Wolf Eyes – Wild Rani – Nicholas Bullen – Birmingham – live review

Wolf Eyes – Wild Rani – Nicholas Bullen

Centrala Birmingham

30th September 2018

So on the last Sunday in September Fighting Boredom travel to Birmingham to see Detroit’s experi-mental avant-noise heads Wolf Eyes, an audio-visual landscape from Birmingham’s Wild Rani and an audio set from the inimitable Nicholas Bullen to start with. An excellent afternoons entertainment, read what we thought below.

This is a rare treat, a Sunday afternoon gig just down the road in Birmingham. It’s in a tiny coffee shop and bar next to the canal, seats are set out and people are milling around chatting. As we walk in Nicholas Bullen is perfecting the sound from his suitcase of cables and switches. He wanders off and we sit down to wait. 

He walks back up to the front, switches things on and starts to create his piece. There’s a low rumble, then ‘Words’. Electronic hissing like a cymbal being hit repeats then a rumble like thunder and a wave of static wipes everything clean, chirps and delicateness followed by the static tide coming in again obliterating what’s below it, leaving the canvas pure for the next sounds. Tiny crackles, one long note getting louder, crackles and swathes, the static tide ebbs and flows never completely overwhelming and never really fading away. Bursts of hardcore static punk and blasts of noise and this is never still, never resting. It feels open and valuable, the sound underneath gives you moments; a train rumbles past in a smoke cloud of static and drone. A feedback whine morphs into a savage dog barking. Bullen gives us an orchestra of noise and then a blast of pure terror. It’s overwhelming and hits me hard in the chest. He lets it fade to the noises made by alien craft communicating with each other, the last sounds we would hear before annihilation and then repeated over and over .. ‘words are gone’.

Then there’s the screams of the electronic damned and fire lit stone passageways. The sound is full of horror, low and nasty, disturbing and echoing down a never ending corridor. The static sea is back but calmer and steadier. There’s no visuals, it doesn’t need them, this is a sound performance. Noise blasts through again, rain, thunder and ominous clouds spread out over broken cities and polluted water. It’s a throbbing end to all, a spaced journey into oblivion. Powerful, visceral and emotional. The noise moves to what feels like seventies sci-fi versus giant monsters challenging and fighting each other. There’s an electronic undecipherable voice with electronic mayhem behind it. The performance moves from small, to large, to overpowering. The static ramps up from silence as if it’s trying to start a car, stuttering and desperate there are odd vocal noises, bass and bursts of static, high and nasty, it’s almost verging on techno but is far too intense. It’s as if someone with PTSD has decided to make the music that reminded them of the past but the events of their trauma is overpowering what they remember. It rises and falls over and over, then pure bass terror, one single note that envelopes everything, inside your head and body that continues on and on. Nick is totally absorbed in what he is doing. This is sound layered to perfection, terrifying, intense and moving.
Wild Rani, stands at a small electronics board and starts, she gives us a small electronic tune that repeats over and over, that breaks down with a muffled bass wiggle but just carries on. She has a projection of a city at night mirrored on itself playing behind her. There are no beats as such but the repetition gives the impression of it being beat led. She picks up a mic and kazoo and adds that to the music, at first it seems too loud and abrasive but is eventually absorbed into the patterns that continue. She carefully puts down the kazoo and brings the mic back up to sing, again it overpowers the music and then blends together. It’s as if she wants you to be distracted from the ongoing music. The sound changes to a repetitive selection of bass notes and rising static. The music becomes low slow and crackles. She talks along with it but the words are lost and hidden, sad and alone. Slow funereal beats come in and the bass matches pace, her vocal is louder and clearer which makes the music disturbing and claustrophobic. The kazoo is played again but it fits better now, it adds to the sound rather than distracting from it. The set finishes with a blast of marvelous disco pop. A good set.
Wolf Eyes come on and with a smile Nate Young explains that they are going to be doing a long durational piece today. He takes a deep breath with his eyes closed, at least I think they’re closed behind the sunglasses, presses his palms together, reaches forward and the sound starts. Slowly and quietly it fades and comes back and then John Olsen playing the saxophone with a mute joins in, filling up the gaps with a broken raspy sound. I settles to combine lumps of bass and rattling sax. It is slow majestic music that is sparse and perfectly balanced with lots of space for silence. The sax is annoying and grating over the polished electronic creations echoing away. He turns the echo up on the sax which battles with the electronic noises. These are playing over the underlying slow bass beats. The layers build and fall and it’s just getting more intense. It falls back to slow steady and basic. Nate starts the vocal and it’s speech under the throbs, spaced out electro and full on free form sax. It’s The Stooges LA blues brought bang up to date and taken further. Just sax and noise, bass beats come back and it’s beautiful disorder. 
It moves again to tiny noises and a bass heart beating. small high noises over the top he has put the sax down but it’s still playing through the echo. Nate plays the electronic harmonica which is bloody huge and sounds like blues for the devil, alongside the drone, bass beats and sax this turns into a free-form jazz-core jam from years to come. 
There’s a break in the music and a huge round of applause. ‘It’s still going on’ Nate grins ‘Hold on’ he manipulates the board in front of him and little bouncing sounds and sci-fi  echoes start up again. Static screams, echo and rise like a mad alarm from deep underground, stupidly tinny and loud. More chaotic, messier sounds that are less straight and clear, they are totally absorbed, a silver foil mute is fished out and placed on the sax and it plays along to the chaos. There’s a big sound growing, little bits keep being added to the dense rich base. The vocal starts again, talking, balanced in the mix. It slows down. Pops and beats blip out and the sax calms to a high note. The noise rises with discord but underneath there is a structure being built upon. Sounds just keep piling up on top, it’s beautiful. 
It fades and dies and there’s a discussion about whether to leave it there or play more. They decide on ‘One more.’ a deep bass heartbeat moves off and a stretched elastic band on the mouth provides accompaniment, it makes a harsh and cold sound. as small noises move together over the beat it gets louder. The whole thing is overwhelming, elastic and drums sway into being spacious and interesting, clear sax jazz interludes cut in on top, they are short and focused and then are released to join the noise as it gets louder then ebbs and falls away.
Three excellent performances and as I drive home my head feels stuffed full of sound.
Wolf Eyes

Wild Rani

Nicholas Bullen

Wolf Eyes website is www.wolfeyes.net, they have a Bandcamp page and can be found on Facebook.

Nicholas Bullen’s website is nicholasbullen.com.

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

Adrian Bloxham

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