Party pieces go beyond the sublime drone

22 August 2022

Outcome Unknown’s anniversary celebrations are distinguished by impressive droney soundscapes, writes Jonathan W. Marshall. 

‘6 Year Anniversary’, Outcome Unknown · 
Old Customs House, Fremantle, 20 August 2022 · 

The Outcome Unknown concert series has become a focal point of experimental music lovers since it was founded in 2016 by independent curator Eduardo Cossio. The series has included monthly concerts and workshops in Perth and regional WA including a festival earlier this year. Cossio’s platform for independent music was celebrated over the weekend with an appropriately diverse “6 Year Anniversary” concert.

The evening opened with Felicity Groom reprising her score Mammoth from WAAPA dance’s 2022 “Rise” season. Presented here as a digital recording supplemented by live vocals from Groom and Bree Medbury, the material mostly consisted of echoed and layered choral material, beginning a bit like Meredith Monk, later more akin to Philip Glass’s ‘Koyaannisqatsi’.  

The original dance piece was themed on the experience of the sublime, and the work certainly expressed that — if not with the aplomb of its predecessors. The para-religious, churchlike ambience was later jettisoned for a mixed palette of distressed and found sound material with a bit of digital glitch. Think Set Fire to the Flames and other late 1990s lowercase electronica-cum-instrumental bands.  

Laura Boynes matches the echoing vocals of Felicity Groom and Bree Medbury. Photo: Eduardo Cossio

Laura Boynes, who choreographed the WAAPA version, joined the performance to adopt a series of stop/start choreographic poses which alluded to classical athletics and statuary. The rolling of limbs into these freezes was lovely, before following the score to become a kind of crazed industrial dance-floor epic that wouldn’t be out of place in the Spike Jones clip for Fat Boy Slim’s ‘Praise You’. The piece ended with Boynes making plastic sheeting soar in chaotic arcs above an on-stage fan, a pleasing effect if not as accomplished as similar kinetic work by Žilvinas Kempinas. 

The evening also included the subtle, low-key modal jazz of the Jessica Carlton Trio (Carlton on trumpet, Kate Pass double bass and Jeremy Thompson on guitar). They performed two pieces by Carlton with a gentle stepping structure, played in a restrained manner. Carlton’s trumpet, edging on raggedness, provided expressive drama. 

Founder Eduardo Cossio offered what has become his trademark combination of close mic-ed found sounds and splanging, vibrating zithers, this time in collaboration with laptop musician Jeremy Segal, whose palette had something on an old skool bleepy analogue feel. It was a fine set, but I wonder if more attention to structure might give these explorations the sense of a larger journey, rather than a series of isolated moments à la John Cage at his most sparse. 

The evening’s highlight was the massive, diverse soundscape offered by laptop artist Paul Fiocco, his previous collaborator, Kane Ikin, replaced by Tristen Parr on cello and effects pedals. Fiocco drew on much of the material from his 2009 release with Ikin, Torsions and Drifts, though in a pleasing echo of Groom’s performance of that night, Fiocco began with a heavy wash of church organ (later replaced by piano accordion).  

Jessica Carlton, Kate Pass and Jeremy Thompson play in a restrained manner, the trumpet adding drama. Photo: Eduardo Cossio

Intense drones ebbed and flowed as Parr agitated and distressed his strings on the neck, before both the laptop and the cello moved into a shared palette of sharply jangling strings. Again within a rich, layered soundscape which reminded me of some of Daniel Lanois’ production work, but more shattered. The addition of the sound of waves and harbourside bells further enhanced this apparent link to Lanois’ Caribbean dreaming and other nautical musical fantasies. Glitch elements disrupted this, Parr adding direct strikes onto the strings.  

The piece was certainly designed to evoke diffuse spaces and journeys across them, with Mongolian throat singing bringing something of an Orientalist or World Music ambience. It was all well-judged though, the plateauing of one set of drones accompanied by Parr’s strong bowing replaced by another, to produce complex distinct movements. Played good and loud, this was the act that I, at least, had come to hear. 

The evening provided an enjoyable program of typically diverse offerings. Here’s hoping Outcome Unknown lasts at least another six years. 

Pictured top L-R: Jeremy Segal and Eduardo Cossio perform at Outcome Unknown’s ‘6 Year Anniversary’ concert. Photo Andrea Rassell

Like what you're reading? Support Seesaw.

Author —
Jonathan W. Marshall

Associate Professor Jonathan W. Marshall is postgraduate coordinator at WAAPA, Edith Cowan University. Jonathan has written for RealTime Australia, Big Issue, The Age, Theatreview NZ, IN Press, and presented on radio, since 1992. He grew up beside the Yarra River, near a long metal slide, set into the side of a rocky slope.

Past Articles

Read Next

  • Just what the doctor ordered

    Just what the doctor ordered

    29 September 2023

    Dr AudiYO uses vocal gymnastics to take the audience on a fun adventure. Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are happy to take this prescription. 

    Reading time • 3 minutesTheatre
  • Seadragon weaves magic spell

    Seadragon weaves magic spell

    28 September 2023

    The Magical Weedy Seadragon enchants junior reviewer Isabel Greentree with a winning blend of story, song and humour.   

    Reading time • 4 minutesMulti-arts
  • Lifting the weight of the world

    Lifting the weight of the world

    28 September 2023

    Junior reviewers Jackson and Chloe Davis are taken on a thoughtful and funny journey to the Moon with one overwhelmed girl.

    Reading time • 4 minutesTheatre

Cleaver Street Studio

Cleaver Street Studio


Cleaver Street Studio