Tone List is a new record label of explorative music and its launch at the 459 Bar had the inclusive vibe the label is building around itself. Founded by Dan O’Connor, Jameson Feakes, Josten Myburgh and Lenny Jacobs, the night was a feature for their own projects with DJ sets in between.
Opening act Breaking Waves was led by composer Josten Myburgh, with Michael Caratti and Ben Stacy (percussion), Jameson Feakes (electric guitar), Dan O'Connor (trumpet), Lindsay Vickery (clarinet), Sage Of Pbbbt (vocals) and the composer himself on laptop. When introducing the ensemble, Myburgh said to the audience: “this piece is very quiet... please do not talk very much or you won’t hear anything”. The musicians played drones at low volume, being quiet happy to blend their sounds with those of the environment, like glasses clinking at the bar or conversations in the adjacent room; it was as if all sounds were acknowledged and embraced. The audience had the interesting experience of listening to them mingle: the quiet wilfulness of the musicians with the quiet randomness of the environment.
Performing off stage and surrounded by a rack of synthesiser, Lana brought an exuberant mood that was in contrast to Octet’s austerity. Her vocal style is languorous and consistent, yet the music puts her voice in a rarefied atmosphere of ever-shifting textures. The crowd warmed up readily to her animated stage persona, with many sitting on the floor or standing close around her.
After a brief change over, the unassuming manner with which guitarist Jameson Feakes and drummer Alex Reid started to play took everyone by surprise, the noisy atmosphere turned to silence as the guitarist probed chords, establishing his lyrical conception and intriguing the audience with sudden pauses. Alex Reid gave his partner ample space before choosing a methodical approach to his instrument, starting with the cymbals and then making his way down to the toms and snare, thickening the textures until the kick sounded with deep rumble. But the musicians deferred release, preferring to focus instead on finesse and intelligent interactions.
Maybe there is a perception that experimental or new music gigs are overly serious events, but the atmosphere at the 459 was casual and relaxed. Producer A. R Jones got it right with a DJ set that supported the growing conversations among punters; but those who paid attention were treated to the hyper-active pace of his tracks: one not so much listens to A. R. Jones as to chases his lead ahead.
“In / Ex” is the first release of the new label and consists of solo improvisations by trumpet player Dan O’Connor. The artist uses restraint as a springboard for creativity, with single breaths giving shape to his solo improvisations. O’Connor’s set reminded me of a quote by Derek Bailey about how improvisation may have been the first music done by humans; there was something awe-inspiring in hearing him etch his sounds against the silence. Uncommon as his practice is, the audience felt connected and identified with what he was doing.
A set by Lana and Hayden was interrupted constantly by the next act setting up on stage, it was distracting to those who wanted to listen, and I imagine to the performers too. But nevertheless, they brought a misunderstood delicacy to the venue. Hayden’s warm guitar swells and Lana’s bold electronics blended with gentleness and sensitivity for each other. The pair is into something very rewarding and I hope to see more of this project.
Lenny Jacob’s Spookhouse was the opposite to his Tone List partners: If Myburgh embraced the environment for performance, Spookhouse stamped out any sound that wasn’t theirs; if O’Connor sculpted with noise, Spookhouse’s scale of noise was too big to handle; if Jameson and Reid were cool headed and composed, Spookhouse couldn’t contain their explosive nature for too long. Featuring Jacobs on drums, Djuna Lee on double bass, James van de Ven on trombone, and guitarists Dom Barrett, Elliot Frost and Paul Briggs; they were led by Jacobs, who banged so hard on the drums that the white felt of his mallets began to snow on stage. It would be interesting to see how they develop their identity as ensemble, the unique instrumentation and musicianship is an asset, yet some of the finer instrumental textures were lost once the volume got up.
The night was bookended by DJ sets from FRIENDSFRIENDSFRIENDSFRIENDSFRIENDS; Josten Myburgh’s plunderphonic project of glitchy Hip Hop. Taking samples from obscure recordings, he added his own commentary of piercing sine tones, grating noises and stutters. That a Hip Hop set featured in the already diverse line-up was testimony to Tone Lists’ broad artistic scope.
The label has a young support base and their progressive values encourage an inclusive community, one that welcomes different backgrounds and champions the work of female and LGBTIQ artists. The experimental scene in Perth is in renaissance and the members of Tone List are at the helm, inspiring many with their work and resolute attitude.