supernormal 2017

‘Pink twine binds the urinal bales’

What words can you find to contain Supernormal? As this year’s amazing festival recedes into the past a near constant stream of photo sets, reviews and youtube clips (here’s a great one) reveal incredible experiences that seem to only slightly overlap with mine or each other. It begins with the gazebo police, has stage diving children, a solstice’s worth of semi-naked cathartic rituals and culminates in a drunken Godzilla Vs Rodan brawl outside the bar. For such a small scale festival they sure pack in a lot more than you can ever hope to see. How to make something coherent of a pocketful of disjointed impressions. With glue? Here instead is a list of thoughts about bands I saw . . .

Friday – In a turn of events so inevitable we may as well start referring to it as a tradition I miss the opening band, the aptly named Not Sorry. So the first band I catch is No Form, who are led by an angry young chap, bordering on the furious. The band behind him make a fittingly ill tempered and formless racket, storms of noise and belligerence billow from the stage in the scorching sunshine. They are wonderfully at odds with the prevailing mood of relaxed and convivial expectation, conjuring the dark simmer of a crowded bus, stuck in traffic in filthy weather. “hi, everybody!”

The first performance I’m really looking forward to is R.E.E.L. in the cosy but spectacular AV space ‘The Vortex’. Putting the ‘group’ into supergroup R.E.E.L. are a boyband of veteran/inveterate electronic psych knob twiddlers bringing their experience to bear on some improvised soundscapes. Or they will be shortly, Matt Saunders (Magnetophone/Assembled Minds) and Farmer Glitch (pHarmerz, Hacker Farm) are struggling to get their lorry load of kit up and running while Saxon Roach (IX Tab) gloats in the shadows having successfully opened and plugged in his laptop. This gives the impression he’s just responsible for the visuals, and he is, but I’m later assured he was behind the vocal samples and various other stuff too. I guess we might call it hauntology, a lot of the signifiers are there (and later they’ll reprise last year’s SuperParanormal search for sound spirits in the woods) but improvisation is very much in the moment, while hauntology hides in the shadows of unreliable memory. Does it matter? “thank you for coming”. They layer up textures and sounds, it’s warm and inviting without ever being too comfortable.

For what it’s worth Howlround is definitely hauntology, building up drones using the chunky old reel to reel tape machines the English department used to put radio plays on at school when they fancied spending half the lesson smoking in the staff room. The ‘radio ham tinkering in his shed’ vibes are strong. Almost as much installation as performance he stakes a claim to the middle of the floor with a couple of poles supporting wildy extended tape loops running back to a reel to reel on stage. Atmospheric wooziness fills the space. While we’re all stood watching the tape go round and around it’s a curiously static experience. (yeah, I know).

Closing out Friday on the main stage, international headliners Wolf Eyes dick about underwhelming us and trying to get in the mood. Someone steps up and hands them a bottle. A confused “What the fuck’s Buckfast?” is met with a cheer by the crowd. Without doubt the rest of their set is much improved for the refreshments. I also find that imagining them as a wasted country band in a desolate bar in the middle of nowhere helps make the experience more entertaining. They’re more fun than last time I saw them anyway. Buckfast makes things better. At least for a little while. The evening ends with one of the Cosmic Dead splitting the crowd with a DJ set of near unparalleled awfulness – the drunker, more care free among us are in the bar shaking it to ‘Ebeneezer Goode’, Darude, and worse, meanwhile out on the hay bales there’s more than considerable discontent and threats of actual violence towards his person, which doesn’t seem the spirit at all.

Saturday

The clearly shifting moods of the rain gods are stirring a tangible panic amongst the townsfolk. I take shelter in the bar where an unprepossessing guy is steadily working through a list of unrealised ideas for the festival. It starts a bit monotone Partridge but builds in eccentricity and interest via printer orchestras and cold calling choirs to dying fly techno to become one of the best things all weekend, he ends by playing 40 types of birdsong at once. No one wants to follow him so he encores the birdsong causing PJ from Bad Guys to headbang so enthusiastically he almost falls over. Beat that.

The band with the girl in the pink wig turn out not to be Tirikilatops, who I missed due to the rain, but The Wargs. They play a sweet and charming indie pop elevated by softly swooning pedal steel becoming the first band this weekend to play any actual songs. Their set is interrupted by a downpour but by that point they’ve charmed us enough that we seek shelter and cheer extra loud to cover the distance to the stage. Keeping things on the fuzzily familiar nostalgia tip St Deluxe are basically a baby Teenage Fanclub. The Fannies’ ‘Songs From Northern Britain’ turned 20 last week apparently so I gave it a spin. Great songs and lovely harmonies but it marked the death, or at least middle age, of the band I’d loved. St Deluxe are much more like that earlier version of the band, the one open to experiments and blasts of hardcore riffing, who took three attempts to start a song, more in love with Dinosaur Jr than The Byrds, that band. How charming you find another bunch of young scots doing that kind of thing now probably depends on how much you loved it then or being too young to remember. They kill an amp and finish with a wonderfully ragged version of the Modern Lovers’ ‘She Cracked’. Back in the bar Lord Of Lords feature Jason Stoll off of out of all the bands and play a kind of meditative drone jazz. Could go either way this sort of thing (and perhaps sometimes does) but as their name suggests they are on the righteous path.

Not all experiments work out of course. This year the reusable cups are black. Very goth, very metal. Also great for attracting heat and wasps to your cold and delicious beverage. If only wasps were delicious. In the heady, sometimes bewildering, cultural onslaught of something like Supernormal you try to stay open minded don’t you? To be reasonable and such. But some people just aren’t having it. Evil Usses appear to have a ladybird book of annoying stuff bands could do that they’re working through with giddy vigour. Hideous jerky time signatures and awful synth and guitar sounds abound. I think it’s safe to say that some of them listen to too much Zappa. It’s not for me then.

Gee Driver, Bruxa Maria

In the bar, Beards are a welcome relief and surprise. I’d almost call them ‘fun’ but I know some of us fear and mistrust the f-word. They’re exhilarating and bright and hectic in an abstract early 80’s kind of way. Putting the fun in the post-punk funk, if you will.

Now then, Bruxa Maria arrive full force and very definitely elevate the intensity of things a notch or two. As a special Supernormal two fer one deal they’ve got both Matt Cargill and Mark Dicker twistin’ the knobs of dirty electronic rage. It’s fierce and brilliant. And SO loud. Bruxa have managed to come up with a unique take on the familiar hardcore/metal/noise rock blend that has both a reassuring ‘rightness’ about it but still has room for surprises. My God! they absolutely killed it.

As you may have heard, Big Lad have recently changed their name from the more troublesome Shit Wife. You’d probably be surprised at just how much amusement can be got from rearranging those four words by a bunch of drunk idiots in a field. They bleep and clatter at a ferocious pace. Their set is an exhilarating, party starting joy spasm, a roar of pounding rhythm and giddily spiralling electronics. Whatever, they’re upstaged completely by the first appearance of the crowd surfing kids who’ve become a rare constant in reports of the weekend.

Big Lad whacks drums

Of course it has, the sight of kids being carried aloft by the crowd to the sound of Big Lad‘s demented battery captures everything that is special about this festival in a perfect moment. But they’ll be back.

My only succesful trip over to the barn to see anyone play this year is to catch Joanne Robertson who plays in near total darkness lit only by a table lamp at her feet. It perfectly focusses our hushed attention on her delicate vocals floating over her gentle guitar. She sighs and strums and breathes out mysteries, the songs dissolve on your tongue. It’s like a dream, like going to watch a ghost perform, extraordinary.

There had been some on specific excitement about the appearance of Jaxson Payne going into the festival, I can’t recall where from now, but I find myself a little underwhelmed. He’s impressive to watch if you’re aware that it’s all live as he nimbly summons sounds from his MIDI kit, no backing tracks or loops just good old fashioned real time electronic cunning. But technical prowess and modified gear are one thing, the result is another and if you’re sat further up the hill paying less than thoroughgoing attention well, it sort of sounds like an old trip hop record more than a dazzling high wire run towards the future. As Saturday night festival headliners go, you know going in that Bong are not going to bring the non stop party jams. Not even if the magic Buckfast fairy returns. Which is a shame, we could all do with a little headbanging or butt shaking on a Saturday night. They come out and play their chord. It’s a good chord, it deserves 40 minutes. I’m sure it’s not as easy as you think to play it for that long either. If you can sink into it, dissolve your ego and become one with the universal mind and so on then what they do is pretty cool. I’m drifting in and out though. Has the drummer fallen asleep on his snare? They’re joined this evening by Bridgit Hayden who brings an extra layer to things. It grinds on. And then it stops.

 

Sunday

Manchester’s three horsemen of the apocalyse Aggressive Perfector are named after an obscure-ish Slayer song and their E.P. is called ‘Satan’s Heavy Metal’ and if that doesn’t tell you all you need to know then you’re probably one of the more puzzled folks standing amongst the otherwise grinning crowd. They seem aware of the essential stupidity of their venture but never stoop to playing it for laughs. A time capsule of a band, worshipping at the feet of the big four and taking us back to a time before the kind of drone/doom epic weight of last night’s Bong set arrived. Wonderfully they have a song that starts with the ‘Be My Baby’ beat, the guitarist even throwing in the first line with a grin.

Giddy with our thrash metal kickstart we retire to the bar where I’m reminded of my dear old uncle testily exclaiming “I can’t watch a man play a desk”. Left Hand Cuts Off The Right is a bunch of droning hauntology table top tinkering in the now familiar fashion. Amongst other little treats he appears to assault a small stringed instrument of traditional provenance with a battery powered cappucino whisk. If that’s not a strident metaphor for our broken culture then I’m possibly sleep deprived and still too sober.

Hooray for Death Pedals! No nonsense, double down stroke riffing in a Quo via hardcore vein and perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon. It’s something of a worn old truism that any decent band has a good drummer and with bands of this propulsive, breakneck ilk I often miss just how good until I catch them live. So it proves again today, nothing flashy but the man’s a beast. Had I remembered to protect my overheating brains with a sun hat I’d be tipping it with vigour. Meanwhile, as if to throw doubt on my drum musings, bass lad Wayne is sporting a Metallica T shirt with mischievous glee. It’s the band shot off the back of ‘Load’ too. I liked ‘Load’ actually, even the ridiculous country song, what about it? They don’t sound like Metallica, they sound like Hot Snakes even throwing in a cover of ‘Plenty For All’ to help you out. If you don’t have any Hot Snakes handy you can safely substitute some over-caffeinated Mudhoney for similar results. They’re less chaotically overexcitable in person than I expected, more wryly amused and relaxed but they’re still great.

I was really looking forward to seeing Cattle and they do not let me down, coming out the gate raging from the get go. With two drummers and no guitarist it’s percussive, bass heavy, noise rock. There’s electronics and even some surprisingly tuneful sax in there too. It has that perversely cleansing feel that huge waves of filthy distorted sound sometimes do, odd bits of Palehorse, No Means No or even Killing Joke pop up but they’re really getting into their own grimy, shouty, noise groove. About half way in there’s a pause in the screaming rage and the singer makes a sweet little speech about how moved he was to see the kids crowdsurfing to Big Lad yesterday. No sooner has he said this than dangerously drunk and unfit adults are once again trying to keep a procession of flying children from faceplanting. It’s wonderful.

We recover from all this excitement by starting a lengthy queue outside the Vortex to wait for UKAEA which is a new-ish project from Dan (Guncleaner, Sly & The Family Drone). At this point I am, for whatever reason, expecting Dan and Cargill to face each other on stage and make a bunch of abstract electronic squiggles for our entertainment/confusement. I am much mistaken about this. When we’re finally allowed in they and a range of accomplices are gathered in various states of undress and caked in clay body paint and straw. They have bowls of this at the front with which to annoint anyone foolhardy enough to join in. There are queasy, swirling drones and the folk horror/wicker man vibes are strong. I guess we’re in for something much more theatrical. The visual/ritual aspect is so arresting you only gradually become aware of Dan, over in the corner, slowly and masterfully building an absolutely mind blowing set of live hardware techno. It’s completely banging, an outstanding set. 

 

Probably the biggest and almost certainly the longest running name on the bill Zoviet*France are nonetheless still a very fringe concern. You can’t really be sure what you’ll get but they bring a subtle and assured half hour or so of textured industrial ambience. It’s absolutely lovely and yet I can’t quite relax into it, my fidgety brain still half expecting a lopsided clanking rhythm to pick up at any moment and take us somewhere else. I’m away back to The Vortex for more body paint and ritual catharsis. What everyone will tell you about AJA is she rolls about on the floor in her pants screaming, which is true but, inevitably, far from the whole truth. Firstly, there are the layered looping vocals and the huge wonky distorted beats, and the noise. It’s a lurid, visceral sound that’s almost as much of a physical presence as she is. After all, she’s tiny and she’s on the floor over there somewhere in the middle of the crowd. Most of the time you can’t see her but you can hear her scream. There’s costume and face paint and so on and it’s very much a performance in that sense but getting down into the crowd for a lot of it has the effect of making it a shared catharsis rather than just a spectacle. It’s clear by the end that she gets a lot out of doing it and is delighted and moved by the incredibly positive response – she later tells a friend around the fire that she often plays to small crowds who have no idea how to respond.

The final set comes from Container, a perfect way to close out the weekend I would have thought. A slender, studious looking chap in a tasteful jumper tinkers with a laptop, a drum machine and a four track to produce glorious rough hewn lumps of noise techno. What more do you want? I’m pretty delighted with it but there are mutterings from others which I think are along the lines of expecting a techno DJ set that gradually builds in intensity and has a bit more variety or something. Picky. My mate Dave stage dives because it’s so good. I’m with him on this. Whole thing and many more besides are still slowly being uploaded by the good people of IMPA TV . . .

Lastly, when you think it’s been as brilliant as it possibly can a Godzilla costume appears and pitched battles begin in the hay bales outside the bar. Then there’s Rodan too. Does it get any better than that?

It does not.

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What time are Vegan Gang Bang on?

parade

Supernormal 2016 then, another glorious weekend of sunshine, experimental music and freeform art happenings that lived up to the high standard of previous years. Supernormal is a utopian exemplar of what a small festival should be. It’s friendly, the bands are great, or at very least interesting, and you never feel like you’re being gouged over food and drink as a captive revenue source in a soulless money making enterprise. The whole thing is run on a shoestring and guided by art and music over all. Tents up, hands shook, cans open Graham Dunning and his marvellous Mechanical Techno contraption opens proceedings on the Red Kite stage. You’ll probably be familiar, video clips of him doing this have been sailing about the internets for a while, but using a fairly simple set of modifications he piles up customised records on a turntable and uses them to physically build up some techno. It’s easily graspable as a concept and fun to watch but it’s also a bit like a plate spinning act without the jeopardy. Someone near me in the crowd remarks that he’s just showing how easy it is to make techno. Personally I’d argue the opposite because, although it’s recognisably techno and it thumps and squeaks along, it lacks most of the tension and invention that make for good techno. It’s like waiting for an infinite number of monkeys with guitars to write the riff from ‘Back In Black’ only less fun. Especially if they were all dressed in little velvet school uniforms – now that’s an act! Although the animal cruelty aspect would be a worry. Let’s go and do or see something else.

And so we went. Wandering about and taking things in I guess – I don’t remember much of friday afternoon. We gave up on Vibracathedral Orchestra because the barn was packed out. They were setting in for a two hour slot so I thought we’d go back after they scared some people away but forgot or maybe saw something shiny elsewhere. Soon the dark comes, and with it Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs. They’re immense and ridiculous. As I mentioned the other day, the good people of IMPA TV captured a lot of the festival for your enjoyment, I’m not going to post them all but here’s the PIGS’s set. Obviously it loses something in the translation to a laptop screen, I’m not sure it’s possible to turn it up loud enough for one. Huge waves of roaring psych riffs and Matt screaming his heart out. They don’t noodle, meander or piss about. It’s pretty reductive as it goes, bludgeoning the crowd into the field under a hail of Sabbath sludge, and that’s why it’s great. Like their name they’re repetitive, stupid and brilliant. More hot sounds from the North East over in the bar with one man garage rock sensation Girl Sweat. Actually a big lad, with hair like a girl I guess and certainly sweaty, is rocking some dementedly distorted slide guitar backed by cheap ‘n’ nasty drum machine and synth. He’s not kidding around either, he’s bringing the lo-fi, hi-energy party jams. Shake your asses you goddamn beard stroking pseuds – that kinda vibe. It’s glorious. Chaotic, infectious and invigorating and pulled off with 100% conviction. You can’t get away with half assing this sort of thing and Girl Sweat properly delivers. He reminds me a bit of Quintron or what it might be like if Hasil Adkins played the B-52’s.

girl sweat

As much fun as I’m having lurching about I also wanted to catch some of Ian William Craig over in the barn so I skulk off before an apparent stage diving injury finale from Girl Sweat to catch some of his set. It may have been an error at that stage of the evening. Ian William Craig is a trained opera singer who sings with striking clarity and beauty into his machines and distorts his voice into drones and shifting, evocative ambient soundscapes. As far as young men with a table full of gear in front of them and effects on their voice go the two could not be more remote from one another. I’ve enjoyed his recordings and what I saw was impressive but I was completely in the wrong frame of mind to fully appreciate it. Mothwasp are doing something intriguing in the new Vortex space but they live in the same place as me and let’s be honest, I’m probably not going to get a lot more chances to see MDC, certainly not in a little field. They were great too, they weren’t bloated or old or worn sounding but still sharp and fierce and punchy. There was a fair amount of storytelling between the songs but well judged and sincere and it struck me that it’s folk music now. MDC are one of the originators of American hardcore and for a lot of the crowd the band have been around longer than they have and that sound is in the DNA of so much of the music we love that’s come since.

blerkmeterrrlllSaturday gets off to a roaring start with Black Metal High Impact Aerobics. A much anticipated genius idea and exactly what it says on the tin. These two mentalists in full corpse paint and, erm, uniquely customised black lycra are busting energetic moves in the scorching sunlight to a full on black metal soundtrack. I’m stood at the back concentrating more on black coffee, waving the odd arm about and laughing like an idiot but there is a pretty decent sized crowd who if not exactly ‘taking it seriously’ are expending an undignified amount of effort between fits of the giggles. FEEL THE BURRRNNN!!! It is a truly brilliant thing and they should do it every year. Despite this bracing kick off  to proceedings and a civilised level of caffeination it still seems alarmingly early for Guttersnipe. Jesus Christmas but they make a hell of a racket. I’m going to suggest Lightning Bolt as the only

guttersnipe usable point of reference I could come up with.  Watching them it strikes me they’re what people who wouldn’t come to an experimental music festival and have but a vague idea about noise bands imagine Supernormal is like – What is happening? are they making it up as they go along? is this written? how? can they even play their instruments? is it even music? what’s wrong with everyone? anyone could do this etc. That last one is the key. You couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. There may be people on site who’d give it a fair crack but there is something singular and personal about it. It has curious structures, frantic and odd rhythms, the drummer is wild, it certainly sounds cathartic too. In fact it is, by the end of the set I’m feeling ready for the day and in an uncommonly good mood, onwards!

casual nun

double drum fun with Casual Nun

Inevitably to the bar, to see Casual Nun. They’re neither casuals nor are they nuns as far as I can tell. The obvious attraction here is that Mat used to be in the mighty Dethscalator. Always something of a two edged sword that sort of thing but they aren’t Dethscalator nor are they a pale new version, they’re less abstract and fractured more of a *ahem* classic rock thing if that’s not too damning a description. Two drummers. Always love two drummers and nice for a band with a fairly swaggering macho sound to have a girl at the back bashing away. I guess, like everyone and their granny on bongos these days, they play a type of heavy psych. There are huge dirty riffs that cycle through and some fairly wild and freaking guitar leads but they seem less soggy than a lot of others, there’s more forward motion and bite to it. More rock, less psych. That’ll be down to the drummers I expect. pint?

Probably should go a little easy on the pints, busy day ahead and all. I was looking forward to returning ‘mavens of motorik magnificence’ The Early Years but for the most part they leave me underwhelmed. Maybe they need darkness and smoke, maybe they need to be louder or maybe their subtle and gently building storms are a little too subtle in the face of the prevailing ‘everything, now, louder’ aesthetic that’s generally abroad in the field. Mostly it just washes and swirls past with occasional really good bits. So it’s on to Bowie Vs Prince Karaoke and our thankfully low key turn on the ones and twos. The karaoke thing has been a succesful feature of Supernormal for a few years, usually a drunken late night mess and while it’s not really my thing I have to say I think this year’s may have been the best yet – earlier in the day seemed to deliver better efforts from the performers and there was no shortage of participation from the crowd on the emotional sing-a-long front either. Naturally we cleared the tent as soon as we started but that’s generally how it goes. Turtle Yama played a surprisingly short set of off kilter electronica and I got to see about five mins of Gum Takes Tooth during our second slot. Seemed pretty damn great, an impression confirmed by other reports but overwhelmed I feel  by the mighty performance of Giant Swan. We already posted this the other day so scroll down a bit but they were amazing, the big joyous surprise of the weekend – go see ’em if you get a chance.

the early years

The Ex were just stunning. A career parallel to MDC, forged in the fires of late 70’s punk and politically engaged but while the Amercians have stuck with their initial sound The Ex have constantly changed and evolved to become the singular machine we see today. Their sound is their own, they even seem to have their own fluid yet jerky rhythm. While they still sound loosely like a spiky, angular post punk band they’ve welcomed in jazz and african music folding it seamlessly into their own recipe. Thierre can make his guitar like african thumb piano and more crucially seem entirely natural and at home in the setting of one of their songs. Have I mentioned they were brilliant? They play with such seamless interconnection it’s almost like a clockwork wind up band. ‘Maybe I was the Pilot’ and ‘Cold Weather Is Back’ stand out in my memory but it seemed like one glowing amazing song and it only seemed about 10 mins long, one of those sets that seems to be gone all to soon leaving only a burning after image of its brilliance.

I can’t lie, excitement was running high in the Hickeysonic camp for the return of DJ Shitmat and it was foolish of us. As much as the charm of his schtick was always that he didn’t take it seriously and mixed together a raw blend of nonsense, ragga jungle and soap opera obsessions he’s clearly over refreshed and can’t really be bothered. You can’t really blame him for that, or for wanting to do the more serious musical bits and pieces he’s been doing since but we were well up for some proper rungleclotted mashup biznizz

vortex

Yesterday Glasgow’s ‘psychonautal cosmodelic buckfaustian quartet’ The Cosmic Dead were supposed to play a secret/surprise set in the woods but time and logistics (and possibly bucky) conspired against that happening so they open the Red Kite stage early this morning. I am not bothered enough to get out of bed but fortunately they play loud enough I don’t have to. They sound like Hawkwind. No surprises there then – I’m sure it was more fun if you were stood there getting your hair blown back by ’em but so it goes. Ashtray Navigations are apparently a psychedelic institution, at least in Yorkshire. Passed me by, terrible name and they take a while sorting out gear. When they start playing a couple of things are apparent, firstly despite having seemingly been around forever they look and sound like two people who just met on stage and secondly, all that gear tinkering and sound level tweaking could have been saved and a greater happiness of the assembled achieved by simply unplugging the guitarist. Maybe that’s just me. Mums are a lot more fun, weighty riffs and so on but also actual melodies! in songs! including one about how Widnes has two Argoses. Nice. Back in the packed bar Rattle are doing their uncanny face to face drum chatter thing. It’s less like a magic trick the second time you see it but their music is still beguiling and unique. There must be structures in there but they’re kept hidden from view, making their playing seem almost telepathic. It’s a constant surprise how they seem to avoid starting from familiar rhythms and only periodically build to the kind of full tilt clatter you’d naturally expect from a drum duo. Likewise they broaden out the sonic palette of the kit and emphasise melodic elements without resorting to gimmickry or dragging unusual bits and bobs in to augment it. It’s really hypnotically great. Their new album is too.    

After Rattle’s amazing performance poor old Tomaga seem a bit underwhelming by comparison, one interesting female drummer and a bloke with a table full of gizmos not quite matching up. It’s pleasant enough but it also meanders and never seems to take any of the surprising turns or developments you hope for. By the time 8pm rolls around I’m more than ready for the palate cleansing primal screaming of The Lowest Form. A particularly adept and knotty hardcore band their fierce blast cuts through the unsanitary build up exploratory fog and sluggish psych on the synapses. Most agreeable. They remind me happily of anarcho-punk/hardcore gigs at The Mermaid years back. Which brings us rather neatly to one of the enduring stars of that scene Justin Broadrick. From his overstocked wardrobe of musical identities tonight he’s appearing as JK Flesh a project that’s undergone an important gear shift of late. Last year he gave away a kind of transitional and possibly imcomplete record ‘Nothing Is Free’ on bandcamp. This year’s ‘Rise Above’ has seen him drop the guitar and vocals and stake out a clearer identity for this project as an industrial meets techno, filthy clanking noise thing (As opposed to his other styles of filthy clanking noise things). Anyway, it’s all to the good, a new focus and sense of purpose. Justin pulls his hoodie down tight and cranks out a lurching, sinister death disco from his laptop and box of tricks. Dystopian and punishing it’s not a ‘hands in the air’ good time by any stretch of the imagination but, well, it put a big smile on my face. Things are about to get properly weird though.

What is the deal with Wytch Hazel? Where have they come from and why are they here? It seems they have opened a space time portal and stepped through from the mid seventies so completely perfect is their rendering of a particular hippy folk metal vibe. They have Jesus hair and neat beards, cheesecloth shirts and carefully constructed rock songs. They do not appear to be taking the piss and yet the apparent lack of concession to the 21st century is intriguing. We keep going back for further clues, the music is awful but of its kind it’s well done. It’s a head scratcher. In alarming contrast the main stage is being closed out by Melting Hand a supergroup of Terminal Cheesecake, Luminous Bodies, Gum Takes Tooth, Skullflower, BONG, Drunk In Hell, 11Paranoias, Blown Out and Haikai No Ku types who seem to be making it up on the spot. This seems unlikely as they’ve got an album out but they appear, shall we say ‘under rehearsed’? Neil Gnod is front of stage and does, it’s true, look like the sax player out of the muppets. I have a brief comic vision of the tiny shed stage taking off like a space ship in true psych/prog style and rising up into the skies but the band aboard it sound more like they’d have trouble loading their gear in a transit than ready to fire into space. It’s been a long weekend for some of them. I could rant here about how they yet again sound like bastard Hawkwind because they all play in bands that sound like Hawkwind the undisputed lords and masters of this little universe and FFS enough already but I’m tired. So tired. Over in the bar a parallel shambles/performance is occurring. Closing out with B-52’s and Devo covers bands the last couple of years has been fun but this year’s Spacemen 3 tribute The Perfect Prescription seems even more under rehearsed and thrown together than Melting Hand. It’s possible some of them have never even heard the songs before, although the double drummer and Jimmy on guitar are making a good fist of it they rattle through a few tunes and run aground. It’s . . . disappointing and a shame to end on a slightly ‘oh are they done?’ note.  Still, I’m told Melting Hand got it together and did ‘Blowhound’ and apparently that made it all okay. Into the night then, happy and drunk we go.

careful, they’ll break your arm

well, we’ve been most tardy about this and no mistake. As far as our little camp was concerned Giant Swan were the find of the weekend at Supernormal. I don’t think we were alone either, nobody seemed to know who they were and they came out and absolutely killed it. Couple of hairy youngsters making a glorious noise with a table full of effects pedals and such. Reminded me a decent amount of early Holy Fuck or even Fuck Buttons, in fact I’m a bit surprised they aren’t called Giant Fucking Swan for good measure. Too nice for that sort of crass posturing I’d wager. Turns out they’re two members of Bristol’s The Naturals and this grew out of them rehearsing/improvising/dicking about. Their set is still mostly improvised and it’s great. All weekend the fine people of IMPATV (Islington Mill Public Access TV) were filming sets and so on – there’s a good few on the youtubes, I shall catch up on some I missed from the weekend myself – I recommend starting here though if you’ve not already. . .

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swan

 

 

 

Invitation To The Dance

As disheartening and tiresomely expected as the ebay prices for RSD special releases and the news of ATP’s latest calamity are, we’re taking the unfamiliar step of staying positive around here. I know, it can’t last, but the feeling is thrillingly new. About a week ago Supernormal put up a short minute long clip of last year’s festival. I shared it on our facebook page and said it could be much longer and behold, my wish came true. On Friday they made the first line up announcements and posted the longer version above – beautifully shot, it still seems short and omits much that was great about the weekend, apart from the wasps. Revel in memory or squirm in envy at its loveliness. (also check out Blown Out’s recently released monster of a set from last year)  The line-up so far is packed with mysterious names and some vague familiars, the biggest of the bunch by far being Dutch jazzpunk giants The Ex. I kind of stopped paying attention to them in the mid nineties until the recent Brass Unbound collaboration which Prince Reelfoot was particularly excited about. It seems they carried on putting out records every few years and doing their thing. Lots to go back and discover then. At the bottom is a really fantastic concert film of the Brass Unbound tour, well worth a listen (although it’s nicely shot, there’s not all that much to look at). I doubt Brass Unbound will be part of the band this year but given the band and the festival are both so open to collaboration and experimentation only good things can come of this – see you there.

Tapa copy

APOSTILLE – ASIQ NARGILE – BAS JAN – BIG JOANIE – BRIDGET HAYDEN & CLAIRE POTTER – CASUAL SECT – CAVALIER SONG – CHARLES HAYWARD: ZIG-ZAG & SWIRL – CUP – HELM & VALENTINA MAGALETTI – HERB DIAMANTE – GIANT SWAN – HEATHER LEIGH – HOUSEWIVES – MARIA CHAVEZ – MELTING HAND – MUMS – PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS – SAM BELIFANTE & MARK SANDERS – SOPHIE COOPER & DELPHINE DORA – THE EX – THE REBEL – TOMAGA – TUT VU VU – VANISHING TWIN – VIBRACATHEDRAL ORCHESTRA – YAMA WARASHI

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The Jagerbus Is Coming And Everybody’s Jumping

Blown Out

During a festival that was rotten with woozy, fucked up delights, the Blown Out set on the Sunday evening at last year’s Supernormal Festival stands out. Or it would if we could remember it. Three Tyneside behemoths on the grip of an evil Jagermeister bender unleasing wave after wave of filthy power-trio noise.

And now we can relive it in our own home*

Those lovely Evil Hoodoo people have released it on vinyl and you can – and should – buy it here. You even get a hessian slipcase. Add a couple of wasp bites and some really painful sunburn and it’ll be like being there.

 

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(*normally I’d make a gag about having better toilets at home but the toilets at Supernormal are so nice this might not actually be the case, at least for me).