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THE GREATER GOOD #2: AWESOME TAPES FROM AFRICA & MORE @ GEISHA BAR, FRIDAY NOVEMBER 22

Lyndon Blue: Review

THE GREATER GOOD #2: AWESOME TAPES FROM AFRICA & MORE @ GEISHA BAR, FRIDAY NOVEMBER 22

Andrew Ryan

I’m not usually a sucker for sequels. I can’t promise I’d lose any sleep if forthcoming 2014 follow-ups such as ‘Night at the Museum 3’ or ‘Fast & Furious 7’ never saw the light of day. I even prefer ‘Alien’ to ‘Aliens,’ and ‘Mad Max’ to ‘Mad Max 2.’ But sometimes Round One leaves you on such a high that the announcement of a sequel seems to glitter like a mound of gold amid a desert of anticipation. For example, last time Brooklyn’s BRIAN SHIMKOVITZ came to Perth – on a steamy evening this January – his selections of African jams trapped on magnetic plastic whipped The Bird into a euphoric frenzy. Now he’s back and I’m giddy like a straight-up googly-eyed fanboy.

Round Two comes, aptly, just as the nights are heating up again, this time around the corner and down the road from Venue #1. We arrive in Northbridge and – after a rousing bout of Air Hockey at the adjacent Timezone – join the eager queue at the foot of Geisha Bar’s steep stairs. Buddies are rolling up from all directions. We perforate the entrance and climb the incline, sinking upwards into darkness and flickering colours, before our ears and eyes catch a glimpse of what’s around the bend: a shimmering wave of bodies waving their limbs and clutching coconuts. Tricolour light bulbs hang like luminous bunting along the perimeter of the dancefloor, and thick layers of percussion, bass and excitedly chatting voices coalesce in a buzzing cloud in the air. The vibes, a friend and I agree, are as palpable as thick palm wine as you step into the zone. My sister, upon later reflection, will describe it as ‘entering a scene from The Little Mermaid – the marimbas, the waving fronds, the underwater feeling.’

Good music is to atmosphere as rain and sun are to crops, and so it is thanks to REX MONSOON and DONNA KEBABEY that we’re able to reap such a rich vibe-harvest so early on. You may know them as the two best-dressed DJs in our seaside town, but did you know that they offer deeper grooves, in a more consistent fashion, than your favourite corduroy suit? Yep, well, it’s true. Soon, the night’s cruise-control jeep of rhythm shifts gear seamlessly into Brian Shimkovitz’s AWESOME TAPES FROM AFRICA set. The bearded, bespectacled blogger sneaks in humbly behind the brightly hued bulbs and begins sliding dusty gems into his twin cassette decks.

The crowd grows denser. Lips suck rum and fragrant coconut liquid through straws and dance with carefree abandon. Brian’s set consists of intriguing tunes that are all distinctly – but never generically – African. Each track demonstrates quirks and idiosyncracies of artists, genres, regions, spanning a dizzying array of sounds without ever really invoking the continent’s most familiar timbres or polyrhythms. As ATFA devotees will know, Shimkovitz errs towards niche, unorthodox styles – see, for reference, ineffable dance-rap daydream and blog favourite Ata Kak (mind you, Shimkovitz shuns obscuro-snobbery, elsewhere covering widely-loved artists such as Oliver Mtukudizi and Yvonne Chaka Chaka). Anyway, the result of this focus is that every new tracks that breezes in, resplendent in its lo-fidelity glory, raises an eyebrow here or there: you’ll often hear a nearby head wonder “woah, what’s going on here?” but that head will nevertheless be bobbing, attached to a body whose limbs and joints are moving uncontrollably. Fluorescent breakwater laps at your ankles. Friendly humidity cocoons you. Waves of wooden, skinned and digital percussion whip around you, pulsating to the rhythms and tempos of afro-disco, funk, hip-hop, kwaito, R&B, hiplife and much more (for factual information regarding the specific tracks, at this point, I’m about as useful as a book on horse-breeding, written in Dutch). All I know is that the room is swaying, a labyrinth of human lanterns in a tropical breeze, and being a part of it feels tremendous.

Shimkovitz passes the torch to the INVISIBLE CITY SOUND SYSTEM, once again a totally seamless transition – in fact I’m only certain that Brian’s left the decks because I seem him walking past me. “Hey, great set man,” I say, or something generic to that effect. “Thanks. But there’s no room to dance!” He exclaims, squeezing between two other bodies. I agree with him. But he’s grinning, hardly bemoaning the fact. “If we can’t dance side to side… we’ll just have to dance upwards!”

Which is pretty much what the now tightly filled dance floor does: surges up and down like a yo-yo. The Invisible City guys – individually known as Brandon Hocura and Gary Abugan – are less obsessive about the whole Afro angle, but that’s not to say they’re not connoisseurs of African and tropical sounds. Part of their agenda is ‘Invisible City Editions,’ a reissue label which has so far re-introduced us to three or four solid records from around the world, including a very curious disco offering from Zambian outfit Witch (who I only ever knew as a fuzzy garage / riff-rock type ensemble). Their set tonight is pretty heavily geared towards bliss-out disco, calypso-tinged dance floor wildness and other stuff that pits life-affirming instrumental textures and polyrhythms against solid four-four backbones. Their set’s a whole lot more hi-fi, too (I’m guessing they’re not using cassettes) – which is neither good nor bad in and of itself, but in this context it does have the desirable effect of adding a new range of shiny highs and powerful lows, a bit like going from 4:3 viewing to widescreen. Whoever curated the set times, did so cleverly.

A couple of us duck out briefly for a slice of Young Joe’s pizza ($5, from a fluoro-lit street-facing counter, but hearty and worth it) before returning for one final dip in Geisha’s bubbling pool of sounds. Enigmatic and hilarious (these words don’t seem quite sufficient, but that’s as close as I can get) Melbourne-based producer and DJ MICHAEL OZONE closes out the night. Ozone is kind of like a sticky lint roller for awkward, of-the-moment hipster signifiers: luckily he’s got the work ethic and talent to underscore the surface with substance. He’s the man behind Home Loan records, and a key player in Good Time Studios and New Roman Times; a sloth he’s not. His afro-techno sensibility, exemplified by last year’s much-loved ‘Perfect Systems,’ is pretty addictive, and that translates tonight: feet keep pumping right up until Friday night starts nudging Saturday’s dawn. I’d be lying if I said I made it right to the end, but friends who did assure me they have no regrets – and I don’t doubt it. The vibe never started to wane.

Tonight’s musical event has been proudly presented by the GREATER GOOD: aka the union of tireless dancefloor ignition companies {MOVE} and {GOOD COMPANY}. Aka the dream team of Ben Taafe, Ben M, Andrew Sinclair and Nik Ridiculous (maybe more – but this is the fiercely motivated cohort known to me). Their titular keywords tell the whole story, really – many mates or else friendly strangers, sharing a space in which to flex their muscles in a rhythmic way, for the mutual benefit of all. When the world feels cold and strange, or even when it doesn’t, these are the nights that remind you of the finer things, of the pure and vital joys of community and groove. And to paraphrase Mr. Sinclair, what better music to bring people together than that most awesome sonic soul-food from Africa? None better. Call me a sequel-sucker. Can’t wait for Volume 3.