Category: Reviews


Flesh Fiddling

I recently purchased the Reaktor instrument Flesh after being impressed by the demo.

Flesh is a curious beast, it analyses the transient and spectral information of the samples you load into it and then processes them through different audio engines to produce loops, bass lines and chords.

You can load up to 12 samples at a time and can trigger them with a keyboard. You can also call up different harmony presets and sound settings from your keyboard too.

It’s a great inspiration aid, the only problem I have had with it is that you load it intending to add something to an existing piece but then you encounter an intriguing sound which you feel could be the start of the new track. So you start off a new project, tweak and then get drawn down into a new tangent. Very soon your hard drive starts to fill up with little fragments and doodles and you realise you’ve spent 5 hours in a tonal worm hole.

I think it’s recommended that you use fairly rhythmic samples to generate the best results but in my demo I wanted to demonstrate you can generate interesting results from non rhythmic sources – in this case audio clips of a guitar.

 

I like Flesh a lot but as the above video demonstrates I am only scratching the surface of it’s capabilities. I would recommend giving the demo a whirl. Although it is a Reaktor 6 instrument you don’t need to purchase Reaktor 6 to play it, the free Reaktor player will host it just fine.

Below is a tune I cobbled together using Flesh on an old Ultrabeat sample.

prestatynI last posted on this blog 3 years ago after visiting Shellac’s ATP at Camber Sands. Life got too busy and I forgot about the blog.  I didn’t realise at the time it was to be my last ATP because they wound up the enterprise the following year.

It was a shame, ATP was my favourite festival, a chance to just immerse yourself in great music without having to endure the festival horror of pebbledashed portaloos and the Great British climate. A place where you can dance like a tit and not be judged too harshly. I was really pleased when earlier this year ATP started putting out the feelers over whether there was any interest in the festival being rebooted.

So I’ve just returned from The Chapman Brother’s Nightmare Before Christmas and the personal verdict is that it was chuffin’ brilliant.

The festival experience got off to a damp start on the A road crossing into North Wales where we were suddenly assailed by heavy rain and squally winds. We trundled into Pontins only to be greeted by security guards with sniffer dogs and a line of soggy and shivering punters queueing to collect their wrist bands. Along with the drab concrete chalet blocks and waterlogged carpark it seemed that Banksy had been substituted as the curator.

Security was a little more assertive this year, I was stopped twice returning to the park and asked to give my details and line up for the sniffer dog. I’m so used to revelling in a comfortable middle age that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be treated like a drug dealer. I guess from a distance I kinda look like Walter White.

On the whole security were friendly but twitchy. I was at the Oh Sees set on Sunday and they stopped the performance because security were being rough in ejecting a female. I guess this is what going to a gig is going to be like in the aftermath of the Bataclan murders, but it was a very minor negative on an otherwise friendly festival.

Pontins as a whole was a good experience, the chalets were basic but well heated and insulated (at least mine was) which was good considering the wind and the rain that rarely let up for the entire weekend.

Our chalet was across from the sea and I attempted a stroll along the sea  front but the waves were just thrashing against the sea defences and the wind would just propel you forwards. It certasinly blew the cobwebs away and I got a sand and saltwater exfoliating facial for free.

Everyone bar the security were really friendly and chilled. I can remember being grateful to a group of guys who had found a way of making those claw grabbing games deliver a prize each time. I was really pleased that I managed to get a day glo penguin and plastic piggy bank before the scales fell from my eyes and I realised I’d overestimated the monetary value of the tat I’d spent £2 securing. I cheered up by watching post gig Om rotating serenely on the Tea Cup Carousel in the arcade area.  They’d earlier given a cosmic set with deep sonorous bass and arabic scales, it felt kinda spacey, spiritual, shamanic et al . It sent me off into my own inner space where I too felt like I was slowly rotating in  a tea cup orbiting a super massive black hole.

The line up was very good, lot of surprises such as Mueran Humanos, Suuns and Chelsea Wolfe and the acts I was really looking forward to; Holly Herndon, Lightning Bolt and Blanck Mass really delivered the goods. It was true of a lot of the acts that they would lock into a motorik groove and you would just be enveloped in the music and get drawn into your own little head space. Great smashing super.

The gig spaces at Prestatyn were much better than the equivalents at Minehead, I had found Reds cramped and the stage in the dome too open, echoey and redolent of hotdog ming. Pyewackets and the Secret Stage felt more like a regular gig space and the PA systems were full and beefy.

I saw most of the bands and can’t think of a bad one, although I chickened out of Russell Haswell after just 5 seconds on scronking noise. I love noise gigs (hell I can even dance to Merzbow) but my synapses were needing something more emollient at the time. I made the decision not to fret about recording anything and just go with the experience, sometimes it’s better to forgo documenting everything and just enjoy the moment. So no reviews as such, just the bits that stood out.

Friday

Saw first Dead Rider. The park was still sparsely attended so there must of been just two dozen or so people at the performance. It was a shame because I liked their twisting loping style. Todd Rittmann prowled the stage giving of an aura of threat and nervous tension. They reminded me a little of Oxbow with the schizoid blues vibe. Very good.

I caught Chelsea Wolfe for the first time. Her music had a deep melancholic undercurrent, I felt myself drifting on a sea of resonant bass waves, slowly sinking in to the depths.

Lightning Bolt were a force of nature. they played on the stage rather than in the audience but their frenetic blast beats and manic fret abuse still felt very primal. My fillings are still vibrating from the aftershock.

My copilot Spookyfruit played me some Suuns on the drive up, Motorik on the motorway helps eat up the miles. They jammed with Jerusalem in my Heart and I found myself lapsing into my customary swaying to side to side with my eyes closed and mild synaesthesia. Nice.

Things start getting fuzzy now, I saw The Notwist perform Neon Golden with its fizzy fidgety beats and nagging pop hooks as well as The Album Leaf and Loop (who were surprisingly unhirsute, they’d been forever frozen in my minds eye in their 1989 hairier incarnation). They were much sharper and focussed than I anticipated, I guess I was expecting slow space rock jamming.

I wanted to see Micachu and the Shapes but I turned up at their time slot and found Xylouris White instead. I dunno whether they pulled out or rescheduled or was just too discombobulated to be in the right place at the right time.

As mentioned earlier the evening ended with rinsing the claw grabber machine of plushy tat and watching Om rovolving and rotating.

Saturday

I’d been drinking absinth the night before (La Fee – highly recommended, smooth and sweet and delivers a nice glow to the chest, your body feels pissed but your mind feels clear). I woke up surprisingly energised and decided that walking along the sea front during a gale would be a good constitutional.

I dipped in and out of the bands that afternoon. Holly Herndon’s set stood out. She was accompanied by Mr Colin Self and some other guy (sorry can’t remember his name) puffing on an inhalator. Whilst the crunching bass tones and gated vocal fragments agitated the airspace Holly would type messages to the audience, it certainly created a feeling of connection between her and the crowd. Colin Self started a bout of very fierce dancing, pushing away against invisible walls and throwing shapes with a pulsing LED array in his gob like a mime artist on meth.

The two halves of the Fuck Buttons played separate sets. Andrew Hung’s performance was very bouncy and sproingy with a chip tune wonkiness. You couldn’t help grinning / gurning depending on level of intoxication. Blanck Mass were more epic and propulsive and it was impossible to stay still. Did I mention that I was doing a lot of “not staying still”, probably more so than any previous festival.

More bands, more beer, less focussed memories, more an impression of bass drum noises like hot tarmac poured onto contact mics, juddering bass waves pummelling my solar plexus the floor feeling progressvely spongier.

Sunday

Pub quiz – came fourth, woo hoo. Good way to slowly recharge after two nights of excess and poor quality sleep.

Highlights – Follakzoid (Chilean Krautrock oh yes!)

Total control – they sound like a distillation of 80’s synth pop / rock, elements of The Normal , Warsaw, Wolfsheim but they seem to make a space of their own rather than seeming like a pastiche a la Primal Scream. I really liked their set, they have a really strong melodic edge, great choruses and hooks.

The final act I saw was also my favourite of the festival. Mueran Humanos were completely new to me but I thought their mix of motorik grooves and  Spanish declamations really absorbing. I can’t really add anymore to that other than seek out their music, me gusta mucho!

Until next time (hopefully there will be a next time).

This was my first visit to Camber Sands, all my previous ATPs have been at Minehead. The site at Pontins was smaller and more basic than Butlins but I thought the accomodation was a lot better at Pontins as we had fridge, oven and microwave.

Word of warning – the onsite catering is abysmal, I made the mistake of ordering a pizza on the first night. It was completely stone cold whilst my mate’s burger had pieces of bone in it. The only decent food on site was the stand serving “Buddha Bowls” – steaming mass of vegetable curry, kimchi and fried halloumi. Very tasty and filling it was too.

The venues at Pontins were better suited to live music than Butlins, I never liked the tiered table and chair set up at Minehead’s centre stage and the acoustics in the pavillion were not great. Pontins even had a sprung dance floor. Nice.

We arrived on site at around four o clock (it would have been earlier but finding a petrol station near camber was harder than anticipated).

Pontins seemed to have fubared the check in process. What took 5 minutes at Minehead took an hour and a half at Pontins. It meant I missed Shellac’s opening set, although Steve Albini walked past me afterwards. I was fairly grouchy at this point but I soon relaxed, the festival was smaller than previous years but very relaxed and friendly (not that Minehead was uptight or unfriendly, just Pontins was very laid back).

The first band I saw was Oxbow accompanied by a string section (Eugene said it should be Oxbow and Friends but of course Oxbow don’t have any friends). Oxbow as per usual were impassioned and primal. Lots of gurning and shadow boxing. Eugene carried out his usual slow strip tease but there was a noticeable reduction in the amount of underpant rummaging that I’ve become accustomed to. I tend to think Oxbox make a lot more sense live than on record, mainly because of the visual elements of Eugene et al’s performance add to experience. I thought they were very good.

Next up were Scrawl – they seemed really happy to be playing and they were pretty good too.

Turing Machine were feckin’ awesome – IMO math rock and techno are similar in their reliance of repetition and modulation to get you in that trance like groove. The venue was rammed and their was a miasma of evaporated sweat. Nancy Whang joined them on stage for their last number. They were prolly my fave performance that night. I know I went on to see Mono and Prinzhorn Dance School later that evening but I can’t remember a damn thing due to be excessively refreshed (c’mon I’d hard a busy few weeks at work so needed to unwind).

Turing Machine

Supersonic Day 3

The problem with festivals (when you’re at an advanced stage of decrepititude) is by the last day I’m battling with achey muscles, itchy beard growth and early stages of alcohol poisoning. I find it harder to lose myself in the music when I feel like my bones have been hollowed out. It means that I have less patience with slow music and tend to dip in out of gigs rather than taking time to tune in. Lichens, Gnod and Uffomammut were all perfectly ok. I caught the last three songs of Islaja. She twiddled around with wonkily tuned oscillators and I couldn’t discern her vocals when she approached the mic, so I assumed it was turned down. During her last song she performed a little dance from behind her desk and then thanked the audience perfectly audibly. There was a slight “outsider art” vibe to her set which I enjoyed.

Talking of outsider art Justice Yeldhams brief set was entertaining as he pressed his face against micced up glass and created blasts of distressed noise. I’ve added a clip which doesn’t really do justice to the sound, on video it sounds thin and shrill, in the Old Library the sound had a thick scuzzy timbre. Justice took requests, drank messily and careered around the stage in what looked like a surgical gown,  blasting blarts of digital munge to an appreciative audience. Musical in the loosest possible sense of the word but a very entertaining performance nonetheless.

Supersonic wouldn’t be Supersonic without a band playing faux giallo / Italian horror soundtracks and Zoltan were this years entry. Not bad if you like proggy synths and moody chord progressions.

I soaked up the first 10 -15 minutes of Tim Hecker’s fuzzed up symphonies, enjoying the body rattling bass and then moved on to catch the last 15 minutes of Dope Body. After 2 minutes it became apparent I should have seen this band from the start. They were fecking brilliant. A good squally garage racket and a shirtless lead singer twisting and channeling Iggy, I now feel compelled to sample their recorded output and will definitely seek them out if they play again.

I was knackered by this stage and buggered off home. I would have liked to have seen My Disco but hey ho I still had a great Supersonic. See you there next year!

This is more like it! After the mogadon jazz vibe of Bohren it was up to Merzbow to give my brain a damn good sand blasting. Which he did in spades.

There were the usual excoriating sheets of white noise with occasional passage of rhythmic clonking. Guest participants too, including Eugene from Oxbow.

Noise is a curious genre, and Merzbow’s  noise is amazingly detailed, restless and fractal. When it’s done well noise can send me into a really relaxed, contemplative state. And it did, I was kinda embarrassed afterwards when I realised I’d been swaying to the swells and build up of noise. Dancing to noise music…well I wasn’t the only one. My friend “the Flatulent Freaky Dancer” was jumping up and down and throwing rave shapes to the whitenoise skree.

 

 

Intriguing name, had to check them out. My mate loved them, he thought they had “The Red Room in Twin Peaks Vibe.” I’m afraid I found them funerally slow and torpid, lounge music played after drinking too much cough medicine. Imagine the theme from Blade Runner run through Paul Stretch. Judging by the audience response I think I was in a minority cuz they got a very appreciative response.

Kevin Drumm played the Old Library. I enjoyed his gravelly textured digital grit and there was an interesting dot field projected behind him which helped jog the ol’ synaesthesia along. I left before the end of the set to catch Hookworms. They played a churning Neu-ish groove, actually in retrospect they reminded me of late 80’s landfill band Flowered Up, except they were good (Hookworms that is). Here’s a clip, you may notice the freaky dancer from Modified Toy Orchestra, this time he was sporting a jaunty sailor hat and managed to clear a floorspace to himself through performing spastic aerobics routine along with liberal amounts of foul flatus.

I returned to the Old Library to watch Jarboe’s set of Swans and World of Skin songs. I thought Jarboe’s voice was fantastic, rich, mellifluous and enveloping. I always enjoyed how she tempered Swans sturm und drang but maintained their emotional intensity.

Afterwards I pottered around the marketplace, visited the “creepy cabin” and managed to buy one of Morton Underwood’s austerity synths which I have to say I’m very pleased with 🙂

I’m typing this tired but tingly from last night’s lineup. There was so much variety from the Finnish folk cooing of Lau Nau to the strange and enigmatic Hype WIlliams. This year the sound and visuals really worked well to lead to some really memorable gig memories. You can probably guess that I had a great time 🙂

I started the day by checking out Lau Nau. She was a Finnish folk singer who strummed and looped to create a rather beautifully eerie head space.

Next stop was Sir Richard Bishop over at the Boxxed venue. He treated us to skilful arabesque guitar work with a touch of flamenco to it.

Modified Toy Orchestra

 

Ahhh, Modified Toy Orchestra, a regular performer and favourite of Supersonic. I love their sound, it’s amazing the sounds they can wrest from the ghosts of Chritmas past. I’ve got a couple of clips for you to peruse, including footage of a guy who was freaky dancing through the whole set and clearing a space for himself by dropping his guts on a regular basis. IMHO gigs have become much more “pungent” since the smoking ban 😦

I’m afraid I retired home after this, the soul was willing but the flesh was weak and needed Ovaltine.

First band up were Free School. I’d not heard of these guys before. They were decked out in rather unsettling sheep masks and pumped out (to my ears anyway) an Underworld groove. For a dance act they were welcomingly visual and kinetic, no staring at a laptop screen here, instead we had live drumming, vocals and stage presence. All in all, a good start to proceedings, here’s a couple of clips to give you a flavour.

Afterwards I went to see Devilman. No footage I’m afraid and there was no info in the program or website but it looked like KK Null and other luminaries of Japanese noise jamming. Whatever / whoever it was the music was ferociously loud and the bass waves got my windpipe quivering and sent ripples through my scalp and got the (few) hairs on my head tingling. Me gusta mucho!