Birdsong and red noise

March 2016
Green Door Store

I love the first Spirit of Gravity show of the year that I get to walk to with a bit of daylight. This was it, just. There’s something of the light that gives me a right proper buzz. Even if it did herald a cold spell then some more rain…

minimal impact

minimal impact

We managed to prise Steve away from the Electrocreche for a minimal impact set. He’s doing a series of ten, each building on recordings of the previous one. In this case, enhanced with what he calls “Black Box III: the uncontrollable”. The sound comes in three layers, there is a background of deep bassy washes, indistinct murk hummering around the stinky corners, then digging into that are these vibrantly gritty buzzing chunks of sawtooth bass, then a mantle over that, separated by some distance of foggy treble. The uncontrollable device does plenty to keep it interesting, before I think, exasperated, he decides he’s had enough and abruptly truncates his set.



Bible are next up, Graham Zygotic drumming, Chris Parfitt switching between standard and alto flute. They start off with some pattering drumskins and the alto’s resonant tones entrapped by some fairly roomy delay. This naturally gets going into some fuller battering from the pair of them, Chris switching to the normal flute to get some squeal into things. Then G gets out his selection of pound shop sex toys, various bits humming and vibrating on the cymbals and strung up rattling the piccolo snare. We get the drum kit as a generator of tones and drones, with a different scape for Chris to work against.



Al Strachan sets up his Antipattern kit on the floor. No Volca sampler, so we’re bereft of an obvious rhythm, but we have not so obvious rhythms, plenty of them, as we’ll see. He starts with the trusty Strachan Cornet with some octave effects and gets the aquaphone into a glass of water, blowing bubbles through a pipe into it – pop pop popop pop, before wandering through the audience with it, still piping, swirling whooth whooth around his head, and then getting the aquaphone into the gob with a load of space dust, crack crack pop crackle. I’m glad I don’t have to clean up his kit. He never did get round to using the little wooden bird cage.

Resonant Blue with Lucy Day

Resonant Blue with Lucy Day

Finally Resonant Blue with guest Lucy Day on vocals and percussion. They set up on the floor, Jake with his laptop and keyboards, Lucy to one side with singing bowl and gong. They start off with things pretty electronic sounding, some filtered backwards sounds looping casually, some gentle brass washes from the percussion and Lucy’s breathy singing dreaming its way into your subconscious, then slowly they start drift off into fractioned shimmering acoustic guitars, microscopically dismantled into tiny fragments of light with Lucy’s vocals drifting effortlessly across them.

Guitar night

February 2016
Green Door Store

It’s still a bit light as I walk down the hill, this is always my favourite Spirit of Gravity show of the year; coming out of the darkness. It’s not raining, which also helps.

Elena Desai

Elena Desai Elena Desai has assembled a group of guitarists to accompany her film “Micro Infinity”, she’s sat up by the sound desk with her laptop playing the soundtrack and monitoring things. Onstage are the three guitarists, although one has an SH101as well judging from this angle. There’s some suspicious flanger, but that gives things a Twin Peaks creepiness at times, which adds to the films degraded and oversaturated but washed out feel. There is the impression of an unpleasant factory that lurks just out of view of the skies and streets visible through her window.


Swarbrooke You can see him onstage with a collection of effects and home-made boxes – a step sequencer and a couple of circuit bent toys. Swarbrooke starts up urgently with an irritated buzz, Harvey enveloped in a comforting darkness, he slashes some chunks of noise across it as the bee starts to warble in a far from idyllic manner. The chunks morph into a machine grind before we drop to something like a live mains applied directly to the head and into a popping rhythm into which he cuts some of the rawest noise I’ve heard in a long time, twisting into an oscillating morphing crush. At one stage you can make him out in the darkness, toy lights flashing as he carries something flashing around the stage screeching. It’s a truncated set, washing out to a thin white noise hiss, but shows how much imagination can be applied to something as seemingly restrictive as noise. Thrilling.

Jeff Stonehouse

Jeff Stonehouse Jeff Stonehouse finishes the evening off in a lovely wash of blue light with a red spot on the screen behind him. He has a long trestle table with his laptop at one end and a novelty guitar stand propping up his 60s Woolworth’s guitar at the other. An office fan blows ribbons gently onto the strings and occasionally he wanders over to it to jangle the bracelets that hang from its head or scrape the strings. The laptop processes all this and has some backing tracks possibly, or field recordings. The whole piece drifts almost in stasis, enveloping and warm. People sit on the floor (in The Green Door Store!) Shimmering developments slowly crystallise from the drones, time passes. I don’t fall asleep this time.
Apparently the performance is based on “the words just won’t come”.

That last Scope

January 2016
The Scope XVIII

I think it was a good one to end on, we’ve had a good run up here at The Caroline of Brunswick and put on a lot of rare stuff we wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Thanks to Dan Powell for playing at so many of them.


Baby Baby was depleted even beyond the trio we were expecting, Adam Bushell turned up, set up his Vibraphone and drums, slept for an hour and then had to go home poorly. So we were left with Alfie on Double bass and Will on guitar and flute. I’d not seen Alfie before. He started with some plucked figures with Will interjecting on screwed up acoustic guitar, before switching to longer bowed figures and Will switching to flute, with some interesting overtones, switching between lower tones and almost feedback sonorities Alfie tapping the bass body in lieu of Adam, before dropping back to Will on the guitar chords and Alfie back off the bow. Before finishing strongly on long flute tones and bass rumble.

Andrew Greaves vs. the Electrocreche

Andrew Greaves vs the Electrocreche
The electrocreche was already set up playing through Andrew Greaves’ mixer in preparation for his set, where he would process it through a couple of monotribes (mmmm, a fetching pink number with enhanced Valvery) and add some Casio and some recordings from the bar downstairs. It slid in more or less seamlessly, the toy guitar feedback and cheap Yamaha synth merging with static cassette hi-hat staggers manufactured on the fly. Structure gradually emerging from the chaos as people rotated through the crèche toys and Andrew’s processing picked out different elements and manipulated them. Rhythmic patterns, pseudo sequences, bass lines. It was quite odd, you would be playing something on say the kids guitar and switch from one end of the neck to the other or drop off the overdrive and nothing you could immediately put your finger on would change, but the sounds would shift in quality but if you tried to make it a conscious thing – not a hope. In many ways this was the success of the evening as it seemed quite unlikely that it would work beyond being an interesting idea – everything else was a cert! It all finished with a percussive rhythmic part and the bar voices coming back in full strength, the guitar left unattended holding down some keys on the Yamaha.

The Static Memories with Will Miles

The Static Memories with Will Miles
Third was The Static Memories with Will Miles. Dan on electronics, Gus on double bass and effects, although pretty light on them generally and Will playing guitar. Lots of listening, sliding and pointillist punctuation. Odd notes, spaces, slurs of shimmery bees, unworldy string groans. Gus playing against what he’d been doing in his recent solo sets. Sparing and searing in his astringency. Dan almost like Roger Turner in the intensity of his staring at the other players. In musical terms what? Swatches of sounds often overlapping, textured but never dense, never a feeling of layering up loops or ribald noisery. Will scratching or pasting a staccato strum or bell like string pluck onto the process, redirecting things, almost bringing them to a halt at times before something else beckoned.

Fernando Perales

The Static Memories with Will Miles
Fernando Perales was on his second appearance at The Spirit of Gravity and it was nice to see him in the more intimate settings of the scope where you could see what he was up to with the guitar. He was actually travelling with just a guitar neck, but had borrowed a full body for the evening, flat on the table with effects arrayed around it and some bits and pieces for later use scattered about, for p[lucking, filing and layering around. He first worked out the spaces the un-tuned guitar afforded, how much rumble, wash and twang it would give up. So we worked around some drones initially, the edge of feedback, before clanging out some church bell chimes and getting some things into the strings and bridge and getting some resonant tubewheel scraping on. Unfolding from there through some warm space hiss into a gorgeous slow motion music box, which morphed into a windstorm flapping electronic noise and pulsing out into Moonlight Serenade.

The Baby feast begins

January 2016
Green Door Store


Goitt Jack starts his set off with some statement making monster bass blasts. They really make full use of the Green Door Store’s extended bass frequencies, they’re slow and powerful and he builds up some other regular noises in there before picking up his saxophone and letting it rip into his effects chain. There’s some pretty heavy distortion in there and his playing pretty quickly builds in intensity, with the bass blasts getting twisted with pitch bends before it falls away and starts building again around a more complex sequence. I think he could barely talk for a while after the end of that, he looked completely blown out.


Komuso Komuso (Derek and Cliff) are joined on stage by Der Rompf (Robert and Stephen). Starting slow, grit and warble with e-bowed guitar sliding in. A big metal sheet propped up against one of the GDS oil drum tables and electronic drums rattle in a Martin Denny-esque exotic patter, curling the guitar off into arabesques before fading out into noise and space whorls. Cliff has an interesting approach to the electronic drums, scraping around the edge and beating the limits rather than time. It builds again before sliding down to a quiet keyboard figure before some bassy growling gets them in the mood for proper metal bashing beats and space beeps to out.


Baby Baby start warble and growl; cornet against cello with vibraphone bell and scrape before it starts to get a bit ominous with some choral decay before will gets onto the acoustic guitar and thinks get into more spacious territory, Alice’s cello dropping to strummed bass figures, odd Vibe tones, stroke of drum and slow cornet or Korg from Al, before Will suddenly stands and switches to flute which picks thing up, Adam beating cymbals, Will circling, the synth toning and Alice harsh jars on the bass strings with a moment of suspension with Al’s effects suspended lighter than air before the cello drones in all scare and we spiral out to nothing. The second piece starts with scrapes and whispers against scurried string plucks, before flute drones in underneath and the Korg does a detuned space warble under vibes and voices and isolated short flute flurries before we do an odd revisit to Denny but in a somewhat more ribald fashion

See Agata’s Flickr collection of photographs of the show at:

Obfuscation and misdirection, the close up magic of aleatoric scores

December 2015
The Scope XVII

We don’t normally run a show this far into December, but we had the opportunity to do something with HardWorking Families and go about realising some of Dann Hignell’s text scores, so it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.

Duncan Harrison

Duncan Harrison Duncan Harrison was originally slated for the middle slot, but as we had only three acts and were starting late he opted for the first. The score he was performing was this (page 115):
“A short reflection upon the fact
That those on the outside
Have as much right to be here as any of us that
Their voices carry through walls and
If they don’t they should
(I am not sure how you would put this to song but a good start
Might be to ask everyone to open a window)”

We didn’t know that at the time, but the realisation went something like this: Duncan had a portable cassette player on a table with a small stage type lamp next to it. He switched it on and it appeared to be a recording made downstairs in a bar, it was quite trebly and distorted. He started the tape and got up and ran around the room checking the windows and then turned the lights down and cleared off. We could hear noises coming from outside the door, so I was expecting him to come back. he didn’t after about 20 minutes during which we’d kind of worked out it was a recording from downstairs (punk, Saxon and suchlike through the distorted conversation) someone went downstairs for a drink.

“I don’t think he’s around”
Tom went and checked, “I can’t see him anywhere”
So at around 30 minutes we turned the lights back up and started setting up for Tom’ s set, but without the electrocreche, and we started chatting over it then at 45 minutes the tape finished “clunk” and everyone cheered.

It makes a lot more sense knowing which score he was performing, I don’t even think Dann Hignell did at the time – excellent levels of confusion.

Hardworking Families

HardWorking Families Hardworking Families without Nan; unfortunately Nan shipped their Cello off to far-most Africa two days before the show and we couldn’t source a replacement in time. This meant Hardworking Families had to step in to cover the fray on their own. I’m sure there’s some kind of wider metaphor there, but I’m going to move on.

Anyway, it was Tom Bench with his new glittery guitar from the Train of Thought Emporium. And a nicely constructed set of Noises through the effects chain, some playing of cassettes into the pickups and the player rubbed on the strings, some things inserted in the strings and general muckaboutery at a reasonable volume for the most part before he stood up and started trying to get some feedback going.

There was some feeling that the cassette voices at the beginning was almost a continuation or reference back to Duncan’s set, but I’m not sure if that was intentional, or just me.

Dan Hignell Ensemble

Dan Hignell Ensemble

Dan Hignell had his ensemble set up through the middle of the room facing the screen so they could see the scores. From left to right looking at the backs of their heads (i.e. towards the stage, if you like) were Dan Hignell on a lovely old portable organ, all brushed aluminium and slightly bent plastic sliders, Kev Nickells on Violin and sharing a French horn with John Guzek who played violin, too, then on the far side from me Barnabas Yianni on some electronic things.

They ran through about six of Dan’s scores with accompanying cards, the realisations varying from scratchy repeated violin figures, to the feeling of someone wrestling with a French horn on the beach. some pieces felt like the musicians were working against each other some as if everyone was in their own universe. The last piece was a bit special, it was quite a bit longer than all the others, Dan playing space organ drone figures, with very long violin slides from one player with the other providing some over the bridge wrenching and Yianni’s electronics running in the background bringing a repeated pip figures, with the piece ending on a slight crescendo with arpeggiating violin parts.

A good Scope to end the year, really filling out the ideas we had for it when we started doing it.

Words don’t fail me now

December 2015
Green Door Store

The last SoG of the year, its a bit of a crisp evening when I arrive to set up.

Noteherder & McCloud

Noteherder & McCloud Starting the evening were Noteherder & McCloud, who based their set off some recordings of trains and then more notably Tube recordings as we got into the set. It was a slow start with quite a bit of tape hiss delayed and whined up by a bitcrusher into a distant alarm. Chris Parfitt’s soprano sax shouts jumped across that until a rolling, almost swinging bass sequence started up and he got into some really lyrical playing for about ten minutes until it all shredded out into noise and clanging rail screech and than toned down into breath hiss and gurgle.

Steve has some new light sensitive toy on the electrocreche and this provides him and Matt the soundman with some noisy fun in the intervals until it’s time for ….


map71 map71, who have been one of the best things I’ve seen this year, and this was another good one. They took a little while to get right into it, but once they did, it was right there. Andy Pyne’s drumming and synths (a backing track rather than his old keyboard – I couldn’t see) were rock steady, as he takes some Jaki Liebezeit channelling tight beats. Lisa Jayne was a little more animated than sometimes, her left hand flicking as she held her book of spells in the right dexterously turning pages with her thumb. The highpoint came with some DNW buzzing synth, Andy on beaters, pattering out a steady toned rhythm on the toms (even the snare drum has the snare dropped for extra note) while Lisa Jayne intoned her deadpan words.


Matawan Matawan are all about the textures, the shimmer. I originally thought one of them had a keyboard on his table initially, but he seemed to have an unused guitar propped against the stage side wall there, while the chap in the middle sat stooped down guitar mostly across his lap as he muddled with his racks of effects at his feet. It was a slow drone build, layers modulating back and forth between the pair of players in what initially seemed an improvised set until you noticed that one of them was loading some pretty specific chords into three tiny Mooer loopers he had at his feet, not that when he played them back it sounded like strumming, but the triad of washing layers they produced as he faded from one to another gave clear indication of an compositional element unexpected in a drone environment.

When we left it was clear it had rained while I wasn’t looking.

Just in time

November 2015
The Scope XVI

Gus Garside

Gus Garside Gus Garside started the evening with an introduction, and then a piece by James Tenney called “The Beast” which was a complex microtonal piece from a visual score, all bowed often two strings sounding, long notes , very technical and about 6 minutes long “it’s called ‘The Beast’ because it IS a beast”. I should coco.

Then he treated us to a brief burst of his classic clacking improv, eschewing normal bowing – although he did use the bow to beat and jab at the strings, this would have loosened him back up and cleared the way for what appeared to be the first of a couple of semi structured pieces. One used loops of voice sounds and the other loops of double bass sounds, centred around the story of a lad who liked a song called “Good Timing” by Jimmy Jones, which ended with Gus in full flight singing the chorus of the said fifties marvel, before finishing with a slightly more extended improvisation blending all the techniques available. Really nice to see Gus stretch his wings this way rather than the maybe more focussed sets we’re used to.

Franck Barriac

Franck Barriac The second act of the evening was Franck Barriac, over from France for the Himmel massed organs show at Cafe Oto. He was sitting at the back of the room with a quadrophonic setup, the usual Caroline PA behind us and two extra channels at the back, in front of us. Franc’s set was a soundscape piece based around urban field recordings and tones. It’s amazing how unused we are to this surrounding kind of performance, especially with the artist in front of us, sounds from behind (even after the introduction telling us it would happen) seem really disconcerting. Anyway a really nicely structured piece, partly pre arranged and partly improvised, I gather from talking to him.

Futuro De Hierro

Futuro De Hierro Finally it was Futuro De Hierro from Spain. We utilised the extra speakers to boost up the sound – which was handy as it happened, as a few minutes into his set the main PA seemed to glitch out, although those of us sat at the back didn’t notice as we were immersed in the joyous racket lurking up behind us. A quick work around the cabling and it all seemed OK again, but Viktor seemed a little subdued. Still some excellent beats and bursts of noise, and some really interesting kit to look at. We must get him back for a full throttle set at The Green Door Store.

Me and Steve got really nice clear lathe cut 10s off the merch stall as well (a run of 23 – who could resist).