Godflesh reunite for Supersonic alongside some dumbfounding acts

Supersonic 2010 review

By Robert Knowles | Published: Mon 1st Nov 2010

James Blackshaw

Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th October 2010
The Custard Factory, Gibb St, Birmingham, England MAP
Last updated: Tue 19th Oct 2010

Walking into the old library I was met with the vision of countless stony faces staring, the colours red, yellow and orange drifting across them while a continuous drone permeated the air. I turned to face whatever apparition had these people so fixated, and there, in the dark, sat on a small stool next to stack of amps and controllers, was Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, or Lichens. Microphone in hand, he was silhouetted against a backdrop of luminescent blobs swirling one inside another.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he added to and changed the sound by humming through the mike until it grew into a rich layer of tone. The more intense the sound, the more intense his input, the hums turning to high pitched wails and his shadowy form extending and convulsing with each one. The whole thing had an air of mysticism about it. His focus and dedication to the task, and the way he arched his back to wail to the ceiling, invited the idea that he was performing some kind of folk religious rite. Whatever he was doing, it was utterly mesmerising, and the short half hour slot seemed to be a cruel limitation of his potential.

Back to the more extreme side of the spectrum, Gnaw took the late afternoon slot on the Space 2 stage, situated quite fittingly in a dark room under the damp, charcoal grey railway arch. It's always interesting to see how drone/noise bands fare in a live setting, and Gnaw have done especially well at translating all that fuzz into something that can be played with instruments. The guitar droned deep and discordant while the drums hammered a slow unsettling march, brought together by the all encompassing crackles and howls of noise behind it. Most impressive was how they managed to make it seem as though this was all part of the same sound. There was a consolidation of noise giving the impression that there was one cataclysmic and horrifying event, and this is what it sounded like.

The vocalist Alan Dubin, famous for his unearthly shriek, did not disappoint. Sometimes the cacophony would let up leaving just Dubin screaming one tortuous word after another, really drumming in parts of his morbid poetry, and leaving you vulnerable for the next wave of deafening noise. Ending with a final howl of "This was Gnaw!" the show left me dumbfounded.

My only previous experience of percussionist/producer Dosh was the work he had done with Andrew Bird, so I was intrigued to see what his solo act was like – especially as I’d heard he performs completely and utterly alone.

Alone he was, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a band playing; it just means the band was him! He typically started his songs by laying down a pleasant melody on his keyboard and looping it, then turning clockwise to lay down a nice technical beat on his minimal kit. Turning 180, he would start spreading layers of ambience and secondary melodies until the sound resembled something that, if deprived of the sight of the lone man sitting on a stool surrounded by musical machinery, would definitely pass as a full band effort.

And on top of that the music wasn't half bad. In fact, it was really good. It was the kind of ambient, sometimes jazz influenced hip hop that would sit right at home on the Ninja Tune or Anticon (which is what he actually releases on) labels. What set him apart, though, was the progressive approach to his songs. Adding and taking away melodies, sometimes indulging in some keyboard improvisation, he built up, tore down, twisted and turned all the way to each conclusion.

On record King Midas Sound offer a darker, slightly heavier alternative to bands like Massive Attack and despite their dubstep core I certainly wouldn't class them as dance music. Live, however, they are powerful, heavy and beautiful all at the same time. Opening with the first track 'Cool Out' from their album 'Waiting for You', it was instantly clear that this was a set to dance to.

Anyone familiar with Kevin Martin's other projects, such as The Bug, will know his unique brand of dark and unsettling bass lines, and the clattering presence of his rhythms. Add to this the ghostly voice of Roger Robinson and Hitomi and you’ve got something really special. What is missing from listening at home, however, is the giant drivers throwing the sound like a hammer to your chest. King Midas Sound delivered a bone shatteringly heavy set, and yet retained all the eerie ambience of their beautiful record.

James Blackshaw
Another disappointing headliner ended what was otherwise an incredible day. Godflesh took to the stage for one of the few shows marking their reunion after almost a decade long hiatus. As far as reunions go, however, it would have been nice to see a drummer. The lineup at Supersonic consisted only of Justin Broadrick on guitars and vocals, and G. C. Green on bass. These may be the primary members of the band, but surely someone could have been found to fill in (ahem... Ted Parsons).

Once I got over this initial disappointment I resigned myself to enjoying the show. And it was enjoyable: the wailing, heavy guitars were there; the metallic industrial beats were there; Broadrick's distinctive roaring was there; and most importantly the tunes were there. It was a faithful reproduction of their sound live, and that's all that can really be said about it. Two men playing flawlessly over a pre-recorded drum track didn't seem to be in the spirit of the festival.
review by: Robert Knowles

photos by: Robert Knowles

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