10 Years Of Art As Catharsis – 9-way interview on Australian independent music scene

9 mins read

For ten years Art As Catharsis has given shape to the life of its owner Lachlan Dale (also of Hashshashin, Black Aleph). Grateful to have been nourished by countless musicians from the Australian underground and beyond, the label has unveiled “Decade Of Progression: 10 Years Of Art As Catharsis”, an epic compilation that gives you a sense of this labor of love. It features many of the label’s favourite artists – and while they might play a diverse range of styles, they all follow our ethos of creating music that is vital and forward-thinking. We have teamed up with Lachlan and 8 other musicians to discuss their new projects, their best picks for local acts worth your listen, favorite releases of the year, and the state of Australian underground music in 2022.

Reflecting On The 10th Anniversary of the label, Lachlan Dale thanks everyone who has helped the label along their journey. “From the musicians, the fans, and our wonderful supporters. It is no small thing to support art and music in these strange and difficult times. Without you the world would be a poorer place.”

Here’s to another decade of growing and sharing together. Here’s our interview with Chris Allison (Instrumental adj.), Brian Campeau, Bonnie Stewart (Bonniesongs), Joseph Rabjohns, Helen Svoboda (The Biology Of Plants), Benjamin Shannon (Milton Man Gogh), David Sattout (HELU), Dean McLeod (Turtle Skull), and Lachlan Dale (Art As Catharsis, Hashshashin, Black Aleph).

Art As Catharsis has brought you forward-thinking music from the Australian underground since 2011. Now, with theur new Bandcamp subscription service, you’ll never miss a release. Check out the service and subscribe here.

What new projects or music have you been working on recently?

Lachlan Dale (Art As Catharsis, Hashshashin, Black Aleph): I’ve been chipping away at a few things at the moment. There’s the debut album of Black Aleph, which we’ve been describing as a ‘swirling mass of Persian drone. Then there’s Hashshashin’s new EP, which we’re all very excited about, and on which I exclusively play the Afghan rubab. I think it’s something pretty unique.

Then for the last two-and-a-half years I’ve been working on a collaborative EP with a wide range of musicians, including Simon Dawes (Instrumental (Adj.)), Qais Essar, Peter Hollo (Tangents), Aphir, Chris Allison (Plini), Bonnie Stewart (Bonniesongs), Joseph Rabjohns and many more. I’ll start mixing that as soon as I can afford to.

Joseph Rabjohns
Joseph Rabjohns

Joseph Rabjohns (Kodiak Empire, Art As Catharsis):  Kodiak Empire, Shoal, Kieran Stevenson, Prince Peace, Last Lakes, guitar duo with Lachlan R. Dale, guitar duo with Tyler Cooney, potentially a collaboration with Qais Essar, and my solo guitar stuff is always on the burner.

Dean McLeod (Turtle Skull): Turtle Skull just wrapped a run of shows over the past few months, the first we had done in ages. Felt great! And now we are talking about what’s next which is looking like a new album :) I’m also working on a few things myself but they are still in the vision stage so you’ll have to wait and see hehe

Benjamin Shannon (Kodiak Empire, Shamin, Art As Catharsis): I’ve been working on a few different projects throughout 2022. Recently recorded the second Shamin release, an EP with compositions we performed as part of Wangaratta Jazz Festival and for the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. A newish group Dropbear Lodge (Martin Kay, Zac Sakrewski, James Wengrow and myself) has an album ready to go, which is super exciting.

I’ve also been working on new Kodiak Empire material, recording drums shortly for the new Big Dead release as well.

There’s a full album of alt/folk tunes I recorded with Milk Buttons that will come out soon too. Excited to get in a room with the Milton Man Gogh dudes too, we’ve started working on our next release.

Brian Campeau: I’ve been working on a yodelling album lately, which is bound to finally get me some plays on the J’s….

Bonnie Stewart (Bonniesongs): I’ve been simultaneously working on a Bonniesongs album as well as developing new more composed yet improvised pieces with strings, piano and saxophone. I’ve also been getting excited about a new band that started earlier in the year with Maria Moles and Helen Svaboda. We’ve recorded an improvised album and are currently working on mixes!

David Sattout (HELU): My instrumental quartet under my own name, recording album Dec 22.

Helen Svoboda: Lately I’ve been working mostly on my solo performance: latest release ‘I Heard the Clouds’, which focuses on the combination of double bass and voice across a series of focused sonic vignettes. Released and available now on Made Now Music.

Next year I will release ‘The Odd River’ – a large scale collaboration with filmmaker Angus Kirby and featuring an eight piece ensemble of incredible Australian improvisers. The project will be released as a 30 minute short film depicting mass food production, sonifying genetically modified vegetables.

Helen min

What local bands have caught your interest recently and why?

Lachlan Dale (Art As Catharsis, Hashshashin, Black Aleph): Bear The Mammoth were incredibly impressive the last few times I saw them. Their new material fuses elements of post-rock and prog with creativity and urgency. Then there is Helen Svoboda, whose experimental improvisations on double bass and vocal are truly a thing to behold.

I also loved seeing Murtaza Damoon accompany Qais Essar on tabla. He’s an absolutely world-class Indian classical musician living in Sydney, and I hope to see much more of him.

Joseph Rabjohns (Kodiak Empire, Art As Catharsis):  The Brisbane scene is quite cool atm. I’m liking the sound of Hanoi Traffic, Big Dead, Mister Abacus, Slowjoy, Blindgirls, Monsterra, Cowbird, to name a few.

Dean McLeod (Turtle Skull): 2 really great bands local to my area are Black Rainbow and SMS. We recently ran a small music festival focused on heavy experimental and experiential music and they both played.

Black Rainbow are a dark ambient soundscape 3 piece from the Byron Bay hinterland. They played an amazing set of longform ambient soundscapes, and overwhelming noise. Everyone layed out while they played, it was beautiful.

SMS are a super tight 3 piece kraut punk band from the Byron Bay hinterland. In their words: ‘scorched synthetic grooves that recall Devo mugging AIR at gunpoint’. It was a such a tight, fast, frenetic, groovy set with great riffs and interesting vocal melodies.

Surprise Chef from Melbourne blew me away when I saw them play a show close to where I live recently, such a tight and impressive live show. & the new record is great too.

Some others of note that I saw at gigs this year and aren’t local to me: Black Aleph from Sydney/Melbourne, Greyhound from Sydney, Voidpilot from Melbourne, Surprise Chef from Melbourne…

Benjamin Shannon (Kodiak Empire, Shamin, Art As Catharsis): There’s a new Brissy band Verity Whisper that features some of my favourite local musicians, can’t wait to see them live/hear their recorded work. Big fan of Lamboghini Eagleman too and their synth-pop escapades. In terms of local/still in Aus, I’m closely following the work of Tassy based Julius Schwing and Alf Jackson, they’re working on some exciting new music that’ll be out in 2023.

Brian Campeau: Gut Health in Melbourne are phenomenal. Like a revamped 1980s New York Post Punk. Amazing. Also my friends Don’t Thank Me Spank Me are great. Like a sorta joke that’s just so good it’s no longer funny. It’s just awesome.

Bonnie Stewart (Bonniesongs): I saw Clayhands live when we supported We Lost The Sea, and they were awesome! I love the post rock vibes.

David Sattout (HELU):

Delay 45 – great compositions

Shamin – gutsy communication between two great instrumentalists

Ben Daley Trio – he is an astonishing jazz guitar player with a very particular approach

Golden Strangers – moody, mournful compositions

Helen Svoboda: I recently saw Dragonfruit perform at Longplay in Melbourne, featuring Theo Carbo, David Quested, Noah Hutchinson, Robert P Downie and Ollie Cox. I was totally blown away – the compositions are dynamic, energetic, and infectiously groovy with an added element of chaos and humour.

How do you feel about the state of Australian underground music?

Lachlan Dale (Art As Catharsis, Hashshashin, Black Aleph): It’s hard to know, because it seems to ebb and flow so much. At the moment I feel like Sydney is still in a bit of a lull. I haven’t seen many releases come out from the proggy / post sort of scene. But then there might be new energy directed in scenes and styles that I’m not really connected with.

On the other hand, I’ve been running a few tours with Eastern classical musicians on Australia’s east coast, and the reception has been pretty wonderful.

Joseph Rabjohns (Kodiak Empire, Art As Catharsis):  Although I feel we’re still navigating a post covid era haze, I think the underground scene is quite strong atm, and I’m really looking forward to the releases on the burner when released in future.

Dean McLeod (Turtle Skull): It’s a beautiful thing to behold. There is so much going on! From the Newtown alt country scene, the Melbourne instrumental hip hop groove thing, to the heavy psych / stoner scene recently highlighted by the Doomed & Stoned in Australia collection, to all the work put in by forward thinking independent labels… now that the pandemic shutdowns seem to be done I reckon we are in for a big 12 months of releases and live shows.

Benjamin Shannon (Kodiak Empire, Shamin, Art As Catharsis): I think post covid, things are starting to come back again. There’s always interesting people doing interesting things, it’s just finding them and creating platforms for more unorthodox music to thrive. It’s been nice to see more cross-pollination of genres/style at local underground gigs which can only lead to greater exposure across different scenes and ultimately create a larger audience and hype around these types of music.

Brian Campeau: The Australian underground is alive and striving, but just not financially. There’s absolutely no lack of talent or creativity. Just a lack of support in many areas.


Bonnie Stewart (Bonniesongs): I think there is so much great new music coming out of the Australian underground scene. (Jess Donoughue, Lack The Low, Pleasure, to name a few… ) It’s more progressive and interesting than ever imo. I think bands are getting more experimental and not afraid to open the music right up.

In Sydney at least, there’s still a lack of spaces to play and listen. I’m sure there could be a PHD done on how that affects the actual music, but for now I just wanna see more!

David Sattout (HELU): It always seems to find somewhere to express and particularly of late there have been more gigs on I’ve wanted to see than I’ve been able to get to

Helen Svoboda: Being relatively new to Melbourne, I feel as though I am constantly discovering new micro-scenes, venues and artists. Being such a large city, I feel that the underground scene is thriving and healthier than ever. People are itching to create, and audiences generally seem ready and open to new sounds.

What are your favourite releases of 2022?

Lachlan Dale (Art As Catharsis, Hashshashin, Black Aleph): My favourite discoveries are rarely new music, so here’s a few albums I’ve spun a lot this year:

Abul Mogard – Above All Dreams

Badbadnotgood – Talk Memory

Conway The Machine – God Don’t Make Mistakes

Dariush Talai – War & Peace

And I love Joseph Rabjohns’ side of Eclipsing // Orbs.

Joseph Rabjohns (Kodiak Empire, Art As Catharsis): 

Daniel Rossen – You Belong There
Lack The Low – God Carrier
The Bad Plus – The Bad Plus
Bill Frissel – Four
Julian Lage – View With a Room
Desbot – Pass of Change
The 1975 – Being Funny In a Foreign Language
Blind Girls – The Weight of Everything
Black Midi – Hellfire

Dean McLeod (Turtle Skull):

Wax Machine – Hermits Grove
Surprise Chef – Education & Recreation
Gianni Brezzo – Tutto Passa
Pseudo Mind Hive – Eclectica
Dusk at The Wategan Forest Motel – Wolf & Cub (Dec 2021 but shh)

Benjamin Shannon (Kodiak Empire, Shamin, Art As Catharsis): I can’t go past Immutable – Meshuggah (stream below), any new compelling heavy music will always grab me. German based Christian Lillinger’s latest solo release Konus is a rhythmic feast which has been in high rotation since its release, strongly recommend this one.

Typically I’m not a fan of vocal jazz but Kristin Berardi’s latest release ‘The Light and The Dark’ is a beautiful record with compelling compositions that typify the modern Aussie Jazz sound.

Pretty excited for the new The Sound Of Animals Fighting record (out early 2023). The two singles released from this record so far explore the progressive post-hardcore genre in a new light with more mature songwriting.

Brian Campeau:

Angel Olsen – Big Time

Meshuggah – Immutable

Bonnie Stewart (Bonniesongs): Ainsley Farrell has been dropping some killer singles this year teasing her upcoming album. In particular I love “The Way Back”.

David Sattout (HELU): I can’t keep up with releases.

Helen Svoboda:

Oren Ambarchi – Shebang

Jenny Hval – Classic Objects

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