A couple months ago I walked down to the always-charming Highgate Continental and picked up a black disc in a black sleeve with a green and white label. This was the second 12” release from Good Company Records, Phil Stroud’s ‘The Forest’ b/w ‘Yemaja.’ I took it home and stuck a needle on it and wiggled my joints around the living room while my bones hummed in joyous harmony with the earth.

Then my itchy ears found Stroud at RTR’s Distant Murmurs festival, adapting his compositions to the stage with an eight-piece band. With keen eyes I later notice the ensemble is back for a headline show at the Bird.

Fringe Festival flavours the night air. Walking through Northbridge at this time of year you can’t escape the stained glass of spiegeltents, pink bunting, festoon lights; the food trucks, carnival sounds, bars styled as giant fountains, strange costumes wandering. Whether that’s your scene or not, it’s hard to deny the cheery electricity it adds to the surrounds as you pass through. I meet J and we drink a plastic cup of champagne in a repurposed rickshaw.

Over at the Bird, ANDREW SINCLAIR is dishing out hot tunes like Oprah dishes out cars. Apart from being a Highgate Contintental co-founder and a Good Company Records label boss, Sinclair has been relentless on the disc jockey circuit lately; unfailingly his selections are at once soothing, energizing and surprising.

Emerging first on the live stage is AKIOKA, who I’ve never seen or heard before. I do know that Akioka is the moniker of Tess Darcey who also provides vocals and percussion in the Phil Stroud expanded band. Anyway, here she is, backed by strange and stunning freaky-nature projections courtesy of local artist Amy Priemus.

Her tunes are truly remarkable, wild washed-out pop experiments bringing together lush noise, bright invigorating beats and subtly brilliant vocals. The wonder of any given track is paralleled only by how quickly she moves through them; it’s amazing (and slightly daunting) how nonchalantly Darcey bounces from one compelling idea to the next. In this way, I’m reminded of hyperactive brains like Flying Lotus or Holly Herndon, how their creativity just blazes before your very ears. Not that Akioka really sounds like either of those people, she sounds like Akioka. Her last track – a moving ambient slow-burner with the refrain “I pray for my synapses” – is one of best and most emotionally powerful tunes I’ve heard in ages. I’ll be rushing to whatever Akioka shows I can from now on.

BEN M of the esteemed {move} DJ syndicate keeps the room’s pulse up with a funky-silky cascade of sounds before PHIL STROUD arrives on stage. If Akioka gave us a rapid-fire onslaught of varied ideas, Stroud’s approach is almost the opposite. Take a rhythm or a riff, sit with it, feel it, see how it feels to let it roll on for a while, gradually build. It’s a minimalist and meditative mindset that – while channeling jazz and traditional percussive musics sonically – has a lot of confluence with modern dance music production techniques. Which, of course, is why it makes so much sense on the Good Company label alongside the likes of house aficionado Hugo Gerani. It’s also why it makes so much sense to people’s rhythmic proclivities tonight, with the whole tightly-packed room transfixed and palpably oscillating to the groove. As the sound density ebbs and flows, Priemus’ visuals continue, taking us hurtling through a kaleidoscopic forest and deep into abstract imaginings. The band – thick with double-drums, vocals, keys, flute and bass – is unfalteringly tight, and soulful in a restrained kind of way. Tintinnabulating textures shuffle over booming kicks and weave around djembe patter and crunchy chords. The light and the percussion become one, a vivid moment, now a vivid memory. There aren’t many musicians locally, even in Australia, plumbing this kinda sonic well, and here it is in impeccable form. Perth can be very proud of its Stroud.


Image by Dolphin Secrets