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PREVIEW: Bring To Light
Nancy Bennie , October 25th, 2013 14:42

Nancy Bennie introduces the Supersonic organisers' new event, taking place this weekend, and offers festival-goers a few tips for what to do with their time in Birmingham. Photograph courtesy of Cat Stevens

For the last couple of years, October has meant much more to some people than paedophilic Halloween costumes and scoring Haribo Tangfastics, delicious as they are. It has been the month of Birmingham’s Supersonic Festival, probably the most intelligently-curated and uncompromising UK knees-up around, boasting distros, brutality and carrot cake.

This year, however, things are a little different. The bounty that is Supersonic returns next year and this weekend they present Bring To Light, a mini-Supersonic of sorts, the majority of which takes place in the brand spanking new Library of Birmingham; a colossal decepticon of a building that appears to be covered in huge rings of barbed wire. But don’t go thinking that because Bring To Light is of smaller scale and enclosed in a bookworm’s wildest wet dream it’ll be light on their usual dollops of aneurysm-doom and bearded lunacy. Industrial ear plugs at the ready...

Shangaan Electro

Brought to the masses from the street parties of Soweto by head honcho and portly hypeman Nozinja (above), Shangaan Electro is a modern reinvention of the Shangaan tribe’s traditions with surprisingly fresh-sounding MIDI marimbas and tom-fills, not dissimilar to what you’d hear on a proto-Crash Bandicoot platformer, but played at 189 bpm. This is not some slapdash afro-beat chiptune makeover, it is a dizzifying, hyper-fast dance phenomenon, brought to life by performers, handpicked by Nozinja, who "feel like they have got no bones" and look like any remaining bones they do have must be broken in several places (whilst wearing an orange boiler suit and semi-scary clown mask). As well as closing Friday’s night proceedings, there will be a free workshop open to all who want to learn the jittering jigs for themselves.

Richard Dawson

Following the release of The Glass Trunk earlier this year, the bewildering Richard Dawson has turned any notion of 'traditional folk storytelling' on its head and stuck it to the floor with super-strength glue like Mr. and Mrs. Twit. He will undoubtedly win affections with his flawless comedy routine that’s superior to most putzes packing the arenas of the UK, and an a cappella vocal that ranges from foghorn powerblasts to Princely high notes. He bashes throughout a physically small but gigantically chiming guitar which is just the right kind of broken-sounding, and simultaneously closes in on his himself that’s part-exorcism, part-headbang. If little else, his rendition of 'Poor Old Horse' will certainly trump Ted and Dougal’s infamous Eurovision number as your favourite equine-related song.

Josephine Foster

The amazing team behind Supersonic are expertly adept at neutralising their molten noise with soothing folk-noir soundscapes that gently massage the cochlea and, this year, Coloradan oscine and multi-instrumentalist Josephine Foster is no exception. Such stripped-back and gently-trodden folklore could be, in the wrong hands, annoyingly twee. Fret not though, as Foster’s distinct vocals are much more akin to a vibrating melody-drill from the eighteenth century, than a penny whistle-playing member of The Corrs. Her haunting and emotionally intimate chanties are reminiscent of Nina Nastasia, but with added flamenco poetry, gothic childhood japes and pumpernickel. Fresh from a recent glut of shows opening for Swans, and her new record I’m A Dreamer out next month, the former funeral singer’s stinging soprano will mesmerise and unsettle in equal measure.

Brain Pulse Music

Supersonic has always represented the unique and beautifully batshit artists of Japan with unrestraint, from Merzbow and KK Null to Nisennenmondai in the past. Joining the bill this weekend is Masaki Batoh, previously of psychedelic nomads Ghost, and his Brain Pulse Music. Literally utilising beats per minute of the brain transmitted from actual heads, Batoh weaves mind waves into cerebral bleeps to commemorate those lost in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Wearing a contraption that looks fitting for a Rick Moranis family adventure film set in space, Batoh’s machine blurs the boundaries between science and sound, reflecting the uncontrollable mental state laid bare. His other requiem improvisations are more traditionally Eastern acoustic pieces that complement the clinical harshness of the bpm. (For those interested in the bio-electric output of their own brain, Batoh’s Brain Pulse Music Machine can be purchased online for $699.99).

Laurence Hunt

Percussionist Laurence Hunt is involved with not one, but two Birmingham-based collectives of bonkers aural experimentation: Pram (terrifying, Victorian-era pop) and Modified Toy Orchestra (robot operas played on keyboards for six year olds). With that already on his CV, his solo drumming is an unmissable prospect having previously dabbled in ancient-looking electronic devices which distort and pitch-shift his kit, violin bows for drum sticks, and single-handedly replicating a xylophone with small glass bowls (whist drumming). Imagine a slowed-down Chris Corsano going a bit mental in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop. As we like to say in Birmingham, it’ll be ‘bostin’.

Finally, tQ’s John Doran once likened Deafheaven to “elk in sunset metal” but I will be checking out this post-Postman-Pat-not-really-black-metal group because I really liked Mogwai when I was 15 and nostalgia is fun. If you have a spare moment why not visit the small, but perfectly-formed, Milque & Muhle record store that has just opened in The Custard Factory, specialising in surreal horror soundtracks and Necro Deathmort. If it’s vegetarian sausages you’re after, look no further than The Warehouse Cafe on Allison Street. Nothing says metal like organic tofu.