David Chesworth, Bill McDonaldDrive Time (1984)

Label:Chapter Music – CH177CS
Cassette, Album
Style:Ambient, Experimental


A4Greater Expectations
B3Where The Wild Thyme Grows
B5Always Here


Recording of a live-to-air broadcast from Trinity Chapel, Melbourne, 5pm, 20 / 8 / 84.
Originally broadcast on ABC Radio 3AR.
Includes Download Code insert.

David Chesworth - DX7 & vocals
Bill McDonald - bass

© 1984 / 2021 David Chesworth & Bill McDonald, under license by Chapter Music


  • DAC1's avatar
    Edited 4 months ago
    As a budding experimental composer, Australia’s David Chesworth (Essendon Airport, Whadya Want?) aimed to move “beyond the constraints of modernism,” as he put it in one interview, by performing in a range of venues and exploring new audience relationships. Some of the recordings of these events have followed a similarly elusive path, long remaining out of print or altogether unreleased. Chesworth’s sought-after synthwave masterpiece Industry & Leisure (1983), for example — recorded live in an art gallery, inviting crowd feedback — only saw its first proper reissue this past February on B.T.E. Records (Spain). But, thankfully, Melbourne’s Chapter Music has followed suit by unearthing another even rarer early performance piece from Chesworth: the genre-eluding and never-before-released gem, Drive Time.

    On a cold winter’s night in 1984, Chesworth and bassist Bill McDonald (Paul Kelly, Frente!) played the exclusive eleven-song set in the Trinity Chapel at Melbourne University, where it was broadcast live over the unsuspecting airwaves of local classical channel ABC Radio 3AR. The station brought along a live announcer who gave traffic and weather updates from the choir stalls between songs, context which has sadly been omitted from this release. However, their engineer is to thank for preserving the set, having slipped a soundboard tape of it to the duo as they were packing up their gear. The most bizarre aspect of all, though, is the presence of an unknown organist practicing Bach from somewhere in the church’s depths, which only adds to the mysterious, reverb-heavy aura of the recording and helps to underscore its uniqueness.

    Was anyone else making music like this — let’s call it minimalist post-punk lounge-groove — at the time? Is anyone making it now? The Native Cats, a fellow bass and synth duo from down under, feel like the most obvious current comparison, but Chesworth’s vocals play a more supporting role than Chloe Escott’s. His lyrics are built on simple rhymes that work to complement the occasionally absurd sense of mystery of the proceedings: “He’s over there/The one with the face/Sold out of his place,” Chesworth sings on “Influence,” as the music plucks suspiciously along. Perhaps he’s referring to the organist whose venue they’d overtaken.

    With its general air of whimsy, Drive Time might be more closely aligned soundwise to what England’s Woo had begun tapping into around this same time. Especially when the pair fully embrace their playful side on the Muzak-like tracks that play in between the record’s more locked-in and swaggering workouts. On “Slide,” for instance, things get downright hokey as Chesworth mimics dueling banjos on his Yamaha DX7 and McDonald moseys assuredly beside him in a punk throb. Meanwhile, “Telling” lands somewhere between the closing theme of an 80’s game show and the score of a nature documentary.

    Elsewhere, Chesworth riffs on the setting itself by letting church bells ring via his keyboard on the Hitchcockian “Walls,” which wavers and whistles as it progresses while remaining surprisingly groovy. The album’s standout track, though, is “Delay,” where percussion pops off like popcorn, accompanied by the chiming of a xylophone that intensifies and ascends when Chesworth declares: “I would if I could/Be in love.” Fortunately, thanks to this release, a whole new audience is finally getting the opportunity to do just that with Drive Time. And it’s hard to imagine why they wouldn’t…love it, that is.

    Chris Liberato


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