Supersonic Festival – Saturday – live review

supersonicSupersonic Festival 2017
Digbeth Birmingham
17th June 2017

Fighting Boredom return for the second day of the mighty Supersonic Festival ‘for curious audiences’ and it looks like being as good as Friday if not better. Read what we thought below and take a look at the galleries at the bottom of the page.

It’s bloody hot, down the road to Birmingham with every window in the car open and we are all still slowly melting. A wander round the Custard Factory and then we are back again, ready for more music to capture us.

First band on are Ex-Easter Island Head, sixteen people onstage withSupersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-2 table top guitars and they play delicate music with washes of melody; juxtaposed with chimes and soft guitar plucking. Every person is dressed all in black and are completely focused on what they are doing. This music feels ancient, formed carefully and gently, it’s almost ritualistic. They are conducted from the front as the melodies cycle and the music forms a hum. 
One of them starts to clap and one by one they join in until that’s all there is, a clapping percussion intertwined and loud. The hum starts again as drumsticks are used on guitars to make a harder sound and feel. This is faster and more intense which moves back to rich warm openness as they close. 
Laura Cannell plays the violin, she creates a dark oppressive atmosphere as she plays. She creates a drone that backs Supersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-3the sound and is obviously skilled at her craft, to the point of not being afraid to use her bow as I’ve never seen one being used before, she takes it apart and places it around the violin. She is very warm and open when she introduces her music, one piece was about six horses heads found under the floorboards in houses in Suffolk put there to ward off bad spirits. The sound she creates for that is dark and jarring. Isn’t the fiddle Old Nick’s instrument of choice? The feeling around the pieces of music here seem to suggest he does. Laura stands on stage alone with a white light picking her out from behind as smoke billows around her. It’s a striking image, the music moves to a crescendo and the story it is weaving inside your head is over. 
She plays a song with two recorders at the same time, one treble and one bass which is jarring and high pitched.
She tells us that all of her songs are about really depressing things and then plays one that consists of long slowed down and low notes, grating and very emotive. An artist giving us an insight into her music and her soul.
Big Joanie are a black feminist punk band. The first thing that strikesSupersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-8 you is that vocal, a soul voice, rich and full, warm and ever so slightly rough around the edges. The music to start with has that post punk raw feel, all three of the band stand in a line at the front of the stage and play, the song is rich and full but it’s all about the vocal for me.
The guitarist explains that they are a black feminist punk band and outlines their view on the world. They launch back into a loose and free flowing punk song which is louder and more frantic than before. It is so hot in this room but they still look cool, calm and collected. At one point they go to start a song and a member of the crew is doing something to the snare drum, the vocalist points out that that is everything she has just been talking about right there. 
The bass line rules the next tune, huge and post punk it matches the manic beat and with the wonderfully soulful laid back vocal it is just ace. 
The vocalist introduces a song as marginally hating someone, like unfollowing them rather than unfriending, brilliant. A great band with a solid sound and political conscience which we need all the more in days like these. 
Kuro Maga are all about the drone. Their main elements are a saxophone and violin with which they build up their sound and then unleash it. It is in essence a freeform jazz improv session which if you can’t do at Supersonic you can’t do anywhere. It’s a huge meshing merging of music that works really well. Single elements spring out at you as the sound moves only to disappear again into the meld. They then swing it around to a frenzied off the wall drum beat that with the rest of the sound turns it all frenzied and raw. 
Zu was another act that Fighting Boredom were looking forward to in advance. The Italian instrumental duo caught Supersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-10our attention before the festival and we were not disappointed.  They create a growling, menacing rock sound, layered and moving forward relentlessly. It brings to mind the instrumental hardcore of the eighties on SST but bigger and better. When it quietens you are absorbed by the small noises waiting for the power to come back for them to crush you again. The hardcore is mashed into Metal and a riot of sound flourishes. The Saxophone gives it an edge away from what may have come before. Each piece is rooted in the most excellent noise which kicks into the massive hard punk thrash, it’s all centred around the sax which turns more blistering and visceral with each song. Like hooligan jazz or cultured fists to the head. 
Just when you think Zu have peaked they just get more aggressive and nasty. This is more extreme and hard than many of the extreme metal acts I have seen. Fighting Boredom have been blown away yet again.
Jenny Hval is an artist. The stage is set with a stepladder draped in white plastic sheeting. There is a tuba player sitting at the back of the stage along with the rest of the musicians.Supersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-17 All have the same strange facepaint. Jenny comes onstage and she is in black, not just dressed in black, she has a kind of full body sock on, her whole body and face is inside a black tube of elastic looking material. It covers all of her, making her a living silhouette. The music begins and it is delicate piano and keyboards, Jenny is reciting poetry about existence, the beat is throbbing around the room as she stretches out her arms and legs making grotesque shapes in the material, shes dancing but it looks wrong somehow, a disco beat sets in and the whole band are up and dancing, even the tuba player. That shifts to oddly compelling distorted techno.
She comes out of the sock, like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis. She says that there was no air in there and sits down on a stool, a big dub bassline buzzes in and she perches perfectly on the stool as she sings, the music is slow and sensual.  The bass gets louder and the song goes on. She encourages people to use flashes as they are prettyand the bands costumes are designed to give you a suprise if you do, people take photos and luminous areas of the costumes light up and flash back onstage. 
Jenny is now lying on the floor as the Tuba player is sitting next to her taking selfies and filming them both. Bongo drums kick in and a wash of synth waves around the stage as  the backing musicians shake what look like intestines at the audience as they wrap them around themselves. The sound turns gentle and the band take up a dubby, spaced out dance which again turns strange and discordant. 
The band all don black wigs as they slip into a very Massive Attack feel and Jenny sings and performs around them. It’s a highly charged performance, she gives it her all and has us all in the palm of her hand. Art as music or music as art, whichever it is, I like it.
In the smaller space which now feels hotter than the face of the sun we walk into Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs who are busy handing drinks out to the audience. They are so young.Supersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-23 Dressed down, in two cases just pairs of shorts, but utterly focused. They start with just a riot of noise which moves into hard as nails punk, slow and epic sounding. The vocalist looks consumed with rage as he and the band take up every square inch of the stage. It’s so loud that my whole body is vibrating. I am sold.
It brings to mind the Rollins Band with it’s massive sounding punk, the post hardcore feel and concrete solid punches certainly reflect that but they have taken it a stage further, that band was all about the vocalist, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs are all about the band dynamic, the way that they move around each other and the sheer rage in the sound almost make you take a step back. The vocalist looks like he’s going to punch the whole crowd out.
They play another great big slab of hatred grinding out to break us and the crowd are responding in kind, there’s a slight stoner psych edge to it but mostly it’s good focused anger and there’s nothing wrong with that. When they speak they have broad Geordie accents and introduce their new drummer, I can’t believe that this was his introduction, talk about sink or swim, that they were spoiled playing on the other air conditioned stage and about just how hot it is in the room.
A great little band that should really get much bigger.
Last band of the day are what we have come to see today. The Bug has been at every Supersonic I have been to in one Supersonic_17062017_Fighting-Boredom-58guise or another and so has Justin Broadrick. But this is special, this is them together for the first time to my knowledge since Techno Animal. They have called this project Zonal and we are ready for the bass.
Red light and smoke fill the stage and beyond as digital throbbing and a high pitched whine fills me. The beat starts and it’s immense. There are snatches of Godflesh guitar, blasting through the beat that goes on, slow and steady but sounding like it wants to move faster. The music just keeps growing. It reflects broken concrete housing estates, broken and burned playgrounds and motorways choked with abandoned rusted cars, a soundtrack for the end of humanity. It sounds like oblivion, like the end. 
It’s like Godflesh meets the dub of King Midas which of course is absolutley the point. The beats are high crisp and crystal clear with a static drenched screaming guitar noise over the top. The beats fade into the noise and then smash back in. Music for the broken and dispossessed.
Deep down dirty bass and beats with electric washes competeing for attention acheives a still menacing but very danceable feel, some of us are dancing but more should be. This is music to move to, dark and nasty as it is you just cannot stand still. It flips to broken dubstep, smothering and oppresive and Zonal have achieved everything we expected. Distortion and static welded to beats from hell, utterly convincing and hopefully they will do this again.
We walk away into the still hot night, the noise still inside our head wondering how on earth Sunday will beat Friday and Saturday.
 Ex-Easter Island Head

Laura Cannell

Big Joanie

Zu


Jenny Hval

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Zonal

Supersonic Festival’s website is supersonicfestival.com they are also on Facebook.

Ex – Easter Island Head’s website is exeasterislandhead.com and they are also on Facebook.

Laura Cannell’s website is andrebosman.com/laura/ she is on Facebook and Tweets as @laura recorder.

Big Joanie’s Bandcamp page is bigjoanie.bandcamp.com, they are also on Facebook.

Zu’s website is zuism.net, they also have a Facebook page.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs bandcamp page is pigspigspigspigspigspigspigs.bandcamp.com, they are also on Facebook.

Zonal, Justin K Broadrick can be found on Facebook and The Bug also has a facebook page.

Read the Friday night at Supersonic review here.

All words by Adrian Bloxham, all Pictures by Martin Ward.

 

Adrian Bloxham

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