The Melbourne rave scene has suffered more than most since its heyday. However, what remains is a city that is producing more internationally recognised artists than it ever achieved in its prime.
In line with the UK, the acid house and techno sound of the late 80s quickly struck a chord with Melbournians, leading to a blossoming rave scene through the early nineties. However, the anti-rave retaliation, along with suburban gentrification and asphyxiating licensing laws has hit Melbourne harder than most other cities.
When I arrived in Melbourne, I found it incredibly hard to find what I would call a club by European standards. Most ‘nights’ are held in multipurpose spaces; that is a club, a bar and a restaurant, all at once. Unfortunately, the beginning of 2017 marked the closure of the last true club in Melbourne, Mercat Basement, due to the all too familiar story of global gentrification turning sour. Combine this with the enormous cost of bringing acts to Australia, and the result is a scene that is dominated by festivals and the occasional large promoter propping up the city’s nightlife.
However as with every cloud, there is a silver lining. The restriction of Melbourne’s underground scene has created a tight community. This small, but dedicated group of local promoters remain focused on the music in a city where the edgy bar wins preference over the DJ. Indeed, the following amassed for Boogs’ Sunday residency at Rev is comparable to those held by the likes of Larry Levan and Ron Hardy. Melbournian producers are receiving more attention than ever before, with acts such as Late Night Tuff Guy, András and Mall Grab now internationally acclaimed for their contribution to the contemporary musical melting pot. These few are, however, just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what Melbourne has to offer.
Below are five artists that are currently showcasing the city’s sounds for the whole world to hear.
CC:Disco didn’t gain her title as Australia’s ‘First Lady of Disco’ by chance. Her long running show ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ on PBS Radio has established her as one Melbourne’s go to DJs. What makes her stand out from the crowd is not only her mastery of unquantised mixing, comparable to the likes of Hunee, but also her impeccable selection. CC:Disco goes against the trend of many contemporary disco DJs, obsessed with ultra rare, ultra expensive vinyl. Her sets are just as likely to contain unloved B sides and bargain bin oddities as they are to contain 12”, selling for 3 figures online.
Despite being a regular act in Melbourne; warming up for the likes of Rahaan, Theo Parrish and Moodymann in recent times, CC:Disco is only just beginning to gain recognition in the much larger international scene. January of this year saw her debut Boiler Room appearance and the previous summer her first performance at Dimensions Festival in Croatia. Take a listen back to her set below:
Perhaps the most internationally reputable artist on the list, Harvey Sutherland continues to be a star of the Melbourne scene, breaking the boundaries of electronic creation time and time again. Part boogie, part nu-disco, part jam session; Harvey Sutherland’s music lives just outside of the any given genre. The producer and keyboardists combination of rich basslines, crisp drum programming, synth stabs and weightless keyboard solos forms a laidback sound with a relentless groove. Sutherland first came to the attention of the international audience with his release on Danilo Plessow’s, MCDE Records. The two track EP exemplifies Sutherland’s ability to create tracks that are simultaneously lounge and club ready. His follow up EP of late 2016 failed to disappoint, offering up over 15-minutes of synth-saturated goodness, spread across two tracks. The EP marked the inaugural release on Sutherland’s own, Clarity Records, a label with great prospects, aimed at exposing the hidden talents Australia has to offer.
With such a promising career ahead of him, there is no surprise that Sutherland’s back catalogue has also garnered much attention, with Edges reaching over £50 on Discogs. Thankfully for those looking to claim this gem on wax, Sutherland announced an imminent repress of the EP.
Harvey Sutherland is currently touring Australia with his band ‘Harvey Sutherland and Bermuda’ to promote the release of his second EP on Clarity Records, Expectations. Here is a demo of what’s to come from Harvey Sutherland.
Prequel is one of a growing number of DJs from down under being brought to the attention of an international audience through Bradley Zero and his highly praised, Rhythm Section. Prequel’s first release, Polite Strangers, achieved instant recognition from the likes of Ben UFO and Gilles Peterson. The 4 track EP is a laid back affair of down-tempo house tracks, with sparse instrumentation allowing each track to gain a certain weightless, soulful vibe.
Late 2016 saw a slight change in style for Prequel’s second release on Rhythm Section, Freedom Jazz Dance. The EP still leans toward the down-tempo side of house, but sees more of a focus on sample-based production. Each track is delicately embellished with spoken word, jazz and orchestral samples that lend a more individual and instantly recognisable sound to Prequel’s production.
Prequel’s DJing is very much an extension of this sound; blending hip-hop and soul with jazz and Detroit house. See a great live version of Saints as part of Prequels set at Rhythm Section’s recent Melbourne Boiler Room show:
(NB. If you’re a stickler for sound quality, this one’s not for you)
Wax’o Paradiso is the creative endeavour of three party starters; Andy Hart, Edd Fisher and Simon TK. As a trio, they host possibly the most revered parties in Melbourne. Stickers of Marcos Valle can be found dotted throughout Melbourne, a hallmark that one of Wax’o Paradiso’s psychedelic parties has gone down.
Despite gaining international recognition from Boiler Room and Rhythm Section, Wax’o Paradiso’s aim still remains close to home, a party in Melbourne, for Melbourne. With the combined knowledge of three selectors, their sets are compromised of rare disco and soul cuts with a healthy dose of Brazilian, Caribbean and Afrocentric music to compliment. Unsurprisingly, this has gained them a substantial and loyal fan base, who regularly turn out for parties of proportions unheard of in Melbourne. For their next instalment, Wax’o Paradiso are set to headlining Shady Cottage festival on March 31st, alongside Otologic, M5K and a whole lot more of Melbourne’s emerging artists.
Here is a playlist encompassing what Wax’o Paradiso have to offer. A tasteful selection of music from the states, Brazil, Japan and the home turf.
Tornado Wallace continues to go from strength to strength as one of Melbourne’s most well respected producers. The beginning of 2017 saw the release of Tornado Wallace’s debut album, Lonely Planet. The 7 track album marks a step away from the dancefloor and towards the ambient. The album is, in fact, a world apart from the perhaps slightly generic sound of Tornado Wallace’s early releases on Delusions of Grandeur. Yet, it seems to be a culmination of the slow evolution that Tornado Wallace’s production has been going through over the last four years.
Lonely Planet is filled with gentle layered percussion, swirling reverberating synth chords and organic nature samples. Guitar melodies and the occasional boogie bassline hint at a climax that is never quite reached. I would argue that Tornado Wallace has achieved a maturity and independency of sound that was previously slightly lacking in his work, definitely marking him out as one to watch out for. Listen to my personal favourite, Trance Encounters below.