was already in train by the 1960s. My favourite would be The 18th Century Concepts’ LPs In the 20th Century Bag (1966) and Off on a 20th Century Cycle (1967): a group of school teachers in El Monte, California, recording for Mike Curb’s Sidewalks Records under the musical direction of guitarist Bob Summers, performing originals and current AM hits using harpsichord, clavichord, flugelhorn, mandolin, and oboe d’amour against a stomp sound.
That’s the kind of instrumental colouring fantasised on Francis’s next album, Tenth Volume of Maps (2011 LP, Lost & Lonesome). Recorded between 2008 and 2010, it marks a significant shift from the ADD domestic collage of predominantly solo extemporisations, to the semblance of an ensemble enlisted to present cohesion in the performance and arrangement of Francis’s song compositions. Complexity reigns now in a different manner. It’s a record of unashamed beauty, courtesy of scintillating pop string and wind arrangements by James Rushford1 and an unfussy clipped recording and mix by Joe Talia (who also provides drums). The instruments are in tune; there’s silence between each track (gasp); and the overall results are as polished as (yet more adventurous than) the lavish semi-orchestral arrangements by Tim Gane and Sean O’Hagan for Stereolab and The High Llamas respectively.
Well known as a composer/performer in his own right, James was one third of Melbourne’s Golden Fur — a trio of James, Judith Hamman and Sam Dunscombe — all three of whom strongly feature in the ensemble-playing for this album, and have since gone on to be accomplished and adventurous performers and collaborators on the international stage. ↩
Opener ‘Row, Oarsman, Row’ features a ridiculous amount of chord changes matched to every few words (replete with a piano line quote from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’). It manages to stay upright and sail ahead despite some perverse destabilising ticks which critique its own form (holding modulating segues too long, upsetting tempo at the dramatised conclusion, etc.). This signals an inner strength that Francis’s songs now possess, one born not of salacious deconstructivist ornamentation, but of undisclosed operational logic.
‘Spun Six Circles’ is possibly the most Pop moment Francis has entertained to date (it borders on Orange Juice). Its joyous wordless harmonies escape ironic velocity, yet it too sifts through a sequence of moods and densities; sometimes the bass disappears, other times the arrangement sheds its lush overlays.
Other tracks clearly remind us whose record this is, as they become transfigured into sheaths of atonal textural and even spectralist passages. Sometimes this shift is subtly embedded (Anthony Pateras’ restrained prepared piano on ‘Oranges’). Other times it’s formidably sculpted, as in ‘Cilio’. It starts with a neo-gospel vocal group, but after thirty seconds opens onto a widescreen soundscape of extended technique instrumentation (as if Golden Fur are guesting) before bursting into a faux-tango lazily draped in exotica, like a homey cabaret presentation. Later, a fuzzed guitar line by Ned Collette squatting ungainly in the right speaker recalls lost glam licks the type of which typically ruptured 1970s AM pop (think Pilot, Queen, Mick Ronson, et al). It even finishes on a bum note.
‘Pillow Hill’ (with guest drumming by Robbie Avenaim) for me recalls the type of brittle, yet engaging Brechtian sound forged by the Recommended Records label.1 The lingering low-volume harmonic ringing of the conclusion is gorgeous. The longest track ‘Yesterday Sponge’ could be a comic gag about free improv: all reverence, hesitancy, delicacy, erotic fondling. I know it isn’t — and it doesn’t really sound like it — but it feels fresh and focused enough to bear a sarcastic kiss on the cheek. It embraces some Lucierian harmonic droning with febrile skittering over percussive instruments. Is it a tune-up? Is this what happens pre-song or post-song? That school room piano softly vamps up, then the ‘song’ commences with the lushest arrangement and recording on the record with multiple guitar tracks and a soaring mellotron. The song then transforms into pitch-melting viola sustains and squeaky clarinet hiccups, then switches back to the ‘song’. ‘Two Fishing Civilians’ is flagrant pop-drag: sardonically mimicking the endless cycle of neo-feel-good pop (Katrina & The Waves’ ‘Walking On Sunshine’ from 1985 sears my mind) but then the final viola line is cut short with a violent clip, marking the most dramatic incident on the whole record.
Selected artists on this label — run by drummer Chris Cutler — have included Univers Zero, Faust, Vogel, Slap Happy, Art Zoyd, Lindsay Cooper, Art Bears, Henry Cow, and After Dinner. ↩
A similar maturity of form and execution governs Funeral Mutes (2016 LP, Mould Museum). A reduced song cycle of six recorded between 2013 and 2015 is performed by a fixed group (Francis with previous cohorts Joe Talia, James Rushford, and Alex Garsden, plus Yuko Kono on bass; all of them contributing backing vocals) gives the record a live band feel even more so than Tenth Volume Of Maps. Both albums collectively trade in more complexly singular songs which shy away from overt switching of chords and keys. At moments during many of the songs, James flips the vibrato switch on a 1960s home organ sound which automatically unlocks retro chambers, yet the songs manage to avoid stylistic gameplay. Joe’s drumming is often breathy, granting the soundscape a pastel sheen due to delicate cymbal touches.
While Side One maps out a pop orientation (‘Beach, Dew, Candles’ momentarily poses as a harmonic shadow of Burt Bacharach), Side Two sets out on an experimental path. The long and mostly instrumental ‘Spirited Yolk’ opens up like a somnambulistic version of Les Baxter’s easy-spooky-listening.1 It soon quietens to sub-bass droning and pulsing, atop which a longform drum solo evidences Joe’s jazz chops. As he expels more energy and arm swing, a single bass note is plucked with determination, as if it’s attempting to calm the frenetic spluttering drums. Distant high harmonics chime in with the hissing cymbals, and gradually the drummer is contained in a diminishing patina of rim shot percolations. The organ and bass continue, unsure of their solitary placement, though assured that they have tamed the drums. If this was jazz, I’d be attributing things to the players. But the greatest liability of the wide realm of jazz (and especially all the ‘free’ forms which claim to break historical conventions) is its pathetic dependence on humanist display. The ‘jazzed’ flexing of ‘Spirited Yolk’ is more about energy, sensation, propulsion, quietude — generated by invisible humans who are the mere means by which the sound is produced. The songs finally lie spent, at which point a melodic miniature is posited with two lyric couplets. A formal reversal of this balance occurs in ‘Funeral Mutes’: the bulk of the song presents verses and choruses (albeit with crazy phrasing induced by lyric lines placed against melody lines) but concludes with a non-sequitur instrumental passage. Its sparse constellation of guitar and piano single notes seem to query their purpose and placement. A Francis Plagne record is always more a question than an answer.
See Les Baxter’s florid arrangements on Harry Revel, Les Baxter & Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman - Music Out Of The Moon: Music Unusual Featuring The Theremin (1947 LP, Capitol). ↩
Naiveté comes to the fore in the po-faced theatrics of the twenty-six ditties smeared in hiss across the two sides of the Franco-Prussian Fillets (2012 cassette, Alberts Basement/Mould Museum). It verges on being embarrassing, which is cool and expected of the type of flaunted angry amateurism in which the Melbourne label Alberts Basement specialised. Strangely, by the 2010s, this kind of Pop-ish posturing was already retrograde and ripe for recoupment — here handled not with aplomb but unco. The picture conjured is of primary school children assigned instruments to play collectively for an end-of-year presentation (melodicas and ocarinas!). All the nervousness of completing the task are felt in Francis’s multi-tracked mirage of communal music-making. I hated all forms of music activity in primary school, so any nostalgic rendering of those moments and the precocious infants associated therein irks me.1 But just as I declare that, I completely accept that Francis’ fragile morsels block cringey empathic pleading. Indeed, Franco-Prussian Fillets might be a fishy cynical project. Despite the tracks being desultory framed like a series of faux-imperial muzak pieces, many of them are accomplished and distinctive. They resemble imagined rehearsals and outtakes by the Penguin Café Orchestra, the Portsmouth Sinfonia, Silicon Teens, Labradford, the Polyphonic Spree, Max Tundra, Architecture in Helsinki, Dan Deacon, and Anna Meredith.
Only slightly off-topic: the definitive swipe against this trend is uber-contra-Pop songster Max Tundra’s digital FLAC album Selected Amiga/BBC Micro Works 85-92 (2014, no-label/self-released online): a compilation of 8-bit chip tunes programmed with tracker sequencing, played back on the group computer at his South London school library and recorded with a portable cassette mic held against the speaker while kids are playing in the background. See here. ↩
In contrast to Franco-Prussian Fillets’ fidgety domesticity and melodic plasticity, Rural Objects (2019 cassette, Hobbies Galore) has a whimsical air about it, with a relaxed attraction to simplistic melodic refrains and patterns that allows each of its twelve miniatures to unfold devoid of formal ruptures or harmonic subterfuge. Unexpectedly forwarded on the record is a predilection for electric guitar effects and processing (even including a guitar synth). It recalls the guitar pastorals of Durutti Column and Young Marble Giants, and the detached keyboard tracking of Cluster and Brian Eno (albeit sans any studio gloss). If Tenth Volume of Maps and Funeral Mutes play with collapsing the composure and veneer of their musicianship and production, Rural Objects plays with aspirational gestures towards the same. Of course, these end points are deliberately avoided: Francis extols a tantric halting of professional resolution. While this is generally a clichéd device clung to by the ragged agit-prop dogma of ‘lo-fi’ aesthetics, Rural Objects (declared as being ‘recorded at home on cassette’) genuinely feels immersed in its music more than its statement.
Poor lo-fi boys in their bedroom studios. Might their nemesis historically be young, gifted multi-instrumentalist Mike Oldfield, who multi-tracked, engineered, produced, and mixed the epochal Tubular Bells (1973) for the fledgling countercultural Virgin Records? The butterfly effect of Oldfield placing spacey echo on double-speed mandolins ends up being Richard Branson beaming his entrepreneurial dental work from a private space shuttle orbiting the earth. A billion dads still play Tubular Bells, crowing to friends and family about the prodigious technological marvel of a nineteen-year-old guitarist playing every fucking instrument on the record himself. Following the tawdry chest-beating of punk, all rock music is somehow snared by a revolving door of opposition. (And by ‘rock’ I certainly include every single guitar/noise/effects-pedal/Max record ever made no matter how ‘extreme’ its costumery.) I prefer to imagine a record like Rural Objects as an inevitable musicological continuum of Tubular Bells — at least that’s my theoretical and historical position, for both records essay how a guitarist employs tools to assemble a sequence of songs born of guitar sketches. Counter to Tubular Bells’ clarity of texture, Rural Objects’ lugubrious swathes are the sound not of Francis ‘sitting in a room’ (or Oldfield’s ‘sitting in a studio’), but of Francis sitting in the room-next-door. We are placed at a remove from his lo-fi diaristic encounter with his low-budget arsenal and the higher-budget gear on loan from friends. Maybe this is what prevents the record from descending to lo-fi fetishisation and luddite apologia: it displaces the act of listening onto us.
This thickened aurality extolled on Rural Objects is a foreboding murkiness that at once harkens back to the often puerile early 1980s ‘industrial music’ noise cassette subculture, and a sideways glance toward the insolent sonic decrepitude of the anti-concrète of Graham Lambkin (Salmon Run 2007 CD and Softly Softly Copy Copy 2009 CD, both Kye1) and the anti-pop of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti (Lover Boy 2002 CD, Demonstration Bootleg and Worn Copy 2003 CD, Rhystop). This aesthetic of fogged sonics in a shiny digital era is pervasive and hard to reduce to a definitive ideological stance — even though its punky/grungy nature is often presented as a rebellious retort.2 Francis certainly sidles up to its campsite, but like an interloping grifter, he delivers work far more considered than those pumping out generic exercises in the field.
Nicholas Croggon writes on Graham Lambkin in that first issue of Discipline: ‘Stroking rough minutes into smooth hours: a short history of the music of Graham Lambkin’. ↩
Punk field recording is best represented by an arc that starts with File Under Pop’s Heathrow (1979 single, Rough Trade) and ends with The Golding Institute’s trilogy Sounds of The American Fast Food Restaurants (1994 single), Sounds of The San Francisco Adult Bookstores (1997 single) and Sounds of The International Airport Restrooms (1997 single, all Planet Pimp Records). ↩
Maybe what grants me prejudice on Francis’s take on musique concrète was seeing him ‘perform’ Moss Trumpet (III) in 2016 at an Inland concert in Melbourne. Francis played a longish sound collage on a largish 8-track cassette recorder (with in-built mixer). He simply pressed play, sat looking at the desk, occasionally tweaking the volume of a fader or two. John Nixon infamously did a similar ‘anti-live-music’ gesture at the Clifton Hill Community Centre in 1982.1 Unlike that event, Francis delivered sonic steak not concept sizzle: the piece was mesmerizing in its combination of delicate and brute gestures. Some of the material played would end up on Moss Trumpet (2018 LP, Penultimate Press — bearing a cover by John Nixon): an extended workout of aleatory clusters of harmonium and organ overlaid with exhausted brass and recorder sighs, mixed with gentle lapping waves, distant beach ambience (or tape hiss) and varied seaside chirping (real and musically mimicked). It sketches an effective imagining of György Ligeti scoring a soundscape for Annea Lockwood at the seaside. Slight concrète gestures (backwards tinkles, close-mic scratching, and speed manipulation) embellish the sound world to present a large-scale panorama that reaches well beyond the claustrophobic bunkers of cloth-eared noise from which ‘industrial music’ globally emanates. And maybe that’s what each Francis Plagne record is: a frail, yet functioning boat sailing choppy zeitgeist seas; recorded by a historian with a sextant; performed by a guitarist with a museum in his head.
Mentioned in the Disclaimer profile on John Nixon. ↩
Philip Brophy writes on music, among other things.