Tag: Muster

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.

Over winter, into summer. It’s still in the box.

June 2019

The Rossi Bar


Dan Powell was perched just off the edge of the stage, with all his kit on a table onstage. He was (to all appearances or whatever the audio equivalent is) working mostly electronically, rather than filtering small percussion. He had some new Raspberry Pi devices and switched between tonal washes, thrums and scratchy electronics. James O’Sullivan was using prepared guitar, mostly with it horizontal on his lap, things under the strings, things over the strings, around the strings, pulling at the strings, tweaking, scratching. Occasionally shouting or whistling into the pickups. They work together well, listening, switching, complementing. Dan dropping out so James can scratch, James dropping out to let a bass-y spacey noise pass through their sonic universe. Muster is a duo of subtleties, odd quiet things that impress. Which isn’t to say that they don’t get loud or frantic there’s a nice sequence with a bubbling synth noise, some clumping sounds and James picking up his guitar in an orthodox hold and fretting at it in quite a frenzy. Or another point where he has it feeding back – albeit in a quiet and controlled manner. Overall, it’s a set I’m happy to listen to with my eyes closed, which means I don’t get the pleasure of watching them worry away at their devices, and it is a pleasurable watch, full of interesting activities.

Dolly Dollycore

Dolly Dollycore returns with her latest reworking of the piece she did last time she played for us. Along with her vocal, gong & percussion, her laptop work has moved on a step with the addition of a controller adding extra levels of inference. She starts with the gong, booming and more tickling stick work, she weaves in and out of the acoustic and electronic worlds, sometime her voice, sometimes percussion, sometimes electronics, combining, layers of recorded and live voices, words. Creepy hints of savannah nights worm through. It’s more disturbing than previously. The electronics wield field recordings, recorded percussion and musical fragments, they build shapes around her words and drop down to silence for some particularly salient point. Emphasis. This time I didn’t cry though.

Mai Mai Mai

Finally we have Mai Mai Mai, he’s live soundtracking a film of a southern Italian religious festival filmed in the 50s full of possessed folk dancing, singing, rolling on the floor and such. One problem is that Toni’s synths are still somewhere in Italy, this is the first day of his tour and they didn’t arrive when he did. In fact they stayed in Italy for the whole of his trip. Fortunately he did have his hand luggage, with laptop including a pre-recorded version of the soundtrack, some effects and a couple of pieces of kit he can use. And use well. Voices whisper, things creak, there is NOISE, booms. As suits a soundtrack it’s pretty abstract – at times building up to some pretty torrid sound pressure. At other times it settles down to odd rhythmic patterns with sonic washes and tones. Sometimes the voices come through strong talking, singing, laughing. Strong, but not un-effected. There’s a nice lengthy section with some monks singing layered up with a child’s voice and some church bells slowed down to infinity. His set ends on a two tone pulse with Residents-y singing, gradually being swamped by increasingly massive drones…