the workings of the inner ear: rob hayler on tusk festival 2018

October 25, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Posted in live music, musings, no audience underground | 1 Comment
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TUSK FESTIVAL 2018

THREE PARAGRAPH INTRODUCTION

About a month prior to this year’s festival I caught viral labyrinthitis. This is an infection of the inner ear that, along with standard viral symptoms like headaches and tiredness, affects balance. Thus my perceived state could range from ‘bus idling at traffic lights’ to ‘Icelandic fishing trawler’ all while sat perfectly still and upright on the sofa in my front room. I was hoping that, like a cold, I could be over the worst quickly but looked on in dismay as my GP prescribed enough anti-nausea pills to last four weeks.  And so it came to pass.  In that state I travelled to TUSK intent on standing in dark rooms, under flashing lights, listening to loud music.  Fuck it – kill or cure, eh?

This was also my first TUSK where I would not be performing and I was relishing the prospect of being an unencumbered audience member. When I went to collect my wristband the ticket office people didn’t have programmes to hand. “Good,” I thought, “surprise me.” It proved a successful tactic, as we shall see.

Finally, I’d like to repeat the annual provisos. I won’t be mentioning every act, not even all those I saw and enjoyed, as creating An Exhaustive List Of Everything That Happened is not my bag. I won’t be mentioning everyone I spoke to because I don’t want to allocate some to this ‘highlights’ package and not others. Safe to say that every conversation I had with you lovely people I enjoyed very much. It was a delight to catch up with old hands and to chat with new acquaintances alike. Lastly, I’m not cluttering what follows with links, nor topping it with a cloud of tags – I’d suggest having the TUSK Festival site open on another tab and hunting and pecking as appropriate. I believe TUSK will fill the archives with videos of performances in due course. Pictures are by me, taken and edited with my fancy new phone which I don’t properly understand.

FRIDAY

The journey was uneventful, the hotel perfectly satisfactory. My dinky room being 75% bed with a view of the foot of Tyne Bridge from the beshitted window.  After perfunctory unpacking I trotted up to TOPH @ WORKPLACE GALLERY (when TOTOPH closed WPG became home to TNTOPH) just in time to miss the end of DRONE ENSEMBLE whilst saying hello to people outside.  The first performance of the weekend I saw was KAZEHITO SEKI X ADAM DENTON.  Well, I say ‘saw’ – the two of them performed in a tiny room off a corridor, the door and available floor space of which was already blocked with punters.  I ended up standing on a radiator in the neighbouring outdoor smoking area and looking through a barred window.  It was well industrial.  Here’s my view, taken by me whilst stood next to yol with Olie Griffin perched on the neighbouring windowsill like the urchins we are.

The set was terrific – a tank of electric eels, thrashing and sliding over one another, smelling of ozone. KS held a mic in his mouth and played his breath, mixer on a lanyard bouncing against his chest like a bizarro world Flavour Flav’s clock.  Visceral in an almost literal, medical sense.  I couldn’t really see what AD was doing but I think he was hunched over a tabletop set up adding to the squall – Spanish guitar to KS’s flamenco dancer.

Next was TUSK FRINGE artist-in-residence LEE PATTERSON and again I saw sweet naff all of the actual performance, it taking place in another small room off the same corridor that was already stuffed with audience by the time I got wise. I’ll say more about LP later in this article, suffice to say for now that the mysterious beauty I heard drift over the heads of those in front of me was remarkable.  “Blimey,” I thought, “have I just (kinda) witnessed the set of the festival already?!” One benefit of being in the corridor, though, was I got to see FRINGE organiser MARIAM REZAEI getting entertainingly furious trying to keep noise outside the room to a respectful minimum.  At one point latecomers banged on the locked door.  “There’s someone trying to get in,” I whispered to Mariam and she stormed off to admonish them. “You’ve just got somebody killed!” chuckled the guy standing next me.

So down the hill to SAGE GATESHEAD and Friday night which, as always seems to be the case, is a blur of glad-handing and half-seen, under-appreciated sets as we find our feet in the Ballardian sheen of the venue. PINNAL launched the ship with an intoxicating swirl of loops, played modestly/unnervingly behind a translucent painted cloth screen bathed in purple lights.  I feel I wasn’t able to give this the headspace it deserved so will seek out some recordings.  IRREVERSIBLE ENTANGLEMENTS headlined the night and were raging fire, led by MOOR MOTHER, a presence of such power and charisma she literally drew the audience towards the stage.  I’ll list three things of note from inbetween (ah, fuck you spell check – inbetween IS one word).  Firstly, this year TUSK alternated performances between the NORTHERN ROCK FOUNDATION HALL and SAGE TWO.  I think that by and large this worked well but there seemed to be a bit less time for meeting and socialising between sets – an issue I will call the ‘where the hell is Christopher Whitby?’ problem.  Secondly, meeting DALE CORNISH for the first time.  He was rain soaked at the Information Desk, waiting for artist liaison, I was getting my coat, we talked about gore tex.  What a charming young man.  Hmmm… is this is starting to sound like a PULP lyric?  Finally, the musical highlight of the evening for me was LUCY RAILTON.

The first half of LR’s set was built on cello, played live, through a bank of processing. Each tiny gasp as the bow changed direction like the push and pull of breathing apparatus.  This was not mere mechanics though; the emotional heft was sleeve-worn throughout.  At a couple of points the endpin of her cello slipped and anyone who clocked the force with which she dug it back into the stage could not be mistaken about the seriousness of her intent.  The second half was effects led as recordings of the sea, of breaking glass, of synth stabs more usually found in euphoric house were smeared into one rolling memory.  I was brought up on the coast and this section felt like a dreamt consolidation of my teenage years – from the sunburned violence of high season to the slate grey sea and frozen sand of the winter.

After this sublimity, the ridiculous. By which I mean my perpetual, delusional charade that I will be attending the afterhours fringe events.  Of course I’m not going: I am old, tired, ill (my balance was shot), my blood sugar levels perilous (I have type II diabetes that I had been ignoring all day) and yet I can’t stop myself saying things like “Oh yeah, if only for PENANCE STARE, yeah, yeah, just for a while, yeah.”  Sigh.  My apologies to Mariam and THE STAR AND SHADOW crew – I hear it was amazing.  Special apologies to Esmé of the aforementioned PENANCE STARE – if you are reading this then I hope you enjoyed yourself and that the show in Manchester the day after went well too.  If anyone else reading this doesn’t know her work then you should visit her Bandcamp site.  Mea culpa.

Anyway, check out the rad cloakroom ticket I got! Literally METAL!

SATURDAY

Waking early, I stumbled downstairs to the buffet and ate an irresponsible amount of breakfast. I was enjoying this indulgence until the onset of a ridiculous protein/carb rush coincided with the opening bars of ‘Papa was a Rolling Stone’ on the hotel radio and suddenly I was staring out at the rain trippin’ absolute fucking ballz.  I retired back to bed for a while and tweeted at fellow groggy festival goers.  The first true business of the day was meeting my old friend, and Newcastle resident, Ben for our annual get-together.  Whilst not a scenester by any definition, Ben is an open-minded, enthusiastic and thoughtful guy and has taken to buying a Saturday pass for TUSK as an excuse to hang out and hopefully experience something out of the ordinary.  He is the lanky dude with the cheshire cat grin that I was introducing to everyone.  Bear hugs were exchanged and Ben asked: “What are we seeing first?”  “I don’t know but it starts at midday,” I replied and with that we descended into SAGE TWO and ascended into the world of LIMPE FUCHS.

As soon as this tiny, elderly lady walked on it was evident we were in the presence of a great artist. You could just see it in her hands.  The stage was full of bespoke (mainly percussion) instruments I later found out were largely constructed by LF herself.  Curved metal poles were hung on wires from drum skins suspended on tripods ten feet above the stage.  An enormous xylophone built of metal with slate teeth was front and centre, curved upwards at each end like a wry smile.  Balls of stone, lengths of bamboo, sheets of thin metal on leashes of string were among the objects I eagerly awaited hearing.  LF gave her attention to different combinations of these sound sources in turn.  I assume the performance was both carefully planned and semi-improvised as it took into account plenty of only partly controllable elements such as if and when the slowly swinging poles would chime against a hefty lump of crystal on the floor between them.  She also sang in a glossolalia style and played violin just to prove to us that she could do everything with precision, deftness and panache.  There were gaps between passages for us to applaud and she seemed genuinely surprised and delighted by the thrilled reaction of the crowd.  At the end we roared our approval and by way of an encore she played a squeaky hose reel wrapped with orange twine. “I found this in a junkyard,” she said, “he said: one euro but you will need to oil it!”  Ha, what a privilege it was to witness.

Following this revelation was a talk I was very eager to attend: ‘Sound Collectives as Sonic Acts of Resistance – the story of Ladyz in Noyz and notes from the field’. MARLO DE LARA, INGRID PLUM and MIRANDA IOSSIFIDIS discussed the projects LADYZ IN NOYZ, BECHDEL and TAUT, and SONIC CYBERFEMINISMS respectively plus more general questions of how to organise and support women and other marginalised groups in music and art.  As well as being fascinated by what was said (and the presentation itself – I was very taken, for example, by how SC had been documented with sketches which pictured the participants with notes on their actions, ideas and the relationships these had with others literally ‘on the same page’) I felt that this was an important thing to happen at TUSK and I was relieved and excited that it was so well attended.  Some context:

Popular Twitter personality WANDAGROUP, known for his kooky brand of ALL CAPS BELLIGERENT WHIMSY, can be relied upon for a quip about how the TUSK audience is mostly made up of aging, male Whitehouse fans. Tempting as it is to splutter about how this isn’t fair or accurate, it does sting because there is (some) truth to it.  His joke shucks the oyster and squeezes lemon juice onto the salty mass of white flesh inside.  I touched on related issues when writing about KLEIN last year (with apologies for quoting myself at length):

OK, whilst putting this piece together, I’ve been torn as to whether to talk about KLEIN being a young, black woman and, if so, what to say.  But I think I have to.  Reading reviews of her recent EP for Hyperdub on sites such as Resident Adviser, her being young and black is not discussed, or even much remarked on, because in a dance music context being young and black is unremarkable.  Unfortunately, in the context of experimental music, especially ‘noise’, it is still unusual.  Looking around at the audience to make sure everyone was appropriately delighted, it occurred to me that KLEIN might be one of only a handful of young, black women in the building, possibly the only one.

Back when dominant trends in noise included leather-coated idiots screaming on about serial killers and race hate the absence of BME voices was entirely understandable – I didn’t really want to be part of it myself – but now, as that side of things has waned, or that anger refigured in more politically and artistically interesting directions, the lack of diversity is more puzzling and shaming.  I think that ‘we’ are a welcoming, open minded crowd with positive, progressive politics but then I would say that wouldn’t I?  I’m white, male, middle-aged, middle-class (more or less) and cishet – and it is probably base assumptions still held by even well-meaning libtard snowflakes like me that are the problem.

There’s a couple more paragraphs of this in my write up of TUSK 2017 if you are interested. At the time this reflection garnered not one comment – nothing – but now, after an explosive year in the politics of social justice, the idea of returning to what depressingly recently would be ‘business as usual’ is appalling.  That morning, whilst I was coming down from my breakfast rush, I replied to a tweet from Marlo requesting questions and asked ‘aside from the obvious (like shut up and listen) what are the best practical things that an ally can do to help?’ and Marlo had me repeat this out loud at the event.  I was conscious that by the time I was put on the spot they had a) gone some way to answering it, having spoken about giving people time and space, being careful with the vocabulary you use (Ingrid on the word ‘composer’ was illuminating), being aware of what you are listening to etc. and b) expressed their exhaustion at always having to be ‘on’ as activists and the dismay at others expecting them to do the work.  However, given the context and generosity of the speakers, I got away with it and received thought-provoking answers (plus more later via twitter – thank you @GinOnDiamonds).

One that has really stuck with me is Ingrid’s explanation that there are (at least) two levels possible for an ally wishing to help give marginalised artists space – firstly the act of support: hosting the show, booking the act, releasing the music, spending money etc. and secondly there is making space within the area which the ally has uncomplicated access to due to their position of relative privilege.  This can be as major as attempting to constructively reconfigure the thinking and practices of a ‘scene’ but can, as a start, be as simple as retweeting, unadorned, something you find interesting – pushing it into ‘your’ space, thereby sharing and expanding the content of that space.  I have a lot more thinking to do about all this – it was very inspiring.

Trotting back across the river in search of a late lunch, Ben and I settled on the Indian restaurant URY, a Newcastle institution according to my companion, which can be found on Queen Street off Quayside. We entered at 2.55pm and they closed at 3pm to prep for the evening service, but kept the kitchen open just for us.  Thus we had the entire place to ourselves for 45 glorious minutes as we ate and caught up on family life, politics, gossip and discussed favourite Prince albums.  It was a memorable treat, magical for being so unexpected.

Satisfied but late, we strode purposefully back into Gateshead to TOPH @ WORKPLACE GALLERY for TUSK FRINGE X WREST – a line-up chosen by Blyth legend JAMIE STUART. Yeah, put a fringe event on in the afternoon and I’m all over it.  Mirroring big TUSK’s new strategy of alternating between NRFH and SAGE TWO the audience here were shuffled between TINY ROOM OFF A CORRIDOR 1 (the one with the window and cardboard boxes) and TINY ROOM OFF A CORRIDOR 2 (the dark one with a toilet in the corner).  First up in TROAC1 was DROOPING FINGER and Jonas eased us into the gig with a considered set of looping noise slowly digested by some very disciplined knob and slider tweaking.  It was deeply satisfying and was presented at a surprisingly reasonable volume level.  A false sense of security was successfully established.

Next, in TROAC2, this sense – in fact, all senses – were destroyed by XAZZAZ. I threaded my way to the front and ended up standing in the doorway of the bog, the actual room illuminated solely by half a dozen candles and pedal LEDs.  Mike’s guitar sound is a lupine growl, layered into a pack roar, performed with back to the audience at obliterating volume.  It is a magnificent, cleansing, ego dissolving experience.  As the room emptied afterwards I stumbled over to Ben.  “THAT,” he said, “is what you have been promising me all these years.”

Third of four, back in TROAC1, was DEPLETION. I’m always amused and impressed with how well turned out Martyn is compared to his black t-shirt clad peers: gelled hair, ‘proper’ shirt, trousers and shoes.  Give him a skinny tie and he’d be the spit one of those Italian industrial music guys from the 80s, or maybe half of a Sheffield-based synth-pop duo.  I’m not sure you could take his music home to meet your mum though, unless she was into unrelenting bleak, nihilistic electronics.  His kit – Korg MS-10 (I think), effects, mixer – is pulled through a series of subtle, increasingly unnerving movements until, with the flick of a switch on an anonymous looking white box, all fucking hell breaks loose.  At this point Ben is flinching himself under a table and I’m fearing for my hearing, teeth gritted, lost in admiration for a perfect tabletop set.

Finally the quartet is completed by CULVER. Unfortunately, due to spending a few extra seconds in TROAC1 praising Martyn, geeking over his gear and chatting to Paul Margree by the time Lee started in TROAC2 the room was already packed and there was no way we were getting anywhere near.  We instead leaned against the wall – the coolness of the brick recalibrating my brain directly via bald spot – and took in the rumble of Stokoe’s war machines from there.  Lee’s set was a fierce raging fire and (as far as I could tell from where we were) featured no build up but opened the door directly onto a conflagration.  Consuming, as ever.

On the way back to SAGE Ben thought out loud: “That’s the first scuzzy noise gig I’ve been to!” I reminded him that he’d been to Wharf Chambers in Leeds and seen a bill that had included, amongst others, me as MIDWICH and Paul Watson’s BBBLOOD.  “No,” Ben corrected me, “truly scuzzy.”

The evening’s entertainment began with SABOTEUSE, one of the most anticipated (by me) sets of the festival. This duo of JOINCEY and ANDY JARVIS (individually, together and in collaboration with others responsible for scores of projects and innumerable recordings) has existed on and off for years but bubbled to prominence in 2018 due to a terrific album, X, released by the impeccable CROW VERSUS CROW.  On the strength of this (I’m assuming) they scored the invite and committed to playing live for the first time in a decade.  Beefed up by the presence of JIM (“From STOKE,” Joincey tells me, “a lovely man.”) on bass guitar, Joincey read, sang and incanted from a sheaf of writing on a stand, or haltingly from his phone, whilst Andy, lit red, dealt electronics and laptop.  Turns were taken on the drum kit behind.  Chunks of X were recreated along with tracks of uncertain provenance.  The genius of this act is that it contains all the elements of what we’d happily define as music – lyrics sung, instruments played and all that – but it is put together in a manner orthogonal to our usual understanding of the exercise.  It is as exuberant as a campfire, as unsettling as the dark woods beyond.  But it isn’t possible to be specific, it defeats metaphor.  To borrow a line from ‘The Umbrella’, my favourite track from X, all I can do is ‘point brolly at content’.

As Ben and I settled ourselves on the floor of the NRFH in front of the speakers for the MARLO EGGPLANT show, Marlo came over to chat and warn us – health and safety – that she would be using some percussive noises and that we should consider our hearing. We looked up at her ruefully – too late, comrade, too late.  Again, I had no idea what to expect and had been wrong-footed earlier when we bumped into her on the concourse and she had joked that the two bottles of diet coke her partner Martin was holding were for her act.  I took this entirely at face value as I have seen her use a coffee machine as a sound source before, handing out cups to the audience as part of the gig.  All noise is music, all action is performance, eh?  Anyway, no, what we got was a torrent – a rush of breath, voice, contact mics rubbed on clothing – filtered and focussed into channels that scoured everything clean.  There is an honesty – almost to the point of emotional rawness – in Marlo’s recordings and live work that make them absolutely compelling.  Can noise, without lyrical content, be confessional?  At the end, the whooping and calls for ‘more’ you heard were from Ben.  He offered his verdict: “Best thing yet.”

Much as I’d been enjoying all the, y’know, ‘thinking’ so far during the day I have to admit it was a base joy to see CERAMIC HOBS cut through it all with some rock and roll. I have, of course, seen them many times over the years (including on their allegedly final tour some time ago) and written a fair bit about them too so I’m not going to bang on.  Suffice to say they were on fire.  I was reminded, when not hypnotised by his shirtless paunch, that Simon has one of the great voices.  His range – from power electronics screech to guttural, bass rumble – is unique.  They were tight as fuck, apart from when they were a shambles.  They played ‘Shaolin Master’ and Simon joked about them being a heritage act.  They are a disgrace, and a treasure.  Long may they reign.

LEA BERTUCCI’s set topped a faultless run of rolling highlights. I wish I could be more informative about how it was made – there was a saxophone, effects, more – but I spent the majority with my head bowed or my eyes raised to the ceiling.  It was meditative, not always comfortable.  LB’s tones were subtly layered but as robust as the engineering spanning the Tyne and unlocked something profound and primal.  Ben and I both commented on how close to tears it had brought us.  The staging, in particular the lighting, was remarkable.  The NRFH was in near perfect darkness, illuminated by one source bouncing off a reflective panel on the back of LB’s jacket onto the walls and ceiling behind.  Thus the light moved with her and only with her.  It cast a delicate pattern – like cigarette smoke in a still room, like a computer model of a funnel web spider’s lair, like filigree silver jewellery possessed of an alien symmetry.

By this time both Ben and I were both physically and mentally near capacity and I was self-medicating with liquorice allsorts. We managed ten minutes of OTOMO YOSHIHIDE.  It was clearly going to be great fun but as he started harsh, and as we’d been pinned against the wall by harsh that afternoon, we figured we could kick back guilt free downstairs and chat until Ben had to split.  Sad goodbyes were said, promises made and I descended for the last time into SAGE TWO and positioned myself front right for the headliners.

75 DOLLAR BILL were, as expected, an absolute delight. Emitting a low-key charisma as welcome as the beam from a lighthouse on a foggy night they immediately settled into the kind of irresistible psych-groove that everyone in the room instinctively knew that they just needed.  What a great band.  May I echo the sentiments of whippersnapper Matt Fifield here though?  This act are clearly for dancing to – at the very least some bending from the waist or nodding of the head in a vaguely rhythmic way should be expected.  Thus could those intent on standing motionless in arms-folded, chin-stroking appreciation just step back a few feet to let the younger members of the congregation shake it?  Thank you.  Anyway, I stood far too close to the speakers and managed about 25 minutes of waist-bending and head-nodding until my labyrinthitis made itself felt in a sudden, unpleasant and insistent manner and I had no choice but to roll down the hill to the Swing Bridge and back to the hotel.

SUNDAY

Suddenly I was up, washed and at pace through Quayside Market looking for appropriate breakfast on my way to see CHOW MWNG and ANDY WOOD at 11am.  The show was taking place in ‘Hospitality Pod 3’ (punk rock, eh?) at SAGE, also the venue for DAVID HOWCROFT’s NWWMAA exhibition, and promised to be a bit of a love-in.  Bear with me whilst I unpack some small-worldism.  CHOW MWNG is Ash Cooke, one of a number of Welsh musicians that have come to my attention this year via the magic of twitter and the scene-gathering DUKES OF SCUBA zine.  Andy Wood is the editor of the essential TQ zine, for which Ash has also contributed cover art and a giveaway CDr.  David Howcroft runs N-AUT (‘no-audience underground tapes’), an archive of bootlegged live shows, recorded in the North East and distributed on tape for nowt.  All have been influenced, I am humbled to say, by my concept of the ‘no-audience underground’ and have taken it in their own directions.  Today our paths cross.  Attempting to gather my wits, I joined the select bunch of attendees perusing the NWWMAA – Nurse With Wound Mail Art Action – exhibits.

At last year’s festival David recorded the headline set by Nurse With Wound.  He then sent duplicates on tape to people he thought might be interested in a mail art project with an invitation to make it unplayable, going so far as to include matches and an envelope in which you could return the remains.  I was one of the recipients and spent a happy afternoon gluing drawing pins – point out – to each surface of the cassette (and myself to the kitchen table) in homage to the similarly decorated doll on the cover of the NWW compilation Paranoia in Hi-Fi.  Not only was it unplayable, you could barely pick it up so I pulled out most of the tape to make a bed for it and sent it back as requested.  A gratifying number of people did the same and the hospitality pod was decorated with a number of these inhospitable scorchings and refigurings.  Great fun, more please.

Before CW/AW kicked off we were treated to a one minute long piece from DH in which he referenced a spat he’d got into as a result of performing as ‘Morrison Blockader’ (see N-Aut tape #41 for a recording).  This involved unspooling a cassette tape over a noise background and finished with the incantation/call to arms “I WILL make a point of being pointless!”  A moment of dada played with an absolutely straight face, as it should be.  I began to clock that David, with his exhibition space, invited performers and t-shirts for sale, was cannily running his own micro-festival within the bosom of TUSK.  More power to him.

 

Feeling warmed up but not yet awake, I looked at the toys and noise generating ephemera on the table in front CW/AW in much the same way Jonathan Pryce looked at the tray of instruments Michael Palin was choosing from in that final scene of Brazil.  “A pox on those that schedule noise shows at 11am on a Sunday,” I thought, a sentiment soon to be shared by the ruffled pensioners attempting to enjoy brunch on the concourse below.  Ah, but I was won over instantly by the joy with which these chaps went at it, reciting C’s poetry in a back and forth, meaning skittering all over the place, crushing heads with angular, heroically daft play noise and wailing, squalling racket.  It did for my fucking head but, y’know, in a good way.  Andy had us all downstairs immediately afterwards for a group photo so our bewilderment was captured for the ages.  Expect to see that in an upcoming issue of TQ.

 

Right then, readers, how many of you have been politely stopped on the way into a venue and asked if you have serious allergies because the following performance may include the burning of nuts?  Well, it was a first for me.  Int TUSK grand?  Luckily, I have no such sensitivities so I got myself within sniffing distance of ADAM BOHMAN & LEE PATTERSON and what a joy it was to witness, whiff of smoke and all.  A natural pairing – two artists working on a ‘domestic’ scale, exploring the sonic possibilities of ‘prepared’ small objects but with subtly different working methods that complemented each other perfectly.  AB gave the impression that what we were seeing was a slice of his research cataloguing every small to medium sized object according to how it sounded when bowed with a spring and contact mic attached and was working hard on an appendix in which these results could be compared to those of LP’s.  For his part, and I might have been fooled here by the obvious crescendo and finale, LP’s contribution had more of a narrative thread to it.  His springs, wine glasses of water frothing with alka selzer, short lengths of spinning chain, flaming nuts and so on seemed to be telling a story, one in an arcane language that we could just about follow the gist of by concentrating on gesture and nuance.  The epic conclusion was signalled by the Geiger-counter fizz of amplified popping candy.  Thrilling.  Respect to the very impressive SAGE sound system and staff too for presenting this with such clarity and definition.

There then followed what was basically an extended lunch break during which I took in the entertaining talk with Joincey and Ceramic Hobs, 33 YEARS AT THE BOTTOM END OF SHOWBUSINESS, which veered from celebratory (praising a DIY scene that had helped sustain their existence), to tragic (remembering former band members now passed away) to comic (tales of awful shows) as a bottle of wine was passed around.  Predictably it descended into shambolic chaos as the volume of the accompanying video was ramped up and an impromptu performance of the infamous song ‘Raven’ ended matters.  As I said earlier: a disgrace and a treasure.

At a few minutes to 3pm I found myself talking again about favourite Prince albums because none other than ROBERT RIDLEY-SHACKLETON was using my favourite, Parade, as his pre-set warm up music.  Bold move, wholly justified.  RRS’s art and music maps an all-encompassing and unique view of the world.  This is not the solipsistic intensity of harsh noise, however, what we get are endless attempts – sometimes angry, mainly comic and bewildered – to find an explanation as to why his version of reality, in which he is a star – the Cardboard Prince, jars so gratingly with that apparently perceived by others. His tools are the lowest-fi – baby toys, plastic boxes, preset rhythms, scribble, masking tape and, of course, card – but those fans that buy into it treat releases as talismans with meanings to be decoded.  In its own way it’s as coherent and consistent a project as Lee Stokoe’s Culver, albeit it poles apart aesthetically.  I speak as one of those fans, I believe in the Cardboard Prince and have championed him on this blog over the course of thousands of words.  I was giddy, star-struck.  Stood with fewer than 20 people in HOSPITALITY POD 2 (so punk!), with a photo of Beverley Knight on the wall behind us, this was one of the most exciting moment of the weekend.

The actual one-man show delighted the uninitiated and was a vindication for those in the know: hilarious, unsettling, never less than discombobulating.  As so much of it was (carefully planned, exquisitely performed) nonsense carried by RRS’s charisma and persona it doesn’t make much sense to describe it but a couple of moments must be noted.  Firstly, when he asked for requests and the theme tune to ‘Home and Away’ was suggested his looks to the women doing the sound for a prompt at the beginning of each line showed a natural comic timing that was breath-taking.  Secondly, when he offered to do a spin for a pound and David Howcroft offered a tenner there began a running gag in which RRS sold his moves and David stoically refused to settle for any less than what he’d paid for.  Everyone bought into the joke, it was wonderful.  If you are reading this Robbie, it was a pleasure to meet you at last.

As the stragglers, including the charming ALI ROBERTSON who took the opportunity to introduce himself – amazingly we’d never officially met before, reluctantly left Shack’s pod, the court of the Cardboard Prince, we heard something tuskular drifting up from the concourse and stopped to hang over the balcony.  Below us was an orchestra of young people, not tuning up as I first thought, but attempting some kind of improv or high-modernist performance.  I was as delighted and bewildered as I imagine some of the parents were in the audience.  I later found out these were players from the Sage YOUNG MUSICIANS PROGRAMME led that day by CHRIS SHARKEY and, to quote Chris, the were exploring the ideas of “Keiji Haino, John Cage, Elaine Radique, Pierre Shaeffer, Daphne Oram, Derek Bailey and more…”  Any show featuring both guitar jack buzz and bassoon is almost bound to be inspiring.

After taking it all in I decided to meander back to the hotel and press my bowtie in readiness for the evening session.  I showered, changed and luxuriated in the simple but normally unobtainable pleasure of being free of goddamn responsibility for one fucking minute.  Refreshed, I walked along Quayside to the Millenium Bridge as dusk fell and joined dozens of others taking pictures of water, engineering, sky.  It was almost a shame to return to Sage, so glorious was the evening:

Not long after this the wristbanded hoi polloi of TUSK were afforded an unprecedented respectability – smiling ushers beckoned us into the grandeur of SAGE ONE.  It is a remarkable venue (capacity of 1700, perfect acoustics) and due to seats being unreserved there was plenty of space at the front.  I plonked myself next to Matt Fifield three or four rows from the stage and the lights went down for HAMEED BROTHERS QAWWAL AND PARTY.  Six men in white robes sat cross-legged and sang accompanied by harmonium, tabla, dholak and clapping.  To my shame, I know nothing of the language and very little about the music and its religious context.  However, remaining unmoved was impossible.  Every aspect of the sound, every hand gesture, was celebratory, defiantly and exuberantly devotional.

I do not believe in god but I am not immune to the transcendent.  As the set took me away I started to think about how lucky I am.  Sure, I’ve had it rough at times: problems with money, work, a tragi-comic disastrous first marriage I rarely mention.  I’ve done things I’m not proud of and have been hurt in turn.  I’ve suffered years of debilitating mental illness.  People close to me have died.  Yet here I am.  I’m raising Thomas, a kind, bright, beautiful five year old boy with Anne, the most wonderful partner I could hope for (seriously, she’s well above my league).  We’re tired but we’re making a living and keeping on top of the important things.  Home life is great.  Away from the family, I’m privileged to have an astounding circle of friends, some of whom were in the auditorium sharing this very moment, and to be part of a creative scene that is so rich, fulfilling and entertainingly bizarre. “All is love, all is love” I muttered in time to the chorus of ‘Allah Hoo’.  As the set came to a close I returned from this out of body experience to find my corporeal form on its feet, applauding loudly, beard wet with tears.

Next, of course, was TERRY RILEY & GYAN RILEY, for whom I moved to the front row (and why wouldn’t you want to be 10 feet from the legendary headline act with an unobstructed view if you had the chance?).  Now, I’ve heard/seen some pretty disparaging opinions about this show, both carping on the concourse and later in Uncle Mark’s account over at IDWAL FISHER, but I enjoyed it having been primed by two things.  Firstly, the previous set had opened me up like sunlight on a dandelion and secondly, a well-timed phone call from my son.

Earlier, whilst enjoying the late afternoon peace in my hotel room I‘d recorded a 30 second video of the stuffed toy chameleon I’d bought as a gift ‘saying’ that he was looking forward to meeting Thomas and having adventures with his other animal toys and sent it to him via Anne’s phone.  Soppy, eh?  Ach, guilty as charged.  Later, grooving on the gathering crescendo of LEA BERTUCCI’s DOUBLE BASS CROSSFADE my phone rang and I had to run downstairs to find a nook quiet enough to take the call.  It was Thomas asking about the chameleon, saying that he missed me and wishing me and my friends good night.  Suffice to say I was particularly vulnerable to anything to do with father/son bonding after that.  There were lows, I admit, for example the second track – a virtuoso solo piano piece – was so schmaltzy that it made my teeth itch but the highlights were beautiful.  The connection between senior and junior was joyful and transparent and led to occasional sublime moments.  Terry surprised us with some floopy burbles from a synth hidden atop the piano and took another break from the grand to sculpt the atmosphere with the mournful, irresistible tone of a melodica.  Leaving the hall buzzing I saw LEE ETHERINGTON, TUSK Head Honcho, and rushed over to tap his shoulder and offer my congratulations.

When relaxing that afternoon I’d decided that anything after the Rileys would be a bonus but couldn’t help getting a bit fizzy at the prospect of DALE CORNISH being up next.  Back in the familiar confines of SAGE TWO the lighting splintered off a staging of cut flowers and mirror balls and Dale’s lemon yellow top became a neon beacon – a wry, unwitting satire on health and safety.  His first track, built almost entirely of bass, tested both the PA system and my labyrinthitis to their limits.  Happily, the former passed with ease.  Sadly, the latter was an immediate issue.  My ill advised head bobbing didn’t help matters and I soon had to retire hurt, leaving the hall after about 20 minutes.  Shame, as I was loving it.

And that was me done, broken.  The five minutes I saw of SARAH DAVACHI were beautiful but my lack of patience by then was comical.  I was also apparently in the crowd for the beginning of the KONSTRUCT & OTOMO YOSHIHIDE set (there were photos on my phone) but I literally don’t remember a thing about it.

It’s amazing that I didn’t fall into the river on the way back to the hotel.

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At 4am on Monday morning I woke with nasty stomach cramps and thought “oh god!  The baby is coming!” but luckily, despite looking it, I was not pregnant.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have chased my diabetes medication with half a bag of liquorice allsorts gone midnight.  Lesson learned, I drifted until it was time to rise, pack and mooch up the hill for the train home.  I spent the journey tweeting pictures and mulling it all over.  Nothing will beat hanging with Miguel in 2016, of course, and performing the final midwich show in 2017 was an experience I hope never to forget, but those moments aside 2018 has to be my best TUSK yet.  Thank you to all involved – can’t wait to see you next year.

you thought festival season was over. you wrong! sheffield’s singing knives present a host of hot lickin’ cockles.

November 27, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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F.Ampism

Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Pirecy

Sippy Cup

Giblet Gusset

Historically Fucked

Katz Mulk

Posset

Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison

Beards and gals at a loose end on Saturday 2nd December are invited to hop the train, hitch a lift or bundle into a rusty van to attend Singing Knives clumper clam-bake of monumental proportions.

A batch of RFM favourites huddle together in a haughty scout hut to honk and bray their way through a mist of all day-drinking and goon-hatching.

Where?   Regather, Sheffield, 57-59 Club Garden Road, S11 8BR

When?  Saturday 2nd December

Like…I mean what time?  Doors open at 3:30pm, and the laffs start at 4pm

How much?  £5  Not even a quid a band.

fampism live

 F.Ampism

“A jungle lushness drips through the recent work of Mr F Ampism. Thick and green, waxy and water-resistant each micro-collage is rich beyond our feeble senses; ethnic percussive loops wobbly like belly fat, environmental recordings gurgle as algae-thick rivers, electronic squirts gush tessellated digital foof. It’s a sound you can smell and that smell is pregnant and full.”  RFM

LP just out on the ace Ikuisuus label of Finland, but of course you know that already.

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Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

“Dylan Nyoukis’ work exists on the fringe of contemporary avant garde art and underground DIY insurrection. As a leading light in the UK’s tape/CD-R scene, Nyoukis has long functioned as a rallying point for artists working to clear a space for original, non-idiomatic sound and feral performance modes.” Ubuweb

Kieron is in Spoils & Relics yeah and probably carries a blade.  What more do you want eh?

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Sippy Cup

A two person group; both ying to each other’s yang.  Flim to their flam.  Watch ‘em empty a box of clogs on a table and make the damn things dance.  Total introversion, rattle, squark and dog toys.  Leading lights, oof-architects Kate Armitage & THF Drenching may be involved.

Giblet Gusset

A new name on me but a quick youtube search fessed up a poorly lit scene of folk in masks moaning and rolling cigs.  Sudden peaks of pure chuddering power swept through the scene (by now faintly blue) to punctuate the mossy fiffle and ripe broad cheer.

historically fucked
Historically Fucked

“A four way entanglement. It is trying to make short songs at-once but also to destroy them then too. It is about playing and laughing at playing, and it is about not doing either of those things sometimes. Sometimes it is to do with talking, howling or grunting, and sometimes it is to do with hitting and rubbing. It has to do with some of the four people who do it, who each share the same duties, and whose names in sequence are Otto Willberg, David Birchall, Greta Buitkuté and Alecs Pierce and who would like to be remembered by them, so that when they have finished doing this thing, their names carry on doing other things.” Anon

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Katz Mulk

“A three piece experimental group based in Manchester made up of Ben Morris, Ben Knight & Andrea Kearney. Ben Knight is a singer, researcher and social worker. He also plays in Human Heads and publishes the Dancehall journal with Hannah Ellul. Ben Morris is a Musician and artist. He records solo as Lost Wax and is in the long running duo Chora. Andrea Kearney is a dancer and graphic designer.”  Singing Knives

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Posset

“From identifiable vox chop-up to finely-ground tape slurry, with the occasional non-larynx instrument wheeze to brighten the corners.” We Need No Swords

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Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

“Joincey is the peripatetic originator of a multitude of solo projects and the member of more bands that if printed here, would make this paragraph seriously unmanageable […] Acrid Lactations are Stuart Arnot and Susan Fitzpatrick […] who one day had Joincey turn up whereupon they made some tea and recorded some songs. Twelve of them. Each one having a different resonance each of them giving me that esemplastic laminal improv feel. Whilst listening I wrote: the Stokie Shaman, gut ache improv, Sun Ra skronk, stories told by someone pretending to be a witch, silence, taut Hitchcock-ian soundtracks, spoken word question and answer sessions…” Uncle Idwal Fisher

poot and harrison
Luke Poot & Duncan Harrison

Sheffield-based Strepsils abuser. Collaborations with the likes of Adam Bohman, Part Wild Horses Mane on Both Sides, Blue Yodel, Ben Knight, Acrid Lactations, Chastity Potatoe, and Phil Minton’s gang of toughs. ‘I just listened to a bit that sounded like a pig pushing weights with a scotch egg in its gob.’ – Stuart Arnot

“Duncan Harrison hails from Brighton and his multi-pronged activities make him a man of diverse artistic peers, including TUSK favourites Ali Robertson, Pascal Nichols and many more. Duncan throws himself at sound poetry, tape use and abuse, electroacoustic improv and often more conceptual approaches. The trajectory of his sets is impossible to predict and can provoke as much aesthetic distaste and downright annoyance as they can pleasure, perhaps depending on how wide your mind is.” Tusk Festival

 

F.Ampism

Dylan Nyoukis / Kieron Piercy

Historically Fucked

Katz Mulk

Giblet Gusset

Posset

Sippy Cup

Luke Poot / Duncan Harrison

Acrid Lactations & Jointhee

-ooOOoo-

radiofreemidwich goes to tusk festival 2016

October 23, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, musings, new music, no audience underground | 8 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2016, Sage Gateshead, October 14 – 16

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Hmmm… ‘Long, Authoritative List Of Everything That Happened’? Nah, not really my style. How about ‘Epic Musing On Life, Music And What It All Means’? Oof, maybe later.

Let’s just start with the car.

Dan(iel Thomas – well known in this parish) kindly agreed to drive me, Sarah and Lisa to our digs in Newcastle. Here we are setting off:

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Dan looking handsome, a vision in stubble, Sarah in holiday mode, Lisa appalled at Sarah’s story about someone whose retina fell out and me giving it some cheek. What could go wrong, eh? Well, Dan’s back is crook and went into spasm on the A19. At one point I had to shift gears for him because he couldn’t reach down to the stick. Given that I only hold a license to drive an automatic this was a fraught moment that I had to be talked through. Still, my slight embarrassment was as nothing to the agony Dan was clearly suffering. After gliding into some grim services so Dan could walk it off, Sarah drove the rest of the way.

Luckily, when we arrived a retinue of servants rushed to carry Dan into the fluffy opulence of Malmaison and I was roughly directed to Premier Inn, where I would be KEEPING IT REAL. As I trundled the wheelie case containing my band and my clothes along Quayside the air started to crackle. I looked up and saw – fuck me! – the trio of Mike ‘Xazzaz’ Simpson, Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and MIGUEL ‘SKULL MASK’ PEREZ walking towards me (all in black, natch).

Is this Rob? This is Rob!

Miguel said, lunging in for the bear hug.  Mike, who refuses to be photographed despite being a strikingly handsome guy, helpfully took this soon-to-be-iconic picture. Left to right: Miguel, me, Lee.  Tyne Bridge in the background.  Cool, eh?

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I’ve already written something about how important Miguel’s visit is to me and will return to the theme later so for now I’ll keep to the narrative.  Suffice to say I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone so pleased to be somewhere.  The huddle broke up so Miguel could soundcheck and I could settle into my (actually very pleasant) hotel room.

Soon I was trotting back over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead and up the fuckloads of steps you need to climb to get to Sage:

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My feelings about Sage were fluid and contradictory.  On some levels it is profoundly impressive – an arts-for-all enterprise on a huge scale, proudly publicly funded, run by friendly and enthusiastic staff – but at other times it felt like a vast airport lounge from a Ballardian near-future dystopia.  From across the river it looks like a reclining figure from the title sequence of a cheapo James Bond knock-off (‘Silverfinger’?), on the inside it’s a Duplo play set, lit in sugary, boiled sweet colours.  For a structure so enormous it has little heft.  I could easily imagine the giant struts (one is cutting across the corner of the first picture below) hauling back the whole silver facade on a sunny day, like opening a roll-top bread-bin.  I did get pretty comfortable (institutionalised?) over the three days but there was definitely culture shock to contend with.

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An example: as I entered Hall 2, the main TUSK venue (middle picture above), for the first time on Friday an usher used a torch to show me down the stairs.  The room was dark aside from the stage lights illuminating the band currently playing.  Oh, I thought, it’s going to be like that is it?  Theatre.

Feeling discombobulated and out of my element I leaned myself up against a tousle-haired giant and enjoyed the crunktronik drama of Bad@Maths.  When the house lights went up at the end of their set I realised I was clutching onto:

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…Joe ‘Posset’ Murray – my RFM comrade-in-arms!  Always a delight to be in his company, likewise:

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yol!  Another who fears photography will remove biopsy snippets from his soul but I was NOT TO BE DENIED.  We soon became festival buds and hung out throughout proceedings.  Now though, I was so excited about seeing Miguel play that all I could do was babble and take photos of my new boots.  I’m not joking:

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[Editor’s note: at this point, after I’ve started introducing people but before I start rhapsodising about Skull Mask etc., I’m going to apologise in advance for not mentioning everyone I spoke to. This is partly because my notes are sketchy (and my memory worse) but mainly because I’m uncomfortable assigning some conversations to this ‘highlights package’ and some not. The social aspect of this trip was a thrill – from meeting people for the first time, to catching up with rarely seen friends, to chewing the fat with the regular crowd but outside of our normal context. It was all very inspiring. In short: if we talked, rest assured that I enjoyed our conversation and want to talk to you again.  Likewise I’m not busting a gut to account for every band, nor provide comprehensive links and tags – that isn’t the purpose of the exercise.  A quick net search should fill in any gaps.  There will be one Get Carter joke.]

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Next up it was Miguel Perez, playing as Skull Mask (apologies for crappy picture, I still had the flash on my camera from the boot pics and once he got started I didn’t think to try again). This was what I was here to see and his set – just man and guitar – was astounding. Flamenco flourishes, desert folk, improv spikiness and metal hammering flowed, pressed and burst like a time-lapse film of jungle flowers opening, like lava flow, like clouds of starlings at dusk, like liquid mercury. Miguel is one of the most technically adept guitarists I have ever seen but all that virtuosity is in service of one thing: the truth. To say the music of Skull Mask is heartfelt or sincere is to understate the raw beauty of what it reveals: a soul. Miguel’s soul.

Stood at the front I found myself having an out of body experience. Part of me was enjoying it on an absolutely visceral level, unwaveringly engaged, but another part of me was floating above thinking about what the experience meant. I’ve had a hard time with music this year. I’ve not listened to much and have been in denial about how burnt out I’d got keeping this blog afloat whilst juggling the demands of ‘real life’. I’d been hoping that this event would prove to be a big purge and cleanse and that I’d be returned to music rinsed clean and ready to GO. That didn’t happen, but something better did.

Watching the performance unfold, I started thinking about how beautiful life can be despite, sometimes because of, how hard it can be.  I thought about the miraculous combination of factors – hard work, friendship, sheer bloody luck – that led to us all being in this room at this time.  A strange, accepting calm enveloped me whilst at the same time the more present, grounded part of me was yelling (internally – I do have some control):

HOLY FUCKING CHRIST!! MIGUEL IS SAT RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF ME PLAYING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THAT FUCKING GUITAR!!  FUCK!!!

At the end of the set I felt myself tearing up.

Outside, shortly after, Miguel was holding court talking ten-to-the-dozen.  I’ve never seen anyone more stoked – his heart must have been beating like a sparrow’s.  He explained his philosophy of life, about living in the moment but appreciating the steps that have brought you to it, about the Mexican relationship with the dead, about the music he had just played.  I couldn’t keep up – my mind had been blown – but luckily it didn’t matter that I couldn’t say anything, as Miguel, beer can in hand, couldn’t quiet down.  And why the hell should he?  It had been a triumph.

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A short time later I found myself stood next to Miguel watching Guttersnipe (how wonderful to be able to type that sentence).  I had predicted that their set would be amongst the most talked about at TUSK and they certainly left the crowd open mouthed, wide eyed, ears ringing.  I feel like I could write reams about this band, scribble profane codices, letterpress manifestos, paint placards to be carried in protest or celebration but when I actually sit down to type… it’s confounding.  The strength of Gretchen’s personality – gentle, thoughtful, keenly intelligent, enabled by a seemingly (to this fat, middle aged man) unbounded energy explodes on stage into a writhing conduit for, what?  Rage?  Despair?  Whatever it is, it feels like unmediated access to the same rooms that Miguel opened doors to.  Likewise, Rob’s unassuming, cheerful manner translates into the most glorious, life-affirming, pushing-a-shopping-trolley-down-the-concrete-stairs-of-a-car-park, free-punk drumming I’ve ever heard.  Afterwards, Paul Margree, of the We Need No Swords blog, tried to praise his technique and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, Rob disagreed:

My technique is shit, there is just a lot of it, and fast.

Love it.  This pair are unique, the band are important and you have to check them out.

Wandering in a daze after this I was collared by the very lovely Jen Parry who wanted to show me the exhibition of Matching Head artwork that she had put together, which was hidden under a staircase around the corner from the main entrances to Hall 2:

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I really dug this and thought Jen had captured the vibe of Lee’s cut-and-paste aesthetic very cleverly.  The exhibit was interactive in that you could make yourself comfortable and listen to Matching Head releases on the tape recorders provided.  On the leather sofa (bottom picture) there was a hammer (and some goggles – health and safety!) which I assumed was also there for punters so I used it to whale on some of the tapes and tape cases that were artfully scattered about.  It seemed appropriate at the time, though I’ve noticed a disapproving tweet from Andy Wood about the smashed cases since.  In my defence the artist was there egging me on and taking photos of me doing it!  My apologies if I got the art wrong – difficult to tell nowadays <winking emoji>…

About this time I realised I was shot for the day and silently drifted away.  Back at the hotel I half-watched Dredd on Film4 whilst sorting out stuff for the next day’s gig.  In my pants.

—ooOoo—

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On Saturday I woke from from the dream-free sleep of the righteous and padded downstairs to gorge on obscene amounts of breakfast in a room with a view of the underside of Tyne Bridge.  Glorious.  As I was tucking into my second plateful, I noticed that I had been name checked by Dawn Bothwell in the introduction to the festival programme.  Blimey!  I nearly spat out my bubble and squeak.  It all added to a cheerful, woozy calm, a kind of blown-out relaxation that I hadn’t felt since sitting on Low Newton beach in Northumberland with my wife Anne and son Thomas back in May:

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Aside from feeling sheepish about instigating a complicated, 6-way conversation about how we were all getting there (the more tired I am the more insistent I am about knowing WHAT HAPPENS NEXT), I was also relaxed about performing.  My band was packed (see picture above, midwich fits in a rucksack), I was sweet smelling, fully medicated and my cheek pouches were bulging with spare breakfast.  LET’S GO!

Well, let’s all see Wolfgang Voigt first.  This involved sitting in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, feeling like I was in a dream version of a school assembly, with the headmaster replaced by an anonymous, unannounced middle-aged man giving a wordless, non-performance whilst illuminated by his laptop screen.  The sound – an ambient, computer-musicish drone, augmented by airy and/or brittle vibes familiar to those who know his work as, say, Gas – was perfectly lovely but I doubt it would have held my attention without Rachel Lancaster’s terrific visuals.

Rachel’s film was perfectly measured to draw out the best in the music.  We were reminded that there is nothing more sublimely beautiful than smoke rising in still air (‘Patrons are requested to smoke only on the right hand side of the auditorium’ – remember that?), unless the smoke is thick enough to resemble glaciers calving, or liquids of different densities spiralling into each other, or the pearlescent quality of crocodile scales as the creature lies semi-submerged and glistening…

Right then, NOW let’s go.

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‘Dark Tusk’ was set up by Lee Stokoe as a fringe event to help make the most of Miguel’s visit.  Here’s the blurb:

With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…

Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.

NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.

Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.

Plus sound installation by MP Wood.

2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.

Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.

The Soundroom

Cool, eh?  I love a matinee performance, me.  Miguel, yol and I met up with Jamie (if you don’t know his recordings as ‘Wrest’ you should check them out immediately) and his pal Steve who had kindly offered to drive us to the venue from Sage.  Miguel spent the journey telling us about how he had fended off two shitfaced Glaswegians in the hotel bar the night before.  They had offered him drugs (‘the hardest in Glasgow!’) in full view of two coppers who also happened to be there.  He wanted no part of it, fearing he was being set up, but Jamie assured him:

Nah, that kind of thing just happens around here…

…and expanded on similar topics whilst Steve forlornly tried to get him to concentrate on the journey and offer directions.  Never mind, we got there.

The Soundroom is a community centre/rehearsal space/gig venue sat in isolation in Gateshead.  I suspect most of us scuzzball, dog-eared, D.I.Y., no-audience underground types found it much easier to breath there than in the airy atrium of Sage and it is well equipped with a very decent PA.

Turn out was good, including – fuck me! – is that…

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…erstwhile RFM colleague, Discogs obsessive and near-hermit Scott McKeating?  Yes, it is!  Just one of many hands from the pantheon of the righteous I shook during proceedings.  You know who you are.

Once underway, the gig proved a joy.  First up was Neck vs Throat, the duo of Miguel and yol, playing with the lights on for full kid’s-birthday-party-at-local-church-hall effect:

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I needn’t say too much about this one as, amazingly, a video exists of the performance – filmed by Pete Cann (who, being an absolute darling, had come up from Leeds just for the afternoon) on his ‘phone.  Sound quality is hardly crystal but fuck that – it’s a document.

What truly boggled the noggin was how fluid and natural the partnership appeared.  Prior to that very afternoon the project had only existed as a transatlantic file swap.  Now it felt like a psychic connection, the product of long hours of rehearsal.  Miguel’s fingers-in-the-soundhole grappling, like a wheelbarrow of gravel being dropped into molasses, perfectly in sync with yol’s clattering, guttural retching and bleakly comic exhortations.

Next was Xazzaz and Mike treated us to the best set-that-wasn’t-Skull-Mask of the weekend.  As has already been noted, he forbids photography so all I have is this snap of his set-up, snatched prior to the show beginning:

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Mike used two (maybe three?) guitars and three (maybe four? Five?) amplifiers to create a drone/roar of ego-obliterating purity and intensity.  All the Xazzaz recordings I’ve heard have been exceptional but actually being there as it unfolds live was a shortcut to… I dunno?  Enlightenment?  For something as heavy as watching a gigantic dinosaur thrash its last and slowly sink into a tar pit it was a strangely life-affirming, awe-inspiring experience.  North-Eastern drone-metal of this quality is pretty much my favourite thing in all the world.  Fucking hell, I thought, I’ve got to follow that…

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…and so it came to pass.  I thanked all who were there and those involved in setting it up, had a quick word about the two tracks I was about to play – one inspired by a dismissal of our music by Miguel’s daughter, one a version of my track from a split CD-r I shared with Miguel, dedicated the set to him and… faded up a recording of my son snoring.  The rest was thick, chewy, throbbing drone at pleasingly high volume that would have gone entirely to plan if I could have stopped myself fiddling with the cut-off.  Anyway, it seemed to go down well and I was rubbery with relief once all was packed away.  Enjoyed the opportunity to bounce about on my seat too.

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Finally then: Culver and La Mancha Del Pecado.  Another unique opportunity to see a transatlantic tape-swap project in the flesh and this time the one that kicked it all off.  Miguel later told me that, like so many of us who end up in noise, he found himself looking for something without knowing exactly what that something was.  He discovered Skullflower, read up about it, saw Culver mentioned, found a rip of a CD-r in a shady spot on the internet, listened to it and heard the contents of his own head reflected back at him.  Soon they were collaborating on a series of beautifully sustained, utterly nihilistic, implacably menacing ‘horror drones’ and the rest is willpower and logistics.  This set was an absolute masterclass.

…and it wasn’t even 5pm.

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I have to admit that the evening programme back at Sage was something of a blur after that.  My highlights were the early doors sets from Usurper (above above) and Ashtray Navigations (above).

Surprising myself, I realised that this was the first time I had seen Ali and Malcy go at it live despite having heard many of their releases and eyeballing numerous zines and comics over the years (indeed, one of my collages can be found in Giant Tank Offline #4).  My usual reaction to their work – amused bewilderment – was swept away by a far more concrete admiration for the Dada lunacy of the performance.

For example: crouched under a table, each took a turn deliberately and repeatedly banging their head as if trying to get up and forgetting the obstacle above them.  I thought that the yellow objects taped to their heads were something like washing-up sponges to soften the blow but was later informed by Stuart Arnot (of Acrid Lactations, who was roped in to their gig at the last minute) that it was butter and that the stink in their hair afterwards was rank.  Idiocy or commitment to the art?  Or both?  Oh, you decide.

After the first few minutes of Ashtray Navigations starting, Miguel, who had been leaning on the stage, came over to shout in my ear…

Now I know why everyone loves them!

…and I had to grin because he was right: it was, from the off, a performance full of heart that encouraged a reciprocal response from an eager, affectionate crowd.  Phil pulled out one heart-stoppingly preposterous solo after another whilst Mel – resplendent in glittered Converse – held down the electronics and laughed at the site of Gretchen Guttersnipe and RFM’s own marlo eggplant wigging out front and centre.  Much as I enjoyed the bubbletroniks and nostril-flaring bombast I think my favourite track was a lengthy ambient piece halfway through during which Phil folded himself up and sat on the floor.  It was spacious and woozy but had a crisp brittleness to it that kept it fresh and engaging throughout.  Have I heard this before?  Probably, but I couldn’t name it.  Shameful, I know, considering my placing in the AshNav fan club.  What can I say?  I’m a big man, but I’m out of shape.

The evening culminated with me, Dan, Lisa and Sarah reconvening and rolling up to my second fringe event of the day.  This time at The Old Police Station (a venue I was told is ‘borrowed’ from the council?), a ten minute walk up the hill behind Sage.  The place was already full when we got there at about 1am and there was a great squat gig vibe with people spilling out into the street, sat on the pavement talking loudly, drinking and smoking.  For me it felt like travelling back in time 25+ years to my misspent youth in Brighton, a bittersweet feeling I was reluctant to embrace until someone appeared, like Scooter in the Muppet Show, shouted…

C’mon Miguel you’re on!

(or something like that) and we all piled in to a tiny front room to see Oppenheimer play.  Seriously, there must have been 30-40 people plus a four piece band in a space more suited to two sofas and a telly.  Once over the initial crush panic, it was awesome.

Oppenheimer are the aforementioned Jamie (drums), Lee (bass) and Mike (guitar), this night augmented with Miguel (also on bass) and they play, Christ, how to describe it?  Super-basic, long-form, thug-punk, primal-metal.  Whatever it is, it had the packed crowd bent at the waist, rocking in unison.  It is a crying shame that Mike doesn’t allow photos because when he was stepped on by a drunken and oblivious punter the look of lupine ferocity he threw was fucking terrifying.  I did get this pic of Jamie, Miguel and Lee though, which, as a piece of reportage, is my favourite of all the photos I took over the weekend.

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After the set I waved goodbye to my sweaty comrades and walked back to the hotel.  I put a music channel on the TV as I got ready for bed.  Every video looked like a film by Matthew Barney.  Lights out: 3am.

—ooOoo—

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On Sunday morning I felt exhilarated after the remarkable day before but old and tired after the late night.  Oof, I don’t intentionally go to bed at 3am ever nowadays.  Thus another war-on-the-buffet, gargantuan breakfast was warranted before I stumbled to Sage in order to meet Paul ‘Pops’ Margree, still of the We Need No Swords blog, who wished to interview me for his podcast.  I’d met Paul for the first time this weekend, we’d hit it off and were already chatting in a free and easy fashion.  However, when the tape recorder was switched on something stamped on a fuzz pedal between what I was thinking and what I was saying.  Oh well, here’s hoping he can salvage something coherent.

We adjourned upstairs to the Northern Rock Foundation Hall (where Voigt played) to see yol at midday.  This was easily the weirdest programming kink of the festival – both venue and timing – but a fair few people had turned up to see yol take his turn as headmaster-gone-wrong at the front of assembly.  The gig was intense, muscular, poised.  The venue adding a unusual theatricality to the bulging veins and growling stutters.  I always look around at the audience during a yol show, relishing the expressions of appalled fascination, but the stage lighting made it difficult to gauge reactions.  His comic timing was faultless though, plenty of half-laughs as we appreciated him diffusing the tension with a funny line then realising that what he had just said was easily as bleak, nihilistic even, as the rest of the performance.  To describe his total commitment to expressing his vision I need to reclaim a debased word and re-inflate it with meaning:  yol is an artist.

Feeling some trepidation about lasting the day I decided to accompany the men in black (Jamie, Mike, Lee, Miguel) back over the river and had a laugh walking with them through the Quayside market as far as my hotel.  I cocooned myself there until it was time to go see Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present.  Cuddling up with Joe Murray in the back row, this turned out to be a beautifully measured and life-affirming documentary about a charming and fascinating artist, surpassing all my (fairly high) expectations.  I loved it, and can only praise the transparency of the film-making – the director Tyler Hubby does an excellent job of standing back and allowing the story to be told by Conrad himself, a wise decision when your subject is such an intriguing raconteur.  With a voice and demeanour like a cross between William Burroughs and John Waters, Conrad chuckles through a life of iconoclasm, innovation and determination in a way that can’t help but be awe-inspiring.  There is also an hilarious section about what a total bell-end La Monte Young is.  I don’t want to get into any more detail about the content as you really should track this down – you’ll be rewarded.  The film was clearly a hit with Tuskers and provoked much discussion afterwards.  I was lucky enough to see Conrad live twice and boasted of it many times during the rest of the night.

During the evening programme I made the effort to give every act a fair shake, a decision made easier by the fact that my brain was shot and I found myself in a state of happy bewilderment wherever I was standing.  Highlights for me were probably Silent Servant and the final act Senyawa.

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Tall table for a short guy, eh?  Must share Dan’s back problems.  Silent Servant – American producer Juan Mendez – was notable for changing the atmosphere in Hall 2.  Suddenly all the middle-aged beardies (like myself) found themselves at a club night.  Advertised in the programme as ‘grinding, irresistible techno’ I actually best enjoyed the bits where he veered into Electronic Body Music territory – the kind of high camp, leather bound pounding that our Belgian friends were so good at in the late 80s.  yol was tempted in, amused by the prospect of seeing me dance, and guarded my handbag and coat whilst I stomped and flailed in tragic approximation of my twenty-something self.  The ‘pit’ of Hall 2 was soon lined with middle-aged beardies (like myself) leaning on the wall, sweating and clutching at their chests.  Whoo boy, haven’t danced for any length of time in a while.  The young and beautiful looked on in amusement.

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The last act on Sunday, and thus of the festival as a whole, was the Indonesian duo Senyawa.  Vocalist Rully Herman powered through a scouring range of timbres and techniques, hands grasping the mic stand or raised up in Black Metal claws.  Fuck me, the swagger on this dude.  Wukir Suryadi held his own playing an apparently hand-made instrument called the bambuwukir which resembled a giant phallus, stringed and pegged, which he could pick or bow to create anything from the most delicately augmented silence to brutal shredding.  I suspect they personify exactly the type of high-quality, cross-cultural, what-the-fuckery that TUSK wishes to promote and that their place on the bill was no accident.  Having them headline the whole shebang was programming genius.  After their set, under the cruel house lights, Lee Stokoe and I exchanged the kind of blasted/delighted look that Lee Etherington, creative director of TUSK, must design the festival to provoke.  Congratulations, mate – mission accomplished.

All that was left to do was say goodbye.  Handshakes were exchanged, gratitude expressed, Miguel was hugged, wished well, hugged again, wished well again but now with a distinct wobble in my voice.  I nearly fell down the stairs in my hurry to get into the fresh air.

We’ll see each other again sometime, right?

Yes.  We will.

—ooOoo—

Postscript:

a) We got home safely, as did Miguel.  Dan recovers.

b) Two Skull Mask tapes were made available to coincide with Miguel’s visit, one released by Invisible City Records (hello Craig) and one on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head.  I’ve been listening to them as I typed this article and I reckon you should buy both.  Lee also has some rad Skull Mask t-shirts for sale.  Hit him up via the contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.  All the discerning blog editors are wearing ’em – an Autumn wardrobe essential.

c) Last year the live-streamed sets from TUSK were made available after the event via the Archive page of the TUSK website.  I shall be keeping an eye on this, and on Lee Etherington’s Twitter feed (@tusk_music), in the hope of similar generosity with this year’s recordings.

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

crater lake festival 2015

March 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

crater lake poster

Whoo, boy – where to start with Crater Lake? Maybe with the simple and declarative: Crater Lake Festival is a day-long celebration of experimental music held annually in March at Wharf Chambers in Leeds and is organised by Pete Cann. Them’s the facts. However, over the four years of its existence it has grown into something over and above a display of the curator’s unimpeachable taste and ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’ approach to time keeping: it has become a gathering of the clan. As well as being an unrivalled opportunity to see the risen cream of ‘noise’ (some in combos suggested by Pete himself) perform to a large and appreciative crowd, you also get the equally important social side. Names are put to smiling faces, hand are shaken, warez exchanged, plots hatched – all taking place in a general air of slightly delirious enthusiasm fuelled by the constant flow of decent, fairly-priced alcohol.

This blog is known for a phrase coined as shorthand description of the scene it documents but I am steering clear of that for now.  I don’t want to co-opt something that is clearly greater than the sum of its parts and can’t be pigeonholed. I will say this though: when I noticed that Pete had hooked some relatively big fish for the bill, and saw the Arts Council logo had snuck onto the corner of his poster, I asked him how he’d managed to successfully tap ’em for funding. He replied, to my delight, that he’d used my write up of last year’s festival as the blurb for his application and they couldn’t wait to shower him with cash. Despite knowing that the Arts Council has recently taken an almighty bollocking for being Londoncentric and that any application from Winterfell was going to be seriously considered, it was still a very proud moment. There you go, people: this stuff matters. Hang on a second, I seem to have something in my eye…

<sniffs, turns to window, regains composure, harumphs manfully>

OK, a word about the below. Due to family commitments – a visit from my parents to celebrate the second birthday of my son Thomas – I could only attend for the three hours from 8pm to 11pm. To be honest, given the stinking cold I had, that is probably all I could manage anyway. So, having spent the afternoon chasing the kid around Home Farm at Temple Newsam (and marveling at turkeys that looked like monsters from Doctor Who, or an illustration by Ian Watson) I arrived flustered and discombobulated into an already pretty drunken milieu. Suspecting this would be the case I had already tasked the other four RFM staffers attending (alas, Chrissie had to be elsewhere recording an orchestra) with documenting the day so all I had to organize was a group photo.

In the piece that follows the author of the paragraph is indicated in bold like this – Luke: – and interjections about non-musical aspects of the day are (bracketed and in italics). Photographs of the workshop were taken by Sof (using the ‘nice’ camera) and the awesome pictures of the performers were taken by Agata Urbaniak and kindly donated to RFM for use in this piece. I am hugely grateful to her – and to marlo for having the presence of mind to ask – and recommend that you all visit her flickr site too.

Right then, let’s go!

—ooOoo—

(Joe: Too early! We – one half of the Newcastle delegation – arrive too early at Wharf Chambers. We spot an Evil Moisture prepare for his evil workshop through the crack in the door but take the old army maxim on board – eat when you can – and scoff a scrumptious Persian meal at the place round the corner. A brief sojourn to Leeds market is broken by a call from YOL. We can sound check so I make my way back to base camp. Pete’s relaxed event management skills pay dividends. Everyone knows/does their job. Things tick like Swiss time. The super-patient sound guy balances our 10 second sound check, we nod satisfied with the racket and slope off to meet ace faces Ben Hallatt & Dale Cornish cackling in the Wharf Chambers sun trap.)

workshop 1 workshop 2 workshop 3 workshop 4 workshop 5

The workshop

Sof: I fought my way through Saturday afternoon Leeds crowds to make it to Wharf Chambers just in time for the Evil Moisture / Andy Bolus Ghost Hunting Detector workshop. We had been instructed to bring along a non-metallic cylindrical object, basic soldering skills and undead ancestors.  I’m sure I had the first two with me at least.

We all gathered round a table in the middle of the bar on which we found various items I came to know as ‘cells’, wires and other dangerous looking bits. I’m generally quite scared of electronics (old residual fear of metal work at school no doubt) and so always sign up for activities like this to try and get over this issue. Andy’s approach to the workshop was really relaxed with his main instruction being a hand drawn diagram that he placed in front of 4 of us before letting us get on with it. He was available to answer questions and sort out our various mistakes – great teaching style. This helped to kerb my concerns, I mean, if he could be so chilled holding a wand that can melt metal then why shouldn’t I be too?

There were a lot of confused and frustrated faces around the table during the process but these all turned into massive grins when the detectors finally worked out. It took me nearly 2 hours to attach the cells to a battery and a long wire wrapped around a giant pencil but you know what, it bloody worked. I mean, I’m not sure if the loud squealing noises that were produced from this thing were communications from the other side but when I stuck it into an amp through a bit of reverb at home some use was envisaged. In retrospect I shouldn’t have drank a really strong black coffee during the process because the shaky hands did become a bit of an issue but I got there in the end!

Tom and Jerry, I mean Dale

(Joe: While the laboratory is an evil hive of evil activity the wonderful folk of the N-AU turn up, firstly in ones and twos, then huddles, then mobs. I meet Sophie for the first time and gasp in awe at the purple camera she’s sporting so rakishly. The N-AU are prompt, alert and full of relaxed bonhomie. Crater Lake has started!)

Mel 1  Mel 3 Mel 4  Mel 6 Mel 7

Mel O’Dubshlaine

Joe: fractured electronics garbled and yarbled straight outta Mel’s mini-mouth – possibly reading out what she was doing (I’m lowering the volume on this tape, I’m adding more reverb on this channel) – via a Dutch translation aid and robot clarinet.  The vocal musings were calmly paced, relaxed and with an electronic softening that tickled the tiled floor all nice.  Phil Navigations joined in on cyber-Taiko drum to muss things proper towards the end.  Ke-tung!

Luke: droll Yorkshire instructions fed through robot vocoder.  About five minutes in it dawned on me that I could listen to this quite happily for hours.  My mate thought I’d left because Phil turned up and it was in danger of going ‘all musical’ not so: my chalice had run dry.

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Yol & Posset

Joe: (view from the floor) dunno about this, lots of knees and boots, getting awful hot awful quick, Yol clatters…HIT IT!

Boof/~~~scree/HAWKS////zingzingzing/~~II~~:~~BAU~~~~/CLANK.  The end.

Cor.  That felt good.

Luke: yowser this was fun like visceral high energy free gumph played with the contents of a skip, lots of gurning growling and testifying.

Marlo: the interesting element of this performance is that opposed to some electronic noise acts that seem distanced or detached from actual live performing, these two were very alive, very awake and fully present in a visceral and physical way.  Yol, as usual, used his body as his instrument to full capacity.  Apparent in his performance were both his sensitivity to environment and his physiological response to Mr. Posset’s intuitive electronic gestures. Both, not shy to show some presence, expressed a reciprocal appreciation of live art.

(Joe: Later… the food comes out full to bursting with Pascal’s grapes… I’m too keyed up to eat but notice it gets a thumbs up from Lee Culver who, no shit readers, is a proper gourmet/baking behemoth. Top Marks.)

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Stuart Chalmers

Joe: top drawer Dictaphone thumb-nastics from Stuart.  The whirr and ‘scree’ of fast forwarding tape was a joy to hear as it bounced from one hand to another; Stuart flinging his luscious black locks like a metalhead and shaking like a nervous cicada.  Even my tin ear picked up the subtle tape preparations and timings as skronk melted effortlessly into ethnic-plink with industrial overtones.  Of course no one knows what Stuart really looks like…he threw his Kim Thayil wig into the crowd and disappeared into the balmy Leeds afternoon.

Luke: about three beers in this was lush green elephant tea. I dig the candles, the wig, the ritual maaan. Led to an interesting conversation outside.  Seems in the N-AU you got your tapes lovers and your tapes haters (known as ‘taters’)

I’d rather watch him play the sounds than play a tape of it

…one geezer remarked.

He was playing a zither thing!

I retorted in his defense. I myself am pro tapes: the wow, the flutter, the plastic encased mystery.

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Kay Hill

Joe: Ben Hallatt set up an impressive reel-to-reel machine and facilitated the sound of a monkey opening a recalcitrant jar of peanut butter through the fragile, disintegrating brown tape.  A play in two parts, this simian housekeeping was taken over by a more keening, knock-kneed hubble-style.  All glorious drippings to clear out me waxy tabs.

Luke: my highlight of the day. Tape music with lots of pop and hiss but with, if not a tune, then a beguiling pattern. I struggled to verbalize how impressed I was to the man himself and was astounded that he had no merchandise to pass on (you haven’t heard the last of Kay Hill, readers).

Marlo: Ben Hallatt performed a nuanced, textured and atmospheric tape art set. Despite the surging, celebratory atmosphere of Crater Lake, he held a patient and meditative space. Starting from a minimal structure, he added an elaborate architecture that was sturdy and mindful. The performance was a sound journey that led the audience through this construction and left them in a different place.

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Dale Cornish

Joe: Canary Yellow computer splutter. Spitting and frothing like a thousand tiny tummy kicks from the blue shrimps inside.  Marie said to me,

It sounded like the 90’s.

I said,

What.  All of it?

She said,

Sure, in Belgium.

I’m no flat pancake!

Marlo: I had previously seen Dale the week before in Nottingham. His mood was quite different this time. With alert attention, he proceeded to command his laptop to amuse, irritate, and tickle the audience. If I were to have a party, I would invite Dale. Always enjoyable, instead of baking him a birthday cake to compliment last week’s set, based on this performance I would make him profiteroles.  Thus instead of a treat that is made for pure enjoyment, celebration, and taste, a pastry as work of art which takes many steps prior to presentation (and I like profiteroles a lot).

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Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Piercy

Joe: Soundtrack to Night of the Living Squelch that somehow managed to dissect Dylan & Kieron so one duo played breathing noises: hisses, coughs and sighs and the other ‘ghost’ duo played the sound of the first duo running their outputs through resinous pinecones.  By gently slapping their foreheads bubbles of gas birthed from parted lips adding a metallic sheen. Please stop me if I’m getting too technical.

(Joe: Later…. booze is consumed, hands shook and booty exchanged. Among the hugs plans are hatched and reputations blackened! Later… we meet the boss. In what must look like a comical gesture to onlookers we both reach out one hand to shake and another to pass cdr/tapes/notes to each other.)

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Charles Dexter Ward

Joe: Erotic Jerome is the most focused man in the N-AU.  Every twitch and tremor of his hands opened another subtle filter, let out a deceptive synth note or texturised the canvas with his painterly guitar thribbings.  Guess what?  Watching CDW reminded me of that Keef.

What do you think about when you’re playing?

Asked the handsome young Vee-jay.

I don’t think on stage.  I feel,

came the raspy reply.  Nuff Said.

Marlo: I had the immense pleasure of being acquainted with Jerome after his stellar set at Tusk Festival. This time, the layers and processing felt more dense. Every time I felt as though I had embraced a new element of his guitar mosaic, I was being introduced to yet another level of intensity that abandoned yet built upon the previous input. It was a rich and powerful piece.

Rob: I got my non-euclidean groove on and shimmied like a tentacle.  It was cyclopean.  Who would have thought such a nice guy could be an Old One in human form?

(Joe: Later…a fart in front of Elkka Reign Nyoukis makes her laugh so hard it drowns out the nearby trains.  Later…it’s a Warhol of confusion. The heat and the noise and the crowd means conversations start, stop, merge and scatter. I’m bending ears all over.  Later…The RFM photo op. I never realised our erstwhile photographer was the legendary Idwal himself! Our handsome group is propped up by my screamingly odd face.)

5-6ths of RFM take 1

Rob: The evidence!  Five sixths of RFM: me, Sof, Luke, Joe, Marlo – Chrissie sadly couldn’t make it as she was recording an orchestra.  Cheers to Uncle Mark for taking the picture.

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Stephen Cornford

Marlo: As they said in Videodrome (1983),

Long live the New Flesh!

I say this because I felt like Cornford was battling with the mind melting controlling of vertical and horizontal holds, in a telekinetic struggle with amplitude and frequency, he went head-to-head with his multiple television screens. He was absorbed. I was absorbed. I think the visuals that seemed to translate his audio concoctions were pretty. I would love to see more of his work.

Rob: I felt like the little girl in Poltergeist (1982) but I wasn’t communing with the dead, rather a race of electric creatures attempting to re-programme my bonce with strobing logic.  They may have succeeded.  I await the trigger word from Mr. Cornford.

(Rob: Sof, Sof!  Where are you?  I think Sof and Jake’s last train beckoned around this point)

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Culver

Joe: Rich sarcophagus music.  Prostrated like a monk with a Casio, Culver played the sound of the tides spiced with deep orange paprika.  Ebb and flow washes over you easily for sure but remember Culver’s dark gravity pins you to the planet like a moth in a cabinet.

Luke: whilst Charles Dexter Ward embraced the crowd with his pink love drone in a highly pleasing manner, Culver extended the black tentacles of Cthulu and left us powerless facing the ghastly pit of torment. I am inebriated at this point and only roused from my Culver trance by my pal clinking glasses, it’s a fine moment: we are ridiculously close to the high priest himself. There can be only one.

Marlo: Culver is remarkable in that he uses similar gear and techniques to others whilst adding something completely signature and unique. I would say that Culver is one of the best drone artists in the UK. His monastic and constant involvement with his gear makes for a compelling performance. Despite the darkness that he chooses to invoke with sound, there is a clear joy interspersed amongst the high frequencies.

Rob: I make a mental note of all in the crowd who talk during Lee’s set.  There will be a reckoning.  A RECKONING!

(Luke: sad to say I had to miss Evil Moisture and Rudolf Eb.Er but I was successful in navigating my way home. Cheers Pete, see you next year!)

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Evil Moisture

Joe: A Very Wonderful Fucking Sloppy Mess (AVWFSM).   Long, long loops of disgruntled squirm get run through the Bolus-zone to come out triple-strength odd.  With nothing to hold on to the free fall becomes increasing delicious.

Marlo: When watching Andy Bolus, one wishes that they had superpowers like photographic memory or the ability to time travel. The issue is that normal human capacities do not allow for full visual comprehension of the devices across his two tables and to simultaneously be absorbed by the sounds. There is just so much going on! From the crazy inventor’s lab of his set up to the enveloping waves of sound, my body was compelled to move. Pushed up close to the stage with several other victims of unintentional movement, I held onto a monitor to make sure I didn’t collapse from my undulations. These movements are, by far, my favourite response to good noise. His detailed dynamics had a light touch. Well paced yet not predictable in his shifts, Andy seemed to be using his whole body, even his feet to make the monster chewing sounds. But there were purposeful and understated details placed delicately through sound blasts and running engines. Not sonic saturated and definitely not shy, Evil Moisture’s intuitive performance was well worth the wait.

(Rob: at this point I bow out myself and trot off for the second-to-last bus home very happy with how the day has gone.  I’m in such a good mood that when I discover the New Blockaders tape Joe gave me earlier is leaking oil onto the other merch in my bag all I do is chuckle.  Ahh, occupational hazard.)

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Rudolf Eb.Er

Marlo: One of the best things about seeing noise and improvisational music played live is the feeling that what one witnessed is unique and unrepeatable.  Experience a performance by a sound artist like Ruldolph Eb.Er, for example, and you know immediately that what you saw and heard will never occur again the same way.  In this case, it might be the fact that several Crater Lakers had lost their marbles on booze and kept hollering throughout the set. That was a bit unfortunate but his professionalism didn’t allow one moment of lack of concentration. I use the word ‘dynamic’ a lot when I talk about noise and sound art, often using it to describe movement.  However, in this case, Rudolf’s use of tension and silence is signature to his style. Silences punctuated the set and left the audience irritable and anticipating each aural stimulation. Personally, I was enthralled by the spectacle – I felt prone to his ‘psychoaccoustic’ gestures and was dizzy with confusion.  My favorite part of his set was when he placed some nodes covered with a black, inky sound conductive substance on his face and head whilst appearing startled and trembling. I like to think he was slightly losing his mind with the audience but by the end he was fully composed and I felt freaking grateful I had stayed cognizant enough to appreciate all the different acts contained within the piece.

Joe: It had been a very long day.  Whist I don’t approve of public drunkenness I am charmed by the tipsy.  All my notes say is:

good oaky noise but possible Harkonnen spy.

I think it’s about this point that my brain packed up…

—ooOoo—

…which is an appropriately wonky note on which to end.  Alas, that is that for another year.  Many thanks to all involved – performers, venue and attendees – with special back-slapping to Pete Cann for making it happen.  It was a terrific day.  See y’all next time.

—ooOoo—

Photo credits:

Agata Urbaniak: performers

Sophie Cooper: workshop

Mark Wharton: Team RFM

turkey

cables: untangled by marlo eggplant and benjamin hallat

March 15, 2015 at 8:32 pm | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

rammel club flyer

[Editor’s note: roving reporter marlo eggplant performed at this event and offers the following insider account.  Having more humility than her self-aggrandising editor she has chosen not to write about her own set, instead enlisting the help of Mr. Benjamin Hallat (of the excellent KIKS/GFR label, performs as Kay Hill) to cover whilst she was otherwise engaged.  Over to M & B:]

All day events are tricky. In my personal experience of attending and performing at these long days, it sadly tends to be a crapshoot. Even if you are enthusiastic about the performances, one can’t help but remember events that lacked hospitality, a cohesive vision, or even clean bathrooms. Sometimes you end up feeling corralled into a tight space with poor ventilation and bad sound systems; elbow to elbow amongst the once excited, now hungry and tired audience members. By the end of the night, you escape outside as soon as possible in order to recover both your hearing and your sanity.

Simply put – in order to sustain the attention of an audience, participants/attendees must be well fed. I say ‘well-fed’ in the sense that one should not need to go elsewhere for sustenance.  Memorable events need several elements in place: good curation around interesting concepts and ideas, an appropriate space that is suitable and comfortable, a framework for the happenings of the day, and – importantly – refreshments to keep the hypoglycaemia at bay.

Two Nottingham organizations, the Rammel Club and Reactor Halls, got together to create an event that provided just such a balanced diet of aural and visual stimulations and the result, Cables, succeeded in being well planned, thought provoking, and fun.

Celebrating the definitions and uses of ‘the cable’, the organizers provided this text:

A cable is more than a mere length of wire. It is a trail to be followed, tracing a line between two points, or a meshwork of interwoven threads. The cable carries the pulse of electricity or light in response to a trigger. Cables are bookended by ‘plugs’, affording an abundance of possible connections. Some connections will be recommended for you in the user guide. But why stop there?…

Indeed a collaborative and connective spirit flowed through the day. From the availability of open improvisational spaces led by Abstract Noise Ting, to Murray Royston-Ward’s contact mic workshop, to the sound/performance kinetic installation by Experimental Sonic Machines, the audience was nourished.

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The event took place at Primary, a former schoolhouse converted into several artist studios and exhibition spaces. Workshops, installations, and performances were placed throughout the building, keeping one from feeling claustrophobic by the full programme. The overall aesthetic of the day was well curated and was followed by an evening of provocative performances that played with sound, intention, and improvisation.

[D-C]- by pieterLastIMG_2826

The first performance was [D-C], comprising two local musicians: analogue improviser Jez Creek [Modulator ESP] and Benjamin Hallatt [Kay Hill] providing tape loops. I heard a racket in the performance space as I entered the building and threw my gear aside. I love a good racket but that is too simplistic a description for the dynamics of their improvisation. They played together, reacting and interacting with each others’ sounds.  There was an overall meteorological sensation to the collaboration – I felt tribal drums leading to low rumbles. Punctuated at times by high whistle emissions, the accompanying visuals enhanced the feeling of being in a silo, lifted by the brutal whimsy of a storm [Editor’s note: not in Kansas anymore?]. The performance ended with trailing robotic sounds…

johnmacedo - by pieterLast johnmacedosetupIMG_2861

John Macedo followed. I do love looking at set ups that appear more like a rummage sale then actual preparation for sound art. The arrangement of small transmitters, drinking glasses, and speaker heads looked like the workbench in a hi-fi repair shop. His laptop seemed a bit out of place on the table, yet Macedo does not confine himself to his seat. Exploring spaces and placement, he circled and travelled the performance area playing with resonance and tone. Glass tapping and static transmissions, volume played with value. Silence had its place. At no point did the sounds feel saturated. It felt focused and intentional with a light touch across a minimalist acoustic playground. I enjoyed watching objects vibrate in cones. One comes away with the feeling of being witness to something ritual or holy.

[Editor’s note: Ben takes over at this point…]

Well, to follow Marlo America’s lead, I have to say that I am happy to be able to review these sets as they were two highlights for me, but this needs a bit of context which I shall elaborate on in due course. It is true that these all day events can be long and arduous but in this case the ingredients made for a fun buzz long into the night.

ianwatson-by pieterLast

I wandered into Ian Watson’s set just after I had finished packing up after my own collaboration, so it was a welcome first chance to sit down just when I needed it. Ian played in a separate large, darkened hall.  The light outside had almost completely faded by this point leaving a dull purple glow in the high windows. I walked into the room and thought

hmm, ok, a sort of tinny drone, sounds ‘ok’-ish!

But as I sat down and began to settle into the room and the darkness I found myself settling into the sound too. Ian’s set up was a really nice two turntable affair, playing his own custom resin 7” drone recordings. These vibrated a pair of cymbals that were further amplified with a couple of guitar amps. As the records spin they catch on the various imperfections, creating accidental loops and details. Within five minutes I was not exactly absorbed but simply letting my mind wander, calmly taking in the room, space and details of the sound, feeling quietly present with the fellow listeners dotted about the place! This was a lovely set for me and just what I needed.

marloeggplant - by pieter lastIMG_2880

As I remember, Ian’s set signalled the brief dinner break and up first after this was Marlo Eggplant, who also caught me, I guess, at a good time. All the sound checks I had been keeping an eye on were over and pizza had been scoffed on the fly, so I settled in for the first evening performance and opened up a beer. I was taken by surprise by this set immediately, as I had not heard Marlo before and I was expecting something more ‘crazy’ or ‘playful’,  let’s say. However this was a really peaceful emotive set utilising an autoharp and subtle building of delays and drones. Being not too drunk at this stage to appreciate the subtleties of sound I was totally immersed, gently floating about in the well orchestrated ebbs and flows of the set as a whole. I was really impressed with how well paced out this set was and its evolution, building to subtle voice expression later, coming to a timely conclusion and leaving me absolutely content! Yeah, it was good!

I just got drunk after that!

[Editor’s note: and on that happy note, back to marlo…]

Dinner break was an artisan pizza party – amazing smells erupting from the multiple pizzas topped with caramelized onions and butternut squash. The kitchen did a magnificent job of feeding everyone cake as well. I put this in the review of the event because that was a total pro move. Well played, organizers!

dalecornish - by pieterLast

After I put my gear away, I prepared myself to watch Dale Cornish’s set. I was looking forward to seeing him play as I had previously only heard his recordings. The only note I took during the set was:

party music

With a laptop on stage, you pretty much only have two choices. You can try to deny that you look like you are checking your social media or you can own it. Cornish made no qualms about standing behind a laptop, often hamming it up with eye contact and charming face. The music, in its own right, was fun, rhythmic, and dynamic. And I really wanted to dance. Amen to the set that makes you want to shake it.

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Phantom Chips is the visionary project of Tara Pattenden. Her passion for noise and hand-crafted electronics is well matched with her gleeful expression as she skronks through the performance.  Her set was well chosen for the event. Pattenden, using fabric lines with transducers, corded off the audience. Throwing sound conductive dinosaur parts [Editor’s note: wait, what?!?] into the audience, we were forced to have a taste of the sonic madness. Audience participation is integral to her playful aesthetic. I think at this point my notes may been delirious. Regardless, I wrote this in response to her circus:

Goofballs. I am trapped in an arcade. Squished sounds. Crunchiest sounds of the night. Throws meatballs at the pasta crunk collective. Beta bites of crunch. Decimated manual noise. Serious overdrive.

mel by Pieter LastIMG_3068

My fellow Leeds-ian was up next. Watching Melanie O’Dubhshlaine’s [Editor’s note: not sure about that spelling, but that is how it is on the poster] performances is like having the privilege of watching a scientist in a sound laboratory. One would not be able to tell that the source material of her sounds was spoken text if you were not sitting there watching her speak into her whacked out dictaphone/microphone processors, appearing to be reading aloud to herself. Her minimal movements work well with the sound. Using an electronic wind instrument, she plays the strangest clarinet solo set ever. Actually, it doesn’t sound like a clarinet but it doesn’t even really sound like an instrument. The overall experience is of sounds working themselves out in front of you; your brain’s attempt to recognize and categorize the inputs hampered by insufficient associations. It is interesting work that makes you think.

philjulian by Peter K rollings phillyj

I am not sure if the curators intended this but Phil Julian proceeded to keep the audience pensive. Sitting in this dark room, he steps behind a laptop and begins to play with notable focus. Julian’s work is well paced. Even without any visuals, his music feels like a soundtrack. Both recorded and in live performances, there is a cinematic quality to his work and a patience that comes with confidence and knowledge. His face does not reflect the tension of being a performer.  Perhaps his experience of playing in different spaces allows for an exploration of his own notions of process and result. Regardless, his focus and overall performance energy is noteworthy.

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Trans/Human had the pleasure of performing the final set – perhaps the most difficult slot to fill. I, personally, find it quite difficult to be the last on the bill. How does one do something memorable when one has had to sit and watch every act? Have you had too much to drink? Do you need food? Adam Denton and Luke Twyman did not seem to have any of these issues as they went old school. In my favourite duo positioning – facing off across tables filled with electronics – they went full throttle. It felt like they were trying to release the demons from their gear out through the speakers. Their set was a celebration of volume and provided much needed catharsis for a day filled with creative questionings. A perfectly good way to end the evening.

So, there you have it. Thanks again, Rammel Club and Reactor Halls. Nottingham sure is lucky to have you.

—ooOoo—

With thanks to Pieter Last and Peter Rollings for photographs – much obliged to you both.

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new midwich product! ‘attachments’ available for download

December 3, 2014 at 5:51 am | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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midwich – attachments (self-released download)

attachments

Comrades! Radio Free Midwich is proud to present an early Christmas present for the discerning listeners that frequent this blog.  The latest release by house band midwich, attachments, is now freely downloadable (donations welcome but not necessary) via Bandcamp.

The first two tracks are (ahem) a ‘studio’ version of the set played at the RFM 5th Anniversary Shindig, the third track is a live recording of that very show – compare and contrast.

‘absent friends’ features a multi-tracked recording made in my backyard on a July evening – birds, wind-chimes, traffic, neighbour calling their cat.  Well extraction music, innit?  Everything else comes out of my battered Roland MC-303, which is also the sole sound source for ‘skin tags’ – a pure tone meditation, with pings.  The ripple of applause a minute or two into the live version is in response to me releasing a helium party balloon I had hidden under my table.  I like a bit of theatre, me.

Thanks again to Mitch for organizing the show and to Dan for recording it.

—ooOoo—

attachments on Bandcamp

midwichmas: live at the radiofreemidwich 5th birthday shindig

December 2, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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The Radio Free Midwich 5th Birthday Shindig: Hagman, Human Combustion Engine, midwich, UK Muzzlers, forgets live at Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 29th November 2014

nov 29th gig poster

So, yeah, it was a blast. Thanks to all who came and special, glowing thanks to Mitch of forgets who put it together then allowed me to hijack his efforts for my self-congratulation. All the sets were terrific and, despite the usual pre-gig nerves and some (fully justified) technical worries about crackling pots, I couldn’t be happier with how mine turned out.  Good crowd too, despite ‘rival’ gigs nearby (PAH! <spits on floor> I HAVE NO RIVALS! <short pause, sheepishly looks around, cleans up spit>). Some of my typically half-arsed and incompetent photo-journalism follows below. Let’s face it, I was only really concerned that my t-shirt and balloon were documented…

Oh, and in reply to the two comrades who wondered if this was now going to be an annual event the answer is: no, not unless each year another benefactor wants to come along and organize it for me. That said, my vanity did bubble to the surface on receipt of this riff from Eddie Nuttall of Aqua Dentata:

I propose Midwichmas as a name for this. Midnight mass on Midwichmas Eve can adopt a tradition of no carol singing, but perhaps a 4-hour recital of sine waves, bowed baking trays, and warpy cassette hiss. This can be followed by the traditional exchange of photocopied collages, also known as Midwichmas cards.

On Midwichmas morning all the children will excitedly gather round the Midwichmas Tree (a petrified oak) to exchange CDRs in edition of 7 or something, usually recorded an hour or so prior. These are presented in the traditional Midwichmas wrapping paper substitute, heavily weathered Poundland Jiffy bags that have been recycled across England half a dozen times or more.

A traditional afternoon Midwichmas film would perhaps be like a Christmas film, but probably substituting Bing Crosby for Duncan Harrison.

Heh, wouldn’t that be glorious, eh?

OK, on with the showbusiness…

hagman 29-11-14

Trowser Carrier had to cancel (trapped in a giant laundry basket, apparently) so Hagman kicked off by recreating the pose from every other photo I’ve ever taken of Dave and Dan Thomas (no relation) ever.  Their set was a gruff, bassy, throb – like the hot breath of a big cat as it licks you with its sandpaper tongue.  I swayed purposefully.

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Human Combustion Engine (Mel and Phil of Ashtray Navigations) teased out some tangerine psyche-synth with semi-improvised power moves.  I slapped my thighs in time with the pulse.  Occult science.

…and then:

it's showtime folks

…it was SHOWTIME folks!

midwich 29-11-14

I thanked everyone for their support and played a 20 minute set comprising two new ‘songs’.  These have been recorded and will be released alongside their live versions on my Bandcamp site soon.  You will be kept informed.  About three minutes in I remembered the helium balloon I had stashed under my table and releasing it (see pic above) got a ripple of amused applause.  This moment was such a coup de théâtre that my friend Alice later said it was…

…better than the Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Surely, no rational observer could disagree.

A word about my rad t-shirt.  The logo reads ‘Sonic Circuits’ and the tagline runs thus: ‘Avant Garde Music For The No Audience Underground’.  Yes!  My philosophy vindicated with leisurewear!  These garments were produced in celebration of the Sonic Circuits Festival 2014, organised by the genre-busting promoters of the same name based in Washington, DC.  My twitter bro’ and extraordinary digi-crate-digger Phong Tran (@boxwalla) appears to have convinced ’em that the slogan was bang on and, in return for lifting the idea, a shirt winged its way across the Atlantic.  So cool.  Fits real nice too.

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Next were ‘headliners’ UK Muzzlers.  Neil Campbell and John Clyde-Evans played caveman Oi! over a hilarious tape collage.  There was much whooping, thumping and brute racket.  It was as if Happy Flowers had grown up but were still refusing to take their medication.  The future of rock and roll, possibly.

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Finally, Mitch, who organised the night, and Kroyd, who’d been on the door, dropped their admin roles, took to the stage and brought the evening to a close as forgets.

The noise purists don’t like this…

…Kroyd began, and, looking at the half dozen people who remained in the room, he clearly had a point. The throng appreciating UK Muzzlers had melted away into the ‘beer garden’, the bar or had sprinted for last trains and buses leaving just this attentive elite. Ah bollocks to the lot a’ya – I fucking love this band. This is what they do: Kroyd tells stories and recites semi-improvised prose poetry whilst Mitch soundtracks it with improv noise guitar. A comrade who shall remain nameless worried that Kroyd’s observations were ‘hit and miss’, which I concede, but it all adds to the cumulative effect of the performance. People who put their heads around the door and think ‘hmmm don’t fancy this’ are missing out on sharp, funny, sometimes very moving stories and, quite often, a fantastic crescendo of flailing, bewildered despair that tops out the set. I recommend sitting the fuck down and listening.

…and that was that so we packed up, said our goodbyes and tumbled out onto the street. Dan Thomas, taking pity on a tired old man who’d been up since 4.30am caring for his boy, made sure I got home safely.  In the morning Thomas had a shiny helium balloon to play with…

—ooOoo—

Hagman

Human Combustion Engine

midwich

UK Muzzlers (dunno – try via Astral Social Club)

forgets

Wharf Chambers

Sonic Circuits

 

rfm attends colour out of space part two: pascal ansell remonstrates

November 23, 2013 at 10:47 am | Posted in live music, new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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COLOUR OUT OF SPACE / 6

INTERNATIONAL EXPERIMENTAL SOUND FESTIVAL

Performance Weekend: 8th – 10th November, 2013, Brighton, UK

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Editor’s note: Pascal’s turn.  He clearly wasn’t as impressed overall as Joe but has selected some highlights to grudgingly comply with RFM’s sternly enforced policy of being nice.  Well, mostly:

—ooOoo—

In a weekend bursting at the seams with irritating vocal improvisations, glossophonics, snarled and impertinent mouth crap, the likely trio of Gwilly Edmondez, Posset and THF Drenching chose the only option viable: ol’ time barbershop. Nah, we were of course subject to gurgle-core (is that Phil Todd’s term?) but this was of the finest pedigree. Bossy, snarled and darting; a real performance in that it propelled forwards towards you, opening itself up to the punters in an act of delicious spectacle and invitation. Gwilly Edmondez is a lumbering professor of something at the University of Newcastle. He is also in possession of a reverberant set of vocal chords of such rubbery depth to be, gasp, slimey, pure slime, the slime of old lady ass, under-sofa sweat dribbles, magnificent slime, everybody! A cassette voice slowed down, and that is garçon Gwilly, whose aural slugs competed with ex-Bailey bandmate THF Drenching, the latter wrestling his amp of its feedback possibilities. Posset on the third and final hand of this musical mutant nailed a splashing blend of static and mouth junk. See his mouth didn’t sound like mouth, or gargle, or in any way approach the being so-cerebral-it-gets-silly; it sounded good, ‘sound-in-itself’ good, inexhaustibly good, serious play and goodness.

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Enjoyable as Dylan Nyoukis & Greg Kelley’s set was, and admitting that Nyoukis never disappoints in his encyclopaedic vocal voyages, his control and mastery over continents of vocalics… and taking into account this mighty Scot twinned with an enormous trumpet imagination of Greg Kelley, what really is there to be said about free improv anymore? I’ve been guilty of using the term too frequently but this is bona fide, every man out for himself territory. The only markedly different aspect of this performance was the brief and inexplicable spurts of disco lights which interrupted the almost total darkness. Good drossophonic messabout improv no doubt, but achingly purist free improv. So free, so fraught with my fevered doubts and whiffs of ‘what the hell will they do next?’ that the potential of it potentially collapsing – which really is the silent riff of free improv – seemed almost welcome.

Tom White wore a pristine white shirt and has a pristine brown beard (well, almost, and I urge him to embrace the status of total barbarism) and to clatter this rhetorical bowling ball was also in serious danger of delivering a pristine white overperformance. Let’s admit it, Luke was heavily involved with that obscenely massive and adorable tape deck he played with, he might as well gone off and married it. Ha! You’ve been great! There seemed to be no space between his hands and his ears, not letting sounds be themselves without having to hey-everyone-I’m-performing perform it, histrionics over Cagian (that’s adjectival John Cage, right?) conveying, cold and impersonal just as I like it. Thankfully us floor dwellers enjoyed an earful of superb tape junk. Nicely done. I say ‘junk’ but this was the sexy middle-class green bin kind of noise junk. Tasteful streamlines of grey static were repeated with just enough of interim to evade falling into witheringly dull tape delay jerk-off marathons. How gratifying to witness such immaculate and wretched explorations and applaud with, forty, heck, sixty other sick heads! And there were real girls, with, y’know like real hair, more than three! That’s when you know you’re festivalling!

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Roman Nose provided welcome relief on Friday night with songs, actual songs! The free suspension and ‘what do they do next’ idea exchanging had its tension nicely diverted out of the room, past the very friendly venue staff of The Old Market and into the great Brighton night; that tension mentioned earlier of spontaneous performances was eroded by sudden halts, and proceeding to jolt without much delay into the next number. What I later learnt was a Chinese sheng (a strange organ-like contraption) was set upon and disturbed by Sarah McWatt. Charlie Collins clambered delicately over his drumkit shadowed by Jon Marshall (the Roman Nose wolf mother) on samples of scary tharqa and messy reeds.

I loved Black Dice for a long time but always knew there had to be a looser, non-hipster version that wasn’t Yellow Swans with their drizzling mush. Dinosaurs with Horns were a revelatory gesture towards this. Any band that can cram in experimental graft with joyful zest, with a semblance of a pulse, are due more than a little attention. What could otherwise slide into our memory bin instead transforms into joyful and constructful mucking about, my real and true nub rubber! These LA teamsters offered on a side-plate to this gigantically stale loaf of a weekend some morsel of delight, genuine swaying fairyground [sic] (Editor’s note: what a beautiful typo!) rollercoasting delight and rumble.

Editors note: a comprehensive selection of band bios and links can be found on the COOS website here.  Photos by Marc Teare.

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