October 31, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age, A2, October 31, 2009.
Around the galleries Dan Rule
WHAT Ricky Swallow: The Bricoleur
WHERE The Ian Potter Centre, NGV Australia, Federation Square, city, 8620 2222, ngv.vic.gov.au
Ricky Swallow’s wood and bronze sculptures possess a rare presence. On the one level, the joys of this wonderful survey of the South Gippsland boy-turned international art star’s recent sculptures and watercolours are in its invocation of chronology and process. Grounded in the 17th Century Dutch Still Life tradition, every groove and contour, every elegant mark of the hand and tool speaks of hours and days and months. Works like the English Limewood Fig. 1, which depicts a baby’s skull wrapped loosely in paper, the puffed rucksack of Fig. 2 and bronze-cast, barnacle encrusted balloons of Caravan defy their materials with a breath-like weightlessness. But while there’s a real enchantment to Swallow’s form and almost freakish craftsmanship, where his work truly resonates is in its personal foundations. His pairing of human skeletons, dead animals and barnacles with everyday objects and material possessions is neither a mistake nor an aesthetic contrivance; it is a solemn marker of the nature of time and loss, memory and connection. Indeed, Swallow’s works not only deal with the life-cycle of the body, but attribute meaning and gravity to the objects we acquire and relationships we establish. When we pass, our memory is stored in our materials. For our loved ones, we live on in our objects and clothes and furniture – in our books and bones. Tues to Sun, 10am–5pm, $10 (adult) $7 (concession)$5 (child) until February 28.
WHAT Kat Macleod: Slight Inclusions
WHERE Lamington Drive, 89 George Street, Fitzroy, 8060 9745, lamingtondrive.com
The title of cult Melbourne artist and Michi Girl illustrator Kat Macleod’s second solo exhibition is a telling one. The “inclusions” it speaks of refer to the natural imperfections and blemishes that give a diamond its singularity, the flaws that make something truly beautiful. Comprising an extensive series of Macleod’s original, untreated pencil, watercolour and collage illustrations from she and writer Jane Rocca’s hugely popular 2005 book The Cocktail and various editorial commissions for Vogue Entertainment + Travel, Real Simple magazine and others, this survey reveals the tactility and mechanics of some of Macleod’s most widely recognised works. The meticulous mess of folds and stiches, the economy of line and lightness of hand, the colour tests and eraser marks are all left in plain view, elucidating both the complexity and looseness of her process. The show also includes a new, four-part series of large, hand-pulled screen prints – the first time Macleod has worked at such a scale. Suffice to say, her beauteous, gestural female forms become all the more cogent. Wed to Fri 11am–6pm, Sat to Sun noon–5pm, until November 15.
WHAT Marie-Jeanne Hoffner & Stephen Garrett: After the Goldrush
WHERE Conical, Level 1, 3 Rochester Street, Fitzroy, 9415 6958, conical.org.au
The notion of capturing and depicting a moment, person or place isn’t always so cut and dry. With their new show at Conical, Parisian artist Marie-Jeanne Hoffner and Melbournian Stephen Garrett challenge us to rethink representation itself. Part of a long-term, intercontinental collaboration, After the Goldrush, in effect, exemplifies different ways of seeing. These seemingly abstract works – a split-screen, mirror-image video, a snaking neon light sculpture, a wall-sized photographic work and a spectacularly intricate and fragile balsawood sculpture that hangs from the ceiling – are apparently representative of places, structures and forms, only to be deconstructed and reconstituted through a series of processes between the artists. Hoffner and Garrett seem interested in slippage, in the elasticity between representation and referent and the possibilities it affords. We’re left with a series of allusions and echoes, meticulous and definite in detail, but unrestricted in form. Wed to Sat noon–5pm, until November 7.
WHAT Callum Morton: Smokescreen
WHERE Anna Schwartz Gallery, 185 Flinders Lane, city, 9654 6131, annaschwartzgallery.com
Callum Morton’s new, prodigiously-scaled sculptural installation Smokescreen casts itself not merely as a spatial intervention, but a cultural one. Spanning almost the entire width of Anna Schwartz Gallery, the towering work repels the viewer’s gaze at almost every vantage. Comprising a galvanized steel frame and a screen made of reflective stainless steel panels, the work throws a distorted mirror-image of the space back on itself. The only clarity is in a series of small fissures, through which we can spy the remainder of gallery space beyond. Morton, who frames the work as a reaction to a contemporary condition awash with distraction, has certainly made an unambiguous statement here. Whether or not Smokescreen offers a convincing strategy as to how we combat such a cultural mire is, unfortunately, not so clear. Tues to Fri noon–6pm, Sat 1pm–5pm, until November 7.
October 26, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age, A2, October 24, 2009.
Around the galleries Dan Rule
WHAT Beverley Veasey: Habitats #2
WHERE Dickerson Gallery, 44 Oxford Street, Collingwood, 9416 0031, dickersongallery.com.au
Beverley Veasey’s ‘landscapes’ are as much about absence as they subject. Her large-scale, monochrome photographs of animal enclosures, captured in zoos throughout the world, chart spaces void of their occupants. In Habitat #3, a tangle of desert brush and high grass frame a crudely painted Grand Canyon-esque backdrop, the outline of a door – the keeper’s entrance – clearly visible against the tallest rocky peak. In Habitat #10, a corner gives a dense jungle scene an almost believable depth. It’s both alluring and haunting. Veasey’s works function on the level of proposition more so than representation. They suggest power and intention. In a contemporary setting, these cramped, contrived spaces are our only interface with rare and endangered species – species that we are collectively responsible for crippling. Nonetheless, all the care and labour that has been channelled into these spaces – the dramatic, painted backdrops, the installation of dead foliage, the illusion of space – is almost entirely for the viewer’s benefit. Tues to Sat, 10:30am–5:30pm, until November 1.
WHAT Steve Carr: Enchanté
WHERE Uplands Gallery, 247 High Street, Prahran, 9510 2374, uplandsgallery.com
The aesthetic markers of refinement, prestige and accomplishment can assume many decorative forms. Perhaps it’s one’s social deportment, one’s cigar brand. The badge on one’s two-door sports vehicle, perchance, or one’s proclivity for the arts. Steve Carr’s new series of works seems to offer an examination of such ultimately disingenuous cues. As its title alludes, Enchanté delves in the processes and, ahem, faux pas employed to maintain the front. Comprising seven large-scale photographs of flamboyant wine-glass napkin folds – a preening peacock and palm frond included – and a 17-minute video work capturing a painstaking roast turkey preparation, Carr points to the planned, practiced and executed mechanics of perfection, sans the supposed mystique. As the table settings take on increasingly extravagant forms, the illusion of sophistication and cultural grandeur becomes all the more explicit. It is elaborate and ultimately desperate performance. Tues to Fri, 11am–5:30pm, Sat noon–4pm, until October 31.
WHAT Paolo Consorti: Exaltations
WHERE Anna Pappas Gallery, 2–4 Carlton Street, Prahran, 8598 9915, annapappasgallery.com
It’s difficult to get bearing within Paulo Consorti’s crowded, technicolour vistas. The Italian artist drops found and original photographs into swirling arrangements of digitally rendered landscapes, moonscapes, warzones and hippie mud baths. While these theatrical, fantastical images are endlessly playful and striking in their detail, there’s a lurking earnestness (and boyish admiration for Photoshop) here that might grate with some. Consorti seems to be exploring the extremes of humanity’s manifestations, good and bad. That in itself isn’t a problem. It’s the fact that he’s done so via what some might consider a dated, soft-lens fantasy art aesthetic that goes some way to blunt his ambitions. Tues to Fri 10am–6pm, Sat to Sun noon–6pm, until October 31.
October 25, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #70, October 2009
BEATS with Dan Rule
When New York’s most cerebral, exploratory and downright scientific hip hop quartet called it a day 2003, most read it as a tragedy for leftfield rap. Anti-Pop Consortium built a name for remoulding mutant techno and late 70s electro-punk discord into hip hop’s ever-malleable vernacular. Six years on, Fluorescent Black proves a lithe, muscular and flat-out thrilling comeback. It may not make total sense in fragments, but the record’s true complexity emerges when absorbed end-to-end. Jarring, metallic abrasions rub up against sticky grooves; saccharine techno u-turns into angular hip hop and exemplary, double-time mic skills. Anti-Pop have again paid homage to the past in creating a new future.
Only Built 4 Cuban Linx: Pt. II
It’s a task to explain just how good this record is. 14 years after he dropped the key Wu-Tang Clan solo project – sans GZA’s Liquid Swords – Raekwon’s Cuban Linx sequel exceeds all expectations. This murky, brooding, exceptionally balanced record doesn’t just take you back to the Wu’s heyday; it expands and refines the vision. All the Wu players are here. As expected, Ghostface plays Rae’s chief foil, while GZA drops a scorching verse on classic crime cut We Will Rob You. The beats – thanks to RZA, J Dilla, Marley Marl, Pete Rock and others – are as good as they get. Rae has excelled here. NY hip hop lives.
Light in August, Later
There’s a delicate, dualistic quality to whispering sound worlds and pop minutiae of Yasuhiko Fukuzono. This quiet little record from the Tokyo composer and musician (known to most as aus) is as beautifully spacious as it is intimate. Working with untreated piano, voice, peals of guitar and strings and sweep of field recordings and static-strewn electronics, Fukuzono’s art is one of layering and restraint. Tracks like Uram, Remnant and gorgeous closer A World of Dazzle recast crystalline instrumental motifs in a beauteous haze of shoegaze atmosphere and sun-streaked electronic hues. It’s a record of stunning melodic and tonal subtlety – of genuine evocation and place.
Race Against Time
There’s no doubting Wiley’s legacy. Dizzee Rascal may have taken UK grime to the charts, but Wiley was the man to plant the flag. Following the less-than-impressive See Clear Now, fifth album Race Against Time comes with a weight of expectation. It’s not a disappointment, but it’s not exactly a dam-breaker. Wiley’s diction is as meticulous as ever here and he’s on fire when the beats are raw and rugged – check Headbanger and Off the Radar – but what this serviceable record articulates more than anything is grime’s beepy, bleepy, highly synthesised limitations. Like Dizzee’s latest material, much of Race Against Time espouses a production aesthetic lacking any evidence of light and shade.
Sleeping on your Style
There’s plenty to like about Thundamentals. The Blue Mountains crew hail from a generation of young rappers and producers who’ve dared to bring groove and musicality to the once melodically barren terrain of Australian hip hop. Debut longplayer Sleeping on your Style is a prime example. Cuts like the funk-heavy I HIP HOP and buoyant dub pulse of the title-track anchor flowing arrangements with sticky, melting bass lines, while Move it Up and We Won’t Mind shine with organic soul hooks and instrumentation. At 15 tracks, Sleeping on your Style does fade a little by its end, but for the most part, it proves an intelligent, musically astute debut.
October 25, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #70, October 2009.
When Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power – aka Fuck Buttons – dropped their debut Street Horrrsing in 2007, it was clear that the Bristol noise merchants were occupying a much higher artistic plane than their name suggested. Within days of hitting shelves, the record became an indie and experimental scene hit; its buzz-saw drones, acerbic distortion attacks and skittering electronics plotting a course across blistering noise rock, opaque ambience and some mutant form of indie-dance. From its opening stanza, the 10-minute Surf Solar, the duo’s follow-up proves very different kind of record. Indeed, terms like proximity, distance and scope become useful when discussing Tarot Sport. While less immediately abrasive than its predecessor, this vast, layered work is far more voluminous. Where the guitars and synths that tore through Street Horrrsing resembled a chainsaw at close range, Tarot Sport’s widescreen walls of sound seem more like a distant army of them. Suffice to say, there are several highlights. Rough Steez is a piece of polyrhythmic brilliance – its brutal pulsing drone morphing into clicking, tumbling, tribal dance groove – while the shimmering, minor key melodic structure of The Lisbon Maru is perhaps their most sophisticated, realised moment to date. Olympians and Flight of the Feathered Serpent, meanwhile, make for two of the most outwardly euphoric compositions you’ll hear this year. Indeed, while abrasive, there’s also something wonderfully soft about Tarot Sport. Fuck Buttons have managed to interlock exhilarating noise and pure, melodic beauty. It makes for a complex, immersive and rewarding collection of songs. DAN RULE
October 25, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #70, October 2009.
Fable of the label profiles iconic labels past and present. This issue, Dan Rule plots the co-ordinates of London’s street level anthropologists Soul Jazz Records.
Stuart Baker doesn’t subscribe to the notion of ‘the next bit thing’. The founder and owner of consummate London global urban music imprint Soul Jazz approaches music as social and cultural evidence – as something to explore, to investigate and to draw connections between.
“Most record labels exist to represent the present, so they’re not interested in history so much,” says the 44-year-old. “The label has been as much about analysing our own role and position. What is it that a record company does? What is its function? What is its relation to music and artists and society?”
“I’ve never been able to quite explain it completely because I don’t have any sense of conclusion in terms of the records we put out.”
Starting its life as a record store in the late 80s stocking black American and Latin music imports, Soul Jazz became a label in 1991 and has since made a name for its detailed coverage of rare, minority street music the world over.
Replete with handsome packaging, extensive liner-notes and associated books and pubications, Soul Jazz releases have mined the vaults of jazz, Latin, Brazilian, soul, funk and reggae, to hip hop, dubstep, disco, electronic and post-punk. But it would be simplistic to describe the boutique imprint in retrospective terms.
“Everything we touch is certainly non-mainstream and certainly has come up from the street,” says Baker, “but we’re not aligned to a particular place or point in music.”
“I’m interested in different points of time and space historically, sure, but I’m not interested in looking back at all. Because I’ve never experienced New York in 1960, it’s new to me, you know, so I can absorb it as new stuff and then present it an a way where someone else can see it as new, even though it is historical.”
Defining releases include compiles Dynamite! Dancehall Style, the Studio One Story and New York Noise series, and more recently, double album compilations Dancehall: The Rise of Jamaican Dancehall Culture (2008), Steppas’ Delight: Dubstep Present to Future (2008) and brand new compilation and DVD Can You Dig It? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1969–75.
“The initial starting point is always the music and my physical or emotional reaction to that music,” explains Baker. “But if I like it then I naturally try and work out why that is and start researching it and drawing connections, because really, I feel like that’s what most music fans do.”
“We did a record about 15 years ago called New Eureka: Culture Clash in New York City – Experiments in Latin Music 1970–1977,” he laughs. “It was really, really successful and sold about 75,000 copies and we realised that if we could sell 75,000 copies of a record with a name that long with a music that was clashing with anything that anyone else was putting out, then we could do anything.”
Can You Dig It? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1969-75 is out through Soul Jazz/Inertia
October 25, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: Music Australia Guide #70, October 2009.
UK rockers Muse have built a reputation on redefining rock’s parameters. Bass player Chris Wolstenholme tells Dan Rule that towering new opus The Resistance is the trio’s most expansive yet.
Muse have never been a band to do things by half-measures. They don’t do small, they don’t do quiet and they certainly don’t do demure.
“You have to do everything you possibly can in the studio and be as honest as possible,” says co-founder and bass player Chris Wolstenholme. “Because in the end, it’s you – the three or however many people in the band – who really have to live with it for the rest of your lives.”
“A producer doesn’t have to go on tour and play those songs every night; the band does.”
In a creative journey that has stretched over a decade and four epically scaled records, the English trio – Wolstenholme, singer and guitarist Matt Bellamy and drummer Dominic Howard – have traversed rock’s interface with symphony, experimentalism and electronics. Accumulation – of knowledge, of style, of compositional and production smarts – has become their calling card.
“I think with all of the great albums over the history of pop music, no one would have been worrying about how they were going to play it live, you know,” says Wolstenholme, who is chatting from his home in the small coastal town of Teignmouth on the eve of releasing sweeping fifth album The Resistance.
“I’m pretty sure that when Brian Wilson wrote Pet Sounds, the idea being onstage wouldn’t have entered his head once,” he laughs. “He would have been thinking about how he could make those songs as great as possible on the record.”
He makes a good point. Across the breadth of their career, Muse’s status as a three-piece rock band has acted as a starting point rather than a limitation. Whether it be the oscillating dynamics and atmospheres of 1999 debut Showbiz, the bombastic rock tropes and tangles electronics of Origin of Symmetry (2001), the baroque drama of Absolution (2003) or the unfettered paranoia and grand orchestrations of Black Holes and Revelations (2006), the group have crafted sounds of a scale that belies the trio’s core guitar/bass/drums line-up.
Mind you, it wasn’t always easy for Muse, each of whom grew up in Teignmouth and formed the early incarnations of the band as teenagers in the mid 90s. “I think in the early days we often felt quite limited in what we could do, because before you’ve had that experience in the studio, it’s hard to imagine the possibilities,” explains Wolstenholme.
“But the more time you spend in studios and with good producers, the more you really learn listen to the songs that you have or the ideas you have and you just really ask yourself, ‘What is going to be best for this song?’ regardless of what comes later on; regardless of those questions of ‘How are we going to do that?’. It’s just a matter of what is the best thing for the song on the album, and that’s something we’ve pushed a bit further now.”
It’s a notion evidenced on fifth record The Resistance, which debuted at number one in Australia the week of going to print. Recorded and produced entirely by the band in Bellamy’s newly built home-studio in northern Italy, the record visits terrains as varied as the inorganic RnB and hip hop grooves of Undisclosed Desires, Queen-like theatrics of cuts like United States of Eurasia and tearing guitar rock of first single Uprising and Unnatural Selection, before closing with Exogenesis, a fully-fledged three-part symphony.
“There are obviously political influences and references to the album, but I think this time it’s more of an emotional response to political issues, rather than just mouthing off about what’s right and what’s wrong, which is what we’ve been guilty of in the past.” says Wolstenholme.
“To me, it really covers a lot of ground and really feels like a journey from start to finish,” he continues. “The way we recorded it is actually very much how it ended up on the album and that’s quite rare. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything like that before.”
Indeed, recording and producing their own material proved a creative boon for Muse. “I think with each knew album we’ve done, with each new producer we’ve worked with and with each new studio we’ve been in, we’ve just accumulated this knowledge over time,” he says. “I think most bands will get to a point in their careers where they’ll go, ‘I think maybe it’s time to try this on our own’.”
“It was just very, very relaxed and it almost reminded me of how we used to work when we were younger, before we were signed.”
“It’s obviously on a much grander scale now,” he pauses. “We’re not in a little grotty basement anymore, but it’s pretty much the same thing.”
The Resistance is out now via Warner Music
October 21, 2009 § Leave a comment
Published: The Age , A2, October 17, 2009.
Around the galleries Dan Rule
WHAT Shelter: On Kindness
WHERE RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, city, 9925 1717, rmit.edu.au/rmitgallery
Starring legendary Japanese architect Professor Terunobu Fujimori, this major group exhibition at RMIT gallery gathers upwards of 50 architects, artists, writers and philosophers to reflect upon and creatively respond to the concepts of shelter and kindness. The results are astounding. The show’s centrepiece, Fujimori’s wondrous Black Tea House (pictured) is constructed using timbers charred in the Black Saturday bushfires and acts as a touching, nonetheless functional memorial. Other highlights include March Studio’s awe-inspiring 4”x2” Nest – which utilises three kilometres of recycled 4”x2” planks to create an extraordinary shelter – and Pip Stokes and Gregory Burgess’s Sense, a curved installation constructed using 400 nine-kilogram blocks of beeswax. But to individualise would cheapen this show, which draws on the writings of British psychoanalyst Adam Philips for its brief. From sculptures to photo-media installations to historical artefacts, Shelter: On Kindness will inspire wonder, empathy and great joy in adults and children alike. This isn’t just about structure, but the personal, familial and communal interaction it facilitates. Mon to Fri 11am–5pm, Sat noon–5pm, until October 25.
WHAT Liz Grieb: Hearts and Minds – the way to Herat and beyond
WHERE Foyer Gallery, Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham Street, Albert Park, 8606 4200, gasworks.org.au
Although half a century old, this series of documentary photographs from Liz Grieb’s travels throughout Afghanistan, Iran, India, Pakistan and Turkey in 1959 holds genuine relevance today. While somewhat limited by the space – 30 of these stunning works are jammed whichever way they will fit into the Gasworks foyer and a crowded, shadow and glare filled hallway – Heart and Minds offers a perceptive, refreshingly non-political exploration of the Islamic world. The show’s title is significant, whether or not a deliberate play on George W. Bush’s 2005 mantra. Grieb’s rich, beautifully composed landscapes, architectural studies, street scenes and portraits bypass exoticism to put a human face to peoples and places otherwise subject to the West’s political and theological ruminations. By removing the Middle East from the current context, this striking collection shifts and recasts our gaze. Indeed, Grieb’s 50-year-old photographs tell us a lot more about these people and places than the majority contemporary representations. Daily 9am–5pm, until October 25.
WHAT eX de Medici: Sweet Complicity
WHERE Karen Woodbury Gallery, 4 Albert Street, Richmond, 9421 2500, kwgallery.com
Beauty and brutality have a way of merging. The history of art, film and all manner of cultural production is littered with stylised, outwardly alluring depictions of means, processes and effects of violence. The latest in a string of outstanding shows at Karen Woodbury Gallery sees Canberra artist and tattooist eX de Medici explore such an ambit in equally enthralling, attractive and disturbing scope. Taking AK 47s and various assault rifles her central subject, Medici’s colossally scaled, overwhelmingly detailed pen, ink and mica works are awash with counteracting symbolism and stylisation. In the five-metre-long Tooth and claw, two gigantic weapons (propped up on human skeletons) find themselves enveloped by blue birds, ribbons, flowers and stars; in American Sex/Funky Beat Sex Machine, a cascade of chrysanthemums and human skulls entwine a pair of criss-crossing rifles; in Send More Meat, a weapon floats atop a boiling sea, writhing with Chinese Imperial dragons. Indeed, Medici pushes beyond mere polarity. These major works follow trails of cause and effect, of political and social implication and of various aesthetic traditions. Violence, power, culture and femininity enfold in flux. Wed to Sat 11am–5pm, until October 24.
WHAT Masahiko Tsubota
WHERE Niagara Galleries, 245 Punt Road, Richmond, 9429 3666, niagara-galleries.com.au
Masahiko Tsubota’s minimalist oils take abstraction to its quiet, understated extremes. In his second show at Niagara Galleries, the noted Japanese artist’s new works prove a study in linear gesture, geometrical dot patterns, subtle textures and tones. Even his vividly coloured works are unobtrusive; their detail and changeability is so minute and discreet that it shifts and hones the focus, softening what might otherwise be considered a brash palette. His more muted works – rendered in off-whites, greys and blacks – are punctuated by tiny bleeds of watercolour, delicate lines, Braille-like wax dot configurations and subtle tonal shifts, giving the works an almost meditative sensibility. They are also perhaps his strongest. Tsubota has reduced his art to the very act of painting. His works’ titles refer directly to the elements and processes employed in their creation. Piece by piece, he guides us through the beauty of simplicity. Tues 11am–8pm, Wed to Sat 11am–6pm, until October 24.