Australian Soundscape, Hot Westerly Winds of Mt. Isa (1991)

The dance music scene of the early 1990s had no better exponent than Australian Soundscape, a Sydney band known for its ambient trance discs. Billed as 'the ultimate in relaxation', their albums used the finest digital technology to mimic natural settings: in this example, thousands of carefully-blended samples produce an effect of a continuous light (or 'hot westerly') wind blowing over a microphone, with an occasional kookaburra in the background. But make no mistake—this is sixty minutes and thirteen seconds of rock-da-house action, leaving the listener itching to take the Last Train to Trancentral (assuming that Trancentral is actually located in Mt. Isa).

The blurb on the back cover—cleverly disguised as a cheaply-printed throw-away—says it all: 'In the mid-day heat your head is tilted back, arms outstretched while the hot wind whips your face and your hair flickers like flames behind you. Breathe in the warmth ... You are ready to relax—the wondrous sounds of nature await you...' If that isn't a description of a deranged outback raver off their nut on ecstasy, I don't know what is.

The music itself is all highs. Who can forget the breathtaking moment at 23:17 when the wind dies down—only to re-emerge moments later at 23:23? Or the five minutes after 37:18, when the kookaburra is replaced by a pee-wit? Or the hit lead single, appearing here from 13:33-18:42, released on 12" vinyl as '(What's That) Whistling Sound' and later covered by the Pet Shop Boys and Roger Whittaker?

Even better, the CD release features three hidden tracks not included on the cassette: Kookaburra Laughs in the Old Gum Tree (Demo Version); Hot Westerly Winds (David Morales Mix); and Hot Westerly Winds (MTV Unplugged). All feature the same thumping 4 bpm rhythms of the rest of the album.

Like TISM, Australian Soundscape give no hint of their true identities on their album covers: rumour has it that they are in fact Itch-E and Scratch-E, appearing in their early guises of Wind-E and Kook-A. Other rumours have it that the whole thing was a rush-job recorded in an hour on a cheap tape-deck outside his grandparents' farm by the proprietor of Hughes Leisure Group.

Whichever turns out to be true, I'll be eagerly tracking down Australian Soundscape's other titles, like Dawn in the Daintree, Tropical Thunderstorm, and Camping by a Creek—not to mention some of the 'Great Music World Compact Discs!' listed on the inside cover: Golden Plays the Hits of Elton John; All the Best From the Maoris of New Zealand; Hooked on Hammond – 40 Fabulous Favourites; and Yodelling Down Under. They're all 'digitally recorded on location' in full DDD sound, and available at a $2 shop near you.


First published in Records Ad Nauseam, 17 May 2001.
This page: 17 May 2001.

©2001 Rory Ewins