The earth has been cooking all day long. The seas are steaming, the trees are wilting, cars are melting into puddles of hot steel goop. I spot a dog whose tail is smoking like a fuse. The poor little guy howls at the merciless sun and I pour a trickle of beer on his tail to extinguish it.
Yes, the supposed Mayan end-of-the-world has been and gone with precisely the amount of fanfare one might expect (all bark and no bite). Subsequently Christmas has come as usual, over-filled our bellies, and ducked out again. But perhaps the apocalypse is still just getting started (those Mayans could easily have been out by a week or two), judging by the relentless swelter. An oasis is sorely required.
So as the searing sand-dunes simmer in the honey light of sunset, we haul ourselves over them, into a refuge of darkness, driftwood and sea containers, a refuge supplied tonight by the Heartless Robot local record label. The stretches of turf and the strong breezes are mirages, but mirages will do. And as we arrive and dive slow-motion into hazy pints of apple cider we find ourselves surrounded by the sounds of local avant-orchestra DECIBEL (in condensed format), who take on a newfound air in the context of this apocalyptic haven; the misshapenly beautiful soundtrack to a wasteland shelter.
WATER TEMPLE swoop down and deliver just what the brain requires; a mixture of minimal doom (topical), cerebral punk and instrumental vintage trash. It is simultaneously tight and messy, like paint-splattered lycra. It’s a good thing. Somehow BROWN manages to deliver a set of good old noise-addled, spring-infused weirdness despite main man Adam being on crutches (if anyone can do it it’s him).
BAMODI bring a standout set to the evening’s proceedings: immaculate fastness and high-pitched punky vocal shrieks. I haven’t seen this trio in a long time, probably not since Will Hooper (Water Temple) and Matt Bairstow (SmRts) joined mainstay Kenta McGrath. This incarnation is sounding superb, with the intensity and eccentricity to compare well to the Japanoise and frantic hardcore bands from which they no doubt draw influence. It’s furious and loud, but never negative – ultimately just firecracker-type fun inducing positive feels.
Cat Hope-led ensemble ABE SADA quickly interject to remind us that the world may indeed still be ending. The premise of the act is simple: bass guitars only, loud, improvised. The resulting mass of sound is both impenetrable and endlessly complex, a cloud of deep rumblings and mingling frequencies. Low-end groans compete to capture your ear’s focus, while higher and ‘toppier’ layers swirl and interact in another hemisphere of dense sound; the whole thing is like a kaleidoscope of storm clouds. Not without nuance, the set traverses a range of moods, dynamics, and even hints at tonal motifs, without ever allowing them to fully surface. Dream-like and compelling, Abe Sada remain exemplary in their field.
PREDRAG DELIBASIC has been thrumming a bass with Abe Sada and, not one to slack off, he now swaps it for a guitar to perform with his own group SMRTS. Tonight is like a big venn diagram; Matt Bairstow who played drums with Bamodi is now up on guitar, while Chris Cobilis who’s about to perform a duo set appears on drum kit. It’s a reminder of the Perth scene’s ongoing incestuousness but equally the impressive versatility and open-mindedness of the musicians on the Heartless Robot roster. SMRTS play their wonderful surf/punk/folk/rock and for the first time on this incapacitatingly hot night people find their bodies convulsing in a dance-like way. It’s a post-Christmas miracle.
Finally CHRIS COBILIS and CRAIG MCELHINNEY rise to the podium to conceive the fusion known simply as CHRIS & CRAIG. Laptops, 404s, a cap and an AC/DC sweat towel: observe the recipe for late-night party fever and aural satisfaction. Throttling the grey-suited CEO of Convention, these two pitt noisy electronic melodies and a capella shanties against fragile disco interpolations, thumping house frenzies, frosty drones and textured canopies of sound. Occasionally Chris will mumble or half-sing something into the microphone. Craig will smirk and peer down, hiding his face as usual with his hat-peak. The set takes us through the centre of the earth and the centre of our souls… and then leaves us all alone, confused, naked and sweaty. Thanks a lot Chris & Craig.
And thankYOU, Heartless Robot – an oasis when we needed it the most, and not a Gallagher in sight. To quote Galadriel – a light in dark places, when all other lights go out. And now – back to kneeling within a pagan-type ring of oscillating fans with a cold wet towel over my head and a Calippo in my mouth. Happy New Year everybody! Stay Cool!