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“Advanced doom and psychedelic out-rock wiggery from three undisputed masters in their field: Keiji Haino, Stephen O’Malley and Oren Ambarchi…The Japanese icon is in tremendous form, shredding like a maniac, capable of coaxing both plummy riffage and abstract sheets of sound out of his axe, often at the same time; his vocals, meanwhile, veer from pseudo-religious incantation to feral squawks and growls. Almost needless to say, O’Malley and Ambarchi are the perfect accomplices, and depending on what Haino requires they supply delicate ambience, apocalyptic battery or loose-limbed rock ‘n roll swagger. For confirmed fans of any of the three principals this is obviously a buy-on-sight item, but we’d also recommend it to anyone looking to understand why Haino is so revered – the face-melting dervish of a show documented on this release will leave you in no doubt whatsoever.” Boomkat
Nicholas Bullen – Component Fixations
An artist and composer based in Birmingham. Working across a range of media (including sound, text, film, installation and performance), his work explores strategies for the transmutation of elements and systems of communication.
Beginning as a founder member of the ‘extreme’ music group Napalm Death at the age of 13, he has an over 30 year history of composition (releasing over 40 recordings) and live performance (both solo and collaboratively) . Recent sound performances focus on the use of environmental recordings as the basis of fixed media acousmatic composition alongside live improvisation and signal processing in real-time.
Nicholas will be launching his new record Component Fixations at this event, released on Type Records.
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!
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!
This is a real coup for Supersonic 2011 and we’re immensely proud to bring these artists together. Operating in a free zone that’s not afraid to groove, to open up space or to pummel the senses with frantic assault, FIRE! are a living, breathing organism. An organism that at Supersonic will be joined by the minimal guitar composer Oren Ambarchi. Who, then, are FIRE!?
1. Mats Gustafsson – sax/electronics
Gustafsson is a sax player, improviser, live electonics manipulator and composer who sounds as if he’s melded with his instrument. Born in 1964 in Umeå, Northern Sweden, he’s been seen in the UK most recently as part of the Brass Unbound collective playing with legendary Dutch DIY team The Ex. But he’s also worked in projects with the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Sonic Youth, Merzbow and Otomo Yoshihide, and is seems to be never afraid of what each situation will bring. If that wasn’t enough, he’s also a producer of international festivals and concert tours as well as running his own record labels Slottet, OlofBright Editions and Blue Tower Records.
2. Johan Berthling – bass
Johan Berthling was born in Stockholm 1973. Since studying at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm (1996-1998) he has worked as a freelance with jazz, improvised music and more. One of his main projects is the minimal, experimental pop outfit Tape, of whom The Wire recently said, “Tape organically blend balsa-light acoustic textures (guitars, percussion, winds and brass) with a range of organs and a gentle yet firm digital pressure.”
3. Andreas Werlin – drums/percussion
Born 1982 in the vast snow of northern Sweden and later on raised on the small west coast village Strömstad, Andreas Werlin is best known for the inventive electro-percussive band Wildbirds & Peacedrums that he shares with his wife Mariam Wallentin. Their 2007 debut album saw them awarded the Swedish Jazz Act of the Year award, which gives you some idea of just how varied and original Andreas’ work is. With improvisational music at the heart of his playing, he is today a part of many acclaimed bands like Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Dan Berglund’s Tonbruket and Loney Dear. Werlin has also written music for theater and film.
4. Oren Ambarchi – guitar
In his own words when asked what people can expect of his collaboration with FIRE!, Ambarchi says:
“In all honesty I don’t know what to expect as the Supersonic show will be the first time we’ve worked together. Additionally I’ll be flying all the way from Australia for 30+ hrs, landing at Heathrow, driving straight to Birmingham and hitting it immediately so…it should be awesome, hahaha.”
There you go. Don’t worry about FIRE! – it’ll just be awesome.
Australian guitarist and sound designer Oren Ambarchi is performing at Supersonic 2011 in collaboration with the FIRE! trio of Mats Gustafsson from The Thing (saxophone/rhodes), Johan Berthling from Tape (bass) and Andreas Werliin from Wildbirds and Peacedrums (percussion). Originally a drummer, he came to the guitar by accident, investigating its sound properties rather than learning traditional techniques. A good entry point into his work is ‘Grapes From The Estate’ album (Touch, 2004), a masterful exploration of ambient guitar and electronics. More recently, he has collaborated with Stephen O’Malley and Attilar Csihar as Gravetemple.
1. Which five words describe what you know about Supersonic?
Lovely people and killer shows
2. What can people expect of your collaboration with FIRE! at the festival?
In all honesty I don’t know what to expect as the Supersonic show will be the first time we’ve worked together(!).
Additionally I’ll be flying all the way from Australia for 30+ hrs, landing at Heathrow, driving straight to Birmingham and hitting it immediately so…it should be awesome, hahaha. I must say that I’m a fan of all the guys in the band so I’m really excited to work with them.
3. Why make music – what does it do for you that nothing else does?
I often think about what drives us to do this stuff, this stuff that continually tortures & haunts us..(or me anyway as it can be a struggle at times). Mostly for me I think it’s the search for beauty/ecstasy. When I’m going for something & it doesn’t work, I can get super depressed for days. But when it ‘works’ there’s no other feeling that comes close and I’m always striving to get to this state again & again. I’m really addicted to it.
4. Who else on the bill are you hoping to see? (And why?)
Well, definitely Tony Conrad. I’ve seen him a number of times but I can’t get enough of his work, especially in a live context. He’s super important to me. Also totally psyched to see Cut Hands. I’m a huge Whitehouse/Bennett fan, I love the way he’s fused this ecstatic trance inducing voodou vibe with noise. There’s plenty of other friends playing at the fest who I’m looking forward to hanging with & listening to, there’s definitely a great breadth to all the lineups at Supersonic.
5. Finally, your essential ‘surviving-Supersonic’ items are…
Melatonin, ear-plugs, finding a decent restaurant (ahem) and a good single-malt.
FIRE! is a high calibre allstar combo from Sweden featuring Mats Gustafsson from The Thing (saxophone/rhodes), Johan Berthling from Tape (bass) and Andreas Werliin from Wildbirds and Peacedrums (percussion), now with added firepower on this special run of dates courtesy of Australian drone lord and Sunn O)))/Gravetemple alumnus Oren Ambarchi (guitar/electronics). Their sound is a frenzy of monolithic rock textures, scorched electronics, kosmiche grooves and
an all-channels-open free jazz spirit, all amped up at blistering psychedelic voltage.
FIRE! released their debut album “You liked me five minutes ago” through Rune Grammofon in 2009. A new LP featuring Jim O’ Rourke on guitar is on the way. They keep good company and coax a sound that engulfs your expectations and stretches taut grooves into endless panned-out vistas and back.