Category: SOG-BLOG

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.

Twice in the pit; never on the poster

August 2023
The Rossi Bar

Far Rainbow start the evening, mostly ‘cos of drums, but also so they can get home with the trains and that. This is one for watching, experiencing. In the first review I wrote for The Spirit of Gravity, I described Brown Sierra as “more electrica than electronica”, and there’s an element of that with Far Rainbow, Bobby has no synthesiser or laptop, but a collection of devices and transducers. His setup a continuation of the composed pieces he did back for us in The Scope days. But it’s not all about Bobby, Emily has her drum kit which is played with an equally diverse array of devices. Sticks, beaters, parcel tape, whisk, seashell… it’s also sent through a fairly hefty delay, and played very quietly. Their set starts with Emily crumpling paper on the snare while Bobby has a rattling can in what looks like a paint pot shaker, cymbal washes, somewhere it sounds like the ghost of a train is coming, the hint of a chimed melody. Bobby goes through his motorised things whirring noisily into the transducers while Emily builds her improve-y scrapings into a crescendo, occasionally a multiply echoed thwack of a stick clatters around the room, or there is a tinging pattern to remind us of the kits more orthodoxly percussive nature. Someone has a bag of stones which they rattle, I’m sure. Ah, it’s Emily. She brings the volume right down. Bobby has a nice modulating warble going on with feedback controlled into something akin to throat singing and a bird song recording. Bobby gets some small metal objects into the shaking can which give us a maraca-ish rhythm to work against before he breaks out the electric hairbrush, which was a particular highlight. A lot of questions right there. Emily builds up the cymbal shimmers behind the whining, then slides the beaters onto the toms, still slowly building, the cymbals seem to have entered the effects chain and continue to shine away. Then we get into the tape ripping into her effects chain. It all wind down with the ghost train, gentle snare scraping and a slow high pitched whirring drone that fades in and out.

Once again standing in at the last minute for someone unable to make it along, we have Alien Alarms. Making full use of the Rossi Bar’s famous bass cabinets to really work everything in the room that isn’t fixed down…. these days Jim sets his controller sloped away from him so you can see what he’s up to, this works really nicely as 1) he’s not just a bloke sat behind a laptop 2) it’s fascinating trying to match his movements over the buttons with what’s coming out the speakers as he chops up the lines running through the song – not just the drum tracks but vocal parts, bass parts, melodic lines particularly work well taking on new forms as he gets stuck into the meaty bits of the songs. The first song is a version of the first thing he wrote as Alien Alarms, all proper bass and field recordings from lockdown. The next few tracks are part of his AI themed album, the first “We must make more of us” starts with a hit that is almost stunning in its intensity. It also has a slap bass part he played. A big fan of Marcus Miller it seems. Some nice chopping on the vocal line with this one. “The Machine of Death” follows, darker, naturally, very intense with a buzzing dip into the subs again. Almost nothing is happening above the mid-range, but what there is, is disorienting. Even the vocal parts are deep. Then into an excellent version of “The Spirit of Gravity off the new compilation “A Poem in Six Parts”. He gets proper psychedelic chopping this up towards the end. That’s followed with his nicely skewed version of “Avril 14th” the final song starts with a rolling hip hop break, with carillon and squelches that gets quite quickly a teensy bit breakcore, the chopping gets quite frenzied in this one, beats zooming in from all sides.

Rounding off the evening were a Spirit of Gravity super-group, Screaming Alice, Howard our press person and Andrew who designs our posters.  Set up with twin tables of synths including Howard’s infamous original Wasp. Their set started off with some nice swooping synths, bass woooshes and a chattering buzz that all faded out as a funereal kick drum, proper thudding waded in. a double tempo bass line came in, and the wasp returned with some pulsations as the drum switched to the 4/4. Some counter lines building up a rhythmic backing then a drop and these seriously nasty screams slid across. And a messed up voice started talking to us. The drums morph, the bass lines start shifting timbre, the bass becoming a melodic line. Dropping back to drums and voice we get a new gurgling bass come in, that starts all rhythmic then slows down to a warping drone for another drop. We get a radiophonic spirit scream going back and forth across the stage while a bass burbles enigmatically. The scream drops to a drone and a two note percussive synth line starts in to be washed away by a helicopter drone, gull-song and seascape. The helicopter drops to a purely sonic wash about the limits of hearing. The players bouncing ideas back and forth. A rhythmic part comes in being modulated all over the place sonically from bass to mid-range, squelch to stab, and before we notice the drums have snuck back in. Driving counter rhythms lurk up. Splashes of colour, the sounds shift again, and everything seems to shift up a gear, before dropping away again. We’re well into the world of machines for a groove that doesn’t last anywhere near long enough before the drums drop away and they start messing about with the sounds again, then – ooh, its back, slightly new but still with that energy., an offbeat that amazingly sounds more like a skank than a trance pulse, and it’s all on the move again. Figures flitter briefly into view and are gone, odd notes – sheep! The sheep put in quite an appearance, making me think of a banging version of “Chill Out”. The sheep leave but the banging backing stays on. Other odd sounds rattle of squirm across the field of view, then all the rhythm drops away and we’re left with psychedelic sheep, and pulses of energy, delayed organ notes, boops and burps and finally slow LFO sweeps… really quite nicely, a fusion nothing like what either has done on their own.

A pendulum clicks

July 2023
The Rossi Bar

A New Question, a chime, mangled voices reversed electronics and strings. Speaking the effected version seems to irrupt before the words leave the lips. The artist wears a Venetian (?) mask and parka. It’s July before the suns come. Twin aerials of a hidden television seem unused. Suddenly a clatter of interruption, an improv cascade of percussion. Then speaking again over juddering bursts of static. Click and scrape and very creepy breathing. The string riff returns to do Tuxedomoon-esque battle with a backwards organ. Is that some machine starting up. Running water, but not in a relaxing way. Stop. Start. There is an incident where the laptop goes flying and everything stops, but a quick recovery to cheers, and it’s a fairly brutal return. Devil voices. Back-masked. Nice. It’s still a somewhat truncated set, ending abruptly not too long after.

Sonaura follows up, starting with a high pitched whistling off his multi cassette deck just about my tinnitus threshold. Some folding in of bass and then clanger burbles writ as drones lead us on into a buzzing landscape of wide vistas. The slow plod of a time dilated clock keeps time, tone-washed murmurs wash In and out and as if of yore a TV voice tells us something then gets looped. Some slow keyboard part lays in. gently recycling itself. The voices die and some big electronics, Greek, old, powerful slide in. there are sum and difference frequencies beating in the weight of the drones, adding texture and even more depth. They wind out to an evolving three note distorted / reverbed chime modulating slowly off into the distance; into a feeling of dread, repetition. Is that a guitar gently strummed? And a finally verrry verry slow fade out to bliss…

Új Bála also starts with voice (his own) an ill-defined bass sequence like a stammering double bass, and growling synth. Synthetic Whale song, scurries of sequenced slurring tones. In the visuals he folds back in on himself. A staccato drum track bursts into life, a monotone bass pulse providing an almost gabber kick for the drums to form around. Over this radiophonic synth sounds and noise jostle with his vocals, a pause and off back into it again. Everything is rhythm. The rhythm degenerates and falls away to another semi random set of noises, bass buzzes, odd wirbles, that eventually build into something rhythmic, at least the phrasing is rhythmic but the tonalities never repeat. You can nod your head but not sing along. The rhythm fades into wobbling bass and squiggling trebles. Driven over by a large diesel motor and malfunctioning church organ. A bass drone pitched up and down (is that not a drone?) makes a bass line, some epic reverb on it and short pitched squeals give some melodic feel, and some LFO action gives it a soaring, whirring feel. Some other bass tones meld in and it gets all John Carpenter on us as the noise levels amp up, then into some kind of pitch distorted gating frenzy and it’s done.

The hottest show on record

June 2023
The Rossi Bar

We had a bonus guest tonight due to illness with a touring package due to play at The Bees Mouth, so we started off with M G Dysfunction, he was set up in front of the stage in a fine cowboy short and baseball hat, on a high stool. Which he soon abandons. It’s fair to say he splits the audience, and quite quickly. He starts with a nice piano tune, which he quite quickly annihilates with some hideous country style caterwauling. “Fuck the boys in blue”, I thought it was quite funny. That segues into a drone, moving into a grime inflected number. The backing track on the next one has something of Eno’s Discreet Music about it, and he talks over it about the moon & stars. Back into drones and a murky slow bass drum. Very slow. He sings again. Next one up is dedicated to all the Junglists in the audience, he makes some quip about Chocolate Monk that goes over everyone’s head. The tune has nothing to do with Jungle though. Some fat ugly bass drone, circular ranting. The noise rises up within it, ranting continues. This is my favourite part of the backing track. Juddering bassline, noise swirls through various delays, then a modern RnB backing that quickly tips back into the disgusting racket.

So first of the scheduled acts was the welcome return of Dale Frost, minimal drum kit, electronic pads, novelty cymbals (triple decker-ed, dimpled and warped or full of holes) and some other bits I couldn’t see. Starting with a shimmering roll on the synth triggering drum pads interspersed with occasional drums before he fires off a more familiar song set into the pads, is it sequenced, is it played. Both. Neither who knows. But holing down drum parts and synth lines Dale really pushes the idea of the independently controlled multi-limbed drummer to new lengths. It’s great to watch. The next track is more heavily into the beat, the synths more beeping rhythm lines weaving between the drums. Nice steps up when the beat thickens and the synths multiply with delays. The next track is definitely running off a sequencer. An odd whistly line giving way to a steel drum tick, bass drum on the fours. Then I’m not so sure about the sequencer, he seems to be playing the lines. Playing with my mind. Towards the end of this song he gets stuck into the hidden bits of kit, a keyboard and analogue delay, I’m guessing. One song has a nice one note bassline with some chunky stabs before giving way to something jerky that syncopates within a beat. The last song slows it down, with a nice fat bass and some pinging Tom Tom Club synth sounds. It slowly speeds up, the bass getting a bit rawer and groovier, other sounds trailing around it with a melodic synth line emerging in the firing chorus bits of it. And a big organ flourish to end on a high energy finish.

Then the return of f.Ampism, we had him booked in for one of the first shows after lockdown ended, in that spell of Will It Open Or Not. And it didn’t. But here we are now. He advises us to watch the projections rather than himself as he sets up some almost drones. There’s a bit too much going on to be actual drones, swelling, subtly shifting pitches, a hint of growled voice, a smidge of harmonium, a slowly unfolding melodic line that emerges gradually and slinks away. Its the sound of hot sun coming down through unruffled leaves, a hot still day, something stirs indistinctly in the distance. What it is we never mind. I’m drifting; open my eyes and 10 minutes has blissed, passed. Paul is working away, much more active than would be obvious, but the shifts are there, nothing is actually static even if you never noticed it change, it’s all different.  At some point he gets me up to muck about with the monitor and we get some extra modulating midrange reedy layers sliding into the mix. It’s now quite a think complex montage of sounds. Still quite precise and separate, everything pulsing and morphing in its own individual way. It reaches a crescendo but I’m too blissed out to really notice and stops.

Rounding off the evening we have Cornish (via London) artist Yiskāh. Carrying on where Paul left off with a somewhat more menacing drone. Under this she feeds in a vibrating thin whirr the drone starts to vibrate and branch off, into sub bass whoomf and airplane hum. A ghost of a wind sends its icy chill to taunt us. The PA is pushed about as Jess plays with the sonics of the room. A creeping sensation spiders its way into the stew. The sounds is solid, it’s not unpleasant enough to be HNW, but it has a similar monolithic indistinctness; a vast incomprehensibility where it just quietly fills your head and erases sense of time and place, gentle rather than roaring but nonetheless abstract and almost formless. There are touches of tone that emerge from the fog, perhaps slippery streams of feedback that evaporate as you start to latch onto them. Occasionally things in the room vibrate, shifting around as the pitches from the stage evolve. As it winds down, we’re left with the more pitched sounds; wind, a swirl of sea. Tyre on gravel. None of these things.