Ssh! Art In Progress

First CD release for forgotten '71 psych-folk masterpiece from short-lived Aussie group

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What are they, all these ghosts that keep materialising? That’s the real legacy of the CD revolution; with everything now available for reissue, our attention is inevitably drawn to music which at the time of its original release was probably only heard by a few people and appreciated by fewer, but which now reappears to offer contemporary music a possible way forward.

Last year it was Linda Perhacs’ phenomenal Parallelograms, and now Hush by the briefly-existing Sydney-based group Extradition. It is as if they have returned to recall the concept of radical quietness in music back from exile.

Extradition were more or less the Australian equivalent of Pentangle; a mixture of musicians from different fields?from the folk scene, guitarist/songwriter Colin Campbell and singer Shayna Karlin, and from the rock/modern jazz crucible, percussionist Robert Lloyd and keyboardist Richard Lockwood?and Hush was their only album. An album so resolute in its quietude that it sounds all the more startling in 2004. How did they sound? Perhaps something like the Incredible String Band in the way that songs like “A Water Song” seem to stop and restart at will, its folky verses punctuated by long percussive interludes but with a devout seriousness replacing the ISB’s quirkiness. Indeed, the album’s centrepiece, the nine-minute-plus “Dear One”, is a hymn to the Indian guru Meher Baba; and how gracefully and profoundly does this song take its time to develop, alternating its vocals between Karlin and Lockwood, and underpinned by a slowly undulating harmonium figure which certainly pre-empts what Eno was to get up to later that decade. Even the extended percussion piece “Original Whim”, an attempt to depict the first attempts by cavemen to make music, works in this context.

The songs are heartbreaking in their seeming simplicity?the Harpers Bizarre chorus reacting against the high-pitched drone in “A Moonsong”, the way in which the gorgeous “A Woman Song” transforms naturally into a raga.

Even the record’s one moment of near-violence?the apocalyptic “Ice”, sung by Graham Lowndes (sounding very much like Roger Waters), which rages to a climax before suddenly being cut off?is balanced by the delicate deification of the concluding “Song For Sunrise”.

In his sleevenote, writer David Pepperell sadly recalls the hostile reaction which Extradition met from an audience of ignorant students in Melbourne back in 1970. In a 2004 which sees music still dominated by whoever can shout loudest, we can only hope that this extraordinary record may now find kinder and more receptive ears.


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