Slights Still Unspoken - Voigt/465 (Guerssen)

slights still unspoken smThere was a time when sharp divisions ran like Pacific Rim fault-lines between underground musical factions in Sydney. 

One one tectonic plate stood the Radio Birdman-influenced, leather-clad, guitar warriors steeped in ramalama-fa-fa-fa and the Stooges, on the other an esoteric bunch of people making sounds with synthesisers and other assorted machines. Picket lines were established and few crossed them, unless by accident or if no-one was looking.

There was an irony in that the original Birdman crowd was itself, at least partly comprised of the arty and self-consciously avant garde, as well as curious suburb dwellers, students and bikers. In time, the walls that divided Sydney music would break down, but they were also reinforced by Clinton Walker’s seminal 1982 book, “Inner City Sound”. 

It was mostly a scrapbook compiled from zines and magazine writings but it filled a void for those who hadn’t been around to be immersed in the late ‘70s scene. Walker’s coverage was subjective, naturally enough, and he was on the side of the arty bands and junkie rock crew. He didn’t miss a chance to diss any band from a Sydney-via-Detroit postcode. Voigt/465 were in his good books.

So to this collection by Spanish label Guerssen, which specialises in obscure re-issues.  “Slights Still Unspoken” is the second compilation of Voight/465 material to land, comprising their 1979 one and only album (“Slights Unspoken”) plus bonus tracks. 

Voigt/465 had a sharp, nagging sound anchored in the dissonant end of Krautrock and Pere Ubu. A bit like the Velvets, stripped of the laconic elements after refusing to wait for their man.

The basic elements are, well, pretty basic. High-tensile, edgy vocals from Roe Byron and sythn player Phil Turnbull, spidery guitar, sharp time changes and Phil O.Meara’s deep bass-lines. Repetition. Avant-garage, to use the band’s own term.   

Let’s be honest: The walls might be down but some of these songs still leave me colder than an Eskimo’s dick in an outdoor sauna. Especially the more out-there things like “P” and “F1”. That last one got the dog curious and no wonder - it sounds like a dolphin being slaughtered buy a shipload of Japanese whalers armed with cattle prods. As Spock was known to have never said to Captain Kirk: “It’s rock, Jim, but not as we know it.”

On the other hand, much of the album-proper is good in its own way, with the Voigts coming across as the impoverished studio cousins of The Thought Criminals. Most of the music was recorded in a low-budget studio in Kogarah in southern Sydney, well-known around those parts for being operated by a blind man.  

There’s some things to like and some to dislike on this album. One common element music from either end of the spectrum shared was a determination to confront and not to be ignored. In that regard, Voigt/465 brings things full circle. 

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Tags: avant garde, sydney, radio birdman, pere ubu, voigt/465, can, kraughtrock

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