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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.
To celebrate 10 years of Supersonic Festival, musical instrument designers MortonUnderwood have created ten unique noise box synths as a gift for Capsule. Each one is hand-painted by a talented designer in the Supersonic 2012 colours. The result is a beautiful set of bespoke synthesisers which capture both the visual and sonic aesthetic of the festival.
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!
Simon Fowler – interview with an illustrator/printmaker by Ross Cotton
London based illustrationist and printmaker Simon Fowler has been commissioned to design a poster for this year’s festival. Previously creating pen and ink works for the likes of Earth and Sunn O))), Simon returns to Supersonic after debuting his art in 2010 for the From Light to Dark exhibition.
“(Last year) was the first time I attended Supersonic”, says Simon. “It’s the festival I’ve enjoyed the most, because it’s curated by people who really care about what they’re doing. I’ve met so many people; it’s just an incredibly well crafted event”.
Simon has also developed a keen creative relationship with previous festival performers, dub-psych duo Devilman. “Within a year, I’m 80% of the way through the artwork for their album”, says Simon. “I think this Devilman piece has been one of the most enjoyable. “It’s an idea that I had quite a long time ago and it fits perfectly with their music. I’ve been able to put more time into it rather than a typical commission. It’s nice to be crossing genres and not just being pigeonholed in metal or doom”, he says.
“Music plays the biggest influence in my creative process”. Fowler’s analogue artwork seems to have flourished extensively over the last few years. A journey that is well and truly rooted with contemporary musicians. “I’ve been working with Stephen O’Malley since about 2009, he’s one of my main collaborators,” explains Simon. “That’s knocked on into doing stuff for Earth. I did the artwork for the reissue of their first album last year, and I’m working on a poster for Wolves in the Throne Room at the moment. I was given a brief a couple of weeks ago from them, giving me the visual ideas they had to tie in with their album. I haven’t actually heard the album, so it’ll be interesting to see their performance (at the festival) against what I’ve created”.
Though Simon often feels that viewers sometimes misinterpret the ideologies of his art. “A lot of people try to describe my work as being dark, but I don’t necessarily see it like that”, says Simon. “I think it’s more expansive, and maybe its just the music it’s associated with; connotations of darkness. I thought it was quite natural, reflecting natural environments and the detail that’s in those environments, taking something that could be industrial on the surface, quite ugly, but if you really analyse all of the individual elements, you kind of see the beauty and geometry within that”.
And what are Simon’s plans for the future? “For the rest of the year, I’m going to be talking to Dylan Carlson and working on a project of his, not necessarily Earth but something he’s thinking of doing”.
Simon Fowler recommends you check out: “Fire! with Oren Ambarchi (it looks pretty eclectic!), Tony Conrad, Cloaks and Scorn”. Check out Simon Fowler’s poster design at the festival, and be sure to bring an extra bit of cash for a print!
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.
Here is a teaser glimpse of this years LTD T-shirt, designed Bunny Bissoux an artist, illustrator, collector, fanatic, musician and aspiring wrestling valet. Her inspiration comes from 80’s metal, wrestling and small dogs – who better to design our Supersonic 2010 limited edition T-shirt.
Previous LTD T’s have included Stephen O’Malley, French, Gunsho, Justin Bartlett
Bunny also has a stall selling her wares in our market place