Title: Passages, Volumes One-Three
Release Date: 2015 Jan 19
License: CC BY-NC-ND
Label: New Weird Australia
[Ed. Note: Because this is a three volume release, I will only link to the primary page for New Weird Australia’s releases. The albums are the first three on the page.]
Am I really reviewing Passages, Volumes One-Three from New Weird Australia? This is a massive collection: three volumes, and over fifty tracks! I would find it difficult to say that I can write a cohesive review of such a massive work, with barely any repeat artists. On the other hand I feel the necessity to try to do some justice to this massive work to document a unique project and interesting body of works.
Passages, Volumes One-Three
Sometimes the briefest BandCamp profile can also be the most revealing. In this case, NWA’s profile was intriguing, but quite general: “Free eclectic and experimental Australian music.” Honestly for someone that is unfamiliar with the label, it only sets a little bit out there. However, it was digging around on the New Weird Australia website that explained things, and offered some slightly depressing news… But first things first:
New Weird Australia was an initiative designed to promote and support new eclectic and experimental Australian music through a variety of unique projects. Neither one genre nor another, New Weird Australia put the spotlight on a new breed of innovative Australian artists and challenges our understanding of what music should be.
If you noted that passage was in the past tense, then the part of the news that is slightly depressing will be quite evident:
New Weird Australia concluded its operations in January 2015.
It seems like this is somewhat typical of my timing. Finding a set of releases, or a label, that has shut down before I could explore it’s depths. Fortunately for me, the releases of Passages presents a good starting point for digging into their catalog of music.
Passages, as the release notes explain is a compilation of music previously released by the project over the last five years. Each volume was curated by one of the founders of New Weird Australia.
Volume One was compiled by Stuart Buchanan, and features works that a very rhythmically oriented, and very organic in sound. There isn’t a lot of electronic music here, except for the occasional organ or calliope-type sound. It feels very rooted in the culture of Australia, and it takes a lot of uniquely Australian elements and turns them on their ear.
Volume Two was curated by Andrew Tuttle. This release reaches into some more abstract and electronic based works. In many cases these are more melodic works than the pieces featured on Volume One. A number of tracks have an almost pop sound to them, but none of them are standard formulaic works.
Volume Three was curated by Innez Tulloch. As much as there was going to be music that is close to the mainstream, or what I perceive to be mainstream music in Australia, this would be it. It’s noisy, loud, bangy, electronic. It’s punk rock music that is twisted, stretched and pulled in different directions.
I find myself in both a fortunate and unfortunate position. Fortunate that I found this compilation from New Weird Australia. It’s opened my ears to whole different side of Australian experimental music that I didn’t know existed. Stuart Buchanan, Andrew Tuttle and Innez Tulloch have compiled three volumes of work that expose what I have the feeling is some of the most quintessential Australian underground music of the past five years. And through their work in putting together events, producing podcasts, producing a radio show, and running a separate netlabel have done a lot to bring this music to the world.
Of course, the unfortunate side of things is that I am finding this work now, just as New Weird Australia has decided to close it’s doors. Of course, there are tons of compilations and other releases from NWA that I can dig through after having listened to this release, but finding and keeping up with many of these artists is likely to be challenging.
I have to express some disappointment at the closure of New Weird Australia. Stuart Buchanan stated:
Although that mission could well be endless, online networks now afford artists easier access to fans and supporters, in ways we could not have imagined five years ago.
While it is certainly true that the internet has become a platform that allows artists to get their works out to the masses with much less effort than was needed thirty, or even ten years ago, there is something that is missing: the guidance of organizations like New Weird Australia to bring focus to these works. From what I have read on the New Weird Australia website, this was a remarkable organization that really pulled together a lot of artists. They filled a void in the in the Australian music landscape, and brought this music to our attention. The efforts of groups like this are not to be underestimated, ever. My only hope is that some of the artists that worked with NWA will pull together and form their own coalition to continue in a similar manner.
For now, at least, I can be satisfied with Passages, Volumes One-Three, and when I get more adventurous (in a few months) I can start digging through the back catalog of New Weird Australia release. For that I am truly thankful to the organization, and all of the artists that participated in this unique group.