Downstream Label Launch
It was a strong turnout at 3RRR for the three gigs marking the launch of Downstream Music, a label that’s really a collective aimed at selling some CDs and getting people out to hear some live music. The main movers and shakers are drummers Ronny Ferella and Sam Price, with help from guitarist Geoff Hughes’s new studio. The new albums include Mandala’s I’ll Stop When You Stop, Sam Price’s Rand, Ish Ish’s End of A Line, Casma’s Whist, Not This Not That’s All This For That, and Streamers’ Multiverse. All are available through Downstream Music.
For the first set, Hughes and Ferella were joined by Ben Hauptmann on acoustic guitar and electric mandolin, and Sophie Dunn on violin to play Ferella’s Retreat ‘Til One, Hauptmann’s Congo, Ferella’s What Is This? (a tune he heard on radio, taped and transcribed, because he really liked it), and Hauptmann’s Ben’s Other Tune.
It was all fairly restrained, with Ferella and Hughes lost in their rhythms and patterns, Dunn adding contrast, plaintive notes at times and then wandering alongside the others in a folk style. Mandolin and guitar interracted well in What Is This?, and in Ben’s Other Tune Hauptmann on acoustic guitar was in a holding pattern with Ferella while Hughes and Dunn carried out their explorations.
Sam Price solo
In this set it was just Sam Price and a laptop and a drum kit. It was billed as sounding “like organic machinery”. Whatever Price had programmed on the laptop was released in stages, demanding responses on the drums. Occasionally the drum kit sounds were fed into the laptop and that led to further responses on drums. Price said later that he had to learn a programming language to do this.
My responses were various, and included lots of questions. I was wondering: Are the laptop sounds randomly generated, with Price responding? Does he know what’s coming? Are the drum sounds feeding into the laptop and re-emerging? Does it matter how music is made or only what it is like to experience? What is sound and what is music?
I found the sudden changes initiated from the laptop a bit disconcerting. It seemed a little like a drumming class with tapes that demanded a response. I thought if I were a drummer (hardly likely) I would prefer to play with other musicians. Before the piece ended, Price built momentum and generated a lot of energy. The whole concept was challenging and intriguing.
It had been a long week of music and I needed a wake-up. Mandala did the trick. The first 20-minute piece began gently enough, with Ferella using “bells” for percussion and Hughes adding some feedback effects. Then Ferella initiated some sudden, but muffled, attacks and Hughes allowed his input to swell. Hannaford injected single notes. There were strong, robust, spiky inputs from each member of the trio, with short, sharp bursts and a progression until guitar and drums were creating a physical response situation — that lovely state when the body of the listener responds physically to the sounds produced. They calmed it down near the end.
Ferella said, “The only thing this band can do consistently is play for 20 minutes, so we’ll play for another 20.” And they did, though I certainly wasn’t thinking about the duration of the piece, which was gripping and great. The musicians seemed totally immersed, with no interaction obvious by looks or signs, yet it was there in the music. Hughes produced an engrossing solo, and later some “tweeting” and deep, resonant notes. Ferella contributed some top “cymbal-ic” moments. Hannaford was focused, making key interventions. This was a therapeutic, cathartic experience.
Maybe these live moments can never be captured on recordings. Nothing beats being there. But the Downstream albums are a pointer to what’s out there if you just take the risk and leave the house for a live gig.
The rest of the Fringe
I had a Stonnington gig next evening that clashed with the Zoe Frater Quintet outing at Cafe 303 with vocals by Carl Panuzzo, and I could not make Short Arse Sunday with the Alcohotlicks. It was a pity not to be in at the finish of the Fringe Festival for 2009, but no doubt it finished on a high note. Once again the organisers, all of them musicians, made it a great festival.