Act of Free Choice
It has taken 15 years or more of music-making - a real journey - but
he's finally done it. And it's as if a lifetime of journeying has gone
into it. A lifetime of listening. A lifetime of thinking. A lifetime.
Act Of Free Choice is David Bridie's first-ever solo album.
As the central figure of influential Melbourne-based bands Not Drowning,
Waving and My Friend The Chocolate Cake - and as an in-demand producer
and award-winning soundtrack composer - Bridie waited all the years
for this. He's compiled sounds and musical ideas through all that time.
He's dwelled on the infinite possibilities. And the remarkable Act Of
Free Choice, as well as being a bold new beginning, is also a kind of
conclusion, a kind of inspired, and unique, resolution.
"I think the record really works on an emotional level," he
says. "There's a sense of place in it. It feels...right. It's like
the penny dropped and I realised what I really wanted to do. I'd call
them highly textured songs, soundscapes and great slow grooves. Have
you heard the group French Paddleboat? No? Don't worry - no-one has.
Kind of Kraftwerk meets Boards of Canada meets Belle & Sebastian.
They call their music 'organica.' That's where I'm at."
With London's Ian Caple as co-producer (who has worked with artists
on the experimental electronic record label Warp as well as with Tricky,
The Sugarcubes and Tindersticks) Bridie has crafted an album of near
indefinible beauty. Although built from 11 stand-alone songs - including
the single "The Koran, The Ghan and a Yarn" - it feels like
a continuum. There's a sense that it could continue on forever, like
an undisturbed dream.
His trademark field recordings, traditional indigenous instruments,
heartfelt lyrics and delicate piano-playing join an eerie electronic
ambience on Act Of Free Choice. Old analogue synthesizers also dance
around the mix; drum loops from all kinds of bizarre sources lend a
dirty funk to some tracks. But the poetics remain. There's a mysterious
hymnal quality to much of it. A haunting. A dreamscape.
Act Of Free Choice is a serious record, but it is also subdued and confident.
The lyrics are simple and unadorned, the music deep and textured. The
melodies are natural but the rythmns and sounds are heavy in space,
atmosphere and complex emotion. "I was unafraid," says Bridie.
"I wasn't scared of singing back, of keeping it simple. I wanted
to pull the listener in, make them move toward the song. I didn't want
to overdo it. I didn't want big killer choruses, I didn't want to hit
the listener with this big song. I wanted them to move towards the music
and still find it rewarding after lots of listens."
An array of guest musicians and vocalists join Bridie on Act Of Free
Choice. It plunders his extensive library of found sounds and weird
tones (including recordings of desert winds, morse code, spoken word,
shortwave radio and school bells). You'll also find a fullscale orchestra,
and a lush string quartet of old friends.
It was recorded over 12 months. The music came together in places as
near and far away as Bridie's home-studio in Northcote, Melbourne, and
Phillip Island, and Mt Macedon, and Brixton. Three tracks were co-written
with longtime collaborator and guitarist John Phillips, who lives in
France. As well as the conventional CD version there will also be a
DVD version of the album available, with short films by 11 different
filmmakers accompanying the songs.
"Space, lyrics, textures, atmospheres..." says Bridie. "Eleven
interlinked short stories to music. The older you get the more confident
you get and I realised this is the kind of record that I wanted to make."
The Koran, The Ghan And A Yarn The wooden box loop, piano
and vocal tracks were all recorded during the writing stage at Michael
Barkers studio. We captured something special there that we had
to keep. The lyric deals with Marree, a town in outback South Australia,
a strange meeting place of cultures amongst a beautiful but desolate
landscape populated by pioneering Afghan camel drivers, strange Europeans
- often on the run from something - and the aborigines who had survived
Dive John Phillips and I wrote this for Christine Anus
Stylin Up album. Its been reworked since then - the vocal
on her recording is more featured, obviously, and there are some lyric
changes. Here we tried to keep a sense of space - trying not to force
it, allowing the vocal to breathe. I recorded big wall-of-sound strings
and piano, but ended up taking more and more stuff out.
Breath It has a darkness to it, both lyrically and musically,
but theres also a strong textural element - the oboe, the weird
operatic vocal, the crunchy drum loops, the low-end frequencies, the
pulsing bass. Ian and I gave this song free rein in some regards. There
are layers and layers of guitars that dont sound like guitars,
and a couple of musical pauses where the song almost stops. The long
outro where the chords turn around just felt appropriate, the way the
song dips and then rebuilds.
Kerosene The chorus in early demo of this song was quite
epic , but Ian and I dropped it right back so that it just sits on the
piano chords with the drum loops and guitar shimmers slowly layering.
Michael Sheridan and Phil Wales play these bushfire guitar noises that
threaten to break up, but theyre kept right back in the mix. The
lyric deals with Spinifex fires in the outback, a natural process of
regrowth, renewal. A friend and I lit a small clump of spinifex out
west of Alice Springs just to test how quickly they burn - they did,
and some. The next thing we knew the Rangers choppers flew in
and arrested us
The Deserters This was my first full orchestral score.
When I first heard the 70-piece orchestra playing, it knocked me over
- it was such an all-engrossing and beautiful sound.
Float I love the dirty bass and drum groove on this one.
The atmospheric beginning was a piece that John and I recorded quite
a while back; Ians mix is really strong. Theres a bunch
of talkback radio bigots that run underneath and support the words.
Sad I sang this one intentionally very late at night; its
raspy and high, and Ian compressed the hell out of it. Like all the
songs it has a very simple melody. Its vaguely about belief and
blind trust. This also has an orchestral score over the top of an old
rhythm box and a loop of Morse code recorded in PNG - this one is a
favourite for me.
Mister Nation Michael Barker played a very laid-back drum
track over these sparse piano chords of mine down at a recording session
at Kitty Miller Bay, in a big house overlooking the bay in the middle
of winter. It was going to be an instrumental for a while, a recording
of curious conversations, an analogue keyboard pulse, upright bass and
a typically searing John Phillips guitar noise that hed sent by
email from the south of France! But this vocal line kept going round
inside my head, and I couldnt help myself but put it in.
Salt (I Dont Want To Go No Further) The original
Salt is on the Cake's Good Luck album - however, only the chorus is
the same here. The verse lyrics, while similar in intent, are very different,
and musically this drives over electronica, loops of wind blowing through
pipes and guitar noises. I like the drive on the Thievery Corporation
CD and wanted this to do the same. The vocal is recorded through a hand-held
CB radio microphone - one of many in the Ian Caple collection.
Last Great Magician This is about the passing on of an
elder in the Trobriand Islands. The last man who held the knowledge.
In some ways a lament, in another a celebration of this guys life.
Its a feast and a funeral. It was recorded on the old piano up
at Macedon - which was quite out of tune - and sung with a hint of single
malt, and then some.
Found Wanting I wrote this with Phil Kakulas one afternoon,
which was a great experience. Ive always loved the Blackeyed Susans.
It was recorded in about three different sessions, and it takes about
a minute into the song for it to work out where its going. Id
been listening a lot to a band called Boards Of Canada, and was inspired
by the way they layer their songs. Its got similar sorts of textures
thrown at it - piano, an old Korg, cello harmonics, short wave radio,
guitar plicks. Some things are better left alone
I quite like
that aspect of it. It was always going to be the closing song.