Posts Tagged ‘electronic’

27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.

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DL only – Self Released – 15th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Four months on from the original Kressel Studies release, Mick Sussman delivers a second volume of ‘algorithmic studies’ which explore ‘new rhythmic and timbral techniques’ The accompanying text explains that ‘as with the previous volume of Kressel Studies, these pieces are brief and generated from compact nuggets of computer code. But they form a varied procession of musical thoughts, some severe and some almost merry.’

I wrote of the first back in March that Sussman took the listener ‘deep into skittery microtonal bleeping territory’, and this twenty-one track collection of snippety fragments of drones, hums, bleeps and yawning extraneous and quivering noises follows the same experimental trajectory. And as one may reasonably expect, Vol 2 is more of the same, only different – but not very.

‘kr40P1p5’ is a jittery, skittery melange of synths, and ‘kr40P1p5’ is similarly brain-bending, but even more fractured and dizzying, as stunted notes bounce and ricochet every which way in a kind of Brownian motion. ‘Kr42p2p5’ is a swampy soup of straining analogue, while ‘kr42p2p7’ is a fizzing morass of whupping phase and stunning static hiss that’s churned to a spacey foam.

R2D2 bleeps and whistles and retro-futurism clash with short blasts of power-electronics noise, and this is very much a work which is preoccupied with sound rather than sense, conjuring a wibbly-bibbly world of weirdness.

It’s very much a mixed bag of oddities, and if, like its predecessor, it sounds like so much dicking about in the studio, then that’s because it really is, although that’s no criticism. The blurb explains that across the album, ‘some [tracks] veer toward pure noise, like Kr. 42.2.3, while others have a lighter melodic flavor, like Kr. 42.3.1. And some split the difference, with rough-textured grooves, like 44.2.1.’ And perhaps, rather than view this as an album in the conventional sense, it should be held up against the sound effects alums of the 70s and 80s, the likes of which were recorded by the BBC Radiophonic workshop.

With each piece – compositions is a stretch, at least as a musical descriptor: any composition involved is digital coding as Sussman plays with the parameters of programming – so brief, the listener doesn’t get the opportunity to settle, and is instead slapped by a quickfire succession of sonic assaults presented as sketches that flit across the full range of textures and tones, and at a pace that’s sometimes bewildering.

It does work – again, not as an album, but a collection of random sounds and sonic experiments.

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Unsounds 65U – 15th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While Andy Moor’s distinctive guitar playing is central to this collaborative work, it’s worth stating from the outset that this is a challenging listen. Spacious and eerie, above all it’s atonal and discordant, as if the two musicians are playing against one another, rather than with, and, moreover, against themselves, particularly in Moor’s case as he digs deep to pick notes in counter-time and counter-melody.

How this album came to be is worth recounting, so I shall quote directly: ‘In 2017 Andy Moor and Yannis Kyriakides were invited to participate in Xavier Veilhan’s ‘Studio Venezia’ at the French pavilion for the 57th Venice Art Biennale. This was a space where a series of musicians were in residence throughout the six month duration of the festival, recording and performing there in an open environment. The two musicians had access to a variety of instruments and machines including Moog, Buchla and Vermona synths which were used for some of the recordings. The unusual situation here was that they were working in a studio, experimenting, trying out ideas while at the same time being a part of an ongoing art installation. So they were part of the space, yet not really knowing whether they should play for the crowds who were constantly passing through the pavilion or just ignore them.’

‘The result was nine hours of recorded material mostly improvised or based on a few basic rhythmic patterns that Kyriakides had prepared as starting blocks. For this album they selected 45 minutes of what they considered to be the strongest material after several listenings and editing sessions.’

That’s a lot of material, and a lot of whittling and editing, but the end result is well-assembled and flows together nicely – while at the same time mining a seam of arrhythmia and clanging dissonance. Moreover, each piece is distinct and distinctive, with different textures, tones, and moods, and as such, Pavilion represents a disorientating, difficult journey.

The layers on ‘Camera’ build at different rates, crossing over one another and interfering with one another’s time signatures so as to become bent out of shape, colliding against one another in a clutter of discoordination. The synth bass on ‘Dedalo’ warps and scratches and scrapes away as low grooves that trip and curl, wow and flutter. There’s a playful side to it, with the rhythmic swing and metallic clattering that sounds like pots and pans, which contrasts with the more ponderous atmospherics of ‘Concha’, a nine-and-a-half minute exercise in detuning and retuning, as notes bend and bow with a slow, resonant decay.

‘Diluvio’ is unpleasantly tense and prickly, and the album ultimately drifts towards an uneasy conclusion with the last couple of pieces, which are simultaneously dolorous and soporific, albeit in a dark, horror-movie dreamscape sort of a way.

Pavilion leaves you feeling… not quite bewildered, but spaced, separated, as if standing half a step behind your own body or your own shadow. It’s less about if this is a good thing in itself, as much as the fact that this is a work which has a degree of psychological resonance, which marks it as a creative success.

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Yannis Kyriakides Andy Moor – Pavilion

Front & Follow

Christopher Nosnibor

The demise of the label Front & Follow was a sad one, for many reasons. I mean, it was understandable: a one-man enterprise, the degree of effort required to curate, release, and promote music – especially obscure, niche music – is astounding. It’s always going to be a labour of love, but all the love in the world doesn’t pay the bills.

This does mean that the return of F&F, however brief, with a view to issuing a series of lockdown / isolation compilations is extremely welcome, simply in principle. Not only because it’s a reminder of a time before what’s rapidly looking like a collapse of civilisation, not only because it’s a reminder of what a great label it was, but also because despite the tidal wave of lockdown releases that are flooding the virtual world right now, we still need more music like this: music from the fringes, music that coveys the intense cognitive dissonance of the current situation in non-lyrical terms.

To unpack this: the title summarises the situation as it stands for many in the most succinct form. Whether or not you’re officially ‘isolating’, we’re all still isolated for the most part, either alone or with the rest of out household. But it seems that however ‘together’ we are, however connected, however well we communicate, everyone’s individual experience is different, and in many was incommunicable: we’re all islands, isolating inside our own heads. Words get in the way, and impose the experience of others on our own private thoughts, so the fact that this collection is largely instrumental is welcome, and where there are vocals, they tend to be absorbed into the fabric of the sonic experience.

With twenty contributions from a host of artists. Many of whom I’m unfamiliar with, there’s a theoretical pot-luck element to this compilation, but F&F have always been strong on curatorial skills, and while the contribution from Kemper Norton (arguably one of the bigger ‘names’ on the release) is surprisingly brief, it’s positioned in a prominent position opening proceedings, and sets the tone with its tonally-balanced ambience.

Grey Frequency’s ‘Dissolve’ which follows is more what you might expect: almost seven minutes of mellifluous mellowness, but with crackling snippets of static and shadowy undercurrents that run dark and deep.

Picking standout tracks is difficult and also rather to undermine the project, although

‘Basic Design’s ‘Dream Archipelago’ does stand out by virtue of having vocals first and foremost, but also for it’s woozy, fugue-like qualities, something echoed by the ethereal ‘Dining with Phineus’ by Carya Amara.

AZAK BROMIDE bring a more power electronics / industrial slant to the dark ambient party, but it’s the seventeen-minute behemoth that is Boobs of Doom’s ‘Scumbellina’ that really is the ineffable centrepiece here: a towering monolith of a track it’s all the experimental electronica distilled into a single movement of analogue oddness.

Elsewhere, Ekoplex capture the essence of early cabaret Voltaire on the dubby ‘Rejected Replekz’, Thomas Ragsdale delivers some signature ambience with beats with ‘The Light Between’, and Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s ‘Waking Up With a Cat on My Face’ perfectly encapsulates that moment or panic, that abject spasm through a minute and three quarters of swampy discord and sonic confusion. Hibernation’s nine-minute ‘Fragile Times’ is a perfect summary of everything: so fragile and soft as to be barely-present, it’s a mist-like ambient piece that’s impossible to place your hands on it, much less pin it down, and that wisp-like intangibility, that vague ephemerality is the essence of the collective mind right now. However you may think about think about it, whatever your beliefs, pinning down the mood of the moment is nigh on impossible on the tumultuous psychological rollercoaster we find ourselves on.

Thankfully, soothing, spacious sonic wanderings like the album’s final contribution, TVO’s ‘A Wave as the Coast Disappears from View’ offer id to calm, even if the title reminds us we’re only barely afloat and only so far from drowning in an instant.

Isolation & Rejection Vol 1 is a magnificent collection at any time, but also serves as a contemplative soundtrack to strange and troubling times. It’s also classic F&F.

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Nahal Recordings – 10th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because detail is important, let’s begin with the parenthesis. The label’s press release announces ‘We teamed up with the extraordinary French ondist Christine Ott to create an unprecedented album entirely made with Ondes Martenot, one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history’, resulting in ‘a cosmic journey of layered waves of sound’.

Maurice Martenot’s invention may not have acquired the popular status of the theremin, but Christine Ott’s instrument of choice is nevertheless significant in the evolution of sound generation as one of the very first monophonic and experimental synthesizers in history back in 1920.

Chimères begins with a pause, at least metaphorically: ‘Comma’ is six minutes of instrumental hauntology, as the notes trail, taper and quaver into still air and silence. As the album’s title suggests, this is a curious hybrid work, and while perhaps less monstrous than all that, the Ondes Martenot conjures strange, otherworldly sounds that are, at times, quite unsettling as they yawn, quiver, and squelch into seas of reverb. At times resembling analogue synth sounds, and at others approximating strings and even woodwind, the

‘Todeslied’ is the sound of disembodied spirits flittering around in the physical world, a phantasmagorical freakshow of sonic ectoplasm which gradually bubbles its way through a succession of bursts and plumes via something semi-industrial into a tranquil sunlit meadow of sound. Meanwhile ‘Sirius’ brings some deep ambience, while the eight-minute ‘Eclipse’ brings swirl of darkness that’s more of a sucking black hole than a fleeting dimming of light, building to a whupping rotary sound and blizzard of bleeps in the final minute.

It’s a lot to take in, and closer ‘Burning’ is a magnificent if slightly disorientating combination of slow-glooping electronica and orchestral chamber music. It isn’t easy to assimilate, but it is wonderfully executed, and once you can overcome the unfamiliarity of the form, there are some magical moments to be discovered.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

13th March 2020

Following on from the single cuts ‘An’ and ‘Zabt’ in January and February, Turkish musician Akkor unveils the full-length album in the form of Durma, which promises ‘an electroacoustic narrative in a progressive cinematic sound universe through piano, synthesizers, soundscapes and recorded/found noises’.

What these releases hinted at, and which the album confirms, is that Akkor’s approach to combining found sound and electroacoustic arrangements are subtle, seamless, even. Rather than collaging cut-up fragments and snippets across one another to disorientating effect, Akkor processes everything, hard, smoothing it together to form a whole that’s textured but remarkably coherent. That there’s an overtly structured feel to the album, with piano motifs and defined beats holding things together is the key here.

The ten-and-a-half minute title track which opens the album is a spacious ambient work that rumbles, scrapes and soars towards the stratosphere before the thudding electro beats kick in and pull it back towards the ground. It’s mellow and expansive, but there’s a solidity at the core of the cloud-like drift.

It sets the tone and the form nicely. With all but one of the seven tracks stretching past the five-minute mark and the majority in the six to ten-minute range, Akkor isn’t afraid to explore, to give his ideas and the sounds that carry them room to breathe. And Durma is one of those albums that’s best experienced as a whole, not because of continuity or flow, but because it sits together as a single piece. And when heard as such, it’s an absolute pleasure.

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This is it Forever – 14th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since whittling down to just Gavin Miller, worriedaboutsatan’s outut has positively exploded, with the latest offering, which Miller describes as ‘quite an experimental little thing’ sees him share a tape – a side each – with Capac.

‘Orion’ is indeed quite experimental, and marks something of a departure for Miller, transitioning through a sequence of passages that rupture forth unexpectedly. At its heart, the piece is appropriately spacey, with squelchy quirts of analogue phase illuminating the smooth, slow-moving expanse of soft drones. It’s dense and atmospheric, and distant rumbles of thunder register like planets colliding way off in other solar systems before heraldic horns and full galactic marching band parades it way through. Gunned down in a blitzkrieg of lasers and noise, leaving an expanse of desolation, a near-emptiness.

Capac’s ‘A Well-Turned Suite’ is altogether darker, an eerie discord creating an ominous atmosphere. The four-piece describe themselves as creators of ‘sonic explorations of the murkier spaces in and between “new music”, and there’s certainly an exploratory quality to this fourteen-minute aural ambulation. At first there is calm, sustained notes that hover and hum for an age, stretching time itself. Gradually, cracks and fissures begin to appear in the smooth surface, and wheezing organ notes begin to twist and disconnect, and over time, the tension rises as atonality takes over. Muffled beats stutter and thump anxiously, and the sloe fade leaves only the whisper of the breeze.

It’s an intriguing release, and the two pieces are unusual and more than contrasting enough to sustain the interest for the duration.

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WAS and Capac

Monotreme Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I met my wife as she now is online back in 2000, before it was the done thing. Online dating didn’t exist, and we got chatting in Holechat, the band’s official online chatroom. We were both there because we had an appreciation of Hole, oddly enough. But Celebrity Skin has always been a point of division, in that it was my point of departure, with single ‘Malibu’ being a significant factor. To my ears, it was, and remains, the sound of selling out, and while pop is by no means is dirty word for me, it represented a slide into lazy, poppy commercial rock. From the band that brought us the snarling, spitting mess of noise that was ‘Teenage Whore’, this was the work of a band who’d completely lost their bite.

This is the personal context for my engagement with Stumbleine’s cover of ‘Malibu’, released as the second taster of the forthcoming album ‘Sink Into The Ether’, which promises ‘a deep submergence within a celestial upper region somewhere beyond the clouds’, and on this outing, ‘a lush ambient electro cover of Hole’s ‘Malibu’ featuring Elizabeth Heaton of Midas Fall on vocals’.

According to Stumbleine, ‘Hole’s ‘Malibu’ is the perfect balance of bittersweetness, a golden soundscape of serene melancholy. Tracks which illustrate that symmetry between light and dark are timeless to me, they mirror life with piercing clarity.’

That’s clearly a different perspective on the song from the one I have, and clearly informs this breathy, slow-unfurling drifter of a tune that bears negligible commonality with the original bar the lyrics. It’s slowed to a dripping mellowness that’s pleasant on the ear, but so prised apart and washed-out it’s bereft of chorus, hooks, or any other memorable moments. And in context, it’s nicely done, but it’s perhaps less of a cover than a reworking that’s 99% Stumbleine and 1% Hole. In this instance, that’s not such a bad thing.

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

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Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

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TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

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Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

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See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.