Thursday, September 17, 2009

Marinetti (ACMI screening, & OST CD liners)

Albie Thoms' Marinetti was the culmination of the synthetic environments that the UBU group had pioneered in Australia; festive public 'happenings' that combined the energy and volume of creative rock and jazz with the mesmeric effect of multi-dimensional lightshows. Another kind of culmination: Marinetti records most of the principal collaborators in the UBU film group, like Aggy Read and the Perrys. Uniquely valuable as a document of Australia's late 1960s counter-culture, the soundtrack provides the best indication of the unrestrained liberty that bands like Tully and the John Sangster Underground band - some of whose members perform on this recording - were famously achieving in their improvisations of the period.

This is the sound of the acid-stained Down Underground. Led by the irrepressibly eccentric multi-instrumentalist, John Sangster, the sextet of players included veterans of Sydney psych ensembles Tully and the Nutwood Rug Band, as well as accomplished sidemen from the Don Burrows and Bernie McGann groups. By the time they improvised the soundtrack recording to a screening of the film, guitarist Michael Barnes was performing alongside Sangster for the Harry M Miller production of Hair. Tully mainstay, Rick Lockwood, can be heard on flute, sax, and a raucously untutored violin. New Zealand expatriate, Dave McRae, would further explore the sound of organ enhanced by outboard effects in his later work with UK jazz-prog group, Nucleus, and Daevid Allen's post-Soft Machine Matching Mole; for several years he was musical director for British comedy series, The Goodies. Drummer, Alan Turnbull, was a member of the classic Burrows quartet. George Thompson, on bass, would record again with Sangster in support of Sister Janet Mead's landmark album of inspirational christian pop.

The inital tone of the soundtrack is idyllic in its gentle lyricism, and the naive candour of overheard conversation. Across the next 80 minutes Harry Medax builds the mix - up to 6 additional tracks woven over and around the musicians - towards a crescendo of cacophonous simultaneity... Birdsong and the barking of dogs collide with fragmented needle-drops of The Doors and The Beatles. There are whispered reassurances, anguished shouts, and the wholesale reprise of Thoms and Gerry Dupal's musique concrete composition, De Moon Service, originally realised as accompaniment to sculptor (and computroid, from ABC TV's SciFi series, Interpretaris) Gordon Mutch's film, Hallucinagenia. A moment of Ravel's Bolero, start of reel 3, wryly harkens to one of Thoms' earliest shorts.

Beyond the threshold of conscious perception, Thoms launches his audience into a maelstrom of sound and vision. The group delirium unspooling in the dark is consistent with his notion of a 'cinema of cruelty': the resort to a course of homeopathic madness prescribed by Antonin Artaud. The film certainly has people; 'characters' even, and aplenty - but no actual characters as such. Rather than something as facile as telling a story, the film is a distilled concentrate of lysergic impression, a sacrament of celluloid metaphysics.

(et cetera etc!)

40th anniversary screening, Saturday afternoon at the ACMI. Director, Albie Thoms in attendance. Not for the puny-lobed!

And: premiere release for the soundtrack, on CD from Roundtable - new joint venture of James from Votary, and Jeff from Round and Round Records. Available at the screening this weekend.

Details of launch party to follow...

Shortly: even more unimagined Sangster gems, pried from the archives...

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