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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Unintended Sounds – Modified Toy Orchestra & Scratch ‘n’ Phase

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Those bold individuals who strive to birth sounds from objects that were never destined to emanate such forbidden noises are perhaps the perfect embodiment of that fearless, independent spirit that forms the focal point of our ‘You Can Be You’ panel discussion. From guitar distortion’s evolution from an accidental nuisance into a highly desirable and refined textural tool, to those forward thinking disc jockeys who elevated the turntable into an instrument in its own right; these endeavours are fraught with frustration, comprising large amounts of trial and error, technical manipulation and sheer stubborn audacity, but have resulted in some of the most startling sound experiments imaginable.

Following in the footsteps of these trailblazing aural alchemists, Brian Duffy’s Modified Toy Orchestra has focused its sights on transforming simple childhood playthings into avant-garde electronic instrumentation, seeking to unearth the secret potential that lays dormant inside these obsolete artefacts. After opening up each toy and rewiring circuits into positions they were never meant to find themselves in, the toys are reassembled with switches and dials to assume control over the object during a performance. The resulting spectacle is sometimes terrifying, often funny, but occasionally strangely beautiful, as the faintly jubilant cries of long discarded inanimate objects are finally allowed to ring out through the air like an emotionless, mechanical phoenix rising from the ashes of the past. The Modified Toy Orchestra will take to the stage on Friday 19th October, the first day of Supersonic – a perfect way to start your weekend of daring musical discovery!

Carving a similarly unchartered path through the overgrowth of technology is Birmingham based artist Sarah Farmer, who will be inviting festival goers to summon an accidental cacophony by mutilating CDs, tapes and vinyl with the Scratch ‘n’ Phase installation. Through blatant disregard for traditional music handling etiquette, a number of enlightening glitches and industrial screeches can be found, whilst basic layering and looping equipment allows the participant to build their own unintended sonic tapestry. Audiophiles will be appalled, and musical mavericks will be grinning ear to ear in what promises to be one of the noisiest installations of the weekend!

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Modified Toy Orchestra

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Modified Toy Orchestra explore the hidden potential and surplus value latent inside redundant technology; a process creating sophisticated new electronic instruments from abandoned children’s toys.  They have been at the forefront of a worldwide underground movement called circuit bending, which involves rescuing children’s electronic toys and converting them into new strange and wonderfully sophisticated musical instruments. Taking them apart, they find new connections hidden within each toys circuit that reveal new sounds, thus exposing the surplus value of redundant technology.  Toys are reassembled, including switches and dials with which to control this surplus value. The results of this process can be shockingly beautiful, funny and also extreme.

http://www.modifiedtoyorchestra.com/

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