Blank Realm


12 July 2012 Gemma King

Over the past four years the Australia Council’s Music Board has been running a special initiative to specifically support experimental, creative and innovative contemporary popular music projects. In that time Soundclash has supported 40 projects all of which in some way challenge and stretch the understanding of ‘popular music’.

According to Music Board Chair Matthew Hindson, ‘Contemporary popular music is constantly challenging its own boundaries. Australian artists like Seekae, Fabulous Diamonds and Blank Realm are at the forefront of this innovation’.

Soundclash aimed to support the vibrant and growing culture of experimental and innovative popular music that exists locally and is increasingly of interest to audiences everywhere from warehouse spaces to concert halls and festival stages. Bands such as Seekae who were supported through Soundclash for the development of their second album +DOME, receive great critical response for their blend of live instrumentation, electronics and samples. In the past 12 months they have toured internationally and recently played the Sydney Opera House as part of the Vivid Festival. Solo artist and multi instrumentalist Jonti has also been making a name for himself as one of Australia’s most interesting musical exports for his complex yet undeniably pop arrangements.  His first bedroom-produced album Twirligig was released internationally by LA’s Stone Throw records, and with the support of Soundclash funding he will write and record with a host of local and international artists to create his much anticipated follow up release.

Speak to the artists supported through Soundclash and you’ll find that experimental music can be tricky to define. Nisa Venerosa, one half of Fabulous Diamonds, describes the duo’s music as ‘contemporary Australian pop’, while Daniel Spencer’s band Blank Realm are more ‘transcendental rock music’. Emma Ramsay says Holy Balm’s approach is ‘post-punk/early house electronic dance with percussion’, and for Evelyn Morris, AKA Pikelet, it’s ‘futuristic pop with a hint of playful social commentary’. Andrew Tuttle performs as Anonymeye, creating ‘a synthesis of digital and organic music that blurs boundaries between composition and improvisation, acoustic and electric, melody and dissonance, and the abstract and the accessible’.

With the grant money, Blank Realm rented a space ‘where we could just set up all our stuff, and not have to think about anything else but the music’. Likewise, Fabulous Diamonds treated the funding as a pseudo wage ‘that enabled us to free our time up away from our mundane jobs’. In Pikelet’s case, a rural recording escapade provided inspiration for a new song about a dead cow – ‘something that would never have happened in Melbourne’.

Given the quality of the music being made in Australia it’s no surprise that there is growing interest in Australia’s talent. ‘The international interest in Australia is pretty crazy – so many bands are able to take off on tours of the US or Europe and not go broke’, says Daniel Spencer.

Emma Ramsay has a similar perspective. Holy Balm’s first release proved to the band that ‘there was an audience for experimental pop-oriented music, locally and internationally. While there may be a larger market for “mainstream” sounding music, the market for innovation around the outskirts of that realm is actually quite impassioned and vibrant’.
Matthew Hindson of the Music Board agrees. ‘The success of the Soundclash initiative demonstrates that Australia has a vibrant experimental music scene, and that audiences both in Australia and internationally are taking notice.’

Soundclash has been an incredibly special boost to both the innovators in the experimental music field and their appreciative audiences. Daniel Spencer summed it up: ‘It was kind of amazing’.

Image: Blank Realm
Credit: Sarah Werkmeister