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Album Review – #4: Spartak – 5:44/7:31

Nickamc 3 February 2008

Band: Spartak
Release: 5:44/7:31 (2007 hellosQuare Recordings)
Rating: (7/10)

Recently completing a tour of Malaysia and Singapore, one of the freshest, most innovative local acts of 2007 has to be Spartak. A two piece made up of guitarist/noise-ist/vocalist Shoeb Ahmad and drumming virtuoso Evan Dorrian, they create contrasting soundscapes of computer generated noise, blurry, echoing drum flourishes and angry, vivid vocal bursts.

Shoeb has been playing his live guitar experimentations on a national level for nigh on three years now, collaborating with a multitude of artists such as Adrian Klumpes (Triosk), M. Rosner, and Peter Hollo (Fourplay), and supporting acts like Subaudible Hum and My Disco. Releasing several recordings through 2006/2007, Shoeb began his own label, hellosQuare Recordings, to release his plethora of music and began jamming with Jazz school student Evan Dorrian (Switch 3) around the time he began attending the CNMA (Centre for New Media Arts) at the ANU.

The band came to my attention through several shows they played the Front Gallery last year, and upon meeting Shoeb and seeing him play several times, it’s easy to call him one of the most honest and likeable musicians in Canberra. He has a clear passion for underground and experimental music and art, is a regular performer at the This Is Not Art festival held in Newcastle every year and has a tremendous pride in his work. Most experimental musicians find working in larger cities more attractive due to the wider attention that sort of music garners there, but Shoeb has committed himself to working in and around Canberra and trying to further a scene here, rather than be a small fish in a big pond elsewhere.

Spartak’s debut single, 5:44/7:31 (the track times of the two tunes), was recorded live at the Front on the 13th of May last year, and it showcases a fairly high quality sound. The two performers dance around each other in a free jazz/improvisational way, accenting each others rhythms and soundscapes. Watching Evan play his kit live is a thing of beauty, as he makes sure to use every single side, corner and nook of his kit to make an original beat. The musicianship is high here, which is not always the case with experimental acts, and Shoeb ices the cake with distant but violent vocals, often screamed into his guitar pickups to create more layers for the two to work with.

This two track release doesn’t really give you a full picture of what Spartak are about; it’s in a live setting that these two truly flourish. Hopefully releasing a full length sometime this year, Spartak, like most experimental acts, may not have stardom on the horizon, but they have the ability to strike inspiration into even the most unmusical person, just through their passion in what they are creating. Would love to see more kids into this type of music in this town.

Upcoming Spartak shows:

6 Feb – Knightsbridge Penthouse – DJ Set @ hellosQuare Presents…
7 Feb – Bar 32 w/ Scul Hazzards, Nixon + Condorcet

5:44/7:31 is unfortunately sold out, but check out other releases from Shoeb Ahmad here.

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