New Centre of the Universe Vol #1, Anti-Fade Records Compilation
Over the past week I have been thoroughly overwhelmed by the amount of desired and quality new music sent my way. I’ve been getting my ears around hotly anticipated new releases from Yeasayer, Ariel Pink, Animal Collective, but what has most perked my interest is the collection of 18 bands from Melbourne and Geelong comprising New Centre of the Universe Vol 1, a compilation put together by Anti- Fade Records.
The UV Race kick off proceedings, instantly marking the territory we’re going to be exploring. In contrast to the prevalent trend of bands pining and contriving for studio perfection, these recordings are unmediated, uncouth and armed with an unreflective childlike scrappiness. Computers are not counting the time and the songs stick around for as long as the gusts of wind that they rode in on can sustain them.
The lo-fi live guise of all the tracks makes it fairly clear that the bands on New Centre are not producing tunes to garner radio success. The songs present seem to be prompted by feelings of dis-ease, disaffection and corresponding musical irreverence. The Bad Aches’ ‘Hypuchondriac’ and Mesa Cosa‘s ‘Shop Lifter’ sound like attempts at relieving these afflictions (something they learned from The Stooges perhaps), while Hierophants‘ ‘There’s An Itch’ and The Malibooz ‘Pier Pressure’ are purely evidence of these states.
I don’t know a great deal about Geelong, but inferring from the evidence given on this record, I’d say the region is an example of the ‘cultural dearth makes for creative wealth’ principle. The scene documented on the New Centre. . disc (or cassette if you’d prefer) possesses a sort of microcosmic certitude. The 18 tracks provided by the associated musical kinsfolk actually work together really well in album sequence.
Further highlights include The Clits’ ‘Bored Stiff’, which surely owes a debt to the Modern Lovers, but that does not make it any less inviting. The Galaxy Folk send a very 70s beachy postcard in the form of ‘Rules of Discreet Intent’, albeit with gutter-frog vocals hopping in puddles of reverb. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard and The Murlocs’ shredded semblance of 60s romping blues-rock is hair-raising and a true appeal to get out and see both these acts live. The Frowning Clouds are perhaps some of the classiest pop song composers in the country. The tune we get here, ‘Stick Fight’, is an instrumental departure from their usual Kinksy fare, but its implementation of magic chords and easy jam-raderie hypnotizes nonetheless. The Bonniwells’ ‘Sun Fish Walk’ is Tarantino soundtrack worthy; death-grooving guitars are matched in fuzziness by their vocal counterparts.
To ask ‘what came first the studio or the stage’ is a question that historically hasn’t carried the same mystifying quality as the chicken or the egg enquiry. Yet, technological innovation has enabled the life path of musicians to flip. With the executive position of online distribution dictating to audiences what is (supposedly) relevant, plenty of studio-only practitioners are catapulted into positions of prominence. Projects that have never extended past bedroom walls are all of sudden launched, way out of their depth onto stages that they haven’t the faintest idea how to tread. New Centre of the Universe Vol. 1, is indeed very homespun, but in a rather different manner. The songs have been recorded in DIY settings, no doubt in bedrooms, garages, and boomy hotel backrooms, but the zeitgeist thus demonstrated unabashedly and irrefutably has the stage at its foundations. This feature makes for a startlingly (sometimes a little jarring too) immediate listening experience and as a result you’re left inspired to get out and see some live music at once!