Tag: Robyn Steward

That hot week

July 2022
The Rossi Bar

So first thing we had as well as the advertised Nuclear Whale we had the bonus of a completely banjo free Fane (I was a bit disappointed with that to be honest) But he did bring some acoustic instrumentation – but also – electronics! Starting with the pair of them on a super fat multi layered drone – organy, but nicely buzzing then added to with nasal whistles and bass nastiness. James started reading from some prepared Gnosticism, there’s a palpable tension to the drone by this point. There’s a deft transition when he stops speaking a modulation to the drone until it’s just a bleepy warble with a nasty glitchy rhythm struggling to come through. James picks up his acoustic guitar and starts a tape of bagpiping. The beeps and rhythm slowly form into actual things from their nebulosity. Shimmers, washes, drums all separate out and run on under James’ strumming. Jon takes his turn in a more declamatory style from his book. The drone storms back in shivery and strong with some chunky rumbling and beatwork under it. We get into a section of whirrs and more acoustic guitar, Jon has some vocal samples he gets into stuttering repetition asJames goes Americana on us. Although he does manage to get it playing backwards by the gentle fade out of the set.

Then it was the return of Robyn Steward, after a brief introduction to her sound world she starts with a breathy loop of her trumpet octaved down for a bass warble, a nice breathing part of mid-range, and a plaintive almost Cornet like line over the top. Stunning. The second song starts with another fairly slow 6 note trumpet line that underpins everything. Over this she harmonises some pads layered into chords, and takes a higher line for the next layer pf loops and drops in the occasional bass wash. She adds a heavily delayed vocal part. The third song seems to unfold immediately, a drone of whistles, bass trumpet pads and mid-range washes. Over this is more developed delayed trumpet part, again fairly melancholy, but this time wandering all over the acoustic spectrum. Some vocal parts lurk around in the background. The final part is more up-tempo seems to be something about trains, its starts with a nicely turned vocal loop that encapsulates a steam train really nicely. There are more interlocking trumpet parts for this Looping round, stuttering ribald notes, melodic parts, the train slips over the hill and stops.

And finally it was Eyal Talmor and his broken synth, he also has some other devices and delivers a set of great subtlety and invention.  You can read this but it makes more sense to go and watch the video on our YouTube channel with the best set of headphones you can find. Anyway, it starts with a chirruping uber murmuration, replaced by a big slow disjointed almost beat of squelching and booms. He uses the full range of the PA, quivering high ends, proper bass, the depths of sub bass, it’s never overbearingly loud but properly sonic with a lot of volume and timbre changes. Rhythms come and go, the sounds from the synth vary wildly, some distortions some fantastically digitally detailed. A lot of dynamic variation, some things unfold slowly some scurry around developing and fading in seconds. His hands move around the keyboards “Like Bobby Crush”, according to one audience member I spoke to, working away at the buttons – there’s one moment where you can see he’s just poised about to make a change but something happens … and… he’s just hanging waiting, enjoying that moment then the moment is gone and he’s back at it.

Don’t think about it that way

May 2019

The Rossi Bar

Zener Breakdown

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.

Robyn Steward

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.