Category: SOG-BLOG

White crusty muffins

December 2023
The Rossi Bar

Starting with Llaabb wwoorrkk, white coated boffins surrounded by an array of identifiable and unidentifiable objects, things to rattle, buttons to push, things to bash and things to gong. An array of percussion, from the tiniest up to a meter wide gong and an East European clone of a Putney VCS. What’s not to love, it’s the first outing for Dolly’s new project with an old friend Simon, and it marvellous, short vignettes of synth business and percussion and whistling, starting with what sounds worryingly like feedback to the sound engineer, but is in fact deliberate, that gives way to a lovely pulsing, with the mentioned whistling. The next piece is chimes and enveloping swoops of synthy-ness. Some lovely modulations unfolding. I’m going to concentrate inevitably on the showy synth, but it’s all really well framed by Dolly’s subtle percussive accompaniment. It’s all marvellously radiophonic as can’t be helped given the sound source, filmic and science fiction-y at times, wailing and droning buzzes in the wind. A set for closing the eyes and waiting for the pictures.

Second up was Secret Nuclear; and it’s not just me that thinks this was a cracking Secret Nuclear set, it’s now available via Bandcamp if you get the urge to listen to it in full. Dorking’s finest. Outflanking us at the start with a white noise/ blasting wind sound (field recording? Noise set?) before settling into a bug buzzing bass and ticking drum machine. The melodic sounds are John Carpenter-ish, OMINOUS. And slowly developing. It’s nearly halfway into his set before we hear a bass drum, and that provides rhythmic punctuation rather than an obvious beat. Even the arpeggios are unnerving, the audio samples murky and confusing sounding like they’ve been ripped from VHS.  The second song breaks into an orgy of glitchy bitcrushing before hitting a fat drone. About 20 minutes into the set a full rhythm track gets in under the heavy drones to push us along with the melody line. Then everything really comes together for the last song, the beats are suitably propulsive, the melodic lines hooky, the bass monstrous, it’s all just creepy enough, it even has a little dub version of itself in the middle. It’s another set with film score undertones.

And finally we have The Yorkshire Modular Society, he has inevitably a racked up modular, in a case that slopes up away from the table with a DR-9 drum machine underneath it, that’s sole function as far as I can tell is to have its light on so it looks nice reflected off the shiny brushed aluminium bottom of the Rack case…. and what he plays is a slowly unfolding generative drone set, ish. Is it constant enough to be drones? I’m not sure, it has high levels of almost repetition, the sound is enveloping and at a volume that it’s almost physical and warm; something to wallow in. At points Dom, ex of Brighton, gets up from his kit and wanders around to ensure the sound is right out in the room. There are sounds that come and go, a whistling wind, a washing swooshing synth, a thrum, a bass that sneaks in rattles everything and then slowly fades away again. Mind rinsing. It’s constant and constantly shifting, a drone, not a drone.

Monotron bridges

November 2023
The Rossi Bar

Cour’en start with laughter, and then whistling, slowly out of nothing a two note bassline starts to form,  drum machine follows, a fizzing distorted organ and Louise’s voice through loads of delay. Thoughts Collide, shouting “Broken!”, an organ solo. Brief. Back to words again and pitch bent organ and end. Some banter. The second song starts on an altogether more buzzing tip, they turned it up and the volume gives an energy to the bass. The organ this time is used for slicing punctuation. An evil guitar solo, feedback and screwdriver fuzz. Back again to words. Then everything stops into delay and guitar feedback “Wot-ot-ot-ot?”. Next one starts on bass drum, then a moodier bassline, less buzz. A spooky organ riff as it’s just after Halloween, the guitar played with an electric toothbrush this time. It drops down to drums and voice for the final voice and stop. The next one starts with an indistinct bass and strident rhythm. The bass suddenly bursts into a pinging acidy burble. The guitar on this one a filthy deep churn. Filtering synth, another one burbling. An exchange of heckling and a proper full throttle bouncing bassline, the vocals come in before the drums, “Who the fuck are you?”, a nice B52s fuzz organ riff. A guitar burst channelling Andy Gill then down to a bassline stomp to end. The last song starts with a rubber band bassline, and a weird CZ101 backwards detuned riff that warps into a modulating drone during the verses. The weird riff to end into reverb and noise and laughter.

Karl M V Waugh next up. A very different type of set, sound-tracking an op art video he’d made. “Watch this, don’t watch me”. A buzzing drone murks up out of the silence, modulating deep layers building up under it. A higher buzz sneaks in, slowly the sound develops, thickens. Still builds nothing lost, more layers; more, more layers. Nothing lost, the top layer warps out into a top buzz. Constantly shifting. A delayed keyboard clanging riff. Still building. A big Tardis modulation enfolds everything as it sweeps into existence. There’s a sound like someone struggling to shut down a feeding back 500w Marshall stack in the dark warehouse next door. It floats along like this for a while, then continues to build as a sea-swell roar swoops in. A synthetic pterodactyl can be heard over this as everything reaches the peak. I can’t see the visuals properly from where I’m sitting, God knows what’s going on there. The storm breaks into fierce acoustic winds that batter the room. Eventually it the wind dies and the bass drone slopes back in, the sea recedes and a nasty buzz envelopes everything. A distant choir, the bass splits into a thrumming bass and circular saw. There’s a lost swirl of synth and slowly everything mushes up into white noise then back down to the buzz to wind out as a single drone from a long lost set of pipes.

Finally we have a new set from Rashamon; vocals he promised us, but the lack of a mic wasn’t promising. The first track starts with what sounds like a recording of Christmas heard coming from a mall. The bass drum kicks in a marching beat, Monotron delay, staccato synth ping. A high melodic line filters between the beats and the rest of the rhythm kicks in.  Some pads before it finally breaks down for the bassline. A nice heavy filter on that. And to make up for the lack of basslines to this point we get a second and a third. A female vocal comes in, ah, its pre-recorded, its provenance unknown, we’ll find out. Hooky, mind. Some synth spirals and what sounds like the chorus and another breakdown into some squelch. Some nice little flourishes of the Monotron, it’s easy to go overboard with the filter and delay, so it’s nice to see it used in such a restrained fashion.  This is pumping. The next starts with an old style breakbeat, booming away in the largest room. Ratchets down sparse drums and a melodic mid synth line and Monotron squelch swoop. It builds up around that, layers of pads and drones, sirens, bells. No vocals on this one, just layers of dark intensity. The next one starts with a nicely modulating squelching arpeggio. Drums and whistling drones gather around. Pointillist synth lines complement it and a rolling beat gathers momentum, an interlocking track of total dynamics, suddenly it shifts and we get a melodic line over a popping rhythm. Again this one just turns into a driving stomper of interlocked rhythmic parts. The final track starts with a voice from a film, a classic bit of Rashamon, something about Halloween and Christmas, a bit funny a bit dark. The final track starts with a monster beat, not so fast, big, jingle bells like some 1990 hardcore tune from before the race to 180bpm began, the bassline is melodic rather than pulsing, swooping under another female vocal, bells, counterpoint it.  Again its intensity to the max, unsettling.

Surprisingly heavy on ordinary instrumentation

October 2023
The Rossi Bar

Ron Caines, Andrew Greaves & I’m Dr Buoyant: if you don’t know him, Ron was the saxophone player with the near legendary prog rock band East of Eden, long before half of us in the audience could walk. He’s been playing with both Andrew (and with his band Broken Star) and I’m Dr Buoyant for a number of years, but this was the first time they’ve played as a trio. The set starts with some layering up of synths by the electronicians but when Ron starts they drop away leaving him to lay some plaintive lines before a thin stream of near feedback creeps in and ever so slowly swells to some lovely swirling, echoing space noises. Ron starts to bounce back off this; trilling and parping, Andrew responds with a flurry of notes and then slows it down to another deep space tone. As things progress Tony starts channelling Ron’s saxophone back through the effects chain, which is nice. Andrew gets into some synth runs, then back into the spacey washes and occasional organ scurry. About 20 minute sin Andrew starts a much effected drum pattern, pinging echoes and squelchy reverbs all over. Ron switches to slight, tremulous bursts until everything starts to thicken out and he gets into some harder blowing. And then it all winds out in light arpeggios and looped sax breath.

The Organ Grinder’s Monkey, it’s the first time we’ve had Ben back in a while, and he’s changed things around a bit, the lovely Black and Chrome Jaguar guitar has gone to be replaced by some multifunctional high end (but at least black) modern thing. He’s also changed his set around a bit, gone are the tight punchy songs and he’s loosened up a bit, but there’s still plenty of structure. No singing though. The first song he starts by getting some guitar loops going through Bill the laptop. There is some odd glitching and you can visibly see him deciding on whether to restart or use it as feature, he decides to forge ahead. When the chiming interlocking guitar loops are cycling away, he gets the guitar to show some of its other features, messing with things, triggering midi sounds, the wayward glitches mostly fall away leaving on the deliberate ones. And thankfully for his stress levels the rest of the set seems devoid of issues. Apart from the unexpected triggering of an amen break. The next one starts with one of his pop guitar riffs, there’s some madness noises and the amen break. The whole thing has that clarity and lightness that reminds me of my favourite of Cornelius’ work. He gets really into messing with the beats at the end, building on his work with the games controller the last time we saw him. The next one starts with the messed up beats. Slower and rather chunky, he plays in a bassline and some more nicely interlocking guitar parts and glitchy frills. There are some great guitar controlled breakdowns on here. Theres a really quick switch into the next song, it’s almost completely formed. Guitar and rhythm doing what I can only describe as tripping along with extraordinarily filthy noises over them. Unless its some kind of dub of the previous song. Organ Grinder’s Monkey on the Version. It does go through a quite expected silly breakdown/chop up at the end. But a great example of what can be done with a bit of imagination on how to do things. An interesting experimental approach to playing, with a great ear, combining to make something really out of the ordinary.

Nina Kohout starts with heavily affected multitracked vocal, thick and well layered. We fall silent, piano comes in and she sings on, simply and alone. Electronic bass tones well up, and a fairly brutal waltz beat starts. The sound is surprisingly spacious after that heavy start. The next song is deceptively simple with an electric guitar and voice. Followed by something that starts with some deep electronic pulses, and slow dread-full beat. Some nice use of a what sounds like a scrapingly bowed cello sound. The beats pick up, heavy on the toms, intensity ramps, yowling backing vocals add to that. And it rounds off with a nice drop to a spooky ending. The next song is about consent, pretty dark, angry and as it’s new I guess raw. Intense, something of Kate Bush about the way the vocal lines interleaving. After a light break for a middle eight we get some seriously heavy synth riffing, deep and ponderous. The next song is much lighter, starting with vocals of a high thin drone before a piano line comes in. There’s a really nice string synth interlude before things go off at a bit of a tangent with interplay between pre-recorded and live vocals and back to the piano line. The next song is a song for waking up and in Slovakian. Multi-tracked and affected vocals start with drones, and a bass pulse “hah!”, church organ washes and reedy pipe melodies follow with synthetic bird whistles. The final song starts with a plonking marimba pattern, the vocals come in, everything fades briefly then a deranged Latin rhythm starts, with some proper sonic bass. Its almost channelling a gothy Herb Alpert, only without the trumpet.

Here comes summer

September 2023
The Rossi Bar

Starting the evening off, Thon is set up onstage with his hand made hurdy-gurdy noise box, effects rack and a couple of other devices that were hidden behind the huge monitor he had displaying visuals to complement the visuals he had projected behind him. Bowing the string on the noise box get this monster drone started, which he then complemented with scratches at this or thrums of that, or something untoward on the hidden kit. The drone seems to constantly morph into human/unhuman screams. Occasionally it feels like a whip of feedback folds in, but the deep undertow of the bass is pretty much constant. Some kind of Godzilla footstep bass drum, reverbed and down-pitched to below sub bass thumps along. I had visualisations of a car accident in a desert, some kind of narrative conjured itself up. Everything starts to drift, the footsteps and unrelenting bass both fade away leaving a Star Trek shimmer from two bowed ruler like bits of metal on the noise box. A new drone is built around this, oscillating slowly with much higher frequency sounds, much more feedback driven. Eventually a shaky hi-hat style patter seeps in, and almost a bassline starts to undulate under the drones, sub bass, the drones growl and work with the bass, switching around, shifting the dynamics and it slowly drops down to a far choir, then a low organ buzz. A low organ buzz with a windy, church-ish ambience. He works again at the noise box, giving texture and scrape-y grain to the sounds and then a roar slowly envelopes everything and we’re done.

So Missing Music, a set up with two very old Apple Macintoshes, one plugged into the projector so everyone can follow what’s going on, which leads to a lot of murmuring throughout his set from certain sections of the audience. To be honest the details go over my head, but a great deal of trainspotting pleasure is obviously to be had. It’s a lovely set, very soundscape-y, spacious, expansive. A nice contrast to the density of Thon. Its starts with big tonal sounds, pure, floating and bending with radiophonic overtones. A staccato bass counterpoints what we’ll take as the melody line,  providing a little drive, to propel things along. Little bursts of notes give way to great slowed loud bell tones. I recognise a piano keyboard when it comes up and a flurry of piano notes runs around our heads. The slowly modulating line continues through. We get a half beat, something of drum and bass about it, staggering in the background it throws the top line into bright relief. Something of the cathedral about it until it slows down to proper bass. We get some glitching and sparkling, a rattle of delayed snare. And breathing. Space. The sound of space in my imagination epic and beautiful, the sound of Jupiter looming into view. A stepped note part gives way to a nice little arpeggio, still situated somewhere in the cold reaches of the outer solar system. And it runs for a nice little while before the sounds suddenly mutate and we get some glitch-y stutters, smeared sounds its suddenly all a bit MaxMSP, I’m not sure as it could have been on the other screen, but whatever it is giving it the improv-y edge it’s counterbalanced  by a nice slow LFO sweep working against it. A one note pulse heralds the end as it slowly unravels.

En Creux has a no input mixing desk setup; feedback loops through effect chains in and out of her onstage mixer, with no initial signal. Her set starts with a low hum which slowly moves to an undulating buzz. There’s some squelching from a delay that disappears quite quickly. Things can move quite quickly the feedback loops are inherently unstable, and we get a staccato of high pitched before a marvellous dotting bass erupts – superfast pulsing that imperceptibly slows, before she gets to interrupt it to get some rhythm, then a subby noisy wash of bass swamps in underneath it. En Creux is very much at the other end of the sonic spectrum to Toshi Nakamuras spectral treble. We do get some blistering mid ranges here though, it feels dangerous, the sub bass is still riding the room, but these switches of deliriously nasty noises wreak havoc with the senses. She can ride the havoc well, letting it rip on, with some really nicely detailed fine control. Eventually she reigns in the noise to a muffled stutter before dropping it altogether. She does some work on the bass for a while shifting it slightly, giving it a wobble, developing it into something raucous, then back again to something more tonal, dropping the buzz and letting it get wafted about by a delay pulse. This runs for a while and then she thickens it up, and allows it to branch off, one strand filtering out into a reverb-y buzz that slowly disappears, and we’re back to a buzzing vibrating pulse again. Then some squeaking, a dog’s toy. No idea where on earth that came from, but it sounds like it brought its dog with it. Then some nice feedback whistles, before its back to the bass and a machine clacking beat, which becomes everything, even crickets. She slows it, brings it back to speed, introduces new elements that add to it, before it winds down to a saw slowly hacking through a giant tree.