Jul 31, 2009

Posted by in Birmingham, Reviews | 0 Comments

Mr Elephant Reviews # 1 by Emily Poyser – Supersonic Festival

Supersonic Sound Wave by Emily Poyser

Monotonix in crowd by J D Robinson

Synonymous with bringing anything to the table, Supersonic Festival offered willing musos experimental delights from around the globe. This three-day miscellany of music brought together folk, breakcore, metal and chaotic beats – a daunting task for some, but not Supersonic.

The Capsule gang: the masterminds and curators of the festival, now into its seventh year, took over the Custard Factory in fantastic style – utilising the factory and outside spaces for not only music, but cheeky pockets of artwork and film.

It had been passed down the grapevine that 2008 was going to be hard to beat, but Capsule seem to have recreated the perplexing balance of eclectic and experimental. The weekend seemed to offer a platform for new and emerging Birmingham talent, alongside established and international acts.

People came from all corners of the UK to descend on a not-so-sunny Birmingham, almost selling out the festival on all three nights.

Friday’s highlights

Friday saw the bemusement begin in supersonic style with Drum Eyes belting out psychedelic sounds in the Factory Club. Scorn followed shortly after with stirring downtempo minimalist beats and deep baselines. The former Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris served a unique fusion on trip-hop and dub revellers.

The Custard Factory outside stage, inhabited by a 300-strong army of hardcore Sunn O)) fans, were treated to their juxtaposition of ambient sounds and black metal. Accompanied by only their guitars and what seemed like an unnecessary amount of amps, Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley couldn’t fail to make an impact.

Smoke filled the outside stage through which droning guitars, feedback and other sound effects could be heard at an incredible decibel level.

Thirty minutes into the performance, still with no discernible beat, body numbers had reduced significantly; the mob of hardcore fans persevered in classic style.

Sunn by J D Robinson

The only endurance test which could follow the might of Sunn O)) was Venetian Snares, aka Canadian mind-bender Aaron Funk.

This legend could be described Aphex Twin meets your little cousin f**king around with your old breaks records, whilst drumming a skip with chop sticks. He seems to have mastered experimental electronic blending anything from reggae to classic techno at around 4000 bpm!

Saturday’s highlights

Saturday saw an arcane line up, with Nisennenmondai welcoming the evening on the outside stage. These fine Tokyoites gave definition to Japanese punk, with the female three piece enticing the crowd into a frenzy.

Staying in East Asia, Japanese band Corrupted played their first gig in the UK and offered Space 2 (the Custard Factory’s warehouse space) a bleak and forceful sound. The band demonstrated brutal riffs-drones, as well as a drummer who maintained an unbelievable striking force on improbable slow tempos.

Bobby Previte and VJ Benton offered a fully immersive audio-visual experience straight from New York. Zu, scheduled slightly awkwardly afterwards, shifted down-gear and left the crowd somewhat indifferent.

The reminder that music festivals shouldn’t be taken so seriously came in the form of Monotonix.

Easily the hairiest men at the festival, the Tel Aviv trio closed the Saturday night on the outside stage in unparalleled style. By far the most energetic performance of the festival, these guys sported some courageous shorts and offered some old-fashioned entertainment.

The equipment, originally set up amongst the crowd, moved to all four corners of the venue throughout the performance (with kit being passed everywhere, it’s a miracle if they got it all back). As the drum kit and singer edged the crowd further away from the stage, enticing havoc at the back, VJ Blendstate and the front of house team were almost taken out.

The crowd numbers soon doubled, then tripled to a full house. The crowd sat down thanks to the singers barking instructions and one guy almost got a clout round the head – carrying the debacle on for a further ten minutes.

Banned from most venues in Tel Aviv, hopefully, they’ll be frequenting the city a little more often.


Monotonix by J D Robinson

Sunday’s highlights

A credit to Capsule’s programming, Theo (aka Sam Knight) worked his one-man magic on a rainy afternoon. To see this talent live is something of wonder with his looped layers of delicate sounds echoing on the factory walls.

Each song moved effortlessly to the next as his impressive guitaring and drumming baffled an attentive crowd. His rhythmic melodies and beats induced a trance like state as he improvised and worked off the crowd.

The Black Country’s finest industrial export, Head of David, played their first live show in 23 years as the original line-up. Sunday’s headliner, Italian legends Goblin followed with nothing out of the ordinary.

Goblin by J D Robinson

Old Supersonic favorites Caribou closed the outside stage offering building blocks of divine melodies. Programmed as a “perfect slice of bedroom psychedelia from someone for whom melody and emotion are ten times as important as collectible obscurity”, they certainly didn’t disappoint before bed time.

Time and time again, Supersonic gets described as the best organised music event in the Midlands by gig-goers, crew and artists. Everyone seems willing, friendly and this creative hub becomes a place where metallers meet the folk fairies.

And don’t forget the cake…

You can listen to this tomfoolery and genius on Rhubarb Radio and catch a look on the Flickr group.

Photos taken from Flickr group – Jwrobinson’s photostream

Review written by Emily Poyser on behalf of Mr Elephant – emily_poyser@hotmail.com



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