On Oz Echoes, Steele Bonus selects a cute compilation of Antipodean avant-pop, for Efficient Space. A follow-up to 2017`s Oz Waves, it treads similar eclectic, eccentric ground as Music From Memory’s Uneven Paths. Lo-fi in places, the collection is culled from aborted studio sessions, super-limited cassettes, demos, radio broadcasts, and one-off 45s – plus a couple of previously unreleased archival tracks. The ten acts covered featuring artists active in cross-pollinating scenes located across `80s Australia – in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. A landscape of customized postcard art and Xeroxed fanzines.
Looking for a common musical thread that runs between the treasure unearthed, I’m not sure there is one – other than enthusiasm to spare, and access to newly affordable synths and drum machines. The plugged-in output ranging from Matt Mawson`s kinda kosmishe dub (I was reminded of Michal Turtle), to the cold wave of Modern Jazz, and The Frenzied Bricks` post-punk, slapped bass, funk (think ACR and 400 Blows). Shanghai Au Go Go`s I Cried All Winter is racing, new romantic, art (school) heartbreak. Les Trois Etrangers` Luna is a twangy, tremolo`d Mission Impossible vamp. Part Telstar, part The B52s. French ya ya meets Joe Meek. The instrumentation on Airplane Footsteps` Arabia is a ringer for Low Life-era New Order – melodica musings an all – while Psycho strings stab at Mr Knott`s busy rhythms. Horse He`s Sick`s 808-driven sample-delia reminded me of German counterparts Die Zwei. Their Terminal Rebound, a slice of mechanical psychedelia possessed by vari-speeded voices, speaking in backwards tongues, positioned between Bill Laswell`s Praxis and Malcolm McLaren`s Buffalo Gals. The two standouts for me seem to be influenced by This Heat!, or the Brixton-based band`s post-break up off-shoots. The military snares and multi-tracked ethereal vocals of Height/Dismay echoing Gareth Williams` Flaming Tunes. Wrong Kind Of Stone Age`s Ravi Dubbi resembling the roots mutations Charles Bullen`s legendary Lifetones – its production assisted by digidub hero in the making, Andy Rantzen – peppered with drum circle snatches and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi`s meditations on music’s universal language.
Oz Echoes: DIY Cassettes and Archives 1980 – 1989 is available to order directly from Efficient Space.