First and maybe obvious point. This magnificent disc has to be listened to at full volume on a proper hi-fi, not headphones or incar stereo. That way the sonic terrorism of the opening track comes at you full force, and the subtler effects of subsequent tracks aren’t lost in environmental sound. Pateras and Fox are a terrifying soundart double-act from Melbourne’s outer suburbs – Pateras produces the material ..boards or as here exclusively, vocalising, and Fox processes the result in real-time on laptop. I was misled to some extent by the CD blurb: “Equal parts postwar beard and modern patchnocrat…two of Melbourne’s hairiest sons nosedive and writhe in their unique take of sonic totalism, rising out of the muck with their kaleidoscopic best.” You might be too if you don’t dig beneath the zany humour that’s such an attractive part of their act. Don’t take it without argument that sounds of slurping reflect the pair’s eating habits, or that the oral noises should have invoked a Parental Advisory sticker.
Tracks are quite short, each with a distinct character, multi-dynamic and in constant flux. The comparatively brief opening barrage of “Apocalypse Now And Then” is a wacky, scratch ‘n’ sniff manipulation of electroacoustic clichés and sci-fi effects, bizarrely juxtaposed with a compendium of bodily functions – “punk concrète” as its authors call it. The way Pateras licks around the mic on “Aphasia” and “Olfactophobia” is quietly disgusting, while “$2.50” is a relief from orality in its focus on bell and coin sounds. The compressed and fractured argument of “Threat In Three Parts” leaves this listener in stitches, while “Perilymph” is untypical in its 13-minute length, and haunting, glitch-inflected evocation of the sine-wave/sci-fi school of electroacoustic composition. To process Pateras’s signal, Fox employs a variety of techniques, mostly involving live sampling and manipulation of those samples, he explains – moving between real-time musique concrète and a kind of granular synthesis which inserts pre-designed ideas or licks built up from grains of sound. Make no mistake, Pateras and Fox are serious and major artists who happen, on occasion, to be very funny. Flux Compendium is a scream and also very beautiful, the finest showcase to date of their compositional flair and wit.