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The Sound Barrier : Blog

The latest edition of The Sound Barrier was, in a sense, a microcosm of what the show is really all about: exploring the diversity of ideas that flourish in the new music scene. Usually the show focusses on a particular artist or composer, usually a guest in the studio, and complements that focus with some music, especially long-form pieces, that might bear some relationship with the ideas that are discussed with them.

This weekend, however, there were no guests, no long-form pieces – just two hours of music drawn from recent releases that have come to my attention in one way or another over the past little while: a kind of panoply of examples of the sorts of things the show tries to explore in more detail from week to week.

The bookends for the show were the two tracks of the debut release of Melbourne sound artist Siphonophore, already well known to many in Melbourne's experimental music scene as Evan Carr, both through his presentation until recently of the PBS experimental and electronic music program The Art of Bleep! as well as hiswork with such projects as Astral Flights and Fume in Queues. Lune is his first solo release and reflects Evan's incredible intuitive knack for knowing what sounds work and how they work. Each track builds from a voice recording, coming it seems from somewhere far away in space – which, as a sample from the Apollo 11 mission, it kind of is – into lush electronic colour as melodic fragments and figures shift through different harmonies. Both tracks are named after craters on the moon – the first, Numerov, on the moon's dark side, the second, Van Serg, on the light side. It is entrancing, big music, all generated on or sampled from a Sony Xperia Z3 Compact mobile phone. This is something of a trademark of Evan's work – building the big out of the little and demonstrating what can sometimes be achieved with the most unlikely, and even most modest, equipment.

The bigness of Evan's sounds could hardly be more contrasted with the quiet pickings of notes and tones from Cem Güney. It is music that has its roots in the Wandelweiser school, with its respect for the small notes and for the silences in between them. It is music that draws you into its contemplative internal world, where time seems to change and you find yourself, if you allow yourself to listen, hearing everything that would, in another context, go unnoticed. These moments of contemplation and pause lead to others of quiet, flowing beauty in an album that chronicles the path from loss to gain.

But just as composers create sounds, sometimes they simply hear them too and share that experience with us, such as in the work of Melbourne sound recordist Martin Kay, whose new album, Stadium is made up of a series of unedited sound recordings moving out from the rowdiness of the Melbourne Cricket Ground to the quiet of the Saint Ignatius Church in Richmond. It is a reminder of what John Cage told us eighty years ago – that music is around us everywhere, always, and here Martin takes that music and tells the story of the inner urban landscape and soundscape with it. We listened to both the opening and closing tracks of the album.

The debut release of Melbourne duo Iceclaw with its quietly dark integration of vocals, guitar, synthesiser and effects, draws a powerful sense of connection between the new and the ancient, like an electronic transformation of primal rituals that might have been enacted by the earth itself as it formed. We listened to 'The Abominable Mystery' from this, their self-titled LP: music that reminds us that perhaps we, too, grew out of the same mystery that both repels us and draws us in.

The Beginning of Beginnings is the first solo album to be released by Melbourne's Patrick Kavanagh, from which we heard the closing track 'Grow', with its furious keyboards and synthesised sounds, bursting with energy and drive. It is perhaps a different, and yet far from incompatible, view of what emerges from the rawness and chaos of, as Patrick describes it in the album's liner notes, 'mists of times long gone'. In this track the piano pounds away ferociously, unstoppably, while the noisy train of both history and the future chugs along throughout it all. It is perhaps a reminder that once something has begun, it always leads to a journey you just cannot avoid taking.

All of the albums on this week's show were released over the past few months, and all of are fantastic examples of both the diversity and the inventiveness of what is being created now in new music. Both of these are crucial – the diversity because it reminds us that, even today, there are still a million new things to be discovered in music, a million paths to explore; and the inventiveness because it celebrates the efforts of those who resist the urge to copy what others before them have done and to instead find their own bits of those paths to examine and tell us about.

As always, the playlist and audio for the show are available here on the website for you to listen back to and check out the recording details.

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