Various Artists: New Weird Australia: Sixes & Twelves

- Sixes And Twelves is the first release this year from the compelling New Weird Australia, a collective that rightly stands as one of the most prolific patrons of experimental, eclectic and downright bizarre musicianship currently operative in this country. I encourage you to immerse yourself in the label’s myriad of free releases. At worst, you will be intrigued; at best, you will see Australian music from a different angle, ideally with eyes anew. This accessible and remarkably focused compilation is a more-than-worthy exemplar of the latter.

Curated and compiled by Brisbane’s venerable Andrew Tuttle, the twenty-six tracks and two hours of Sixes And Twelves are dedicated to an exploration of the untapped creative potential of the humble old gee-tar, ranging from bedroom sound collages to breathtaking noise. This deceptively simple focus arguably saves an otherwise overly expansive record from both decadence and ponderousness.

This seemingly classic subject matter is also smartly self-conscious. Indeed, such is the sheer resonance of the guitar — a timeless emblem of estrangement from Leadbelly to Glenn Branca via Kevin Shields — that the ‘experimentation’ of this album ultimately comes across as democratic, genuinely warm and playful rather than highbrow and alienating.

Sixes And Twelves begins with a swooping, glitchy piece from Kris Keogh, utilising the same self-written software first showcased on his 2011 Processed Harp Works to smash an acoustic guitar into a million sunny fragments, kind of like a one-tone Four Tet. This piece is a profoundly postmodern reveille to an album whose primary focus lies on the deconstruction of musical categories.

The happy solipsism continues with Pale Earth’s multilayered E-bow workout Okuribito. Similarly beguiling is the symphonic Overture by lauded local artist Sadglint, whose rumblings somehow channel both Sigur Rós and Blanck Mass. Terminal by Julian Day is equally glacial, sounding like a cross between Radiohead’s Treefingers and a bad case of bedtime tinnitus after a loud night out.

The mystique of these tunes lies in the fact that the guitar itself is ultimately obscured, rendered digitally unrecognisable. Equally impressive, however, are those tracks that celebrate the corporeal beauty of the instrument itself. The acoustic fingerpicking Brain Drain and A Demon Sheen are thus stand-outs, sounding as deliberate as Nick Drake and as hollow as Six Organs Of Admittance. The tentative, Mick Turner-esque Money Not In Pocket by AFXJIM similarly ranks among the most moving moments on Sixes and Twelves.

While this generous collection arguably predominantly overlooks bands in favour of solo artists and is not organised to fit any logical sonic narrative, Sixes And Twelves ultimately succeeds. This is an admittedly rambling record that does not demand consistent listening, but is more a deep well, a bracing reservoir of ideas that can be dipped into at will. And at the very least, this Technicolor compilation should make you want to dust off that old six-string and create something.

-Henry Reese

Album Details

Album Title: New Weird Australia: Sixes & Twelves
Artist: Various Artists
Record Label: New Weird Australia