ESSENDON AIRPORT are one of the seminal Australian music groups of the post-punk era.
Hard to categorize then and still now, the groups 1978-82 minimalist recordings such as Sonic Investigations (of the Trivial) are seen by many as a precursor to the outpouring of certain electronica and experimentation that followed.
Essendon Airport began as a duo in 1978 with Robert Goodge on guitar and David Chesworth on Wurlitzer electric piano along with a home made drum machine bought from the Trading Post.
They later became a four piece with the addition of drums - Paul Fletcher, and the sometimes delicate, sometime wild saxophone of Ian Cox, and finally a five piece with bass player Barbara Hogarth in 1982. The group disbanded in 1983.
Each of these three line-ups produced quite different music.
Currently Following the 2002 re-release of CD of their 1979 landmark EP, Sonic Investigations of the Trivial on Chapter Music (thanks Guy) and distributed thru Fuse, Essendon Airport occassionally perform in their original duo guise with the addition of pedal steel guitarist Graham Lee (ex Triffids).
Essendon Airport very occassionally perform their original music having painstakingly transferred the drum machine sounds from old tapes on to computer. These are combined with new compositions.
The Sonic Investigations of the Trivial re-release CD can be purchased here.
Essendon Airport's LP Palimpsest has been re-released on CD on Chapter Music including a bonus disc of material from the five piece lineup including recordings from their final concert at the Crystal Ballroom broadcast live-to-air on 3RRR in 1983.
Duo 1978-79 Essendon Airport originally performed as a duo around Melbourne's newly emerging post-punk inner city venues such as The Crystal Ballroom, various galleries such as the George Paton Gallery and the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre (CHCMC), a venue for experimental music, performance and film during this time.
The duo released the EP Sonic Investigations of the Trivial and the single Talking To Cleopatra with Anne Cessna both on Innocent Records.
Sonic Investigations of the Trivial was described at the time by Essendon Airport as 'songs which combine many of the most facile and insipid kinds of music in a redeemingly dignified manner.... creating new trivia out of old. All this takes place along with a kind of pedantic fetishism for small-repetition games - the music travels in circles, spirals and solid blocks of sameness and difference.'
This manifestation of Essendon Airport is now the most well known and played some memorable performances around Melbourne in the late 70's including the Clifton Hill Community Music Centre and supports in front of bemused punters waiting for Midnight Oil and Jimmy and the Boys.
The single Talking to Cleopatra was released during the duo period and featured the vocals of Anne Sanger.
resembling the blunt-thump, electro-revivalism of many of today's acts (Peaches, Chicks On Speed) Cessna's lyrics however are deliberately naff ("Substance doesn't matter/When you're talking to Cleopatra/''Cause she's been dead for 3,000 years.") and so have at least as much in common with Biftek as with today's harder successors, The Slits.
Jonathan Marshall, Real Time.
Embellished with the arrhythmic drumming of Paul Fletcher and the often sweet, often brittle saxophone of Ian Cox. The four-piece Essendon Airport performed a range of material from extreme minimalism to plundering the hidden resonances of the popular song. The photo above is from the Jump Club, Melbourne in 1981.
Music from this period can be heard on the album Palimpsest (Innocent Records).
The group also made recordings for Fast Forward Magazine and a disc give-away for the Art Network Magazine.
Quintet 1982-83 With the addition of bassist Barbara Hogarth the group developed material with an art/funk feel and performed many headliners at the Jump Club, Crystal Ballroom and toured to Sydney and Newcastle. Strangely the quintet did not release a recording. However there are tapes of Live-to-Air performances on 3RRR including their fondly remembered final performance at the Crystal Ballroom.
This recently unearthed clip shows the five piece Essendon Airport performing at the Crystal Ballroom early in 2003. Essendon Airport broke up later that year.
Sonic Investigations of The Trivial CD
(re-release 2003 Chapter Records CH43)
Tracks 1-4 are from the E.P. Sonic Investigations of the Trivial released on Innocent Records in 1979. Recorded at Latrobe University Studio's by John Campbell. Artwork by Autist Inc (Phillip Brophy and Maria Kozic)
Tracks 5 - 10 are live recordings of more songs from the first live performance of Sonic Investigations of the Trivial given at the CHCMC in 1978. Recorded on cassette by Ernie Althoff.
Track 11 was recorded directly on to domestic reel-to-reel and released on New Music 1978/79 a compilation album released by Innocent Records in 1983.
Tracks 12 and 13 are taken from Talking to Cleopatra a single by Anne Cessna and Essendon Airport released on Innocent Records in 1980. Recorded by David Chesworth at Latrobe University Studios. Lyrics by David Chesworth and vocalist Anne Sanger. Original artwork by Autist Inc.
RIP IT UP AND START AGAIN: post-punk (1978-1984) 2005
Faber & Faber UK
In recent years, Australian afterpunk has begun to be excavated in earnest. The Chapter Music label also played a crucial role: in 2002 they reissued Sonic Investigations of the Trivial by the great experimental unit Essendon Airport...the remarkable Essendon Airport whose cat's cradle skeins of glistening guitar and placid keyboards suggest a Young Marble Giants if they'd ever formally studied composition.
The Wire October 2003
ESSENDON AIRPORT SONIC INVESTIGATIONS (OF THE TRIVIAL) INNOCENTICHAPTER CH43BLEDDYN BUTCHER
Since 1971 all commercial international and domestic flights arriving or departing Melbourne, Australia pass through Tullamarine Airport. The city's first aerodrome, Essendon, still caters for smaller craft, private traffic and the emergency services. When Robert Goodge and David Chesworth named their post-punk combo after Essendon in 1978, they gave locals fair warning: there's no gilt on this gingerbread; we're flying by the seat of our pants. Drawing strength from the DIY ethos of Melbourne's 'Little Band' scene, the pair followed up their interest in minimalist structures and primitive technology. Sonic Investigations Of The Trivial collects recordings from the group's first phase as an instrumental duo, weaving intricate, enthralling patterns from Wurlitzer piano, electric guitar and homemade drum machine. Despite their indifference to commercial considerations, these collaborations have worn surprisingly well. At first, the pieces come over like formalist exercises, simple melodic patterns repeated ad nauseam or at least until they've been replaced by an abrupt inversion or variant fingering. Their structures feel awkward, ungainly and contrived - as indeed they are. Yet the method does not alienate. What initially seems perverse soon acquires a curious, bewitching logic. Strict mathematical awareness soon gives way to a renewed appreciation of small changes of inflection, nuances of attack and tone control, bringing up a vast underworld of glancing harmonies, melodic fragments and abstract estates. Nutzy percussion and ambient swellings impinge as unsettling correctives, deepening the atmospheric intrigue. If this were merely "Wallpaper Music", as one title alleges, Lord Irvine would have it piped to his rooms.
Issue #002 December 2002
ESSENDON AIRPORT - SONIC INVESTIGATIONS (OF THE TRIVIAL) CHAPTER CH43
Essendon Airport were a standout from Chapter's stupendous early 80 revival post-punk comp Can't Stop It earlier in the year. That track, 'How Low Can You Go', joins another 12 mesmerising minimalist guitar/organ/drum machine jams on Sonic Investigations of the Trivial.
The album is a document of a band waaay ahead of it's time, named after the sought after 7" EP the duo released in 1979 on Innocent Records. And innocent it was too, of the convenience of sampling and sequencing, and easily laying claim to prior occupation of half Australia's avant-garde landscape since. Building from deceptively simple one and two bar loops, all played live, we quickly lose the one as David Chesworth (keyboards, electronics) and Robert Goodge (guitar) weave through the rhythms at will.
We eggheadedly opine that the key ethos of electronica is that the music is shaped by corrupt implementations of innocent technologies. Yet with Essendon Airport we can actually see it happen, the simple addition of a homemade drum-machine, that today you could implant in a single eyelash follicle, transforms the band from noodlers to landscape painters.
But don't think it's all so high-brow; in fact the melodies gush with the simplicity of all great songs. Later, the jackets come off as singer Anne Cessna joins, but even her precious teenage bedroom chants are fashioned into the infectious pop hooks that temper Essendon Airport's almost willful quirkiness. Think Mr Clean, who last year trod similar paths using his legendary Small Piano of dictation machines, the cheap 20 year old recordings of Essendon Airport are wrapped in that same warm sonic fuzz.
Chapter's product is hard to get. I have rarely seen any of the four Chapter releases I love in any shop, and the staff are always skeptical of your chances if it's not on the racks. It's a pity, because Sonic Investigations perfectly inks the line from the disaffected leather jackets of late 70s Melbourne to the poised electronics of label mates Jeremy Dower and Letraset. You really need all three of these if your loved ones are not going to get bored and leave you. Jonothan Sykes
The Sunday Age September 2002
SONIC INVESTIGATIONS OF THE TRIVIAL ESSENDON AIRPORT
If worry beads could write music, they'd come up with these doodling, contemplative investigations by Melbourne duo David Chesworth and Robert Goodge. The two formed Essendon Airport in 1978, and dissolved it in 1983.
This CD gathers together the sweet minimalist electronica from their first EP, previously unreleased live recordings made in a Clifton Hill organ factory and a couple of post-punk blasts with vocalist Anne Cessna. One live track Chant features Chesworth shaving with an electric razor before Californian experimentalists Matmos went down the same path.