Supersonic Festival 2018 – Saturday – Live Review

Supersonic Festival

Birmingham, The Custard Factory

23rd June 2018

Fighting Boredom’s Adrian Bloxham and Martin Ward are back at the second day of this years wonderful Supersonic Festival. Already we are thinking that it’ll be hard to top Friday night but the hardest thing today will be deciding which acts to see and which to miss.

Saturday at Supersonic is the longest day and night. There are a plethora of acts, musicians and art to attract and catch you as you walk around and just like Friday, the weather is perfect. We start as usual in the beer shop in the Custard factory and sit contemplating the lists for the day and reflecting on what last night brought.

The doors open at four and the first act we catch is Joasihno who are set up in the open space in the bright sunshine on the floor in front of the stage. They are playing various instruments, a xylophone or two to make nursery rhyme sounds and a calliope rhythm. Lush waves of sound echo over the music. It’s mesmerising and very warm, wide open to interpretation and crystal clear in my head. 

The instruments are all spread out and at child’s height, a bass line comes in and the song moves up a notch as the synth and xylophone all get stronger and the room is filled with a big, warm song. They start singing and all of a sudden this becomes a perfect start to the day, easy and full of love. Around the instruments pieces of wood are fixed horizontally to spinning poles, attached to the end are strings with wooden balls that hit a cymbal or percussive device, electronic or acoustic, on every turn. It’s a perfect way for the tunes to hold onto the timing. 
They make the sounds turn darker and more intense. The noises become stronger and faster and whines of feedback add to the feeling that we are now traversing different territory. They slide back into calmer waters and into a silence with just the spinning balls hitting their targets and the revolving wood. The music comes back and as it rises and falls it shifts again into a prog psychedelic mode, I can’t see what they are playing to achieve this but it is totally absorbing.
Connected Devices is what Sam Underwood and Graham Dunning call the modular, musical contraption they are about to debut, but they say that they are open to offers of a better name. They say hello and explain that this thing is what they have made and although they had a moment of doubt as they unloaded it from the van, they are pretty sure it’ll work, so without any more fuss they’ll turn the drive shaft on.
The machine is around the length of a family car, it’s split into segments, each one built on top what looks like a workmate with a bicycle wheel to connect it to the aforementioned drive shaft. When they push the pieces forward the wheels rotate and power whatever piece of the device is there. Nearest to the audience is a set of two bellows making a blowing rhythmic sound. It could be described as pretty Heath Robinson but that’s doing the inventors a disservice.
Whistles rise, fall and blow. They turn bits on and off with lengths of pipe and inflated balloons. They drape chain over the spinning shaft and amplify the sound. Pieces fall off and deflect what they are supposed to do, each time a call of ‘sorry’ makes the audience laugh. Everyone is totally absorbed in the performance, the humour is very evident and we enjoy watching it pan out. You get the feeling that the performers really don’t know what is going to happen either and they point out and gesticulate at each other as the machine goes on. 
It’s music in the sense that there’s beats, notes and a flow but it’s rudimentary compared to some of the other acts here. This project is a work of love and devotion to the creation of music and instruments. There’s some sort of contraption that sounds like a muted didgeridoo and a drum on a turntable with various things dragged around it’s surface to create even more textures. A device that looks like a broken tripod is attached and blown into as the legs are pulled in and out to make a home tooled trombone. The whole thing is astounding and wonderful, they finish and stand beaming and saying thank you, you feel that it could have been a huge disaster but in fact was a total triumph.
Cattle are on in the courtyard of the Custard Factory which confuses me initially as last time I was here it had a pool in it. There’s a good crowd for them as they tear into their brutal noise. they have two drummers with massive guitars and a bent double shouting, ranting and screaming front man who ends the set bleeding from his head. One drummer takes off his shirt as the Heavy Metal Punk Rock Hard Core batters into my head. There are small diversions into psych territory but they quickly punch back into the hard core sensibility they do so well. The bassist keeps getting a funky groove on to which the drummers start slyly heading into almost jazz drums, don’t get me wrong, it still sounds like you’re being punched in the head and with the singer still tearing his throat apart it just gets even better.
The riffs go all classic rock until the drummers kick back and it turns even more aggressive, harder and stronger. They keep twisting away from the white hot fury but then just slam back into it, hardcore with soul. Until they just kick in and finish with full on, head down, all encompassing thrash. Cattle are a blast.
Nik Void is in the warehouse space. Her reputation precedes her, as a member of Carter Tutti Void and half of Factory Floor she has made some brilliant music and we’re not alone in wanting to share this performance. She stands behind a box of electronics, hair covering her face as she looks down and concentrates. There’s a throbbing electronic heartbeat under the sound, static and drone building up over the top. She twists and turns knobs and switches and the music goes higher and higher. You think it’s going to break and fall but the intensity just keeps rising. She twists something, the notes switch, the drone falls away and the space is full of a slow, sleazy drumbeat, static rises over the top with sudden blasts of noise and huge mighty slabs of bass drone smashing through the whole thing. It has turned into sleaze versus noise and works brilliantly. Then there’s another louder beat layered over the top of the whole thing, it’s as if she’s deliberately trying to break it. The beat morphs into a dance beat with sudden wiggly electro that thumps into you willing you to move, all of a sudden this is music to dance to.
She starts to draw out the sounds, making them feel out of focus and distant, it’s still the beats and synths but stranger, trippier. The cymbal sound stops and there are just claps, synths and the throbbing begins again as the synths turn high pitched and stabbing. The groove is smooth and has a sheen as if the music is oiled.
The throbbing shifts into different layers of intensity and the bursts of static have to squeeze through to be heard, she then flows into a spaced out trance sound with a huge huge beat. It’s an outstanding set, sexy, inspired and massive.
In the main room Mario Batkovic walks onto the stage, his face is alive, he smiles and we all smile back, he says nothing that I can remember but with his expressions he conveys gratitude, concentration and a huge amount of humour. He sits with his accordion on his lap and takes a deep breath, he creates a low drone and as it progresses, moving up and down as the bellows move, he plays the same notes, quickly over and over again. The sound goes from loud to quiet, it get’s richer as he plays and the sounds ebb and flow with the way he moves the bellows as he plays. Mario’s eyes are closed and he is completely absorbed in what he is doing. He making music that sounds almost like a full size church organ, it’s an incredible amount of sound to come out of such a small instrument. The sound is old too, it’s an age old sound, you can feel the history echoing around the room as he plays. 
He moves into a darker area, the music has a horror tinge. It brings to mind old, crumbling churches on desolate moorland, things lurking in the dark with sharp teeth. Like the twisted bare trees on the path are closing in, it’s dramatic and completely over the top. 
Terminal Cheesecake are on outside, I think this is because their sound can’t be contained by walls and a roof. They look like they have thoroughly enjoyed life to the full. They get comfortable on stage, there’s a big fuzzy guitar twiddle and stop start noise. Then a huge low, very loose bass line rumbles out and they are straight into a slow lurching cool stoner vibe, the vocals yelping and echoing with an Alternative Tentacles feel. It’s a great big noise that grinds onward relentlessly.
There’s dry ice wafting across the crowd as the drums get faster and even harder and they head straight into a swirling ball of psychedelic punk rock. The music changes constantly, switching in and out of pure hard core punk and then total psych out madness. They hold it together though, lurching forward like a zombie stumbling through a deep green swamp.
The music is now showing moments of free form jazz improvisation, albeit with a volume enhanced massive riff slant. There’s feedback squalls, guitar whines and just sheer mayhem. The guitar settles to a loose fuzzy throbbing and the music flows forward with a saner slow and precise drum pattern and a big bold Led Zeppy riff. They sound epic.
The chaotic psychedelia of Terminal Cheesecake flow nicely into the digital hard core attack of Yves Tumor whose use of strobes and darkness make photography a joke. The sound is industrial and noisy, it’s digital thrash metal. He is wearing a battered white cowboy hat, a scarf around his face and a space age biker jacket with matching silver boots. It’s good look for this sound. He dances and moves like a lunatic as the strobes sear your retinas and the bass compresses your chest. An on the edge set.
Gazelle Twin are one of the acts I’ve been waiting for, their last performance I saw at Supersonic was utterly and completely disturbing. The pictures of her dressed as some sort of jockey have been building up expectations and the hall is full. They walk on, the lights go out and there are no frills. The music starts and the singers shadow against the wall is huge. They sound like a swarm of bees, then calliope music begins. It’s still disturbing with tiny notes and a harsh vocal. electronica and beats come in and she’s singing, with exaggerated movements, jerky one moment and smooth the next. She is clad all in red, with long socks over knee length trousers and a red top zipped to her neck, there are tassels hanging from her elbows and a jesters ruff around her neck, the jockey’s cap is over a red face mask so that all you can see of her is her hands and mouth.
As the keyboard player is bent over his instrument she dances and sings as the beats and synths play on, it’s more intense than thrash metal, more disturbing than dark industrial, the whole thing is quite something else. There’s choral singing and she turns and nods to the crowd as she sings about ‘My Bonnie Boy’, they go into ethereal broken folk music, and then to what I can only call broken school playground songs. She’s singing high and long notes that are incredibly creepy. She half talks and half sings over the music while walking the stage, deliberately and dramatically. The whole focus of the performance is on her, your eyes are drawn to her, her physical stature is small and unassuming but the character that she has taken on is massive. The music is disjointed and inconsistent. The patterns that you expect don’t come and nothing is quite right.
There is an atmosphere of almost despair and longing. When she starts to sing about ‘insolvency’ she becomes less menacing and more human. The music is pulsing, throbbing, dark, menacing electro but she seems almost friendly in her demeanor, she smiles to the audience, although of course we have no way of knowing if the smile reaches her eyes. She could be screaming inside for all we know. I don’t understand Gazelle Twin, and I think that’s the point, this isn’t an easy act to watch, it’s not conventional and it’s not accessible, but that is what we come here to see. The performance is on the edge and away from whatever normal is. Watching a man playing music from a keyboard and a woman vocalising while wearing some kind of bizarre jockey’s outfit is why we are here.
That’s why Gazelle Twin chose Supersonic to debut the new material and that’s why we are watching her. The set is focused and some of the tracks are short and barely legible but to stand in an audience and witness something so claustrophobic and at times horrible as this and then smile in response to a movement and nod to a lyric is just perfect. I will be buying the new music when it appears.
This morning there was an announcement that FAKA, the acclaimed act from South Africa hadn’t managed to get a visa in time to perform at the festival, so instead of leaving the slot vacant Supersonic announced the Supersonic Supergroup. Now to be honest we weren’t sure how this would pan out but we went to see.
They are on the second stage and it’s obvious that this is something pretty special. You have the vocalist from Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs topless and manic, making incoherent vocal noises, two guys from Gnod going berserk at a table full of electronics and the drummer from Tomaga playing the most incredible percussion on her drum kit. The music is a layered monster of static, electronic drum patterns turned to full speed and disorientation, noise bleeding across and the real drumming that drives it all forward. It ebbs and flows forwards, sometimes the electronics taking over and next second the drumming and vocal smashes through.
Three monks are now onstage, well, female monks from the Black Sabbath Karaoke, I’m unsure how holy they are. So we have three dancers, two with satanic demon masks, the drummer laughing her head off at the two lunatics leaping around creating the electronic noise and the singer with the mic in his mouth seemingly speaking in tongues. It’s a fantastic way to end Saturday night and I’m smiling as we walk away.

Connected Devices

Nik Void
Mario Batkovic
Terminal Cheesecake

Gazelle Twin

Supersonic Supergroup

Gazelle Twin’s website is, she has a Bandcamp page, is on Facebook and Tweets as @gazelletwin.

Yves Tumor has a Bandcamp page, is on Facebook and Tweets as @YvesTumor.

Terminal Cheesecake have a Bandcamp page and are on Facebook.

Mario Batkovic’s website is, he has a Bandcamp page and is on Facebook.

Nik Void is on Facebook and Tweets as @nikvoid

Cattle have a Bandcamp page and are on Facebook.

You can read about Connected Devices on Graham Dunning’s website.

Joasihno’s website is, they have a Bandcamp page, are on Facebook and Tweet as @joasihno.


All words by Adrian Bloxham all pictures by Martin Ward.


Adrian Bloxham

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