I openly admit to suffering from cultural cringe. Especially when it comes to local films and music, particularly experimental music. But I can’t recommend strongly enough this double-disc compilation of Melbourne based noise artists. Seriously. Noise has been boring me of late, but this has rejuvenated my interest in a genre that I was starting to feel stagnant for me.
If I hadn’t recognised some of the names on the back of this deliciously packaged release I probably wouldn’t have bought it. Marco Fusinato is a visual artist/noisemaker that I’ve admired for some time (and years ago I used to work a shitty job with) (check out his awesome installation at ACCA a few years back), Rob Mason used to drum for the mighty Grey Daturas, and I’ve written about Ben Andrews’ (of My Disco) alter ego Blarke Bayer in a previous post.
What’s fucking awesome about Knife Culture, especially given it’s a compilation (which I generally avoid because they usually feel like bunch of random tracks slapped together) is that Sabbatical has put real thought into the track listing to ensure each piece flows on from the next, and that each disc has its own character arc. So many noise records feel like improvised recordings chucked together and released willy nilly. Not this.
At 29 songs spread over two discs, it’s impossible to provide a decent sense of Knife Culture’s scope, but some standout moments include: a super slow burner by Wife, that starts off with spasmodic fuzz and then cuts to silence before gently building into a comforting drone; a shimmering whirr by Justin K Fuller that sounds like Emeralds smoking crack with that Richard Pinhas/Merzbow collaboration; spooky rattles, crunches and feedback from the Bleach Boys; Marco Fusinato turning guitar debris into a sharp blast of distorted gunk; blown-out walls of noise from Screwtape; a playful collage by Steve Law that makes me think of early Merzbow; and a hollowed out, grim and frosty dirge from Krystoffkrvstoffiston.
Nothing on Knife Culture stretches out much further than the 7 or 8 minute mark, and every piece on here is stronger for it. Each track feels focused on a specific concept, which enriches the listening experience. I’m sure there are plenty of Australian readers rolling their eyes at this post but I urge you to check this out. I doubt you’ll be disappointed and I think that if Sabbatical can keep up with releases of this quality, Australian noise merchants might find themselves appearing on the world map. Hell, the guy at Polyester Records raved about this when I took it up to the counter, so if you don’t want to take my word for it, take his instead.