Category: SOG-BLOG

A bit of a high concept evening

June 2022
The Rossi Bar

Adam Martin performing for the first time ever under his own name a piece he composed for his dissertation about his ADHD, a video cutup collage set, Adam is on the floor with a laptop its unclear – is he processing visuals, is he processing sound? Both. It all starts with rumbling and a solarised image, pulsing and lined, a screeching drone laying into it as the image thickens. The sound is chunked into segments along with the visuals, Paul Blart Mall Cop makes an appearance. Voices looped calling back. Ascending vocalese. An explosion. Confusion. Paul Blart speaks. Stages Classic; Inattentive; Over-focused; Temporal Lobe; Limbic; Ring of Fire; Anxious. Max Headroom. Intensity increases, incomprehensibility. And a little Rick-Roll at the end.

BUNKR starts with a floating drone and sweet arpeggio, switching over to minutely detailed little patterns twitching around a detuned version of the drone, the arpeggio comes back with a heavy filter and lovely melody floating around in the pads. About 5 minutes in a bass drum slips in almost unnoticed and a squelch comes in slipping around the rest. The second song starts with an elastic bass, and sliding whistle, a low key brushed drum pattern again imperceptibly makes its way into your consciousness. And out again. Again things return in a slightly altered detuned creepy manner. The third is straight in with the arpeggio and a creepy melody stalking over the top. The arpeggio is constantly mutating in timbre and scope, eventually everything around the arpeggio fades away to be replaced by a stepping bassline overpowering everything with its sense of dread. Finally a high pitched sequencer sparkles in around the top of everything else. The last piece is just an unfolding of layers of drones with a slow arpeggio underneath.

RAAD with two As start in silence and darkness before Heather starts slowly working at the electric double bass, it’s a stuttering “Fever”, Chris provides a commentary of occasional electronic squalls. Heather sings. Chris also sings. A slowed down recording of a radio show on fever segues us into the next section. “Fever is your friend” looped. There is processing and some subtle electronic tomfoolery. The double bass works away. The globe smoking as it spins slowly emerges on the visuals behind them. Its all quite stately. They don protective goggles. Heather comes out with an infrared thermometer and starts to scan the audience a temperature chart slowly completing on the screen at the back of the stage.  Chris completes notes on a clipboard. The looped words slowly fade and filter out. Heather hands out bags of herbs. They both start speaking, intoning against each other. Heather kicks in a filthy fuzz on the double bass and grinds out a repetitive riff.

We are now uploading the whole set to YouTube for your entertainment viewing pleasure:

A Tinnitus Special

May 2022
The Rossi Bar

It surprised me that we haven’t had more people using mobile devices play at The Spirit of Gravity, around 2010 I was convinced they’d sweep all before them, but they never did, we’ve had a few acts use them as sound sources, but Fizzell brings them centre stage as the major part of his tech, with an outboard processing unit and a little mixer. His set starts with filtered and modulated speech, well I assume speech as it has something of the rhythms and patterns of speech but garbled into pure sound. This ebbs and flows until it’s replaced by a sine bass, rhythmic slab of synth pad, and then a rhythm set by an odd loop of a matchbox drawer being popped, and an odd very 80s sounding bass synth line. He gets working on this building up a warbling rumble in the background. There’s a passage of really nice bell like tones against occasional detuned bass notes. It’s a set that chops from this to that, the next passage is like being clobbered by someone with a typewriter, this section actually builds and develops into something layered, lots of staccato lines warping around each other with a songlike structure and a really good tone bassline, and a really funny breakdown that almost gets clobbered by a fat drone. But when the main lines come back in, there are a couple of other nice indirections like that, too. The last section again seems based around chunks of voice based sound sources, this time filtered down to some pretty strange sounding bass tones.

Second on were The Zero Map, their first show since they played well before lockdown 3 years and 3 days previously…. Karl and Chloe set up behind their tables of stuff, stringed instruments, wind instruments, effects, a Theremin a plethora of stuff. Starting off quietly with muted bass guitar string scrapes and odd sounds played through end of a tunnel reverb, they incrementally build, slowly; sooo slowly: looped long sung exhalations, some odd  guitar flourishes, drones, quivers, I don’t know whats. Then about 15 minutes in it really starts to amp up, the bass drones take on a slightly fiercer tone, the guitar is just that bit more distorted, the drones louder adopting a bit more bite. There’s a slicing detuned guitar that circles ominously. Some voice rather than singing, some wailing, the Theremin gets a bit of work. Finally Karl (as he always does) gets right into my tinnitus frequencies and I have to block my ears for a while. It’s getting good and thick now, a soup of sound, like falling through 2001s stargate. A proper bass roar from Chloe, some actual feedback from somewhere. Some squalling synth sound. Bit of Harsh noise Wall to finish. Bang and done.

And finishing us off for the evening was Teignmouth Electron. I’d seen Maureen play at Wrong Music’s National noise Day event as part of Polly Shuan Kang Band who were excellent, and don’t think I’d seen her since. Maureen had twin cassette players and effects and a few small objects on her table, she stood behind it robed with her hands wide in benediction. “Without freedom of choice there is no creativity” the voice slips backwards at once point then slips away altogether overtaken by a gurgling toney burble. I can make out voices, but not the words. Resonant tunnels seem to spirit the meanings away. Some stately musical parts push through the murk, barely audible, over lowly clanking machines or whistling factories. There’s a nice little riff on that distinctive Casio organ sound. The voices on the cassette cajole and berate inconsonantly, indecipherably; tube trains come and go behind the walls. There are long passages of unfolding, evolving sounds, star trek fx, passages of loops; repetition. There are uncertain pitch controls, pinch wheels seem oval warbling the recordings. A super slow William Burroughs intones against a return of the Casio part. The Casio is replaced by a new synth part, higher penetrating constantly rising against a plethora of women’s voices, conversational looped and frrrp rewound. Frrrp rewound. Frrrrrrrrrp rewound. A murky guitar riff peeks through and disappears behind some proselytising. How nice. Everything drops down to a single woman’s voice, conversational that falls into a loop. The plaintive Casio returns along with Bill and a hymn. “you are not adhering to the current…” then a jangle of the small table bell and its done.

From the ridiculous to the remarkable

April 2022
The Rossi Bar

Muster start the evening off, Dan on small things processed through MaxMSP and synthesiser, if you’re lucky Tony will publish a picture of the frankly ridiculous patch on the SoGBlog; then there’s James seated on electric guitar, played by a variety of brushes, pins, clips, files and a plethora of other unsuitable things. Also fingers & thumbs, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t see a plectrum. Muster fall at the EAI end of what we put on, quiet, spacious and very much from a free improv place. It starts with chimes and scrapes – a very quiet ring of feedback – silence – a more forceful feedback squall. Electronics warble spookily. Clanking, radio voices passed through the guitar pickups, weird tonal radiophonic patches, squeaks. Dan works methodically around his table of things, shuffling the microphone, James a bit more animated: flipping his guitar flat on his lap to crocodile clip the strings or wedge things under the strings, or bringing it back vertically to fret it more orthodoxly or jam the headstock against the small amp for feedback. There was someone in the audience moved to join in for a while a baritone rumbling unverse, not quite comprehensible. Chime box and pinging guitar combine, an odd sproing and unexpected massive detuning of a guitar string. Dan thickens up his output for the final section, James sets his fingers scurrying and lets rip with a proper squall from the amp, a weaving two tone drone from Dan, counterpointed by thumb piano.

Second on the bill is Zoom Around Rainbow. Sat sideways on at his laptop at the back of the stage, right at the screen. He’s enjoying the PA, tweaking the EQ through the set to maximise his bass happiness from the house PA. Starting with a pretty full on textured jet engine roar that slowly builds up with a rattling high hat an occasional bass drum hit slipping in underneath, a full drum pattern gradually pushing its way through. A strangely hooky double pad stab motif slips into your head almost unnoticed adding a vaguely hysterical tinge to things. The drone differentiates itself into a scrabbling set of counter rhythmic figures, the beats morph heralding the next section. Porky hardcore beeps and the drums give it a bit of a 91 feel. The jet comes back and swamps everything in its mighty reverberant roar. New drums, bass, floor toms, no hi hats, the jet engine  now in bursts function as a 4 beat on off bassline, melodic content provided by woodblock. Then a pummelling bass drum batters us to the finish of this section. And suddenly they stop and everything washes away blissfully. A swell of bass washes up, a steady firm beat, train rattle percussion alongside, hard long sounds come and go like slowly walking along the construction site of the Lewes Road during lockdown. Its dense where Muster were sparse, getting ever denser. Ever denser. The grinds fade away and more rhythmic parts unfold giving no real relief. Then everything again gives way, this time to space sounds and distorted voices, a rolling slightly, oddly too short drum pattern. Eventually a detuned two not bassline rocks in derailing the rhythm and taking control. Around it swoop pads and squelches. The density falls away. It ends; we are released.


And finally its Vera Bremerton, we had been speaking before lockdown about her coming down to play for us, and now, eventually here she is. She has vocal mics and some heavy duty processing equipment. Possibly a sound source. She starts low key, an odd looping tone, vocalisations, gentle at first, some passing through the equipment unscathed others catching, repeated back at us, verbatim, some mangled, some delayed unfeasibly. Gurgles and shudders. The occasional horrors. This is going to be hard put not to be just a string of verbs. Her voice swoops, closely tracked by some awful electronic banshee, curling against machine judders and machine tool whirrs. She twists some tightly controlled feedback into an engaged tone whale-song, sets an earth hum against it suddenly releasing swarming robot bees against which she sets up some unearthly gurgling. Space ships flicker by sprinkling shimmering trails. She can really do some alarming things to her voice with this kit, processing it into some alien menagerie, or looping vocalisations into plunger rhythms. The thick rhythmic melange calms down into a 30,000 ft. jumbo jet ambience, with unknowable lyrical melodics and childish song-play, suddenly the plunger is back, then gone into a late 20th century modernist soundtrack, unnerving and edgy. Then cascading tones and the return of the bees, a fairly straight melodic vocal refrain, it feels looped but seems different every iteration. A steam belching factory throb underpins everything now. She sings again, now and again the electronic banshee follows her vocal line. The final section has her vocalising a melodic loop and winding distortions of it around itself, bass notes, harsh trebly runs that gets into some pretty extreme areas before winding back out to something fairly lovely to end. “Remarkable” I think I said at the end.

Quality in depth – just look at that bench

March 2022
The Rossi Bar

The first unheralded act of the evening was Ninit / Polysicness, who literally agreed to play 24 hours before he stepped on stage, the first of two COVID stand-ins. A background thrum of cassette distortion seems baked into the start of the set, the sound is thick, warm, enveloping in that nicely saturated manner that iron oxide gives you. Barging their way into this comes a murky rhythm and some drums, the wash of background sound dissolves and the sudden clarity makes your ears pick up. Greg is stopped over afar too low table, it looks painful. He suddenly off and wandering round the audience in the creepy see through mask giving delayed words to us. The music canters off a nice rumbling uneven bassline and rhythmic piano-ish stabs giving way to arpeggiated counterpoint. There is some serious pitch adjustment to lead lines giving things an odd eerie edge. A general mutation as we progress through the set, each part built on one piece from the previous. Rhythms change, drums grow lumpy or staccato, holding back the drive or suddenly lifting us forward. In the middle of the set there’s a pause where everything fleetingly disappears save a child’s voice, just enough to give us a bliss of tension before the release of everything coming back and we’re off again. As we move through the sound gradually thickens back up, the parts get noisier. As we approach the end everything gets louder, more muffled. Slows down. Speeds up. More shouting. Riffs revisit. That tape ambience is back. More bass drum. More reverb.

With slightly more notice, our first replacement, playing second, was Monty Oxymoron. Opening with a flurry of Morricone-esque guitarish notes off his keyboard, bouncing off the delay, a sound somewhere between guitar, space organ and electric piano Monty was running up and down the keyboard, twinkles of top end notes. Razor edged bass parts. Pausing and slowing down for more retrospective passages, before a proper shimmer of space sounds held us blissfully for a minute or so, segueing into a lovely passage of jazz tinged spaceness. He had a very plastic looking electric tambura that droned in somewhere around here, giving him the opportunity to go right out into the further reaches. Little melodic flourishes, scary bass lines, then off on another extended pianistic improvisation. Then we have a pause while he reads some passages from his book “The Cosmic Brain Explodes” over the tambura backing. Then a flurry of super-fast trebly Tangerine-ish arpeggios herald the return of the cosmic jazz. He does some odd stuff with timbre where he almost disappears into a black hole, before emerging again, pulsating and twinkling.

So finally and the only person who knew he’d be playing 6 weeks – or even a week previously we had Alien Alarms. Starting in a twinkling manner that flowed on quite nicely from Monty’s set, with a vocal sample from what sounded like a documentary on that new-fangled electronic music. The melodic parts float over a sparse bass line, that seems to go missing for bars at a time without losing anything, the drums are constantly evolving, this is where the real movement is, the dynamism. Without straying into Aphex style erraticism, they shift, add dynamics imperceptibly, drive us on. The second track carries on the bassline becoming more constant, dropping into massive long slurred tones at one point. Gradually the tempo shifts upwards, the third track takes the longer bass notes, not so much notes as a bar long pitch bent single note at times. Over this is a queasy 16th detuned string part and something about vegetation. Track four gets all Marxist on us over something approaching super-fast drum and bass drums under super slow everything else, like that old joke about people dancing at 2 speeds at D’n’B raves put into very visible action. The final track has some very nice vocoder action, and continues the speed up, with some proper deranged pitch bent, well everything, basslines, pads, melodic lines all meandering all over the shop, the vocoder itself ending up washing out the voice into almost a complete synthetic wash.