: found: quantity of sheep

CD + DVD
Found Quantity of Sheep, 2005

Found: Quantity of Sheep (FQS) are a self-described “experimental” rock band based in Perth who, like Set Fire to the Flames and several other contemporary instrumental groups, mix classic droney guitar rifts and melodic progressions with unusual recording techniques (vibrations and distortions in the mix, room sounds, distant mic-ing and field recordings of level crossings and other sources), studio composition and orchestrated prog rock. Although FQS' work often includes moments of noise and the odd self-important screamed vocals, the band largely eschews the melodrama of much contemporary heavy metal and industrial music. Rather, the use of warmer tones, sustained emotions—as well as cello, strings and piano—tends to place FQS' work more within the realm of composed rock with a slightly Gothic ambience.

Monkey+Valve, the ambitious follow up to their self-titled 2003 debut is great, a stimulating recording. Clocking in at just over 30 minutes, this highly diverse CD includes everything from a wonderfully jarring glockenspiel line interrupted by moments of feedback and submerged cello to a Fellini-esque jig entitled The Monkey Grinder's Organ. A driving guitar line reappears across various tracks to help provide some unity, but what rather distinguishes the material as whole is its intriguing variety. For example 3 tracks include lyrics while the rest are instrumental, and 2 short interludes of 7 and 34 seconds respectively are placed between compositions of up to 7 minutes.

Monkey+Valve also comes with a bonus DVD featuring 10 videos from local artists premiered at the 2005 Revelation Film Festival. Sadly, what makes the CD so appealing is what undoes the DVD package. FQS gave no direction to the film-makers and so what has been produced is an inconsequential melange of disparate works ranging from a rather silly narrative of man looking for his lost girlfriend (directors Julie Williams, Mike Gasmire) to 2 basically misogynistic works about men addressing their inner turmoil by mutilating women (directors Guy Howlett, Andrew Ewing). Not exactly new material in the wake of the hundreds of extant romance or psycho killer narratives, nor does it have the muted critique expressed in films as diverse as I Spit on Your Grave (1977), The Driller Killer (1976) or Blue Steel (1990).

FQS' own critique of a robotic office worker is formalistically pleasing, though their montage of archival footage does not build on that of Devo or Talking Heads from the 1980s. Only Cat Hope eschews thematic narrative altogether, using slowly cycling tinsel in what looks like a weird snow-dome or a clear oil and water globe, producing a beautiful, abstract, meditative piece and certainly the most cinesonically innovative clip: a modest pleasure within this package.

Nonetheless, Monkey+Valve more than demonstrates FQS' musical sophistication and if their reach has, in this case, exceeded their grasp in terms of developing a challenging relationship with film, then this is nothing to reproach them for. With the work of video master John Gillies having recently been exhibited at PICA, models for better conceived cinesonics are not short on the ground in WA.

Jonathan Marshall

1 May 2006