hyper-zonal

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.

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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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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.

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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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circle / hey colossus / opium lord                                                 hare & hounds, Birmingham, May 21st

Their countrymen PKN may have been cruelly put out of Eurovision at the semi final stage but Circle are over here burning the flag for Finnish punk-metal-kraut-prog freeform insanity, and certainly holding up their end of the bargain on the stage costume front too. First up though, local sludge/doom champions Opium Lord. They make a fine enough racket, blending familiar elements into their own thick, dark brew. In contrast to the headliners they’re a t-shirts and jeans band, they’ve a great, restrained drummer and possibly the most Brummie frontman I’ve ever seen. Unassuming to the point of selfconciousness, when he’s not singing he shuffles about the stage, he even gets down off it and amongst us as if the lights and the eyes are burning him. None of this is a problem, he’s pleasingly short on the sort of face pulling, shape throwing, audience pointing nonsense that often makes metal bands so ridiculous. But then there’s the singing. While he’s far from the worst offender it’s that throaty growl/screaming style that can get a bit cookie monster and, although I can cope with a bit of it, I’ve never really got along with that myself. Not for me then, but they do it well.

One pretty swift turn around and it’s time for Hey Colossus. Who’s your favourite one? Currently the best rock band in the land by our estimation Hey Colossus are on fire at the moment. In Black and Gold is clearly their best album yet, fierce and more focussed than previous and they’re already busy on a follow up. If you have still, wilfully, not listened to it here is the bandcamp stream again. Seriously, get on that. Tonight they’re awesome. For a band that live miles apart and rarely get to rehearse they seem ridiculously well drilled, again the three guitar parts locking together into a formidable juggernaut. Now, some people I know have the same problem with Sykes’ vocals as I did with Opium Lord. I guess it’s a matter of taste. He sings with a lot of echo and effects on his voice but he also uses it in a wide variety of ways from speaking to screaming and, y’know, actual singing too and he’s in fine form this evening. He also generally eschews the showbiz frontman type shenanigans, back often to the crowd a tall man on his tiptoes half the time, toward the end of the set he finally takes the mic from the stand and gets into a bit of leaping about and it’s all the better for seeming entirely natural. Checking they’ve any time left they end again on ‘Sinking Feeling’ making more sense than ever as a closer to the set. Go see them. Buy their record. Buy the Henry Blacker one too – it kicks ass.

So, here come the crazy art-metal vikings from the land of ice and snow, what have they brought us from their ice castle? Circle have been around for years but largely passed me by until now, they have a fine live reputation in these parts thanks to a couple of appearances at Supersonic in previous years, (tonight kicks off the run-up to this year’s festival in three weeks time) but I missed them so I’ve been trying to get up to speed on youtube and soundcloud. Quite the task. They have a full and wide ranging back catalogue to take on, lurching from time to time toward the various elements that make up their own hard to pin down sound. I’m having trouble again with the vocals on some of the older recordings but the instrumental stuff is impressive. If post-rock hadn’t become a meaningless and dirty word signifying endless crescendos and occasional string quartets it might actually be of use to describe what they were up to – pulling rock to pieces and sticking it back together in their own idiosyncratic ways. Also, just as Hey Colossus now have Henry Blacker, Circle have a long running, more straightforwardly rock, little brother band in Pharoah Overlord. Circle’s new album is called ‘Pharoah Overlord’ and Pharoah Overlord’s new album is called ‘Circle’ suggesting that perhaps they have finally come back together as one. Only they play Raw Power festival this weekend under both names. Probably just as well I can’t understand the words, some Finnish, some in a made up language, there’s already more than enough confusion happening. Apparently “On Pharaoh Overlord, Circle explore the smouldering terrain of their kindred spirits to find the means of transgressing the border of parallel existence with their idols (that is, Pharaoh Overlord) with the intent of merging into one abstract entity of sonic flesh. There is no sobriety like loss of identity.” Well, quite. What exactly they sound like is hard to describe, before they take the stage I’m talking to friends who saw them a few years ago and even they aren’t sure what they were like, just that they were good. So, are they any good then? Yes. Yes they are. A loud, groovy, relentless, shifting, assault. Their ridiculous stage outfits gleefully revel in rock band cliché – studded leather belts, flying v guitars, shiny spandex, a riot of colour and beards and hair. and fluffy legwarmers. and adidas tracksuits. Much like the audience then. On the other hand their music seems hard to pin down because even as it draws on kraut,punk, metal, psych and so on it rarely falls into the trap of doing what has been done before. They once described themselves as “like Judas Priest crossed with This Heat” which pretty much nails what I’m trying to say here. Mind-blowing, fantastic and kind of indescribable but if, like me, you want to know where to start with them I’m enjoying the new album and it seems like as good a place to start as any…

the pic of Circle was taken by The Prince Reelfoot at threadfest the following night. he’s very proud of it. The band seem not to have changed their clothes…

Dickering About

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Right then, heading up the bill this coming Saturday are these chaps Palehorse. Captured here in relaxed mood on a backstage tea break. Or something. As I said on the podcast, they don’t take their rock mythology entirely seriously, “Don’t Come Knockin’ When I’m Listening To Dokken” is a favoured title that demonstrates the attitude. Like Sly & The Family Drone, they have a sense of humour about themselves and what they do but they still make a fearsome racket once they start. A two bass sludge beast with all manner of influences stirred into the pot, you can listen there to three of the tracks from ‘Harm Starts Here’ their most recent album. Sadly, none of the longer tracks which I think are the more interesting ones but most of their older stuff is on their bandcamp there too

The Viking helmeted chap in the photo is Mark Dicker and when not palehorsing he also makes experimental electronic/drone/field recording type cassette things. Originally as Twilit Grotto but now under his own name as apparently everyone thought it was Toilet Grotto, which lacked the requisite degree of mystery. Here’s one bunch of them from earlier in the year that I like a lot, Talk Of The University. There’s a new one appeared last month called ‘Livestock’ which seems to be more straightforwardly confrontational noise/drones as well if that’s more your thing.

8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Geoff, and Hell followed with him.

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Make A Joyful Noise

Sly & The Family Drone bring the noise

well now, here’s a big ol’ bundle of joy in the advent calendar for the fourth day of December. Despite the smorgasbord of thrills on offer there the band I’m probably most looking forward to seeing at the upcoming… Supersonic + Milque & Muhle Xmas Cocktail!  and the one perhaps worst served by their appearance on our accompanying xmas sonic mix are ecstatic noise mongers Sly & The Family Drone. There’s that pic up top again of them completely taking Supersonic by storm in the spring (and Matt battling a serious ‘wardrobe malfunction’ issue). A hard sell on paper, they’re a must see live experience. They have, an admittedly brilliant, pun for a name. I love a good pun but they do arouse suspicion. balloooon copySimilarly the wonderful ‘Masters Of Real-Ale-ity Sabbath shirts. Don’t fret, they just have a sense of humour – they’re not wacky or anything. As the picture shows, Matt generally ends up stripping down to his pants and climbing on things, yelling and hitting stuff with drumsticks, or abusing an effects pedal. I was thinking of suggesting we all took him some pants along and threw them at him, making him the underground Tom Jones or something but recent live shots suggest Santa has come early to the Family Drone with a pack of nice new boxers. Here’s a most recent studio based effort from them, ‘Mummers’ which is more sedate than the live incarnation and features tape mangling and so on…

ballooooonThey’re a noise band who improvise live too, which puts people off. But not a confrontational angry noise band, the opposite in fact. A unifying joyous thing it’s more of an ecstatic frenzy that draws the whole crowd in, quite literally as they pass out the pieces of drum kit and spray everyone in beer. The only thing I can really think to compare them to is Crash Worship – a reference that has limited currency I suspect. In a recent tweet, they used the description Funn O))) which is not only funny, but also pretty accurate too.

In the happy news this week it was announced that, despite rumours, SUPERNORMAL 2015 will now definitely be happening. We, and I’m sure Sly too, are very pleased to hear it – here they are at this year’s SUPERNORMAL doing their thing, bashing the hell out of it in the middle of a field…

listen here to the album ‘unneccesary woe’

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It’s never too soon for a c*******s cocktail though, right?

hickeysonic_cheerleaderswatch out. we’re back once again with the pom-poms, synchronised dance moves and catchy mnemonic chants! go team! and so on! Jumping round and jumping the gun a little with the festive cheer, but you know how we feel about a cocktail or two. It’s a bunch of music. In a mix thing – listen to it! LISTEN!!

I know it’s been a little quiet around here the last month or two since basic.fm wound down and despite good intentions we’ve basically taken the opportunity to slack off, work on our daytime drinking and experience some personal turbulence. That see you in 25 years thing was just excitement about Twin Peaks there wasn’t any truth in it. We’ve been raised from our torpor by this splendid upcoming bill and prodded by the good people at Capsule into a little podcast to support it – there’s tunes from almost everyone on the bill (Rainbow Grave will be making their live debut on the night) and a handful of things in the usual vein with just a light spattering of seasonal cheer. We’ve even taken the very modern and dramatic step of speaking to you in a voice we found in the interwebs.

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a download for headphone commuters and a fullsome tracklist with links and such will shortly be forthcoming, as will some more about the bands, an excess of christmas artwork and home made mince pies…

 

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