VA: Fabrique

Imagine eighteen front-line experimental artists parading their wares in successive five-minute segments on a Brisbane stage (the Brisbane Powerhouse Turbine Platform, to be exact) and you're on your way to experiencing Fabrique. Inaugurated in 2001 by curator Lawrence English, the annual Australian festival became a nexus during its eight-year run for artists from Japan, Spain, Slovenia, USA, UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Denmark, New Zealand and Australia, among others. The performances aren't dated (in my copy at least) but we do know they're culled from the forty events that took place, and, at a glance, the contributors seem to represent the entire ROOM40 roster, making Fabrique of natural interest to devotees of English's label. Crowd noise is inaudible (except for a brief smattering applause at the end) so one could mistake Fabrique as a studio recording featuring the artists in solo mode with many of their pieces low-key affairs.

David Grubbs' solo electric guitar workout, “Blessed Are the Task Masters,” begins the disc with Grubbs wrenching roasted lines from the instrument. Chris Abrahams follows with a glitchy piano-and-electronics exploration, and then Fourcolor with a tranquil electronic oasis of soft murmurs and sleepy sound fragments (“Familiar”). Janek Schaefer presents a multi-layered collage of clock chimes and field elements (bird caws, traffic sounds) (“Fields of the Missed”), Andrew Pekler takes us for a clangorous tour along the factory's assembly line where workers hammer and clatter (“Dust Enforcer”), Scanner offers an exercise in lulling dreamscaping dotted with blurry keyboards, silken strings, and percussive thrum (“Thrown Together Like Leaves”), and Camilla Hannan delivers a textbook rumbling drone filled with pops, whooshes, and simmering textures (“Forest”). Cameos by Robert Henke (a thunderous weather study “Homage”) and KK Null (the eardrum-piercing “(Synchroflash)”) are followed by a gentle electric piano study (“San Souci”) by Leighton Craig, and, at disc's end, Tujiko Noriko pushes the collection into a different direction with her breezy vocal-electronic tone-poem “Magic.” In addition, there are laptop-based drones, amoebic percolations, aquatic soundscapes, vaporous ambient settings, organ meditations, and shimmering dreamscapes from the likes of Pimmon, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Ulrich Kreiger, John Chantler, Greg Davis, DJ Olive & I/O3, and Seaworthy. At nearly eighty minutes, it's a long haul but you certainly get your money's worth, and if it's ot quite as good as actually being there, it comes close enough. One could even regard the release as somewhat of a label sampler, given the number of associated artists it features.

May 2009