Since 2000, experimental Australian label Room40 has been a platform to test the boundaries of sound. They’ve released over 150 “editions” on formats ranging from regular CD and digital download through to vinyl and cassette, crossing genres to include the orchestral, electronic and ambient. The label’s annual music festival, Open Frame Room40, has been held in Brisbane and London, and comes to Sydney this July, bringing huge Australian and international artists to Carriageworks.
Headlining is American master of soundscape William Basinski , known for his seminal four albums The Disintegration Loops. The lineup also premieres Jim O’Rourke’s latest electro-acoustic piece. O’Rourke was a major player in Chicago’s experimental rock scene, and has since worked with Sonic Youth and Wilco. More than a music festival, Open Frame Room40 promises to be a whole body sound experience.
Lawrence English, artist, composer and founder of Room40, lovingly curated this years program. “It was a really nice way to summarise what I think Room40 is about,” says English. “All the artists have their own aesthetic investigations, but what ties them together is this depth of practice.”
Since the dawn of streaming services, the way we experience music has changed; instead of owning all our discs or files, we often access a server. Room40’s editions really encourage active listening. English explains, “That’s why we’ve been able to persist as a label; it’s not just about this commodification of music, it’s something that’s... driven by a sense of artistry and aesthetics.” Open Frame Room40 is not a concert, but a live celebration of this experimental music.
To ensure our bodies truly feel each note, English is using a gargantuan speaker system from Queensland audio experts Tonepacer. “If you need to go all the way to the top volume, you can; but it can also become incredibly quiet and intimate. When you fluctuate between something that’s very physical and very present and then reduce it to almost nothing… that’s where the sexy stuff of music happens.”
Open Frame Room40’s anniversary offers a glimpse into each artist’s current practice. Jim O’Rourke’s Diffusion, a world premiere, features eight bone-shaking channels. This means that the Carriageworks space will become a surround sound system; these kind of electro-acoustic works bring our focus to how sound feels. Space Noise is Makino Takashi’s unmissable multi-sensory piece. English describes the Japanese artist as “one of the most psychedelic filmmakers I’ve ever experienced.” Space Noise combines digital projection and 15mm film to create the illusion of three dimensions. English says, “It’s disorienting, but really saturated and beautiful.”