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We’re pretty excited about Kevin Martin and Justin Broadrick’s new project launching at Supersonic . . .  Joking aside, Kev ‘n’ Justin have made so much remarkable music together and apart over the last 20-30 years it makes my head hurt to think about it and my ears feel old and beaten. Their various aliases could probably fill the whole festival bill and they’re going to be kicking off another one Zonal. Having officially ended Techno Animal, Zonal is whatever comes next although so far there’s no hint what it might be I can’t help think it’ll be loud and intense, even if it’s ambient. Last time he was at Supersonic The Bug played live with Dylan Carlson for the first time launching the now world beating The Bug vs Earth project. A bonus tune here from the album features, guess who? JKB putting some vocals over ‘Snakes Vs Rats’ for ‘Dog’. By the time this performance rolls around Justin will have just put out a second album from his own trans atlantic collaboration with Sun Kil Moon, while his JK Flesh stuff has abandoned the guitar altogether for dysfunctional industrial techno. So, probably not like any of that. Maybe they’ll try their hands at electro swing or something.

Supersonic 2017 Launch Party

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the much loved Supersonic festival celebrates its return next year, having mostly sat out the terrifying 2016 shitshow  because doing this stuff isn’t easy, with a two night launch party in Digbeth. That difficulty is something of a hot topic this week as the Tusk people announced Safe As Milk in Prestatyn, hoping to rescue the good ideas from the ATP wreckage. Meanwhile Hogan’s shuffling zombie corpse has lurched back out of the closet just when you thought it was dead and announced Transformer, an unlikely bill in a venue currently receiving widespread scorn after near disastrous shows by John Carpenter and PJ Harvey. We miss the first night of this launch party in Wolverhampton watching PJ succeed against the odds in another shockingly ill prepared venue. All of which serves to drive home just what a difficult and brilliant job Supersonic has done year after year drifting around similar disused industrial spaces and making them work so well. We shouldn’t take it for granted and it only looks set to get harder. So next June, come along. Tonight is in the relatively cosy confines of Centrala, a café in an old industrial unit that’s just opened up the second floor for live events.20161105_234951

As we ascend the stairs a resoundingly final chord sounds and we arrive just as Rainbow Grave take their instruments off and leave the stage. Pity, I was looking forward to them, but there’ll be other times. Kuro are a violin, upright bass and electronics drone duo. It seems to take me about five minutes to get over the fact they’re not Nic Bullen yelling nihilist bile at me, but once I focus in on what they’re doing it’s good. The sound is roughly like if John Cale’s viola on ‘Heroin’ was the whole album. There’s only a minimal amount of screeching, they aren’t about in your face noise, more wrapping you in a warm but slightly scratchy blanket of sound. My mind wanders a bit, partly the point with drone I guess, it’s not like I start worrying about whether I left the gas on or anything, still, I think I enjoy it more when I’m paying attention rather than letting them send me back into my thoughts. Never know what you’ll find in there, place is an unholy mess.

Downstairs, one of Ex-Easter Island Head is doing a short performance for prepared guitars – he’s got a couple on a table with knitting needles jammed in the guitar’s strings, bells and quiet little portable radios making the strings vibrate. Rearrangment of the various elements creates a pleasing and delicately shifting sound piece. It’s a bit precious perhaps (it’d be easy to take the piss) but nothing here is even all that new of an idea and many more possibilites remain to be explored. There’s a second performance a bit later but by that point there are a few too many people talking at the other end of the room to really listen to it.eeih

Bismuth is a chemical element, a ‘post transition metal’ which may be relevant to their sound. Another duo, this time drum and bass. More drones, this time in doom metal flavour. Tanya has a bewildering array of effects at her feet, I think one chunk for the vocals and one for the bass. Kat Bjelland screaming “Cat-a-tonic!” drawn out to 15 mins. It’s that kind of noise assault where the volume and power of it recedes to become the dark water in which you’re floating. As I ponder the void in my heart I begin to realise Rainbow Grave were our only chance to see anyone actually perform a ‘song’ this evening. I’m ambivalent about this of course, because nothing matters.

 

Concerns, voiced mostly by Reelfoot, that repeat viewings might somewhat take the shine off of Rattle’s magic act are swiftly put to bed by their performance tonight. They’re somehow better than when I saw them over the summer, they seem tighter, more focused and driving. Or they might just be less tired from trying to put up a broken tent in a field. I’m still charmed by how they never fall to just playing the same beat and the near telepathic rapport that makes their swooningly off-kilter music happen. There’s definitely something a bit secret world/idioglossia, a bit ‘Heavenly Creatures’ about it. Probably with less Mario Lanza and murder involved but it isn’t clear. I guess they have songs just about, there are occasional vocal parts anyway but it’s so abstract and oddly structured, certainly not milkman humming or Lanza material. We’ve never noticed before but they only have the one bass drum, always assumed it was just two kits facing one another. Maybe sometimes it is. rattle

Stinky Wizzleteat are a filthy, appalling, wilfully ugly racket and I’m not in the mood. I give up, like a coward. As a similar fate befell the totally different Tomaga when appearing after Rattle I suspect there may be some sort of curse in play (stage whisper “WITCHESSSS!”)

Last up Giant Swan are fast becoming something of a sensation on the back of their live shows and so far very little recorded output. They too are a duo – if you were looking for more evidence of the financial constraints upon artists and promoters the fact that the majority of the bill is made up of two piece acts and most of the full bands are local is a harsh poke in the face with fiscal necessity – but we aren’t here for that, shut up man, you’re harshing my buzz. Giant Swan are a side project from two guys in a band (The Naturals) who appear to have hit on a magic formula. Most likely you’ve seen or encountered similar things before, early Holy Fuck for example, (or surely you watched the video of their set from Supernomal? do it DO IT). Live, improvised, electronic hoo-hah on temperamental hardware, it’s not revelatory so much as they just do it really well, with clear love and enthusiasm. Tonight they come out swinging with some banging techno from get-go and for the lion’s share of the set, indeed they’d have killed it at local techno mecca House Of God – no question. How much they are aware of this and how long they can sustain it seems now to be the dilemma because, on the surface at least, there seems to be something of the idiot savant about them. By which I mean it feels like they fell naturally into a way of making music outside their usual thing and so what they do feels light, free of restraints and expectations or genre moves that you might get with something like Karenn for example, an act whose identity is more predetermined. How, or even if, they can maintain that spontaneous and contagious sense of joy is tonight’s countdown conundrum. The audience has thinned considerably, is it techno-phobia? leaving before an unknown quantity? Or is everyone just pressed together because beard strokin’ is done for the night and we’re all just ‘avin it? Because now it’s just massive fun, a pretty non-stop-full-on set only winding down and losing its way a little at the close but stopping just short of calamity. Splendid.

Downstairs Sausage are bringing the processed meat jams. Rubber masks, old hits and a sampled voice saying ‘Sausage!’ – I don’t know about art but I know what I like y’know?

then we go out by the canal and our supersonic mum gives us sparklers because it’s bonfire night and because of course they would, because supersonic is brilliant.

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sausage

monster movies

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The weekend is finally here people, time to gorge your tired mind on beer and vacant entertainments full of subliminal messages that control your actions via a variety of sicky glowing screens. Do you remember back in the days before the interwebs when it was just TV doing that? Not even HD flatscreen TV but those teeming phosphor dots? No? I’m old, we had a black and white TV when I was a kid. The young people of today are missing out on the valuable formative experience of staring at the static of poorly tuned tv, discerning alien messages in the rolling hail of electrical ants racing across their retina. Anyway, here’s a post with three youtube clips in it. Sorry. The cause of all this nostalgic disquiet is a short new clip from raging Brummie punk trio Youth Man who are possibly too damn young to remember a world before wi-fi. They have at least opted for the old school stop frame clay animation to promote their new record. It’s great and it’s only a minute and a half long so watch and enjoy.

If you’re anything like me that put you very much in mind of Lee Hardcastle’s incredible Pingu/The Thing mash up THINGU. If you’ve not seen it before you’re in for a little treat. Even if you have I find it still surpises on repeat viewings. In the past it’s been removed from youtube on a regular basis but now has the apparent approval of John Carpenter himself so hopefully it’ll stick around a bit longer.

Speaking of the actual director of ‘The Thing’ John Carpenter, the wonderful Supersonic Festival people have recently bounced back into action and announced a live performance by Carpenter in Warwick at the end of October. Just in time for Hallowe’en!!! Here’s the last track off his recent ‘debut’ album Lost Themes. The music is great and the visuals are sharp. No claymation unfortunately.

 

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Reelfoot Checking In

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So my shadowy simian colleague has been holding the fort here while I’ve been working, dicking about, writing elsewhere and drinking like a bastard. I’ll probably add some thoughts to his Supersonic write-up (all the bands I saw while he was still in his cave), and I’ll hopefully add some thoughts about Bradford Threadfest, Supernormal and last weekend’s marvellous Tor Ist Das? too.

As I mentioned back in November, Narc Magazine are letting me write a very occasional column about Hickeysonic-style releases for their website. There’s been four more since then, some of which were accompanied with a mix that covered the releases included.

December 2014 – including Evil Blizzard, Kemper Norton, Nazoranai, Hey Colossus and Richard Dawson and this mix.

It also had my top 25 Hickey-friendly releases of 2014, which were

1       The Bug – Angels & Devils
2       Richard Dawson – Nothing Important
3       King Champion Sounds – Songs From The Golden Hour
4       Swans – To Be Kind
5       Mogwai – Rave Tapes
6       Sleaford Mods – Divide And Exit
7       Kogumaza – Kолокол
8       Shellac  – Dude Incredible
9       IX Tab – R.O.C.
10     Aphex Twin – Syro
11     Carla Bozulich – Boy
12     Grouper – Ruins
13     Resource Centre – Low Fantasy EP
14     Scott Walker & Sunn O)))  – Soused
15     Grumbling Fur – Preternaturals
16     Kemper Norton – Loor
17     OOIOO – Gamel
18     Ambarchi/O’Malley/Dunn – Shade Themes From Kairos
19     Earthling Society – England Have My Bones
20     Soft Pink Truth – Why Do The Heathen Rage
21     Year Of Birds – Slack Handfuls Of Nothing
22     Ben Frost – A U R O R A
23     Sly & The Family Drone – Uneccesary Woe
24     Blown Out – Drifting Way Out Between Suns
25     Earth – Primitive & Deadly

March 2015 – this one had IX Tab, Foot Hair, Blown Out, 11 Paranoias, Nissenenmondai, Pelican, Shit & Shine and Portia Winters. No mix though.

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April 2015 – this was a beast. Some massive overexcitement about Godspeed You! Black Emperor, plus Henry Blacker, Grey Hairs, Gnod, Enablers and some other bits and pieces. And a proper mix here.

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And then this month‘s – some big love for the XPylon charity album plus Tor Ist Das?, Band Of Holy Joy, Boredoms, God Unknown Singles Club, Goat, Envy and Hills. And a big ole mix.

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Supersonic 2015

Supersonic is just about the best isn’t it? Are we all agreed? Can we dispense with the opening paragraph of brief history/description then and just get on with it? I think we should…

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Friday

Unable to choose between Free School and Ravioli Me Away we conspire to cleverly miss both in a frenzy of rain avoidance, beer drinking and wristband acquisition. This means that nominal headliners The Pop Group (certainly the big name draw when tickets first went on sale) are our first band of the weekend. Perhaps we aren’t in the mood just yet because they aren’t really raising the roof. No, it’s the sound. The sound is bad. We move to the centre near to the mixing desk but it’s still muddy and the sound guy appears to be off his cake. Mark Stewart looks a bit like Morrissey as played by Simon Day, the lighting is stark and moody. He’s a big lad and he casts a long shadow, as does the name of his band. He’s also well aware of the importance of what we call things and how it affects how we see them, probably has a lyric or two about that. So why reform The Pop Group? It seems like the time? Sort of, but they also seem out of time, outrun by it. There’s no doubting his belief in what they’re doing now, and I’ve heard they’ve been brilliant but tonight it’s just not connecting. Obviously as something more than a nostalgia turn there’s new material but they suffer the familiar problem of it not being quite up to their legendary early stuff. Still, ‘She Is Beyond Good And Evil’ is the tune I find playing in my head all week afterwards…

Over in the ‘new’ venue The Crossing, a wonderfully equipped space belonging to South Birmingham College, late addition Ela Orleans is onstage already doing her thing. Her ‘thing’ being a kind of blurry, off kilter, experimental pop music. 2015-06-13 00.01.45She calls it ‘movies for ears’ and composes for theatre and film as well which perhaps helps her steer clear of over familiar cinematic clichés in her own songs. The set up is familiar, black and white film projections, a table full of wires and boxes, a laptop, a single performer. She’s not actually tiny as she first appears though, her kit sits atop an oversized table allowing her to perform in comfort. I don’t know who is responsible for this strikingly obvious development but musical knob twiddlers should rejoice and chiropractors surely curse them. Like her songs her performance repays the amount of attention you give it and although I like her, it’s not quite casting the spell on the hall that it needs to, we’re not quite as lost in her soundworld. This is unfortunate but presently another slight young woman is about to stomp out on the same stage, crush those clichés of live electronic music, grab the crowd by the throat and take the festival by storm.

 Gazelle Twin is astonishing, a revelation, a hot, sharp blast of newness and greatness. All the hype, all deserved. Honest. We’ll confess to not having even heard of her before she topped last year’s Quietus ‘best of’ list either but I’m happy with that as it seems she has morphed steadily into her current strange form. Creating a very striking image from simple clothes and bold colours, the stocking mask an old but still incredibly powerful trick submerging external identity to pour out the interior. ‘Unflesh’ really is a great album and she comes out and performs it in a totally commited and physical way. Save for a few vocal effects pedals the knob-twiddling is delegated to a guy in the back and she leaps about the stage a bewitching mix of performance art, modern dance and aerobics class. The set just builds and builds, real, raw emotion pouring out of someone who we can’t quite make out but who has us all transfixed, the mask making her creepy and universal at the same time somehow. I can’t help thinking of The Knife as a leaping off point, not that it really sounds like them but more that she has adopted similar tricks and techniques in realising her own unique vision. This is what you come to Supersonic for – to have someone you hardly ever heard of blow your mind, excellent.

Supersonic Gazelle

after that we pick up our collective jaw from the floor and trundle back to the more familiar grubby warehouse of Boxxed for the familiarly grubby sounds of Sex Swing. Apart from having a crap name their other main problem is not being Dethscalator (the remarkably visceral noise punk mess two of them used to be in and whose break-up still seems like a shocking waste). On the upside they aren’t a pale version of their old band, they’re a different thing entirely, a droning, grinding, lurching beast. An earth-bound form of space rock, the photo of a poor entangled beast that accompanies their one online track so far seems to perfectly visualise their sound. They have a saxophone and I know this upsets some people but it’s fine and good, really, it is. Waves and blasts of honkingly great baritone sax. It also causes some folk to attach the word ‘jazz’ to them which seems a little wide of the mark although it’s unclear how much improvisation, if any, is going on onstage. Sex Swing are exactly the sort of slightly formless expressionistic racket you expect from an experimental music festival and they do it very well. Great things (or a swift demise) are expected of them. We’ll be paying close attention. sausage

Saturday

“…is Tiswas, never a day to miss ‘cos…..”. Eternal Tapestry turn out to be the tedious hippy noodling I feared rather than the pleasingly pastoral psyche they could be. Six Organs Of Admittance are more straightforwardly ROCK! and much less annoyingly twiddly than I remember – if this is what Chasny’s new Hexadic system of composition means then I’m all for it, although I didn’t go to his talk and haven’t bothered reading into it as I firmly expect it to be annoying twaddle. As ever, I failed to make it to any of the talks which is a pity but despite being discreetly programmed to avoid much overlap or clashing of stages the festival is still quite exhausting to attend. Maybe we aren’t match fit.

 Holly Herndon brings all the shiny new tech and high brow ideas about what it all means to the ergonomically correct table and smiles sweetly at us like she’s selling us lemonade and cookies. Inkeeping with her schtick she communicates by typing messages that scroll out on the screen behind her. This works well and she brings up the festival’s facebook event page and starts clicking on various people’s profile pics, my own included. This raises a smile and a cheer in our party and amongst various people’s mates throughout the crowd. Whether it’s meant to show our interconnectedness or be a stark warning about how exposed we are in the online environment isn’t clear, maybe it’s both. These selections don’t seem to feed into the weird back projection which looks like a primitive video game environment and you sort of hope is therefore being fed with information and shifting and changing in real time rather than just a film playing out because to be honest, it’s crap. It shouldn’t matter that much but that’s kind of her thing right? Still, ideas about the digital landscape to one side because the music isn’t dry and conceptual like that, Holly remembered to bring along some bass thump to ride under her pretty, glitchy, bright electronic smears and dabs of sound. In what seems a very old school way – if you stop thinking too much it all makes sense. She’s bloody great.

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Liturgy meanwhile are a massive disappointment on just about all fronts. I’d originally expected some comedy value hipster black metal but then they went and made a truly odd/mental and experimental second record and it suddenly looked like they might be an intriguing prospect. In the event they are neither amusing nor bracingly forward thinking. Considerable technical prowess is brought to bear creating a blank wall of noise and as best as we can tell, that’s it. There’s a tall and remarkably drunk guy in front of us dancing wildly and clearly getting a lot more out of it though, so perhaps we’re missing something. No corpse paint neither, goddamn hipsters.

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Dylan Carlson Vs The Bug is a curious thing, a wonderful but odd thing. This is the first time they’ve set up this as a live event having failed to make it happen for various reasons before. Dylan is looking incredibly dapper. I can tell you this, as I did him, because I saw him outside beforehand, onstage you can’t see anything for the dry ice. The music they make is a kind of semi-industrial drone, loud and textured. It’s something other than just the sum of their parts. It’s great stuff but it seems the wrong time for it, the crowd feels anxious. It’s saturday night and everyone knows Dylan is eventually going to leave the stage and The Bug is going to bring the noise and that knowledge slightly overshadows what they’re doing, turning it into a ludicrously extended intro. Those of you thinking “isn’t that what Earth do anyway?” go straight to the back of the class and think about what you’ve done. But, yeah eventually Flowdan looms up out of the fog to start yelling at us and the two of them bring down the pure fyah and all of that stuff. It is phenomenally good. Raucous, danceable and noisy as all hell, a totally overpowering live experience and a perfect saturday night headliner. Louder, Louder, LOUDER, LOUDER!

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Sunday

In yet another example of how Capsule care for their audience Sunday is a smaller scale affair with less tickets available and early finish for the unfortunate to make it back home for a monday morning workday of misery. Today it’s just the one venue and all programmed by folk sensation Richard Dawson. Three years ago he opened the day on this stage with a hangover even worse than ours and he’s been at every Supersonic since in some capacity (last year as part of Khunnt). He delivers with a perfect selection of gentler folk(ish) acts to wind down the weekend. Regular Dawson collaborator Rhodri Davies is an improv harp player and very little like you might imagine that to be I expect. Abstract, distorted, shifting. It’s not easy listening but it’s not off puttingly difficult either. Czech street musician Jiri Wehle starts with a few harp numbers too, it’s a little more trad than Rhodri. It’s his first time here and he apologises for his English which, inevitably, is pretty excellent. His songs seem to largely tell folk tales and I’m helplessly reminded of Krtek the animated mole who loomed large in the world of bafflingly great Czech animation we used to get on telly when we were kids. I’m sure I’m doing him a disservice but, to be quite clear, I loved Krtek. Pretty shortly he breaks out the hurdy gurdy and obviously that’s a great thing. Last up Afework Negussie, an Ethiopian now in London. It might just be that the last couple of performers played sitting down but he seems remarkably tall, he plays a one stringed instrument called a Masenqo and gets a remarkable range of sound out of it while singing gloriously over the top – here’s a clip of him playing with The Ex. Humble as ever, Dawson puts himself on in the middle of the bill. He offers he might do some songs he doesn’t so much anymore and so skips his ‘hit’ ‘The Vile Stuff’. The performance is amazing, how he manages to sustain the level of complete commitment to each song he does is a mystery. Only two in and he’s out of breath, spinning a surreal tale about cats to regain his composure, the shift from sweet everyman telling slighty odd jokes to being totally lost in the songs is a curious one but always a wonder to watch. Highlights are just about all of it but ‘We Picked Apples In A Graveyard Freshly Mowed’ is truly lovely and the version of ‘Ghost Of A Tree’ breathtaking. Supersonic then, once again the whole thing was absolutely brilliant – roll on 2016.

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Prince Reelfoot Crosses Some ‘I’s & Dots Some ‘T’s & Wonders If He Should Drink Less

Crags

Prince Reelfoot here, painfully aware that his DJ life partner Thee Monkey’s Claw has been doing all the heavy lifting round these parts for some months now, especially in the build-up to Christmas. Blame my lack of activity on personal strife, rum and the Twin Peaks Boxed Set.

Anyway, some odds and ends for you.

The estimable Narc Magazine has a shiny new online presence and in an attempt to stem my efforts to turn the magazine into The Wire, they’ve given me a column all of my own to cover the kind of Hickeysonic-friendly stuff that perhaps isn’t a good fit for the magazine itself.

November’s column is here, and featured IX Tab, Hacker Farm, Kemper Norton, Richard Dawson, Fugazi, Crass In Africa, Blown Out, The Art Of Burning Water, Richard Dawson, Loscil, Lviv and Rhodri Davies.

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December’s column was a more modest proposal but featured Richard Dawson, Kemper Norton,. Evil BlizzardHey Colossus, Karen Gwyer, Nazoranai as well as my P&C friendly end of year chart (my other chart, including all the miserable country and mediocre indie-pop, can be found here) and a Mixcloud selection of some of the best tunes of 2014.

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I also spoke to the absolutely bloody lovely Rhodri Davies about his new album, boxed set and launch party. You can read it here.

There’s also a bunch of Narc reviews from the last few issues I’ll post at some point.

Thanks again to Lisa Meyer and the Supersonic crew for letting Hickeysonic play at their amazing Christmas party, which saw me fall face first into a snare drum during another joyous performance by Sly & The Family Drone.

The evening started like this

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and ended,  many many hours later, like this

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Anyway, that’s enough for now.

Have a good new year, buy rekkids, listen to noise, get excited about the new Hey Colossus album and don’t let the fuckers grind you down.