Drowning Brisbane, or, why I love my writing buddies

watermarks in cosmos 57: art by joe whyte, story by jason nahrung

In 2007, I wrote a short story in which Brisbane had been inundated by risen sea levels, and where the poor squat in flooded high rises under the threat of solar irradiation while the rich survive high and dry in air conditioned comfort. But the yarn wasn’t working. Hence it’s home in the folder for unfinished yarns.

This year, I dredged that story up, ditched some unnecessary scenes and then … It still wasn’t working. So I flung it to my writing group, Supernova, who identified structural and prose problems, chiefly a plot element that wasn’t working, ill-defined characters, great puddles of lazy prose. It was, as I admitted shamefacedly as I asked them to help me fix this broken thing, a setting in need of a story.

cosmos 57 magazineSo I ran the changes and … It still wasn’t working.

Luckily, a few pals (Rob, Kate and Mark, to give credit where it’s due) from my former Queensland writing group were down for a writerly getaway and I ran the rewrite past them and Kirstyn (again). As previously, I didn’t take all the advice from everyone, some of it just didn’t fit, but some of it was gold. Pure gold.

I realised what the story was and who it was about. Structure emerged from the fog.

With the Android Lust album Crater Vol.1 on repeat, I added the detail to breathe some life into a formerly pallid world — detail is king — and, hooray, the story, now called ‘Watermarks’, has sold, to this month’s Cosmos magazine, issue 57. That sensational artwork above, for the cover page for the story, is by Melbourne-based Joe Whyte. (I’m now a fan. It’s the use of light, I think. Seriously, check this out!)

To have a group of like-minded writers able to tease at a story and make constructive suggestions, to brainstorm with, is just so valuable. I love my writing buddies.

And the good thing is, in writing this story, I’ve realised just how huge its world is. There’s more to come — I just hope it doesn’t take another seven years.

Advertisements

Android Lust, telling tales without words on Crater Vol 1

crater vol 1Android Lust (US-based Shikhee) knows how to get down and dirty, electronically; she’s been flying my industrial flag since Nine Inch Nails went on hiatus, Trent Reznor heading off to greener, arguably happier places with his new outfit and his soundtrack work for movies and, most recently, a video game.

Now, on Crater Vol 1, AL is following that trajectory and proves just as adept.

I wish I knew the narrative guiding this album — and it is an album, ebbing and flowing across a sonic terrain of synthesisers, keyboards, vocalisations. How interesting, though, to mix up the playing order and seeing how that changes the nature of the tale …

I’m getting a low-fi NIN vibe on ‘I Need to Know’ — probably the most likely candidate for a single and one of only three songs here, AL’s voice restrained amid the fuzz and keys. ‘From the Other Side’ has breathy vocals gliding like morning fog over flowing, bouncing rhythms that echo AL’s previous footprints. On ‘Here and Now’, she again channels previous patterns to set what feels like the sublime point of no return.

Of course, the beauty of the instrumental album isn’t necessarily the story the artist has in their head, but the one it tells inside your own. Here, there is water, grey with clouds; travel, solitude .. there are mountains and perhaps, stark cherry blossoms, yearning, indecision.

‘First Man’, a halfway marker, feels like the closing of a curtain on the first act, the sensation exacerbated by the slow, woodwind and bamboo-style opening of the proceeding piece, ‘When the Rains Came’, building like a spring rainstorm from the first drops to the downpour, all golden from distant, low-slanted sunlight.

Yaakuntik is a one-minute bridge; ‘Precipice’ closes the album with an eight-minute sail through a lapping lake, a place of stillness and quiet beauty, fading into an inky night. Not so much a fall from a precipice as a gentle subsidence, a tender acceptance.

Had the album been named River Styx, it would’ve suited perfectly. Crater — what does it mean? The Pacific rim of fire? A caldera? Dust settling after the moment of impact? Ooh …

Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Crater Vol 1 shows an artist making a foray into new terrain, so very smoothly, and provides a most pleasant aural zone where one can trail one’s fingers in another’s dreams and make them one’s own.

Crater Vol. 1 is due to be in general release by the end of the month. I take heart that the name suggests there’s more to come.

Collide, bent but far from broken

collide band

Listening to electro duo Collide is a little like walking by the ocean; a quiet, calming ocean. But as with that aquatic environment, beneath the surface, there are currents to pull you in unexpected directions, rips to take you deeper. And that is what the mammoth remix double album Bent and Broken (Noiseplus), kindly downloaded to me by the band, has explored, tagging the essence and developing the core of the music to take it further. So not just those calming rhythms, but the crash and foam as well.

Prime example is ‘Chaotic’, from the 2008 album Two Headed Monster, itself a rollicking, infectious tune. There are three versions on Bent and Broken — one mesmerising with strings, another yet more chaotic with electro pop and whizz, the third even further ramped up with the fuzz into a dancefloor firecracker.

There are also three versions of ‘In the Frequency’, making it equal favourite for remixing, and two of four others. All up, there are 26 tracks split 15/11 on Bent and Broken, mostly reimagining Two Headed Monster and last year’s Counting to Zero (reviewed here): two hours of largely dreamy soundscape. There is also a sprinkling of new material: ‘Orgy’, a worthy cover of a The Glove song that makes the most of kaRIN’s understated snarl; straight-up Collide-style ‘Bent and Broken’, and a cinematic cover of Queen’s ‘She Makes Me’ featuring acoustic guitar.

Matched with Statik’s musical chops — this album’s production rewards listening through headphones — kaRIN’s vocals are one of Collide’s assets: distinctive, seductive, malleable, swinging from seductive to ominous to pacific.

So I probably could’ve done without the fast-forward/rewind whimsy of ‘kaRIN, You’re Not Yourself Today’, but it’s a single blip on an otherwise smooth journey.

collide album bend and brokenA highlight is dreamy ‘Lucky 13 (Damaged mix)’, ramped up with industrial stylings that provide a darker, almost ironic cast. It doesn’t surprise it comes courtesy of Android Lust, whose next album is being Kickstarted towards completion.

‘Tears Like Rain (Cloudburst mix)’, such an awesome line from the movie Blade Runner, here drops the pace into maudlin territory, gentle keys creating the soft pitter patter of hopes and dreams slowly melting; the Psych-Nein mix transports ‘Tears Like Rain’ into a casbah discotechque.

‘Clearer (Serrated Edge mix)’ is smoother than the name suggests, but has one of the heavier beats and widest ranges, from an almost industrial attack to minimal electronic hand claps.

And so on, with extra beats here, trip hop there; candlelight anthem here, dancefloor there.

The album closes with a seven-and-a-half-minute meditation of ‘Utopia’. Ahh.

Konqistador amps up world music with Suada

This is the promo video for the new album by Konqistador, late of Melbourne and North America, now of Istanbul, and it’s the barest taste of the thoroughly entertaining Suada.Fortunately, they’ve kindly made audio tracks of the album available at YouTube so you can indulge before you buy (have a listen, name your price, download away at bandcamp).

I’ve been thrashing it lately — four days of writing have been conducted largely to this, Kidneythieves and Android Lust; Gary Numan’s Jagged can’t be far off — so here’s a guided tour:

Suada is an intriguing album. Emotional, transportative, at times meditative, others stirring, a real sine wave of sparse and dense.

courage riot of konqistador‘Harcanan Kotu’ opens with a chop and change of percussion, bass and fuzz, borrowing a riff from ‘Evil Gotten Evil Spent’ on Konqistador’s ‘Courage Riot album which showed strong Middle Eastern influences.

There follows three tracks that are more obviously rock tunes: ‘Albastru’, gothic and seductive with a delicious hint of menace; ‘Suada’, showcasing the world music and electronic elements with a jaunty beat; and ‘Brancovan’, offering hints of poppy hair metal, a wonderful anthem that leaps from the speakers and demands attention.

There follows a more scenic second stretch, introduced by the low noise of ‘Izul’ that suggests a mysterious, perhaps spooky journey ahead. Wind noise and muted arabesque vocals further suggest a lost time or remoteness, slowly giving way to electro, almost SF, effects evoking the weird, the Gothic and the haunted. A superb introduction, it probably doesn’t stand alone as well as other pieces here.

This lends the album a feeling of being a collection of mini-landscapes, an anthology rather than a novel, and what an enjoyable journey it is.

Izul is followed by ‘With Eyes Shut’, a sweeping choral opening complemented by belly dance jangle and whispered lyrics, industrial sounds contrasting with the drums giving way to electric guitar-led cruise and some bursts of subdued electronica to provide some light and shade.

This is where I was most likely to drift off – not necessarily a bad thing – and ‘Rafqa’ pulled me back after the fade.
‘Rafqa’ bustles with percussion and vocals. It stands out for being a relatively straightforward song amidst the more atmospheric offerings of this section – a transition or perhaps demarcation between the more instrumental works?

The album jumps to ‘From the Ruins’, a comparatively sparse Greek guitar-and-synth instrumental that drops us back into a more desolate, though relatively pacific, landscape.

suada by konqistadorDreamy ‘Keykubat’ is much more lush; it brings percussion to the fore, with ethereal vocals, synths and a gradual building of tension. It wouldn’t have been out of place on Trent Reznor’s soundtrack to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It hits a lot of my buttons thanks to the vocals and synth textures.

‘Huzun’ offers a quiet fall away to keyboard/electronic instrumental with choir, an interlude that gives way to percussion and then changes gear with swelling requiem organ under a driving percussive beat and then into fade.

And finally we have the closer ‘O Yar Katit Darom’, resetting yet again with its quiet start. The vocals add to its meld of Arabia and India; quite a contrast to ‘Huzun’. It’s a particularly long piece at 13 minutes, caught in its percussive groove before again we have the swell, reminiscent of Ministry’s ‘Khyber Pass‘. The SF effects add contrast, a flying saucer landing in the middle of a bazaar, perhaps with a windstorm in effect, indicating the end of a musical wander through varied yet complementary sonic terrain.

spaceships and dreamers (part one) by christopher antonIF something more retro is your style — say, ’80s dancey and all Depeche Mode-y / Human League-y — have a taste of Christopher Anton’s Spaceships and Dreamers (Part One). You have permission to boogie.

Wolf Parade and other unknown pleasures

A tip-toe through MySpace revealed these nuggets:

Wolf Parade, based in Quebec, synths meet guitars, akin to She Wants Revenge blinded by a disco ball. Infectious beat but there’s more to them than that, methinks.

Still not sure about Semi Precious Weapons: once you get past the bang factor of their potty-mouthed eponymous track, I think they might be just another garage band (albeit quite a good one).

I thought I should’ve liked Pendulum (heading our way), what, with all that black and a single called Witchcraft, but alas, despite some promising moments, it was all just too slick and ran off the ears.

And I still haven’t caught up with the latest long-player from The Dead Weather, whose previous, debut, album gave the ears a grand old workout (thanks, Jack).

Which leaves me contemplating the forthcoming tour of Peter Hook “and friends”, the Joy Division and New Order bassist playing JD’s Unknown Pleasures album in full, with other choice morsels from the catalogue. I’m struggling: it might be sensational, or it might just be a tribute band that happens to include an original band member. The presence of a resurrected Wreckery as support spices the deal, but still …

Speaking of JD, I’ve been listening to a lot of them lately, through headphones, and been surprised to hear yet more nuances I hadn’t detected previously. Martin Hannett, you were a genius working with very clever young men.

And finally, two new releases to cause impolite degrees of salivation: a new album from Android Lust, and a re-release of Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting with tasty, remastered extras.