Tag Archive: supersonic


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!

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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!

 

 

Another year, another Supersonic. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Birmingham’s best musical festival. There’s quite a varied line up this year so I shall try and sample as much as I can. I managed to drag my carcass to DIgbeth despite feeling knackered from work. Luckily I soon perked up. Whilst waiting for the bands to start I checked out the vinyl rally exhibit. It is the brain child of artist Lucas Abela (aka Justice Yeldham, who incidentally provided one of the most memorable Supersonic 2005 performances when he “played” a piece of glass hooked up with piano mics). Imagine a multilevel scalextric composed of vinyl. A remote controlled care drives across the vinyl, controlled by whoever sits in the modified arcade driving cabs. The car has a camera which transmits a first person perspective to videomonitors and the driver can also alter the audio output using various knobs and filters. The result – well when I checked it out they appeared to have teething problems, the car seemed to have difficulty finding traction on the vinyl and would tend to flip over or get stuck. I’ll try again tonight and see if they’ve managed to get it working.

Supersonic 2012

 

Here’s a link to a mixtape by Capsule to promote this years Supersonic festival. I’ve been going since 2005, I was all psyched up to see Psychic TV headline when the gig had to be evacuated because of a hoax bomb threat (this was around the time of the Tube bombings so people were twitchy). One consolation was that I got to meet Genesis P. Orridge and he kindly signed my program with eye liner. I’ve seen so many great sets over the years, Modified Toy Orchestra, Nissenenmondai, King Midas Sound System, Hallogallo….watching the floor clear when Fucked Up’s Father Damien jumped off the stage and started cartwheeling and slamming beer cans in his head, Michael Gira (solo and stripped down) and in full apocalyptic mode with Swans.

If you’ve never sampled the delights of Supersonic it’s a compact 3 day weekender where you can experience noise, various flavours of metal, stoner jams, gothic folk and smurf electronica. Supersonic is the only festival I’ve been to where you can see a man chewing a glass sheet connected to contact mikes (Justice Yelland (sp?)) There’s usually a few art installations and projects going on as well as a program of films and talks, past participants include Mark Pilkington, Nick Bullen and WIlliam Bennet.

There’s always a good selection of record and merchandise stalls and the catering is better than most music venues. Seriously, if you’ve never been and you can get to Birmingham get a ticket now! 

William Bennett and Cut Hands

I had a little bit of a late start for Sunday’s Supersonic. I went to the Q and A session with William Bennett talking about Cut Hands and his contribution to Vice Magazine’s Guide to Liberia. I admire William Bennett for his singular vision and the fact that he does not try and mollify his critic’s unease at most of Whitehouse’s content. William was charming, erudite and intelligent and his talk served as a tasty appetizer for his set. He invited questions from the audience. One chap asked a question along the lines of “Up until the last few years you have been persona non grata among the music press, why do you think they are now coming around to your work?”- WB – “Because.” You don’t get more succinct than that I guess. The Cut Hands music melded well with the documentary subject matter, there is a palpable sense of powerful horror suffusing the music, I find it unsettling but energising at the same time.
Later on Senor Bennett played a short set in the Old Library venue. It was a laptop performance, although DJ Bennett threw in some nifty twirls and finger dancing. He played a few tracks from the Cut Hands lp plus some (very good) new material. The furious percussion and shredding noise delivered a powerful gut punch and the accompanying visuals of spectacularly foam flecked deleriants induced a hypnotic head space. Highly recommended if you get a chance to see this live.