James Rushford and Joe Talia, Manhunter

Manhunter by James Rushford and Joe Talia, cover art by Michael Salerno
Manhunter by James Rushford and Joe Talia, cover art by Michael Salerno

James Rushford and Joe Talia
Manhunter album launch (Kye Records)
Northcote Uniting Church
25 April

Breath and wind united the four acts of James Rushford and Joe Talia’s album launch beneath the pipe organ of the Northcote Uniting Church. Robert McDougall and JK Fuller contrasted mouth organs and harmonica clusters with rumbling electronic ground-basses, percussive metallic articulations and a broad chroma of static interference and distortion effects in their ambient, minimalist electronic sets.

Armed with only her own voice, an accordion, brushes, a mouth organ and a sheet of aluminium foil, Carolyn Connors proves she needs no electronics to transition from a clear vocal tone to inhuman white noise, gibbering and squeaking. Variously bounced on her knee and played with brushes, the accordion becomes yet another wind instrument motivated by Connors’ nervous agitation. The perpetuum mobile is broken only as Connors wraps a sheet of aluminium foil around her head to project her powerful (and apparently indestructible) voice buzzily through the metallic veil.

Cloaked in a red half-light, Joe Talia and James Rushford open their set with several minutes of soothing, cycling chords on a Twin-Peaks-era synth. Sublime video footage by Michael Salerno of tornadoes graces the front of their desk. Those hoping that the tension between the awesome power of nature and the keening tonal salve will continue are sorely disappointed, plunged into an hour of mumbles and crackles over a pulsing, bassy hum.

Part of the fun of a Talia/Rushford show is trying to guess what they are doing. We know not to question someone’s apparent inactivity in front of a mixing desk, but what exactly is Rushford doing as he somnambulantly manipulates a stick on a tabletop, blows into what looks like a duct-taped syrinx, or sticks some sort of barbecue tongs in his mouth?

The show ends with a slowed-down recording of Auld Lang Syne on piano and strings. Rushford sips something out of a church-hall mug and Talia stares vacantly at his mixer. Saddest New Year’s Eve Ever.

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