Is half a guitar better than none?

February 2020
The Rossi Bar

Paul Khimasia Morgan and Gus Garside

First up are Paul Khimasia Morgan and Gus Garside. Gus plays his traditional double bass, Paul has the less traditional guitar body (the neck has been removed). Gus starts with the bow scratching the strings with his bow, Paul has a transducer jammed up against the back of the guitar riding a low tonal feedback. The double bass is producing a thin high-pitched circular scree that goes into the looper. Most un-bass like. A second slightly fatter and slightly lower loop joins it, before he jams a beater into the strings and produces a couple of thrums. The scraping stops as does the guitar tone, and we’re left with cello-like sonorities and the thrum in restful rotation.  Over this Paul and Gus layer a variety of noises, some odd detuning pings, drones. Gus squeaks his strings and Paul gets some bell like sounds. There’s some tension, anticipation of something. The tension builds. We finally get a little bass swoop that builds into a bit of a drone. And then, at last, a full beautiful bow sweep of the low strings filling the room. For a good amount of time, Paul sends out shrill shards of feedback whistles, chimes and clunks. A very satisfying end.


The Organ Grinder’s Monkey

The middle act was the welcome return of The Organ Grinder’s Monkey. The laptop, and black and silver jaguar in full effect. The first song sets out what he does quite nicely, the introduction has a fairly straightforward little guitar riff, the second time there’s a little processing on the third a pretty hard glitch and full on yammer at the end, then the backing track kicks in, and each time through the processing gets more pronounced. There are some backing vocals I’d never noticed before, and extra layers. Its catchy and pretty messed up. The second song is pretty straight, upbeat, tuneful, vocals for 2 verse and chorus’ then the games controller he’s given out to the audience beforehand takes control, tremolo, filter, sweeps, things cut out and come back or repeat or stammer. It’s a lot of fun, and stops its always over too soon. The third starts with super fat blocks of bass and guitar feedback and lopsided beat. The breakdown at the end is an immense set of synth bass, drones and detuned guitar.  The fourth song has a false start, but does start with some odd filtered voice, layered up, over a distant beat, spiky guitar figure, replaced by gated wash, and a weird guitar hero sustain solo. He finishes with 2 new ones, the first a 2 chord riff over some shudder electronics, that nicely degenerates into false stops, uneven gating, and a full strength glitching using the controller again. The final piece is a cover of a song from a local hero from his home town. Political. Hooky. “I know, you are, evil”.


Leifert

Finishing off the evening are Leifert, from Croatia via Leeds – they start unannounced eschewing my introduction and looming up over the general hubbub. They have a lovely synth a big square box, no keyboard, with an array of satisfyingly solid knobs on top, I made a note of the name and lost it. Its partly midi controlled and partly live fiddling. Petra stands at the back singing. The sound is correspondingly solid, strong basses, pinging tops and fidgeting drum tracks. The melody lines swerve around, timbre changing as the pitch swoops. The atmosphere they generate reminds of a couple of 80s duos I used to see in The Fridge, I briefly wonder if we’re living in the 21st Century Weimar, and then they get some proper arpeggios going and the temp picks up and the mood all changes. This one is all about driving onward. The intensity drops for the next one and we get back into slurred notes and washes, the beats are fast but lighter weight, Petra’s voice floating around over the top. The beats gather weight and the washes become more urgent as we move on. The next track starts with a four to the floor bass drum and staccato jabs of toppy synths. These are then mirrored by some detuned bass, which sees some nice filter work, getting at once buzzier and squelchier at the same time. It ends with the drums dropping out and the bass getting fatter and tastier and fatter and tastier. Nice. The last track has an almost comic stepping bass line and frenetic drums, the middly synth rolls around growling like a set of cats singing on you wall avoiding boots. Some strange melodic line comes in over the top with Petra singing in unison with it. Disconcerting. A monster sawtooth bassline finishes it off, like something from “Playing with Knives” underpinning a deranged dub with sounds zooming everywhere.


Last European Home

January 2020
The Rossi Bar

Hardworking Families

So, Hardworking Families starts the evening, Tom sat hands rummaging inside a black box containing Some Things, the lid flaps open towards us, balanced on top is a small PCB with a pot and a couple of other components. By the side of the box is a cassette player. His set starts with stuttering feedback-ish stammer. There’s something of a rumble train-ish, very reverbed coughing.  The rumbling gets grainier and bassier. A pseudo rhythm of gulps hits away in the background and everything falls away around it. A thin tone somewhere between a Casio organ and a reedy metallic whine is conjured from something hidden away. Something happens with the cassette and the reedy whine becomes a thin shard of feedback. There’s some static Morse code. Wind-jammed mic.  Whirr of an oscillator that rolls down into a pretty meaty judder while the Morse flips inside the tone to form a noise barrage. Other oscillators go about similar dirty business and we suddenly get into this toney noise wall that modulates outwards into several frequency strands all winding around each other. Something with some proper bass struggles up from beneath this like a jetliner over a Sicilian beach then it all gets very quiet before one last hurrah of a mechanical woodpecker getting to work in a lumber mill.


Monty Oxymoron

Monty Oxymoron had the second set, he’d played at The Spirit of Gravity previously as part of a trio and a quartet (once famously on copper dog and bird cage) but this was the first time we’d had him play solo, and I think the first time I’ve seen him do a set solely as a musical piece playing the keys on a keyboard (rather than extemporising on the case, lid, stand and anything nearby as well). It’s a piano/synth setup. He starts with some sparkling space jazz that sounds like something of Sun Ra’s from the head, shimmering flourishes and chords that spangle off into a little squelching synth line before zooming off. Some bassy synth crushes bring us back, then its twinkling off again before modulating chords bring back a hint of the original melody and then a little chord riff takes us off again to get lost in fantastical arpeggios. There’s a passage of wah wah stasis that’s rather lovely, that gets eventually overrun with harpsichordian dances of notes that slowly mutate back to piano sounds of the melody again then the electronic drum we can’t see at his feet comes into play. Starting with a jazzy ride with occasional rolls around the virtual kit while his hands keep at work fidgeting away at filtered stabbing chords the feet working away at an insistent rhythm under the table that fades away into an electric piano flourish drowned in a sweeping massive phase. Lovely. Then there’s a bit of an encore, a more orthodox-ish jazz piano ballad, that gets into a Yes Album left hand on a synth chord accompaniment for a bit of a dynamic with a slow wind down.


Kina:Suttsu and E-Da Kazuhisa

Kina:Suttsu and E-Da Kazuhisa finish off the evening. Kina with a midi roll flat piano keyboard starting with backwards piano into a slowly decaying long delay pedal building up a slowly revolving insistent piano part that she wordlessly vocalises over. E-da has a physical ride cymbal that he tings over this. There is birdsong the piano part decays into a churning organic murk, Kina keeps working away at her piano roll pushing notes into the delay chain until it loses all form in an undulating wave of little notes, E-da picks up the tempo on the ride to match this until it all slowly fades away. Kina brings the birdsong back, E-da gets a hand drum to work and Kina starts on the alto saxophone, a stutter skronk alternating with longer lines. E-Da is putting some effects on his drum, the bassy thumps really getting some presence. Kina gets some fire in her playing and E-Da follows her round, the birdsong seems to spiral off tiny electronic tones that glitter in the inner ear.  E-da gets right into it, driving us on under Kinas spiralling lines, then it all falls away underneath her. And she returns to the piano. Single notes: high, low, the memory of the last leaving a notion of melodic drift as it loops, she breathes the sax gently over the top. E-da has some rattling and rainstick washing away. She eventually starts adding extra notes in and the loops build up the effect of delays as E-Da starts with a beater on the cymbal. It all gets a bit psychedelic. Mushing, washing in and out like great waves. The deep layers of piano producing odd accordion-like tonalities amongst the sparkling of the high note hits. It ends like a two chord riff with E-Das cymbals rolling in like great Atlantic rollers, slow and stately and all enveloping, and then Kina beaks it all up with some free form playing on the piano and saxophone and we’re done for the night. subtlety.


Romney rattle and the slightest twist

December 2019

The Rose Hill

Antipattern

Antipattern was on first. Al Strachan was late arriving due to the inevitable train problems, off the train down to the Rose Hill, set up, plug in, quick line check and start playing. So also inevitably it was a slightly atypical Antipattern set, which isn’t to say it wasn’t a corker. Al started by feeding his cornet into some kind of gate or delay effect that chopped it up, and then ground it into a delay built machine drone. Some throaty gurgle looping followed that with what sounded like the hydrophone bubbling away (I was listening from the front door for most of his set, so I’m not actually sure) into someone tap dancing at the far end of a train tunnel. He finally plays a muted part on the cornet over drizzling rain, he plays it again through an Octaver that shreds it down into the depths then into some shrill upper register work and then it’s back into abstraction, before we get into some shimmery space sounds with burbling cornet slurred over the top. Then it’s into some serious planetary fly-bys and a full stop.


Ron Caines and I’m Dr Buoyant

So continuing our cunning plan of amalgamating the best of the free improvisers of Brighton with electronics we had Ron Caines and I’m Dr Buoyant, Ron on Alto and Soprano saxes, Tony Rimbaud on various electronic devices and effects. They basically started where Alistair left off, definitely a Blade Runner feel, and Ron in fairly mellow mood. Even his flurries of notes were laid back, Tony capturing them on the fly and giving them back to us in slowly decaying delays over distant launch pads. Eventually Ron does let rip a torrid flurry of notes bouncing back from all sides over a heartbeat pulse and ball bearing bounce rhythm, Tony torturing them into harsh reflections before it subsides again. This time Tony grabs a little motif and loops that and Ron bounces some haunting lines against it until it all disappears in a drone. The next section is more spacious, Ron operating in the lower registers against a fairly minimal modulating whine. Smoking at a street corner under drone surveillance, Ron fights against it, avoiding the Ax Gang from Kung Fu Hustle, who bustle past angrily before they all get swallowed up by reverb. The final section sees a slowly unfolding dis-chordal line forced into submission by some fairly burly playing from Ron. It retreats to give him space to play against himself in endless delays to the end.


Toshimaru Nakamura / Sam Andreae / David Birchall / Otto Willberg

My previous experience of Toshimaru Nakamura had been his solo set at Fort Process 2016, a loud, fierce thing of extreme frequencies and sudden, careering changes that rattled the corrugated iron building he was in so hard that it was almost as if the rivets were about to ping and the whole thing would spring up into flat sheets. So I was intrigued to see how this was going to work: playing at The Rose Hill, playing with a set of largely acoustic UK free improvisers. He was set up on the stage to the right with his own set of speakers at head height, next to him Otto Willberg on double bass, Sam Andreae on saxophone and David Birchall on guitar. So this was a display of subtlety, squeaks, small changes, the no-input mixing desk squeaking or whistling, creaking of the bow forced against the strings of the double bass, the sax tracking Toshi, a thrum of something under the guitar strings being twanged. Toshi working at his mixer nudging a knob a fraction of a degree, the sax rattling its keys, a flurry of notes trip off the guitar. A sudden squall of mixer noise. A burr of bowed double bass. Moments of near quiet, slight trails, a ping of guitar string above the bridge, a squall of (quiet) feedback. Some more double bass. Everything coalesces as if composed, everyone playing elbowing some room for the odd sounds, and a build into some kind of sustained crescendo, Toshi and Dave Birchall trading chunks of noise, the sax laying down some lengthier lines, the bass burbling away underneath, then slapping and rattling away. There is a part of me that would still have loved to have seen this full volume at the Green Door Store, but as it was, it was a real opportunity to see a unique performance up really close and appreciate the subtlety.


Some days you break it all

November 2019

The Rossi Bar

So the recordings I usually take are pretty much broken, so I’ll have to work on memory. I can tell you we had 3 cracking sets by the 3 artists playing.

Gun Boiler

First we had Gun Boiler. This was to have been a duo but ended up with just Chris midi_error playing a solo set, largely on odd home built devices, open circuits and some odd granny thing that made some funny noises. Chris had a mask that he was to don when he was happy with the sounds coming out of his kit. Happily, that happened quite quickly. Some fat bubbly synths, nice gargly drones. Short vocal loops through some odd filters. I remember things getting quite noisy at points. And some really nice sounding deep space tones.


Nuclear Whale

Nuclear Whale was second up playing probably the best set I’ve seen him play. Jonathan had a bit of a stripped down setup compared to the fine racks of synths he used to bring to the Green Door Store, but I think the lack of space on The Rossi Bar stage may have focussed his attention. Carrying on pretty much where Gun Boiler left off, he started with some nice tonal drones and space whooshes, developing into proper bass washes before a drum track starts. The drum parts were pretty abstract, at first getting more like a skittery wash of hi hats and snares as the set progressed.


Drill Folly

Finally we had Drill Folly, Sarah playing her first set at The Rossi Bar, and it was another good one as I may have mentioned. Her set completed the arc, much more rhythmic than the previous ones. Mostly slow, syncopated, spare. Proper bass. noises, noise forced into lurching form. There is still an urgency about what she does. It has modern dark overtones, sounding more rooted in the second decade culture of the 21st century than most of what we have at SoG. I can’t comment on her kit as it’s mostly in a case on the stage. I can see a controller, sound card, some big unit.


No other talking than the talking directed

October 2019

The Rossi Bar

Ill/Fitting Suits

Ill/Fitting Suits, their suits more fitting than ill, these days – I think they’ve grown into them. They had some plants among the audience reading from prepared scripts. Nick Rilke had a microphone on a long lead that was being processed by Tony Rimbaud along with some other sound sources and he wandered about picking up bits of what they were saying, I think it was some commentary on the history of The Spirit of Gravity. Anyway, the piece has a drifting quality due to the excessive delay on the snatches of speech. The written pieces were short enough so that you’d return to the same phrase as a chorus. “Handles for Forks” being a comedy favourite after a while. The loops felt haunted, nostalgic through reverb. Odd synth washes and a halting piano figure. In the end surprisingly moving. All fields. 


Amongst the Pigeons

Amongst the Pigeons had the front rows of the audience nodding along to his set wearing pigeon masks. He interspersed his set with pigeon facts (although some seemed a bit shifty to me). So we had pigeon coos, basslines and drum machines. The first piece had sampledelic style cut ups of a radio show intro and a broadcast of Happy Music, with a woolly bassline working under it. The second one, was a bit darker in tone, another sonic bass line with a crackling percussion track. Less direct pigeon-referencing. The third picks up the rhythmic intensity a notch or two more with a big breakdown with a recording of someone saying “DRUG”, leading into the “addiction to thinking” which was a bit more syncopated on the bass drum. Among the complaints about wearing a nylon pigeon suit he slyly introduces the last track, a pigeon related breakcore track. There is, even after nearly 20 years of The Spirit of Gravity, always something new, and that is definitely a first. ce drill, or falling organ.


Roshi featuring Pars Radio

And rounding off the evening we have Roshi featuring Pars Radio, who are down for the first time in an age, she’s writing new material for her next album and on good form. She starts with an old favourite “Lor Batche” in the stripped down rhythmic version with her and Graham playing the slow down at the end. This was followed by “Night Swimming” which features her piano playing up front, Graham providing percussion space around that. Next is “Opium” that starts nicely with organ stabs and an uptempo rhythm that twists into an unfocussed vision of muted voices, drones and detuned whirls and woooshes that’s really quite unsettling. The horrors. The next song is one I didn’t know, a new one based on her experience with working with people from the wartime generation, it’s centred on an old song “Apple Blossom Time” piano and radio static. They finish off with “3 Almonds and a Walnut” which in its live version is a full on percussion work out.

We get into an odd conversation after the show with a member of the audience about nut/peanut/cashew allergies. Which is almost like a mirror of her introduction to the song.


Clubs, Spades, Diamonds and that sweaty puddle

September 2019

The Rossi Bar

Ræppen

Three touring acts this week, no locals. First up is the ever touring Tim Holehouse reprising his Ræppen (dis)guise. He has the fewest number of pedals that I think I’ve ever seen him play with. The core of his set is the looper pedal and the first thing he feeds in are the stones from Brighton beach he’s been using since the first appearance of the hooded shaman back at The Green Door Store. That reverbs away in a stately fashion, he has some new bones which he adds as a subtle rattle-y layer around that. Over this he adds some breath layers, followed by the first layer of throat singing gurgle. There’s some whistling in there and the overtones build up quite a complex set of lines, wind, vocal, unhuman, grind. Creepy. At some stage it enters a timeless space, while still evolving and imperceptibly building, until it erupts with bass-y, throaty gurgles and drops down to monkish chants. At which point it sets off on another journey, this one unfolding even more slowly. It sounds like there is a cow horn muting away at some distance – I don’t remember seeing that, but I swear it’s there. This second section has a much bigger sense of dread as it builds, creepier bass vocalisations underlying the whole thing and the percussion parts are more urgent and elliptical. This tie it builds to some sustained roaring. 


Connect_icut

Second act is ex Brighton resident now living in Canada, Connect_icut. This set is built around a crowdfunded Raspberry Pi based sampler that overloads fairly easily and starts to glitch, so Sam gets on that and just rides the glitches improvising around them. So it starts with a fairly eldritch black dog growl on a cycle with a clicking rhythm. There is some distorted sound that seems to step between notes that buzzes around this like an angry tonal fly. It’s another set that unfolds quite slowly. Odd sounds, very odd some of them, washes that judder, drones that on investigation a granular as hell, a bass drone that could be a dozen notes played at hyper speeds. This in particular seems to fork, one side to a bass line the other a complex riff of high notes played in time with it. It’s a drone piece with an incredible amount of detail and barely a sniff of delay. It decays from this drone into a staccato stereo gated pinging with lovely organic wash and emergent Bulgarian singing. The final section moves away from the drones and becomes almost completely abstract. The voices bouncing off stray thin stabs or vast swirls, or silence, or dentist’s space drill, or falling organ.


Rosebud

The final act is a duo from Worcester “The Provincial Midlands”, Rosebud, touring with Tim.  Starting with a siren and spoken introduction, eventually the air-horns kick in like some particularly nightmarish rave, but it still hangs on, on the cusp of starting properly. Tension. Mounts. Hysteria, More shouting, more layers of Rave Alarm. Eventually it comes in at about 120bpm, but still we have more hysterical levels to climb. At some stage the singer stakes his place in the audience, dripping, and sweatily masked. A bassline provides some relief from the endless building and you feel like it’s actually started. A squelch comes up against the pure bass and the momentum seems to just start building from there, the bass mutates into a sawtooth. And at the point of delirium, we drop down to a slooow heartbeat sub bass plod, with a detuned steel drum sound stalking around it. While the declaimer keeps up his commentary. A beat comes around that an de unfold into a breakdown of delay and sparse clatter. A bass wash comes in wipes that all out then a higher temper rhythm comes tick-tacking in the bass subdues as the rhythm track fills out into a really interesting beat. This totally turns into a rhythm workout with multiple bass drums, creaks, whirrs and whistles. There’s a terrific breakdown towards the end where just have the trebly elements working away. Bloody marvellous.


From head to hand

August 2019

The Rossi Bar

Andrew Greaves

Andrew Greaves commenced the evening playing a piece from his new album, a drifting melancholy line from one of his Electribes with counterpoint joining, played from the Casio MT400. The second Electribe begins to drift in circles around the first. After a while the tremulous recorded voice of Andrew’s father, a nicely old style tenor, committed to cassette may years previously, tremulously joins in the phrases from all parts circulating around the room, at once of a piece and also distinct – almost isolated. The first track ends on the old feller singing “I miss you, I miss you, I miss you”. The second piece starts with a drum machine, sparse bass drums and ticking delayed syncopating rim-shots, he once again has a sequencer playing lines which play around each other. There is plenty of movement in the drums, snares and hi-hats come and go. After some of this the Casio comes in, the organ working its own thread between the other lines. I enter some kind of zone and it’s all over far too soon.


Jonathan Higgins

I think a description of Jonathan Higgins’ glitch CD set up is key here, so at first glance a CDJ setup: 2 CDJs, a mixer and a Discman off to one side, the CD decks have no lids and patchboards. There also is a big wallet of CDs and a recently snaffled copy of one of Andrew’s new albums. It’s a performance in 4 parts, the first starts with a crackly cd of chimes looped with glitches, hums noises and drum rolls, as leads get patched things skip, degenerate, loop and just get generally overlaid with noise, here is a little of the classic CD stuck glitching, an odd percussion loop; the piece stays on the interesting side of noise, a more performative sampledelica.

The second piece starts with a lovely vocal drone loop overlaid with some unpleasant sparse digital freak-out, voices spin backwards, the vocal gradually morphs into a grinding nasal sound. Everything else comes and goes with the occasional digital noise squall. The next piece starts with a space noise that saw-tooths up quite quickly, this then unfolds quite slowly, extra drones shipping in, I think the Discman (broken I imagine) is bought into play for the first time, morse-ly stuttering away. There’s a section of what sounded like a CD being dragged through fine splinters of dangerous glass before we move onto the last piece which is when Jonathan gets stuck into the patch bay, patching; clearing; patching ripping out all the leads; patching; banging the Discman up and down. This is the most fragmented section – the most fun to watch, and probably the least listenable in retrospect. I think it ends on a recording of a numbers station. Glitched. Naturally.

You can see a video of his full performance at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfkkfhvasaQ


Luxul

So we finish the evening with Luxul, with Emilie robed in darkness with viola and effects pedals lit by a stark uplighter. She starts squatting, with a heartbeat banging of the electric viola onto the floor of the stage, the heartbeat is quickly forgotten when she adds a filthy distortion for a thunderous double beat. Add to that a nasty squeal of feedback and some screeching runs up and down the neck of the instrument and I think that sets the tone, she reigns it back in for a while before unleashing her powerful voice full throated into the pickups. Truly, this is terrifying. Back to the loop beat, and off again, she hits full overload, up off the floor and out into the audience of the tiny bar. There are some interesting layers to this – a harsh noise wall, a scuttling flurry of high notes, a pure tone of feedback, a throaty rush of wind tunnel bass, and some tasty wah-wah work. It relents for a while and again we hear the double crush of the heartbeat come through. I swear at some point she has the ghost of the flying Scotsman being channelled through her – whistle included. She briefly brings it down to her scream and 3 separate strands of feedback before one last full throttle blast to end.