Posts Tagged ‘WonkyStuff #9: Stocker/Eyes’

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no such thing as a night off. I may habitually tweet that I’m taking the night off for beer and live music, but that’s simply my way of telling the world I won’t be posting any reviews, I won’t be active on social media and probably won’t be responding to emails either. Watching bands and drinking beer has been a hobby of mine for a long time now, and I still enjoy it, but even when not guest-listed for reviewing, I tend to take notes and photos out of habit and for posterity. I’m naturally assuming my memory won’t be able to store all of the live shows I’ve attended when I get older, give that I struggle now, so the reviews are rather like postcards to my future self.

The WonkyStuff nights aren’t so much niche as ultra-niche – and that’s a good thing. The mainstream is oversaturated, and to cater to those tastes is a huge gamble. Focusing on a niche and knowing it well means that while there’s a very definite ceiling on audience potential, those being catered for are far more likely to actually bother. And so it is that on a hot Wednesday, around thirty people take seats in front of the stage to witness a smorgasbord of the most far-out experimental music you’ll find anywhere.

My future self, if presented with a photo of New Victorian Architecture’s performance would likely be ‘Christ, you have seen some weird shit’. Which corresponds with the multiple texts I received bearing the letters ‘wtf’ in response to sending pictures of said performance to friends. Certainly, the visual aspect – luminous yellow fishing kit, hood up, dust mask and heavy-duty latex gloves in blue – is striking, and if anything trumps the music or its delivery. There’s a lot of silence: some just awkward pauses, others more protracted periods of hush. At one point, he checks his phone, is momentarily animated as she scrabbles around the pile of pedals before him, then stops, stands (most of the set is spent kneeling) and addresses an inaudible question to the audience. Met with silence, he shrugs and resumes. The whole spectacle is odd – which is, of course, the idea.

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New Victorian Architecture

How Buildings Fail – the musical vehicle of Simon Hickinbotham – brings a different kind of odd, and one that’s much more song-orientated. The array of DIY and customised kit packed onto a small table includes an inverted Pot Noodle carton (chicken and mushroom) which appears to contain a set of controls. The material’s centred around the grainy and the granular, analoguey synthy sounds are modulated into gloopy oscillations and swerving sine waves which collide with overdriven, clattering drum tracks. Hickinbotham rattles off rants about philosophy and reading comics. It’s a weird, nerdy clash that lands somewhere in the field next to The Fall, Meat Beat Manifesto and Revolting Cocks. ‘Creative supply is outstripping demand!’ he calls by way of a refrain in the final song of the set. He’s right, but those gathered tonight are appreciate of their demands being catered for.

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How Buildings Fail

They may look like they’re playing chess, but Ash Sagar and John Tuffen are in fact pondering a rack of effects units on the table before them. The pair sit, almost motionless, mannequin-like, expressionless, and decked entirely in black. Tuffen, another self-solder gear enthusiast, appear to be playing open circuit boards, while Sagar tweaks at a more conventional-looking mixer unit. It’s difficult to determine the actual sources of the sounds which they sculpt expansive, glitchy drones that crackle and hum. Not a lot happens over the course of the set: instead, the emphasis on slow-evolving sonic shifts, and the focus is on detail rather than drama. Distortion ruptures smooth sonic arcs and beats like bursting bubblewrap forge subtle dynamics which balance grind and levity to immersive effect. It’s a meticulous performance, and for a few moments, time stands still.

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Orlando Ferguson

Stocker / Eyes – that’s Canadian-born percussionist Beau Stocker and multi-instrumentalist Ben Eyes – are celebrating the release of their new album, Earth Asylum. However, they showcase quite a different sound live in comparison to the album, which is extremely mellow and almost of a post-rock persuasion. Their set, driven by jarring, stop-start drumming and soaring, layered guitar and sweeping synths, and occasionally punctuated by jolting, halting guitar bursts, is certainly a strong contrast with the other acts on the bill. But for all of this, their set feels, perversely, the most conventional, working as it does established experimental / avant-jazz tropes. Although overtly improvised and fluid, and perhaps a shade overlong, there’s a clear sense that they have a tight rein on their performance, and it’s hard to find fault technically.

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Stocker/Eyes

In fact, it’s hard to find fault with the night overall: WonkyStuff pitch a varied but perfectly complimentary set of acts, the likes of whom will never achieve anything beyond cult status (if even that), and provide an essential platform for the oddballs and fringe performers. And essential is the word: in an age where capital and homogenisation is killing pretty much everything but the lowest common denominators, culturally, we need nights like this.

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