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VIRTUAL MIXTAPE: Sebastian Field

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Illustrations by Lucy Roleff

Sebastian Field is probably best known as the golden-throated front man for Canberra-based quartet, Cracked Actor. However he is also a member of gentle folksters, Burrows and more recently has focused on his solo project, the fruits of which will appear on his debut album, Picture Stone, later this year.

I first became aware of Sebastian’s work via Cracked Actor’s jaw-dropping full-length debut, Iconoclast, a work of majestic beauty underpinned by his distinctive falsetto. The band’s penchant for writing intelligent pop songs with an experimental flair carried through to the two EP’s which followed it; Upstructures, and the stripped-back Duo, both of which were released last year.

On the strength of his work in both bands Sebastian’s solo outing is shaping up to be a cracker, and certainly one we’ll be keeping a close eye on.

For his contribution to our Virtual Mixtape series Sebastian has selected the incomparable Squarepusher, with an essay titled ‘Squarepusher’s Fantastic Obsession with Science Fiction’. Over to you Sebastian…

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Being a human (a human being) who’s been on the planet for *some* time now, my capabilities to achieve enthusiasm and excitement have deteriorated from the levels that I once used to be able to engage in. It’s a real shame. Things repeat themselves. Disappointments occur. Realities set in. It’s hard to maintain the same heights of vigorous elation that one used to feel. How bleak – but also really interesting and by proxy very exciting and enlivening to observe personally, lolz.

I can remember days when I would get so overwhelmed with anticipation for new Squarepusher music. In particular 2008’s Just A Souvenir. In the months leading up to its release, I was a bottle of bubbly, about to blow (blue tick of verification). I got it while interstate with some friends, detached from them for some time to enjoy the first listen. It was a few hours, I played it back to front a couple of times over directly into my brain through my headphones. I was so happy.

Anyway, for some reason I’ve felt it necessary to prelude this article with that introductory blurb because I think maybe it’s just nice to reminisce, isn’t it – aside from the present, all you have are your memories (which is a nice gift, really, that the experience of consciousness gives to you). Also, in being a bit self indulgent here, I feel I’ve given myself the opportunity to link to a track that has no real attachment to the overall subject, apart from being a track by Squarepusher.

Squarepusher – ‘Tommib’ (Go Plastic)

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A Band From Another Planet

For a while now, Squarepusher (Tom Jenkinson) has had an ever present obsession with concepts of science fiction, permeating them through his releases blatantly. It’s all the way through his releases from 2001’s schizophrenic Go Plastic to 2015’s nightmarish (and unfortunately underwhelming) Damogen Furies. The most obvious of his indulgences hitherto is perhaps the coming-to-fruition of his imagined science fiction future band, initially imagined on the aforementioned Just A Souvenir (JAS) and created in real life on his follow up release, Shobaleader One – d’Demonstrator.

In conversation on JAS, Jenkinson describes that the premise of the album originated from a daydream in which he was visited by a band performing in front of a large, glowing coathanger. The band played abstract math rock/jazz fusion/classical inspired compositions as surreal occurrences took place, such as parts of the drummers kit rapidly switching places with itself and the guitarist harnessing the ability to accelerate and decelerate time. As mentioned before, clearly an indulgence, Jenkinson tries his darnedest to replicate the experience of his daydream on JAS. It’s a lot of fun, you should listen to it if you’d like to. Anyhow, not satisfied with his efforts on JAS, he felt it necessary to have one more stab at directly replicating his vision by putting together Shobaleader One, the real life band from another planet.

Unfortunately, the (as of now) only recording put out by the band is pretty plain and underwhelming. Sorely missing the palette of Jenkinson’s solo studio abstractions, Shobaleader One – d’Demonstrator comes off as emotionless, two dimensional and really, really cold. That might be the point, even, being an alien band from another planet but the experience of sitting through the album is not very pleasant. The first track is brilliant, though, haha. I love it!

Squarepusher – ‘Plug Me In’ (Shobaleader One: d’Demonstrator’

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Sidenote: There are a few recent videos of the band playing old Squarepusher tunes live and they go fucking off. Here’s one for you to hopefully enjoy..

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Ones and Zeroes

There’s this one interview of Squarepusher’s where he speaks about his experience, of firstly purchasing, and subsequently becoming accustomed to, his first (or a new) drum machine. He enthusiastically recalls applying granular synthesis to his drum hits, breaking them apart/exploding them to bits, along with descriptions of his views on bass being more kaleidoscopic than it’s traditionally viewed as, along with other ruminations. The interview takes place as he’s on tour for Go Plastic, Tom’s initial total foray into music as science fiction, imo, discarding his organic roots wholeheartedly, engulfing the listener entirely in the midst of his love affair with calculated, brutal electronic music.

The interview comes off as charming (because he is, goddamit), but it serves as quite a juxtaposition to Tom’s pretentious view of his own music, illustrated in a short essay called ‘Collaborating With Machines’ that he penned closely after 2004’s Ultravisitor, his next LP after Go Plastic (I always recognised 2002’s Do You Know Squarepusher as an EP).

He spews utter nonsense about the machines’ influence over him and his music. So good, what a twit, I love it so much (read it here) Anyhow, as he’s been indulging himself along these lines for 16 years now, I feel that he achieved the height of human/machine symbiosis on 2012’s Ufabulum with the closing track ‘Ecstatic Shock’ (I’m jumping by about here a bit, but who gives a shit). It’s probably in my list of fav pieces of music over the past five years or so, so fucking good. The production and structure are both so abstract, I love it.

Squarepusher – Ecstatic Shock (Enstrobia)

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It Was Probably Inevitable, A Real Life Robot Band

Despite not liking the release very much at all, I’ve kind of left myself with no place to go other than to refer to it here – though the existence of such a thing truly is nourishingly absurd.

Music for Robots is a collaboration between Jenkinson and The Z-Machines, a robot rock band developed by a university professor and a mechanical designer as “the future of live music”, funded by Molson Coors Japan to opportunistically promote a drink called Zima. Very funny, right? I don’t feel overly qualified to describe how the band works, and this video doesn’t really help that, but here’s a behind the scenes offering.

Anyways, the record stinks, it’s a touch unpalatable and just plain boring, really. I do not recommend it. Squarepusher is quoted as using the collaboration as an opportunity to oppose the notion that only humans can create emotionally evocative music but, yes, no, I do not think you succeeded this time, mate. The only real evocation I care to put to this article is the dystopian future this record elicits if we are to consider this as music capable of inducing emotion. One fun image conjured is an imagined future where a little robot child sits on the edge of its cast iron bunk, posters of The Z-Machines on the wall above, a FireWire cable stuck into its forehead directly implanting the experience of excitement of listening to such detritus.

Here’s the last track, probably the best on the record.

Squarepusher x Z-Machines – You Endless (Music for Robots)

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Anyhow, I’m not sure how much more I can rabbit on about this all, so I’ll choose to end it now. And I’ve probably reached a good enough end point, really, given the foreword bypassed lamentation I began with. Thanks for checking out my Virtual Mixtape, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.

Sebastian Field – Facebook / Twitter / Cracked Actor

WATCH: Rebel Yell – ‘High Authority’

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I think one of the things that sets Rebel Yell apart from a lot of other one-person electronic bands is Grace Stevenson’s impeccable taste. It’s all over this video, for ‘High Authority’, her first single since last year’s ‘Mother of Millions’ EP. She’s working with director Triana Hernandez, a Melbourne writer and director who’s burst onto the scene with some powerful and beautiful videos (she also made Various Asses’ recent clip for ‘Down Down’ – which so. Fucking. Gooood.). It’s especially in the clothing, from brand new Brisbane fashion designer Ellen Chandler, which Stevenson cites as the clip’s main inspiration.

‘When I first saw the outfits that Ellen had done for her graduate collection I started getting ideas – the video is based highly around the clothes, a fashion film style I guess. Her outfits are amazing and super confusing to get on! They’re all made up of other garments and at one stage I had pant legs coming off my arm! Originally I wanted the film in the desert, with a lizard, but time, money and an actual place to film it made that difficult.’

Instead of heading to the outback and auditioning reptiles, Stevenson settled on one of the scrubby beaches and brown rivers that make up most of South East Queensland’s less-than-postcard-perfect coastline. It’s an area she knows well, growing up around the Sunshine Coast – she scouted locations while visiting her folks.

The video itself revels in a kind of dirty glamour – it’s DIY but never looks cheap or half-arsed. They used a VHS camera and in some scenes, the car headlights as lighting. There’s a grainy road B-movie kind of feel – which lead to a decidedly un-Hollywood moment during the shoot. ‘We had a break at my mum’s house in Eumundi before it got dark, then used my car lights for the lighting out off a dirt road. I, being highly intelligent, turned off the car but left the lights on. So we waited about an hour or so for YOUi Assist [ML:is this a plug? Can we have some money?] to revive my battery. My mum did bring us some dinner in takeaway containers though, so that was nice.’

The song kind of speaks for itself – it’s bombastic, direct and, yup, heaps authoritative. The B-grade movie vibe continues in the sound, but now it’s a space horror – lazers and squelching effects. Like, cat-suited lady aliens biting the heads off human men or something.

Stevenson has a background in dance, and the sharp shapes she makes in the video shout power and control, thanks to the help of local dancer and choreographer Erika Goldsmith. ‘Erika choreographed the dance sequence at the end of the clip’ Stevenson says, ‘I remember she taught me a dance at school when we were both kids, and I’ve been doing her Rhianna dance classes this year, so we’ve known each other for a long time. Erika advised me on things that would look cool to do in the setting with the outfits, but some of it I had to ‘freestyle’ – that was when my car died.’

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If you’re in Sydney you can catch Rebel Yell at Body Promise as part of Vivid on June 10

LISTEN: No Sister and Bitumen – Split Cassette

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No Sister

You know when someone is talking to you with extreme passion about something you’ve not previously been that interested in, and you can’t help but get sucked in to their argument, even though you’ve got no idea what it is? That’s how I often feel about No Sister. Everything they do is so intentional, so serious that I forget to roll my eyes at their use of the kind of art-rock, playing-guitar-with-a-screwdriver business that would usually be Not My Vibe.

So No Sister make kind of pretentious music, but at least they’re not pretending to be on the dole or like they didn’t go to uni. They don’t pretend to be approachable, #relateable fuckups – they’ve talk to you from a place of knowledge and foresight. Like lookout motherfuckers cuz it’s time to get mad. And there’s nothing wrong with being a bit pretentious if it’s for a good cause – like for some of the most vicious, vital music you’ll hear this hear. Its pretentious music that rules, seethes and gnashes its teeth, scowling in righteous anger. The were like this even before they moved from Bris to Melbourne.

‘Perpetrate’ is absolutely ferocious. I want that bassline isolated in its own track, so I can discover the secret to its absolute genius. Don’t listen to this at work if you don’t wanna be making wild-eyes at your co-workers for the next half hour, Siahn Davis and Tiarney Miekus’s vocals dueling like a devil on each shoulder. The lyrics are snippets of violent imagery ‘Like a hot fist thrown first!’ / ‘blazing through the noise’

Bitumen’s side starts with drum machine, and immediately it’s more obviously influenced by Melbourne goth post punk, um, coldwave, with Kate Binning’s drawling vocals swirling out of your speakers like black smoke. Their stuff is mushier, and noisier, using repetition and emotion rather than appealing to any kind of rationality

The lyrics seem lean on more personal stuff – there’s more yous and mes and hims and hers in these songs, less burning cities and shards of glass. ‘Honey Hunter’ sounds like someone very sinister, the snippets of ominous detail repeated; ‘indefensible, heavy breathing’ ‘in a pure world, he found her’.

The No Sister side stays restrained – held in by the tightness of the sound, the dry brittleness, There’s a calculated feeling even when the guitar devolves into noise, but Bitumen are absolutely balls to the wall, especially on ‘Winter Swimmer’, with that crunchy metal rhythm guitar under all the shredding, deep and dark with rumbling bitterness, a kind of fucked-up desperate devotion ‘I’ll do what needs to be done / I’ll do what needs to be done/ for you’.

It’s kind of a head/heart divide, except both are working together in violent revolt against outside forces. And, if making a good as tape counts as any kind of victory, absolutely kicking their arse.

Get this tape via always rock solid Vacant Valley.

See Bitumen and No Sister in Brisbane tonight at The Bearded lady with formidable support from Pleasure Symbols and Clever and on Sunday at The Time Machine in Nambour supported by the nice guys of hard rock Sewers, or next Saturday April 22nd in Melbourne at the Tote with Stationary Suns and Synthetics (who I hear are very good).

WATCH: Ultra Material – ‘Borderline’ Video

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Yes, pure is the most overused word of all time, but there’s something just solidly, reliably, pure about Ultra Material. They’re terrific musicians and good people. They also have lots of other shit going on, so they can make consistently interesting and beautiful music and play the occasional great show around Brisbane without burning out or getting bored.

‘Borderline’, off their latest EP II, is about the poppiest song they’ve released to date. It’s less meandering and abstract, with more catchy vocal melodies and forward motion. They’ve embraced that ‘dream pop’ label bands have to take on so they can lose the ‘shoegaze’ baggage and made something that’s … dreamy and poppy. Vocalist / bassist Sarah Deasy is letting her vocals come through, without being drowned in effects. It’s a great move; while having a classically ‘good’ voice can sometimes be seen as a detriment to this kind of music, her singing is darkly lovely and resonant, elevating the whole song.

Almost everyone in this band is some kind of accomplished artist or designer in their real life, so you know they’re not going to slack off on a walking down Brunswick street eating a pie music video. Enter the queen of green screen Helena Papageorgiou, the Brisbane director who made, among others, this delightful video for Dag late last year (go watch it if you haven’t already, I’ll wait).

While the look for that clip was weird and ramshackle, this one is all moody cool, moving fast to keep up with Matt Deasy’s impeccable drumming. Patterns and silhouettes, neon colours and constellations fly by the surface of the moon and anime-style waves. Though Papageorgiou knows where to linger – like on the X-Files-y ending and the coolest use of dogs in space since 1986.

Ultra Material – Borderline from Helena Papageorgiou on Vimeo.

You can find this song and lots of other winners on II. If you buy a physical copy of the cassette if comes in a beautiful case with a fold-out poster design by keyboard player Zuzana Kovar, printed by Matt Deasy at his screenprinting company no. 7 Print House (I told you they were arty). People come and go, but objects are forever.

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LISTEN: Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing – Songs of Sodomy and the Compost of Aethyr LP

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If I told you that you could get a special edition of Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing‘s latest record with a wooden box of tarot cards, would you think that was lame or cool? Or be completely unsurprised, considering the name? What if I told you this record heavily featured flutes, some of the least sexy sexual lyrics AND the most terrifying vocal performances in recent memory? Well good news, it doesn’t matter! Genre is nothing, all your ideas about what makes something good or bad or cool or lame are arbitrary – and this album will blow your brain out if you let it.

There’s a lot here – 18 songs, a double album by anyone’s standards. It takes patience to get into – I’ve been trying to write about it for weeks but for a while I was getting confused and turned around more and more every time I listened to it. It’s slow and fast, messy and clean, unfolding with marching ominous repetition, tap tapping on the inside of your skull, building pressure over 6 minutes tracks as well as over the whole 90 minute-ish thing. Horns and strings see-saw wildly over and through these songs. Some feel like baroque and serious almost-folk-metal, some almost straight hardcore, when the crunch of distorted guitar gives a conventional rock dog like me something to hold on to.

There’s also a strident kind of post-punk at its heart. Something like ‘Pacific Hygiene’ could be a Mere Women song, half drowned in oil and set on fire. ‘Out of Zone’ is formidably good, low rumbling guitars jostling around a desperately spiteful rasping shout that could break bones; ‘LVX’ is brutally cynical, teasing and hectoring vocals that explode into screeching hysteria, while ‘Lustration’ shows the hopelessness lurking underneath the surface of all rage – droning slow and dangerous. There’s a real ‘last chance to save your soul’ feeling to all the performances on this record. Despite its length, it stays brutal all the way through

It’s not that the lyrics are inaudible or distorted, they’re just drawn-out and obtuse, slipping through your fingers in abstraction and long words. By sound they’re all rooted in plague, degradation, puritanism, lost faith and clung-to hatred.

Information that I should have introduced earlier: Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing are from Auckland. From the little I know of New Zealand (though, like everyone in Australia, I idealise it as a chill paradise and plan to move there ‘sometime’), Auckland is considered less cool and culturally vibrant than Wellington, but those kind of places tend to produce the weirdest art – when you’ve got something to be outside, when you’re not constantly supported by a scene of creatives. Maybe you’d be more pissed off, more likely to make something as fucked up as this grim, great album.

You can buy Songs of Sodomy and the Compost of Aethyr, with tarot or without, via bandcamp here

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LOOK: Golden Plains XI, 2017

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Words and pictures by Bec Capp 


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Golden Plains XI marked my 10th time at the festival (I missed one about 4 years ago when I was doing that thing where Melbournians go live in Berlin). In 2007, when I was 16, my best mate told me about this cool ‘new’ festival her older brother knew about and convinced me to go with her. It probably cost $200 and The Presets were playing so it didn’t take much persuasion. We bought a slab of passionfruit UDLs, traded them off with a girl we knew from a nearby school for some No-Doz, and I never looked back.

Be it noted that I don’t condone underage drinking and neither does Golden Plains. There is a strict “No Dickheads” policy in force at the Meredith Supernatural Amphitheatre, which helps make this festival so special. GP XI was particularly dickhead free. Thanks Aunty (and maybe Pitch).

While the place is always a haven, some things have changed over 10 years. My group of friends (which has solidified and grown substantially thanks to this festival) has moved from screaming at bands on the barrier, all the way back to the fourth lantern on the left. The fourth one – that’s a new level of relaxed. Soon we’ll be sitting on the hill. In fact, I did watch Neil Finn from the hill. The amphitheatre was so beautiful from back there, with the sound of everyone singing along, I actually welled up. Friends I’ve danced with in the crowd are now up on stage. These days I like Bloody Marys, Sunset Strip has become like Bourke Street Mall on the weekend Zara opened, and there are cold showers where you never have to line up (highly recommended).

Of course, some things never change: the same friend from 2007 handed me a passionfruit UDL at about 3 a.m. on Monday, and in that moment it was the best thing I had ever tasted. There’s always a band I’ve never heard of that turns out to be a festival highlight (thanks Chain & The Gang). There’s always a great moment when you’re full of love, hugging everyone in your vicinity (thanks Total Giovanni). Pink Flamingos are consistently delicious and I have been camping in pretty much the same place since Golden Plains I.

It might only be a few days, but over a decade those few days every year have had a substantial impact on my life. Thanks to this place for the friendships I still have today and for moments that are unforgettable for many reasons. I would like to thank the Nolan family for making their home my own. RIP Jack Nolan.

See you in the ‘sup come December for MMF #27.

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LABEL PROFILE: Nice Music

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Melbourne label Nice Music arrived fully-formed, 6 beautifully packaged releases in tow in May last year. A bold introduction from a newly-minted label, followed swiftly by 6 more releases in November. Simultaneously issuing the 6 individual releases in both series one and two was an ambitious and confident statement of intent, one that hopefully pays off for this intriguing and forward-thinking label.

While it’s easy to overlook the ease with which all the pieces fit together both musically and aesthetically, this belies the hard work going on behind the scenes in order to bring this vision to life. Like a timepiece with its sleek clock face masking the myriad of grinding gears at work beneath the surface.

When asked why he took this approach label founder Simon J Karis, himself a collector, says he is “comforted by consistency and sets of things” adding that his vision for the label was “to create something I would personally love to follow and collect…letting things happen organically out of my own enthusiasm for the material”. This enthusiasm shows in the curation and execution, something made easier by the highly active music community which Karis is a part of. “There’s so much going on here it’s overwhelming and being a hoarder or cataloguer type I worry that some of it will be missed if someone doesn’t help or push”.

The diversity across the catalogue, a result of Simon’s ‘fidgety listening habits”, is somewhat disparate at first glance but there is a common thread tying the music together, a thread I find difficult to pinpoint. When asked for his take on this Simon puts it down to the artists, who according to him are “pretty idiosyncratic thinkers stretching their wings in a very honest and productive way…everyone on the label transcends genre or label to a degree in my head at least…I like the themes and emotions in music to hit you hard in the brain or spine or bloodstream in a way that means you’re never really sure why – that’s kinda ultimate for me”.

Offering each series as a bundle is a great way for the audience to discover new music, a quality missing in the current age of steaming services and digital singles. And for collectors like Simon the catalogue is available in cassette format which, of course look nicer as a collection.

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From the warped post-modern beat abstractions of Hyde, and the seething bass music of Various Asses, to the disconcerting techno sound collage of R Hunter, this is a catalogue which begs to be explored. An insight into a thriving community of artists pushing boundaries with little regard for genre or music trends. Get acquainted and get Nice.

If you’re so inclined, check out Madeleine’s review of another Nice Music release, Sweet Whirl’s beautiful O.k. Permanent Wave

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