Record Reviews

Russell St Bombings

The first LP by Russell St Bombings is centred on instrumental forays that fall disjointedly in place one after the other. It veers into acoustic ballads sliced through by offhanded guitars and features blind muttering and repetitive thumps, shrieks from unknown sources and the howl of electronic mistakes. It’s then woven into an ugly tapestry that’s unbroken by the stops or starts of formal tracking. There is little to guide you to understanding this record but, really, it’s often unknown as to what you’re hearing at all.

Russell St Bombings are the duo of Al Montfort and Zephyr Pavey (both of [Total Control](/search/?q=Total+Control) and [Eastlink](/search/?q=eastlink)) and are almost reactionary in their lack of placing among their contemporaries. The only possible reference point that can be drawn to the duo’s other projects is to Montfort’s solo recordings as Snake (who released a [favourite tape of mine in 2013]( on his own label Hidiotic), while in Montfort’s disquieting intonations there are hints at the indirect moments of [Lower Plenty](/search/?q=Lower+Plenty) – but you can hardly call these sounds recognisable. So I don’t recommend this record if you’re looking for some kind of tangent to the monolith of Total Control’s [recent LP](/releases/2001353) or the underrated power of [Eastlink’s](/articles/4658762). Other than the fact that you can generally trust their musical projects, nothing that would endear someone to the names of Pavey or Montfort is present here.

On ?711 Confusion?, one of only two conventional songs on the album, Montfort spends his time muttering sadly to himself. ?This used to be the bush,? he mourns while walking down modern-day Russell Street, dreaming of the wreckage that the rest of the record resembles. While features occasionally jut out from the record’s more broken moments (a voice questioning emptily, a guest vocal by Xanthe Waite, a once-appearing melody), little can be heard beyond the damage. It’s unlikely that this was an attempt to soundtrack the mess caused by the four Russell St bombers, who tore apart the Victorian Police Headquarters with a car bomb in 1986, citing revenge for their incarceration, but it’s easy to pretend it sounds like that. It’s easy because there is nothing to give you a hint at what it might be aiming for. The only image or object to latch onto is a black-and-white photo of a mannequin head on the cover, accompanied by the name of an event that most would have to Google to discover.

Russell St Bombings appeal to me (and maybe to you) because it exists completely untangled from the extraneous factors that lead people to waste time connecting the dots. Instead, you’re left with a bare and brittle canvas of the recording alone. The record won’t appeal to many – its starkness isn’t of the fashionable dystopian bent mined by the popular unconventional acts – but it draws a wavering line between bent folk and acoustic experimentation that exists to mystify more than entertain. Like kicking over an abandoned sand castle, there’s satisfaction here in its meaningless disorder.