The Sty

Samara Mitchell

Over the last 2 years, emerging Adelaide musical collective The Sty have been harboring a discreet warehouse in the Adelaide Hills, proliferating a collection of works ranging from free-form psychedelia to cinematic audioscapes, punk, funk, rock, desktop-techno and lab jazz. Wading into the voluminous archive of Sty remixes is to trawl the marvels of an untapped universal audio sub-consciousness. Thankfully, a portion of this amassed range of phenomenal musical exploration has been chosen by the collective for public release, soon to bathe the inner ear of the sleeping.

The 4 core members are Jolon Van Santen, Andrew Herpich, Ryan Davidson and James Bagley. The band is gathering popularity on stage through its charismatic performances of laconic rock tunes I fell in Love with Yello and Girl on Horse. Bursts of frenetic laughing-gas vocals in Criminals, putting away Criminals (delivered by Van Santen) are not unlike the bizarre voice-box gymnastics executed by US band, Ween. Although differing somewhat in style, both Ween and The Sty place a level of importance upon revealing the experimental process during recording. A studio bungle or conversation places emotional randomness against the threat of over refinement in the home-studio digital editing process.

In contemporary composition there are notable advantages for digital technologies which permit a quality of production previously unattainable to most independent musicians. Creator and key sound designer for a short film titled Buggin, James Bagley, with creative assistance from other members of the collective, devised a complex cacophony of orchestral strings to provide the on-screen avatar of an omnipresent fly. Using a keyboard as a primary means of composition, Bagley recorded individual violin notes and worked them into convincing baroque phrases in a digital edit. The result was uncanny: an immense weave of hovering strings, like a colony of musically manic flies honing in on one traumatized human actor. Buggin won Best Sound Design and Composition at the 2001 Media Resource Centre awards in South Australia.

As satellite member of The Sty, Iain Dalrymple’s first 2 unreleased albums, There’s a Planet on my Tongue and Acrylic Car, lodge an irresistible appeal to the delta waves of the brain. In particular, the tracks on There’s a Planet on My Tongue are dense with physically affecting atmosphere, like that hanging over a live orchestra. Both albums are afloat with sound bites of aural sci-fi phenomena and the periodic siren song of one homesick beacon. Dalrymple searches the vast data-pool of the internet’s audio archives to borrow power from collective social responses invoked by warbling operatic divas, nostalgic films and national anthems. Under the guidance of an animist’s ear, Dalrymple’s masterful works capture the simple aura of domestic environments—birds, alarm clocks, brewing coffee (I could almost hear the laminate on the kitchen benchtop), wind in trees—arranging them with an increasing intimacy of consciousness from natural to organised chaos.

The emotional range in Dalyrmples’s gorgeous concertos and in the enigmatic work of The Sty are but a few examples of the many triumphs of high quality, low budget productions emerging from dedicated and intelligent musicians. Refreshingly, the breadth of musical influences, skill, and diverse styles apparent in much of emerging independent music in Australia is able to resist any automatic clumping within the limitations of genre.

For the Sty collective’s burn-on-demand EP, Sty Party.

RealTime issue #43 June-July 2001 pg. 38

© Samara Mitchell; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 June 2001