Gaining support from legendary BBC Radio 1 tastemaker Pete Tong, east coast Australian producer Willaris. K continues to leave his sonic footprint in the electronic sphere on account of his progressive, eclectic productions and widely acclaimed live shows.
Tong singled out Willaris. K as the next artist to watch from Australia, saying “he has already got something that is really hard to attain. If I listen to an hour of music that was kind of similar to his melodic techno, when his track came on, I would know it was his.”
The latest release from 25 year-old Jack McAllister – double A-side “Natural Selection / Cobaki Sky (Prequel)” – has drawn comparisons to experimental masters Brian Eno and William Basinski alongside techno peers Jon Hopkins, Kiasmos and Sasha. The 2-tracker is the follow up to his debut EP Alchemy, a 7-track mini album that moves between thick industrial techno and sparse pensive melodic moments, exploring themes of transience, movement, darkness and currents.
That EP saw Willaris. K break through with multiple tracks scoring rotation on triple j, and the single ‘Dour Nights’ named by Pete Tong as the Essential New Tune on Radio 1. Groups of discerning fans as well as cross-over audiences have been drawn to Willaris. K’s forward-thinking sound, which led to the rare sight of dark, abrasive, instrumental techno making its way into the top 50 Shazam charts, Spotify Viral Charts and more. Triple j radio in Australia heralded him as one of their 10 Unearthed artists to watch in 2018 and beyond.
In 2017-18 McAllister played an unrivalled number of festival shows in Australia and NZ with over 25 live sets brimming with his trademark punk-influenced stage presence – all ahead of his international debut at Coachella last April, two sold out Australian headline tours seeing him move into 1,000 cap venues for the first time. Amidst that activity, Willaris. K made his European debut playing influential European events and clubs like Forbidden Fruit in Ireland, an appearance at Kurzschluss Warehouse in Slovenia, and a heaving show at iconic Berlin club, Watergate.
Known for his hypnotic and bass-driven soundscapes, Willaris. K has created a signature sound by seamlessly weaving together futuristic textures with organic field recordings and an incredible ear for detail and digital processing. In “Cobaki Sky (Prequel)”, the Australian Tweed Coast producer uses a range of wistful loops and melancholic chord patterns to steep his track in deep emotion. The release is of stark contrast to the rhythmic plucks of “Natural Selection”, a heavier club-focused production.
Alongside the Alchemy EP, Willaris. K curated the ‘Alchemy Exhibition’ where he collaborated with videographer Yeoseop Yoon for a series of stills and installations. The exhibition was showcased in Melbourne and Sydney and celebrated the release of an an arresting 12 minute video trilogy featuring “Alchemy”, “River Song” and “Dour Nights” by Yeoseop Yoon, as well as the hypnotic visual for “Perpetual Love” directed by LA-Sydney director, Kris Moyes.
But to understand the unpredictable auteur that Willaris. K is, is to understand the slightly obscure way in which Jack McAllister came to develop his craft.
For reasons that stretch back over a century, Australia’s six states and two territories each operate on a different electricity grid. For several years after finishing school, Jack was responsible for monitoring the power conversion at substations along the New South Wales and Queensland state borders. It was on these daily solo expeditions through serene bush and swampy marshland collecting hours of field recordings and lonely beats, that McAllister developed the unique sonic palette that we know as trade mark Willaris. K.
Warping ambient field recordings into textured beats, the clarity of space and time to forge inventive melodies, the stimulation of the natural environment thrust into heaving electronica. The swamp, the serenity. Pine-scented, dirt-speckled.
For the itinerant Willaris. K, it’s all about movement and emotion. Jon Hopkins’ hard-hitting “Open Eye Signal” melting into Nils Frahm’s mercurial “Them”. Being sent adrift by Bonobo’s uplifting “Second Sun” only to be capsized by Patrice Baumel’s angular “Surge”.
Through the process of being an electrical instrument technician working the state border substations by day and bedroom musician-producer-songwriter the piano-trained artist grappled with the frustration, self-doubt, introspection and triumph that comes with change. Alchemy was written over a period of almost two years spent creeping in and out of underground raves, digging up and twisting old samples, or recording the bones of songs as iPhone voice memos and then building them out.
“The tracks are a reflection of my life at that time,” he says. “It was a big transition period for my mindset, going from music being a fun hobby with no pressure, to self doubt, to finally backing myself. Eventually, I let go of the expectations I’d put upon myself realised I can make whatever I want, because that’s where the most interesting ideas came from.”
Many of the tracks on the EP and the recent 2-tracker were built with his live shows in mind — which makes sense, given Willaris. K was born when Jack started making edits to play in his DJ sets. But the overarching vision for Willaris.K’s music has always been simple: “It has to make me feel something on an extreme scale.”