Record Reviews

Open Palms

Newcastle noise musicians have probably had a gutful of people postulating that their work aches to convey something dystopian, post-industrial, or otherwise quintessentially Novocastrian. It’s tempting to draw parallels between Newcastle and Detroit’s noise scene – Newcastle suffered severely from the 1990s recession, which was exacerbated by a 1989 earthquake that left damage untended for years due to the dire economic climate. BHP – formerly one of the city’s major employers – closed its steelworks in 1999, leaving behind a coal mining city that sometimes feels gutted and spread thin to visitors unsure where to go. Superficially, it’s the perfect Australian city for a noise scene.

Stitched Vision’s music evokes highways lined with caryards, boarded shopfronts and monolithic box retail outlets on the edge of town at night, lit by yellow street lamps and approaching headlights. Jason Campbell’s spacious synth arpeggios are awash in a viscous hum that feels like passing through a bleak environment while cocooned in the safety of a vehicle. It’s disarmingly calming music, given the way Campbell’s minimalist synth melodies soundly weather a storm that only occasionally threatens to endanger. The analogue tones present an archaic futurism that the surrounding melee of white noise struggles to oppress: the noise is the decay to the synth’s melodious prosperity. It’s hopeful music then, because the synth always prevails.

As is the case with much of Newcastle’s noise output over the last decade, this is beautiful and cathartic music, devoid of the macho banality, or academic wizardry, that the genre is commonly bonded with. Open Palms is a paean to the strange malignancy of the urban: harsh, angular and unpredictable, a world moulded and dismantled by human (or corporate) whim. Whether we have Newcastle to thank for Stitched Vision is still a point of conjecture, but this is a moving debut.