Deep within the bowels of what was once the premier location for women’s health in Melbourne, there’s a surgeon that’s been waiting to welcome you to his strange world. There’s nothing to be frightened of though because it’s only Douglas Brook, one of the creative minds behind the Swell/Swell LIVE project which was chosen to build this year’s Melbourne Music Week hub.

The day before Swell Live opens to the public Tone Deaf have been given a sneak peek at what punters can expect from this year’s hub in the basement of the former Royal Women’s Hospital. Creative director Janenne Willis is our guide for the day and without her it would be easy to get lost in this strange labyrinth of clinical halls and eerie rooms.

It’s been a massive undertaking for the creative team to reinvent the dank basement with 12 installations in only two weeks with work running right up until opening night. This is all too apparent when Willis’ words are lost to a cacophony of angle grinders and the media entourage scurry out of the way of burly workers trundling kegs.

The first room we enter has all of its walls covered in sharp Styrofoam waves and feels like you’re stepping into an ice cave. It’s one of five live music spaces in the basement and Willis explains that the design of the room will reflect the style of music it houses though she is mum about naming acts.

The next live space is a childhood dream room with plush toys of all description covering the walls and strewn on the floor. This room will make the hardest hearted of people fall to the floor gibbering with glee like giant babies.

Following an LED lighting strip through the corridors we arrive at the boiler room which will host 15-minute dance parties five times a night among its serpentine masses of pipes. Great big incandescent white balloons will flood the room acting not only as beach balls for groovers but also continue the concept that underpins the entire project.

Willis explains her desire to find the effect of what different masses of material have on the experience of music with each room acting as an audiological experiment. The aesthetic of each space also matches the style of music that will be housed such as the army of soft toys for pop or the cavalcade of balloons for the 15 minute DJ sets.

Other installations include toilet stalls converted into confession booths, a live poetry corner and a black-and-white live band video series featuring artists like Banoffee. The confession booths will be attended by priests who will guide confessors to a stall to unload their feelings about what they’ve done to a camera.

Matt Wicking and David Johnson of The General Assembly gave a taste of what to expect playing in a room with hundreds of strips of paper hanging from the roof. The paper never allowed a clear view of the band leaving an odd feeling that you’re not watching the band but spying on them.

Swell is a truly immersive experience with no guide but LED wall strips to take you to your next visceral delight. Prepare your senses for this psychedelic underworld that will open your eyes to the possibilities of what can be done in such barren and abandoned spaces.

 Melbourne Music Week runs from the 13-20th November, details here. 

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