In 2011, Chapter released a 30th anniversary reissue of Palimpsest, the one and only album by Melbourne post-punk icons Essendon Airport. Recorded in December 1981, Palimpsest is now reborn as a double album with a whole bonus suite of live and unreleased studio recordings spanning 1980-83.
Formed in 1978 as a mimimalist duo of guitarist Robert Goodge and keyboardist David Chesworth, Essendon Airport released their landmark 7” EP Sonic Investigations Of the Trivial on Chesworth’s Innocent Records in 1979. Chapter Music reissued Sonic Investigations way back in 2002, as a CD including second single Talking To Cleopatra (with vocalist Anne Cessna) and a raft of bonus tracks.
Originally gentle and inquisitive, with beats supplied by a drum machine built from plans printed in an electronics magazine, Essendon Airport began to expand after Sonic Investigations and explore the possibilities of rhythm. First came classically-untrained drummer Paul Fletcher, and then saxophonist Ian Cox, to form the four piece lineup heard on Palimpsest
With its dryly intoned vocals, flailing polyrhythms and a post- modern fascination with appropration and quotation, the album is an eccentric post-punk classic. The album title means “a manuscript page from which the text has been scraped off to be used again”, while the original liner notes state “all” “songs” “written” “and” “produced” “by” “Essendon Airport”.
After Palimpsest, Essendon Airport added bassist Barbara Hogarth and grew to become one of inner city Melbourne’s premiere live attractions. “Creative differences”, however, saw them disband in 1983, with Cox, Goodge and Hogarth forming I’m Talking that same year with singer Kate Ceberano. The bonus material collates 18 previously unheard recordings, from the duo period to the impressively muscular, previously undocumented five piece lineup.
The original 1982 vinyl version of Palimpsest was presented in a screen-printed plastic cover, and for the CD version it has been faithfully replicated as a nifty clear plastic overlay.