Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] First impressions of Capricornia

Kate Adams kate@dnki.net
Fri, 12 Jul 2002 22:27:16 -0400

Dave -

This one was VERY well received ... many, many comments on and off list 
about my writing getting to people, both on Yucca pleas and in this sort of 

You have to read Duane's part first for the first part of this to make any 



Bravo!  Bravo!

Those with the live and rare compilations - please keep sending Duane more 
of them to listen to so he can write more stuff for us!

The Oils are nothing if not evocative, conjuring multisensory images with 
sounds and words.  Music you can taste and smell and feel though your body 
while shaking your rump to the relentless beat.  I can tell that Duane 
feels, smells, and tastes it too - but runs the program on a different data 
set than I do or the Oils themselves do.  I plays true all the same.

Capricornia has been a magical release for me in many ways, throwing me 
through the looking glass and connecting me with my kids in unforeseen ways 
... like when my 4 year old son insisted I roll down ALL the windows and 
play it VERY loud on a hot summer day's road trip.  (he was out cold by the 
end of Too Much Sunshine ...).  Like when my six year old played Tone Poem 
repeatedly, climbed trees just to sing it to himself, and would not let 
anyone play anything but Oils for weeks after their Hatch Shell concert.

I posted my first impressions of Capricornia last spring.  At the time, 
it's evocative power made realize that I too had been away too long.  The 
things that have happened since have renewed my desire to pack these little 
guys up and take them to explore the dry, dusty, hot places of my Eastern 
Oregon childhood while it is still summer ... snakes, sage, hearing the 
alfalfa grow at night, midday sun making a sidewalk hot enough to fry an 
egg on, pastel paintings of a chilly desert sunrise, tumbling tumble weeds, 
wagon ruts still looking fresh 150 years after the Oregon Trail, and stores 
and restaurants with kitschy cowboy rodeo motifs sandblasted matte by 
relentless blowing dust.  Memories of biking all over town on a whim 
without any parental control beyond obligatory mealtime appearances.  Of 
wandering out to explore the countryside near at hand and bringing back 
black and yellow snakes to scare the bewhatshisname out of Mrs. 
Hagedorn.  Freedom, nature, endless summer days in the pool, painted 
sunrises and sunsets and radiating heat.

Even though I would not be happy living that rural a life again, even 
though I know as an adult what went on there and what still goes on and 
would not want my kids to live in those shadows, it is still a place so 
ingrained in my being that I fight for it even now.  Especially now that 
the Oils went to no small effort themselves to fight for those very places 
they conjure in my spirit even though they have no real connection to them.

When Peter Garrett went off on nuclear waste transport in that KBOO 
interview, a bunch of previously segregated circuits all connected and my 
brain simply imploded.  Oils music, childhood memories of idyllic summers 
and starkly frigid cold war activity, years of past activism, connections 
to my brother and family - all compressed into one densified lump.  I was 
totally stunned because I knew exactly what they were going on about - 
having experienced it as a child, even more than they could know.  And, in 
getting sucked back to anti-nuke activism after many years, I found out a 
lot about what I had seen as a child and how it had profoundly yet 
surreptitiously motivated many of my choices in life.

I'm so glad that I was at least able to thank Martin personally.  He seemed 
kind of touched and surprised to meet someone in NYC who very clearly and 
directly understood what they talked about in Oregon - and who had lived 
with it and truly appreciated their activity.

So somehow, for me, Capricornia's strange magic now evokes the future as 
well as the past.  The activism of the Oils on tour led to events which 
have steered me into some interesting professional and personal territory 
in a future sense in addition to dredging up memories of being around my 
son's age and understanding the deeply rooted reasons I can't seem to just 
listen to this music in and of itself and manage to stay out of the fray.

They told me what they saw.  They told me what they heard.  It was the same 
as me, and an unpredictable journey commenced.  Its a golden age.

At 03:46 PM 7/11/02 +0200, Duane Heath wrote:
>An album that screeched through me, like a car eating into an empty horizon
>of flat scrub and middle-distance mirages conjured from tar and sun. Every
>track on Capricornia sent me back along a similar hazy highway  an
>out-of-focus memory dug out from the good old days, made increasingly lucid
>the higher the volume got turned up.
>"Too Much Sunshine" had me back at the wheel again, mom's blue Beetle
>busting out of suburbia and down the old coast road on my 20th birthday, all
>of Shaun Stretch's (his real name) 6ft6 frame along for the ride and a June
>morning as a gift only to us  nobody else noticing the present unwrapping
>before them. Always something new to see as soon as we'd break ties with the
>town limits, thawed land breeze shifting smoke from tribal huts all the way
>down to Umgababa  the white cirrus of winter long since gone the way of the
>south wind, perhaps a journey completed in Mocambique or Madagascar. On
>perfect days like that one we'd learn how anticipation is an agonising form
>of time travel at the speed of life. When I think back now, we couldn't have
>been more stupid: mesmerised by Green Point's calling waves, we forgot all
>about the packs of silver sardines in the water, didn't even think about the
>Great Whites which spent their winters tailing them all the way from the
>Cape. Today, I'm slightly more cautious.
>"Capricornia" and I recall deep dreams under a yellow star and nobody but
>lone fishermen with faces turned seaward to threaten the endless summer
>fantasy we'd slip into on varsity vacations at Warner Beach. New Year's
>parties in Margate and Ballito chatting to Max and Al in their car, ten
>years ago now, and how they were ready to leave their land, the first of our
>group to venture overseas. And a year before, us all leaving school on the
>last day, but not knowing quite where to go in these suddenly liberated
>lives of ours. 'Don't leave me here, dying in the back of your land.'
>Two examples of emotional truth, as Peter might call it. Mostly with this
>record I find that same space, those same empty dusty roads, I wandered
>along on Diesel and Dust and Blue Sky Mining. Through a wormhole of the mind
>I surface again and reach out across a decade and a half to picture my own
>version of "Luritja Way"  a hired VW bus like a white skyscraper among
>flat, dry plains of the parched Karoo, on its way to the coast, stuck lonely
>miles between sub-tropica and our final destination somewhere in the Cape,
>an eternity from the waves the group was chasing.
>So maybe I've Been Away Too Long myself. My bruised world that is Africa
>sure has its beauty, and I long to see it again. It's been a year and a day
>since lip-biting farewells and it's surely no coincidence I open up the
>mailbox today to find Todd's gift of the CD plus an unplugged MD
>compilation. In a week where half of me was six thousand miles away from
>this land of forests and islands, Capricornia pulled me back to the present
>and made me realise the 'good old days' are at once all around me, and still
>unborn. A golden age.
>Powderworks mailing list

Kate Adams
Graduate Student
Department of Work Environment
UMass Lowell
Global Free Trade: All the economic benefits of colonialism, without all
those nasty responsibilities.