‘Find Freedom in Music’: City of Melbourne to Release 40 Albums as Part of Arts Renewal Program | Music
RIt may take years to release an album, but by December, Melbourne-run Heavy Machinery Records label will have ordered and released dozens of them in just over a year as part of Flash Forward – a vast series of commands linking 40 musics. acts with 40 contemporary visual artists, who will bring their work to 40 lanes of Melbourne. The current Covid-19 lockdown in Melbourne has put elements of live performance and public art on hold for now, but its music has started to flow.
Co-funded by the City of Melbourne and the Victorian government, through the $ 500 million Working for Victoria fund, each project received up to $ 20,000 to create a new work. Some artists were invited, while others were chosen through a submission process advertised on Sidekicker. Each version will be pressed on vinyl.
âWhat is astonishing about the project is how [it is] to the grant processâ¦ there’s a really incredible lack of paperwork and red tape, a real confidence, âsays Nigel Yang, half of rock band HTRK, whose fifth studio album, Rhinestones, is released as part of the program on September 17. âJust don’t have to think too much about your concept or your approach, or how your album will ‘open up new markets’ – the lingo you have to get used to when you get government money. “
With their funding, Yang and Jonnine Standish, the other half of HTRK, were able to work full-time on the album for over three months, rather than having to overcome disruption to the creative process by the necessities of ‘extra work – a constant challenge in the past.
âYou could have an idea on Monday, then on Tuesday you can bring it to fruition, rather than two weeks later when you meet again,â says Standish. “We were able to make an album that we really love.”
Strass has been in the works since early 2020, when HTRK started broadcasting a radio show on London’s NTS Radio. When programming the show, Standish and Yang frequently turned to gothic folk and sparse country music to fill their track list – sounds that form the sonic backbone of Rhinestones. Prior to release, the album is sent to radio stations in one go, allowing them to select songs to stream. For many, especially in Melbourne, radio has been a tangible connection to the world beyond lockdown. Strass is a dismal dedication to the medium.
Flash Forward curators have included established Melbourne bands such as HTRK, Emma Donovan & the Putbacks and My Disco in their line-up, but most of the releases on the project are from emerging artists from diverse backgrounds and under-represented musical subcultures.
There’s experimental club music on Female Wizard’s debut album TIE-EE-YIE-EE-YIE-EE-YIME, whose creator Alexander Powers is a much-loved part of the city’s DJ circuit and a member of her trans community. At the far end of the experimental spectrum is Deep Creatures by the Amplified Elephants – a collection of longtime sound artists who identify as neuro-diverse or live with intellectual disabilities including autism, Down’s syndrome and acquired brain damage.
âIt’s a real mix of people in the group,â says group mentor James Hullick, director and CEO of JOLT Arts, the sound art organization that makes the work of the Elephants easier. âAnd that’s one of the best and most exciting things about it. We get that kind of diversity of experience, informing what is produced, what sounds are produced.
The disc is a fantastic and virtually unbeatable underwater tale of a young woman drawn to the sea, who finds a sunken ship, a giant clay urn, and divine sea creatures. A live performance will eventually be presented alongside the works of digital artist and architectural designer Ruofan Lei at Smythe Lane.
Reaching huge commercial audiences is not a reality for artists who make music on the periphery of the avant-garde, like the Elephants. But Hullick thinks that’s irrelevant, seeing the value of experimental music in its ability to open new frontiers of creativity.
âYou could say to them ‘Why did they bother to publish this work so few people want to listen to it? Â», Explains Hullick. âNothing happens if you have this mindsetâ¦ it really tries to benefit humanity at its core, by expanding our understanding of our sensory perception. “
Other albums bridge cultures and contexts, like Mindy Meng Wang’s Phoenix Rising. Wang, who was born in China and now lives in Melbourne, is an expert player of the guzheng, a harp-like instrument with a tradition in Chinese classical music dating back over 2,000 years. Usually rigidly deployed, Wang pushes the ancient instrument in bold directions: improvise, play western chords, incline his strings, or use percussive, slippery notes inspired by slide guitar.
Six of Phoenix Rising’s seven tracks are based on collaborations Wang had not been able to record before, including with Paul Grabowsky and Brian Ritchie of Violent Femmes. Its first side uses acoustic instruments, while the second incorporates electronic textures in a haunting, sometimes jagged, encounter of the old and the new. Its release was associated with an installation of vividly colored abstract paintings in Whitehart Lane, by multidisciplinary graffiti artist Shay Bakar.
âIt’s definitely a much deeper level of conversation between me and my audience. [than my previous albums]Wang says. The album’s title refers to both his pushing the limits technique and offloading the emotional roller coaster of the past 18 months.
âWe have struggled with a lot of complex emotions over the past year, compared to normal times some are definitely more intense and darker,â Wang said. âI wanted people to be able to find light, understand each other and find freedom in music; where they can release those emotions and feel positive, hopeful.