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.