The sonic yaw of rock from a grounding in heavy metal, pushed through by the driving rhythms of twisted techno and dirty drum’n’bass; falling back on transcendental peace and harmony – still with a niggle of discord…
One characteristic of Brummies is that they’re an eclectic and varied bunch who refuse to follow one direction. The Capsule Girls (Jenny Moore and Lisa Meyer) and their festival Supersonic, certainly epitomise this.
At this three day festival the Custard factory’s bars, courtyards and warehouses are full of so much variety, they all appear to pull together. We’re not talking a corporate homogenous dirge; but an independent constantly shape shifting multi-faceted beast.
DJ Scotch Egg has invaded the Factory Club for the evening with his brand of Gameboy operated glitchcore. He’s brought with him similar artists from his Osaka town of origin. We find out during the night that part of the reason for getting his mates over is because of the imperative need to get more gigs. The motivation for this it turns out, is because Scotch Egg has to work more if he wants to earn his visa and stay in his current home in Brighton. The room is packed so we pop in and out throughout the night and watch various crazy Japanese bods in varying states of fancy dress playing with various consoles. Creating music which is on one hand a sonic, scattergun delight and on the other, is a mixture of feedback, distortion and trains shunting.
On the ‘drained-pool’ main stage outside, PCM are at full pelt with the place sinking into deep and dark drum’n’bass. PCM are pretty much Friday night regulars at Supersonic and whilst the bar crowd are inside glitching to Drumize we’re having a proper dance. The music is taken to intensity when Karl from Grindcore legends, Bolthrower growls and wretches down the mic.
Meanwhile the Factory Club has given way to Ove Naxx who puts more of a punky spin on things using the female lead singer’s sheer multi-coloured delight. It’s like CSS’s Lovefoxxx but with less sloganeering and more random intensity .
We head outside again in time to catch Dälek. This is the second time they’ve appeared at the festival, though last time the set was cut short when Birmingham City Centre had to be evacuated in post 7/7 paranoia. MC Dälek dominates; supported ably and passionately by muscle bound henchman (like an extra from the film Brick) and programmer Oktopus. MC Dälek’s mesmerising word patter swirls around a sea of fuzz and pulsing beats.
We catch another glimpse of DJ Scotch Egg, on his own for the finale and pop back to DJ Rupture and Jah Dan Blakkamoore but still reeling from Dälek, we decide instead to call it a night.
We get down to the Custard Factory to catch a few tracks by The Owl Service. They delivered a touchingly retro-folk set with no electronic add-ons. We drifted off into the Theatre for some 7 inch cinema and listen to a lecture by Nicholas Bullen; wonderfully eloquent former member of Napalm Death. Bullen provides a potted design history of Grindcore aesthetics, explaining how the artwork was connected to the movements position as the bastard son of heavy metal and punk. It was fascinating but the seats were comfortable and the room was the perfect temperature to doze off – despite the images of holocausts and dismembered corpses projected onto the screen.
Efterklang went some way to enlivening me. For the un-initiated, this Danish nine-piece are like a super breed of Sigur Ros with Polyphonic Spree’s clan mentality. At the end of a staggering set of brightness and exuberance, the band leader asks us to go on the Efterklang mini-tour. This involves popping into the Library room and getting a poster, then head to the Theatre (and following a quick nap) watch a film by a band member which was a hyper-visceral remix of Un Chien Andalou and other modernist films.
We grab some food and cake from beneath the archways and then I’m lucky enough to interview MC Dälek. This takes up a fair bit of time and next fellow New Yorkers and friends Battles are on. As MC Dälek points out the band also played here also a couple of years back and now they’re the toast of the math-rock world. It just goes to show how ahead of the curve the Capsule promoters are.
The day begins with the epic shoe-gazing of local post-rockers Einstellung. There couldn’t be a bigger contrast for the next act, Max Tundra who walks onto the stage and asks “Do you like roooccckk Supersonic?” before launching into a bizarre blend of homemade R’n’B and fun with electronics. He’s like a more likeable Har Mar Superstar with a semi serious Conchord.
Much of the afternoon is spent in or around Space 2. Which seems to be playing host to sludge rock with a double bill of Spanish doom monsters Orthodox and Asva. I get the point with this gloomy noise but I think you have to be in a certain mood and even a certain age to actually like it. It reminds me of the kind of menacing chords which used to set the scene at the beginning of a rock epic. Except that this is the only element of sludge rock, repeated slowly, for two hours.
Supersonic also installed a set of skate ramps for the weekend and I go and spend some time over there. Having had enough of moving my head to the right and left, I decide to pop down the road to Vivid Gallery and catch the last thirty minutes of an exhibition based on the work by New York sound artists Fluxus. I only really knew about Yoko Ono and smashing pianos before I went to this exhibition, this set of art installations really show the collective’s playfulness and is packed with sparks of ingenuity.
Deciding I’ve drawn more visceral experience than any Sunday supplement could possibly offer, when I get back to The Custard Factory complex to catch Yukio Fujimoto giving lectures on his sound installations in Theatre. Again I’m staggered by his sheer passion for asking people to actually listen to sound. One installation consisted of two drain pipes and a deck chair on a rooftop in Japan. The tubes merely act to distort and amplify the sound around and it’s a delight to hear.
The inquisitive mind still questioning, I hang around for Brian Duffy’s talk. He is the main man behind Modified Toy Orchestra and ZX Spectrum Orchestra. He guides us through a series of circuit bended car boot Speak And Spells and one twisted Hula Barbie.
It’s time to put the preaching into practice with the next highlight, his band ZX Spectrum Orchestra playing on the main stage. Their geekery proves a smash for any retro-bod who wasted their childhood playing Codemaster games.
Our evening closes on Harmonia serving a perfect Sunday night chilled set – they still excite our ears but sooth and calm our mind with tones that heal our frontal lobes.
Supersonic is all senses fulfilled; all perceptions challenged.