Call me Russ L

Supersonic Boom

Posted in Music by Russ L on 18 November, 2010

Now, I had thought that Capsule having their 2010 Supersonic festival in Oc-bleedin’-tober was something akin to those horrible mascot people waving their jackplug connections at the sky and daring the weather to do its worst, but the prophecy turned out to be largely unfulfilled. There was some rain and it was bloody cold towards the end there, but it could easily have been (approximately) a million billion times more rainy and cold. I do genuinely think a bullet (a precipitatory, shivery bullet) was dodged. The timing actually turned out to be fortuitous in the end – most of us, I think, needed cheering up after the governmental scorched-earth-policy-antics of a few days prior.

Things began to begin on Friday the 22nd: after a quiet getting-my-head-together-pint in The Lamp Tavern (I guessed that all the pubs nearer to the festival site would be stupidly busy. For a very reasonable fee I can plan your pub strategy, too. Hit me up, yo), the time came to approach the Custard Factory and the non-custard-related delights therein. Upon getting through the big ol’ queue and obtaining my stylish “I’ve paid guvnor, look” wristband, I headed straight up to The Old Library stage and immediately fell in love with a lot of what I saw. Great structural improvement number one: In the last few years the third/smallest band stage was in the Medicine Bar/Factory Club, and I’d basically given up on it and accepted that it was a part of the festival I couldn’t get into due to there already being at least fifty-seven-squillion people squashed in there at any given time. The Old Library was still overloaded to the point of one-in/one-out a few times, but it’s far closer to being an appropriate size than the Med Bar was. Great structural improvement number two: There were extra recycling bins scattered around the place. The lack of bin-age is something I’ve complained about after every Supersonic I’ve ever been to, so I was pleased to see this. Great structural improvement number three: A real bar! Apparently the Factory Club-controlled bars elsewhere on site were charging £4.50 per pint of your basic stuff, but here it was £3 for a pint of either Hogans cider, Veltins lager or your Purity ales. Awesome. My one minor complaint (and this wouldn’t be a Russ L blog post without one) simply regards the placing of the thing in the busy Old Library – there were a few times over the weekend when Johnny Punter couldn’t get in to get a drink. This is surely not ideal. I don’t have any particularly good idea about where it could go instead, but there must be somewhere.

The first turn of the weekend, then, were Necro Deathmort. I almost didn’t want to see them – it really would have been heartbreaking if a band with a name as good as “Necro Deathmort” turned out to be rubbish. I was very happy to find that they were really good. Drone melting into doom melting into breakbeats, suggesting stoned indolence building up to weed psychosis. I wish I’d stayed for all of their set, now, but I left halfway through to see some of Gum Takes Tooth on the outside stage. They did a very self-consciously silly digital grind thing, which was reasonably fun. They also did it with carrier bags over their heads, something that I was always told was very dangerous.

I then watched a bit of Demons back in the Old Library, and I recall that I didn’t find them very interesting. I genuinely remember nothing else about them apart from that fact. There’s always one, isn’t there?

The annoyance that high expectations can cause was demonstrated after this, out on the outside stage. Being a grindcore offshoot of Mistress/Nathrakh, I expected Fukpig to have a bit more oomph and be a bit funnier to watch than they actually were. They were every bit as fast and furious as the Read Money Round of yore and they did sprinkle a few odd-sounding guitar leads over the top to vary things up a touch, but they weren’t anywhere near as good as the Strawpig of my imagination.

That was it for my Friday. I would have liked to have seen Napalm Death and PCM (the latter being something of a Supersonic tradition), but I didn’t consider it the end of the world to miss either of them. Meanwhile, if I’d had to get a taxi home on all three nights I would probably have had to have sold some bodily organs to raise the money. And nobody is going to be stupid enough to buy any of my crappy organs. I don’t think that plan would have worked.

Saturday didn’t have the most auspicious of starts. I wanted to go and see the Pigeon thingy, but after wandering back and forth on Floodgate street I couldn’t find any obvious way in to the Rea Garden that was open at about twenty to four (The Rea Garden is what was once The Secret Garden, isn’t it? If not then that would explain a lot, I suppose). I was forced to console myself for the lack of feathery friends by popping into The Anchor for a pint of Cheddar Valley (Friday was ale, Saturday and Sunday were cider). After getting into the CustarFact I flitted between stages but couldn’t find much to love in any of the bits I saw of the first few bands on – A Wild Horse’s Side Parting or whatever they think they’re called (dull soundscapes with a-rhythmic drumming sprinkled over the top), Blue Sabbath Black Fiji (chaos to no particular end), and Eagle Twin (just your typical doom/stoner).

Things picked up more than just a little bit with Lichens in The Old Library and possibly the best combination of music and backing visuals that I’ve ever seen. The music started as an initially shrieky one-note drone, before building into a far lusher texture. The backing projections saw a series of expanding concentric circles, which got more messy and less circular as the set went on. When they first began to take irregular shapes it gave an impression of height/depth, like a hill on some psychedelic ordinance survey map; as they sped up and got more and more chaotic it felt like I was flying into the centre of them, reminding me of that flight scene in “2001”. I was dazed by the end of it all, and I mean that in a very good way.

I nipped over to Space 2 after that to have a look at industrial-doom herberts Gnaw, but I left after a bit. The vocalisings of Alan Dubin (your man from Khanate) may well sound like a smack addict being sick on a baby when heard on record, but they didn’t have as much impact here. Between a touch of disappointment about that and the fact that it I was still reeling from Lichens, this seemed like a good time to pop over to Manzil’s for my tea (lamb Madras and a cheese naan, if you’re int’rested. Nom nom nom).

I returned and spent a little while gently grooving to the gentle grooves of Dosh (nothing too exciting but nothing too likely to hamper digestive processes either, so that was good) on the outside stage before heading into the theatre space for the “Fear Of Music” talk: David Stubbs (Wire journo and author of a book on this subject, which I should very much like to read after this), Christian Jendreiko (German artiste) and Brian Duffy (anyone likely to be reading this is probably already aware of him) discussing why avante garde music doesn’t have quite the same position in popular culture that avante garde visual art does (cf: ten million squillions people going to The Tate Modern each year and so forth), as well as frequently digressing onto other things. This was extremely interesting, and I actually wish I’d taken notes. I even put my hand up to ask a question (this is unlike me), but with my customary lack of eloquence I completely fluffed it and ended up asking something entirely different to what I was thinking. My own fault, of course.

Fantastic as that was, it was a shame that I missed half of King Midas Sound whilst in there. The current guise of your man Kevin Martin from/of Techno Animal/The Bug etc, here bolstered by Roger Robinson and Kiki Hitomi on vocals and sounding like Massive Attack with all the dials pushing well into the red. This is clearly a wondrous thing. There was enough bass to make even the sturdy structure of Space 2 wobble a bit, while Kiki and Roger projected steely confidence in the face of the metaphorical walls closing in.

I had initially only popped up to The Old Library to get another pint of cider after that, but Tweak Bird’s Sabbath-y riffs over interesting rhythms proved both distracting and likeable enough for me to tarry awhile and nod a bit of head. Whilst there, I saw a man give a thumbs-up to one of the recycling bins after throwing something in it. I’m not joking, now – he stood in front of it with a big smile on his face, and gave it a thumbs-up sign. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

It was back over to Space 2 soon enough, though, for one of our main events. Although I absolutely love and adore Godflesh (or a good chunk of their cannon, at the very least), I wasn’t really expecting ‘em to be all that much live. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t, and as such their “solidly good on the night, actually” turned out really well for me. Concentrating on the older more industrial/less beat-styled stuff, “Like Rats” made for a huge opener but for a good while they were somewhat quieter than anyone might have liked. Happily that got better throughout the set and they were working up a goodly amount of oomph by the end there. I enjoyed ‘em, although I suppose in a distant way it was similar to the time I saw the Pistols a couple of years ago – there are riffs that by this point cause quasi-Pavlovian responses. Like, quite possibly, Rats.

One more and done, then: Melt Banana on the Outside Stage, beginning in their two-piece guise (a smaller version of Melt Banana should quite obviously be referred to as Melt Plantain) before growing an extra couple of heads. This was the fourth time I’ve seen them now and every time their high energy popgrind inspires the biggest of smiles. They’re just so… day-glo. Seeing them is like watching the Japanese dub of “The Teletubbies” after inhaling a massive amount of illuminous paint fumes. As ever, “Nine Short Songs” was the best bit and summed them up as whole – possibly the most effective distillation of pop and punk, delivering the idea and dispensing with the crapola. Yasuko, combining as she does some of the stereotypical Engrish nuttery with a somehow uncommonly dignified air (even when meow-ing “Happy Birthday To You”), is the coolest person on this planet.

Home. Bed.

Due to stupidity (to be more accurate: due to my own stupidity) I arrived slightly later than I intended to on Sunday, and so began by picking up the end of Bong’s set in Space 2. I thought I knew who they were but turned out to have got it wrong – it took me a few days to work out that Bongzilla were the band I was thinking of. Bong were good, though – a mixture of your doom-y drone and your Eastern (Ipswich, possibly) sitar-y drone, creating an enormous sound.

Efterklang-collaborating-sort Peter Broderick did a solo set in The Old Library next and it was fan-daby-dozie, varying between folksy and more compositional pieces and making great use of loop pedal. His last song saw him looping a mournful wail while he steamed into the audience (he was in and out of the crowd a few times) shaking percussion, and suggested the sound of Efterklang meeting Arthur Russell. Off the top of my head I can’t think of a better combination.

Thence to Space 2 for Voice Of The Seven Thunders, the new band of Ricky Tomlinson (by which I mean the fella who used to go as Voice Of The Seven Woods, and not that fella off the telly) and cohorts. Their doings are very definitely within the realms of prog-rock, with a heavy Middle Eastern influence – suggestive of hookah-smoke, rather than the dry ice that most bands hereabouts brought to mind. The songs had a nicely subtle build, too, changing in interesting ways over their course. If all of that sounds too serious for you, be aware that he also told a lovely joke about a slice of cheese between songs.

Food, next, obtained from the Italian stall. The meatballs and sauce were absolutely lovely, but the ciabatta tasted as though it had been left outside all day. Which is probably precisely what had happened, now that I think about it.

I hopped up to the Old Library then to have a look at Ruins, but so did a lot of other people. I bailed before they started (once we reached the point where there was no longer a single cubic inch of space not filled with human flesh) and eventually ended up in Space 2 in front of Mothlite and their 80s goth/synthpop, perhaps a bit like some of your earlier Nine Inch Nails stuff. Their songs weren’t in the slightest bit catchy or memorable, but I did appreciate the necklace of feathers that the singer was wearing – I assume that this was in honour of it being ornithological day at Supersonic (with Swans and Barn Owl playing), and I do have a certain respect for apposite accessorising.

Nissenenmondai. Nissenenenenmondai. Nissenenenenenenenenen&c. Maybe not quite as good as last year’s towering set, but still better than practically anything else in the world that you might choose to name. Their krautrock/prog-house/disco (yeah, really) ascended far above the outside stage and poked the eyes of God. They truly are an astonishingly good live band, and the first of the two on the Sunday that I’d describe as inspiring euphoric feelings.

I needed to reset my jaw to “non-dropped” position after that, and so I nipped out of the festival to The Anchor for a bit. I returned halfway through Factory Floor’s set on the outside stage, and got a “okay-ish” sort of vibe from them. I’m not convinced they justify all of the hype, though – standard electronic blibleblibleblibleblible with a “62 different ways to play the violin” demonstration over the top.

It may or may not have been at this point that I had one of the lovely samosas they were selling at the bar. This may or may not be important.

The Old Library was stupidly, stupidly busy again for Chrome Hoof (as well it might be), but this time I hung on and bore it in the name of Funkdiscokrautrockmetalmothershipmusic. It actually thinned out a fair bit as the set went on, but I was nevertheless somewhat put off. There is a possibility (although it is far from certain) that this is why this time seemed to have the least impact out of the four times I’ve seen them, but even at half strength they’re great. Funkdiscokrautrockmetalspaceshipmusic, as I said. Funkdiscokrautrockmetalspaceshipmusic with silver bacofoil costumes, even. I’m still aggrieved by otherwise sensible people pronouncing “hoof” to rhyme with “roof”, though.

I made sure I’d seen the “Ooh arr, let’s put Gary Bushell in a bubble” one and the “Towards zero, Bermondsey’s in equilibrium” one before bopsing over to Space 2 to make sure I saw at least a little bit of Zeni Geva (massively unfortunate timetable clashes here, having them on opposite Hoof and Hallo, although given the amount of fantastic stuff there was all weekend it’s amazing that this was the only big one for me). I didn’t get to hear very much, but it seemed pretty good while I was there – a real savage sound, just like you want from Zeni Geva.

I was really happy about the fact that Hallogallo 2010 (on the outside stage) were everything I wanted them to be. They’re Michael Rother of Neu!’s current band (if y’didn’t know), playing Neu! stuff amongst various other things, and I’m the sort of fella who thinks “Neu! 75” is as fine an album as ever you’ll hear. They had that advancing feel that you want/get from anything Neu!-related (I promise that’s the last time in this paragraph that I’m going to use that bandname that sounds like someone from the six counties enthusiastically saying “no”), but also a huge dollop of pip-pip-cheerio excitable energy, too. Combined with the general good vibes you get in a “hey we’re looking at a legend” situations, this was all really very uplifting – the second band of the day that I’d describe as euphoric. The motorik motored along, but not exclusively; they even sounded a little bit breakbeat-ish right at the end there.

Finally, at the end of this somewhat spectacular weekend, we had Swans. The purists may wish to look away now. My reactions to their set were no doubt influenced in no small way by the fact that during it I was tired (I think I did really well all weekend, but by this point it was leaning on me), I was very cold (as I said at the top – the weather was astonishingly good for the end of October, but by this point it genuinely was bitter) and Iantention was saying words at me (force of nature, nothing you can do about that), but… well they weren’t bad. There was a strong air of restrained force for long stretches, and very occasionally the sonic violence for which they are known burst forward and they captured that almost ritualistic feel I’ve been known to get from them on record. At other times, though, they didn’t have much impact. I do not find myself in agreement with most of the rapturous accounts I’ve read since then.

It matters not. This was definitely the best Supersonic yet, and that’s no small compliment. Joint-best-band-awards have to go to Lichens, Melt Banana, Nissenenmondai and Hallogalo (whilst Peter Broderick and King Midas Sound were very close behind them). If a similar quality of line-up could be replicated in future combined with a shift of the bar to somewhere more convenient and a return to the whole affair happening in July, I think I’d probably explode with happiness.

(Many other folks have written/photographed/filmed/drawn – check them out via the Collective Memory).


Brutal psychedelia, semantic dissonance and pints of lovely apple beverage: Supersonic 2009

Posted in Music by Russ L on 5 September, 2009

Supersonic 2009, 24th-26th of July (inclusive): I will recap this via three categories, I think.

The Good

~ Nisennenmondai (Saturday evening): Nisennenmondai did some sort of “Alice…” kinda thing where they’re tiny but start playing and it’s like they’ve eaten an “Eat Me” and grown by about four hundred miles. Either that or they just sounded really big. The best set of the festival, anyway, and they got the reception from the crowd to prove it. They live somewhere between Battles and Neu with maybe a twist of Lightning Bolt too, creating a driving and constantly building instrumental sound. The nutty drummer makes a great contrast to the other two more demure types.

~ Theo (Sunday afternoon): Joint-second-best. Your man (on his Jack Jones) guitars for a bit, loops that, then slings the axe over his back and drums for a bit, before looping that etc etc. Eeeeeveryone is using loop pedals nowadays (I heard an ice-cream van layering it’s choons the other day. Or maybe I just wanted to, I forget) but it’s the quality that’s important, and this lad created a wonderfully intricate-and-detailed but still high-energy mathsrock business.

~ Earthless (Sunday evening): The other joint-second-best. They weren’t as Southern as I was expecting (I reckon I may have become confused between tracks on the Brumcast preview podcasts, although I’m not sure who that means I actually was thinking about. Someone I didn’t see, anyway). I’m hesitant to call them ‘stoner rock’ as others have, and will instead go with the “brutal psychedelia” appellation that a wise man suggested afterwards. Or something. Loooong songs with lots (and I really mean lots) of widdly-wah guitar, but all serving the purpose of taking you on an adventure into the heart of a rocking sun. Or something.

~ The catering situation: The food/drink provisions for the hungry/thirsty masses this year was better than one might ever have expected. The Hogan’s Organic Cider Crizzew were selling pints of their lovely apple beverage for £3 (dear, obviously, but not really all that obscene given that we’re at a festival-type-affair), and Purity (your young funky fresh real-ale that doesn’t market itself towards old men like other breweries who are all SQUARES anyway) had nearly-a-pint bottles available for £3.50. The generic kegged lager and cider from the main bars were £4 per pint, and thus only purchased by certain kinds of mor-ron, or perhaps those particularly and overwhelmingly committed to lager and lager alone (these probably aren’t the same thing, but may be). The Hogan’s was really nice though, you honestly should’ve tried it if you’re one of this lot who seem to be unhappy about having paid more for things that weren’t as good. The Thai food stall was nice if expensive (it doesn’t matter precisely what it is, if it’s served in a polystyrene tray then £5 is expensive for any kind of food. This was of course a lot nicer than practically anything else you’ll ever get in a polystyrene tray), and I can officially reveal to the world that a “100% Cornish BBQ” is in fact a burger/barbeque/etc stand that additionally-but-separately sells pasties and clotted cream. They don’t put them on the barbeque grill. They’re not certain kinds of mor-ron.

~ PCM (Friday night): UK drum’n’bass all in your face. A touch funkier and less head-wreckin’ than usual, I thought, with some squelchy rave-synth sounds that I don’t recall them using quite so much before. Great fun. I’m glad they didn’t use Bolt Throwerman again this time – that was fun at first but the novelty has run its course.

~ Tartufi (early Saturday evening): Hard indeed to describe, but worth the effort of checking out if you get the chance. Noisy pop, perhaps, marrying frequently-changing song structures to some really catchy hooks, and assortment of different instruments, loop pedals (yes, yes), and a ridiculously broad sound. Apparently they’re American. I thought someone had told me they were Belgian. They were probably on the verge of going into the ‘joint second best’ category with Earthless and Theo, but let down ever so slightly by occasionally trying a bit too tough to be ‘epic’ for their own good. Only occasionally, though.

~ Iron Lung (Saturday evening): I was amazed to learn that the band I saw supporting Municipal Waste in Dudley (“Doodley”, as they had it) last year are considered by many to be legends/really important. Quite good, anyway – fast shouty hardcore/grind (‘power violence’, if you will. Truly the most fantastic genre name this side of ‘krunk’), with inhumanly tight and precise stopping/starting/rhythm-changing. The singer-come-drummer is clearly a frustrated stand-up comedian, bless him.

~ Thorr’s Hammer (Saturday night): I wasn’t expecting a lot (oh, cynic), but I enjoyed them. Doomy huge riffs met a pleasingly happy onstage attitude, in contrast to the pomposity that so often attends this sort of thing. Runhild Gammelsæter (a dream of a name for a metal singer, it has to be said) was downright giggly, bless her heart. And also, yes: huge riffs.

~ Zu (Saturday night): I only saw the middle bit of their set, but it was bloody ace energetic jazz-rock sort of stuff, although that doesn’t really do them any justice at all as a description. Saxamophone, saxamaphone, with turbo-charged rhythms. I wished I’d stopped with them a bit longer, actually – in retrospect it would have been worth missing the start of Corrupted.

~ Corrupted (Saturday night): Dooooooom. Corrupted are one of those bands who are considered legends those who A) have heard of them, and B) are the sort of people likely to consider them legends. They sounded huge with a capital Hyoo. On the verge, perhaps, of overdoing it a touch with the post-rock style jangly guitar build-up bits (they never felt like anything more than a build-up, that was the trouble. If I’d been wearing a watch I would probably have checked it at times) but I suppose that when they kicked in the light & shade thing really did work. They did sound absolutely corruscating when hitting it, too. Bosting stuff and no doubt it’s an “Ah, yes, I saw Corrupted once…” tale to tell the doomster grandchildren.

~ Nancy Wallace (Sunday afternoon): I only arrived in time for her last song-and-a-half, but her voice & guitar and the (very attractive) violinist combined to make an absolutely lovely folksy sound.

~ Zzz (Sunday afternoon): A mix betwixt Depeche Mode, Suicide and Dead Or Alive. The chaos/noise bit they briefly had a stab at was absolutely and entirely unconvincing, but other than that they were great keyboardy fun.

~ Khyam Allami (early Sunday evening): Played traditionally-styled Syrian music on the oud (a bit like a lute? It makes that jruangly type of sound I associate with Middle Eastern music. “Jruangly” is a word I’ve just made up to describe that sound that sounds like “jruanglllle”). He seemed surprised but genuinely really happy to be well received, which was quite nice for all concerned. Then, he covered “Black Sabbath”. On the oud. Awesome.

~ The Memory Band (Sunday evening): Apparently they were playing “The Wicker Man” soundtrack, although I wouldn’t know since I’ve never seen it (yes, yes, we know, heresy and so on). Very effectively creepy nursery rhyme-ish folk, from my perspective.

~ Head Of David (Sunday night): Intriguing: their sound seemed to me to be closer to what would often be called noise-rock than what would often be called industrial, in spite of the fact that it was actually closer to the sort of panel-bashing rhythms that you’d associate with industry than it was to anything like free-form noise. Interesting semantic dissonance, ar kid – yow can tell they’m proppa folk from the Black Country like we.

~ Caribou (Sunday night): The last band, for me. They sounded absolutely nothing like the gentle psychedelia found on the recorded bits’n’bobs I heard, and were instead more like some energetic post-rock thing hopping up into big rhythmic drum freakouts. Good fun but I only saw a bit before needing to leave. A whole weekend o’tiredness was beginning to settle on me.

~ People: This is uncharacteristic for me, I realise, but I give shouts to the actual audience – firstly I didn’t have to negotiate too many unpleasantly dense crowds (no idea how many folk were there, but they were spread out a lot more nicely than they might have been) and secondly I bumped into a lot of lovely bredrins and sistrins who I hadn’t seen for ages/don’t see very often. Aaaw.

~ Boids: There was, of course, “There Are No Others…” (Or maybe there wasn’t. Weren’t. My head hurts. I suppose there was a titular absence of others, so “there was” is permissible) (see here, whichever way up) (anyway: BIRDS~!); there was also the bird-shaped-cushion I bought from one of the merchandise stalls to take back to Louise. I named him ‘Poultry’. He was later re-named ‘Percy’.

~ Bunny Bissoux’ “Petting Zoo” pictures: Really cute. I absolutely love the lion that you can see at the bottom-central-left here. I’m still claiming responsibility for giving Capsule the idea to have this made, too, whether or not the actual artist knows a thing about that (I suspect she probably doesn’t).

The Bad

~ Sunno))) (Friday night)))): When you can barely breathe for dry ice you know it’s time for Sunnoparenthesisification. Or a Sisters Of Mercy gig, perhaps. One of the two. I only watched a little bit before wondering off to see Scorn, admittedly, but after the intro tape had ended and their performance had started (figuring out the precise point at which this happens is not the easiest feat) they went “Buuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” for the ten minutes or so I bothered with. As, obviously, is their custom. I think they could be interesting as a kind of endurance test if they actually were as loud as popular legend claims that they’re supposed to be, but on neither of the time-and-a-bits that I’ve sent them has this been the case (at least a couple of folks whose stuff I’ve read from the Collective Memory seem to have been carrying portable decibel meters and reckon that this hit that 130db-ish plane-taking-off range. I am as deaf as a post, admittedly, but that really doesn’t sound even approximately close to right to me))).

~ Diagonal (early Saturday evening): Erm, I know that I definitely saw at least some of their set but I don’t remember the slightest thing. I don’t recall them as specifically bad, but not making any impact at all can’t be a good thing.

~ Trying to keep the rain from falling into my cider whilst walking between stages on Sunday: A pain in the arse. The weather was OK otherwise, though.

~ Tiredness and aching: Clearly I am a complete and total Jessie.

~ Travelling by taxi: This was necessary for the journeys home on the first two nights. It’s not a cheap hobby.

~ Missing some of the bands that were worth seeing: I signed off Venetian Snares (who I would particularly have liked to see) and Monotonix as being casualties of playing in the middle of the morning, and now everybody seems to be saying they were particular highlights. Bah. I didn’t get around to getting my name down for the list-only Pram performance beforehand, either. Bah.

The Middling

~ Scorn (Friday night): Not as good as I wanted, but I think that may mostly have been due to me having the wrong kind of expectations – this was more of a ‘minimal electronics’ sort of affair than the thick swamp of dub that I was looking forward to. I spent a fair bit of the set chatting to The Infamous John Matie (I hadn’t seen him for a year) in the other room of The Med Bar and Scorn’s set made ace background music for that, though.

~ Rose Kemp (Saturday afternoon): Whilst it seemed like a theme for quite a few acts over the weekend, Rose Kemp took “sounding very different live to on record” to a ludicrous degree. Her voice was a hell of a lot more shrill than I expected, and accompanied only by big dragged-out doomy chords. At some points this came together to create a hellish sound, whilst at others it sounded like half baked hit-the-guitar-and-howl improvisation. There was also some very extensive swearing and amp-fiddling between songs. Lots and lots of each. It’s nice to have hobbies.

~ “Home Of Metal” talk (Saturday evening): After a fun little documentary about the project, there was an on-stage interview Johnny Doom, Nic Bullen and a couple of Sunno))) blokes. With the mics helpfully turned down really quiet. I left halfway through – I would actually have liked to stay and strain to hear for a bit longer (not being sarcy) but I absolutely did not want to miss any of Nisennenmondai.

~ The Accused (Saturday night): They sounded really Poison Idea-esque on the recorded bits I’d heard, but more like a generic sloppy 80s thrash band live. They did have their moments though.

~ Esoteric (Sunday afternoon): I think I was probably all-doomed-out by this point. They had effective chunky riffs and a big sound, but just didn’t really get to me. The atmospheric sample bits (dripping taps sounds etc) probably would have worked a lot better in less massive venue. Your man’s Prince/Madonna stylee headset mic was a nice touch, though, although there were no dance routines to make the most of it.

~ Arbouretum (sic) (early Sunday evening): I only saw a little bit of their set – 70s folky prog sorta thing. Seemed OK-ish.

~ Jarboe (Sunday evening): Ooh, she’s an enigma, that Jarboe. Or wants to be, at the very least. Hippy-doom this time around, perhaps (ah, it makes sense in my mind), but the way that she appeared to have such great regard for the magical spiritual worth of what she was doing really did get irritating.

~ 65DaysOfStatic (Sunday night): Post-rock with d’n’b styled imitation breakbeats. I liked bits of the bit of their set I saw, but (as a tweet from I-don’t-know-whom that seems to have fallen off the internet said) every song seems trying so very hard to be all big and epic. Their stage manner was very different but somehow related to that of Jarboe – in their case they seemed supremely convinced of their own ability to Rock The Hizouse. Plenty about them to get on the ol’ nerves, all in all, but they did have some fun moments.

* * *

Not quite matching up to last year’s best Supersonic evaaarrr, but still plenty good enough. Next one please. Again again again.

Check out The Collective Memory for a whole bag o’ links to things other people have said.

Super, Sonic, Great

Posted in LOTTSADITWM, Music by Russ L on 21 July, 2009

And lo, Capsule’s annual Supersonic festival at The Custard Factory in Birmingham’s Digbeth (the Irish/arts/disused factories/SILENCE, YOU quarter) inexorably advances upon us like one of those scary street-hooverer-vehicle-things with the big brushes on the front. Scare the bloody life out of me, them bleeders.

SssssSonic, conversely, fills me with joy. This year it is held between the 24th (that would be this coming Friday) and the 26th (that would be this coming Sunday. This coming Saturday will be between the two, in the customary fashion) and – as ever – features a load of bands that everyone else has heard of apart from me. On the off chance that you don’t already know the lot, I’d recommend the preview podcasts that Brumcast have assembled as a starting point: part one and part two will give you an intro to a fair few of the acts a-playing (on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, if you’re looking for the timetables).

The headliners are a mixed bag for me: call me crap at liking music if you must, but neither Goblin nor SunnO)))parentheseseseseses))) hold a particularly large amount of attraction. Japanese dooooooooooom-types Corrupted should be good, though, as long as they don’t come across as toooooooooo samey live, and breakcore/IDM/lunacy-merchant Venetian Snares will be ace if he can actually be bothered to get on stage and do a set this time around (word had it last time he came to Brum that he refused to play because the venue had the wrong brand/make of CD player, although I can’t really remember if that’s a rumour I heard or a rumour I started). I don’t really know industrial-rockers Head Of David all that well (there’s half a week left, gimme time) but the bits I’ve heard sound like fun.

Things of note elsewhere, then:

~ Scorn’s dark-arsed industrial dub will be ace, but since he’s on at same time as Sunno)))bracketseseseses))) I’m slightly concerned that he might not be easy to hear. I’m even more concerned that the combined bass of the two acts might be enough to get all of Digbeth shut down forever.

~ I saw rhythmic instrumental Japanese ladies Nisennenmondai supporting Acid Mothers Temple last August and thought they were really very good – the missing link between Can and Battles, perhaps. I also enjoyed the great bit of lost-in-translation-ification from their recent interview in that “Stool Pigeon” freesheet thing – “What’s your new album about?” “It’s about £10.”

~ Earthless were completely unknown to me until I listened to the above podcasts and are still pretty unfamiliar, but I’m liking what I’ve heard so far of their cross between Comets On Fire, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Corrosion Of Conformity and The Edgar Winters Group.

~ When I first saw the name Rose Kemp around, I’d assumed it was a band using a fairly poor pun on “Ross Kemp”. Cruel and unfortunate fate has it that it’s actually an individual’s real name. Poor cow. What’s good, though, is her Jeff-Buckley-in-a-folk-metal-band sound.

~ The Accused – ‘Splatter Rock’ sez they, ‘fun metallic punk ala Poison Idea’ sez me.

~ Bunny Bissoux will be creating Petting Zoo-themed artwork. The artist herself probably won’t be aware, but I’m claiming credit/responsibility for giving Capsule the idea of this. And I’m doing so whether it’s actually true or not.

~ Stuff elsewhere: I’m always slightly surprised that no real fringe festival has ever evolved for Supersonic (given the large audience and full complement of national/international folk travelling inwards you’d think there’s be all sorts of related things going on around the outsides, whether officially connected with the festival or not. Or is that just me?), but even without that there is stuff a-happening. On the way there (well… on the way if you’re coming from roughly the same place as me. If you’re not coming from roughly the same place as me then I won’t rub it in, you probably feel bad enough as it is) former Soup’n’Sonic guest Yukio Fujimoto has his The Tower Of Time installation at Perrott’s Folly in Edgbaston (in which the ticking of 1,111 clocks blurs into supertone white noise as you ascend the tower), and then at Moor Street Station you can see There Are No Others, There Is Only Us (boids and Ben Frost). Once out into Digbeth, Ikon Eastside has When The Scales Fall From Your Eyes (visual exploration of alledged modern obsession with weights and measures), Vivid has Participation – The Film And Video Workshop Movement 1979-1991 (wot film-makers dun in the 80s), and Eastside Projects has Does Your Contemplation Of The Situation Fuck With The Flow Of Circulation ( I’m really not sure, but there are some pretty pictures at that link). If the metal at S’Sonic ain’t quite consistently proper-metal enough for you, meanwhile, Testament are playing at The Wulfrun Hall in Wolverhampton on Saturday night (about twenty minutes on the train from New Street Station).

~ Surrounding establishments: Make sure you pop into The Rainbow while you’re in that neck of the woods and buy a pint or two to help them raise money for their troubles. The Lamp Tavern on Barford Street is probably the best drinkin’ pub in Digbeth, although most of ‘em round there are good. Manzils on the High Street (head back towards Selfridges from The Custard Factory and it’s on your right when you’re nearly there) is a reasonable place for a curry.

~ Onsite stuff: THERE IS NO CASH MACHINE IN THE CUSTARD FACTORY SO GET YOUR MONEY OUT BEFOREHAND (doesn’t make any difference to me – West Brom Building Society represent – but this is something that seems to be a big deal for a lot of people). If previous years are anything to go by (and there’s no reason why they necessarily should be, so don’t come crying to me if this plan doesn’t work) then there will be big queues and crowds at opening time (9pm) on the Friday, but you can usually pick up your wristband a little while before then if you have a ticket-in-advance. I’d do that and then head back to the pub for a bit if I were you. Let’s not have too many of you steaming into The Lamp, though, I’ll want some peace and quiet.

~ If the weather is anything other than ‘temperate’ and I find out which one of you is responsible then you’ll be for it, mate. Be warned.