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GUM - Vinyl Anthology

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Artist: GUM

Album: Vinyl Anthology

Label: 23five, Inc.

Review date: Mar. 10, 2005

Philip Samartzis is a sonic artist of international repute, having performed widely in his native Australia, Japan, Europe and the United States. He currently holds a position as co-ordinator and lecturer in sound at the School of Art, RMIT University in Melbourne, one of Australia’s leading educational establishments. There he is engaged in research into surround sound and immersive environments for installation art. However, his earliest explorations into sound manipulation were far more humble.

In 1986 a young Australian by the name of Andrew Curtis posted an advertisement in local record shops across Melbourne, desperately seeking someone who shared his passion for industrial bands such as Cabaret Voltaire, Whitehouse and Throbbing Gristle (whose “Blood on the Floor” is covered and included here). The only respondent was Samartzis. A meeting was hastily arranged and a friendship quickly established between them. It was not long until the aurally hostile and decidedly lo-fi GUM was born – a vehicle for their shared enthusiasms and desire become participators rather than spectators. In the same punk rock spirit that motivated their champions, expertise and training took a back seat to youthful exuberance and an “everything but the kitchen sink” mentality. The pair took to the thrift stores that dotted their neighborhood and bought up barely functioning turntables and old worn out LPs. Isolated, geographically and ideologically, from the rest of their industrial brethren, increasingly finding that scene too elitist and arrogant, their obsession with mysticism both tiresome and banal, GUM’s principal concern was simply enjoyment. Their modus operandi was the locked groove, those discovered in bargain bins and manufactured by the swift movement of a Stanley knife. Augmented by an overdose of slap-dash FX, GUM created a catalogue of static, noise and hiss, alongside the occasional, but not so subtle, social comment.

Tracks like “Testicle Stretch” more than live up to their billing, inducing an almost physical pain via a barrage of Merzbow proportions. However, there are a few relative diamonds in the rough, as the delicate plaintive piano loop of “Injected by a Certain Amount of Charisma” (ony of several amazing titles) gradually accelerates away into the ether before imploding. “1-800-GUM” sees the group exploring territory frequented by arch media pranksters Negativeland – a recontextualization of phone sex and sexuality features a woman serving up lascivious phrases over a cheesy ’70s funk soundtrack, with Curtis himself supplying the feeble, distracted responses up until the point of cacophonous rapture.

This anthology of GUM’s complete works from 1987-1990 is comprised of their two self-published albums Vinyl and 20 Years in Blue Movies and Yet to Fake an Orgasm, a few 7” singles, and several unreleased pieces. It has been lovingly assembled, replete with liner notes from label boss Jim Haynes (regular Wire contributor and associate member of San Francisco’s Jewelled Antler collective) and is a fine way for devotees of a new generation of turntabilists – Phillip Jeck, Janek Scaheffer, Otomo Yoshide et al – to investigate the genre in its embryonic stages. It also provides an alternative historical view of Antipodean music. During a time when most of GUM’s peers were choking on the dry ice of Goth, GUM are proof that there were other options available for those on the fringes.

By Spencer Grady

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