Live Music + Gig Reviews

Supersonic 2010: Day 2 @ Custard Factory, Birmingham

23 October 2010

Saturday afternoon, and we arrive in time to hear the musical thrall of Robert Lowe’s (from TV On The Radio amongst others) Lichens‘ gorgeous Kirlian Auras meandering drone dripping from the speakers in the Old Library. The sounds are supplemented by a mesmerizing, continuous, kaleidoscopic series of blotches on the screen that resemble a trip through the sky. So… like an aeroplane, then. But as the drone subtly shifts and extra melodies are added, the visuals run thick with psychedelic colour. One man with fabulous hair and a synth becomes the best thing of the festival thus far.

Down on the Outside Stage, Tromans And Nicholls are dueling Rhodes with interlocking arpeggios and jazz riffs working around a scripted piece. Part free, part form and amorphous; as one digs in, the other reaches for another part of an invisible equation with frequently cacophonous, but mostly exciting results. Steve Tromans plays with the clichd use of the Rhodes and dismantles its funk. He is at his best when lost, and doesn’t see his altogether hairier and younger counterpart Dan Nicholls trying to catch his eye. Sometimes it looks as though one is trying to learn a piece from the other, but can’t keep up. Ultimately, the pair sound their best when Tromans loses his place, and the power struggle becomes more intuitive.

Walking into the dismantling end of Lash Frenzy vs KK Null‘s set makes us shamed to have missed the whole show. With a few band members spread out amongst the audience, the noise installation and experience is highly original and disorienting. Still, we manage to get a good spot to see Dosh, who is Mark Dosh. A baseball cap and a beard are all that appear to loop synth, percussion, and drums through a mixing desk. Subtractions is built slowly, and Dosh plays all individual parts once, creating a heavily layered track while demonstrating the live construction of his quirky, funky psych. His basslines turn eardrums flaccid, and Dosh melodically riffs over the created piece, adapting it just before it becomes overly repetitive. There’s something West Coast about his style and the beats are reminiscent of Private Press era DJ Shadow. Simple Exercises is where Dosh time stretches and squashes his snare to good effect, and though he is limited with this setup, the set is mostly attractive.

It’s time for a break from the music, and we visit Action Hero’s live music installation, Smoke And Lights. Simply pick a live track by a Supersonic artist, past or present, and sit in a dark room while living the real or imagined memory assisted by traffic lights and a smoke machine. we picked a track by The Bug and heard the Amen break being squashed for five minutes. Fun.

So, over to the cold warehouse concrete of Space 2 where Kevin Martin’s King Midas Sound are getting ready to rock. The cavernous space could be an appropriate environ for this dub and lover’s rock trio. Martin gets the process underway with an ascending and descending non-siren erupting from his laptop, before dropping his signature, brittle bass-heavy beats. Roger Robinson takes to the mic and the duo start with Cool Out. Waiting For You sees Hitomi arrive to take the mic and the trio’s eerie, spacious sounds twinned with the huge bass make me grateful for the free earplugs picked up earlier. The set gets progressively heavier and industrial, moving the live sound a long way from the blissed-out album. It’s good, but unpredictably so. While the dubstep march was appealing to many, the set ultimately betrays the dynamics that serve to make KMS so appealing. Earth A Kill Ya is more fitting, but it’s not enough. Some are possibly taking the word ‘Supersonic’ a little too seriously.

Over to Tweak Bird and Caleb is playing a two-note riff with his back to the audience while John McCowan squeezes out a melody from his soprano sax. Brother of Caleb, Ashton Bird, appears and plays his cymbals. The shadows of the overhead mics make it look as though Ashton is surrounded by microphones. The front-of-house mix makes their dramatic launch into The Future sound entirely naff, and their muddy set isn’t helped by Caleb’s guitar being completely swamped by the thunderous drumming coming from stage right. There’s a nice turn from McCowan who appears intermittently to add a necessary melodic dimension and jazz implication, but the crowd is quite sparse, implying that we should be someplace else. And that’s because Godflesh are due on.

A busy Space 2 are ready to greet local industrial metal legends Justin Broadrick and GC Green, aka Godflesh. Broadrick rips into Like Rats and the crowd goes wild. It’s just possible to make out the pair on stage through all the smoke. Broadrick’s riffs are peppered with harmonic squeal, and his body twists with each vengeful strike at his axe. Tracks from the Streetcleaner and Pure albums suit this eager audience just fine.

To close the evening indoors is no bad thing, and we await the sounds of the unusually attired Cave. The Old Library’s sparse as most people are over watching Godflesh destroy Space 2. The four take to their psychedelic inspired rock pitched in darkness. Cave are virtual metronomes thanks to their svelte, determined drummer (who bears a passing resemblance to Grange Hill‘s Zammo crossed with Ian Curtis) and his grey vest. His right leg is so active that he has to put the unused monitor in front of the bass drum to stop the thing from drifting away from him. Though space rockers, there’s also a hint of post-punk around them. Cave prove to be a delectable end to a splendid Saturday.

  1. Supersonic 2010:
    Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3

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