Tag: Secret Nuclear

White crusty muffins

December 2023
The Rossi Bar

Starting with Llaabb wwoorrkk, white coated boffins surrounded by an array of identifiable and unidentifiable objects, things to rattle, buttons to push, things to bash and things to gong. An array of percussion, from the tiniest up to a meter wide gong and an East European clone of a Putney VCS. What’s not to love, it’s the first outing for Dolly’s new project with an old friend Simon, and it marvellous, short vignettes of synth business and percussion and whistling, starting with what sounds worryingly like feedback to the sound engineer, but is in fact deliberate, that gives way to a lovely pulsing, with the mentioned whistling. The next piece is chimes and enveloping swoops of synthy-ness. Some lovely modulations unfolding. I’m going to concentrate inevitably on the showy synth, but it’s all really well framed by Dolly’s subtle percussive accompaniment. It’s all marvellously radiophonic as can’t be helped given the sound source, filmic and science fiction-y at times, wailing and droning buzzes in the wind. A set for closing the eyes and waiting for the pictures.

Second up was Secret Nuclear; and it’s not just me that thinks this was a cracking Secret Nuclear set, it’s now available via Bandcamp if you get the urge to listen to it in full. Dorking’s finest. Outflanking us at the start with a white noise/ blasting wind sound (field recording? Noise set?) before settling into a bug buzzing bass and ticking drum machine. The melodic sounds are John Carpenter-ish, OMINOUS. And slowly developing. It’s nearly halfway into his set before we hear a bass drum, and that provides rhythmic punctuation rather than an obvious beat. Even the arpeggios are unnerving, the audio samples murky and confusing sounding like they’ve been ripped from VHS.  The second song breaks into an orgy of glitchy bitcrushing before hitting a fat drone. About 20 minutes into the set a full rhythm track gets in under the heavy drones to push us along with the melody line. Then everything really comes together for the last song, the beats are suitably propulsive, the melodic lines hooky, the bass monstrous, it’s all just creepy enough, it even has a little dub version of itself in the middle. It’s another set with film score undertones.

And finally we have The Yorkshire Modular Society, he has inevitably a racked up modular, in a case that slopes up away from the table with a DR-9 drum machine underneath it, that’s sole function as far as I can tell is to have its light on so it looks nice reflected off the shiny brushed aluminium bottom of the Rack case…. and what he plays is a slowly unfolding generative drone set, ish. Is it constant enough to be drones? I’m not sure, it has high levels of almost repetition, the sound is enveloping and at a volume that it’s almost physical and warm; something to wallow in. At points Dom, ex of Brighton, gets up from his kit and wanders around to ensure the sound is right out in the room. There are sounds that come and go, a whistling wind, a washing swooshing synth, a thrum, a bass that sneaks in rattles everything and then slowly fades away again. Mind rinsing. It’s constant and constantly shifting, a drone, not a drone.

No Looper

August 2022
The Rossi Bar

Secret Nuclear starts with a nice fat drone that gradually resolves itself into a 2 note bassline with a ticking hi hat. Over this we get some very Trans Europe melodic lines. The droneline resonates out into nothing, then comes back as a muted electric piano riff. The second piece alternates fat squelchy bass and pinging acidy beeps, they gradually merge. The third starts with an empty wind that slowly tonalises around nocturnal clicking and growling wildlife. Another little pinging riff sets us off in another direction. The growling returns, detuned and unsettling that’s overtaken by noise and nasty synth slapping. The next piece starts up with a sparkling piano riff, a sneaky staggering bass slips in with the first drum part in a while, the piano comes and goes, the drums fade and more parts interweave around the piano ending on a riff that just repeats into delay for a nice while. The next track starts out like Dick Hymans “Bell and Tony” with a bit of squelch underneath, a nice meandering top line gives it some depth before a rhythm track bubbles up like a crunchy robot in a fish tank. It drops down to a one note bassline for the end. The final track gets into spooky territory, a delayed two not pinging riff, gloomy growling bass, lots of swampy atmosphere, a slowly arpeggiating Goblin-ish riff finishes off the atmosphere properly.

Mark Wagner is next up, just wearing a pair of shorts with a set of hand pricked Hermetic tattoos covering his body, microphone and his kit set up on a shiny black clad alter. He plays his new album, Son of the Sun, distorting and twisting it into new and alluring shapes, using the album as a starting point for something a lot more interesting. The first track is sparse drums, ominous basses and stentorian vocals. Everything is louder and nastier than on the album. The vocals thicken up, the synths more Carpentarian. It’s pretty big stuff, of a piece, really coherent; focussed, the bit of “Shout, Shout” was a bit of a surprise, but works really well in context. The middle of the set he plays fairly straight  but towards the end he gets into some nasty glitching of the songs again, mangling beats and backing vocal tracks, some almost Gabba moments there.

So finishing off the evening was Rotten Bliss, her cello feeding – left foot right foot – into separate effects chains. She starts with a raspy mid tone line. Occasionally swelling out into something more sonorously bassy, but really taking a free improv approach, bit of side of the bow to give it a proper scrape, not too much going on with the effects at first. Eventually a two not blast makes itself into a refrain, alternating with what she was doing before. She gets into something that could be a tremolo, before some proper blasts of screeching noise. She lets that unfold for a while. Lulls us into a false sense of security with some more of that tremolo business, then gives our ears a bit more of a lash, but at a much lower volume. She rides that for a while, layering it up with a nice simultaneous bass line. She goes out on a different mid-range line from here, lots of space, almost repeated motifs. More space. Avoiding the smooth full cello sound, she keeps the two effect chains in trim, reining back the overloads and distortions, a little melodic line rasps out of this space. It fills, takes larger form, marching, developing. Eventually she moves off onto a variation of this melody, developing that for a while. It reverts back to a polka inflected version of the previous melody. She keeps that going while with the other foot gives us a few delicious pulses of noise, then winds it right down for a super slow motion run through to end.