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.
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
First up was Rapt, sat behind a laptop, his whole performance was an exercise in stasis, an almost Zen-like lack of activity, featuring variations on his first EP. Starting with shimmering drones layered several deep the overlying shifts between, I don’t know, three or four notes in an almost achingly emotional slowly unfolding melody line. The second piece takes things a bit more up-tempo, the parts moving around more dynamically, some murky bass drum and hint of hi-hat. It keeps the intensity up, without appearing to do much. Close listening reveals cycles of clacked bottles buried in the mix, but he is stationary at the monitor, not giving anything away, occasionally sipping Polish lager. The third and final piece has another slow motion melodic top line (this time it starts the piece off), the sound slowly filling out with bass washes and modulating synth lines underneath it. It doesn’t really unfold as engulf you in a warm wave of feeling. His new stuff is quite a bit different, but worth hearing: soundcloud.com/raptmusicuk/albums
Kina:Suttsu was about as far from that as you can get, we’ve been playing some of her music as bobobobin!!!? On the radio show, but this was a different thing. She was joined by local percussionist E-da Kuzuhisa. Kina starts on her odd guitar stick with gentle strumming, E-da has a contact mic on a rain-stick and some bells, Kina sings gently out of focus. The sound comes out of the quiet, slowly. Occasionally E-da bats his floor tom with a beater. Some cymbals wash and we shift; slowly the guitar becomes effected a Sitar-like chime, a rhythm picks up on a hand drum, her vocals shift into gasped phrases. This breaks down into a reverberant rainstorm. After that E-da picks up a tapping rhythm on a ride, and Kina moves briefly onto an Alto sax and gives us a good skronking while E-da gets a proper battery up on his limited percussion. Then she is back with the guitar on her lap with beaters and E-da is getting some shakers going. And some more distant singing to end.
Finally And to finish we have Simon James, we had intended bringing his Synth and space echo to the front, but in the end it was too intricate a setup, so we left it at the back of the stage, which meant that Simon had to perform with his back to us – but that did mean we got to see the Buchla synth in all its glory. Simon had his NASA suit on as the set was to be a tribute to the Apollo 11 mission which had just had the 50th anniversary of its launch, so his set was suitably radiophonic in sound. Starting with a thin drone underpinned by a Sputnick-y beeping and full bass, this soon picked up space arpeggios and all sorts to take us on our journey. As we move out into orbit we get a stripped down bass drum and odd pong sound that slowly evolves into a grooving bass thing with more odd space noises. The further we get into this piece the harder it gets to describe. Glorious old style electronic space music. We can feel the stars moving in the sky and the Earth recede. As we get into Earth orbit things quieten right down for the slow beauty of Earthrise as we come round from the dark side. And finally they walk on the moon. Simon gets called back for an encore, so he treats us to a bleep and booster space jam, that ends abruptly with an “that’s what it sounds like in my room!”. Marvellous.
Dan Powell was perched just off the edge of the stage, with all his kit on a table onstage. He was (to all appearances or whatever the audio equivalent is) working mostly electronically, rather than filtering small percussion. He had some new Raspberry Pi devices and switched between tonal washes, thrums and scratchy electronics. James O’Sullivan was using prepared guitar, mostly with it horizontal on his lap, things under the strings, things over the strings, around the strings, pulling at the strings, tweaking, scratching. Occasionally shouting or whistling into the pickups. They work together well, listening, switching, complementing. Dan dropping out so James can scratch, James dropping out to let a bass-y spacey noise pass through their sonic universe. Muster is a duo of subtleties, odd quiet things that impress. Which isn’t to say that they don’t get loud or frantic there’s a nice sequence with a bubbling synth noise, some clumping sounds and James picking up his guitar in an orthodox hold and fretting at it in quite a frenzy. Or another point where he has it feeding back – albeit in a quiet and controlled manner. Overall, it’s a set I’m happy to listen to with my eyes closed, which means I don’t get the pleasure of watching them worry away at their devices, and it is a pleasurable watch, full of interesting activities.
Dolly Dollycore returns with her latest reworking of the piece she did last time she played for us. Along with her vocal, gong & percussion, her laptop work has moved on a step with the addition of a controller adding extra levels of inference. She starts with the gong, booming and more tickling stick work, she weaves in and out of the acoustic and electronic worlds, sometime her voice, sometimes percussion, sometimes electronics, combining, layers of recorded and live voices, words. Creepy hints of savannah nights worm through. It’s more disturbing than previously. The electronics wield field recordings, recorded percussion and musical fragments, they build shapes around her words and drop down to silence for some particularly salient point. Emphasis. This time I didn’t cry though.
Mai Mai Mai
Finally we have Mai Mai Mai, he’s live soundtracking a film of a southern Italian religious festival filmed in the 50s full of possessed folk dancing, singing, rolling on the floor and such. One problem is that Toni’s synths are still somewhere in Italy, this is the first day of his tour and they didn’t arrive when he did. In fact they stayed in Italy for the whole of his trip. Fortunately he did have his hand luggage, with laptop including a pre-recorded version of the soundtrack, some effects and a couple of pieces of kit he can use. And use well. Voices whisper, things creak, there is NOISE, booms. As suits a soundtrack it’s pretty abstract – at times building up to some pretty torrid sound pressure. At other times it settles down to odd rhythmic patterns with sonic washes and tones. Sometimes the voices come through strong talking, singing, laughing. Strong, but not un-effected. There’s a nice lengthy section with some monks singing layered up with a child’s voice and some church bells slowed down to infinity. His set ends on a two tone pulse with Residents-y singing, gradually being swamped by increasingly massive drones…
So we jam packed the acts in for the May show. Starting us off nice and early we had Zener Breakdown, a new project from Jason Hotchkiss, notorious creator of the Tesla Organ, and Chris Calcutt. They were line checking kit as folk were coming in, the demarcation of their set starting was a bit of introduction. Starting with an LFO activated pulse that they soon subsumed with some distortion and gritty bass washes, they were off. Lo-fi drum sounds mixed with crystal clear hi-hats, they got filtering the synth rhythms, and it came over like some old style acid on heroin rather than ecstasy. Uneasy and indefinably itchy before glitching out into something else a lot mellower. Which burbled for a while until joined by some lovey string synth. The glitch re-asserted itself in some clowning gait and Cabaret Voltaire stabs. Things picked up again with an off centre groove accompanied by shots, swirls and meeps. Dropping down to another odd rhythm track they set up for an altogether slower emptier and more ominous ending.
The Zero Map
SIt was lovely of The Zero Map to ask us to share in their tenth birthday. Karl and Chloe unfold more slowly. Recordings of birds, dozens of ‘em, with a slight shimmer of a drone to give them something to bite against. The drone slowly becomes less slight, awash with endless reverbs and perhaps hints of guitar flourish or rumble. It seeps into your consciousness, erasing thought until you eventually become aware that ITS ACTUALLY QUITE LOUD NOW, PEAKING… Chloe adds voice, and bowed bass tones. Then it subsides again into something like one of Steve Hillage’s late 70s albums with Karl playing light guitar lines. Chloe brings in her pipes, there is a second swell, not quite as subtle as the first one, that ends in some definite roaring and a hefty wall of distortion. And then a final tail off into space
Taking us away from the amorphous wash of The Zero Map, Xylitol is discrete chunks of mostly song. Catherine starts with an odd chime and Casio and sound effects number, to confuse us into thinking we’re on a different tangent, before the spooky riff starts. The second song starts with a cheap rhythm through slight delay, that gives the song an odd slurred quality like trying to avoid the staggering drunk on the way up the hill, the organ drones and melody enhancing that effect. The next segment is like testcard music played by skeletons, the song after the skeletons are joined by squeaky toys and balloon farts. Its delirious. Everything is short, energetic, tending to frenzy at times, and manages to reference Bruce Haack, Raymond Scott, DAF and house music in the space of a few seconds. By the time we get to the penultimate number – a tremulous drone, with bleep and booster larking over, I’m in quite an odd state of mind. The epic last song (at 7 minutes) has a steady beat looming from a warehouse several miles away, over this melodic splashes of bell and tone permeate the mind quite irresistible.
So finally it’s Robyn Steward, Radio Mic’d trumpet through delays and octavers (up and down), this really is space trumpet. She kicks off with a stepped riff into the loop pedal that she uses as an intro, before getting into some improvvy blowing air into the instrument giving us a ground to add some sonorous bassy notes before dropping some gloriously detuned melodic top layers. She talks too us a bit before starting off again along a similar route that goes to a very different place, breath again starting the loop, with short parps, and blocky notes, before she gets into some much higher register stuff over the top, and wanders off into the audience playing Arkestra style (even if it is a procession of one). The next section starts with a tape delayed almost indefinitely, valve noises. She plays some slow mid notes over this, again with that odd octavy detuning effect. The space noise layer up in this bit without making the sound dense and she gets into some really nice playing over the top. She rounds the set and evening off with a staccato segment. Getting people clapping, with bass notes, and a really weird thing where the octave trumpet is REALLY squeaking quite wildy. Its all gets a bit intense, big bass tones, these scurrying mids and a thick, thick layer of high frequency noise that washes out to leave Robyn’s solo trumpet playing cleanly to flourish the end.