Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sven Libaek - Solar Flares (liner notes)

Antipodean tones for mental healing. AD 1974, and launched from beneath the Southern Cross, these easeful midnight notes of writhe-time funk describe a singular document of Australian space jazz. Skipper Libaek navigates starlight spaceflight by that fourfold twinkle; his crew - the brightest luminaries of local session players - stretch out & settle into orbit.

Norwegian-born Libaek was already a young veteran of film and television scoring in his adopted homeland, lending an outsider's ear to striking interpretations of the alien landscape. At the prompting of his publisher, Southern Music, he recorded My Thing, an LPs worth of stock music for their Peer Southern imprint. The licensing sucess of that record led to this outer-space-themed successor.

This album's synthetic enhancement heralded a uniquely Australian innovation: the Qasar II duophonic analogue/digital synthesizer. Sydney inventor, Tony Furse, had designed the modular keyboard unit with R&D funding from the Australia Council, and resource support from Don Banks at the Canberra School of Music. Perhaps heard at its best on the eponymous track 7, the Qasar II delivers not only wobulating funk, but devastating treatments of George Golla's electric guitar lines. Libaek utilised the Qasar synths extensively across soundtrack recordings for the Boney and Inner Space television series; Furse would later partner with fellow Sydney entrepreneurs and inventors on the development of the Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument...

(etc etc etc!)
So I had to scare up some infos on this synth. Sven remembered only that it was a kind of Fairlight prototype, but the session dates put this quite a few years in advance of the CMI.

I rang Rob Fox (who is a genius, if you hadn't already realised this).

"Australian-designed and manufactured analogue synth. Recorded in Sydney, '74. Probably a one-off model. There's a Fairlight connection. What is it?"

And the Fox: "Hmmm, well if it was recorded in Canberra it could be the Qasar... That one was an analogue Fairlight ancestor, but I don't know of any recordings. Apparently it had a unique sound; something to do with the circuitry [at this stage, I'm thinking: bingo!]... Don Banks also had a Moog IIIA there... And in Sydney, and around that time, all I can think is that it would be an ETI 4600 - which is also the first synthesizer I built myself. They used to sell in kit form. There were a lot of custom-mod varieties, so it could be one of those..."

So I hit the infobahn. ETI 4600 is a fascinating instrument, right era, and a Fairlight link in designer Kim Ryrie. But the epiphany was the title of synth workout, track 7: Quasers. OK! A clue... So, looking around for background on the Qasar, I discover an earlier (non-Canberra-based) model. One of these, near as I can figure, somehow came to be a frequent visitor at Spencer Lee's studio. Libaek's 3 vinyls are perhaps the only commercially-released (and this one, not so commercial at that) recordings made with it.

Here's what it looked like:

"Second variety":

Damned useful website, with infos of Don Banks' EMS & the Qasar, can be found here

Anyways. Its available now, on lobe-enhancing vinyl, from Votary Disk. Limited to 500.

Somehow I wrote the liners (which I like to think are not so shabby) in an all-night writing jag between 2 days shaking at the end of a jackhammer, at the end of a week working on a construction site... I emailed them in, caught a quick shower, wolfed a bowl's worth of cereal & made straight to work for the 7am start.

Delirious with lack of sleep... I remember the foreman giving me some instructions later in the morning: I tried not to blink-my-eyes-open too gratuitously, and hoped my swaying side-to-side was not disconcertingly noticable.

Lunch time. I put a new pair of earplugs in. "Please don't wake me till we're back on". Folding my head into my arms on the table. The power of nap!

So. Quitting time, later that afternoon... Sean Healy pulls up in a borrowed ute: we hit the road & head for the Golden Plains Festival site... So I can install the outdoor cinema. Keerist...!

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Anonymous [uzine] said...

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12:22 pm  

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