While I’ve always shamelessly proclaimed Melbourne as the hub of all things progressively countercultural, exemplified by its flourishing network of avant-garde musicians and independent labels, wrapped in the expressionistic DIY custom of fringe venues and warehouse stages, I’ve always felt that undertone of envy not being able to also claim Brisbane’s Room40, arguably Australia’s foremost underground experimental music label, as our own. But in spite of its northerly subtropical home, commonly perceived by snooty Melburnians as our notorious opposite, Room40 has gone against the grain to develop into an institute that is as inspired and intuitive as experimental labels get.
When I first saw this compilation’s title, Fabrique, the first thing that came to mind was the iconic London nightclub which itself has had a successful compilation series—an attempt at a more chic persona explaining the spelling adjustment from Fabric to Fabrique. Though closer inspection proved that this was clearly not the case, Room40’s Fabrique 2001-2009 essentialises the core of the label’s being in a no less immediate and potent fashion than its analogous albeit unrelated London counterpart’s beat-ilicious thumping fabric and fabriclive series.
Fabrique was an ongoing concert series curated by Lawrence English and featured a host of preeminent experimental musicians and sound artists from all corners of the globe. This epic 18-track compilation, which was handed out at the conclusion of the final Fabrique performance, recapitulates this understated landmark series. Fabrique offers some of the best examples of a uniting artistic force of minimalist creativity that has strengthened the exceptional catalogue that Room40 has developed since its birth in 2000: the buried tones, looping feedback, dense atmospheres, subtle beats, processed melodies, warm textures and minimal sonic gradation. Highlights include contributions from Sydney-based pianist and one third of the influential Necks, Chris Abrahams, American ambient electronic artist, Keith Fullerton Whitman, Japanese glitch-pop princess Tujiko Noriko, dramatic London sound artist and composer, Janek Schaefer, the electronic ambient solo project of prolific Japanese artist Keiichi Sugimoto, Fourcolor, Sydney-based drone soundscapist from the Preservation label, Pimmon, emerging multifaceted Brisbane sound artist, Leighton Craig, and acclaimed American improv turntablist, DJ Olive.
I’m sure it’s not an uncommon phenomenon that when one blindly listens to music, the odd striking track will always have the listener voluntarily peak at the console display to learn the title for the future reference. I like to refrain from doing this for compilations just as a simple exercise to test the cohesiveness of its parts, and Fabrique 2001-2009 is a quintessential example of where this proves to be almost a necessity. Despite its geographically diverse roster, a poignant dialogue exists between the works, possibly simulating a figment of what the live, intimate Fabrique experience might have been like. A compilation that attests this state of oneness transcends the fate of the usual hollow catalogue sampler. Room40 offers a real emotional entity from its short but impressive history. Fabrique 2001-2009 is an absolute treat.