Category: SOG-BLOG

Strange qualities

January 2024
The Rossi Bar

So January, starting the year with super-droners Plurals, down to core members Dave and Daniel  and as usual set up on the floor, a bit of a trickier proposition for the low stage at The Rossi Bar with the start the year audience jammed in. I cannot see the kit, I recall a broken cymbal, keyboards, guitar, vocal mike and an array of effects pedals. The set starts with a shimmering lofi pulse enjoined with a submarine ping. Bass winds blow slowly into the frame and a slow loop of a throat clearing bashes in and fades quickly, the bass drone mutates slowly into a nice sawtooth buzz that takes precedence in the mix. I think there is some bowed cymbal scrapes through loads of delay while the buzz becomes ominous. Wed can feel the sound thickening up as other sounds get into the delays. bassy hums, crystalline shards of tight cymbal bowing, that wind returns. Something resembling a strangled guitar figure (that could also easily be a voice) comes in as the build really starts to take hold. The room is really starting to buzz, but there’s more to come. Tractor engine judders, more drones, squeals of feedback. Vocal squeals. Still its building, people can see how its going and come to the back for earplugs. You can start to feel the volume in your viscera. The cymbal is crunched, the only description, it sounds destructive. The guitar seems to be feeding back in three different ways at once. I can hear a violin. I haven’t seen a violin, I don’t think there is one, but it sustains a drone and a scurrying figure of scrapes across its strings, I’m sure it isnt there. Things thin out a bit after this ghost. Strands of thin feedback over chuffing steam train. Its calmer, still loud, but somehow less intense and rather lovely in spite of not actually being pleasant sounding. Space returns in the middle of the mix as the drones drift basswards and everything else fades away leaving a modulating guitar line to hold things together as intensity build again for Boom! The end.

Quite contrastingly we had Expedient Self, guitar loop pedal and effects. Shorter tightly composed pieces. A brief setup of a rhythm track, an intense lead line that multi tracks up quite quickly and suddenly drops down to a arpeggio, quickly builds again in a quite different direction, drops again then more slowly build back up to the first melodic line again, which is allowed to develop more before dropping again to a choppier section that build into delay feedback then drops again to end. The second piece starts really quickly with about 8 loops banged into the looper really quickly. Over this a melodic line reminiscent of Snakefinger writhes its way, tremeloingly away before heading off into a lurid fever dream of pigeons and fake Farfisa solos. Again the third is quickly off the mark, the melodic elements coming from layered arpeggios. We get into some pumping delay feedback while he trills small guitar runs over the top, the drop comes briefly leaving the trilling guitar running and we lose the whole thing to swirly string wipes.


Rounding off the evening with a banging set was Xylitol, eschewing the toys and J-Pop of olden times Catherine was laptopped up. Starting with a whooshing hardcore breath riff with birdsong that morphed into hard chimes and when the drums boomed in went again to pinging arpeggios. The drums hyperactive, everything almost in slow motion against them until a super distorted bassline/bassdrum and whistle melody showed up. Then the full on hardcore breaks. The whistle melody comes over all beautiful to compensate. The drums shift again savagely jungled up. They keep shifting. The breathy riff has gone replaced by an evolving 80s synth descending part. Things shift again, the rhythm carried by a frantic, disturbed frog and snare that turns into buzzing, and again pinging. Shifting again, this one beyond my descriptive powers, again channelling early 90s hardcore, almost lovely detuned synths, fierce drums and a melodic line like a doorbell on the dregs of its battery. Finally a breakdown, into a simple synth line that fills out and wanders away from the tune into pure modulated abstraction. Drums, a bit slower (the ballad?) start up and after a while a massive sine bass slows in in a deranged homage to GLR. Interplanetary hisses, beauty, horrifyingly out of tune synths all merge into something quite wonderful. Then there’s a distinct change to the next tune, harking back perhaps to the bent toys, with a childlike, almost Moog demo line, against which everything else builds in intensity. The last piece starts with a fast high synth riff not unlike chime under which speeding snares and high hats clatter. The synth riff obviously evolves into something else, the drum intensity builds, pads appear, horrible noises emerge and disappear. Half heard piano riffs. Nasty drum bangs, and sudden drops. A pulsing staccato one note bass. Ghostly whoooo noises. My goodness, so much going on, a fever delirium. The first half of the set is a single piece has everything shifting so much the points where songs merge are all but unknowable as it’s just another change in a constantly drifting sea of sound.

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.