Psychogeography: #20 – Otis Records In Sydney
The cultural perception of Australian dance music culture is in an evolutionary process at present. A new wave of parties, producers and labels has led to a shift in societal expectations of not just a sound, but a scene itself. All of this has played out before a backdrop of ever prohibiting licensing laws and club closures as a result of state and government measures.
However, the show goes on, Otis Records are a clear reflection of that. A physical record store turned online platform and record label, Otis is one of the most interesting prospects to emerge from Sydney as of late as they continue to make international connections. We caught up with the project as they guide us through a side of Sydney rarely documented…
The clubbing community in Sydney seems to have earned itself a reputation for being forced into a corner by the State Government. “It’s past your bedtime, no fun allowed!”. When we had a physical store in the inner city suburb of Chippendale, we threw a party in the lane around the corner with a bunch of friends, including Michael Kucyk AKA Noise In My Head (pictured above). In predictable fashion, Sydney law enforcement showed up a couple hours in, to shake a stern fist at a couple hundred people for literally dancing in the street. When the cops shut it down, we grabbed whoever was closest to the sound system, collectively picked it up and (thanks to Sydney sweetheart, masta selecta and pub manager Ben Fester) moved around the corner to the pub where we were able to dance through till Midnight.
Copious amounts of sunshine mixed with a high ‘standard of living’ seems to breed apathy or complacency among many people but in our experience, the dance music community of Sydney seem to be pretty good at just getting on with the business of having a good time.
Just up the road is Freda’s, a little bar that plays host to a range of quality parties. In a time when most clubs are unwilling to take risks on ‘underground’ music and performance, their music policy is, for the most part, pretty wide open. Our community takes full advantage of that, if you’re in town from Thurs-Mon it’s likely you’ll be able to catch someone great taking the stage or DJ booth. We throw a party there every few months, below is the poster for one of our most special to date. To see Sydney veterans Severed Heads take the stage and perform classics to a room of 200 people was a dream come true. Watching Phile melt the remaining braincells of those still standing after Severed Heads was just icing on a beautiful cake of industrial techno.
MICHAEL’S CHINESE AND MALAYSIAN RESTAURANT
Opposite Freda’s, tacked (maybe literally?) onto the side of a petrol station is “Michael’s”. A Chinese and Malay kitchen that serves a range of Asian dishes to mostly cab drivers. This place splits the crowd, depending on who you talk to you’ll be in for a different opinion. Personally, we’re fans. The laksa is a pretty typical Malaysian curry laksa, a healthy serving of paste floats atop a well balanced broth with a generous serving of tofu and veggies submerged beneath. For those who eat it, the chicken comes poached and sliced thin. Maybe not Sydney’s best bowl of noodles but it’s pretty fucking good and only costs you ten bucks. The crispy chicken on tomato rice is another signature, well worth hitting if you’re in to that kind of thing!
THE NATIONAL PARK
Sydney and it’s greater suburbs constitutes a vast area of land. You can travel for 45mins by car or train and find your own little slice of the Australian bush to share among friends. With a bloated housing market and living costs swelling in general, it’s nice to occasionally piss it all off for a weekend and get drunk amongst the gumtrees. We’re blessed to have a very dear friend whose family are lucky enough to possess the title on a small ‘depression era’ shack nestled in the trees on the South Coast. The area is available to anyone willing to get their boots a little dirty but unless you’ve got a local connect it’s likely you’ll be pitching a tent on the headland (not a bad alternative). We’ll be enjoying a beer right here though 🙂
There is no shortage of quality parties in Sydney (see Picnic, Heavenly, House of Mince et al.) but our favourite just happens to be one of Sydney’s longest standing. ‘Racket’, as it is affectionately known, goes down every couple of months in a (lawn) bowling club in Sydney’s Inner Western Suburbs. Carpet stained with lager dating back to the late 80s supports the patented ‘bowl-o-sonic’ sound system and the venue is always littered with decorations. The International guests they book are always notable (The Black Madonna, Herbert, Fred P etc.) but more often than not it’s the resident Racketeers and local acts that really shine. Hearing Simon Caldwell unsuspectingly sneak up on you with a deep burner like Red Rack’em’s “Wonky Disco Bassline…” or Magda Bytnerowicz unleash Sleep D’s “Bush Snake” at the exact moment your ‘cap’ has decided to wrap you around the sweaty body of the shirtless bear beside you is an unforgettable feeling on what will most likely become a pretty hazy evening. The crowd is the best part though; diverse in every way, open, warm and friendly. If you’re in town for a ‘Racket’, go!
Sydney, like the parties that exist within it, is made most special by it’s people and we’re lucky to be surrounded by some of the best. Here’s a shot of them on the roof of our place after the Racketeers lead us into the New Year last January.
Visit the Otis Records site HERE.