Make It Up Club: 25 years of avant-garde improv is worth celebrating

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Make It Up Club: 25 years of avant-garde improv is worth celebrating

make it up club
Words by wil clifford

Matt Davis and Joel Stern built up and ripped down an abstract soundscape within 33 minutes, then didn’t see each other for 20 years.

When they celebrated their reunion last week by opening the final night of Make It Up Club’s month-long series of 25th-anniversary shows, you could hear the old friends reconvening in the language they know best: avant-garde conversation. 

Playful and toying, Davis’ trumpet evolved throughout the set; airy prodding at Stern’s feedbacking electronics turned to lush drones that became looped and pitch-shifted.

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Mic’d up music boxes swooped haphazardly through textural brass. Yet both performers knew when to let the silence grow: just like in any dialogue between long lost friendships, they reminisced on common ground while slowly discovering who time had made them become. 

It was a joyful attitude amongst those packed into Bar Open’s upstairs bandroom, where Make It Up Club had been converging every Tuesday for years. Driven by a passion for boundary-pushing performance, the shows have become a central pillar of Melbourne’s rich experimental underground, with a long list of curators and musicians contributing to the cause. 

Performances by Uboa, Bitumen, Horse MacGyver, Rama Parwata and Teether had graced the bandroom in the weeks before this particular show, each approaching improvisation from thought-provoking new angles. 

Mararara was joined by Eitan Ritz, blending their distinct brands of synth ambience and unwavering introspection. Whispered phrases conceal themselves within the liquid soundscape, haunting the audience from behind ever-warping synths.

As the performance hit its climax, Mararara began slamming her microphone into the plastic foldout table, embodying the deeply intense and personal lure of improv performance. 


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Make It Up Club welcomes artists and performers from all fringes of music. It’s somewhat fitting that the evening’s lineup consists of classic abstract noise, modern dynamic synths and a string-heavy traditional quintet.

While this lineup may be abhorrently bizarre at any other venue on any other night, it’s a perfect example of what’s on offer every Tuesday night under the Make It Up Club banner.

The final act consisted of strings, harp and vocals delicately balanced atop heavy droning chords, delivered by Grace Ferguson.

Merinda Dias-Jayasinha’s melodies maintained a strong sense of direction amongst the stirring embellishments of harp and violin without ever coming off as controlling. It was an emotive journey, constantly in motion yet taking moments of comforting idleness. 

Improvisation offers something most other rehearsed concerts cannot: resolutive silence. It’s the 30 seconds these musicians take the moment the final note is played, hearing nothing yet still listening to each other. Sat in a room full of other appreciators of the limitless potential of music, you listen in. For the briefest of moments, silence has a sound.

To find out more about Bar Open’s Make It Up Club, head here