Archive for the ‘Live’ Category

Christopher Nosnibor

No two ways about it: coinciding with the NIM compilation album Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast, FEAST 4 offers the most jam-packed and solid quality lineup they’ve put on yet, with sets from a number of acts featured on the album and a stack more besides.

After some weird woozy shit off Territorial Gobbings’ recent Automatic for Nobody album release (which we covered and coveted here), where Theo Gowans hoarsely whispers corruptions of lines from REM, Rejections Ops kick things off early doors with a blitzkrieg of stuttering beats, squalling bass feedback and squealing, crackling synths: the guitarist’s wearing a veil and there are strobes galore. The noise is complete overload, a devastating mass of distortion, and while it would perhaps benefit from a little more contrast – it’s absolutely fucking full-on from beginning to end – it would just be amazing to witness in a small, sweaty room at proper ear-bleeding volume. I could happily go home now – but of course, I’m already home, and am thirsty for what’s to come.

DSC_7128

Rejections Ops

Hubble’s cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ from the aforementioned compilation provides a mellow interlude before Omnibael’s set. It’s another intense work, and probably their best yet. Stark, black and white footage accompany the duo’s low-down, dubby industrial scrapings. There are some mangled vocals low in the mix, while the crashing metallic snare is pitched up high, and driven by a relentless sequenced synth bass groove overlaid with explosive noise, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive.

DSCPDC_0003_BURST20210523204013324_COVER

Omnibael

Blackcloudsummoner brings more overloading electronica, dark, dense, story, tense, crunching electrodes crackling distortion, occasionally rent by trills of feedback. And it all sounds as if it’s coming from an immense cavern, about a quarter of a mile underground. The bass sounds like a nuclear experiment, and it’s all going off at once, making for an intense and disorientating experience.

AGED’s sound is rather more ambient, and considerably less abrasive, and it’s well-timed. That isn’t to say that this is in any way soft: there’s a crackling decay at the edge of the sound, and distant samples, barely audible, create a disorientating effect. And it’s over in the blink of an eye.

Making a return for …(something) ruined, the full-tilt, all-out noise abrasion with shouting seemed to hit the spot, and the altogether mellower sounds of Pigsticks and the Wonderbra, making droning harmonica noises in some woods arrives just in time to prevent any aneurysms. This is wonderfully weird, with leaves dropping and being raked creating a ‘field recording’ element to this curious experimental concoction. Birds tweet. A helicopter flies over. Atonal woodwind. Random words. What is it all about? The epitome of avant-garde oddity.

DSC_7133

…(something) ruined

Paired with Pressure Cooker Release valve for a collaborative set, Territorial Gobbing bring all the oddball experimentalism you’d expect. For TG, anything and everything is source material, and on this outing we witness some effervescent vitamin tablets fizzing in bowls, the sound contained by a folded IKEA box. And then they bring on the squeezy sauce bottles, which puff and sigh and gasp in their varying degrees of emptiness. Drainpipe and walkie-talkie, toast, toasters, lighters, phone ring tones, egg slicers, books, paint tube, polystyrene packaging, and kitchen sink also provide sound sources in this bizarre object-led experimental set. It almost feels like we’re watching an album being recorded in real-time. Maybe – and even hopefully – we are. With a track per object, it would work well.

DSC_7134

Territorial Gobbing / Pressure Cooker Release Valve

Gintas K’s set is a brain-bending bleepfest, a tangle of jangling synths and collapsing synapses that fray the nerve-endings. Everything squelches and zaps every which way, and we get to watch it all happen in real-time as the notes twitched away on his keyboard are run through software on a dusty Lenovo Thinkpad to create a crazy sonic foam that bubbles and froths all over. But deep, resonant bass tones boom out over the stuttering bleepage and groaning, croaking drones emerge. It all squelches down to a mere drip before finally fizzling out in a patter of rain, and it’s well-received, And rightly so.

DSC_7136

Gintas K

Hubble’s headlining set is accompanied by some eye-opening PoV visuals of a parachute jump and clips of people leaping off mountains, and the footage is so terrifying I actually hope it’s CGI even though it looks like it’s actually real. The freefalling blue sky space is the ideal accompaniment to the disorientating fretwork of the musical accompaniment which sounds like multiple guitars and keys playing interloping lines together and across one another. The rapid ebbs and flows are immersive, hypnotic, and a long, mid-range drone builds and hangs against the dizzying blanket of fretwork that weaves the rich and sense sonic tapestry of this bewildering sound on sound. It couldn’t be more different in sound from Ben’s regular gig as guitarist in NY noise act Uniform, but everyone needs a break, and this is wonderfully, if dizzyingly, realised. It makes for a top ending to a top night packed with all the weird and all the wonderful from the full noise spectrum.

25th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While real gigs still aren’t possible, nim_brut are keeping the fringe noise community together with their ‘FEAST’ streams – and it’s an appropriate moniker, as they offer a veritable smorgasbord of experimental, noisy, and weird shit that fans of this disparate (anti)scene can fill their boots with at one of these events – eclectic, engaging, and inclusive, with something for everyone (as long as they’re into this kind of niche). Admittedly, the lineup was predominantly white and male, but that’s by no means an issue unique to experimental / electronics / noise, and the chat that ran alongside the stream was both welcoming, supportive, and encouraging for all comers. And in terms of replicating the live experience, it’s pretty good: something obscure provides a backdrop as people arrive and there are greetings in the chat, much like turning up at a similar show in person: a fair few people know one another from the circuit, and it’s relaxed and accommodating. In real life, these are some of the places I feel happiest: there’s no pressure as such, and people are accepting and accommodating of others not feeling particularly sociable, and the shared appreciation of diverse and indigestible music is simply accepted as enough.

So we’re here, and it feels comfortable.

The gig poster is replaced by footage of a lot of knobs and wires… a lot of panning and close-ups of this complex kit accompany drippling, blipping, bleeps and whistles, trickling, babbling sounds create a light, skipping mood. It’s Autotross, and they certainly don’t outstay their welcome with this short set. A nice taster, it would be interesting to see what more they make of this setup.

Soloman Tump’s pulsating dark ambient electronica is quite a contrast, and the rumbling, droning groan is accompanied by a walk in the woods, blurred, rasterised and colourised to render it most uncanny and unsettling. Clicks and burrs spike through the murk, the thudding beats thick and heavy, slow and deliberate, while will-o-the-wisp lights flicker and skip in the upper tonal regions, bringing a full sonic spectrum with good separation. The walk ends in a strange place with what looks like pouring paint and the sound winds down slowly like the life is slowly being sucked from it. While it would no doubt he great to see and hear in a real live setting, it does work well through phones.

DSC_6899

Soloman Tump

I was rather anxious ahead of the slot reserved for …(something) ruined: technical difficulties meant that the intended set wasn’t good to go, and I had stepped in last minute with a solo track I’d been working on, which I had about an hour to add visuals to before submission, thus making the debut for instrumental offshoot …(everything) ruined. Seven minutes of gnarly digital distortion accompanied by an eight-second clip of a sink-unblocking chemical in action looped for seven minutes seemed to go down pretty well.

Grating electroindustrial and eye-bleeding, fit-inducing flickering visuals are the order of the day from AGED at the start of the set – and then things start getting really weird as skeletal birds begin to drift back and forth against low oscillating scrapes and hovering drones.

OMNIBAEL had threatened a set involving banging railings and that’s what they delivered. Somewhere between Test Dept and Einstürzende Neubauten, it’s a heavily percussive clanging racket, and it’s brutal and oppressive. Marking a significant shift from their previous FEAST appearance, it’s a short, sharp shock of a set, and its impact is immense.

DSC_6904

OMNIBAEL

Blackcloudsummoner’s set starts out dark and sense with a grimy, distorted bass booming. Not a lot happens: the drone drones on, as shrill whistles of feedback strain through a discoordinated chatter of sound that reminds of being in a crowded place… it’s unsettling and tense. Red lights drop like lava against a dark background in a loop, and in combination, the effect is hypnotic.

There’s a whole lot of gnarly nasty noise from Error Control, and there’s a definite sense of performance here too, as we see him twiddling the knobs on his compact but knob-dense kit while blindfolded. On one hand, this could be taken as a critical comment on the nature of harsh noise and the lack of technical prowess required to create it, as well as the S&M subculture associated with some corners of the scene, but I feel it’s more about exploiting the ransom elements of music making – and he works his patches well, generating some head-shredding tones with some abrupt tonal shifts.

DSC_6907

Error Control

Even if you ‘get’ and dig Territorial Gobbing, Theo Gowans’ outré approach can’t fail to evoke a certain ‘wtf’ response. Sonically, this set is very much standard territory, a series of groans, drones, bleeps, blips, burp and farts, with random samples flying in from all angles to dizzying and bewildering effect. Only this one, he’s dialled in from bed with a hot water bottle and some kind of elephant trunk hat thing made out of foam and paper mache or something. He coughs, splutters, wheezes, mutters, and snores, the din stops and starts and you wonder if he’s perhaps unwell, maybe delirious, but then you remember that’s just how he is, and he’ll probably be doing shit like this on his deathbed. It’s a cracking set that reminds us that there really isn’t anyone else doing anything quite like this.

DSC_6910

Territorial Gobbing

It’s a top end to a top night. At some point in the future, this will happen in a small room, at extreme volume and will be observed and appreciated with a fervent enthusiasm by a dozen or so people, and it will be aMAYzing. For the time being, it’s a real joy that the creativity continues and the sense of community remains.

And you can watch it all here:

DSC_6900

28th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While online streams have become quite a thing as a gig substitute during lockdown, I’ve personally struggled to really connect and haven’t been all that engaged with the virtual gig scene.

In classic real-life style I arrive a few minutes in (although due to technical difficulties rather than a late train or being at the bar over the road) to find a man –Stale Cooper, apparently – sitting cross-legged with a guitar in front of an immense back of effects pedals. The lighting is hazy, noise is droney.

A mass of monochrome blurring and squalling feedback drone combine to conjure a vast, expansive soundscape as OMNIBAEL take the virtual stage: there are hints of Jesu in this immersive, transportative wash of noise. The sound and visuals compliment one another perfectly. When there are vocals, they low in the mix, buried in a tempestuous whorl of sound that’s a blend of Swans and Throbbing Gristle. The set culminates – or at least it maybe should have – in a motoric throb of a repetitive riff that ultimately dissolves in a mess of noise, and it’s absolutely fan-fucking-tastic The set goes on a further ten minutes or so, and would have probably been more impactful with a shorter duration. Nevertheless, it was one of those sets that if it were a real gig, you would be able to go home happy, safe in the knowledge that you’ve probably seen the band of the night.

thumbnail

OMNIBAEL

The best way to follow a hard act to follow, and it’s no brag that …(something) ruined are different. Yes, it’s my band, and we have a knack of standing out like a sore thumb in any context, not least of all because there are so few noise acts with vocals. Watching back our 3:22 of obliterative noise was a challenge, but only a couple of people left. I don‘t know if I’m pleased or disappointed by this.

DSC_6658

…(something) ruined

Lovely Wife make a monstrous blackened din: dark, dense, pitched at the low-end, low-tempo and with bowel-churning vocals, there’s an other-worldly, ethereal quality to their music. Featuring members of a number of other prominent noisy / doomy / sludgy / etc acts from the city, the trio combine elements of their other projects to conjure something powerful and intense. The Band of the night crown has been passed on.

The dark ambience of AGED is well-placed, changing the tone and the tempo, and the visuals contain a neat narrative, too, while Lost Music Library drift into softer terrain that slows the pulse, and paired with some hypnotic digital visuals, it’s a gripping experience.

Despite the rainbow discoball visuals, Blackcloudummoner’s set is a brain-shredding blast of feedback, a thrumming squall of dank electronics. Heavy low-end drones are disturbed by glitches and ruptures, and it’s heavy but mellow, in a harsh way. If that makes no sense, then, well, maybe you had to be there to appreciate how the scrape of nails down a blackboard against a dense fog of static and blistering, billowing noise can somehow be soothing.

DSC_6661

blackcloudsummoner

Neuro… No Neuro’s short set leads us into more minimal territory, with glitchy crackles and pops defining the sound of a brief set that would have been quite acceptable had it continued for an eternity. No matter, ‘Flower of Flesh and Blood’ bring an array of pink and white and brown noise and endless reverberations and humming circuitry, occasionally exploding into some difficult noise.

Forest Friends lead us through a leafy woodland as soundtracked by a crunching crackle of overloading noise: again, there are heavy hints of Throbbing Gristle, and with some woozy synth brass that trills away, their set is deeply lo-fi in its leaning. The vocals and drums are both a horrible mess of distortion, thick and dirty and it’s the sound of decay and disintegration that define the set as it gradually crumbles into a pulp of derangement. It’s a fitting end to a night of intense and challenging music, and credit goers to Nim Brut for assembling a varied, contrasting and complimentary lineup.

DSC_6663

Forest Friends

See you down the front for FEAST #3!

Christopher Nosnibor

Recorded live at The Fulford Arms and streamed post-production as part of the venue’s seventh anniversary celebrations, Petrol Hoers’ performance was always going to be a must-see, and while there’s no way there can ever be a substitute for witnessing the spectacle first-hand, if ever a band was capable of conveying the eye-popping ‘wtf’ factor of their live shows via a recorded medium it was always going to be Hoers.

An overtly novelty band whose cover art – which invariably featured cartoon depictions of pumped-up horses with crudely-drawn phalluses – summed up the target level fairly accurately, it was a shock to none more than them for their last album Oh I Don’t Know, Just Horse Stuff, I Guess to be picked up by BBC 6Music. In the blink of a weeping third eye, they had a song about wanking being blasted out over the national airwaves.

The set opens with a massive slow-build, as crushing metal powerchords and epic synchs build up before powering into frenetic hardcore technothrash that rips the top off our skull.

‘Music! Is serious business!!’ yells the burly, hairy, horse-headed man wearing nothing else but tattoos and a pair of tight yellow trunks by way of an opening line. He’s right, of course, but how seriously can we take this? How seriously is he taking it? He – Dan Buckley, aka Danny Carnage is accompanied by a dude in a Mexican wrestling mask, accompanied by sheer vest and a pair of Y-fronts, and behind the synths and other electronic kit that generates the music, a third dude wearing a zebra mask.

‘I say petrol you say hoers!’ they chant shortly after. They’re masters of the slogan, and kings of the corn, and because of the masks, it’s impossible to tell if they’re actually managing to do this with straight faces or not. They clearly know that the whole thing is absurd, and are revelling in it, as they crank out a relentless barrage of HI-NRG pun-riven rave-metal insanity.

‘Help Me I Am in Hoers’ is another ear-bashing genre straddling grindcore/techno explosion, machine-gun drumming and wild (sampled / sequenced) guitar noise hammering in at a thousand miles an hour. ‘Only Fuels and Horses’ switches back and forth between bulbous trance and head-shredding industrial grind, while they list all the trials and tribulations of the physical limitations of equine existence om the stomper ‘#horseproblems’: ‘Have you ever tried to play a blastbeat with hooves?’ Well, have you?

Hoers live was always a brain-bending and mildly traumatic experience, but beamed into the homes of viewers in a blitzkreik of strobes and crazy fast-paced camera edits that are like early 90s TOTP on speed, this is something else. Credit to both the band and the Fulford Arms for really doing something different and something special here: it’s one thing to stream a live performance online, but entirely another to render it in such a fashion with such production – and to add to that, the sound production was absolutely fucking brilliant.

Having found online gigs something of a disappointment over the last ten months or so, it’s a joy to report that finally, I feel like I’ve attended a real event. And I’m going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning.

thumbnail

Christopher Nosnibor

Soupy exotica that calls to mind William Burroughs’ descriptions of Tangiers winds slowly from the speakers as people filter in, greeting one another in the chat section and the visuals alternate between the event poster and the running order. There’s something quite distinctive about Theo Gowans’ events, and he’s done an amazing job of recreating the vibe of Leeds DIY venue CHUNK on-line. A lot of it’s the culture and the people, of course, and CHUNK’s ethos of accommodating and encouraging the most far-out and fringe makers of music (while having a clear stance against fascists and bigots) is nurturing and community-spirited.

I’m oddly nervous: this will be …(something) ruined’s first on-line airing, and while I’m sort of comfortable shouting at people against a backdrop of extremely loud noise in person, knowing that we’re going to unleash probably our harshest, most experimental piece to date is an unknown.

In an attempt to better replicate the pre-gig experience, I’ve drawn the blind and cracked open a can of 8.5% Belgian lager – a kind of tradition developed when …(something) ruined took to the road (albeit briefly) in February. I manage not to pace the room anxiously, though, which is probably for the best, although it does mean I’m not working toward my daily 6,000 step target.

It’s a prompt start, and BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER pile in hard and strong with shuddering, juddering crackles and blasts of noise that shard from atop a booming, rolling bass. It’s apparently a saxophone, but fucked about with to be a potent, disorientating noise assault, building later upon later of interlooping shrieks of nail-scraping shrillness as the piece progresses. It’s rendered all the more tension-inducing by the cyclical visual consisting of just three rolling gifs. In a gig setting, this by way of an opener would clear the room before it even filled up: in the event, viewers steadily increase… 29… 34… 36…

DSC_4686[1]

Ordinarily, that would be an act you’d not want to follow, but Expose Your Eyes up the noise stakes with thumping percussion and buzzsaw churning electronic noise, some heavy synthy drones with serrated edges bristling all over, intercut with murky pulsations and looped snippets of dialogue. The accompanying videos appear to be clips shot at random while out and about, with the lighting adjusted for maximum dramatic effect, giving the whole thing a horror movie suspense vibe. Only much, much noisier.

The change in style that Labas Krabas being is welcome: the Newcastle duo deliver otherworldly vocal warbling accompanied by disjointed double bass, and we get to watch them perform, albeit with blocky, buffering movement. Said warbling builds to crazed, banshee wailing and shrieking. It is, however, a long set, and it’s perhaps because of its force that it becomes draining some time before the end.

There isn’t a lot to THF Drenching’s set: the beardy avant-gardist shows various artworks close to the camera against an audio backdrop of trilling, twittering and occasional toots, bells, and whistles.

DSC_4688[1]

Carnivorous Plants Trio bring more fucked-up noise-churning double bass action, compacted into a claustrophobic space with experimental guitar sculptures and random percussion. The technique of slapping the bow against the strings produced some interesting sounds, while the guitar work is very much about texture rather than tune. The layered visuals, which place all three musicians in the same space but as ghostly forms, are interesting, and work well.

DSC_4689[1]

Worship My Panther plunder deep drone, which is supplemented by footage of rabbits, mostly: rabbits hopping, fighting and being hunted by birds of prey. Sonically, it’s dark and ponderous and the contrasting visuals add a different dimension.

I can’t really review my own set, but it’s quick and brutal and Paul Tone’s noise and visual collaging feels like a creative success, and I read the silence in the chat comments as positive, like those present being stunned into silence instead of sending virtual missiles and ‘you’re shit’ comments our way. The Whining crowd may be respectful and nice, but they’d say if we were shit. YOL slammed in immediately after with a short sharp shock of a set that was seemingly a guy having a breakdown while straddling a bass drum. I have no real clue what it as about, but it was intense.

DSC_4690[1]

Heavy Lifting’s real-time programming yields tone-shifting phased synth wave sounds reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the vocals. This is a good thing, because the vocals on most early Whitehouse releases were pretty corny, while blasts of distortion and feedback never get tired.

I kinda got distracted for a time in the aftermath of the …(s)r set: for some reason, people wanted to talk to me over various messenger services, but Swarm Front grabbed my attention with a politically-charged mash-up combining no-fi docu-drama and power electronics. Mashed loops played at hyperspeed stutter and whip in between more performance-based segments. The effect is somewhat bewildering, and at times, it’s hard to determine the sense of narrative.

Phil Minton is perhaps the noise equivalent of beatbox master Kevin Olusola, or at least an aspiring equivalent: his vocal gymnastics almost inevitably call to mind Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice recordings, as he replicated the sounds of howling wind, explosions and dark ambient rumbles with his lugs and larynx alone. And it’s pretty impressive.

DSC_4692

Finally, we get to see Mik Quantius do some JG Thirlwell-inspired growling and playing a keyboard with his feet and shake his jowls frantically in front of a mic. Some of it’s ok, some not so much, but the sound quality is pretty poor. And I’m weary and beery. And it feels very like a gig. Only, I’m not rushing for a train at 11pm and after 5 pints or more. Which is one positive over real gigs, I suppose…

DSC_4694

Christopher Nosnibor

Having declared Evi Vine’s last album ‘a masterpiece’ and vowed to watch her and her band live whenever the opportunity presented, this live stream seemed like the best opportunity I’d get for a while. Lockdown may be loosening, but the prospect of proper gigs seems a way off yet.

While a lot of live streams have simply been solo bedroom shows, or bands playing from separate Zoom screens, have had a certain novelty, I’ve simply found them uninteresting and not even a remove substitute for an actual concert. It begins with a stream of something ambient and an empty space: yes, actual build-up and anticipation.

What’s more, Evi performs with bandmember Steven Hill providing additional guitar, heavily layered in spectral shoegaze effects as a backdrop to her hypnotic Dylan Carlson-esque picking, creating a much fuller sound that’s a closer approximation to an actual show.

Playing in a bay window facing out onto a luscious garden, the sun descending behind and casting the duo in silhouette, and with white fairy lights drapes thick on her amp head, the appearance is somewhere between a conventional stage and a garden party.

The nature of the songs – here, often rearranged – means they’re well suited to this more minimal kind of performances, sans percussion, and Evi’s voice is always the focal point anyway and it drifts in washes of reverb-soaked guitar as if in a dream. Sound and volume to matter, and they’ve turned things up. Consequently, I actually find myself feeling something, something other than simply watching music on telly.

If the accompaniment of Loki the dog’s barking and my buffering broadband (which means I miss out on minutes at a time, even causing me to miss ‘Sabbath’ in its entirety…. ) are impendences of varying levels to the experience, then the slightly blurry camera and the fact Evi’s dialogue between songs is difficult to make out really aren’t, and remind of common real-life gig issues.

It’s a captivating set, and ‘In this Moment’ is truly magnificent as sculpted contrails quaver and taper like smoke. They even manage some lighting action for a solo instrumental from Steve, which is immense, and after a haunting, elegiac close, there’s an abstract ambient track playing while they retrieve the dogs from the garden and pack up. It’s an alternative version of stage-clearing while the audience thins and people mill about finishing their pints, but it’s somehow a fitting end to the show.

Vine

Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I think the live stream shows that have become a thing during lockdown are a great way for bands to stay connected with their fans when tours have been cancelled, and artists and fans alike are frustrated and apart, I’ve struggled to get into them as an experience.

Discussing this with a gig-mate, I explained that I’d tried a few guitar bands doing streams from bedrooms , and found the experience of just one or two band members doing acoustic stuff and chatting a fair bit in between may create a certain sense of an intimate setting, but lacks the multisensory aspects, as well as the impact of music at gig volume.

‘I did do a couple early on’, my friend replied, adding ‘It’s not really what I want. I want to go to a gig.’

It struck me that that was it, in a nutshell. A stream is not a gig. TV, radio, YouTube, a live album… is not a gig. It’s like arguing that a Kindle is like a book. It may well be, but it isn’t, and the things it lacks are the reason it will never be a convincing or authentic sensory substitute. When it comes to live music, the cliché ‘you had to be there’ is ineffable. Yes. You do actually have to be there.

Nevertheless, with friends whose music I’m into on tonight’s lineup, I decided to invest a little more in recreating the live experience, starting with a pre-gig pint, which I texted pictures of to various people. Being a warm night, I didn’t put the heating up, but I did draw the blind and shut the door to my office, and put the display full screen (The streaming chat is irritating and detracts from both the music and the visuals, however sparse) and cranked the speakers up, and sat back to witness low rumblings and slow-decaying chimes that marked the start of Möbius’ set. The visuals consist of a dark background and shining points of yellow-white light. Wordless dual vocals ring out and resonate against one another, generating a subtle power, somewhere between Gregorian chanting and Jarboe at her most ethereal. The drones grow denser, louder, the effect of a single note sustained for an eternity increases as time passes: my body hums at the same frequency for a time, before the resonant echoes are gradually swallowed in a swell of distortion. Chances are, if played at the same volume, a recording would have the same effect, but it’s an immersive set nevertheless.

DSC_4118[1]

Möbius

Between-acts, there’s some obscure noise mix streaming, and Plan Pony is up next, blasting out speaker-mangling low-end distortion. If the noise is impressive, it’s matched by polarised visuals. Manipulating blasts of harsh guitar sampled in real-time and thrashed through an immense table fill of effects, the output is a sonic blitzkrieg. The quiet passages don’t translate quite as well, partly because my neighbour’s got a mate round and they’ve got the radio on in her back yard, but some snarled-up samples and snippets of music emerge from the grumbling electronics as he twiddles knobs, before long building again to a shattering wall of harsh noise.

DSC_4119[1]

Plan Pony

Zad Kokar takes things to next-level wtf, with bewilderingly nightmarish visuals that ae probably best described as max Headroom on acid, accompanying a blizzard of audio mashup that’s like early Prodigy in collision with early cabaret Voltaire. Both on acid. Diverting from the in-yer-face mental shit, we’ve got Clean Wipe, a guy in shorts stroking a doorframe while tweaking knobs on effects pedals at a circular kitchen table while the background changes colour constantly. It takes me an age to realise there must be contact mics on the door frame, and I can’t decide if I need more beer or I’ve had too much already.

It’s been a strong start, and TCH, on at number 4, take the mood and volume down a bit, but in a good way. The noise is dark and dingy, and reflects the setting in which we see a hooded figured tweaking minimal kit in a small, mildew-stained room. It’s more like watching a documentary on heroin withdrawal than a musical performance.

DSC_4130[1]

TCH

I clock 61 viewers, which is probably about the capacity of CHUNK, and the nights thy host are usually BYOB, so cracking a can of ALDI’s The Hop Stepper that I fetched from downstairs between acts seems consistent with being there.

Petrine Cross is Esmé of Penance Stare doing one-woman black metal at a million decibels. The set’s an ear-shattering mess of noise and distortion and visually, it’s stark, dark and black and white. The sound is overloaded, borderline unlistenable, but that’s likely intentional, and it’s clear some effort’s gone into this. Each song has its title on-screen at the start, there’s a plug for a charity compilation (again, on-screen text means no need for awkward chat) and songs are intercut with footage of the cat. It’s belting. And her room as some nice cornice work.

DSC_4134[1]

Petrine Cross

It’s a distorted dictaphone tape recording – a fractured ranted monologue about life in isolation under lockdown – that provides the material for Duncan Harrison’s set. It captures the mental tension of the moment so well, it’s uncomfortable listening. It’s followed by Energy Destroyer’s barrage of noise accompanied by video footage of him swinging either nunchucks or lengths of rubber in his back garden, and it’s the bodywarmer that makes it.

It’s disorientating watching the back of a performer’s head as they play and seeing them again on the PC monitor before them, with the whole scene framed by leaves and soundtracked by birdsong and incidental rumblings. But this is what we get from Garden Magik, whose set evolves gradually into a digital storm. At some point in the gale-force distortion, I realise my mind isn’t entirely on the set, but then, in a live setting, I would have likely enjoyed the sonic experience but found my mind wandering to maters of work and other stuff – and that’s no criticism. Under lockdown, in my office, it’s even easier to become distracted by text messages and FaceBook.

Content’s ‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ leaps out as a feature of the between-act PA tunage before Sadistic Statistic, who give us more garden footage and a full-on Merzbow blast of obliterative sonic carnage. The images of cats are unrepresentative: the melting digitisations less so: at times, it sounds like it looks: brain-shredding, difficult, and impossible to pin down. Harsh is the new norm here: this is one of those sets that leaves you feeling utterly wrung out by the time the last sparking crackle fades.

DSC_4137[1]

Sadistic Statistic

Stuart Chalmers takes us on a mesmerising tour of a cave, before Otherworld bring gloopy, cracking electronics accompanied by swirling pixelated patterns that aren’t exactly easy on the retinas. It’s low-level noise that’s centred around slow-, hypnotic pulsations. It’s pitch-black in the room now bar the screen and I’m staring fixedly at the shifting shapes as the sound ripple around me, and the experience is quite gig-like until Mrs N returns an extension lead, which isn’t quite the same as being handed a final pint before the train.

DSC_4138[1]

Otherworld

In terms of lineup and performances, this was a hell of a night. It would, unquestionably, have been infinitely better to have witnessed it in person, surrounded by other people also witnessing it in person: atmosphere is interaction, but also an unspoken feeling that passes between people in a room. Virtual claps posted on a chat stream simply cannot replace real time reactions. But, while it’s the best we’ve got, it’ll have to do. What I took from tonight is that some genres seems better equipped to operate differently, and experimental electronic odd shit, with its propensity for visuals and playing in darkness, seems to have less work to do to adapt than conventional rock formats, making this the closest to the live experience I’ve yet witnessed. And yes, I had a blast. And made it home with no problems, too.

The Crescent, York, 14th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It doesn’t seem real now. It was the night before everything changed, before everything changed again a couple of days later. While cancellations were accelerating, advice and clarity was sparse, and what constituted ‘the right thing’ was very much a matter for debate. The Crescent were very much doing ‘the right thing’ based on the advice: punters were steered to washing their hands on arrival at the venue: those without e-tickets advised to pay by contactless card, while also paying contactlessly at the bar, being served by staff in gloves, pints being served in cans or single-use plastic vessels. Social distancing wasn’t yet a specific thing, and there was scant information which suggested that in excess of 15 minutes in close proximity may increase the risk of transmission. We greeted with elbows and nods. In the main, we respected the guidelines.

I’d be interested to know how many of those who attended have subsequently fallen sick with Covid-19. Not all of us were in the ‘young’ demographic; none of us was being wilfully irresponsible. The virus has become divisive in the way that Brexit was: on social media, in particular, anyone leaving the house risks being subject to vilification, abuse, and even police interrogation. We now live in a climate of fear – an unprecedented climate of fear, dominated by an unprecedented overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’.

The middle of March: a mere month ago, but another lifetime. Gig attendances were already beginning to drop off sharply as the fear spread. And with everything amping up, there was a certain sense of occasion about this: I sense that many of use attended as much out of a sense of solidarity and support: solidarity and support for the bands, the venue, the local scene, and one another. And because we knew, if only subconsciously, that the opportunities to convene like this would be numbered. Gatherings like this are what keep communities together, and keep many of us sane. I’m elated to see numerus friends, including some I’ve not seen in far too long: we catch up about parenthood and our concern for our elderly parents under the creeping shadow of the virus. We drink beer, and we watch bands.

Viewer haven’t been out in a while, and apart from time down the pub, have almost been on a self-imposed isolation for I don’t know who long. I’m not even sure Tim Wright would notice a 12-week lockdown. But here he is, hunched over a laptop, cranking out beats and backings and migraine-inducing visual backdrops while AB Johnson – still suffering the effects of concussion and sporting a black eye and struggling to remember the lyrics after a recent accident involving his face and the pavement – pours every ounce of energy into his performance. They’re the primary reason I’m here, and given the quality of the songs, the visuals, and the people they’ve dragged out of the woodwork, every moment is a joy. Johnson’s lyric sheets are scattered around the stage and his difficult relationship with mic stands is evident tonight. But despite any shakes or glitches, they remain one of the most essential acts around, and just need for the world to catch up.

DSC_3727[1]DSC_3723[1]

Viewer

Soma Crew are showcasing (another) new lineup tonight, with a minimal drum set-up and lap steel dronage and slide bringing new dimensions to their deep psych chugging repetitions driven by varying between two or three guitars. My notes begin to descend into sketchy incoherence around this point, but the memory-jogging ‘RRR’ reminds me that they’re masters of the three ‘r’s – repetition, repetition, repletion, and they slug away at three chords for five or six minutes to mesmeric, hypnotic effect. It seems that every time I write about Soma Crew, I remark that they’re better every time I see them. And yet again, it’s true. They’re denser, more solid, more muscular, and tighter than ever, and on this outing they feel like a band who should be playing to way bigger crowds, capable of holding their own at the Brudenell or the Belgrave.

DSC_3730[1]

Soma Crew

Leeds’ Long-Legged Creatures are new on me, and they impress, with a fluid bass and big washes of texture defining the sound. An eletro/post-rock/psych hybrid, they lay down some hypnotic grooves, and my sketchy, increasingly beer-addled notes remind me that their performance is frenetic, kinetic, with some strong – and complex – drum ‘n’ bass / jazz drumming driving the songs.

DSC_3746[1]

Long Legged Creatures

Things take a major left-turn when some poet guy steps up to the mic and spews lines and rhymes like John Cooper Clarke on a cocktail of drugs. A spot of digging suggests he may be Joshua Zero, but I may be wrong. He’s a compelling presence, though: he’s wild, he’s crazed, and his staggering vitriolic attacks are in stark contrast to the coordinated post-rock jams of the band. It’s as exhilarating as it is unexpected. It’s great.

Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you were better avoiding it. But I’ve no regrets. I miss gigs, I miss pubs, I miss live music, and I miss people. At least my last experience of all of these was truly wonderful and encapsulated everything I love about this.

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having seen The Sisters countless times since their 1990 comeback at Wembley Arena, and despite their performances being spectacularly patchy (true also of their early years and even cult heyday up to ’85, if you believe the evidence of the bootlegs over the fans who were present but often under various influences) and often disappointing, I was still mega-revved to see the band that, when push comes to shove, will always rank as my favourite act of all time. I make no apologies for this.

The city’s half-deserted – which was also true of York on departure – even in rush hour in these COVID-19 paranoid times, but the O2 is packed with goths and lesser goths of all ages, shapes and sizes.

I’m here as a paying punter, and I’m here on my own, and manage to see almost none of the many people I’m connected with via social media who are also present as I hunker down in my usual spot in the front row by the speaker stack to the left as facing. I’m determined to guard it so fiercely, I adopt the resolve of the Birmingham NEC ‘92 gig: no beer, no nipping off for a pee. Pee trips can take 15 to 20 minutes in venues like this, and the beer is dismal and expensive, so screw that, although the three pints I had in a pub up the rad beforehand begin to press harder about halfway through the set.

Having not had much time to investigate beforehand, A. A. Williams is something of an unknown quantity beyond being a purveyor of ‘doom gospel’. Going on the presentation and first few bars, I was expecting her to be an addition to the bracket occupied by Chelsea Wolfe and Emma Ruth Rundle, but as the set progresses, it’s apparent that Williams is less given to pushing the weightier end of things. She leads her band – a standard enough rock set-up with a second guitar alongside her own to fill out the sound and add depth and texture – through a proficient and suitably dark-hued set. But without any significant dynamics, sonically or in terms of performance, it all feels a little flat, samey, and contained, lacking in drama. I want MORE!

DSC_3694[1]

A. A. Williams

The Sisters do give us ‘More’, and lots more besides, and while ‘More’ is reserved for a blistering hit-filled encore, the set packs plenty of bangers and more energy than we’ve seen in some time, elevating this well above what’s become something of a standard semi-obligatory exercise in merch-pedalling and showcasing a new song or two.

Having watched the latest new songs ‘Show Me’ and ‘Better Reptile’, aired on the mainland leg of the tour a few months ago, countless times already, to the extent that they’re both etched into my brain, am I keen to hear them for the first time properly? Hell yeah. But that doesn’t blunt either the anticipation or the thrill, and while there’s no ‘Better Reptile’ tonight, the buzz of a set that launches with a new song is cerebral and physical but not necessarily one ready articulable in words. After an atmospheric intro, ‘But Genevie’ slams in and is an instant classic, and better still, the mix is crisp and clear and Eldritch’s vocals aren’t only up in the mix, but he’s singing up with a vocal strength that’s not been displayed in far too long.

DSC_3715[1]

The Sisters of Mercy

While he doesn’t sustain it throughout the entirety of the set, reverting to the subsonic grumbling, growling thing he’s become prone to over the last decade for many of the songs – and at times very much to their detriment – there are moments where he really does go all out, not least of all on an extended ‘Flood II’ that has to be up there with any performance since their return to the live circuit in 1990.

The standard of the new songs – with ‘Show Me’ being aired along with ‘I Will Call You’, ‘Black Sail’ and instrumental number ‘Kickline’ – is up there with the reinstated ‘rash and Burn’, and it’s elating to hear – although the elation is tempered by the eternal frustration of a continued lack of studio activity.

The vintage cuts – ‘First and Last and Always’, ‘No Time to Cry’, ‘Marian’ are played at breakneck speed, but instead of feeling throwaway or like they wanted to get them over with, as has been the case on some previous outings, they feel energised and urgent, and their brevity leaves room for an extended ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ in a hit-packed encore which saw the band really cutting loose with ‘More’, ‘Temple of Love’, and ‘Lucretia’ before wrapping up with ‘This Corrosion’.

After 18 songs performed by a band on renewed form, not to mention a rare showing of ‘I Was Wrong’ (a personal fave) we can probably forgive the absence of ‘Vision Thing’.

Writing this after the fact, in the knowledge that it proved to be the penultimate show of the tour only heightens the appreciation of the event. The later-day Sisters shows may be divisive in fan communities, and it’s a fact they can be variable, but this home outing proved that on a god night, the Sisters have still got it.

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s all about the work / life balance, right? That’s what I tell myself, and my colleagues, an anyone who will listen. The truth of maintaining a work/life balance often – at least in my experience – means killing yourself to meaningfully fulfil the life element. Because life isn’t about resting, it’s about doing the things that matter, pursuing your passion, not binging on Netflix. That isn’t life, that’s hiding from work, finding a mental space in which to escape and decompress. But no-one ever lay on their deathbed saying ‘I wish I’d watched more TV’. I haven’t watched a single episode of ‘Love Island’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘X Factor’ and am fairly confident my life isn’t in any way deficient because of it. Being a writer is more than tapping out a few jolly lines while sitting on the sofa watching a nice rom-com with the wife after the kids have serenely taken themselves to bed straight after dinner, and being in a gigging band, however infrequently you may gig, takes some serious effort, especially in addition to full-time dayjob and family commitments and all the rest.

And so I disembarked in York, where I live, after a two-day work trip to Norwich, and seven minutes later was on a train to Leeds. Some people are accustomed or otherwise adjust readily to travel: I’m not among them. People laugh at me when I use the term ‘train-lagged’, especially when in the context of a day-trip to Sheffield from York, but believe me, I feel it on a molecular level or something.

Another thing I’ve discovered recently is that reviewing and performing are very different disciplines, more so even than leading a meeting and taking minutes – which is pretty much what I’m attempting here.

Performing requires beer, and I had a couple on the train, and a couple more while grabbing some food and plotting a vague strategy for mayhem before going to set up. Unusually, we had a proper soundcheck, although I hate vocal soundchecks. As long as things work, I’m more concerned about volume and tonal impact than mix, given that what happens during the performance rarely resembles the soundcheck anyway, and the while white noise and shouting only works at speaker-shredding, tinnitus-inducing volume. You don’t need to hear the words, you just need to feel the force, ad anything less than freight-train impact falls short. We made noise. We nodded, retreated to the back with more beer.

The Truth About Frank’s set started unusually gently, with an ambience that wasn’t even particularly dark, before murk and muffled samples edge in. Before you know it, the PA is blaring a surging swell of beats and a wash of noise, oscillating washes of discoordinated sound layers meld with off-kilter techno. This is one of TTAF’s more structured-sounding sets, and it builds well and culminates in a fragmented flurry of fractured noise.

DSC_3619[1]

The Truth About Frank

…(something) ruined crash-landed by happy accident, and once again, in the squall of brutal noise, I ruined myself. This simply seems to be how it is. This was probably our strongest and most brutal, tinnitus-inducing set yet. I told the sound guy during soundcheck that I wasn’t fussed if my vocals got buried in the barrage of noise, and unlike some, he respected that. There are fantastic audio and video recordings of the set: I’m barely audible for large portions, but Paul Tone is on absolute A1 peak form for brutal electronic noise, and the volume, it would seem, was pretty much excruciating. So I’m happy.

DSC_3616[1]

…(something) ruined

My sketchy notes state that Black Alert play Tangerine Dreamy Krautrock with samples. It’s an evolutionary electro set that’s heavy on vintage synth and drum sounds, with the drums pumped up in the mix. It’s a nice contrast, and the emphasis on melody is welcome at this point in the evening.

DSC_3621[1]

Black Alert

And then there’s Un Sacapuntas. The solo noise project of Alice Nancy, this performance – and it’s all about the performance – is something else. There’s a reason I prefer to play early, an acts like this are all the reasons why: you wouldn’t want to follow this. Alice is mesmerising and intense as she fastens a contact mic to her throat while unlacing her shoes. What follows is an intense and hypnotic show, both sonically and visually: burrs of treble and shrieks of feedback break through a dank rumble while she shrieks unintelligibly and wafts around the stage, a ghostly presence.

DSC_3629[1]DSC_3636[1]

Un Sacapuntas

It’s a superb end to a great night which is exemplary of the Hogwash experience: Dave Procter’s curation is both considered and intuitive, bringing together a road range of unusual non-rock acts from near and far. With a respectable and enthusiastic audience, Leeds underground scene is very much kicking.