Thee Monkey’s Claw attended an evening of experimental noise music, projections and mini beard festival at an art gallery in Digbeth last week, here’s what he had to say about it…
Mothwasp are on. Good name. At first I mistook it for Mouthwasp which is slightly grimmer, suggests something more painfully noisy (and that time I watched Mr Stafford drink a wasp that got in his cider). They are noisy, but it’s not painful. Mouthswap is another version suggested, conjuring Cronenberg style body horror, but they aren’t that either. Tonight’s set is billed as an a/v show, something they have form for but which strikes me as a little grand these days for a slide, a cup on an OHP and a scratched super 8 film loop. I guess there’s a lo-fi old (art) skool charm to using that kind of equipment instead of a laptop, like cassette releases or something. There’s some discussion after they finish about the trapped insect, and whether it was deliberate or accidental, and that uncertainty is what makes it work, with a slicker show you wouldn’t get that puzzle. We could be over thinking it here but, as it turns out, Matt from the band was a designer on the Gorillaz live shows- so maybe not. Their sound has that quality too, it doesn’t feel entirely improvised but it certainly seems like there’s some of that going on. They resist the urge to just get louder and more formless that passes so often for ‘experimental’ or psychedelic these days and end on a more gentle, meditative piece. I’m tempted to call it lovely or even pretty, but they’ve shown admirable restraint and I shall too. Just as I’m really beginning to enjoy it, they just stop. No set ending cacophony, or theatrics, just stop. Once I get over the surprise of that I’m delighted by it. Bless them. You can listen to them at their website mothwasp.com and check out a few of Matt’s pictures of Ben Frost here
A cloud of white light and dry ice fills the stage. No slideshow for Mr Frost, but a fairly minimal white lights strobes and ALL the dry ice affair. Mmmm, Frosty. People begin to spot Frost’s head in there and a peculiarly earnest hush spreads though the crowd. This quiet allows us to hear him ask “Greg? Are you there?”. Greg isn’t. But makes his way to the stage swiftly and before they even have time to get settled the opening battery just about takes our heads off. That same dynamic trick of an unbalancing wave of noise following a pool of relative calm is played out across ‘Aurora’ and throughout the show tonight. It might be his favourite, most front and centre trick of the moment but Frost has plenty of others up there on his table of machines. Lovely submerged melodies swim toward the surface at unexpected moments, there are often bells ringing but they remain in the distance. At one point a recording of someone snoring gradually obliterates everything else until it fills the room with this enormous, comical, grating sound. Just the sound of someone breathing while asleep but made extraordinary. It recalls the wolves on ‘By The Throat’ or Aphex doing something similar with a dripping tap, only with that crucial human element. As much as this is Frost’s noisiest, most machine made music to date it’s still very human and organic . So, while he could clearly have used thumping programmed techno beats on Aurora he used live drummers . Greg Fox (of Brooklyn hipster black metallers Liturgy) entirely earns his twin billing tonight. Fox is an astonishing drummer, his playing animates Frost’s waves and chunks of sound and, when you can see him through the smoke, is amazing to watch too. It’s only afterwards I realise that the chest rattling bass of the early part of the set has gradually subsided, perhaps due to a nervous soundman, but it doesn’t really matter. Frost is using noise in a different way in his music, not simply for that oppressive physical weight we love so much and certainly not as a one dimensional signifier for rage. It’s much richer and more rewarding than that.
‘Aurora’ is not up to stream in full mind, so here’s the whole of the arguably even better ‘By The Throat’