Freaks! Hipsters! Hipster haters! Sonic warriors! Aural artists! All these groups and many more gather at Birmingham’s Custard Factory to get thick and gooey to the noise and activities offered by Capsule’s Supersonic Festival.
Starting on a cold, dark Friday night in downtown Digbeth, there is a queue stretching all along Gibb Street leading on to the site. There’s a good mix of people here, with a range of ages across both genders – though it is absolutely fair to say that this is a festival dominated by the presence of men. The site is not huge, and sound does spill across areas such as from the Outside Stage into the Theatre.
Gum Takes Tooth comprises two masked men, a drumkit and a synth sitting on the Outside Stage, while Emeralds‘ delicious Candy Shoppe drifts around the empty swimming pool. Under a red light, the duo drone and clank like outlaws. Staccato sub-bass notes dig into the audience, the toy megaphone used for effect doesn’t work very well, and some looping technology is employed for some semi-musical harmonies. More of a theatrical act interwoven with music than a music act, it’s not long before we leave them to their own scattered devices.
For a slightly more melodic quality, it’s a short walk across to the Old Library for the doomy laptop powered Necro Deathmort. Techno-oriented, the duo dabble with slow hip-hop breaks that are never quite UK bass, and add 303 squall to an energetic yet low-tempo set. It’s engaging stuff, and when they do ramp up the tempo, the drums run glitchy and the bass, distorted. Distinctly technically minded, Necro Deathmort lack the tangible passion to make this more than an interesting sonic display.
With Supersonicees currently choosing betwixt metal and digital noise, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Fukpig‘s genre. The original metalheads (NB. not emo children) floating around make for a jovial and polite atmosphere while the ber chic, unfussed, and quite unfuckable trendy types loll around outside the Medicine Bar as they always have. Fukpig are on stage, soundchecking. They look very much like a group of middle-aged men, comprising two bald guitarists, one balding, bespectacled bassist, and a very hairy frontman. The band disappear backstage and return with masks on. This would appear to be the ‘Wear A Mask’ stage. They launch into the rapid Die Bastard! before continuing with Britain’s Got Fucking AIDS. A comedy pastiche of Slipknot, their riotous grindcore is equally as pantomime. The songs are short, but the sound outside is poor.
Trotting back up the stairs for the digital dub nightmare of Devilman; glitch, white noise and sub mix with decent graphics. The music is industrial in the sense that it sounds like there is cavernous ring modulation in action. DJ Scotch Egg (part of the Devilman duo) certainly seems to be having a good time, and the sound is better suited to an outdoor tent area in a field to give appropriate juxtaposition to this aural interpretation of hell. And yet, this isn’t something not already delivered from artists like King Cannibal. This isn’t dubstep: it’s grinding digital dub (or ‘Noisestep’ as the festival guide states). As the set progresses, it becomes clear that there is something embedded in the sound that’s reminiscent of early Asian Dub Foundation. The delays on the taut snares are fun, as are the double-time rhythms, but as the night wears on, the set becomes less intriguing.
We’re sad to have to miss Napalm Death, PCM and Dead Fader, but the journey to Birmingham has been long, and tiredness comes creeping.