the compass will always point north

June 24, 2013 at 11:13 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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Sheepscar Light Industrial Presented:

‘The Compass Points North’

Petals, Aqua Dentata, Hagman, These Feathers Have Plumes, Midwich, BBBlood

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, Saturday 22nd June 2013

01 hagman hands

Dan Thomas is to be congratulated.  Again.  The latest of his biannual gigs, themed (more or less) around his microlabel Sheepscar Light Industrial, took place last Saturday and was, without quibble, a triumph.  Background and biographies of the acts that played can be found via the numerous links Dan worked into the original publicity so I’m not going into much context here.  All I want to do is give a brief and immediate impression of what was a terrific, life affirming evening (this will be accompanied by my usual terrible photojournalism, which this time gets all arty part way through when I decide to forego the flash).  The gig was also appropriated by Mark Wharton of RFM’s sister blog Idwal Fisher as part of his 50th birthday celebrations.  More on him in the section about my set.

Being the model of efficiency that he is, Dan has already edited, mastered and posted freely downloadable mp3s of each of the six performances.  These can be found zipped up in rar files on mediafire but you lot can’t be arsed with that can you?  Thus I’ve taken the liberty of hosting unzipped mp3s here in the cavernous RFM vaults too.  Listen by clicking on the little arrows you’ll see below or download by right clicking on the links and saving the digital goodness.

Due to childcare commitments I couldn’t be part of the committee welcoming our three guests from London: Andie Brown (These Feathers Have Plumes), Eddie Nuttall (Aqua Dentata) and Paul Watson (BBBlood) so I met up with them, Kev Sanders (Petals) and Dan at Wharf Chambers sometime just gone 6pm.  Setting up and soundchecking was in full swing and Dan had thoughtfully dragged my usual table and standard lamp into my preferred position.  Kibe (apologies – I don’t know the spelling, it was pronounced Key-Bee), our soundguy, was super helpful and accommodating and asked a question I have never heard someone doing his job ask in all my years of droning:

Would you like it to be louder?

I knew right there the evening was going to be a belter.

So here’s us setting up, tabletop electronics is a breeze, eh?

02 setting up

Once all was in hand we retired to the Wharf Chambers beer ‘garden’ to relax and listen to the gathering crowd of ecstatic noise-fans chanting our names as they waited outside to rush the doors as soon as they opened.  Here’s Andie and dapper Eddie rockin’ his trademark mod look.

04 and andie and eddie

… and here’s Paul and Kev, synchronising their Sam Smith intake.

03 chillin with paul and kev

That bit about the baying crowd was a joke obviously.  For some time the first and only paying punter was the mighty Pete Cann.  Looks well excited, eh?

05 premiere paying punter pete

So come 8pm a respectable crowd was gathering but many jaded regulars were alarmed to find that the gig was going to start (and run throughout the night) on time.  Dan needed to run a tight ship to keep it afloat.  He did.  First up was Petals.

06 petals prepares

Picture shows Kev indulging in a little liquid preparation.  The esteem in which I hold this guy’s work is second to none and the sheer quality of his set made me want to simultaneously a) lie face down on the floor, eyes closed, palms up and b) accost the general public, grab lapels and thrust Petals releases into the pockets of the bewildered.  Putting him on first is a crime really, but it set the bar almost comically high for the rest of us.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/01-petals.mp3]

Download Petals

Next was Eddie:

07 aqua dentata one08 aqua dentata two

After championing his release March Hare, Kraken Mare this time last year I have been following the Aqua Dentata story with an almost unhealthy interest.  Eddie’s music has a quiet but unswerving sense of purpose and is constructed with such patience and confidence that its simplicity becomes exhilarating.  Like a clear blue sky, like a perfectly sharp knife.  This guy knows what to leave out and, in so doing, makes anything other than rapt attention impossible.  Smart dresser too.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/02-aqua-dentata.mp3]

Download Aqua Dentata

Then Dan had to relinquish his organisational duties for half an hour and take to the stage…

09 the solo hag man

Hagman, the duo of Dan Thomas and Dave Thomas (no relation) was exactly 50% short as the latter was not in attendance.  Due to Dave enduring an attack of ‘real life’ type stuff Dan had to play solo.  An intriguing start of cross-clattering rhythms (field recordings from his recent travels to Hong Kong?) gave way to the pressurised roar of a sleepless night in an aircraft cabin, augmented by the pots and sliders of the kit jumble you see above.  It was muscular but delicate too.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/03-danielthomas.mp3]

Download Hagman/Daniel Thomas

…and then something really magical happened:

10 andie's giant wine glasses11 andie in action

To my shame, I wasn’t up to speed with Andie’s work as These Feathers Have Plumes before.  Suffice to say I am now a fan.  She used the three giant glasses (vases? punchbowls?) pictured above, part filled with water, to produce gorgeous, haunting, tones by rubbing a moistened thumb around their rims (titter ye not).  This augmented a carefully underplayed selection of field recordings – birds, weather, water – to create an effect that was, in short, perfect.  Usually, the act before I go on is a blur as I pace around retching and coughing with nerves but Andie’s music held me transfixed.  The artist Joan Miro once described his life’s project as to ‘conquer simplicity’.  I’ve always been quite taken by that notion, despite the machismo of ‘conquer’, and was envious of Andie’s obvious and natural understanding of the idea.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/04-these-feathers-have-plumes.mp3]

Download These Feathers Have Plumes

My turn.  I didn’t take any photos of me performing, for the obvious reason, and my attempts to photograph the crowd at the beginning of my set were too rubbish to be used.  No matter, you can see my set-up at the back of the photo of Dan – sparkly scarf used as glamour table cloth, standard lamp, grumpy old mc-303.  The first of my two tracks was a version of the title track from inertia crocodile, my soon-to-released CD-r on WGGFDTB, and is mainly constructed from a rave stab noise filtered until it gets seasick and starts tripping over itself.  The second track is a new piece, as yet unnamed, in which a recording of Thomas the Baby drinking his bottle of milk is used as a rhythm track under a dense drone ‘lullaby’.  I was very pleased at how it turned out – good and loud and thick.  Now, I am a vain, self-regarding man and will shamelessly fish for compliments after a set but, to my delight, people I didn’t even know wanted to shake my hand and congratulate me.  My spoken intro got a laugh and most seemed charmed by my indulgent use of Thomas recordings.

I dedicated the set to Mark Wharton who, as mentioned, was there celebrating his birthday.  As well as being a friend, a comrade and an all round good egg, Mark has been an important influence on me over the years.  In a sense he taught me noise – no Idwal Fisher (and its predecessors) = no radiofreemidwich.  I’ve written about this before so I’ll just wipe the tear from the corner of my eye and leave it there.  He seemed touched by the gesture, which was my intention.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/05-midwich.mp3]

Download midwich

OK, time for Paul Watson to step up and obliterate this soppiness…

12 bbblood13 bbbloodier

Finally: BBBlood.  A performance by Paul is always a treat and an eager throng gathered, vibrating in anticipation, as he kicked off.  The first section was all scabrous electro-mechanical rhythms, building in intensity until the appearance of his handheld noise-o-tron (a tobacco tin with a mic in it) indicated that the point of no return had been reached.  Paul then flung himself into it, clattering his sound source onto/under the long suffering furniture and fiddling viciously with the pots and sliders of his patch lead orchestra.  Totally joyous: we all went fucking crazy and when the noise dropped for a burst of pop funk many audience members, notable Kev, couldn’t resist busting a move.  There was even an encore of sorts as a ‘highly refreshed’ Andie wanted to shout into the microphone.  A dizzying, nostrils-flaring, grin-inducing end to a great night.

[audio https://radiofreemidwich.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/06-bbblood.mp3]

Download BBBlood

Post-gig, the atmosphere of drunken revelry was such that leaving the venue was like leaving a wedding party: all hugs and promises.  The rain didn’t dare touch me as I ran for the last bus.

More on Sheepscar Light Industrial

More on Idwal Fisher

1 Comment »

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  1. All amazing stuff… Glad everyone enjoyed themselves…


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