He Dark Age - Ecce Homo
Purely Physical Teeny Tapes makes another left turn for its sixth release, returning to its founder’s original home of Brisbane and flicking through the local band Rolodex back to 1986, and the lo-fi debut Ecce Homo by DIY homebodies He Dark Age. Briefly tipped on Efficient Space’s Oz Waves compilation a few years ago, and originally released as a cassette in 1986, it appears now in a small batch vinyl format with new artwork by Brisbane artist Riley Jones. The genesis of He Dark Age traces back to 1982, when a chance encounter between Paul Newsome, 22 at the time and playing in the noise/anti-music group Pork, met Tony Millner on a trip to Sydney through mutual acquaintance John Willsteed (Xero/The Go-Betweens). The two remained pen pals of sorts. Following the disbandment of Pork in ’83, Paul went through a period of isolation in Brisbane, writing new material and familiarising himself with his friend and Pork contributor Mark Louttit’s four-track recorder. It was during this time that many of the initial ‘songs’ for Ecce Homo were developed, with Paul and Tony trading ideas through the post, sending various home recorded tapes between Brisbane and Sydney. In 1984, Tony visited Paul in Brisbane and the two recorded at home, deciding on the band name 2/Poke. They played one official show at the Vulcan Hotel in Sydney in 1985. Paul continued to work on tracks for Ecce Homo through ’85, with Tony inputting as best as possible given the distance between them in those pre-internet days. Finally, the tape was released as a small private cassette edition in 1986 under the new project name, He Dark Age. It wasn’t until 1987 when Tony moved back to Brisbane that the two could start to regularly play together. The Brisbane music scene wasn’t particularly built for acts like He Dark Age at the time, and the pair were often more interested in visual and performance art (as well as the nightclub scene), so they organised a lot of their own shows, playing at house parties, art galleries and occasionally at local venues like the Buffalo Club and the Story Bridge Hotel. They rarely ventured interstate, with only one performance in 1990 with the Plug Uglies in Sydney coming to mind for Paul. Tony eventually moved back to Sydney in 1990, signalling the beginning of the end for HDA. Paul would continue to perform live for a short period, including a memorable support with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds at the University of Queensland in mid-1990. A simple setup comprising a Korg MS-10, Yamaha RX-11, a borrowed vocoder, guitars and bass form the basis of these rough but at times intimate songs, with recurring samples of American television evangelist Rex Humbard lending a kind of dystopian, Burroughs-esque cut-up aesthetic and humour to the mix. Ecce Homo forms a unique DIY document, an idiosyncratic piece of the Australian underground music puzzle.
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