Chapter Music presents a vinyl reissue of Melbourne post-punk icon David Chesworth’s mutant punk-funk second album, 1981’s Layer On Layer.
After his revered 1979 debut 50 Synthesizer Greats (reissued by Chapter in 2017), David swapped the solo home-recorded synths for something very different - infectious, percussive art-funk weirdness.
21 years old in 1980, studying at LaTrobe University in Melbourne, David gradually worked out how to use the 8-track recording studio at the university’s music department. Working ‘under the radar’ at night and on weekends, Chesworth built Layer On Layer from the ground up, using non-instruments like telephone directories, books, cardboard boxes and metal car parts, as well as an Indondesian anklung, untuned acoustic guitar and autoharp.
Over the next few years Chesworth recorded and mixed many now seminal releases for his pioneering label Innocent Records (run with Tsk Tsk Tsk’s Philip Brophy) at LaTrobe, when the rest of the music department was at home or in bed.
With Layer On Layer he created a uniquely art-damaged sound world, driven by propulsive, irresistible rhythms but emphasising chance, experimentation and playfulness. Lyrics and vocals (a first for Chesworth on this album) are used as an arch running commentary on the record-making task. Some songs employ random number games to build rhythmic patterns, and remnants pop up unexpectedly from the secondhand reels Chesworth was taping over.
Robert Goodge, Chesworth’s bandmate in the celebrated Essendon Airport (see Chapter’s expanded reissues of 1979 single Sonic Investigations Of the Trivial and 1981 album Palimpsest) contributes his trademark cyclical guitar on some tracks, with Tsk Tsk Tsk’s Ralph Traviato on sax and other Tsk members Philip Brophy, Jayne Stevenson and Maria Kozic on backing vocals.
Layer On Layer was the beginning of David’s investigations into rhythm, and remains one of his most striking works. His records and productions through the 70s and 80s have since become hugely sought-after collectors’ items and DJ holy grails, across his solo work, Essendon Airport, Whadya Want, Chocolate Grinders, the Dave & Phil Duo and other projects.
Chesworth is now a renowned contemporary classical composer and sound artist, commissioned to create a sound installation for the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and represented in the 2015 Venice Biennale with partner Sonia Leber.
For digital bonus tracks, David has revisited select Layer On Layer album tracks to create mutant dancefloor-ready DJ versions.