Sometimes you find yourself in the midst of a moment and you have to take advantage of it while it lasts because they’re rare. Australian producer Papaphilia is having just such a moment where opportunities, social connections, and personal understanding have all aligned to help her achieve musical goals long in the waiting. All around the same time, she’s experiencing sudden funding and label support, a diversified dance floor in her hometown of Narrm (better known as Melbourne), and the realization that the experimental artist should have been making dance music all along.
Papaphilia’s recent EP, Remembrance Of Things To Come, connects dots she’d only hazily recognized previously. Across the six tracks, lyrics get warped and repurposed, resembling a dream state where the words themselves lose much of their meaning but the intent is clear in the tone and melody. They soar into flight and dive to the darkest depths, drawing on everything from screwed-up new jack swing to dubbed-out Bollywood, all recontextualized and repurposed to fit this alternate vision of reality. The entire project is driven by restless drums that rarely let up but earn their continued place through dynamism. It overflows with tension that finds catharsis and relief through total immersion. Just sweat it all out—the rest can wait, stay in this moment.
For several years, Papaphilia’s music had revolved around the experimental electronic DIY scene, where she’d just jack her machines in and record. But she was always going out and dancing alone at night. “Dancing is the one thing that’s got me through all of life’s ups and downs; it’s where you can let your guard down and let your body take over,” she explains. Eventually, it clicked and she realized it was time to make dance music herself. “Everything was leading me to the floor. My live performances have always been an ebb and flow between high energy with lots of downs, but this time I wanted power all the way through.” It would take a couple of years still for her to figure out just how to translate her experimental, ambient ideas for the dance floor, and she only released a few singles here and there until Heavy Machinery came along and helped put her back on track.
With COVID in full swing and musicians out of work, the local government put together the Flash Forward program, providing funding for artists to keep creating. Heavy Machinery distributed the funds and helped the artists realize their goals with almost no strings attached. Papaphilia was one of them. “I’ve been trying to get this record out for ages. When they got in touch, it changed absolutely everything,” she says. “I’ve never had funding before. Without it, I wouldn’t be on this trajectory I’m on now.” The money allowed her to pay friends to help her rather than begging them to do it for free, and she was able to access a professional studio. She also realized the new NSFW video for “All Are Syllables Of The Great Tongue”—a slow-motion orgy of dance to accompany the track’s drifting bells, floating whispers, and driving beats. The producers she hired were brought on for other projects with the label, so it supported more than just musicians and included everyone within the ecosystem. “They funded a ton of people with the knowledge and expertise to help make things happen. Lots of technicians and specialists. My whole crew of Filipinos and islanders was here one minute and then going all over the next.”
The label commissioned an extremely diverse body of work from 40 different artists, covering a broad range of communities and musical styles. “It’s a great snapshot of all these people from different walks of life,” says Papaphilia, who is Sri Lankan-Australian. The project came at a time when the club scene has also begun embracing much more diversity. “It’s more experimental and more open. We’ve come into a moment where everyone’s open and learning about access, diversity, gender, and culture. Seven or eight years ago, you wouldn’t see too many indigenous folk at gigs. Now there are a lot of first nations DJs that are headliners. People are jumping towards it instead of away from it.” She thinks it’s a reflection of wider culture in Narrm, rather than anything specific to rave culture. In fact, she sees the opposite, where people there make time for the arts, even after going to rallies and organizing around humanitarian issues. “It’s been explosive.”