REPRESSED PRESS #1
Welcome to #1 of Repressed Press. Our 2021 Mid Year Round-Up is a slightly daunting task (lots of stuff to cover!) in strange circumstances (the shopfront being closed) but we’ve done our darndest to give you some overview of what’s been going on in many corners of independent music. From here on it'll be published monthly, on our website, in your inbox, heck maybe even in print? Hopefully you’ll find it purposeful.
LOCAL ROCK’N’ROLLAZ (or at least Rock ‘n’ Roll-ish)
Sure, there’s been a stop-start-stop flow to gigging within Sydney so far this year, and things aren’t necessarily looking more promising on that front. But at least there’s been a steady stream of Sydney-centric and internationally linked releases from the tireless local rock’n’roll underground to tide us over (do they ever sleep?). From the Petersham contingent, Devocore-meets-power pop 7”s from Tee-Vee Repairman (hooks galore!) and Mainframe (frenzied inter-continental lockdown email project).
A few stops on the train away, Mope City’s ‘Within The Walls’ hit the spot for down-and-out shredding while Shrapnel’s ‘Alasitas’ cassette reminded of a time when you could see psych/prog/rock in person. Maybe a little further away, but still wanting to claim him as a local, French expat Nathan Roche’s ‘Drink Up, Rainforest Sinatra’ saw a return to the Lou Reed/Alex Chilton homages of his Sydney-years solo LPs.
From interstate, Voice Imitator’s ‘Plaza’ has been on pretty constant rotation in store, particularly favoured for it’s minimal, outside of fashionable trends rock. And who could forget about the return of the Scientists with the first new material in what, 35 years?
Also coming from over the border(s) there’s been a swathe of releases that maybe fit into a rock-ish bracket but with a turn towards songwriting. Goon Sax’s expanded their sonic palette with an album that somehow seemed both more polished and yet more acknowledging of the underground arts histories. Michael Beach and John Sharkey III both released solo albums that brought their more abrasive rock dog/punk backgrounds into a more lyric-forward and introspective format. This has been taken to the zenith by Sarah Mary Chadwick’s latest, with its in your face confessional writing bordering on the uncomfortable—my favourite of her albums so far I reckon!
Also of note were a couple of releases from local labels that linked these crews with like-minds over in the US, namely Poison Ruin’s LP on Urge Records and the Erik Nervous album on Computer Human Records.
THE RETURN OF SOME WEIRDO-DUB CONSCIOUSNESS?
This year so far seems to be a moment of reissuing recently out-of-print/non-LP releases from some sort of dub-adjacent post-punk (or even post-post-punk?) world. I felt as though there was a genuine enthusiasm in the store around artists who deployed a refreshing approach to studio trickery, from the enthusiastic uptake of two new Mosquitoes titles, the reissue of YL Hooi’s ‘Untitled’ LP on Efficient Space, and Exek’s fantastic (and brilliantly titled) ‘Good Thing They Ripped Up The Carpet’ (as well as the reissue of their first LP).
Feel like these releases have made me lean pretty heavily on the word “woozy” while describing music these past few months!
But maybe “dub” is the wrong way to categorise this area? Lots of other favourites in the store seem to slot in alongside this abstract, post-genre category. Cube’s ‘Drug of Choice’ blurred the bounds between post-punk/industrial/contemporary warped electronics in a similar way. The same could also be said for the Horn of Plenty reissue of Francis Plange’s proggy ‘Rural Objects’, or even the ambient/new aginess of Troth whose latest tape flew off the shelves (and is now out of print…) but who's equally-great ‘Flaws In The Glass’ LP from last year is still available. Heck, maybe I’d even go so far as to lump in the Oz Waves archival compilation on Efficient Space in there too, with its excavated warped pop gems!
METAL: HEAVY & LOUD IT SETS ME FREE
In contrast to the new-age, headdy dubb-ish delights mentioned above Metal has placed quite the role in heavy times. While Faceless Burial and Internal Rot ruled the first lockdown, Brisbane’s premier avant-garde death metal group Portal have provided two new albums for lockdown #2.
‘Avow’ feels like a continuum of Portal's vision: completely disorientating, atonal and incomprehensible metal compositions. Imagine Stockhausen composing a piece for Gorguts, or a midpoint between Glenn Branca and Morbid Angel. ‘Hagbulbia’ is a “paranormal companion piece” to Avow, and hits an Abruptum level of dread. Like a wind tunnel to the molten centre of the earth. Bizarre and engulfing music.
Globally, the Metal underground seems pretty healthy at the moment right? Labels like Dark Descent, Nuclear War Now, 20 Buck Spin, Sentient Ruin Laboratories, Blood Harvest and Me Saco Un Ojo facilitate the good stuff from all corners of the Earth.
PARTY WITH ME PUNKER
We’ve chosen the above 7”s (best punk format) to represent the last half year in punk but much more has happened than that. Reek Minds on 11PM Records raised the crazy, a long needed reissue of Nog Watt’s Fear 7", and Alien Nosejob’s second 7” in the USHC style really hit the spot. Don’t forget to cip top Sydney 7”s, we are talking about Perspex and Histamine of course!
Two thrilling releases from Melbourne’s Hardcore Victim label. Execution - Silently It Grows 7" EP, Reaksi - Esok Hari Kepunyaan Kita 7" have renewed and refined particular zones of HC. Reaksi with their UK82 style sung in their native Bahasa language, and Execution with their mutation of Italian Hardcore.
If you want an entry into the contemporary underground of rhythmic electronic music, Butter Sessions Records have done you a solid with 3 compilation LPs in celebration of their 10th birthday! There’s contributions from Vanessa Worm, Guy Contact, Ewan Jansen, Ivy Barkakati, Sleep D, Haruka, Albrecht La'Brooy, Low Flung & DJ Mind Leaf & The Herbalist, Cale Sexton, Roza Terenzi, Mousse, Nummer, Polito, Sedgwick, Turner Street Sound, Mosam Howieson, D. Tiffany, Ben Fester, Makeda, Furious Frank and Ben Keynes.
In related news, Butter Session aficionados will want to grab the new Sleep D x Ad Lib Collective LP ‘Flashed Glass.’ The first release for the Play On inprint that, “marries the euphoria of the concert hall and the club, presenting a rich sonic universe for the listener to discover.”
Our featured Newcastle releases are not exactly continuing the Bloody Fist legacy, but certainly splashing a certain post-industrial flavour onto electronic music. TSAP might fit just outside the last 6 month bracket but their low-bpm creepers keep crawling out of the shadows and onto the listening station. Collector is back with a clang with some real grit and texture between the blown out analogue rhythms.Their new LP ‘Lowered Ute’ reminded me of my youth exposure to both Godflesh-adjacent electronic projects and industrial/“illbient" Hip Hop production.
“YOU STILL SELL CASSETTES?”
With pressing backlogs and delays as they are at the moment, maybe tapes (and CDs!) are the future? Three notable labels seem to have been ahead of the curve so far this year.
Altered States have not let up in their coverage of contemporary Australian (and occasionally overseas) electronic-forward experimental/techno/ambient/etc, with killer releases from Loose-y Crunche, Low Flung, The Zone, Bluetung, and 1Too. These have been accompanied by some archival releases, digging up overlooked gems from Sydney’s underground experimental/electronic history from Carnage and Patrick Gibson & Michael Tee.
Chemical Imbalance have kept us stocked with the latest antipodean outsider sounds, including a modular synth tape from Nick Dan (xNOBBQx) and a double cassette archival release of improv sessions from The Sha.
Brisbane’s Eternal Soundcheck label continues their winning streak. They’ve expanded their basement (or stilted sharehouse?) rock vision to warm and friendly synth pop from Pretty In Pink and Friture. Not to mention a 10th anniversary edition of the certified banger, Kitchen's Floor’s ‘Look Forward To Nothing’, on cassette for the very first time.
Heaps of other cassette releases also keeping us across the grassroots, with releases from Tenth Court (Shrapnel, Mope City EP), Knotwilg (Club Sound Witches, Destrifan), Blowblood (the A Long Time Alone comps, The Red Engine Group) and a bunch more!
EXPERIMENTAL / FREE JAZZ
We’re still sorting thru the hefty box that came from Blank Forms Editions a couple of months back! The Graham Lambkin box surprisingly sold like hotcakes, but there’s still plenty of records and CDs that are still grabbing our attention. Oz-abroad cello and voice offerings from Judith Hamann, weirdo soul-inflected post-punk from Still House Plants, instrumental post-rock from Afuma Songs, Japanese free jazz/rock from Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit, vocal free jazz from Patty Waters, La Monte-esque drone from Catherine Christer Hennix, releases from Maryanne Amacher… phew!
That’s not to mention the books… Poetic musings from Loren Connors, Thulani Davis, and Joseph Jarman, a hefty collection of Christer Hennix writings, and the ever-great Blank Forms journals.
I’ve got a feeling our association with Austin label Astral Spirit (who run the gamut of free jazz, to 21st Century composition) and Belgium’s Knotwilg Records (a delightful portal to accessible experimental music) will continue as long as humanly possible!
The Private Eyes series from Bedroom Suck tied us over with a batch of lockdown-composed ambient releases, from the shimmering melodic improv of Thirroul’s Blue Divers, to the minimalist piano overtones of Monica Brooks (sadly now out of stock!), ambient folk of Andrew Tuttle & Padang Food Tigers, synth explorations of Low Flung, the jazz inflected LP by Matthew Hayes & Charlie Perry.
A late entry (fresh off the delivery truck) is Paul Chain Is Dead from a label that’s carving out an inexplicable niche for uniquely headscratchers, Horn Of Plenty. Paul Chain is a cult doom metal figure, Italian autodidact and multi-instrumentalist. Bonkers outside Heldon-esque stuff on first listen, and I’m sure a lot more is to be revealed.
Who knows, what the rest of 2021 is gonna bring (hopefully a situation where case numbers/vaccines mean we can open the shopfront again!). But still plenty of new releases that we’re excited about hopefully coming our way in the coming weeks, including new music from Stefan Christiansen, Maxine Funke, The Avonden (on Lewsberg’s Soft Office label!), Research Reactor Corp, new tapes from Penultimate Press, as well as new releases/restocks from Alter, Feel It, Richie’s Records/Petty Bunco, and Sophomore Lounge. Look out for further newsletters to keep across the good stuff!