Benen start the evening off, they are onstage one sitting on a low chair with a guitar, mostly bent over to control pedals and loopers, the other sat on the floor, with a mic and he’s similarly mostly bent over working away at devices. They counterpoint this low visibility with a nice set of abstract visuals. They eschew using the loopers for thickness, instead deploying an almost empty sound, some really nice scratchy loops that crackle like wax cylinders, wisps of feedback like a docker whistling several warehouses over. Occasionally you get notes of guitar ping or some sustained notes. There’s a bit of imaginative e-bow work as well. A subtle double track of an ascending guitar part with some worrying rubbing sounds that builds to a creepy crescendo quite lacking in histrionics, before dropping off to another creepy start, breaths and little bursts of treble.
Onin base themselves in the room area, sax and acoustic guitar played improv style, both playing back through small amps. Thin rails of quiet feedback attenuated by breath and direction. I don’t think I’ve seen such exquisite low volume control of it. At one point the sax player tilts back like a member of a 40s big band and instead of the honking overblown solo expected to erupt, there is a forceful piercing tremolo of almost horrific intent.
Well Hung Game
Well Hung Game finish the night off. Quite properly, there is some superficial overlap with Onin, but Well Hung Game set up on the stage and process the baritone sax directly through a monster effects chain. It starts off low key with thin tapers of sax warping off into swirls of delay and threads of distortion. They actually keep it pretty sparse which considering the potential for mayhem the GDS supplies it very restrained, occasionally flurries get into tail chasing loops that build up into something approaching terrifying, but they pull back before it gets out of control. The sax gets to work out in the more guttural regions as you’d hope from a baritone, but he spends plenty of time confounding you in the upper registers as well. During the final stages the saxophone is so twisted by the effects, gated to all hell it sounds like an electric guitar.
I don’t properly train-spot the Sunset Graves kit, but I think there’s something modular in there, no sign of a laptop. There are thick sweet drones, the lead lines have a vague air of melancholy that channels the best early UK dance music, beats that never seem to actually loop, always evolving and slightly off centre. Pleasingly complex without losing the groove. Some proper bass that shakes my camera while I’m filming. One track from near the end has a heavyweight crush of reminiscent of Tackhead. All you can see of him is strings of red lights and thin coloured lines projected against the dark, in blocks – almost TV static. But not static.
Thomas Ragsdale is second up, after a quick handover, his visuals vertical lines that I can’t tell if waver with the beat or have their own lifecycle. Starkly monochrome after the neon purity of Sunset Graves’ colours. After the thick beatiness we’ve had Thomas starts pretty low key, half bass pulse and delayed piano figure with a spoken sample. There are some shiny guitar wash loops and ’89 vintage arpeggios that hint even further back to Edgar Froese, with a real sense of drama. He’s sparing with the beats, too, often a hinted at handclap scatter, or broken tambourine pattern.
Finally, we have ¥ETI, they start with just Adam, minus a good 18 inches of beard since I last saw him, hooded with some kind of Ood-like tendrils hanging out. They eschew the visuals of the rest of the evening. Adam building atmosfear with drones and Gregory Peck, and also does some good work in the lower registers. He does three numbers on his own before being joined by Tim the drummer from the Cosham Community Players Association, who basically goes the full Steve Noble: relentless hard driving free drumming, with one eye firmly on a pulse and the other ranging freely across the entire universe. They end up with a drum off between electronic and acoustic drums, which was pretty cool.
Spheress is up on stage when people start coming in, a mix of hardware and laptop, some synths and Volcas, he starts with a double duck being hit with a squeaky toy quickly escalating to an industrial beat, before eventually a bass drone warps in with a gabba kick and an old-style hardcore tone providing a pseudo bass line. It falls away to a different rhythm before it’s drowned out in a squall of drone feeding back through an ancient reverb box. Back to another beat and bass line before building up to a different kind of feedback distortion falling in metallic sheets. Another breakdown before he gets to work on the synths with a Crybaby wah wah, ending on a nasty layered 2 note fuzz attack.
The electrocreche is a bit funny tonight, we have only one toy as the other broke while I was setting up, we scrounge some kit from Spheress and end up with almost a no input electrocreche. Which turns out to be quite fun.
Unfortunately Ommm is poorly so we have Xylitol doing a solo set. I don’t think we were disappointed. Catherine starts her set with abstract lo-fi electronic noises, chimes, Tardis sounds and disembodied voices. Arrhythmic part comes in with a nasty fan drone washing in and out and it ends on some weird Bruce Haack tip. She has songs, mostly 2 to 3 minutes. The next one starts with a Raymond Scott vibe before heading off into something quite 90s J-Pop-ish, with a really nice full bass that slowly rolls out to a repeated quiet organ figure with delay feedback slowly mutating over it. Next up has a glitchy rhythm and Casio organ moving around all over it. I can’t even describe the next one, it has elements of toy music, minimal techno and subtle use of noise. And so it continues, elements of the last 50 years of electronic music, blended into something that sounds like all/none of them, modern and nostalgic, radiophonic and digital. She has a few copies of her 45 remaining, it’s very good, you should buy one.
Dylan Nyoukis is next up, as promised with his double cassette set up of complete audio mulch. Starting with a slurred down loop of some indecipherable something, a guitar string ping and scrape add some slight sense of rhythm to proceedings. The loops slowly open out, not quite lurching but definitely elliptical in their gait. Dylan works quietly away adding small touches, bringing things in and out slowing or speeding up a touch as required. It’s hypnotic and bizarrely hooked. At some point it sounds like he sneaked the ghost of a bowling alley into the Green Door Store before smuggling it out through the back. Suddenly it switches to something a bit more pier-ish, papier-mâché monsters in cases banging against the glass, Kids with lollipops hitting the metal stands while someone is noisily bending balloon animals. It’s quite dark in an Avengers manner. As the surrounding clutter falls away we find ourselves in a field, the cows moaning not quite happily. A glottal stopping owl starts an argument with a stretched violin chicken. Someone takes a ham fist to a typewriter. A shuffle of someone sandpapering next door winds down with someone talking very slowly backwards over the first musical drone of the set.
Olivia Louvel is finishing the evening off with a selection of songs from her new album “Data Regina” about Mary Tudor, with visual animations written specifically for the event. They’re an interestingly odd blend of almost 80s geometric solid figures with realistically modelled faces acting out various scenes from her imprisonment. I think. (You can see some of them here: www.olivialouvel.com/)
She starts with a glitchy piece with vocal fragments minced up with the light electronic rhythms. The second has a spacious buzzing bass line, with odd notes ringing around it with a full breathy vocal part. The third is more stately affair, “Good Queen Bess” all vocal layers, slow and moving. The next song “My Crown” eschews the space and fills the room right out with a throbby bass, with vocals and further bass tones. It’s a bit epic without breaking out into a full-on beat. So the next song has a very rhythmic structure, everything in it seems to pulse. The next has alternating pulses like it’s all modulated by a square LFO, but the vocals are fragmented, lost. Then straight into the next with Spartan martial snare rolls scattered. The second half has a harmonium slowly unfolding over it. She ends on a long version of “Love or Rule” starting with violin drones and parts, occasional buzz of bass, after a long while a set of machine-like rhythmic parts come in.
So, a little holiday from The Green Door Store, but we will be back there for this month. But it was a lovely trip out to The Rose Hill. Where Steve started with a remarkably bucolic start to a minimal impact set, with his Indian drone box and harmonium, slowly dredging up the trademark thickening that we’ve come to know and accept… weird wandering resonances, fuzzy tones warming imperceptibly, like a small guitar propped in a corner. About 5 minutes in its starting to sound like a normal, if slightly chilled, minimal impact set. Shortly thereafter the bass begins to kick in, heralding the start of proper density, the sound begins to properly thicken up, the sitar-y tones disappearing in the murk, as creepy judders, and hisses wash across the tonal base. By 10 minutes it’s properly intense, and just continues to build, peaking at about 18 minutes. At some point he starts spinning in 2 copies of “Metal Machine Music”, adding an unsettling note of familiarity, a little relaxation before the ending back with MMM overlaying the drone box.
To go with the holiday theme, Toby from the 55th Flotilla was kind enough to run the electrocreche for us this month, bringing in a fine array of properly mangled, way beyond merely bent, toys. Lovely.
Ræppen was next up, Tim becowled, with his Sami drum, looped some throat singing into a pedal, a fairly lengthy set of phrases, with some whistling and proper bass end notes. Over that the drum was rattled along with some more singing, before it faded out over some Brighton beach pebbles he’s been touring with for a few years, rattling and thumping on the stage floor. Again looped with sparse bells and chimes. Wind breaths add a chilling edge, before he brings in the throat singing as a top line this time -almost like an SH101 synth line wah-ing over the backing. Unhuman, and definitely uneasy stuff.
Third up we had Far Rainbow, Monster Bobby on noise making devices and Emily on drums and percussion, she has a great way around a drum kit, slipping between regular sticking and extended techniques and mousetraps. They start with the sound of the steppes again, wind and rattling bits and pieces, a bass pulse very slowly cycles underneath as Emily builds up work on the cymbals and it drops away to eeriness. An organ cycles in, it sounds Casio, with a slow vibrato, field recordings playback through cheap speakers, slowly rhythms emerge from the electronics, the drums comment on it without joining them, circling round the kit in the opposite direction. It hits peak treble before decaying to a tape loop of a diesel boat making little headway on the Norfolk Broads. It has a monstrous quality to it as it gurgles away the birds slowly coming to the fore as again Emily rattles distractingly on the kit. Slowly Bobby brings drones in and it cascades out in washes of pure reverb and drum, emptying down to gong and triangle.
Annie Kerr, Kev Moore and Gus Garside
And to round off the four acts of the evening we have Annie Kerr, Kev Moore and Gus Garside, on respectively violin & piano, electronic devices, double bass and words. Annie starts on violin, there is a general trebly hubbub of chirruping electronics, Gus and Annie sliding strings around, it’s slippery, elusive. Rather lovely. Sounds wash in and around, it falls out at one point to Gus bowing his bass endlessly with the side of the bow, strings resonating through his effects chain. Overtones and undertones sliding in and out, Kev and Annie conjure almost human voices to hum alongside it. And then Annie goes and picks out some notes on the piano at the side of the stage, small flourishes, space, more notes. Gus and Kev bring a tension under them as Annie gets stuck in leaning over the keyboard hammering a longer series of notes up and down the keyboard, then slowly falling away, picking out a few odd notes. The room is enthralled. From somewhere in the electronic murk it sounds like East Croydon announcements, Gus starts telling one of his stories, Annie punctuates his lines with hard notes. At the end of that Kev gets a feedback vocal tone going and this is matched by a high line from Annie, they circle each other before Gus brings in a lower bowed drone and Annie gets a bit more lyrical, slurring a single note for several minutes up and down the neck of the violin wringing some harshly melancholic tomes from it.
We had a kind of story arc in mind for the June show, starting off with Bitter Disko and his stripped down all electronic percussion setup. Stunningly pure in conception, he builds some tonality in by overdriving tom or bell sounds, but it’s all hardware drum machines rattling away in erratic twitchy rhythms, driving on and on. We have had audiences dancing before but this mass twitching and odd convulsions are more widespread and unusual.
Second in line we have the return of Nuclear Whale, his lovely array of hardware and looping visuals. Interspersing disturbing off-centre drones and sirens with rhythmic passages that occasionally get up to a fair old rattle. He almost hits both sides of crystalline Detroit and noise walls without losing the sense of what it is he does. Some real fun in here.
The final act of the evening is Fane’s first show. So that’s a real bonus. His set unwinds quite unusually starting with a really intense thick bagpipey drones with banjo (Hah! Oh yes) before a mid-tempo rhythm slips in and he does some singing (now THAT is something unusual) and eventually it unravels as the bagpipes decay into space slides for a lengthy and quite hallucinatory drone out to end on a very odd digital folk tip. The sounds aren’t the earthy electronic folk inflected sounds of Kemper Norton, say, but oddly clean and shiny, but still with something that hints of the fence or hedgerow.
So, yes, it’s what would have been the eve of Delia Derbyshire’s 80th birthday if she hadn’t died so young. As one of the series of events in Brighton to celebrate that event, I think this was a suitable occasion.
Lorah Pierre is set up in front of the left hand stack on one of the round tables, a small breadboard device with wires, switches, unknobbed potentiometers wires and bare light bulbs sprouting out. She has a small jeweller’s screwdriver in her hand and the house lights down. She starts with small pulses of white noise serried up in blocks, the bulb pulsing in time. Silence erupts with darkness and then pow! Back in with a thin blast of white noise full throttle, again it pulses as she works at the hidden presets. The blasts fatten out and then fall away in volume. Darkness and flashes of light illuminating us standing around the table watching the concentrated effort. The set climaxes with full throttle blasts and then all too soon in darkness ends.
Karen Constance is up on stage, to one side of the screen onto which is projected full size some film by Andy Bolus, it’s large with stained glass colours and the intensity of melting celluloid. After a false start due to connectivity issues, she starts with what sounds like a cassette recording of bricks being chipped resonating through some kind of piano soundboard. It morphs into an unrecognisable lumpy rhythm, before being subsumed by chirruping tape birds and someone gulping a noisy tea before having a sliding door bash their head in. Karen’s collage sets are singular things. Evoking dreams of the city bombsites of my youth, weeds, dust. Machines. There are birds and natural sounds, but it’s not bucolic in any way, when the tonal wind blows it’s through a window, a bell is an oddly warped domestic sound pitch bending into an absurdist shape. Urban Horror. Dogs, elephants. Voices. I’m kind of lost. And a bit scared. It’s dark… she ends with a woman’s voice reading.
Roshi featuring Pars Radio
Finishing the evening is Roshi featuring Pars Radio, starting with a new song, well a new cover of an old Persian folk song, “Rashied Khan” with a short clip of an old Iranian film playing behind them. It’s pretty abstract, Roshi’s voice, a constant, her organ holding quivering notes behind her and Graham Dowdall’s occasional beats scattering about behind her. Then a trio of older ones, including the single “Don’t breathe it to a soul” with film, before finishing off with a rattling version of “Three almonds and a walnut” and unusually an encore! “Lor Batche”. Rocking.
It was a warm spring day, but a cool spring evening. At the Green Door Store, first up for Spirit of Gravity were Duck Rabbit, intrepid and enterprising sound collectors who had done us proud at the Caroline of Brunswick about eighteen months back. Joe, James and Tom played two improvised pieces tonight – the first drawing on samples from a historic working grain-mill (the last full-time working one, they said), and the second from the sounds of a Liverpool scrapyard. Sometimes they whipped up a storm, twisting and wringing the sounds from their machines – in Tom’s case a self-made controller called a Clarinot. At other times – especially on the fadeouts – the sonics they conjured were so subtle that no one knew if they should applaud yet. Eventually, they did anyway.
Next up, Spirit of Gravity collective member Andrew Greaves played the final instalment of his Octabeast series – the ‘last will and tentacle’. Appropriately, its minor key imparted an elegiac sense of a page turned, or a book closed. Over layered, pulsating sequences and echo loops, Andrew added lyrical notes on the mighty Casio 400, with plenty of rhythmic and harmonic contrast and counterpoint to hold attention fast. Behind him flashed up magnificent, self-produced collages, in which Renaissance cherubs vied for space with Russian iconography, a boxer and 1950s goalkeeper (former Palace legend Bill Glazier, it emerges). Andrew hasn’t combined these two elements of his artistic output before but, on this showing, he should surely do it again. As a performer, the lad done great and, as always, gave 110 percent.
Last but unleast, Resonant Blue from Hove, who let it be known during the sound check that they would be loud, and didn’t disappoint in that or in the overall impact of their set. With a simple guitar and laptop setup, the duo produced the kind of soundthrob that really rolls and rumbles in the stomach. On the screen, logs burned in a grate – keeping the home fires burning, while Guardian news alerts went off in my pocket about bombs landing in Syria. Much of Resonant Blue’s loudest sounds derived, I think, from a single sampled growl; the higher frequencies sang in the ears, in my case for some days afterwards, enhancing the sense of time well spent. Towards the end to the set, what sounded like a fire alarm mutated into something closer (odd as this may sound) to ‘This Town Ain’t Big Enough for Both of Us’ played on the bagpipes.