Over winter, into summer. It’s still in the box.

June 2019

The Rossi Bar

Muster

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

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…


Don’t think about it that way

May 2019

The Rossi Bar

Zener Breakdown

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


Xylitol

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.


Robyn Steward

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.


Exercises in ambience

April 2019

The Rossi Bar

Not By Radium

So first, starting before anyone comes in for a proper long form set, is Not By Radium is sat sideways on at one of the small coffee tables that The Rossi Bar seem to have multiplied up from the one at The Green Door Store. We’ve seen his dice directed work before, but I don’t recall anyone ever performing with a notepad and paper. So everything unfolds very, very slowly. As you would expect. He starts with a slowly modulating wash of drone ebbing and flowing, after quite some time a fan like wisp filters through, to be joined later by what sounds like (but I’m assured wasn’t) the introductory chords to “Dream Baby Dream” complete with rim-shot tap at the end. By the time we get to about 15 minutes in things have filtered down somewhat and I’m starting to unwind. Around 25 minutes we hit minimal impact levels of stasis. The still of icy deep space. Somewhere around the half hour mark there is an odd interlude when someone slowly plays a piano in a church a couple of miles away. About 40 minutes in we get something a bit raspier in the drone department, and I’m starting to unravel a bit. As we come to the last 15 minutes or so a vaguely euphoric choral sound builds in and blissingly lifts us up towards the close. There is no climax or crescendo.


Stone Cornelius

Stone Cornelius starts her set with a wind up bird in a cage that chirps musically. There is also a loop of birdsong and some Mozart. The wind up bird in the cage winds down quite quickly. The birdsong is slightly distorted and a bit too loud. The Mozart is phased and looped into increasingly short loops. There is a voice as well giving what I’m sure is good advice, but it’s inaudible and uncomfortable. This should be ambient heaven, but it’s increasingly jarring; my shoulders slowly rise up alongside my neck. At various times Emu adds wind chimes, some kind of massive red apple, and various other ephemera into the mixture. It’s funny, at times it achieves a bizarrely cluttered level of relaxing as the Mozart loops have achieved a lovingly modulated numbness.


Distant Animals <in a forest of signs>

Distant Animals <in a forest of signs> started his set with an introduction saying it’s his first new piece of music for a while, and reading from the book it’s based on. After he’s finished reading Dann starts a two note wobbly beep loop that slowly emerges into audibility from his modular set up. Occasionally a sub bass rattles the PA in a wave underneath it like being chased by the Tardis in a snowstorm. Occasionally he crosses the room to pick up one or two carefully selected patch leads. There’s an odd flashback to Emu’s winding the cage sound that could be directly from the synth, or it could be rattling bits around the room. Here’s an odd thing, he never takes out any leads but at one point the sound subsides to a tiny vibration. He then builds it back up with a subtly layered set of durational sounds, whistles, washes vibrations and something of the icy calm from the deep space section of Tony’s set. This settles in nicely before some more patching brings in a spooky violin part counterpointed by ancient alien spaceships


A Hot August Night. Oh hang on.

March 2019

The Rossi Bar

Ensemble 1

The first act of the evening is Ensemble 1, sitting in (as has been the case a few times recently) for an act that couldn’t make it down. It turned out really well. Basically it was one person, Tom, a guitar, one effects unit and a looper. So a lot more minimal that we’re used to seeing with “real instrument and effects” setups. I think minimal being the operative word. He took his lead from Terry Riley’s “in C”, in that instead of layering up a bass line and a percussion part and something noisy etc., he started with small pointillist picked guitar lines, which locked together moving forward, enhancing each other replacing earlier parts, progressing always shifting. Yes it did layer up and build, even reaching a crescendo about 2/3 of the way through – but as I say not in the usual kind of manner. It was intricate. Delicate. Finessed even. There is a second slighter crescendo involving some light strumming and a small amount of distortion towards the end and that’s it.


Monzen Nakacho

The second act was Gary Short in his Monzen Nakacho disguise. He has eschewed the space visuals but still plays what I inherently feel is space music. It all sounds super analogue coming as it does off his laptop, nice little detunes and vibratos on various tones. He starts down tempo, a wash and chimes, light chittering percussion and slow development, some prepared some played. The key changes in the first song provoke the ghost of Piero Umiliani oddly. The second song steps it up, both fast and slow, with flashing arpeggios and slow-motion tonal bass drum washed about with a gritty tailed tuned down snare. Halfway through this gives way to some ray gun effects, and then we’re back into space, this falling through time segues at some length into the next song, evoking lost eons and tumbling starships. The third song when it arrives has massive string synths and fat analogue sounding bass and some proper squelch and after some development goes out on the groove of bass and percussion. The fourth song is a brief creepy nursery chime led horror waltz. The last number it’s only fair to say is a Moroder inspired stomper of the highest quality.


Adam Bushell and Will Prentice perform Alvin Lucier

Rounding off the evening we had firstly Adam Bushell performing “I am sitting in a room”, after which he was joined by Will Prentice for “Criss Cross” both pieces written by Alvin Lucier. The first explores the sonics of a room by having the performer reading a text out into the room, recording it (in this case through a big old mic at the back) and then playing that recording back into the room, recording it and so on… It’s interesting and this is the third venue he’s performed it at for us. It degenerated fairly quickly into a spacey quite toppy drone with insect buzzes which I wasn’t expecting. “Criss Cross” is quite a different beast. Will and Adam sat opposite each other each with a guitar laying down in front of them plugged into an amp. They each had an e-bow on a single string, one tuned down from the normal note and one tuned up, they set the strings droning and at a set rate moved towards the normal note then on to where the other had been. This sets up all sorts of things in the room. You notice first the notes beating as they do when you tune a guitar, then you may accidentally move your head and all hell breaks loose inside as your mind tries to cope with what happens. On one level it’s a simple thing, on another…. wow


Snowshoes on, then

January 2019

The Rossi Bar

Rough Work

So we started our tenure at The Rossi Bar and the evening itself with Rachel Cohen and Kev Moore as Rough Work. Rachel most visibly had some teapots that she started, lid off, pouring water from one to the other, and bubbly blowing down the spout. Kev had some things probably electronic inside an attaché case, lid up. There are resonant ringings and janglings, chains and occasionally you can see Kev moves onto a physical thing. Rachel has found some school books from the year of the drought, if I’m any judge. She occasionally reads from them. There is paper unravelled and torn and some encounters with tightly stretched parcel tape that seems comically to stick to everything. Clatter and burble, rattle, the clash of lid on pot. Big electronic stereo exhalations. Tapping. Space noises – “The water came from the pond”. They chant in unison “A force cannot be seen” as a kind of chorus to readings from her physics exercise books. There is a brief discussion on whether a word is Pirate or Pivot. Then some more time spent showing unstructured can be fun and it’s over.


Kieran Mahon

In contrast to the empty improv of the first act Kieran Mahon kicks off his set with a thick meaty electronic drone, mostly sourced from a Microbrute, with a nice resonant sweep over the top. A third strand powers through the middle of this for a while, before chunking up into a slow stepping sequence, while we’re concentrating on this the original drone is mutating away out of sight into a LFO driven braid of intersecting tones. By now the drone has completely given way to melange of discrete sonics, beeps, buzzes, chunks of bass all stepping around each other in some semi delirious Edgar Froese vision. This slowly steps out of phase through noise into some inverted version of the original setup, a new stepping sequence, a drone with a new shimmering space tonality. At this stage Kieran introduces a hint of unfolding melody hidden away that again morphs into space dust.


Child

Child finished the evening off, Annabelle starting her set with an echoed chime riff and high flutelike parts underpinned by some seriously detached bass. She sings, while the parts loop around her. She speaks. Its eerie. She feeds some shaker into her delay chain and morphs into the second section. The decay on her vocals seems endlessly spacious. Some bass drum and twisting resonant synth brings in the next piece. Then its game time, it seems we start the Experience half way through her set. The bass has been pretty lightweight for a while, but she brings back seriously after this with a filtered bass line and a slow motion cascade of drums, she sings into a wine glass. There is some more physics (Newton’s Gravitational laws, rather than forces) as the beats drop away just to the bassline and vocals. To finish with the bass takes on a drone quality, while around it percussive synth parts shift in space and tone, her voice drifts in and out and weirdly Casio-tic keyboard melodies surprise us and shimmer.


By the time we finish and get upstairs, early as it is, the snow is thick and buses and taxis have stopped running. Kev has to get back to Southampton, and I think I have a hard time getting up to the racecourse.

Roll up roll up for a grandstand finish

December 2018
Green Door Store

Noteherder & McCloud

Noteherder & McCloudSo our last show at The Green Door Store started with Noteherder & McCloud grey suited as usual, but sadly lacking the drummer we were expecting due to ill health, but still it was a pretty good set (even if I do say so myself).  Starting with a monster slow bass pulse soon this was joined by a circling, swirling reverb-y soprano sax. After a while of this the bass switches over to a mid-tempo arpeggio, and the sax takes flight over some aeroplane hums. The bass stops leaving the plane drone hovering, the sax becomes plaintive. Everything drops away leaving Chris circular breathing a lengthy note. A squelching digital mains pulsing starts, Chris shouts into the sax, feedback loops build up in the FX chain and things become hard to source while I laugh. Things get denser and more unfocussed The sax gets pretty serious, weird bass runs happen and nothing is under control. This reaches some sort of crescendo then some lengthy looping 2 note bass line swerves in, derailing everything, the sax gets distant and beautiful, electronics shimmer and decay around us. The high point of the set. After that we get some bass-y noise, some fast arpeggiating and Chris lets rip again.


Buckner Building

Buckner BuildingNext up were Buckner Building; a table of things that sound, a backing accordion drone and rhythm device, violin and a fuck off huge recorder and a teeny tiny recorder all make a contribution during their set. They open with fiddle drone and plain voice with occasional thickened flourishes of violin and odd rattles and sniffs before we get a scary layering up of voices and whistled nightmares and a sudden switch into medieval dance tunage to confuse us before returning to the stark open folk of the beginning for the end. That pretty much set the tone for their set. Five songs of misdirection, tunefulness and decay, rattling drum machines and drones. The second song has a John Barry-esque section underpinning a song about two Herons in the evening. The third a grinding hurdy gurdy drone and recorder that gives way to an antipodean flute and drum track. The fourth a light fluttering that drops into Tuxedomoon cabaret, the final song opens with a gloriously spooky xylophone part over some unravelling drones supplanted by a heartbeat bodhran that in turn gives way to a 4/4 whistling jig before again circling back to the dark opening drones.


Or

So Or, is Resonant Blue with a percussionist, they’re sat behind a bench stuffed with electronics at one end and rattle an bangy things at the other (and on the floor and other tables next to them). At this point it’s best to say that there is no guitar (in spite of my references to one later on).  They push a succession of singing bowl chimes, shakers, bells and some tuned percussion into a looping laptop over a simple bass drum and slow feedback wobble. The layered looping works well with this kind of rhythmic dance music derived groove. Some are on extra long loops that take a while to come back. A fat bass peeks out, and the rhythm parts shuffle round for a while. The whine and a thick mid range rumble wash everything away and some machinery cycles in, we get some matchingly harder percussion and more insistent melodic loops are set off by an axle grinder. It all get s a bit intense. The percussionist yelps. It sounds like someone is e-bowing a guitar in a wind tunnel. At this point some massive south American bassline walks into a bar with an electric whip drum to accompany him. The percussionist works around this for a while, we get some layered up chittering voices that twist into a backward conversational loop that set us up u for the ridiculously heavy bass that takes us lumbering into the next section. The percussionist digs out a megaphone and lets rip and a second fuzzy bass starts fizzing around the first. The Djembe works around the basses taking us into some pretty definite On-U-Sound space. Cascading echoed shells herald the final part, the bassline faster but no less heavy; some backward guitarral squeal melody; rhythm parts more syncopated playing off each other – the percussionist gets to work on the rim of the singing bowl, really working away on that thing. You can see it leaping in his hand. He’s right there with it. The rest is taking care of itself the percussion parts still whirring round, he is right there with that bowl until everything else is stripped away and you can feel that one zone, that tone has completely filled his mind.


Understudy in the breaking dawn

November 2018
Green Door Store

Klaus Von Mork

Loftslag

Stepping into the things at the last minute we have a welcome set from Klaus von Mork, caped and hooded with lighted up fingertips at one of the oil-drum tables, swirling in mist and mostly in the dark, he starts with slightly slowed reading from The book of the Revelation of John, some plainchant and drones and hyper slow beats. We’re getting a good head of spooky steam up and everything breaks. So we have a bit of silence while things are worked on. The hood goes down. And to be fair the mystique never quite recovers, however it’s still a corking set once it gets going again. Clattering beats under screaming drones and monster bass wooshes, the kind of thing that the green Door Store PA totally relishes. There are some nicely dark in a modern way bass pads, some evil bass lines, Bulgarian singing, along with some breakdowns to skewed slow beats. One track has a hard step D’n’B drum track under grinding gear bassline and harsh noise whooshes. He finishes on a epic obscure tale of slowly unwinding sitar drone, with mysterious beats hidden under impenetrable clouds of reverb.


Le Pavement

ESP

Next up it’s Le Pavement with a sweet but too short set of modern electronics, starting with a low level drone with the two of them working around each other over a laptop and keyboard setup. There are some synth chord riffs that John Barry would have been pleased with introduce a slow rhythm succeeded by the unnerving sounds of electronic insects about their business. Some voices work their way into these field recordings along with small radiophonic flourishes and jungle birds or maybe electronic delay effects. A fairly old skool slow beat starts and one of them reads some words from a book. This feeds into a bass drone with them taking it in turns to play a “drum solo” on the keyboard, sparse detuning clatters with the intensity of both the drone and percussion building towards the set’s climax. They oddly provide an ideal segue between the first and last acts.


Matawan

Nil By Nose

Matawan return to SoG to round off the evening, eschewing their guitars, they have a table with effects lines based around cassette recordings to build their drones this time. And boy they really work with the sonics of the room, as the sound swells filling using every part of the sonic spectrum that the not inconsiderable PA will allow pretty soon everything that can rattle in the room is going, I’ve heard odd bits go before – the air-conditioning pipe, the metal fittings on the door, but Matawan get the whole place resonating, all of those things, the cage around the mixing desk, the actual door, the chains inside the curtain. Every bolt, glass and piece of my clothing is thrumming away. They pull it back for a couple of quite lovely swelling patches of church like beauty, where tones slowly move around gently filling the room and your mind with its pleasantness, before they come back for one quite unbelievable leathering of the room. If it wasn’t for the fact it had withstood 100 years of trains rattling over it I’d be quite concerned for the safety of the room.