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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Bring The Noise! – A Celebration Of This Year’s Noise Performers

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Noise fans are in for a treat this year, with several extremely prominent noise artists gearing up for a full-on audio assault that will shake the very foundations of Birmingham’s Custard Factory and push the limits of what you quaintly consider to be ‘music’. So without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the individuals who’ll be doing their utmost to blow your mind and perforate your eardrums this year…

Merzbow

Masami Akita, the undisputed king of squealing feedback and the most recognisable name in noise, will be gracing us with his infamously abrasive and intricately layered sounds. This isn’t the first time Akita has played at the festival (veterans will recall his threateningly loud collaborative set with Keiji Haino back in 2008), but this time round he has the entire stage to himself. We’re not entirely sure what Masami is planning, but given his vast back catalogue of skull shatteringly brutal noise, it’s probably best to pack your earplugs if you want to stand a chance of hearing the rest of the festival afterwards…

KK Null

KK Null’s highly distinctive and dynamic brand of noise has made him a firm favourite amongst fans of the genre, and his enthusiasm for furthering his own musical output through collaboration has seen him progress through a variety of different sounds. Following on from the sensory bombardment of his set with Lash Frenzy back in 2010, KK Null will be performing with inventive tuba-drone pioneers ORE; if you’ve ever wondered how the deep tones of a tuba would sound resonating across acres of white noise, now’s your time to find out!

Kevin Drumm

Kevin Drumm is the great unsung hero of modern noise. After mastering his own style of sparse, prepared guitar tweaking minimalism, Drumm began to experiment with dense, abrasive soundscapes and rose up to become heralded as one of noise’s most prodigious sons. His 2002 album ‘Sheer Hellish Miasma’ is considered a classic of the genre, a bold and devastating collage of powerful sounds and terrifying aural outbursts that certainly lives up to its name. Drumm hasn’t played in the UK since his European tour with Prurient back in 2008, and his Supersonic set will be the only British show of his current tour, making this an unmissable chance for noise fans to watch a true master at work.

Lash Frenzy

Supersonic isn’t the only entity to be celebrating its tenth anniversary this year – noise provocateur Lash Frenzy (AKA Andrew Moscardo-Parker) will be celebrating a decade of existence with ‘Ver Heroicus Sublimis’, an unscripted performance that represents the culmination of all his previous works. Andrew has been quite secretive about what exactly ‘Ver Heroicus Sublimis’ is going to entail, but backed by an all-star noise ensemble that includes members of Anaal Nathrakh, Beestung Lips, Benediction, Sally and Einstellung, this performance promises to be an all-out sonic massacre that will leave you crippled and broken. Bring it on!

Clifford Torus

Anders Hana (Moha!, Ultralyd & Noxagt), Leon Barnett (Horacio Pollard, Neigh%Music) and Kjetil Bransdal are Clifford Torus, a power trio as reimagined by the warped mind of a distraught acid casualty in a psychiatric ward. Their confrontational, highly textural and utterly deranged noise chews up elements of free jazz, power electronics, drone and sludge, before spitting them out and sculpting the subsequent mess into an imposing and unsettling kaleidoscope of noise. Despite being relative newcomers, Clifford Torus are definitely a force to be reckoned with, and fans of loud, harsh and unpredictable music should make these guys a major priority on their festival schedule!

Merzbow and Kevin Drumm will play Supersonic on Saturday 20th October, whilst KK Null, Lash Frenzy and Clifford Torus will perform on Sunday 21st October.

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An Interview With Oxbow’s Niko Wenner

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Oxbow is a band that should need no introduction; their bold and uncompromising penchant for experimentation has placed them at the forefront of contemporary rock and resulted in a startling sound that no self-respecting music enthusiast can ignore. This year marks the beginning of yet another new chapter in Oxbow’s long and storied history, with vocalist Eugene S. Robinson and and guitarist Niko Wenner teaming up to play Niko’s arrangements and orchestrations with a variety of classically trained string and brass players as the Oxbow Orchestra, news that has sent ripples of excitement through the Oxbow fanbase worldwide. Niko managed to take some time out of his busy schedule to give us a little more insight into how this idea originated, what we can expect from their upcoming album, and some potential collaborative performances at this year’s festival, both scheduled and impromptu…

Supersonic: What can we expect from your set this year?
Niko: It’s a rare and great thing. I’m very pleased that Supersonic has again made it possible for us to make explicit aspects of Oxbow music that, live, are often only implicit. OXBOW ORCHESTRA will bring to the stage new music yet to be recorded, live premieres of recording arrangements, and special music created just for this event.

Our recordings begin our songs. Our live performance solution to the music on our recordings – mass-persona, mass-musical/sound information – is often simply “volume.” To sound like twenty guitars playing at once, turn up the one. Unlike our band gigs, Oxbow recordings have always exploited the performance of larger groups. From the Kecak-inspired chanting and clapping by a Symphony of a Thousand on the recording of “Daughter,” to the massed overdubbed guitars of “Pannonica.” From the string quartet and multi-tracked guitars and rock-band of “Bomb,” to the Hammond B-3 organ, male choir, piano, guitars, et al., in the musique concrète texture of “Acker Sound/Read All Over.” The live-in-the-studio nine piece drone orchestra of “Shine (Glimmer).” The scored string quartet plus woodwind quintet of “Mr. Johnson,” and adding rock band to that nonet:  “Frank’s Frolic.” The aim has always been for an orchestral texture.

Our next studio album ‘The Thin Black Duke’ will feature brass in addition to strings, which suggested the OXBOW ORCHESTRA live line-up. I’ve wanted for some time to bring my friend from Paris-based band Heliogable (and bandmate in Bellflower) guitarist Philippe Thiphaine into an Oxbow performance. Oxbow has by tradition always made a new set minutes before we begin to play. The opportunity offered with the Orchestra is too special to leave quite that much to chance. A great deal of care has gone to arranging and orchestrating music both new and old for this special format of strings, brass, and additional guitar.

There should be surprises for all.

How did the idea for the Oxbow Orchestra originate?
Being asked to perform at Supersonic’s ten year anniversary is an honor. Dan and Greg can’t be here unfortunately. So my desire to create a performance that would arrive at the same transcendent place that Oxbow aims for, but through different means, drove some soul searching. The solution: A chamber music version of Oxbow songs new and old. And from this OXBOW ORCHESTRA was born.

Who else are you looking forward to seeing at the festival this year?
Merzbow; ORE and KK NULL; Ruins Alone; Sir Richard Bishop… I’m excited for everything. Everything I already know and knowing that things I don’t already know will be great too.

If you could pick any artist on the lineup this year to collaborate with, who would it be?
One? Merzbow. And, we have indeed arranged a last-minute collaboration.

If you were curating Supersonic, which three artists would you most want to have on board?
György Ligeti is dead now sadly. Of those still living:

1. Ornette Coleman.  Because I realized twenty years ago when pondering who – if I somehow could –  I would time-travel to experience performing that he’s one. And he’s still performing now!

2. Mathew Shipp.  Because he makes music that is like directly listening to a brain at play and at work, without the filter of “language” (à la cognitive scientist Steven Pinker).

3. Elliot Carter.  For his music of course but also so that I could shake his hand. I was too shy to do so when standing next to him in an empty foyer during a break in a performance of his first four string quartets in San Francisco. Not incidentally, a life-changing concert for me.

Which items would you say are essential for festival survival?
A curious audience, daring artists, and the support to join the two.

How would you sum up Supersonic festival in five words?
One, two, three, four GO!

…or maybe better…

Jenny and Lisa create bliss.

Finally, what does the future have in store for Oxbow?
Quite soberly and sincerely, I feel like we are stronger than ever and in mastery of our strengths, in ways I’d barely dared to hope we could achieve when we started. Truthfully, these are partly benefits of simply “not giving up,” tenacity, irascibility, not anything special. In any case IF we can continue, stay alive long enough, inch Allah and gods willing I think the future looks good.

Specifically, our next full length record ‘The Thin Black Duke’.

Niko Wenner

The Oxbow Orchestra will be performing at Supersonic Festival on Sunday 21st October.

 

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Merzbow ‘Freak Hallucinations’ Review

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Japan’s noise master Merzbow is one of the most insanely prolific artists alive today. Indeed, some times it can seem overwhelming trying to keep up to date (this year has seen the release of 2 mammoth 10 disc boxsets, ‘Merzphysics’ and ‘Merzmorphosis’) but this new split release with the equally fascinating Actuary should be high on your list of records to check out. But don’t just take our word for it, here’s a great review of it from Grind to Death’s Alex Layzell –

As we have come to expect from Merzbow, the music (and I use the term loosely) is not designed with the express idea of belonging to any specific form or to appease the listener, it’s purely a complete experiment in pushing the boundaries of mankind’s command of sound and as such appeals to those of inquisitive mind sets for whom satisfaction is not derived directly from the listening, but in the attempt to unravel its inner workings and abstract meanings of this enigma of digital manipulation. Ultimately it is an endless task with no conclusion, yet a realisation that fails to shake the determination of the listener from repeating the process in the hopes of being that one step closer to the answer. Such is the beauty of Merzbow.

You can read the full review over at Grind to Death and catch Merzbow on Saturday 20th October at Supersonic. Merzbow fans will also want to check out fellow noise-mongers KK Null, Kevin Drumm and Lash Frenzy at this year’s festival!

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Collaborations – A Supersonic Tradition

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There are several exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime collaborative performances taking place at this year’s Supersonic, ranging from Lash Frenzy’s all-star noise ensemble to KK Null’s performance with local tuba-drone pioneers ORE, and of course, the pairing of several string, woodwind and brass musicians with Eugene S. Robinson and Niko Wenner for the much anticipated Oxbow Orchestra. There must be something about the adventurous atmosphere of Supersonic, as the festival has a long history of inspiring musicians to step out of their comfort zones and join forces with one another to contribute something truly special to the festival. Indeed, these one-off spectacles and collaborations are part of what makes the festival so unique, and have provided avid concert goers with a veritable smörgåsbord of cherished memories over the years. Here are just a few of the highlights – which one was your favourite?

2011 – Fire! & Oren Ambarchi

Last year’s edition of the festival saw Swedish avant-jazz trio Fire! team up with Australia’s finest purveyor of drones (and frequent Sunn O))) collaborator) Oren Ambarchi, for an enthralling set that touched on noise, jazz, and musique concrète with the kind of subtle elegance and deft textural sensibility we’ve come to expand from these fine musicians. Evidently these guys enjoyed the performance as much as the audience did, as Fire! recruited Ambarchi once again for their third album,  ‘In The Mouth – A Hand’, which was released last year.

2010 – Lash Frenzy VS KK Null

When these two noise titans clashed together two years ago, the results were akin to a nuclear bomb detonation, obliterating all in its path (it’s rumoured that there are still children being born in Digbeth with tinnitus to this very day). Holding the honour of being one of Supersonic’s loudest ever performances (and, as those who have attended the festival before will attest, this is certainly no small feat!), the Library was packed to the rafters for this one-off show, with a lengthy queue of dedicated noise addicts stretching around the block. Be sure to get there early for this year’s special performances to avoid listening from outside!

2010 – Khyam Allami & Master Musicians Of Bukkake Present Bosphorean

Providing some respite from the ear-bleeding antics of the aforementioned duo, 2010 also found Iraqi Oud virtuoso Khyam Allami teaming up with mysterious psych-rock collective Master Musicians of Bukkake for this exclusive performance. Named after the Bosphorus Strait that divides East and West, Europe and Asia, this was an extremely diverse set that sought to bridge musical schisms, joining Allami’s meditative Eastern melodies with the Master Musicians’ penchant for acid fried jams, taking the audience on an aural pilgrimage to the furthest regions of their collective psyche and sounding rather fantastic in the process.

2008 –Kikuri, feat. Merzbow & Keiji Haino

The pairing of two of Japan’s most extreme musical exports was never going to make for easy listening, but nothing could have prepared us for the deafening onslaught produced by these masters of their respective crafts. Masami Akita’s torrential outbursts of static and rich, layered walls of feedback provided the perfect counterpoint to Haino’s chilling, ethereal wail and guitar mangling histrionics, resulting in an eclectic and vibrant set that’s often spoken of in hushed tones by Supersonic veterans.

2007 – Oxbow Duo Presents: Love’s Holiday Orchestra

When Oxbow’s Eugene & Niko performed at the festival 5 years ago, they brought along an all-star ensemble (featuring Godflesh/Jesu mastermind Justin Broadrick, Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley and ex-Head Of David bassist David Cochrane) for an unforgettable and thrillingly intimate set, never to be repeated again (but fear not – Oxbow will be returning this year with a small orchestra in tow, and Justin Broadrick will also be putting in an appearance with his new JK Flesh project).

The performance was captured on tape and released on wax as part of Capsule’s limited edition vinyl series. Unfortunately all 1000 copies are long sold out, but there are still a number of great releases available, chronicling Supersonic sets from the likes of Harvey Milk, Tweak Bird and Iron Lung – the perfect way to relive those Supersonic memories and keep your excitement under control during the wait for this year’s edition!

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Merzbow

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Masami Akita performs as Merzbow. Since 1979 he has been a hugely influential practitioner on the fields of sound art, noise and extreme music. Abrasive and restrained in equal measure, Merzbow is  considered to be the most important artist in noise music.

http://www.merzbow.net/

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Line up announcement: Merzbow, Hype Williams, Jarboe and many many more

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We’re thrilled to announce a whole host of exciting artists to the 10th anniversary festival. Supersonic favourite Merzbow will perform a solo set as well as the ever changing Jarboe, Italian psych metal group Ufomammut and one of the most exciting live acts around at the moment – the inimitable Hype Williams.

Also added to the line up is Doomsday Student (born from the ashes of Arab on Radar), Norway’s Stian Westerhus, noise legend Kevin Drumm and Birmingham’s finest PCM. Add to that the frantic Clifford Torus, the ethereal sounds of SWLLWS and the crushing Mothertrucker along with electroacoustic artist Thomas Ankersmit, psych band Hookworms and noise rockers Hey Colossus!

We’re also excited to invite back the filth of Drunk in Hell, and special appearance from KK Null and Ruins Alone. To keep you dancing all weekend we’ve got Australia’s My Disco and the kraut/electronica duo Warm Digits and for those calmer moments, the gorgeous, stripped back songs of Richard Dawson.

Believe it or not, there are still some more very special additions to add to their already mega tenth birthday line up which we shall unveil soon, as well as more information about the art exhibits and film programme which is still taking shape behind the scenes. But for now, please enjoy this Supersonic Festival mixtape, featuring a selection of the line up so far, for your listening pleasure. Please feel free to host this on your site and help us to spread the word.

As a reminder, here is a list of the line up as it stands; Body/Head/Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore/Carlton Melton/Clifford Torus/Dope Body/Drunk In Hell/ Dylan Carlson/Flower-Corsano/Goat/Hey Colossus/Hookworms/Hype Williams/Jarboe/JK Flesh/Kevin Drumm/KK Null/Lichens/Merzbow/My Disco/PCM/Rangda/Richard Dawson/Ruins Alone/Sir Richard Bishop/Six Organs Of Admittance/Small But Hard showcase/Stian Westerhus/SWLLWS/Thomas Ankersmit/Tim Hecker/Ufomammut/Warm Digits / Mothertrucker / Zeni Geva.

Go HERE for ticket info
Go HERE for line up info

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