Call me Russ L

Super Sounds are here again

Posted in Music by Russ L on 7 June, 2014

Oooooh, it’s Supersonic Festival time again, or rather it was on the 30th and 31st of May. I like Supersonic, as those fool enough to have looked at this blog before might know. There wasn’t one last year (instead we had Bring To Light, which was a kinda-sorta Supersonic-lite done in combination with the Library Of Birmz opening celebrations), but it’s back, it’s in its natural home at The Custard Factory, and it’s in ‘Limited Edition’ form (read: smaller and over two days, just like it used to be in the olden times). I hope that this means that the having-Supersonic-in-October experiment is over. It had a good run and the brief bursts of rain and dither-inducing cold were a thousand times less severe/frequent than they might have been expected to be for the time of year, but I do think that it would only have been a matter of time until there was a serious weather-stinker.

Further nostalgia for the ghosts of Supersonics past came from the fact that it all took place in spaces around the pond again! Said water feature wasn’t drained for a stage, which was a bit of a shame – I always felt that the outside/pond stage was one of the defining features of Supersonic. Even after they stopped using it. I didn’t see anyone jumping in for a quick swim, but I imagine that somebody did at some point.

There’s also a new restaurant and venue in place of the old Med Bar, called Alfie Birds. Outside of the fact that I find the name “Alfie” to be entirely insufferable (“Alf” and “Alfred” are lovely names. “Alfie” strikes me as being as vile as vile can be), they name themselves after Mr Bird but don’t appear to serve anything with custard on it. Something has gone awry somewhere, and for a change I’m confident that it’s not my fault.

I don’t actually like custard. That’s not the point.

Finally, the main stage: an erstwhile unused bit in the far corner. It’s a big room, sure enough, and grubby enough to satiate those who are particularly into the noisy-sound-as-reflection-of-urban-decay tip. Musical vibrations were causing chips of paint to fall off the ceiling. You could theme an entire blog post around using that as a metaphor for… something or other. I’m not going to bother trying. Even I have trouble parsing my own nonsense nowadays.

Let’s have some brief thoughts on the acts and artistes I especially liked:


~ Anta – Sabbath riffs combined with what would have been called solos if they’d been played further along the guitar neck. There used to be loads of instrumental bands like this. Maybe there still are, I dunno. All of that sounds cynical but I liked ‘em, they shifted some air.

~ Ex-Easter Island Head – Fourteen (count ‘em) guitarists, and a drummer to act as the cherry on top. We all know that ‘having a double figure number of band members’ is always a foolproof way of being good live, and so it went with E-EIH. So many guitars all doing the same thing at once produces a pleasingly ringing timbre. The bells on the drumkit made me think of xmas, not Easter. The droney bit had washes of feedback that felt like waves breaking on a Pacific beach, so there’s your Easter Island.

~ Agathe Max – Violin and loadsa pedals (I assume, I couldn’t see ‘em. Seems like a safe bet though). A one-woman orchestra, at times. A one-woman shoegaze band, at others. Ferocious feedback drones (no really: she was the only one all weekend to make my head feel all wobbly) at other times still. Hypnotic at all of the times.

~ Rattle – Two drummers. Vocals acted as a flat layer for the percussive groove to sit upon. They were hypnotic, too, but in a very different way to Agathe.

~ Alien Whale – Ex-members of a bunch of bands that you’ve heard of and I haven’t. Instrumental big rock (moments of 60s psych too, I suppose), and a lot more fun than I initially thought it might be. Some fantastic Eric Clapton-esque guitar-playing faces were pulled.

~ Youth Man – This band seem to be the talk of the town nowadays. Black Flag-ish, maybe? Well, no, they don’t sound like that, but abstractly they do have that Punkfast-into-Sabbath type o’thing. More melodic than all that, though, too ( Dead Kennedys, I suppose). There are definitely better reference points, but I can’t think of them. They were much more ferocious than I expected, given the channels through which I’d heard about them (a lesson about assumptions that is always worth re-learning).

~ Sarah Kenchington – Oh my life. She played a prepared wheel, foot pumped brass that she poured water into, a drumpet (exactly what the name suggests) pointed into a wheelbarrow, and something like a… Oh, I don’t know. Something like a pedal sewing machine built out of percussive instruments, string instruments, and a typewriter. This may well have been one of the greatest things that I’ve ever seen. After Sarah Angliss at Bring To Light last year, it has become more than apparent that it is very important to make sure that you see any ladies called Sarah who build their own instruments/devices.

~ Karen Gwyer – This was some energetic and interestingly layered dance music. Once upon a time I would have been able to tell you what type and (on a good day) maybe even make references, but I don’t remember the words any more. I’m old. My leg ached too much to actually dance but I enjoyed it.

~ Jenny Hval – The artist I was most keen to see, but I somehow hadn’t thought much beforehand about how the actual context would affect her songs. In a great big ol’ room (and amplified appropriately), her whispered confessions and matter-of fact statements become boldly proclaimed boasts. She does boast well, though. Her own manner was adorably sheepish-to-unhinged (“I recently became aware that I am Norwegian, so I’m very polite and then shout rude words very loudly”).

~ Notable absences (to save anyone asking) – It was a shame that Pharmakon cancelled (some herbert tea-leafed her passport, apparently), ‘cos I did particularly want to see her. I did like Sleaford Mods when I saw them last year but they do definitely veer into the territory of a pub bore moaning about other pub bores at times, and so not seeing them here wasn’t the end of the world. I like Swans, too, but (whisper it) I’m not thaaaat bothered. They were getting a bit dull before I wandered off last time they were at Supersonic.

Next one please!

(For lots of links to things that others have said, have a goosey at the Collective Memory).



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