Tag: Xylitol

Strange qualities

January 2024
The Rossi Bar

So January, starting the year with super-droners Plurals, down to core members Dave and Daniel  and as usual set up on the floor, a bit of a trickier proposition for the low stage at The Rossi Bar with the start the year audience jammed in. I cannot see the kit, I recall a broken cymbal, keyboards, guitar, vocal mike and an array of effects pedals. The set starts with a shimmering lofi pulse enjoined with a submarine ping. Bass winds blow slowly into the frame and a slow loop of a throat clearing bashes in and fades quickly, the bass drone mutates slowly into a nice sawtooth buzz that takes precedence in the mix. I think there is some bowed cymbal scrapes through loads of delay while the buzz becomes ominous. Wed can feel the sound thickening up as other sounds get into the delays. bassy hums, crystalline shards of tight cymbal bowing, that wind returns. Something resembling a strangled guitar figure (that could also easily be a voice) comes in as the build really starts to take hold. The room is really starting to buzz, but there’s more to come. Tractor engine judders, more drones, squeals of feedback. Vocal squeals. Still its building, people can see how its going and come to the back for earplugs. You can start to feel the volume in your viscera. The cymbal is crunched, the only description, it sounds destructive. The guitar seems to be feeding back in three different ways at once. I can hear a violin. I haven’t seen a violin, I don’t think there is one, but it sustains a drone and a scurrying figure of scrapes across its strings, I’m sure it isnt there. Things thin out a bit after this ghost. Strands of thin feedback over chuffing steam train. Its calmer, still loud, but somehow less intense and rather lovely in spite of not actually being pleasant sounding. Space returns in the middle of the mix as the drones drift basswards and everything else fades away leaving a modulating guitar line to hold things together as intensity build again for Boom! The end.

Quite contrastingly we had Expedient Self, guitar loop pedal and effects. Shorter tightly composed pieces. A brief setup of a rhythm track, an intense lead line that multi tracks up quite quickly and suddenly drops down to a arpeggio, quickly builds again in a quite different direction, drops again then more slowly build back up to the first melodic line again, which is allowed to develop more before dropping again to a choppier section that build into delay feedback then drops again to end. The second piece starts really quickly with about 8 loops banged into the looper really quickly. Over this a melodic line reminiscent of Snakefinger writhes its way, tremeloingly away before heading off into a lurid fever dream of pigeons and fake Farfisa solos. Again the third is quickly off the mark, the melodic elements coming from layered arpeggios. We get into some pumping delay feedback while he trills small guitar runs over the top, the drop comes briefly leaving the trilling guitar running and we lose the whole thing to swirly string wipes.


Rounding off the evening with a banging set was Xylitol, eschewing the toys and J-Pop of olden times Catherine was laptopped up. Starting with a whooshing hardcore breath riff with birdsong that morphed into hard chimes and when the drums boomed in went again to pinging arpeggios. The drums hyperactive, everything almost in slow motion against them until a super distorted bassline/bassdrum and whistle melody showed up. Then the full on hardcore breaks. The whistle melody comes over all beautiful to compensate. The drums shift again savagely jungled up. They keep shifting. The breathy riff has gone replaced by an evolving 80s synth descending part. Things shift again, the rhythm carried by a frantic, disturbed frog and snare that turns into buzzing, and again pinging. Shifting again, this one beyond my descriptive powers, again channelling early 90s hardcore, almost lovely detuned synths, fierce drums and a melodic line like a doorbell on the dregs of its battery. Finally a breakdown, into a simple synth line that fills out and wanders away from the tune into pure modulated abstraction. Drums, a bit slower (the ballad?) start up and after a while a massive sine bass slows in in a deranged homage to GLR. Interplanetary hisses, beauty, horrifyingly out of tune synths all merge into something quite wonderful. Then there’s a distinct change to the next tune, harking back perhaps to the bent toys, with a childlike, almost Moog demo line, against which everything else builds in intensity. The last piece starts with a fast high synth riff not unlike chime under which speeding snares and high hats clatter. The synth riff obviously evolves into something else, the drum intensity builds, pads appear, horrible noises emerge and disappear. Half heard piano riffs. Nasty drum bangs, and sudden drops. A pulsing staccato one note bass. Ghostly whoooo noises. My goodness, so much going on, a fever delirium. The first half of the set is a single piece has everything shifting so much the points where songs merge are all but unknowable as it’s just another change in a constantly drifting sea of sound.

I think we’ll be seeing a lot of this

December 2021

The Rossi Bar

So Dolly Rae Starcore stands in at the last minute for someone laid low by The Rona, for which we are grateful, and happy. Starting with a stroke of the Zither and a massive boom off the mic. Arrayed before her on the table a selection of small percussive objects, two large brass singing bowls, her book and the sheath of papers from which she will read. She reads, pings the Flexatone shakes the shakers and reads, she gently strokes the singing bowl which booms beautifully. One of the singing bowls is a quarter full of water which modulates it when swirled. She reads, pings the percussion. The atmosphere builds, some unaccompanied sections, some densely swirled about. Chimes.

Andrew Greaves filling the middle slot, playing through his latest release, songs and improvisations based on loops of his father singing that were recorded on cassette before he died. The set starts with a manipulated loop of the singing all the consonants lost, murky, monkish. Over this a crisp rhythm track starts up. Slow organ rolls out and back, arpeggiates, the voice wanes. The organ parts thicken, overlap. The voice returns. The second part is structurally the same, it floats more. There is a lot more space and what sound almost like guitar parts. Dogs. A Casio organ solo emerges, the whole thing slowly dissolves into space winds.

The last time Xylitol played for us it was a set of DNW inflected fun played on toys and cheap synths, this time Catherine turned up with a laptop for a set of kosmische drum and bass. It’s got the same sense of fun as before but the tempos are ramped up. There are hints of Harmonia, pointillist interlocking rhythmic keyboard parts fix inside the drum parts before it gets abstractly into resonant pitch shifting frog drums. We nod our heads. The next track almost starts like an Irresistible Force remix, before getting into some serious rhythm scrambling and deranged bassline before allowing the piping melody line to whistle through. The last track starts with a high level of scrambled drums and repeated pinging keyboard parts, repeated to the point of delirium. All the melodic parts steamroller while the movement is all in the drums before eventually the melodic parts all break down into new patterns and the drum cycling starts again.

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.

It’s all gone a bit crispy

August 2017
The Green Door Store



Spheress is up on stage when people start coming in, a mix of hardware and laptop, some synths and Volcas, he starts with a double duck being hit with a squeaky toy quickly escalating to an industrial beat, before eventually a bass drone warps in with a gabba kick and an old-style hardcore tone providing a pseudo bass line. It falls away to a different rhythm before it’s drowned out in a squall of drone feeding back through an ancient reverb box. Back to another beat and bass line before building up to a different kind of feedback distortion falling in metallic sheets. Another breakdown before he gets to work on the synths with a Crybaby wah wah, ending on a nasty layered 2 note fuzz attack.

The electrocreche is a bit funny tonight, we have only one toy as the other broke while I was setting up, we scrounge some kit from Spheress and end up with almost a no input electrocreche. Which turns out to be quite fun.



Unfortunately Ommm is poorly so we have Xylitol doing a solo set. I don’t think we were disappointed. Catherine starts her set with abstract lo-fi electronic noises, chimes, Tardis sounds and disembodied voices. Arrhythmic part comes in with a nasty fan drone washing in and out and it ends on some weird Bruce Haack tip. She has songs, mostly 2 to 3 minutes. The next one starts with a Raymond Scott vibe before heading off into something quite 90s J-Pop-ish, with a really nice full bass that slowly rolls out to a repeated quiet organ figure with delay feedback slowly mutating over it. Next up has a glitchy rhythm and Casio organ moving around all over it. I can’t even describe the next one, it has elements of toy music, minimal techno and subtle use of noise. And so it continues, elements of the last 50 years of electronic music, blended into something that sounds like all/none of them, modern and nostalgic, radiophonic and digital. She has a few copies of her 45 remaining, it’s very good, you should buy one.

Dylan Nyoukis

Dylan Nyoukis

Dylan Nyoukis is next up, as promised with his double cassette set up of complete audio mulch. Starting with a slurred down loop of some indecipherable something, a guitar string ping and scrape add some slight sense of rhythm to proceedings. The loops slowly open out, not quite lurching but definitely elliptical in their gait. Dylan works quietly away adding small touches, bringing things in and out slowing or speeding up a touch as required. It’s hypnotic and bizarrely hooked. At some point it sounds like he sneaked the ghost of a bowling alley into the Green Door Store before smuggling it out through the back. Suddenly it switches to something a bit more pier-ish, papier-mâché monsters in cases banging against the glass, Kids with lollipops hitting the metal stands while someone is noisily bending balloon animals. It’s quite dark in an Avengers manner. As the surrounding clutter falls away we find ourselves in a field, the cows moaning not quite happily. A glottal stopping owl starts an argument with a stretched violin chicken. Someone takes a ham fist to a typewriter. A shuffle of someone sandpapering next door winds down with someone talking very slowly backwards over the first musical drone of the set.

Olivia Louvel

Olivia Louvel

Olivia Louvel is finishing the evening off with a selection of songs from her new album “Data Regina” about Mary Tudor, with visual animations written specifically for the event. They’re an interestingly odd blend of almost 80s geometric solid figures with realistically modelled faces acting out various scenes from her imprisonment. I think. (You can see some of them here: www.olivialouvel.com/)
She starts with a glitchy piece with vocal fragments minced up with the light electronic rhythms. The second has a spacious buzzing bass line, with odd notes ringing around it with a full breathy vocal part. The third is more stately affair, “Good Queen Bess” all vocal layers, slow and moving. The next song “My Crown” eschews the space and fills the room right out with a throbby bass, with vocals and further bass tones. It’s a bit epic without breaking out into a full-on beat. So the next song has a very rhythmic structure, everything in it seems to pulse. The next has alternating pulses like it’s all modulated by a square LFO, but the vocals are fragmented, lost. Then straight into the next with Spartan martial snare rolls scattered. The second half has a harmonium slowly unfolding over it. She ends on a long version of “Love or Rule” starting with violin drones and parts, occasional buzz of bass, after a long while a set of machine-like rhythmic parts come in.