Efficient Space, the Melbourne-based label is a second home and spotlight for obscure Aussie sounds.
A few months ago, Australian minimal wave pioneer Karen Marks played Melbourne Town Hall. It was a big deal made an even bigger deal by the fact that it was Karen’s debut live performance.
Above, Karen Marks circa 1981 [Image courtesy of Efficient Space]
Michael is the head honcho at Efficient Space, the Melbourne-based record label responsible for outfitting Ace Sydney with a treasure trove of a vinyl library and for archiving and re-releasing obscure, ahead-of-its-time Australian music. He grew up on homegrown music himself, living in a suburb five minutes from what was then the country’s only vinyl factory, Corduroy Records and Detective Agency (“like Willy Wonka”), hanging out while bands like Detroit’s The Dirtbombs cut live sets that were promptly pressed (“a bugged out experience”) and being the best unofficial employee around (“a pretty debaucherous time — it’s no surprise the business went bust in the end”).
At Efficient Space, the mission isn’t burn fast but bright, but rather driven by the careful, occasionally tedious and always time-consuming work of preservation. “Most of the projects we’re uncovering maybe wouldn’t happen if we didn’t instigate it, and that’s the motivation,” Michael says.
Above, Waak Waak Djungi’s Jimmy Djamunba at Miwal, a special Dhuawa place close to his homeland [Photo credit: Peter Mumme]
The label seeks out material that possesses genuine purpose but for whatever unjustifiable reason never found its footing the first go-round. One of the most dazzling and culturally significant records in the catalog is a re-release of a 1997 album from Indigenous Australian outfit Waak Waak Djungi. The album shares a collection of stories and traditional Songlines (the oral tradition of passing along important knowledge, often related to landscape, through song) from three Yolngu elders, who worked on the release with a Melbourne-based new age electronic musician and producer. There’s also the experimental and esoteric compilation “Oz Waves,” the eponymous reissue of Australian jazz artist Singing Dust and Efficient Space’s most recent release, “Late, Late Show” from misfit ’80s sextet pel mel. Just to name a few.
Above, Michael Kucyk at Ace Sydney [Photo credit: Ellen Virgona]
A tireless gospeler of Australian music, Michael’s aim isn’t to rise to the same level of fame recent exports have found. “I’ve never really felt like I was part of that level of industry,” he says. “We exist in our small pocket, and don’t really have those grand ambitions.” Instead it’s about finding room and respect for the past in the present. Like his dream release: a two-track 12-inch from INXS which Michael describes as “the most like, strung-out, fucked up dubtracks … it’s kind of genius, as the least likely sound you would liken to the behemoth that is INXS.” But then, there’s that pesky high-level industry red tape of major labels, managers, publishers, etc. Michael, if anyone can make it happen, it’s you.
As an added aural offering, Michael has curated his “essential Australian listening”, below.
Of the 365 vinyl records carefully picked for Ace Hotel Sydney’s library, this was one of three albums that I insisted on including multiple copies of. Purposefully recorded for tele-shopping giant K-Tel in 1982, Sydney via Dubbo art-pop trio The Reels circumnavigate novelty and aim straight for high art with an incredible concept record of nocturnal synth ballads and easy listening love songs. From the opening interpretation of David/Bacharach’s ‘This Guy’s In Love’ to ‘Cry’s ambient muzak teardrops and the lounge lizard metamorphosis of prior new wave single ‘Prefab Heart’, The Reels attain national treasure status.
Australian Art Orchestra, Hand To Earth
I’ll never forget first hearing this at Hopkins Creek’s ambient tent The Planetarium — a transformative moment as we collectively basked in nature’s elements (thanks DJ Shio). In a similar vein to Waak Waak Djungi, Hand To Earth is built on Yolngu manikay (song cycles) from South East Arnhem Land in Northern Australia, fusing the 40,000+ year-old oral tradition with contemporary arrangements. This phenomenal cross-cultural exchange goes one step further by incorporating the Korean vocals of Sunny Kim and minimalist soundscapes that parallel with Codona and Jon Hassell. Remarkable in every way.
Don’t tell them I told you this but HTRK celebrate their 20th anniversary this year. It’s incredibly rare that I’d sustain interest in a band for this long but HTRK really have managed to impress with every evolution. Painfully short (barely clocking in at 27 minutes) and deserving of instant replays, their 5th album pivots to divine acid-country. Unexpected yet unequivocally them. The duo temporarily moved in downstairs during the recording, only the rising damp wasn’t conducive to their creative process. It was a trip while it lasted – wandering the corridors with their work in progress leaking from a keyhole.
Sheriff Lindo , Ten Dubs That Shook the World
Spend 5 minutes with me and I’ll most likely chew your ear off about this album – Australia’s very first dub LP, recorded in 1988 by x-ray engineer and studio maverick Sheriff Lindo. A tectonic collision of Jamaican dub and UK industrial and post-punk, the authentic production remains unrivaled in this continent today. A quiet achiever, Sheriff later made power moves with electronica, techno and rave pair Itch-E and & Scratch-E, sci-fi house project F.C. Europa, drum’’n’’bass duo Nutcase and Papachubba and destructive experimentalists The Menstruation Sisters.
Rowland S Howard, Teenage Snuff Film
Rowland’s everlasting debut solo album, recorded some 25 years after first surfacing as a 16 year old prodigy in proto-Boys Next Door group Young Charlatans. One of this country’s most influential guitarists, it’s also his lyrical genius and effortlessly cool vocal delivery that equally sting here. Rowland bares his guts, heart and soul, from ‘Dead Radio’s symphonic spaghetti western drama to the tormented feedback squall of closing chapter ‘Sleep Alone’. A cover song chameleon, he even makes ‘60s hit ‘She Cried’ and Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ completely his own.
Ace Hotel | September 22, 2023
Launched last year, FUNCTION is a Toronto-based platform for everything Ballroom: culture, stories, events and education. Recently, they brought Ballroom royalty through our doors for our collaborative “Class of ’23” sessions, an ongoing series centering sexual health, community and movement. We gathered monthly to talk about history, sex ed and the courageous creative expression of voguing, as led by four of Ballroom's most influential figures. Tears, cheers, breakthrough moments on the floor — the effects of FUNCTION remind us how alive and how staggeringly inextricable sweetness and pain can feel. Here, FUNCTION lays down five pillars of Ballroom.
Ace Hotel | August 12, 2023
For the first time since 2019, New York City based Printed Matter’s beloved LA Art Book Fair has returned — gracing the opposite coast with its eclectic cohort of zine-makers, artists, collectives, and more. For those who crave full immersion in Printed Matter’s boundless galaxy of niche publications, rare books and work from international galleries, this summer’s offering is akin to an art-filled, literary state fair — where the grounds are the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. Sonel Breslav, Director of Fairs and Editions for Printed Matter Inc. shares a cheat sheet of 5 Things to know about this year’s LAABF.
Ace Hotel Toronto | June 23, 2023
One year ago we opened Ace Hotel Toronto and called it what it was: a new destiny. We envisioned it as a home for us, for the city, for freethinkers who use sounds, dance and turntables to forge familial bonds through heavy bass and woozy synths. So we started with the people we knew, who introduced us to people they knew, inviting in a rotation of local clothing brands, record labels, beloved radio shows and artists to help us light up 51 Camden St.