ELECTRIFYING MELBOURNE Andrez analyses the past four years of underground techno in Melbourne
Four years may not seem like such a long time, but this time around in 1993 things were quite different.
Melbourne had always had a strong local band scene, yet despite the inroads made by the techno house music fraternity up to that point the city still retained a dominantly indie rock live scene which didn't delve into the sound at all. However, because of the inherent strengths of this scene, it created an infrastructure of support by default - a proliferation of venues, PA systems, lighting companies and all the other live music essentials supported the newer techno genre artist by providing top quality spaces in which to perform and present their music; then was the support garnered from public radio stations like 3PBS and 3RRR.
Over the last four years in Melbourne there's been a predominance of techno artists working either solo or in a partnership combination who have taken the new directions offered in underground techno house music, and created an entirely new and indigenous form which incorporates ideas that come from all parts of the world. It's the multiplicity of this appropriation of sound that defines what they create.
The legacies behind electronic music in its global context have been manifold. While on a purely aural level there's the sound experimentation of Stockhausen and Cage four decades ago, not to mention the developing impact made by others as diverse as David Bowie, Brian Eno, Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Einstürzende Neubauten and Front 242 since then, there's the dialectic level of the cut-ups presupposed by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin.
Then there are Melbourne's own legacies. The city's local band scene has carried with it a subversive yet influential experimental fringe that goes way back to the '70s. Think back and you may recall bands like Whirlywirld and The Birthday Party - bands that clutched onto the post-punk ethic and injected something new, something distinctly . . . well, something Melburnian. In the latter half of the 1980s the most pioneering band in this city - if not Australia - was No, which featured Ollie Olsen, Marie Hoy and Michael Sheridan. While on a basic level No projected an angry punk rock 'n' roll sound, attitude and image, they were a semiotic band in terms of their exploration of the new sampling technology coming through from abroad. After a brief hiatus alongside Michael Hutchence in Max Q, Ollie Olsen went on to establish Melbourne's first fully-fledged techno act Third Eye as well as prolific independent techno label Psy-Harmonics.
These days there are at least twenty active techno acts playing in band venues, clubs and rave parties every week, and somewhere around a dozen independent techno labels releasing their music and putting on these regular live gigs in the first place. Think of Psy-Harmonics, IF-, Azwan Transmissions, Seraphic, Smelly Records, SPR*Mint, Angel's Trumpet and Truck Musik. These labels form the tip of a veritable iceberg, and it's a growing one at that.
Traditional band venues like the Punters Club, the Prince Of Wales, the Espy and the Tote each delve ever more often into the realm of synthesized music; more often than not band members now forsake the drum-kit or the guitar for a drum-machine and a sampler, or there's just one individual tweaking an array of knobs. Clubs too have entered into this live techno driftnet, with Electric at Redhead putting on a monthly jaunt called 'Konkrete' where live acts perform en mas