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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Zeni Geva Strike Back!

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It’s an honour to have one of Japan’s most uncompromising and original noise rock bands appearing at Supersonic’s 10th anniversary bash – we are of course talking about the mighty Zeni Geva! Seeing as guitarist and vocalist KK Null has graced the Supersonic stage numerous times over the past decade (including an absolutely incredible performance with Zeni Geva themselves back in 2010 that melted the brains of everyone within a 10 mile radius), this seems like the perfect band to invite along for this year’s celebrations.

Zeni Geva’s sound doesn’t lend itself to easy categorisation, taking the primordial soup of death metal and blending it until it assumes the complex characteristics of prog rock, then lathering it in thick, turbulent layers of dissonance and serving the whole mixture up with a generous side portion of paranoia, anger and fear. Whilst KK Null has remained the core leader of the group, over the years the band’s personnel has read like a who’s-who of the early Japanese noise scene, featuring the talents of Acid Mother’s Temple guitarist Mitsuru Tabata and Boredoms/Hanatarashi drummer Ikuo Taketani, who has since been replaced by hyper talented Ruins sticksman Tatsuya Hoshida. Zeni Geva’s incendiary sound was too exciting to go unnoticed by the Western world however, and eventually caught the attention of such luminaries as Steve Albini and Jello Biafra, who signed the band to his Alternative Tentacles label in 1993 to release their classic ‘Desire For Agony’ record. As anyone who has witnessed them in the flesh before will attest, the Zeni Geva live experience is truly a force of nature. A whirlwind of distraught riffs, rapidly shifting time signatures and an almost unbearable tension threaten to overwhelm the listener, before the band’s abstract pummelling eventually ushers in a state of bizarre, transcendental euphoria. The band’s UK shows haven’t exactly been plentiful over the years, so grab this chance to see this incredible band while you can!

But of course, artists as prolific as Null and Hoshida aren’t just satisfied with treating us to just one mindblowing performance, and both artists will be taking to the stage under different guises this year too. KK Null will be teaming up for a one-off set with local tuba drone pioneers ORE, a two-piece dedicated to broadening the pallette of drone/doom with the vast, resonant sounds of the tuba. ORE’s Sam Underwood joined Null for his gut shatteringly intense performance with Lash Frenzy at Supersonic two years ago, which was evidently the start of a very fruitful partnership indeed. This unlikely combo will be playing a piece of music they’ve written specially for the festival, and will even have a few copies of an ultra-limited CD-R for sale. These are sure to sell like hot cakes, so act quickly if you want to snap one up! How ORE’s deep brass drones will play off against KK Null’s retina searingly powerful waves of noise is anyone’s guess, but this promises to be a fantastically esoteric journey into the furthest reaches of experimental music. Don’t miss out!

Tatsuya Hoshida will also be performing as Ruins Alone, the solo incarnation of his incredibly complex but endlessly groovy band Ruins. Sharing a similar style of frantic hyperactivity with bands like Naked City, Fantômas and Melt Banana but walking a path that is all their own, Ruins feed music through their own personalised meat grinder and string together the resulting strands into intricate patterns that make the Fibonacci sequence look like the 2x time table. Taking influence from French prog rock madmen Magma, Ruins songs are sung in their own language, a fitting trait for a band that so steadfastly refuses to adhere to conventional norms and structures. After being lucky enough to find 4 different virtuoso bassists to accompany him over the past 18 years, recently Hoshida has decided to go it alone, wowing audiences across the globe with his technical precision and flawless ability to leap between wildly different time signatures with the utmost grace. Ruins have always emphasised the power of immediacy and spontaneity in addition to their impeccable musicianship, making this a set that will be as gratifying to free wheeling hedonists as it is to beard stroking percussion experts.

Zeni Geva will play Supersonic Festival on Saturday 20th October, whilst Ruins Alone and KK Null & ORE will play on Sunday 21st October.

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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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ORE and KK Null

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Image glitched by Antonio Roberts

ORE and KK NULL are delighted to announce a distinctive collaboration as part of Supersonic 2012.

In many ways, KK NULL’s collaboration with Lash Frenzy (with Sam on tuba) at Supersonic 2010 acted as a proof of concept for the amplified tuba sound of ORE, so it’s entirely fitting for Capsule to bring the two entities together this year. Better still, KK NULL and ORE have gelled so well in the early stages of working on this collaboration that they have also decided to release a limited CDr single together, which will be available at the festival.

They will be performing a specially-written piece together, culminating in a vast cacophony of sound. Be scared.

http://www.soundofore.com/

http://www.kknull.com/

This performance is one of a number of special collaborations taking place at the tenth edition of the festival.

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Ore

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Ore are a drone doom tuba group. The Sound of Ore can be heard where classical, experimental and metal musics engage. The material is rare; a synthesis of musical elements. Ore forge the power and depth of brass with the care of craftsmen. It is the sound of Birmingham: its industrial heritage, metal-working origins and creative innovation.

 

www.soundofore.com

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ORE interview

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ORE interview – Sam Underwood
by Ross Cotton

Sam Underwood is a familiar face to the Supersonic stage, after performing in various guises including the manic-acid-circuit-bending Glatze, and the more delicate, electro/acoustic Mr Underwood. This year sees Sam returning to Supersonic as one-third of drone doom tuba band Ore.  Along with Ben Waddington and Stuart Estell, the trio have developed a heavy metal sound, featuring tubas at its core.

Ore was an idea that me and Ben had in a pub, quite some time ago now”, says Sam. “It was one of those ideas that could have gone nowhere. We spotted the potential and we wanted to take the bass end, very heavy slow riffs. But when it involves two out of three of you learning to play tubas from scratch, that’s quite an epic task”, says Sam.

“Basically Stuart Estell is the only person who’s an accomplished tuba player at the moment.  He’s also heavily into doom metal, which was key. It really required someone open-minded enough to embrace the concept.  He’s writing the pieces as I’m learning how to play”.

Sam also played the tuba at last year’s Supersonic with Lash Frenzy.  “That was the first time I did the tuba stuff live. It serves as a proof of concept!”, he says. “It was an improvised noise gig, and I was playing it through some effects pedals and a massive bass amp. I couldn’t play, but I could make some interesting noises. My decision was to learn an instrument seriously during my year long sabbatical. And because I liked tuba, and because we had an idea for a band, I decided to do that”.

The whole idea of Ore seems to reflect the industrial past of Birmingham magnificently, something that the trio had in mind from the start. “It has it’s influences in all of that”, says Sam.  “Obviously (the tuba) is a massive great lump of metal for one thing, and that’s part of it, they’re a very physical thing to play”.

While this subverted-stereotype of brass instruments will certainly act as a surprise to many who clasp eyes, and ears, on Ore. “We aim to create epic experiences, where people come along and are wowed by the scale, the sound and the sense of witnessing something totally new”, he says. “It’s a luscious, heavy epic vibe, a different vibe to a lot of other stuff going on. But that’s what Supersonic is all about. It’s the blend of acts put on that’s pretty unique”.

Make sure you don’t miss Ore and their blend of heavy doom tubas as part of this year’s line-up.  Sam Underwood recommends you check out:  “Secret Chiefs 3 (I really like the mix of influences they bring to bear), ZU93, Fire! With Oren Ambarchi, Tony Conrad, Pekko Kappi and Alva Noto.

http://www.soundofore.com/

My Pecha Kucha 20×20 – Birmingham 01/02/11 from Sam Underwood on Vimeo.

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