Call me Russ L

“Just call me Supasonic, more than the eye can see”

Posted in Music by Russ L on 8 January, 2006

Originally posted on 16/7/5.

What better ways are there to spend a balmy summer’s evening than listening to young men with haphazardly modified samplers go “VROOOOOOOOMchiqichiqichoawarw… warw… warw…WARW…WARW…”? I can only think of about three or four, one of which of course is ‘drinking’ which on this occasion could be done in conjunction with the above.

Saturday the ninth of July – Capsule’s ‘Supersonic’ festival at the Custard Factory. This was the third (I think) in an annual series of events celebrating the slightly more unusual side of music, although the first I’d been to. After all was said and done it was a fantastic day, and I eagerly await next year’s.

On entry you get a nicely presented little programme with the schedule and a little blurb about everyone playing, and it’s at this point that you begin to realise the enooooormous amount of organisation that must have gone into this. Trying to co-ordinate everyone and everything (over twenty acts on three stages, as well as film showings, stalls outside etc) must have been a nightmare.

Khonnor opened the festival in the Medicine Bar, two men (when performing live, anyway) with faces covered by a ragged old bear mask and a Mexican Bandito style neckerchief. After lots and lots and lots of technical difficulties (you need a few glitches to go with your glitch) at the start they settled down (or livened up, however you choose to look at it) into a more vocally led version of Aphex Twin. They had some interesting moments and I’d be keen to hear more.

I popped over to the Theatre Space to see just a couple of minutes of Sol_Dat. They were doing a fairly pretty little electronic soundscape at that point, although I gather that isn’t always their style.

Tunng, in the Medicine Bar again, were excellent. They were like a folksier (and perhaps slightly more anthemic) version of The Beta Band, with some really good sounding songs. Interestingly varied tunes and gorgeous harmonies made for my second favourite set of the day. Imagine the beardy sorts at a summer solstice fete finally going “Aaaaah… I’ve figured it out” to the traditionalism/technology – folk/electronics divide before coming off the dope for long enough to write some wicked material and then going back on it for long enough to perform it properly. Or the other way round, whichever you see as better. They seemed to be likeable people too, laughing and cracking jokes. The female singer had gorgeous shoes, and aesthetics can be important. Having said that, though, why was she (the only one wearing heels) the only one without a seat onstage? That doesn’t seem at all fair to me.

Aerogramme were the first band I saw on the main/outside stage. I do like the concept of Radiohead-meeting-Neurosis, that works for me. Their big swirly atmospherics weren’t ideally suited to broad daylight or to the glittery light-stick-things suspended above the stage (cool on their own terms…), but I enjoyed their set and would like to investigate them further.

Jesu were next on the main stage, and one of my two main reasons for going. Although alright, they were disappointing compared to the two previous times I’ve seen them and their album. The word coming down the grapevine is that they felt a bit cowed by the circumstances under which they were performing (as above – big stage, huge open spaces, broad daylight, overhead glittery sticks) and as such veered away from their typical doings. Their set certainly was different in tone from usual – rather than the light breaking through the cracks that they normally portray, this set was relentless pounding and (atmospherically) closer to Godflesh than Jesu. Still not bad, but not the soulful beauty I’ve come to expect.

I headed into the Theatre Space to see some of the Black Galaxy vs Kreepa set. I really like Scorn, and so I was expecting something good from this. Alas…

I watched about ten minutes in the middle of the set, and for the entire duration we basically had a beat, and some wacky ker-razy random sounds going on around the outside of it. Any sonic form can become music if it imparts something to the listener, but nothing was conveyed – be it emotion, entertainment, ideas or whatever else. The usual response to this is the self-defeating “You just don’t get it.” Clearly not, that’s the problem. The artists haven’t managed to get across what they’re trying to get across, and that’s supposed to be a fault on the part of the listener?

Wandering back out into the sunlight I was confronted with Battles. I knew nothing of them apart from the fact that they featured ex-members of other bands I knew nothing (or at least very little) of, but I was quickly brought to a state of smiling. Twiddly instrumental rock type stuff, but really dance-able and with loads of groove. Third best set of the day.

The plan was then to catch a couple of minutes of Formation Flight in the Med Bar before going back outside to see Dalek. I ended up catching a couple of minutes of them then a few minutes more when some dozy cow (bless ‘er) left me watching her bag while she went out to make a phonecall. It still wasn’t enough to really form an opinion, though. There was a lot of sound being made for just five people, I can say that much.

Back to the main stage for Dalek (my other main reason for going) and boooooy did they live up to expectations. Not only noisy hip-hop without loosing the groove, but loadsanloadsanloads of noise and loadsanloadsanloads of groove. And loadsanloadsanloads of conscious lyrics while we’re there. They were everything I wanted them to be, and I danced like a fool. Set of the day.

Next it was back into the Theatre Space for Brian Duffy & The Modified Toy Orchestra. Now, this could’ve been great and it could’ve been a load of half-baked conceptual nonsense. We goooooot… the former. Hurrah! You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard a version of the final movement of Beethoven’s 9th performed on Speak & Spell-type-things. Loads of fun as well as clever-clever, and another set I enjoyed.

After that, of course, we were all evacuated. There had been a bomb threat in the city centre a few hours earlier – the entire thing was evacuated, and controlled explosions ‘n’ such had been carried out. I’m not completely sure why the Custard Factory had to be cleared out when it’s not in the city centre and other establishments on Digbeth High Street remained open, but there we go. These things happen. It’s obviously better for a few people to be inconvenienced than for anyone to get hurt.

~ Russ L

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