Boomkat Product Review:
Necessary reissue of a belting art-disco / post-punk confection from Asphyxiation - an ersatz disco band created by Brophy and a gaggle of naif young pals working within the fairly feral and unrestrained art and culture channels of late ‘70s Australia, where they gleefully messed around with the conventions and presentation of what was then a putatively frivolous phenomenon.
Organised under a playfully sardonic title, “What Is This Thing Called ‘Disco’?” was presented as installation at Melbourne University’s George Paton Gallery in the form of six cubicles displaying single instruments (sax, guitar, microphone) on plinths behind gilded frames and paintings lifted from Italian Vogue, each with a minimal ambient tape loop accompaniment and all united by a speaker playing a thumping kick drum, in effect offering a clinical dissection of disco which accentuated or exaggerated its artificial nature with tongue firmly in cheek, properly toying with the notion of disco as “not real music” - remember this is 1980 when disco was often a dirty word.
The exhibition was completed by a live performance by the “fake” disco band, Asphyxiation, who mimed to tracks played from a reel-to-reel, in effect cementing and highlighting the perceived “fakeness” of it all while smartly playing into and subverting art convention. Those tracks are now presented here in their entirety along with a bonus 12” cut for the DJs included with the original 1981 release. Far from anything abstract or “challenging” in an abrasive sense, the tracks are gleefully driven and playful, each taking on a certain sub-genre of disco with a totally charming blend of genuine passion for the sound, and a knowledge of how it would be received by punk/post-punk and gallery audiences.
There are some real nuggets inside, none more so than the giddy, Moroder-esque Tradition Europe with its wobbling LFOs and sweeping FX, or the mad Patrick Cowley/ proto-Drexciyan styles of African Disco Queen, and the weirdly melancholic hustle of Innocent Rhythms. But there’s also a real diversity elsewhere running to blunted reggae disco with downpitched vox on Asphyxiation, and some really wayward beauties in the pealing sax and synth experiment The Beat Aesthetic, or their droll, grubbing boogie Self Denial (Is A Beautiful Thing).
And even more unmissable for the DJs, the bonus 12” is cut louder, prouder with two charms in the perky pink disco-punk bump of L’Acrostique D’Amour and The Crush, which you could easily imagine Jamal Moss or Jon K flinging into a set.