Sleeve Notes: October 2011
Canberra based duo Spartak return with their third album Nippon on the New Weird Australia imprint New Editions.
Duo Shoeb Ahmad and Evan Dorrian explore a hybrid sound of ‘indie’ rock, improvised jazz, electronic music and modern composition – using a wide palette of delicate melodies, free percussion, processed sound and found textures.
Since 2006, they have travelled around Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and Japan numerous times, playing alongside hardcore bands, sound artists and free improvisers alike. They have previously released Tales From The Colony Room on hellosQuare recordings and Verona, through the English label Low Point.
Verona met critical acclaim upon its release in 2010, featuring in many publications – including the respected modern music magazine The Wire, who noted Spartak’s ‘sonic restlessness’ and ‘organic sense of clarity’.
This new release sees the duo expand on the loose improvisations of their previous work by taking in a more brittle electronic edge, alongside a reclaimed punk attitude, with recordings edited from performances in Kyoto, Tokyo and Osaka on their recent tour of Japan. These shows revisited the original mode of Spartak music – pre-composed key phrases forming the core basis of the performance each night. This common thread lends itself nicely to the various pieces, tieing them together as a suite, while varying in nature.
1. Lover’s Distress 02:37
2. Snowflake Reflection (Open) 07:43
3. Channels 06:24
4. Rail Star Mode 05:47
5. Colour Is The Night 09:02
6. Wire + Water 03:04
7. Snowflake Reflection (Close) 05:24
Ahmad, A – guitar, voice, electronics, analog synth, clarinet
Dorrian, E – drum kit, percussion, field recordings, voice, computer
Recorded + mixed live in Japan, March 2011. Post-production edits by Shoeb Ahmad at hellosQuare Place, Canberra. Mastered by Taylor Deupree at 12k mastering.
Photos by Shoeb + Kate Ahmad and Evan Dorrian.
Sleeve design by Heath Killen.
“With sharp edits and no gaps between tracks, Nippon has a snapshot reel feel, so it is ideal then for a collection of live recordings from Spartak’s 2011 Japanese tour. Rarely repeating a style, its breadth makes further nonsense of any attempted genre affiliation for this Australian duo. Out of the vast multitude of low-key post-rock shape makers, Spartak have always been among the most skilful underground players in blurring the lines between drone, guitar music and electronics/edits … They are doing something akin to the sync and confusion of the hand-cranking of three dimensional cogs. Nippon slips on and off the slopes of conventionality – they are too slippery for mutation and too fluidly random to make evolutionary steps … ‘Rail Star Mode’ is the disc’s highlight, a track that muddles up Nyoukis-esque broken speech and religious chatter, which stands on the verge of collapse. The song’s beautiful faltering steps are rescued from the brink by a damaged PC reboot/reset, a mid-record move that’s more beautiful and weird than most bands’ epic finales.”
The Quietus, April 2012
“Spartak is Shoeb Ahmad on guitar, electronics, clarinet and vocals, and Evan Dorrian on drums, percussion, field recordings and voice. The duo has a distinct improv feel, particularly evident in the impressive playing of Dorrian, so the live recording format feels like a fitting way to capture their sound … Nippon is a well-paced exploration of live performance as document from an engaging duo”
Real Time Arts, March 2012
“possesses a keen improvisational restlessness, balancing elements of jazz, indie rock, noise and modern classical without ever explicitly spilling over into rote performance of either… Nippon is best experienced all at once, allowing the unique improvisation of Spartak to wash over you”
Cyclic Defrost, November 2011
Interview: “Two Minutes With Spartak” – “We have just released a new record called Nippon on the wonderful New Editions imprint run by the people at New Weird Australia. It’s our own Live In Japan record but hacked apart and taped back together like broken vinyl.”
Life Is Noise, November 2011