Witness K – Witness K LP
All the way from Sydney, ever/never records presents you with a masterpiece for our current times. It has the aura of a great classic record, avant-garde meets melodic intensities and contemporary poetry while inviting the listener to the urgent need for collective reflection.
A fantastic array of players with complex instrumentation offer us intricate narratives and multilayered soundscapes: Maeve Parker (flute, poetry, xylophone, and keys), Lyn Heazlewood (guitar, fan, vocals, and accordion) Sabina Rysnik (guitar, vocals, and keys), and Andrew McLellan (bass, vocals, electronics, and piano). Marcus Whale lends saxophone on ‘Fantasy in Facsimile’. I was already incredibly excited about this record since Andrew McLellan’s Cured Pink album Current Climate (also published on CD by ever/never) is for me, one of the best records of the last decade. Experimental no-wave dub as its best. The expectations have not only been met but astoundingly exceeded.
Witness K is a different affair altogether from Current Climate. Sparse but thoughtful. Recitations punctuated by sparks of shoegaze interventions make the mood serene but with a constantly menacing undercurrent. The compositions, the playing, and the production are masterfully accomplished; clear, precise, and beautifully executed. Think if the Shadow Ring finally play with their idols ZNR and together they invite Florence Shaw and Roland S. Howard to do a non- commercial city pop record to be produced by Mica Levi. This album cuts through the confusing digital entropic reality, in order to give you the necessary space to reflect while wandering subtly through field recordings, poetry, and voices that take you to different situations at the edge of memory and consciousness.
There is a certain atemporality to this record. Or rather it puts you exactly at that moment where history is breaking in two. As if you suddenly were in San Francisco in 1981, when Throbbing Gristle were disintegrating but a new beginning was also being constructed. Between the end of an era and the beginning of a new adventure. Captivating nostalgia for a past that you know you just have to let pass and move forward. No need to panic. ASMR melodies whisper to you that there is a future beyond our melting ground and that it is possible to crawl into the surface of a ragged society so you can keep going and able to build something different, something better and more honest. This is already marked in the name of the band which connects the dark undercurrent that goes through the record and refers to one of the most turbulent geopolitical Australian incidents in the last two decades. Witness K was a highly decorated ASIS officer (Australia’s overseas secret intelligence agency) who revealed that in 2004 during the negotiations with East Timor for the extraction of oil and gas, the Australian secret service bugged East Timor’s government and president’s office so they could have the upper hand during the negations. This obviously resulted in an extremely bad deal with East Timor. Australia has done everything possible to hide this case.
Witness K is not about seeking discounted redemption, but showing that the ground is unstable, that this disintegrating society also offers the possibility of constructing a better future. It gives you the necessary warmth to acknowledge that the world is fucked but there is something that we can do about it. The more you listen to it the more layers you discover and the more you get. Opaque in the most positive way, this record is necessary. — Mattin (author of Social Dissonance)