The effect of having a city with restricted opportunities to play music live, and club-focused, electronic music in particular does not just result in the headline grabbing club closure announcements but the slow deterioration of creative opportunities for the sector as a whole. One act that is trying to change this is Phax Machine, a collaboration between Sydney-based producers Trinity and Analogue Resistance. The duo are returning to playing live after a an extended period of recording in the studio and are encouraging a resurgence of live electronic music, starting in the booth at the newly renovated Club 77 next Friday, February 22.
Although having crossed paths in the past, Phax Machine only began in January 2018, when Trinity and Analogue Resistance discovered a shared love of techno, as Analogue Resistance recalled.
“Trinity asked if I wanted to come to her studio for a jam? and I was very excited! We just hit it off from the first week.”
Initially, the idea was to collaborate on a live techno performance, but both discovered their passion for pure electro and acid too, and the drive to produce a recording could not be ignored. “Spontaneously, Phax Machine was born,” said Analogue Resistance.
Working across a hybrid analogue and digital set up, Phax Machine use the following gear for their productions and live sets; an Elektron Digitakt, Elektron Digiton, Elektron Machine Drum, Mutable Instruments Shruthi XT, Arturia Microbrute, Roland VP-03 Vocoder, Roland SH-01a, Behringer model D, Arturia Spark, Korg MS-20 Mini, xoxbox, Dave Smith Tetra4, two iPads, Ableton and Push 2 as well as a range of pedals and VST programs, Trinity described the jamming process as “trying to find the right sounds that we're after from all our gear. Sometimes we’ll spend a whole session with one instrument and dive really deep into it, putting it through different pedals and making music that defines our sound. Other times, we will have a fair few instruments hooked up to the mixer and just get creative.”
Trinity noted, “We record so many sounds for each track to use in our live set, so each time we play it, we can pick and choose from the sounds and it can sound complete different each time.”
Taking these recorded sounds as well as improvisation to an audience, Phax Machine’s focus is on developing a set and sound that are the right fit for the night. This approach allows for a mutability in terms of the live set, based on the venue, audience and vibe at the time, rather than sticking strictly to sounds that were recorded in the studio.
This responsiveness to the crowd is partly enabled by the conjoining of analogue and digital sound systems in the Phax Machine set up. As Analogue Resistance highlighted, sticking to just one technology can be a disservice to the crowd you are playing to.
“You need to deliver, you can’t say things like, ‘Our drum machine broke and that's it; we're going to stop this gig.’”
Just as the modular set-up is a product of Trinity and Analogue Resistance’s talents, the style of music is also a hybrid of influences that both draw on in their individual projects. Instead of limiting themselves to one genre, they are musically diverse and open, their sound characterised by tough breakbeats, cascading synth melodies, tweaking acid and propulsive peak-time bass and rhythm.
Part of this responsiveness is about letting the physical set up of the club, including the space and the quality of the sound system, influence their music.
“If they have room we can bring a lot of gear,” said Analogue Resistance. “But you need to work with what you have.”
Club 77 has recently renovated and installed a new sound system, and the duo are hyped for their show there the week after next. With Club 77 being one of the few remaining clubs in Sydney to renovate to improve their offering, rather than refocusing or closing altogether, the lack of alternative, supportive spaces limits the diversity of club venues, and hence the diversity of sounds.
The reality of this is stark for Phax Machine, as Analogue Resistance put it, “If there are no clubs, no live events, no one's going to play music.”
Despite this, both Analogue Resistance and Trinity point to a number of inspirational local DJs who have been able to continue to make music and perform despite the limitations of Sydney nightlife. They list Kato, who runs the Doe Dee record label, and Jensen Interceptor as local standouts, alongside international influences including Danny Daze, Anthony Rother, Umwelt and the Berlin-based Mechatronica label, which has put out releases from the likes of Sydney to London transplant Assembler Code. Trinity, who usually spends the European summer based in Berlin, cited the experience of being able to see these acts live and attend gigs put on by these labels as essential to creative evolution.
“In Sydney it's super tough to get inspired at the moment, but you need to go out there, go out to gigs and listen to other people's music to find inspiration.”
Having the support of clubs such as Club 77, is what keeps the Phax Machine project possible. “If those clubs don't exist, we're not going to exist,” stated Analogue Resistance.
While their studio sessions this summer were limited somewhat by the record-breaking heat in Sydney, for Trinity and Analogue Resistance, in an ideal world they would be in the studio, day in, day out.
“Just imagine if we were teenagers now,” laughs Analogue Resistance “Going into the studio and playing for fifteen hours straight, and then your Mum comes down at seven in the morning. ‘Hey can you just stop, I haven't slept for the whole night!’ and now she's going to work, like, ‘Bye Mum!’ and then continue for the next fifteen hours.”
Following on from that, Trinity stated, “In saying that, we both work really hard in the limited time we have. It’s all about time-management. Waking up early and getting a session in before work, and producing most weekends.”
This article was made possible with the support of Phax Machine.