Category: SOG-BLOG

Firelighter Funguscake

February 2022
The Rossi Bar

Starting the evening of people playing under their own real names we had Martin Chick. Last time I saw Martin play he was surrounded by a load of bulky kit including an old Korg, this he slimmed down to a Modular synth and another box, the inevitable clutter of wires ensuring it’s not too tidy. Starting with a bass pulse on the 8s with bell on the ones, he blends in some white noise snares, warbling tinnitus pitch tones marshalling in more drums. A bit of random pitching ushers in a more minimal section that ends up feeling like a fence post being replaced after a storm. Slowly, slowly, blocks of bass or noise or stem whistle are folded in and left to drift off. The sound empties out; cuts of drum in and out, beep tone, bass teased back, then again out. Those blocks of pink noise back, flexatone. A steam kettle in another room washes out everything, building to blistering boil and end.

An SD card incident has removed two thirds of my recording of Kieran Mahon’s set, but hey, I streamed it on FaceBook Live, so can revisit that. Kieran hisself starts the set tucked down behind the upturned box hiding his modular from us – so a much sleeker look to his kit, a dreadbox perched on top. Mid-range drone modulates to wobble as buzzes and the sounds of a dinosaur in a cardboard box reverb subtly into our audio view. An untuned high stabbing on the 32s distracts from the indecent growling, everything goes back do drone, then we get some proper across the board pulsing. Then slowly we get a bit of the beeping sequencing peeping through – and that’s what we come to Kieran for. All around it science fiction shimmers and tones form and fade. Some time later a counter arpeggio assembles against the first and the two dance around each other. This slow unfolding is mesmeric. The sequences morph chaotically, pitches bend, timbres mutate. Shudders whip through, then all we’re left with is the ephemera. Echo thrums and a doorbell riff lead us on into the final section of  almost free improv clanking, finally a bass heartbeat grounds us  and a long arpeggio sends us blissfully off into space.

Finally we had R. Dyer to end the night. She started with what I suspect was an unplanned version of “Little Victories” with a new set of recorded good moments, they’re as funny as usual, the song as gloriously melancholy as usual, looped soprano sax lines weaving around each other over a low keyboard drone as Becca sings over the top. There’s a lot of new victories so we have a fairly extended outro involving washing up, Coventry, bells… other things. The second track starts with a strong keyboard bass line, organ notes, chimes, a couple of gently muted sax layers, vocals. Little raindrops is like an afternoon spent in the loft of your childhood home. “Canaries” was next, after a chat about the canary resuscitator, they were only retired in the late 80s. Who knew? It starts with a creepy creaking walking pace keyboard part, with some odd fx and singing from the canary’s perspective, an interlocking set of soprano layers, more singing finishing with the song of a toy canary. Starting with drum machine tambourine, unison soprano, I missed the name of the penultimate song. There is a sax solo in this one that really flies, lifts the spirits. “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone”. For “King Alfred’s Cakes” Becca’s harp became detached from its contact mic, so she performs it acoustically, no electronics(!) but it’s wonderful, so we don’t mind. Voice and harp, do we need more description.

Wiring not Driving

January 2022
The Rossi Bar

As usual all plans are provisional, so our last minute lineup change had Astral Engineering step up at the 11th hour. Excellent news. I’ve been enjoying the CD from 2020 over lockdown. Starting with a nice fat multi-layered drone to settle us down before hoofing off into a nicely spatial arpeggio with odd spinning tones and occasional bass line part. A detuned string synth melodic line wanders in before we segue nicely into the next piece. Slightly more insistent drums, and some piano that gives the impression of a space waltz without actually being one. Another creepy melody stalks this one. The next tune starts with a gated shimmer, joined by a staggered synth line and loping bass drum. It all gives way to an ascending synth line; and a key change that leads us off into the space bassline of the next tune. Occasional small craft whirr past us as space drones, the bass line gets some subtle filter work before some proper acid squelch activity occurs on it; this one could easily be 20 minutes long if I had my way. A white noise snare indicates the arrival of the final track with a clockwork hi-hat. The unfolding synth sounds like a CZ101 and we get a proper rolling bassline. It sounds almost like a played bass guitar at times, the way it seems to stand and then roll back into life.
Hear more from Astral Engineering on his BandCamp site:

Its Iplu’s first live show ever. He doesn’t seem nervous. His set starts with some field recordings, some subtle processing, some layering. It’s a little bit crunchy; gritty even in places. Some electronic whirps and understated uneasy drone. It’s not a drone it shifts slightly into discernibility, some tones, resonance. Having heard him speak, unlike most of the audience, I can hear his filtered voice amongst the ducks and tea-making. As the field recordings start to get busier the effects get less prominent, glass bells with a hint of something, and then it’s all tuned delay, hints of feedback loops, clanking. After about 15 minutes a glitched up beat starts, cd stammers and winds. A rhythm brings us out of our reveries. Its again heavily processed, I feel my head being slapped by it. Before it gets overwritten by a slow pad melody, some squelches eventually join and an LFO lifted bassline ebbs and flows. The final piece starts with reverbed bass notes on a piano, an occasional interspersed upper register note, a busy percussion part starts in, working around the high notes. A much busier high synth riff provides some melodic colour before we get a drop for some work on the percussion and it plays out with a slow build-up of parts counterpointing the synth melody before the drums are back for a fairly emotional climax.

Due to the lack of the regular sound engineer Meljoann’s vocals are a little low in the mix due to feedback issues, which robs is of some of that pleasure, but means we can revel in the joy of her backing tracks. She starts with her guitar strapped on. She starts with her customary “I hope everyone likes RnB”, before the backing track kicks in and she starts getting into some fretwork, the vocals are desperate. The bass is super fat and envelopes us, the drums thwack like benny hill swatting that bald bloke. It’s a fully warped sound, Jam & Lewis run amok with a PC producer. The second track eases up on the density for “Assf*ck the boss” an ode to the ways of call centre life. We get straight back into the high density and higher tempo for the next track “Trophy Wife” , this one comes on like a deranged mid 80s BoysTown banger with layers of resignation and an urgency of fidgeting trebly stabbing synths over another monstrous bass. Then we get a break with a word from The Mustics corporation, Meljoanns sponsor. I haven’t mentioned any visuals yet, Meljoann supplies her own, with advert breaks.
She has her own mythology, it’s worth checking out her videos on YouTube, you get a whole stream of life improvement videos from the Mustics Corp as well as well as her own more orthodox, but equally disturbing videos for the songs, anyway back to the set. The next track comes on like Prince wrestling a sea-serpent bass, occasionally the whole thing gets overwhelmed by a circling detuning queasiness inducing synth.
We get the second ad break, the Mustics representative staring malevolently at us while delivering her platitudes. The tempo goes right down for the ballad “I quit”, a two-note bassline, ghost synths, a heartful vocal and a stirring guitar solo. With proper posing. The final track “Business Card” starts with a bassline full of static, Gameboy beeps and really defies description once it starts, nothing sounds quite right, layers build and overwhelm us. It could really do with being VERY LOUD.

Apart from Meljoann whose visuals are an integral part of her set, the excellent visuals are from Chris midi_error, as we’ve quickly become accustomed to.

I think we’ll be seeing a lot of this

December 2021

The Rossi Bar

So Dolly Rae Starcore stands in at the last minute for someone laid low by The Rona, for which we are grateful, and happy. Starting with a stroke of the Zither and a massive boom off the mic. Arrayed before her on the table a selection of small percussive objects, two large brass singing bowls, her book and the sheath of papers from which she will read. She reads, pings the Flexatone shakes the shakers and reads, she gently strokes the singing bowl which booms beautifully. One of the singing bowls is a quarter full of water which modulates it when swirled. She reads, pings the percussion. The atmosphere builds, some unaccompanied sections, some densely swirled about. Chimes.

Andrew Greaves filling the middle slot, playing through his latest release, songs and improvisations based on loops of his father singing that were recorded on cassette before he died. The set starts with a manipulated loop of the singing all the consonants lost, murky, monkish. Over this a crisp rhythm track starts up. Slow organ rolls out and back, arpeggiates, the voice wanes. The organ parts thicken, overlap. The voice returns. The second part is structurally the same, it floats more. There is a lot more space and what sound almost like guitar parts. Dogs. A Casio organ solo emerges, the whole thing slowly dissolves into space winds.

The last time Xylitol played for us it was a set of DNW inflected fun played on toys and cheap synths, this time Catherine turned up with a laptop for a set of kosmische drum and bass. It’s got the same sense of fun as before but the tempos are ramped up. There are hints of Harmonia, pointillist interlocking rhythmic keyboard parts fix inside the drum parts before it gets abstractly into resonant pitch shifting frog drums. We nod our heads. The next track almost starts like an Irresistible Force remix, before getting into some serious rhythm scrambling and deranged bassline before allowing the piping melody line to whistle through. The last track starts with a high level of scrambled drums and repeated pinging keyboard parts, repeated to the point of delirium. All the melodic parts steamroller while the movement is all in the drums before eventually the melodic parts all break down into new patterns and the drum cycling starts again.

The wind chilled dew

November 2021

The Rossi Bar

Starting things off with lots of banging we have FROST. It’s unusual for us to have drums, and Dale has drums set up on the front of the tiny Rossi Bar stage, wires going off to a few devices, and the electronic pads. So he starts with a fairly open piece, rolling sprightly tight drums with pinging Raymond Scott sounds and a nice whistling melody over the top, from there he’s straight into more proggy territory, jerky beats, an elliptical sequence (backing track? I don’t think so by the way the sound modulates). There are too many beats to the bar, the timing is way odd. No melodic elements to this one, it’s all point/counterpoint. The third tune has a breathless Casio whine drone, with a more straightforward rhythm, this turns into a riff like Friske Frugt, it stretches out into a chiming section that alternates with something chiming in an altogether trickier time signature. The next starts with a chirrupingly tapped rhythm, that turns into some odd detuned riff, with pizzicato scattered rhythms and some buzzing hardcore on the cheap saw wave stabs. The last one is a full on prog action epic, that he somehow gets electric piano chords in amongst the staccato drum pattern.

Second up was Territorial Gobbing “down from Leeds”.  With his table of stuff, twin cassette players, a loop pedal, a springing ruler, desk bell, honker, file, matt with contact mic. He starts like some quick draw artiste with a cassette player in each hand, swinging each arm back and forth. Squalling feedback at us instead of bullets. Then we get a beautifully timed comedy patch of silence. Then we get into staccato snatches from the tapes, music, speech, reverbed, sped up, looped. Or not. A bout of rummaging gets us into a denser noisier passage while Theo tries to summon “Alex .. a … A.. Alex…. Alexa” He has a deft touch, the kind of comic timing we haven’t seen in an age, and an ear for when to let rip with a proper screech of noise. And he works hard at the table, I don’t think much is unused at the end.

Rounding the evening off we have Emma Papper, with laptop, Electronic Wind Instrument EWI5000, and clarinet. The first track is bouncing chimes and wafts of trilling synth with occasional tonal arpeggios with a hint of flexitone. The second has a percolating synth line, with a melody from the EWI that’s all slurred detuned washes that occasionally have stringy touches of Chi Mai sung out by ice bound sirens. The third is all angelic choirs and distant aliens that slowly shifts into focus, with some deep shifting detail. The next piece is harsher, winds and icy, gritty high pitched spines. Abstract and less comfortable. It feels like an ice cave, I can even hear the dripping, giving way to a landscape of slowly undulating tones. The next piece carries on from here with warmer vocal washes. The penultimate piece tends toward what sounds like overdriven guitar drones, with strings and hints of birdsong in its fluttering synths. The final piece brings the clarinet up off the table, meshing it against the shifting drones from the laptop, the backing shifts so slowly it’s almost imperceptible, giving the clarinet an evolving background to work on.

Joining the long list of people who have enjoyed playing at The Spirit of Gravity so much they’ve released their set afterwards here we have Emma Papper’s set from the November show: