VOIGT/465-SLIGHTS STILL UNSPOKEN.

Voigt/465-Slights Still Unspoken.

Label: Mental Experience.

The story of Voigt/465 is a case of what might have been. They were formed in Sydney, Australia in 1976, and spent the next three years trying to make a breakthrough. By May 1979, things were looking up for Voigt/465 and they looked on the verge of a breakthrough. Their single State was being played on radio in London and Sydney. Not long after this, Voigt/465 secured a residency in Sydney, and even embarked upon a short tour of Melbourne. Voigt/465 were playing better than ever before, and had built up a loyal following. Surely, nothing could go wrong? 

Unfortunately it did. What started off as a discussions about the future direction of Voigt/465 resulted in bassist Lindsay O’Meara leaving the band. Given how important a part he was in Voigt/465’s sound, the rest of the band knew that they couldn’t continue without out him. Voigt/465 called time on their career, after being tantalizingly close to making a breakthrough.

Although it looked like had been consigned to musical history, discussions were taking place between the band members to reunite one last time. They wanted to document the life and times of Voigt/465. After much cajoling, the five band members agreed to record what became an album at Axtent Studios, in suburban Kogarah. That album was Slights Still Unspoken which was released on the Unanimous Weld Enunciations in 1979. Thirty-eight years later, and Slights Still Unspoken was recently reissued by Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records. Sadly, Slights Still Unspoken marked the end of the road for Voigt/465.

Things had looked very different, three years earlier in 1976, the year that punk arrived in Australia, and across the country new bands were being formed. Many were short-lived, and never came close to playing live, never mind recording a single. A few, including Voigt/465 went on to make their on the Australian music scene.

Voigt/465 was formed by a group of friends in Sydney in 1976. The original lineup of the band included bassist Lindsay O’Meara, guitarist Rod Pobestek, keyboardist and vocalist Phil Turnbull plus vocalist Rae Bryom. They had been inspired by the music of Can, Faust, Henry Cow, Pere Ubu, Slapp Happy, Syd Barrett, The Stooges and early Roxy Music five friends decided to form a band. These influences would play their part in one of the first wave of post-punk bands in Australia.

The newly formed Voigt/465 set about honing their sound, and over the next few weeks and months, gradually the nascent’s band started to emerge. It a raw, abrasive and genre-melting sound that over the next couple of years, would incorporate elements of art rock, avant-garage, DIY, electronica,  improv,industrial, Krautrock, noise, post-punk and psychedelia. This new sound would gradually find favour with Sydney’s post-punk scene.

By 1978, Voigt/465 were one of the leading light of Sydney’s thriving and vibrant post-punk scene. They had spent the last two years creating their own scene. In the early days when Voigt/465 couldn’t find somewhere to play live, they found makeshift venues. This included a free open air gig at Bigge Park, in Liverpool, a suburb of Western Sydney. Later they graduated to playing pubs and clubs on the local circuit. This was akin to their musical apprenticeship, and allowed the band’s sound to evolve. The next step was to record their debut single.

Unlike many post-punk bands, Voigt/465 hadn’t rushed into recording their debut single. Instead, they waited until the group had matured, and its sound had evolved. By then, Voigt/465 had also matured as songwriters. They had penned State, which they planned to record as their debut single, with A Secret West on the B-Side. Voigt/465 booked a local studio to record their debut single.

This was Axent Studios, which was based in Kogarah, a suburb of Sydney. Joining Voigt/465 was a local musician Ross McGregor, who would co-produce State and A Secret West. State was raw and rocky, but was melodic and showcased a truly talented post punk band. The B-Side, A Secret West, was a much more experimental sounding track, that showed the pop psych side of Voigt/465. These two tracks were recorded during one session, and would showcase the different sides Voigt/465.

When State was pressed, it was as a limited edition of just 547. As a result, copies of State are now incredibly rare, and have changed hands for Aus$325. When State was released, it was on a local label Unanimous Weld Enunciations. Singles were sold locally and at gigs. A few were sent to DJs, and would later spread the word about Voigt/465.

Buoyed by having released their debut single State, Voigt/465 were full of energy and enthusiasm. They played several gigs and in August 1978, managed to convince the owners of French’s Wine Bar to allow them to play live. For the show, Voigt/465 took along a slide projector, which would show a lysergic light show. This was all very Pink Floyd circa 1967, and something that Voigt/465 thought would appeal to the patrons.

As Voigt/465 took to the stage the venue was just about full. When started to play, it looked like they had won over the audience. Then came the lysergic light show, which proved to be their undoing. Suddenly, the audience turned on Voigt/465 and someone through a glass tankard at the band. Ross Turnbull remembers the shouts of: “you bunch of hippies.” For a group with impeccable post punk credentials that one hurt. Especially when Voigt/465 realised that the hecklers were fans of Voigt/465. The only small crumb of comfort was that the band got paid. However, the fallout continued the next day.

To make matters worse, the events at French’s Wine Bar resulted in drummer Bruce Saddler leaving Voigt/465 the next day. What should’ve been a successful show had cost the band their second drummer. Now the search began for a replacement.

Eventually, Voigt/465 settled on Mark Boswell, who was chosen as Bruce Stadler’s replacement. He soon had settled into life as Voigt/465’s drummer, and was ready to make his debut.

Mark Boswell made his Voigt/465 debut at Garibaldi’s, an Italian community centre in East Sydney that had seen better days. That didn’t matter to Voigt/465, who were one of the bands supporting The Thought Criminals. When Voigt/465 started to play, they soon, had won over the audience. So much so, by the time that Voigt/465 left the stage, it was a to a standing ovation. That night, Voigt/465’s music was discovered by a whole new audience.

That came as no surprise. After the events at French’s Wine Bar, Voigt/465 went in search of like-minded people. Suddenly, they were preaching to the converted and playing in front of audiences who were part of Sydney’s post-punk scene. This made a huge difference, and soon, Voigt/465’s star in the ascendancy.

Suddenly, things started to fall into place for Voigt/465. The group moved into a new rehearsal room in October 1978 in Darlinghurst. At last, they could practise anytime they wanted. This was very different to the two previous years, where they were constantly hunting for places to practice and work on new songs. Not any more, now that Voigt/465 had their own practise area. They also hoped to interest a record company in their music.

Although there were a number of record companies in Sydney, Voigt/465’s bassist Lindsay O’Meara was about to embark upon a journey overseas, where he hoped to interest record companies in their single State b/w A Secret West. The five members of Voigt/465 had high hopes for the single, and hoped that when Lindsay O’Meara returned, it would be with several offers of recording deals.

Before Lindsay O’Meara headed off on his journey, Voigt/465 decided to play one more gig. Just like many of gigs that Voigt/465 had played, it would be financed by the band. The venue they choses wasn’t in one of Sydney’s many pubs or clubs. Instead, in the spirit of ’76, it was at the Western Distributor construction site in Pyrmont. 

This was somewhere that was off-limits for the public. That was no surprise, given huge electricity pylons crisscrossed the makeshift venue. However, someone managed to secure entry into the site, and the band started setting up their equipment. Soon, Voigt/465 were ready to play. That was when things started to go awry.

As the band took to makeshift stage, most of the band weren’t feeling well. They had caught a flu bug from Ross Turnbull, but didn’t want to disappoint their fans by cancelling. The show had to go on. To make matters worse, the band were experiencing problems with their PA. After a lengthy delay, eventually, Voigt/465 took to the makeshift stage, and when they looked down, the crowd numbered no more than fifteen, including a couple of curious kids. Not long after Voigt/465 started to play, site security turned up the gig was over before it began. However, Voigt/465 managed to squeeze in I Wanna Be Your Dog as an encore. For Voigt/465 it had been a night to forger. Especially when they realised that they had lost Aus$64.

While the Pyrmont gig was a disappointment, soon, Lindsay O’Meara returned from his travels, and had some good news. Although he hadn’t received any offers of recording contracts, it turned out that John Peel had been playing State on BBC Radio one show, and the song was being on the Australian radio station 2JJ. Buoyed by this news Voigt/465 decided to concentrate their efforts, and see if they could make a breakthrough. It certainly seemed tantalizingly close.

Over the next month, things started to fall into place for Voigt/465. They secured a residency at the Sussex Hotel in May 1979, and proved a popular draw. Those who paid the Aus$1 entry fee, saw Voigt/465 at the peak of their powers. The band had never played as well. It was as if everything had been leading to this. Later, in May 1979, Voigt/465 embarked upon a short, but successful tour of Melbourne. Just like their performances at the Sussex Hotel, the gigs they played in Melbourne are regarded as some of the band’s finest performances. It seemed that Voigt/465 were on the verge of a breakthrough.

Sadly, that wasn’t the case. After having enjoyed a hugely successful time during May 1979, Voigt/465 started discussing their future musical direction. There had already been disagreements about the band’s future direction. Some of Voigt/465 wanted to play rock, while others in the band wanted to focus solely on improv. This was something that Voigt/465 had already explored and incorporated as part of their genre-melting sound. However, what had started off as a discussions about the future direction of Voigt/465 resulted in bassist Lindsay O’Meara leaving the band. 

Given how important a part Lindsay O’Meara played in Voigt/465’s sound, the rest of the band knew that they couldn’t continue without out him. Voigt/465 called time on their career, despite being tantalizingly close to making a breakthrough.

After making the decision to split-up, the band started to regret that they had never documented the life and times of Voigt/465. Now it was too late. Or was it? 

Eventually, the five members of Voigt/465 started to talk about reuniting for the sole purpose of documenting their musical lives together. It took much cajoling and convincing, but the members of Voigt/465 agreed to put their differences to once side to record an album together.

To record the album, Voigt/465 returned to Axtent Studios, in suburban Kogarah. That was where the session for the album Slights Still Unspoken was recorded. The album was recorded quickly, with Voigt/465 drawing inspiration from a variety of bands, whilst fusing elements of art rock, avant-rock, electronica, improv, industrial, Krautrock, noise, post-punk, psychedelia and punk. Over the course of the session, an emboldened Voigt/465 strut their way through the ten songs that would eventually become Slights Still Unspoken. 

Voigt/465 play with power and  intensity, and sometimes with freedom and fluidity. Other times, their playing is inventive and innovative as they throw curveballs and take the music is a very different direction. Sometimes, they experiment and  improvise as they take the listener on a voyage of discovery. For what was their swan-song, up the ante and play as if their very lives depended upon it during that final session at Axtent Studios, where they documented three years of making music. 

They play with power and intensity on the album opener Voices A Drama, where post punk meets art rock in this anthem-in-waiting. This gives way to the genre-melting Red Lock On See Steal, which features Voigt/465  at their most inventive and innovative, as they seamlessly fuse elements of Krautrock, industrial, electronica and psychedelia. In doing so, they reveal the other side of Voigt/465. A Welcome Mystery is reminiscent of Voices A Drama, with art rock and post-punk playing their part in another anthemic track. Imprint is a jittery fusion of post punk and punk, that brings memories of ’76. Many Risk bursts into life, and finds the two sides of Voigt/465 becoming one. It’s not just rocky, melodic, memorable and mesmeric, but showcases the much more experimental side of Voigt/465. Elements of Krautrock, industrial, art-rock and post-punk combined and close side one.

Voigt/465 play with power, intensity and inventiveness on Is New Is, as they use punk and post punk as the building blocks for the track. To this they head briefly in the direction of improv, before lysergic washes of Hendrix-inspired feedback transform the track. Briefly, 4 Hours meanders, before this choppy and punchy post punk gradually begins to reveal it secrets. It’s one of the highlights of the album. At just a minute long, P is the musical equivalent of an amuse-bouche. P’s hypnotic and strangely melodic sound is sure to tantalize. F1 finds Voigt/465 experiment and improvise as they take the listener on a voyage of discovery during this seven minute epic. Closing the album was Winchsoul, where the two sides of Voigt/465 unite. Elements of improv and rock are combined with post punk as Voigt/465 close Slights Still Unspoken on a high.

These ten songs that were recorded at Axtent Studios would  eventually become Slights Still Unspoken which was Voigt/465’s debut album. Slights Still Unspoken was released in September 1979, and was released by Unanimous Weld Enunciations. Two different pressings of the album were released. The first features a white picture sleeve cover, while the second version has an orange coloured album cover with different artwork. Nowadays, both are incredibly rare and highly collectible. So much so, that original copies of Slights Still Unspoken are beyond the budget of most record buyers. 

Thankfully, Mental Experience, an imprint of Guerssen Records has recently released Slights Still Unspoken. It’s available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download. The newly released CD and version of Slights Still Unspoken on features the ten tracks on the album, plus Voigt/465’s debut single State and the B-Side A Secret West. So does the LP version of Slights Still Unspoken. However, the LP includes a free digital download coupon, that is akin to a ticket to a magic kingdom.

The download code give the proud owner access to five bonus tracks. Some were recorded live, while others were recorded in the studio. However, three bonus tracks stand head and shoulders above the rest. They’re not just bonus track, but barnstorming cover versions recorded between 1978-1978, which  feature Voigt/465 in full flight. These cover versions includes Remake/Remodel, which is a track from Roxy Music’s 1972 eponymous debut album. A Rainy Day Sunshine is a track from Krautrock pioneers Faust’s 1972 sophomore album So Far. The other cover version is Connection, which featured on Can’s album Unlimited Edition. These three tracks are an irresistible reminder of Voigt/465 and their genre-melting sound, and are a reminder of one of the greatest bands to emerge out of Sydney’s post-punk scene.

Despite that, Voigt/465 went their separate ways after the release of Slights Still Unspoken. There were no last-gasp attempts to rescue the group. By then, the damage had been done, and some members of Voigt/465 had moved on. It was the end of era, for the five members of Voigt/465, who if things had been different, could’ve gone on to greater things. Alas, it wasn’t to be.

Instead, Voigt/465’s musical legacy was  Slights Still Unspoken, which features a band at the peak of their powers. It features Voigt/465 the day they reunited to record what wasn’t just their debut album, but was also their swan-song, Slights Still Unspoken, which album that documents their place in Sydney’s musical history.

Voigt/465-Slights Still Unspoken.

 

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