Tasmania is Australia’s least populous state. Two inhabitants of the island have spent more than 15 years in a shared exploration of improvised music-making. Now, they have released that sound into the wild. Like the Tasmanian landscape, it’s rough-textured terrain marked by various types of rock – volcanic and sharp-edged. Six thrashing tracks communicate pent-up tension, a claustrophobic atmosphere – and pure panic.
Dogs of Pleasure is a duo featuring Julius Schwing on guitar and Alf Jackson on drums. Both musicians are widely travelled and popular co-improvisers. They recorded this debut collaboration, Embrace, in one afternoon on Bruny Island. The pair then mixed and mastered the album themselves, before Schwing published it via his own label.
Release The Hounds opens with distorted guitar howls. From there, Jackson begins lacerating the drumkit and doesn’t let up until four tracks and about half an hour have passed. The guitar’s voice evolves and its riffs range across the register. However, it’s hard to focus on Schwing doing his thing while his bandmate is pummelling the percussive hardware with artillery fire and attacking it with a pneumatic drill. Inside a popcorn machine, apparently.
Respite arrives on The Bagman, presumably to allow an intravenous infusion of Lucozade and Dextro tablets. There’s melodic grooviness from both players. A steady three-feeling rhythm stays in place beneath a circling phrase. The guitar is varied and inventive. The drums are nuanced in texture and tonality. It’s jarringly dissimilar to the rest of the record.
Dogs of Pleasure is a small band with big energy. Embrace has anthemic and expressive moments, but listeners may struggle to notice them when trapped beneath the sonic avalanche. It’s an album of mania from Tasmania – from two musicians without nearby neighbours to disturb.
Release The Hounds; Quarry; Stretchmarks, Pigtails And Bloodlines; Buzzcut; The Bagman; Embrace (45.02)
Julius Schwing (elg); Alf Jackson (d). Bruny Island, Australia 2023.
Isthmus Music IM008