Live Review: Bee Mask, Rites Wild, Secret Birds

19 June 2012 | 2:32 pm | Bradley Armstrong

The Judith Wright Centre once again plays host to the artistic end of the musical smorgasbord. US experimentalist Bee Mask makes his maiden voyage with a few of Australia's finest musical explorers to a packed seated audience.

Opening the night are semi-local duo, Secret Birds. The duo play the usual fanfare of sprawling soundscapes with a psychedelic twist. They play off each other as songs develop and transform, with Damon Black even favouring a toy boombox/karaoke machine for his occasional vocals. A great start and a welcome return to their local environment.

The crowd is informed of a quick changeover by the odd but in this case helpful 'moderator' of the night and he wasn't lying as Rites Wild almost instantly takes the stage. Rites Wild is the solo project of Terrible Truths member Stacey Wilson, and she holds her own delivering the highlight performance of the night. She is totally energetic, really getting into the sway of things despite delivering a rather bleak set musically. The sound works well for her with every cranny of reverb from her synth and drum machine resonating throughout the venue. A great set by a clearly talented performer.

All the way from the US of A, Bee Mask also quickly takes to the stage beginning with a string of water-based samples spilling from the PA. Having worked with the likes of Oneohtrix Point Never, it is clear that the art glitch musician has had a mutual influence on the man as samples spew from his desk of effects (which also features more cables spewing from it than most full bands would have).

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The set sticks to this initial format, with soundscapes drawing from real life and artificial sources being the general flavour. It does get perhaps a tad tedious and finds some patrons politely exit – indeed a highlight of the set is when a drunken patron stands outside drinking on the street and is visible through the glass window behind the performer, which strangely fits in perfectly with the music, and really goes to show that the set would have benefited from visual stimulation reminiscent of the man's earlier shows elsewhere. Occasionally the set also suffers technical faults and these are clearly demonstrated by Bee Mask's face as a sample misfires or some other mishap occurs. It's during the later parts of the night when the set pulls together with the highlight being during the expansive final 'number', which delivers a really interesting collection of samples, beats and manipulations.

All around it's an interesting night of musical collages delivered by some great artists, and propelled by Rites Wild showing that Australians can be as willfully weird as Americans.