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Deep Dive #10 – Ernie Althoff “Dark By 6” CD

Ernie Althoff is a Melbourne sound artist and instrument maker active in Australian experimental music since the late 1970s. He is unique not only for the original textures and sonic elements he creates, often tempered with wry humour, but also for his practically continuous contribution to and participation in the Melbourne experimental music community for over three decades.

Althoff’s recorded documentation is extensive, and Shame File Music makes available all currently in-print titles plus a range of digital offerings. It’s an impossible task to choose a key work, but I regularly come back to the 2005 “Dark By 6” CD, which documents five of Althoff’s early 2000s installations. These works are sprawling both spatially and musically, incorporating chance operations as overlapping rhythms through his trade mark kinetic sound sculptures, often driven by turntables and cassette players. I love to listen to these recordings and identify particular objects by their sound; for instance, the bell-like aluminium bowls on “The Emergence of Mammals”, which Ernie gifted to me a number of years ago, whose tones I know very well.

Shame File Music also hosts an archive of Althoff’s early cassette releases, as well as his most recent work “Symmetry Marred By Impulse

Use the code ERNIE for 10% off all Ernie Althoff releases (expires 24 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #9 – Jessica Aszodi “Prayer For Nil” 2LP

Jessica Aszodi is justifiably often heralded as the leading soprano in Australian new music, and her stunning debut album is testament to her stunning voice and dedication to the most cutting edge contemporary composition.

Prayer For Nil” is a beautifully-packaged double LP ( with deluxe film-laminated ‘Tip-On’ gatefold jackets) with each side dedicated in full to a work by four of Australia’s most vital contemporary composers: Anthony Pateras, Alexander Garsden, James Rushford and Jeanette Little. The vinyl is spun at 45RPMs to deliver maximum fidelity, and limited to 500 copies. Below is an excerpt from Aszodi’s liner notes on each composition:

In Anthony Pateras’ Prayer for Nil the electronics are a swell of voices so dense they seem inhuman, amassed like a threatening cloud. As the piece unfolds the masses thin to a taper. By its conclusion the solitary singer is left brutally alone, though it’s hard to tell if she wasn’t alone the whole time – every voice in the throng was her own – my own. The ‘live vocal’ part is a highly structured improvisation. Anthony gave me a set of rules, pitches, and rhythms. Within the electronic field, and those restrictions, I had to find an improvisatory freedom. This approach could be seen as a metaphor for the whole process of making the album – the composers and I trying to find ways to understand one another, building a shared understanding of the musical objectives, negotiating varying degrees of control and freedom – and inside this discourse, me trying to find a way to be present in realising the sounds as myself.

In [ja] maser Alexander Garsden deals with very specific relationships between groups of pitches and non-traditional vocal utterances to create cresting swarms of noisy vocality that grow, splinter and re-germinate. In the second half of the piece a more vulnerable voice emerges, broken and crumpled in the low depths of my range. The composer bids me gradually to ascend to the highest extremes of my instrument’s capacity until that too fractures and breaks. [ja] maser, was for me, a physically extreme experience of my own limits and subjection. The musical notation was the most specific and traditional of the four pieces; perhaps surprisingly, the experience of making the sounds was the most embodied and phenomenally intense.

The fabric of wind is the piece in the group that is most overtly inspired by the composer-performer relationship. James’ composed material was conveyed to me though an audio-score, piped point-blank into my ear, rather than via notation. The sounds you hear are a combination of James’ and my voices, and his and my performances on various auxiliary instruments and objects. In the piece, James “attempt(s) to speak a written text whilst being constantly disrupted by various wind instruments and objects that are inserted into my mouth. Some of these recordings are heard within the piece in playback form… Out of this process emerges two inter-connected characters – my own desperate and confused, and Jessica’s more calming yet somewhat stuttered. A deeply intimate conversation of mangled speech and murmured singing results, unclear in meaning but rich in expression.” (Rushford)

In Mechanical Bride, my singing voice represents anima in an automated world. The text comes from Enrico Cavacchioli’s 1914 poem, ‘Let the moon be damned’, in which he describes a decaying environment where humans entwine with machines. The dystopic picture painted in this poem, now 100 years old, still convinces. As I perform this piece, I stage inside myself a battle between flaw-filled human expressivity and savage, ancient machines. Jeanette’s sound world pays homage to an analogue era, referencing mid-century modernist instrumental and electronic techniques in a milieu that is something like a space-western.

Each piece on the record is its own microcosm of unfolding connections, decisions and influences; it feels silly to try to characterise them as a group. If there is a common thread amongst them, it’s that they all push my vocalic body towards its limits. The voice on this record is not the voice of a unified and cogent human person, it’s the mutable voice of someone wailing unrestrained in passionate argument – as people who know each other well are sometimes wont to do.

Use the code ASZODI for 10% off “Prayer For Nil” (expires 22 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #8 – Conlon Nancarrow “Studies For Player Piano” 4CD

American-born composer Conlon Nancarrow spent most of his career working in isoloation in Mexico composing for player pianos (pianolas). His works attempted to go beyond the limits of human performance in pre-electronic music era by using these automated instruments that he adapated over a long period of time. The results are astounding and unique works I’m pretty sure are unlike anything else.

The definitive recording of these works are collected in the “Studies For Player Piano” 4CD set. Originally released on LP by 1750 Arch Records, newly remastered in spectacular sound, it represents the most faithful reproduction of what Conlon Nancarrow heard in his own studio. This is the only available recording utilizing Nancarrow’s original instruments: two 1927 Ampico player pianos, one with metal-covered felt hammers and the other with leather strips on the hammers. Enclosed 52- page booklet contains the original liner notes by James Tenney, an essay by producer Charles Amirkhanian, and 24 illustrations. The studies are presented in their original order, selected by the composer. Essential listening for anyone interested in 20th century music.

Use the code NANCARROW for 10% off Conlon Nancarrow releases (expires 21 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #7 – Overtone Ensemble “2” CD

Tim Catlin formed the Overtone Ensemble in 2012 in order to perform works using his self-made Vibrissa instruments. The Vibrissa includes twelve vertically mounted aluminium rods that are longitudinally stroked with gloved hands to produce ethereal “singing” tones. The long sustaining nature of the rods sound and microtonal tunings allow players a sonic palette of complex textures and harmonic complexity. The Ensemble also features Dave Brown, Philip Brophy and Atticus Bastow.

2” is the Ensemble’s most recent release. The majority of the recordings were done in the Old Chapel building in Melbourne. The chapel, formerly attached to the Old Melbourne Gaol boasts 10 metre high ceilings which added an enveloping acoustic ambience. At times it “felt as though the spectral presences of former inmates were hovering benevolently in the rafters watching on”. A real Metallic K.O.

Use the code OVERTONE for 10% off Overtone Ensemble releases (expires 20 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #6 – DFFDL “Corella” cassette

DFFDL is the ambient drone project of Melbourne sound artist Anthony Cooley. Through static drones, floating layers of hiss and glacially slow ambience, DFFDL creates an undeveloped snapshot of a feeling and lets the listener develop the details inside.

Recorded at the end of 2019 in Melbourne and Tokyo, Corella is the latest release from drone-ambient maker DFFDL. Examining the prison industry and Ararat’s gated prison community Corella Place, this interpretive piece invites you to bear witness to a backdrop of blurring days and nights as you examine the past that led you here and wonder what’s left of the future. An outstanding drone/ambient release. Also available is DFFDL’s 2018 split cassette with ambient/drone project Scenic Recovery.

Use the code DFFDL for 10% off DFFDL-related releases (expires 17 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #5 – Fia Fiell “All In the Same Room” LP

Fia Fiell’s (AKA Carolyn Schofield) recorded output is scant and all-the-more precious for that scarcity. Schofield offers finely wrought electronic/keyboard-orientated compositions that one could describe as low-key ambient, yet that belies their complexity and beauty.

All In the Same Room” is her second, and most-recent release. Originally released on cassette and reissued here on vinyl, this is a release I return regularly to for the music’s warmth and presence; it’s almost like it occupies the room when I spin the disc.

Fia Fiell has been presenting some great new work live over the recent couple of years; we anxiously await future recordings…

Use the code FIA for 10% off “All In The Same Room” (expires 16 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #4 – Dale Gorfinkel “Switches & Hose” LP/CD

Melbourne-based multi-instrumentalist, instrument-builder, and improviser Dale Gorfinkel is a musical chameleon (sometimes masked as well) who creates work full of humour and beauty. “Switches & Hose” was his debut solo album, lovingly documenting his instruments made from irrigation hose, foot pumps, bird cages, modified trumpet and vibraphones. Despite the eccentric instrumentation, the music has moments of gentle beauty and regularly invites a fascination with just how he achieves the unique sounds therein.

Gorfinkel has also been a prolific organiser and collaborator in several collective efforts, including the quietcore improv group Snacks (with Jen Callaway, Alannah Stewart and regular guests) and the masked reed ensemble Prophets.

Use the code DALE for 10% off Dale Gorfinkel-related releases (expires 15 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #3 – Arek Gulbenkoglu “Three Days Afterwards” LP

Arek Gulbenkoglu has been releasing under-the-radar, low key, yet astonishing work for a number of years. It’s difficult to assign a convenient classification to his varied but always-unique output; perhaps Jon Dale summed it up best here:

If you’ve been following Arek Gulbenkoglu’s recorded work over the past six years, or so, you’ll have come to expect a certain consistency in surprise, a capacity for his small-run CD-Rs, and two LPs on Penultimate Press, to catch the listener unawares. It’s not so much that his approach is sui generis, though I think you could make a pretty convincing argument for this, if you were so inclined. It’s more to do with a very particular sensibility – perhaps even a broader ideological position on the possibilities of organised sound, much as that may read as glibly academic in tone. This is someone who knows what they want, and what they’re doing.

All his work is worthy of your attention, but “Three Days Afterwards” stands out for me as his most affecting. From the almost voyeuristic locations recordings which open the side to the shearing bleeps which close it, we’re spun between intensely purified microtonal oscillations and spare, pointillist percussions according an underlying logic which evades easy categorisation. Impenetrably encrypted electronic abstraction.

Use the code AREK for 10% off Arek Gulbenkoglu releases (expires 14 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #2 – Anthony Pateras “Collected Works: 2002-2012” 5CD box set

Anthony Pateras is one of Australia’s most significant new music composer of the last two decades. Shame File Music makes available all of his in-print releases, including those from his Immediata label (including collaborations with Chris Abrahams (176), Erkki Veltheim, Jerome Noetinger, Pateras/Baxter/Brown, Rohan Drape, and Mike Patton (tetema). The Himalayan giants that stand within that landscape are the two “Collected Works” 5CD box sets, each accompanied with detailed liner notes. “Collected Works” documents the many aspects of Pateras’ music output, including chamber and orchestra pieces, string quartets and small ensembles, as well as electronic works and prepared piano. Listening alongside Pateras’ detailed and revealing (and occasionally self-critical) liner notes is a deep dive itself his music.

Use the code PATERAS for 10% off Anthony Pateras-related releases (expires 13 June 2022). As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.

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Deep Dive #1 – Von Einem “The Von Einem Tapes” 2CD

The Von Einem Tapes collects the full discography of Mark Groves’ Von Einem solo project, released on several short-run cassettes from 2011-2014. The resulting 2 CDs represent an impressive minimalistic power electronics collection. The Von Einem project takes its subject matter from various documented acts of depravity purported around Adelaide and South Autralia – not just related to the murders that the project name references, but also numerous documented instances of murders committed by police officers. The Von Einem canon is a taut, focussed conceptual work that alludes to themes of dole-class drug cultures and ennui as gateways to violence for its own sake. Groves holds his sonic weapons close to his chest; there are none of the walls of white noise you’ve heard a million times before here. Instead, each blast and clang is laden with foreboding and dread meaning.

Groves has several solo and collaborative projects under different monikers. This aspect is not to be confused with more typical multitude of identities common in noise-related music, but a series of discrete projects often centred on specific textual sources; Absurd Cosmos Late Nite seems to source overheard conversations in local convenience stores alongside YouTube comments and workplace tearoom rants, whilst Red Wine and Sugar (Groves’ duo with Samaam Fieck) draws on suburban uber-mundanity and psychological breakdown. Where projects like Von Einem and Dead Boomers (in collaboration with Leith Thomas) employed aspects of harsh noise and power electronics, these more recent outings are more low-key sonic affairs, but somehow still intense and riveting. Groves’ output has become a unique voice in underground music, constantly shifting and developing, but always essential listening.

Use the code GROVES for 10% off Mark Groves-related releases (expires 10 June 2022).

As always, free postage for orders within Australia over $100.