Visceral psychogeography of settler colonialsm via field recordings - 30+ remote areas across Australia over 12 years - pipe organ, guitars, dubplates "It is with regret I have had to record the existence of such large areas of desert land encountered in my travels in Australia.” - Australia Twice Traversed (1889), Ernest Giles, 1835-1897 ‘They tore the earth and, like a scar, it swallowed them’ is a very physical negotiation of territories voided by history.
Forged from the historical dynamics of the settler colonial trope, the album plays out across four scenes, through the eyes not of the invaded but of the invaders to a harsh and unforgiving land. Rendered via field recordings gathered over 12 years in over 30 remote locations across Australia, mixed and expanded within immense, shimmering harmonics wrought via pipe organ, dubplates, guitar, bass and turntable feedback, piano, and low frequency oscillators. Amidst the heat and the dust, in a landscape populated only by the insinuation of characters, the field recordings bear testament to a dramaturgical tension within an ontological and phenomenal space - a starkness dwelling within an unfillable horizon. As the embodiment of a rogue outpost of empire, the settler colonialists’ blind enactment of will and violence against and into the arid interior of their new land serves as the manifestation of a mortal struggle.
This story is not about a battle well-fought in a hard and unforgiving land, nor the romanticisation of ghost towns and their spectral remains. Whether the settlers’ myopic conquest be a dogged attempt that ends within the span of one short life or a hard-won, yet momentary, triumph to last a few generations, the result is much the same. It is as if the conviction in their misapprehension of the “willful, lavish land” is turned once again upon them, as the ravaging frontier consumes and erases the ruins of these battles, leaving little to tell bar a scar where the drama played out in the wretched shadow of true desolation.
Four scenes in a delinearised order comprise the album and the live audio-visual versions of this piece. Within the sequence of the overarching chronology the scenes are: the survey of a land assumed to be empty; the movement into and inhabitation of this confrontingly large, alien landscape and the colonists vague awareness of the underlying social landscape; a conflagration and the resulting change in the relationships with the land for all within this social landscape; devastation - of culture, citizenry, land - the inevitable decline.
Scene 1. Scattered to the wind, the fortunate
Scene 2. Only the dogs and the fires on the horizon
Scene 3. The heat at their necks
Scene 4. And when the storm came, they were the storm