All posts by Joseph Cummins

Across the Top

Paul Cutlan, Brett Hirst, The NOISE
Improvisation, Jazz
Tall Poppies TP211
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2015

Across the Top is a convincing synthesis of European art music influences and jazz-informed improvisation. Paul Cutlan, one of Sydney’s leading improvising saxophonists, provides compositions that he performs with great sensitivity alongside bassist Brett Hirst and string quartet The NOISE – Veronique Serret and Lisa Pallandi on violin, James Eccles on viola, Ollie Miller on… continue reading »


Grey Wing Trio. Luke Sweeting on piano, Ken Allars on trumpet, and Finn Ryan on drums
Jazzhead HEAD 217
Reviewed by , March 3rd, 2016

Sydney’s Grey Wing Trio present music that is seamlessly free-flowing, super-melodic, and harmonically engaging. Amoroso is, above all, infused with adventure, joy, and tenderness. With Luke Sweeting on piano, Ken Allars on trumpet, and Finn Ryan on drums, Grey Wing Trio offer an immediate dual focus on both composition and three-way interaction. But the beauty,… continue reading »


Alister Spence, Joe Williamson and Christopher Cantillo
Improvisation, Jazz
Alister Spence Music (ASM003)
Reviewed by , December 1st, 2015

This is the first release from the new trio of Australian pianist Alister Spence, Canadian bassist Joe Williamson and Swedish drummer Christopher Cantillo. Meeting at the crossroads of jazz and free improvisation, the musical sympathy and connection between Spence, Williamson and Cantillo is extremely strong (they have been playing together since 2009). The thirteen improvisations… continue reading »

Cat’s Squirrel

Merzbow and Oren Ambarchi
Improvisation, Noise
Hospital Hill (HHCD04130740)
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

Cat’s Squirrel presents two of the world’s finest purveyors of noise music, in duo format for the first time. The legendary Merzbow (real name Masami Akita), Japan’s lord of noise, joins Australia’s loudest and heaviest noise guitarist, Oren Ambarchi. This album is a pair of fifteen minute-long improvisations – recorded live at the Campbelltown Arts… continue reading »

City Speaks

Callum g’Froerer and quintet
Listen/Hear Collective
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2014

If the City Speaks, its dialect is cool, languid. Its time is the dark flow of the night. Often understated playing brings to life a unified set of harmonically rich compositions. Melbourne-based trumpet player Callum g’Froerer has assembled Andrew Brooks on alto saxophone, Brett Thompson on guitar, Alex Boneham on double bass and Hugh Harvey… continue reading »

Cloak of Ash

Hope Drone
Contemporary, Metal
Relapse Records
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

Cloak of Ash, by Brisbane band Hope Drone, is a monumental and affecting collection of seven extremely cohesive songs. This music is very evocative. It made me imagine several images, such as precipitation: rain clouds form, thunderheads rumble, currents of air swirl, torrents of rain fall, floods surge, mist and droplets shimmer. Something about the… continue reading »

Everything Here Is Possible

Alister Spence and Myra Melford, pianos
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2014

Everything Here Is Possible is a voyage into the shimmering musical unknown. In a set of five piano duets by Alister Spence (Sydney) and Myra Melford (New York), the exploration of different musical ideas and the creation of soundworlds is grounded in the clear impression of an exchange and transformation of improvisatory energy. This energy… continue reading »

Family Portraits

Andrea Keller
Classical, Jazz, New Music
Jazzhead HEAD188
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2014

In Family Portraits Andrea Keller, on piano, with Boss RC loop station, Line 6 delay pedal and preparations, presents a deeply personal collection of compositions. Keller’s ninth album as leader utilises loop and delay pedals to complement the piano, as well as preparations to the strings that emphasise the percussive quality of the instrument. In… continue reading »

Fluid to the Influence

Chris Abrahams, piano, organ, synthesizers
Room 40 (RM464)
Reviewed by , April 1st, 2016

“One of Australia’s most distinctive improvisational voices has created another finely woven and memorable collection.” But don’t automatically expect this music to be defined by meditative, shimmering beauty. Then again, it depends how you define ‘beauty’. Perhaps this idea, the deconstruction and exploration of textural, tonal, harmonic, rhythmic and improvisational beauty, is at the heart… continue reading »

Hear and Know

Mike Nock Trio Plus
FWM Records (FWM002)
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2014

Hear and Know is a finely balanced and detailed record of the encounter between a master and four perceptive, thoughtful and highly skilled musical devotees. Sydney pianist Mick Nock’s regular trio with James and Ben Waples – on drums and double bass respectively – is here augmented by Karl Laskowski on tenor saxophone and Ken… continue reading »

I See Seaweed

The Drones
Contemporary, Rock
TFS Records
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2015

The Drones are perhaps the most important Australian rock band creating music today. While this is a big statement, and one that reflects my own admiration of the literary (and noisy), there is much to love about this group, both lyrically and sonically. Featuring Gareth Liddiard on guitar and vocals, Fiona Kitschin on bass, Dan… continue reading »


Post by , June 1st, 2015

Kapture is a masterfully performed fusion of jazz and Indian classical musics with a sprinkling of other influences from across the globe. Sandy Evans (alto and tenor saxophone), Bobby Singh (tabla), Brett Hirst (double bass) and Toby Hall (drums and percussion) are joined on four of the twelve tracks by vocalist Sarangan Sriranganathan. Inspired by… continue reading »


Barney McAll, with Julien Wilson, Stephen Magnusson, Jonathan Zwartz, Simon Barker, Mino Cinelu, and Shannon Barnett
ABC Jazz 473 1260
Reviewed by , August 1st, 2015

One of our most engaging pianists, Barney McAll is currently working in Australia as the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Resident Composer (he is usually based in New York). McAll’s touch is unmistakable: a combination of the incredible force with which he performs (I’ve never seen someone play the piano so hard), his beautifully contorted harmonic language, and… continue reading »

Mutiny Music

Reviewed by , October 1st, 2015

Mutiny Music is a journey across the Pacific. The album retells the linked histories of two islands, Pitcairn and Norfolk, while making a close study of musical and cultural fusion. There’s a number of ways of engaging with Mutiny Music. Of course, you can just press ‘play’ and take in the beauty of the varied… continue reading »

Neighbouring Objects

Mike Majkowski, bass
Astral Spirits
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2015

Bassist-improviser Mike Majkowski presents another highly refined and impressively performed exploration of (mostly) solo bass on Neighbouring Objects. The playing here is so focused and the territory explored is so rich and resonant that one gets the feeling of being deeply embedded in this soundscape. Like his last album Why is there something instead of nothing (2013), the listener… continue reading »

Observations EP

Virtual Proximity
Electronic Music, Fusion
esc.rec. or
Reviewed by , January 1st, 2015

Weaving layers of beats with processed field recordings and lustrous strands of loops, Observations EP – by Melbourne’s Virtual Proximity – is a shimmering sonic fabric. I wish this was a full-length album as the listening experience through the six tracks was one of being enfolded in a comforting electro-acoustic lullaby. In studio mode, Virtual… continue reading »

Paper Tiger

Stephen Magnusson, Jamie Oehlers and Ben Vanderwal
Assemblers Records (assemblers001)
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2015

On Paper Tiger, three Australian jazz stalwarts combine in the slightly unusual bassless format. Such a move gives a lightness to the sound that suits the improvisations and song choices of tenorist Jamie Oehlers, guitarist Stephen Magnusson and drummer Ben Vanderwal. Of the fifteen tracks, all but four are originals, and the playing and compositional… continue reading »


Jazzgroove Records (JGR063)
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2014

For Felucca, contemporary music means synthesis. Pierrot, the debut album of the Sydney trio, is a confident statement of modern jazz. This is not the over-reaching jazz-fusion of decades past but an approach to song writing and improvisation that, despite replacing electric guitar and vocals with tenor saxophone, still places the rock before the jazz…. continue reading »

Punk Aesthetics and New Folk: Way Down the Old Plank Road

John Encarnacao
Books, Musicology
Ashgate (Ashgate Popular and Folk Music Series). 298pp. Hardback, Also in ebook PDF, ebook ePUB
ISBN: 978-1-4094-3399-6 (hbk)
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2015

John Encarnacao’s study of the diverse field of ‘new folk’ is a wonderful contribution to popular music studies. Punk Aesthetics and New Folk is as much a fascinating and accessible genealogy of some of the more interesting and obscure popular music produced in the last 30 years as it is a new history of the… continue reading »


My Disco. Liam Andrews, bass and vocals; Benjamin Andrews, guitar; Rohan Rebeiro, drums
Contemporary, Punk
Temporary Residence
Reviewed by , December 1st, 2015

Severe is formed in the space where explosive streams of percussion and sublime clouds of noise converge. I don’t think I’ve ever been so struck by the level of focus that emanates from the fourth album by Melbourne trio My Disco. The music is extreme, in its lyrical refinement, rhythmic hypnotism, sonic attention to detail,… continue reading »

Sheltering Sky

Drowning Horse. Kim McConchie on vocals and noise, James Wills on drums, Brendan McGrath and Michael Larkins on guitars and Robin Mander on bass
Contemporary, Metal
Art as Catharsis
Reviewed by , March 3rd, 2016

Perth doom/sludge/blackened drone band Drowning Horse offer darkly shimmering, grim sublime-scapes for a post-apocalyptic world. Featuring Kim McConchie on vocals and noise, James Wills on drums, Brendan McGrath and Michael Larkins on guitars and Robin Mander on bass, Drowning Horse’s music is moving, emotional, intense, but also extremely hypnotic and immersive, and I think this… continue reading »

Switches & Hose

Dale Gorfinkel
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2015

I love the way Melbourne-based improviser, multi-instrumentalist, instrument builder and installation artist Dale Gorfinkel lists all of the objects he uses to make sound on Switches & Hose. On the first track alone Gorfinkel uses a footpump, balloons, garden irrigation, taps, plastic containers and reeds. This is highly rhythmic music, hopping across shifting speeds and… continue reading »

The Migration

Stu Hunter (piano) with Cameron Undy (acoustic and electric bass), Simon Barker (drums and percussion), Carl Dewhurst (guitars), Matt Keegan (tenor and baritone sax, alto clarinet), Julien Wilson (tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), James Greening (trombone, pocket trumpet, tuba), Phil Slater (trumpet) and vocalists Katie Noonan (on Twelve Stages of Freedom) and Tina Harrod
Habitat (habitat1601)
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2016

A luxurious, various and vital opus from Sydney pianist Stu Hunter. Featuring performances from the best of Australian jazz – Cameron Undy (acoustic and electric bass), Simon Barker (drums and percussion), Carl Dewhurst (guitars), Matt Keegan (tenor and baritone sax, alto clarinet), Julien Wilson (tenor sax, bass clarinet, clarinet), James Greening (trombone, pocket trumpet, tuba),… continue reading »

The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air

Jonathan Zwartz
Reviewed by , October 1st, 2015

With The Remembering and Forgetting of the Air, Sydney double bassist Jonathan Zwartz has produced another memorable collection of compositions, perhaps even better than his award-winning 2009 recording The Sea. The album features Barney McAll on piano, Phil Slater on trumpet, Julian Wilson on tenor saxophone, James Greening on trombone, Richard Maegraith on tenor saxophone… continue reading »

The Sword and the Brush

Red Fish Blue
Keynetic Records KR0022013
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2014

With pianist Sam Keevers, acoustic bassist Brett Hirst, and two percussionists, Simon Barker on drum kit and Changgo drum, and Javier Fredes on congas, bata, darabuka, shakers and hand percussion, the second release from Red Fish Blue combines a laid-back Cuban impulse with controlled, often understated compositions. Keevers’ playing, which is measured, engaging, and often… continue reading »

The Worry

Contemporary, Electronica
Future Classic
Reviewed by , March 1st, 2015

On The Worry, the third album release by Sydney trio Seekae, twelve often minimal, moody, and finely balanced tracks are offered, showcasing the burgeoning songwriting and arranging abilities of Alex Cameron, George Nicholas and John Hassell. The trio are also credited with production. The ‘traditional’ songwriting aspect of The Worry is elevated by the trio’s… continue reading »

Tinkly Tinkly

Jess Green’s Bright Sparks
Yum Yum Tree Records (YYTR007)
Reviewed by , February 1st, 2015

Tinkly Tinkly is the second release by Sydney guitarist and vocalist Jess Green. Despite the size of Green’s band (eight players), the music here is mobile, often full of light, dark when it wants to be, and strikingly diverse. I put the openness and agility of this album down to great arranging: the players are… continue reading »

to your poverty quietly go

Contemporary, Experimental Music, Rock
Newmarket Music and Romeo Records
Reviewed by , May 1st, 2015

The second album by Melbourne experimental rock ensemble Umlaut is a cinematic, restless and beautifully arranged collection of songs. At only 32 minutes long I was definitely left wanting more – I wish I could walk around in the film-world scored by Umlaut, a place built with slightly distorted dimensions. At first it seems like… continue reading »

Tokyo 1972

Splitrec 23 Download:
Reviewed by , September 1st, 2014

Shimmering, wailing, rippling, humming, crashing, twittering, welling, creaking, scratching, stuttering, resounding, and slipping into silence: this is the soundworld created by Teletopa on Tokyo 1972. A short-lived and now legendary free improvisation ensemble based in Sydney, Teletopa was comprised of Geoffrey Collins (flute), Peter Evans (percussion), David Ahern (violin) and Roger Frampton (saxophone). Each member… continue reading »


Jim Denley and Cor Fuhler
Splitrec (Splitrec 24)
Reviewed by , January 1st, 2015

Two of Sydney’s finest improvisers team up on Truancy. Cor Fuhler (piano and preparations) and Jim Denley (alto saxophone and preparations) have both performed throughout the world, collaborating with some of the top free improvisers in the field. This recording, made in Fuhler’s backyard, is comprised of two immersive soundscapes, Skive and Wag. The encounter… continue reading »

Truth Seekers, Lovers and Warriors

Joseph Tawadros, oud. With James Tawadros, req, bendir; Matt McMahon, piano; James Greening, trombone; James Crabb, accordion
Music, New Music
ABC Music 481 1632
Reviewed by , July 1st, 2015

Truth Seekers, Lovers and Warriors sees Sydney’s world-renowned oud player Joseph Tawadros assemble a slightly unusual collection of musicians from Sydney and abroad. I have seen the Tawadros brothers (James plays req and bendir) perform in Sydney with pianist Matt McMahon, but the addition of James Greening on trombone and Scottish born accordionist James Crabb… continue reading »

Why Is There Something Instead of Nothing

Mike Majkowski
Bocian Records
Reviewed by , November 1st, 2014

Brought to life by Mike Majkowski, the double bass is a living, breathing organism that can morph from the size of an insect, all energy and restless movement, to a creature of cosmic proportions, vibrating in excess of time and space. Sydney-raised Majkowski has been making a name for himself in Berlin, the flourishing hub… continue reading »

Wilderness of Mirrors

Lawrence English
Electronic Music
Reviewed by , October 1st, 2014

Wavering in shadows between sonic light and dark, Wilderness of Mirrors evokes both growth and decay. Unfolding like a flower, its beauty reaches into transcendence, immersing and comforting the listener. At the same time, this unfolding is also the movement towards deterioration. Brisbane-based Lawrence English presents a finely crafted album that seems to emerge from… continue reading »

World’s Best Jazz Club: The Story of Bennetts Lane

David James
Books, Musicology
Highett, Vic: Major Street Publishing Pty Ltd, 2014. 239pp.
ISBN 9780987542946 (hardback).
Reviewed by , October 1st, 2014

Is Bennetts Lane the world’s best jazz club? David James’s new book on the iconic Melbourne jazz venue makes a compelling argument that it is. Considering the recent news that Bennetts will close next year, with owner/founder Michael Tortoni admitting the “planning laws, the taxation arrangements, they don’t allow a niche business which is basically… continue reading »

About Joseph Cummins

Joseph Cummins is a musician and academic based in Sydney. He has published articles on Australian music, literature, and culture, and is currently completing a doctoral project in this field. He also leads the band 'Lines of Flight', and performs with many other jazz/world/noise groups around Sydney.

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