Breaking the Box: Meet five Australian electronic artists doing things differently
From the big names - like Harvey Sutherland - to those small and emerging, we uncover the best of Australian electronic's left-field scene.
Words by Ben Donaldson.
Call it what you want: funk, soul, disco, jazz, house, broken beat, techno, electro, dub, bass.
You could write a list of adjectives that go on for pages, but in the world of Australian electronic’s ever-growing “underground” - a politicised and debate worthy term in itself - describing one’s sound is more than a simple one-word explanation. For lack of a better expression, ‘Australia’s underground’ is a melting pot of disparate sounds and conventions that meet under the banner of expression and experimentation. Unlike the aforementioned list, what connects these artists is a desire to defer from appropriating a specific sound in an industry bitten by the bug of category.
The paths taken by artists, their inspirations, their training and their ambitions for their sound are as eclectic as their music, but within the many scenes across Australia, a familiar theme is one of sharing and collaborating. For artists releasing under one name, the shared experience of creation felt within these scenes can be lost to the ether, but for artists themselves, it is not forgotten. Many artists attribute the communal spirit as something that continually informs their developing sounds.
The following artists, producers and DJs provide a microscopic sample of the scenes that are making big waves both within Australia’s electronic and around the globe:
The performance moniker for Mike Katz: stage controller, DJ and producer. Harvey Sutherland is arguably well out of the underground space. Nevertheless, all artists had beginnings and Katz was firmly entrenched in Australia’s electronic scene.
Since 2013, Harvey Sutherland has been responsible for a number of releases pushing his sound of fun, bubbling interpretations of synth-heavy funk and disco-burners to international audiences. While this sound has seen him DJ around the globe and perform live sets at some of the world’s biggest festivals such as Glastonbury, this has not been the definition of Sutherland.
As well as performing alongside the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, his 2018 release, Amethyst featured blossoming UK Jazz sensation Nubya Garcia in a departure from his more synonymous sound. These are just a couple of examples of the Harvey Sutherland projects’ versatility.
Singer, poet, pianist and an unashamedly creative spirit. Joy is a member of Melbourne collective 30/70 and along with other members of the group, has become an integral part of championing the emerging sounds of the Melbourne underground.
Joy has an uncompromising way of expressing the self in her music. Whether through her husky vocals, a socially aware and connected stage presence or the ability to write a deeply personal lyric, Joy has a penchant for illuminating the self for a wider social context. This is no more apparent than on her ten-track 2018 LP Acadie:Raw, showcasing her gripping vocals, poignant lyricism and vast taste for sound.
In July, Joy and other 30/70 side projects (Horatio Luna, Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange) were hand-picked by none other than the influential broadcaster, DJ and label head, Gilles Peterson to feature on Sunny Side Up, an album showcasing the boundary-pushing sounds of the Melbourne’s underground scenes. Joy was awarded the closing spot on the tracklist for her song entitled, Orbit – a final say of sorts on what may become a defining work of Australian music.
Known for his key and horn inflected, jazz/disco influenced house music, one could be quick to pigeonhole Loure’s sound as only that. Loure (Thom Guida) as a producer and performer is anything but.
Loure’s inspirations are far-reaching and not only reflected in his sampling. Loure’s releases on the likes of Sloth Boogie, Apparel Music and his 2017 release on Noire & Blanche (that you can pick up for a pretty penny on Discogs) showcase not only a keen ear for a sample but a tremendous range of organic sounds.
Thom recently toured around Australia, doing a series of hardware heavy live sets on his Loure on Toure. However, this isn’t the only form of performance you can expect from a Loure show. One could just as easily find Loure behind the decks for a DJ set or in more recent times, with a four-piece band consisting of sax, horn and bass whilst he works away on the knobs and keys.
The Perth native who is now shacked up in the heart of Melbourne’s scene has toured exhaustively as a drummer and has worked with the likes of Drapht, Sampa The Great and Ta-Ku.
His latest release, Fruit Soup on Mandarin Dreams, has been described by the man himself as “a joyful manifestation of the surrender to absurdity,” a description spun out of poetry readings and philosophical thought.
This is reflected in the collection of tracks on Fruit Soup that are built on Kuzich’s love of percussive rhythm and coloured by soulful vocals and a large array of melodies informed by anything from jazz to funk and hip hop.
Kuzich is another contributor to the Sunny Side Up compilation mentioned earlier along with other artists Dufresne and Horatio Luna, who Kuzich lived with when he first moved to Melbourne and credits - amongst others - as helping him finish Fruit Soup.
Katie Campbell, producer and DJ under the name Roza Terenzi, is another artist who has taken the journey from Perth to Melbourne and seen her career take off.
Campbell took to songwriting from an early age and refined her taste in electronic sensibilities as she furthered her training at the revered West Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA).
Campbell spoke to Resident Advisor about the ineffable nature of what she produces and performs, "I always struggle to describe my music to people… It's dance music, but I don't write it for the dance floor. It's more to resonate with different parts of your mind through listening.”
After a flurry of releases in 2018 (six, to be exact), Campbell released her Let’s Ride EP on the revered Dutch label Dekmantel and performed a Boiler Room set at the 2019 edition of the festival holding the same name.
In the video of that performance, one that has attracted close to 30,000 views in just over two months, the MC introduces Campbell with a little anecdote for the audience. He says that Campbell attended the festival five years before and is now playing at it – this transformative juxtaposition is just another example of the heights Australian artists’ are taking themselves to.
Who else should we be keeping an eye on?