Making The Major Labels Atone For Their Sins

In amongst all the pre-Christmas schlock that was foistered upon hapless Christmas shoppers in search of that musical gift for their younger siblings, there was one of the year's very best releases - Atone's debut album Atonement. On a budget that would be the equivalent of a week's pay cheque for some record executives the beautifully packaged album snuck out onto the shelves under the watchful release and distribution of Sydney-based independent Zonar Recordings, the brainchild of ex-Clan Analogue and EAR promoter Brendan Palmer. Limited to an initial run of 500 copies at a measly $20, local interest has already seen the album close to sell out. A rich combination of dub, dope beats, low tempo trance and acid all blended together the album is the culmination of many months of live gigs and smoky hazes, and already a follow-up is on the horizon. Ali Omar dropped a line to discuss the album and the state of the world.

"For us, controlling distribution and releasing it independently is more pure to the underground vibe and I feel that its best to keep whatever goodies to the people who are actually putting in the sweat and blood in real life on the streets. These are the people who are in touch with what's going on . . . . we're in no rush and things will come to us without having to brown-nose around and that way we aren't selling out in any way"

Some recent live performances at various events has seen Atone perform at some strange times including one time where they were expected to play first at 10pm. "This is typical of the on-going myth of the deejay which is sloooowly being exhausted due to the amount of record shops opening up in Sydney. Its now so easy to go out and buy the songs you hear being played and people are doing that, and not only that but they are getting a more varied selection because they are buying CDs as well and so a lot of the times people have 'hot music' at home anyway" explains Ali. Live performances seem to be getting the Guernsey more and more, and deejays themselves are also moving to incorporate more "tricks" or stylistic changes in their sets to keep up.

Both Ali and Andrew Fitzgerald are originally from the UK but have become firmly rooted in Sydney. Ali explains the attraction of Sydney; "last year I went back to England, and from that perspective overseas I could see that Sydney (and Melbourne, and Brisbane) DOES have a style and it IS unique but people just can't see it because they ARE it here. There's such a huge potential here for everyone to keep developing our 'dreamspace'. Over there, in England, Sydney is recognised as one the special clubbing-holiday destinations - and, because of the Soaps - the youth identify more with the youth of Australia than they do with their own youth. England's dreaming is Australia, so the opportunites are definitely there - Ibiza dead, Goa's swamped, and Bali's been done and Bryon Bay. Sydney, Melbourne are the new destinations . . . Australia is beginning to get its self-respect with music now and because of the cycle of music there aren't any formulas from house, garage or from Belgium anymore. Here we are have so many natural wonders and are removed from the war and stress of Europe which I think puts us in a position where our imaginations have a lot more scope . . . . people are relaxed and laidback which is great but sometimes we could do with an injection of New York business urgency ot get stuff out. It only takes a few sharp heads to string together a network nowadays".

A instrumental album, bar a few odd phrases from Ali, there exists a sharp contrast between Atone's album and their live gigs where Ali takes to the mic with great enthusiasm. "We're trying to get some lyrics happening that will redress the balance of the current right-wing trends here in Australia . . . the scenes have all 'homogenised' and everyone especially clubbers and ravers want the same thing and its swung into mediocrity. Once the big companies get hold of things it becomes a formula - a consumer item . . . . you can see why [the overly smooth 'jazzy drum'n'bass'] is taking off here because it suits the cocktail bars, its just bland elevator music, whereas that would have been just a passing phase in England. It seems we've gotten all the 'wet' side of the selections being sent across but its always going to be an uphill battle with jungle despite everyone enjoying the refreshing aspects of the rhythms compared to your 4/4. Drum'n'bass really comes into its own being in a field of West Indian kids, Black people, and dancing, and you can see how it fits with the their rhythms and the way they move almost naturally which is a phenomenon I have yet to witness here. There's a lot of ironing boards and deckchairs getting around on them dancefloors here" Aki intimates cheekily. "You'd be surprised what a bit of MC'ing and other musical effects can inject into it. Drum'n'bass evolved from sound systems and a lot of it still relies on people adding things into the mix".

As for what it will sound like; "we're just staying experimental - our music is morphing all the time and we're trying to forge new beats".

Atone play Vibes On A Summer's Day in the 3D World room from 4 to 6pm. Their debut CD, the splendid Atonement, is distributed independently by Zonar, and is available either from them personally or at most good record shops. Atone also has tracks on Clan Analogue's Cog and Jaunt CD compilations, and have a track forthcoming on the UK-released Trance Pacific Express compilation.

Yellow Peril

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