The Rossi Bar
So we jam packed the acts in for the May show. Starting us off nice and early we had Zener Breakdown, a new project from Jason Hotchkiss, notorious creator of the Tesla Organ, and Chris Calcutt. They were line checking kit as folk were coming in, the demarcation of their set starting was a bit of introduction. Starting with an LFO activated pulse that they soon subsumed with some distortion and gritty bass washes, they were off. Lo-fi drum sounds mixed with crystal clear hi-hats, they got filtering the synth rhythms, and it came over like some old style acid on heroin rather than ecstasy. Uneasy and indefinably itchy before glitching out into something else a lot mellower. Which burbled for a while until joined by some lovey string synth. The glitch re-asserted itself in some clowning gait and Cabaret Voltaire stabs. Things picked up again with an off centre groove accompanied by shots, swirls and meeps. Dropping down to another odd rhythm track they set up for an altogether slower emptier and more ominous ending.
The Zero Map
It was lovely of The Zero Map to ask us to share in their tenth birthday. Karl and Chloe unfold more slowly. Recordings of birds, dozens of ‘em, with a slight shimmer of a drone to give them something to bite against. The drone slowly becomes less slight, awash with endless reverbs and perhaps hints of guitar flourish or rumble. It seeps into your consciousness, erasing thought until you eventually become aware that ITS ACTUALLY QUITE LOUD NOW, PEAKING… Chloe adds voice, and bowed bass tones. Then it subsides again into something like one of Steve Hillage’s late 70s albums with Karl playing light guitar lines. Chloe brings in her pipes, there is a second swell, not quite as subtle as the first one, that ends in some definite roaring and a hefty wall of distortion. And then a final tail off into space
Taking us away from the amorphous wash of The Zero Map, Xylitol is discrete chunks of mostly song. Catherine starts with an odd chime and Casio and sound effects number, to confuse us into thinking we’re on a different tangent, before the spooky riff starts. The second song starts with a cheap rhythm through slight delay, that gives the song an odd slurred quality like trying to avoid the staggering drunk on the way up the hill, the organ drones and melody enhancing that effect. The next segment is like testcard music played by skeletons, the song after the skeletons are joined by squeaky toys and balloon farts. Its delirious. Everything is short, energetic, tending to frenzy at times, and manages to reference Bruce Haack, Raymond Scott, DAF and house music in the space of a few seconds. By the time we get to the penultimate number – a tremulous drone, with bleep and booster larking over, I’m in quite an odd state of mind. The epic last song (at 7 minutes) has a steady beat looming from a warehouse several miles away, over this melodic splashes of bell and tone permeate the mind quite irresistible.
So finally it’s Robyn Steward, Radio Mic’d trumpet through delays and octavers (up and down), this really is space trumpet. She kicks off with a stepped riff into the loop pedal that she uses as an intro, before getting into some improvvy blowing air into the instrument giving us a ground to add some sonorous bassy notes before dropping some gloriously detuned melodic top layers. She talks too us a bit before starting off again along a similar route that goes to a very different place, breath again starting the loop, with short parps, and blocky notes, before she gets into some much higher register stuff over the top, and wanders off into the audience playing Arkestra style (even if it is a procession of one). The next section starts with a tape delayed almost indefinitely, valve noises. She plays some slow mid notes over this, again with that odd octavy detuning effect. The space noise layer up in this bit without making the sound dense and she gets into some really nice playing over the top. She rounds the set and evening off with a staccato segment. Getting people clapping, with bass notes, and a really weird thing where the octave trumpet is REALLY squeaking quite wildy. Its all gets a bit intense, big bass tones, these scurrying mids and a thick, thick layer of high frequency noise that washes out to leave Robyn’s solo trumpet playing cleanly to flourish the end.