Supersonic 2012 – Here’s To Another 10 Years!

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It’s hard to believe that almost two weeks have passed since we were all frantically rushing around the Custard Factory, putting the final touches to the various wild man posters around the site and screwing in the last few records to the Vinyl Rally’s MDF floor before hordes of music fans rushed in to bask in the eclectic and adventurous sounds that Capsule had loving curated this year – and what a lineup it was! There was truly something for everyone, as Friday ran the gamut between JK Flesh’s absolutely punishing industrial dub, the surreal electronica of the Small But Hard showcase, the free-wheeling cosmic riffery of Hey Colossus, the toy tinkering soundscapes of Modified Toy Orchestra, and of course, the triumphant return of drum’n’bass dark lords PCM to the Supersonic stage.

Saturday brought even more surprises, from the gentle folk strains of Dylan Carlson’s new material to the unholy combination of Merzbow and Oxbow’s Eugene and Niko, a full-on audio explosion that wiped clean the mental state of everyone in attendance. I also have to give praise to the incredible drummer that accompanied Masami Akita’s astonishing feedback theatrics, augmenting the sonic devastation with some jazzy splashes, tribal belligerence and even some well timed blastbeats without ever failing by the wayside of Akita’s incendiary slabs of twsited sonic debri, which is no mean feat! A rare UK showing from Bohren & der Club of Gore was utterly captivating, enveloping the Boxxed venue in a dense, melancholy atmosphere and transporting the audience into the starkest of film noir settings for the entire duration of their set.

Meanwhile, Drunk In Hell’s molasses thick sludge onslaught and Zeni Geva’s vitally intricate sonic attack provided a satisfying ammount of musical filth to wallow in, forcing heads to bang and mosh pits to errupt. Zeni Geva may only exist as a two-piece now, but that hasn’t hindered KK Null and Yoshida’s fury at all, with Null especially firing off an arsenal of bewildering noise outbursts alongside his standard riff warfare via a series of baffling pedals. The icing on the cake was undoubtedly the astonishing avant-electronica of Hype Williams; bathing the entire Warehouse in a thick, eerie fog, the enigmatic duo proceeded to fuse together dub, noise, jazz, musique concrete, electro and garage influences into an uncategorizable and unforgettable performance. As Copeland’s beautiful tones danced across the bizarre volley of sounds emanating from Blunt’s corner of the stage, in which gullet-rattling dub basslines collided with squealing trumpets and reverb drenched car alarms, it was hard to shake the feeling that we were witnessing something of a musical revolution!

In keeping with Supersonic’s inclusive ethos, even youngsters were catered for with this year’s kid’s gigs, in which we bore witness to the heartwarming sight of a room full of children grooving along to the expansive psych voyages of Flower/Corsano Duo – and who knows? In 10 years time, some of these children may be taking to our stages themselves to blow your mind with their sonic wares…

Sunday boasted perhaps one of the most spectacular running orders in Supersonic’s illustrious history, with all manner of heavy weights awaiting today’s eager audience. Gnod’s triumphant set in Boxxed was astonishing, the over-powering throb of their sublimely heavy krautrock-isms gradually reconfiguring the pulse of each listener, unwittingly tuning into their psyche and forcing them headfirst into a cosmic thrill ride the likes of which would make even Timothy Leary baulk at the sheer intensity of it all. Elsewhere, Justice Yeldham revealed to us all the mind mangling sounds that lay dormant in a single piece of glass, Lash Frenzy created an imposing and lucid arena in which achieve total sensory overload, and the mighty Ufomammut invited us to accompany them on a voyage deep into the heart of their latest two-record opus, ‘ORO’. Once these guys peak there’s no force in the universe that can restrain them, and the riffs are flowing thick and fast (or should that be slow?) tonight. Whilst both the ‘ORO’ records are impressive in their own right, combined they are a true force to behold, and to witness this incredible odyssey in the flesh is an awesome experience!

A tough act to follow indeed, but mysterious Swedish voodoo merchants Goat were more than up to the challenge. Taking to the stage in colourful robes, ritualistic gaments and erm, a golden robot mask, the band’s vibrant psych-rock/afro-beat concoction instantly whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Racing through all of their ‘World Music’ debut (including instant classics like ‘Goatman’, ‘Let It Bleed’ and ‘Run To Your Mama’) but allowing their songs a bit more room to breathe, the Swedes kicked out the jams with an infectious energy and by the time the extended version of ‘Det som aldrig förändras / Diarabi’ brought their revelatory set to a close, you’d be hard pushed to find a single member of the audience who wasn’t sporting an enormous ear-to-ear grin. Incredible!

Finally, the Oxbow Orchestra provided an enthralling end to this year’s celebrations, reinterpreting some of their classic songs and even treating us to some choice cuts from their upcoming full-length ‘The Thin Black Duke’. Their performance was at once intimate and gripping, but without losing any of the potent intensity that has made the band such a force to be reckoned with over the years. This was due to be Supersonic 2012’s final performance, but it seems you, the audience, had other ideas, as an impromptu and sublimely hypnotic drum circle erupted in the beer tent just outside. As the ringing in our ears began to subside, the communal and strangely rhythmic clinking of pint glasses against benches and a sea of warm smiles was a perfect finish to this year’s festival.

Of course, I’m only scratching the surface of Supersonic 2012 here; beyond the numerous delights of this year’s musical lineup, there was a whole plethora of extra-curricular activities. The sight of a fresh-faced individual feverishly clutching at a copy of their own recently pressed Kim Gordon collab on their way back from the Reverse Karaoke installation become a pleasingly common sight over the weekend, and the procession of startingly costumed members of the Outcrowd throughout the festival site on Sunday was a source of much ceremonial excitement. The ear mutilating sounds of Lucas Abela’s Vinyl Rally were a definite highlight, featuring one of Lucas’ most ambitious track layouts to date. Volunteers hastily scrambled alongside the track as Lucas himself sat within the makeshift nerve centre of the rally, tinkering away whilst the assembled throng routinely found themselves astonished by the sheer spectacle of it all.

And of course, there’s the massive contribution that you yourselves paid to the festival, by arriving in your dozens and flooding the Custard Factory with enthusiasm, joy and good vibes. This year’s edition of the festival was one of the finest of the past 10 years, a truly excellent way to celebrate a decade of passionate experimental arts programming – here’s to another ten years!

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The Art Of Listening – An Exploration Of Artistic Presentation

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In addition to blasting your eardrums with some of the finest sounds imaginable, Supersonic also aims to educate and enlighten in a myriad of other ways too. The decision to embrace other forms of art aside from solely music has been universally praised, and the festival has also found new ways to present these artforms, whether as part of exhibitions, installations, or even incorporating them into bands’ performances, and this year sees some of the most elaborate and spectacular artistic endeavours yet.

Starting things off at the Birmingham City University at 1:30PM on the first day of the festival, ‘Counting In’ is an extended panel discussion focusing on the presentation of sound works, installations, performances and audio art, and exploring how context can affect our approaches to listening. If you’ve ever wondered about the best ways to stage a work of experimental art, how audiences can be best encouraged to enjoy it, or even how to become a better listener yourself, then this promises to be an extremely illuminating discussion (not to mention a great networking opportunity).

The key to any good panel discussion is an interesting and diverse set of panellists, something that ‘Counting In’ delivers quite generously. You may have seen multi-disciplinary artist Lucas Abela (aka Justice Yeldham) performing a set filled with blood, sweat and tears using amplified shards of glass at last year’s festival, and his Vinyl Rally is also due to be exhibited this year – an ingenious fusion of vinyl fetishism, arcade game kitsch, audio collage and pure noise fury that has to be seen to be believed! Joining Lucas will be Frances Morgan (deputy editor of The Wire magazine), composer Simon Hall (Assistant Head of Music Technology at Birmingham Conservatoire) and Irene Revell (Director of Electra, an organisation that curates, commissions and produces projects by artists working across sound, moving image, performance and the visual arts). Revell will be using Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) and Jutta Koether’s ‘Reverse Karaoke’ installation (also on show over the weekend!) as a case study, evaluating how the project entices and engages listeners and the means in which it does so.

This panel is presented in conjunction with Sound and Music, and supported by Birmingham City University.

Tickets are FREE to weekend ticket holders (places are limited and booking in advance is essential via [email protected] with ‘LISTENING’ in the title) or £10 https://www.theticketsellers.co.uk

Speaking of ‘Reverse Karaoke’, this piece is one of the most wonderfully participatory installations to ever be shown at the festival, beckoning participants into a lavishly painted Yurt, where a a lo-fi rehearsal set-up (complete with guitar, microphone, bass, and drums and a basic PA system) awaits them. Once inside, the participant can play these instruments and record their own song along with a pre-recorded vocal track of Kim Gordon’s voice. A live sound engineer ensures you’ll have a good tone, and burns the track onto two CDs – one for you, and one to remain in a record box as part of the piece itself! Since being commissioned by Electra back in 2005, the work has toured Europe extensively and been exhibited at Magasin-CNAC, Grenoble, France; MAK, Vienna, Austria and Wysing Arts Centre, Camrbidge, as well as being included in the major touring exhibition ‘Sonic Youth Etc.: Sensational Fix’, but this is the first time the piece has been shown in Birmingham. You’d be mad to miss out!

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Reverse Karaoke

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Image: Marcus Leith

Reverse Karaoke is a collaborative installation by Kim Gordon and Jutta Koether. It consists of a painted Yurt style tent housing a lo-fi rehearsal set-up with guitar, microphone, bass, and drums and a basic PA system. The visitor is invited to play the instruments and record their own music along with a pre-recorded vocal track of Kim Gordon’s voice. The track is recorded live by a sound engineer who burns two CD copies of the track, while the visitor(s) decorate two CD sleeves using materials in the gallery. One copy of the CD becomes part of the piece itself on display in a record box, and the other the visitor takes home.

Reverse Karaoke was commissioned by Electra for ‘Her Noise’, South London Gallery, 2005, and was complemented by a series of evening performances in which artists were invited to use the piece’s set. These events featured Jenny Hoyston (Erase Errata), Heather Leigh Murray, Christina Carter, Ana Da Silva (The Raincoats), Partyline and Spider and the Webs. Since 2005 the work has toured Europe extensively and been exhibited at Magasin-CNAC, Grenoble, France; MAK, Vienna, Austria and Wysing Arts Centre, Camrbidge, as well as being included in the major touring exhibition ‘Sonic Youth Etc.: Sensational Fix’

Electra is a London based contemporary art organisation which curates, commissions and produces projects by artists working across sound, moving image, performance and the visual arts. http://www.electra-productions.com/

Reverse Karaoke will be open over the Supersonic Festival weekend at Eastside Projects.

Eastside Projects

86 Heath Mill Lane, Digbeth, B9 4AR

Opening hours during Supersonic Festival:

FRI: 12-8pm

SAT: 12-9pm

SUN – 2pm-8pm

http://www.eastsideprojects.org/

FREE

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Body/Head

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Unpredictable guitar combo pairing Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and free-noise guitarist Bill Nace.

KIM GORDON

A founding member of Sonic Youth – where she plays bass and guitar and sings, Kim Gordon has also been involved in numerous collaborations with other artists and musicians including Julie Cafritz and Yoshimi in Free Kitten, Mirror/Dash with Thurston Moore and others including Lydia Lunch, Vincent Gallo, and Yoko Ono. With an extensive history in the world of art, both as an artist, writer and curator Gordon has maintained ongoing creative relationships with visual artists such as Dan Graham, Raymond Pettibon, Mike Kelley, Jutta Koether and Richard Prince and exhibited her own installation work across the US, Japan and Europe.

BILL NACE

Guitarist Bill Nace has ripped a new black hole in the free rock universe as a constant, energising presence in the Boston area performing with Chris Corsano in Vampire Belt (and together with Jessica Rylan as Vampire Can’t), Thurston Moore in Northampton Wools, x.0.4 with Jake Meginsky & John Truscinski and a coruscating duo with free reed player Paul Flaherty. His collaborations even extended to a short-lived association with Brighton noiseniks Dylan Nyoukis & Karen Constance (aka Blood Stereo) under the Ceylon Mange moniker.

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Kim Gordon at Supersonic Festival 2012

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Since announcing the initial line up for Supersonic Festival’s 10th birthday, early bird tickets have sold out (and in record time) and the event is really starting to take shape.

Supersonic now proudly announce an extremely special collaboration of the unique and unpredictable guitar pairing of the iconic Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth and free-noise guitarist Bill Nace. Together, they are known as BODY/HEAD.

So far they have only played a one off UK show, released a limited cassette on Ecstatic Peace and included a cover of ‘Fever’ for an Ultra Eczema compilation.  Given the credentials of both musicians, Supersonic are confident that BODY/HEAD will deliver a mind-melting performance.

Tickets are available via https://www.theticketsellers.co.uk/

There are other ways you can support the festival. We have set up a We Fund campaign to help us to deliver the festival this year, allowing us to continue this ambitious event. We’d truly appreciate your support.

There will be another announcement to follow in a few short weeks with more acts joining this celebratory event.

 

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