Chrome Hoof epitomise what Supersonic sets out to be

Supersonic 2010 review

By Robert Knowles | Published: Mon 1st Nov 2010


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

Legendary percussionist Chris Corsano and Singer/steel pedal guitarist Heather Leigh were a dizzying start to my day as Jailbreak. Without any respect for conventional time signatures or song structure Corsano, wielding two sticks in each hand, rolled out an expressive percussive base over which Leigh improvised some harsh, wavering distortion. Building up with silent communication between the two, Leigh began to wail emotionally while Corsano upped the volume and intensity of his free rolling beat. A wondrously confusing, even nightmarish sound that left me questioning the boundaries of what music can be.

Daniel O'Sullivan's new output as Mothlite is very different from his previous work with the likes of Sunn O))) and Ulver. Contrary to both it is at times upbeat, always tuneful and has an accessible pop feel to it. Live, they come across with a dated and uninteresting sound. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of eighties influence over the weekend, and that can be a really good thing, but the thick vocals and electronic beats Mothlite offered sounded like Depeche Mode but with all the power sapped from them. After just a few songs the crowd started to dissipate, and I found it a struggle not to go with them.

It's always welcome when a crowd decides to sit down for an act, and it was never more appropriate than for James Blackshaw. This man lulled us all into a trance (and one guy in front into a deep sleep) with some of the most impressive finger picking, and some of the most heart breaking melodies I've heard. Playing twelve strings, and making every one sing out an important role in the music, you could imagine a quartet making less subtle and complex songs.

James Blackshaw
Each song clearly had a lot of thought put into it, obvious from the fact that he took about five minutes to tune for each one. No one seemed to mind the wait, though, and he passed the time with some humour: "did someone say they liked tuning? Well I've got some good news" adding after an impeccable comedic pause "about half an hour of good news." The set finished all too early and I reluctantly left the old library. Not as reluctantly as the sleeping guy in front, mind.

Watching a band in a small theatre (no bigger than a classroom) might sound slightly awkward, even voyeuristic. The Theatre was perfect for Barn Owl, though, because the show had very little to do with the members who sat bathed in shadow at either side of a huge projection of strange but beautiful images.

And that description of the video can be applied to the audio as well. Slow and drawn out arcs of sound built up slowly into a sound that was huge and loud, yet still soothing and introspective. The spell was broken slightly when the lights were turned on prematurely, but it was easy enough to settle back into it once they were shut off again.

Chrome Hoof were the last, and one of the best acts I saw of the weekend. Hooded appropriately in chrome robes that barely hid the wonderful but terrifying glitter make-up plastered over the members faces, they resembled something ancient, yet space faring. If Phillip K. Dick and Stanley Kubric collaborated on a film about a band, Chrome Hoof would be that band.

The music contained a similar antithesis in its heart. There was something of jazz, something of prog, something of funk, and sometimes even eighties cock rock had its part to play. Imagine The Mars Volta and Funkadelic... But enough with the futile classifications, the most important thing was that they made noise to which dancing was not an option. It was a necessity!

There was a richness and depth to the sound that was achieved by the bizarre variety of instruments. They had guitars, a saxophone, a violin, and even an oboe, all of which gave a melodramatic orchestral quality to their crescendos and intrigue to their proggy breakdowns.

The vocalist sang in powerful staccato through a mike heavy laden with effects, sometimes sounding demonic. One of the highlights, however, was during their song 'Third Sun Descendants' where the unassuming oboe player let out a torrent of unexpected hardcore-esque screams, and thus completing their genre breaking insanity.

They were, in a word (and in all the best uses of it), ridiculous. For me there couldn't have been a better end to the weekend. Chrome Hoof, in all there disregard for boundaries, epitomise what Supersonic sets out to be, and on this weekend definitely was.
review by: Robert Knowles

photos by: Robert Knowles

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