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A Guide To Supersonic 2022 By Noel Gardner
Noel Gardner , June 13th, 2022 08:44

It's now less than a month until Supersonic 2022; Noel Gardner, our punk, hardcore & new weird Britain correspondent, rounds up the ten new or newish acts he's most keen about watching


Now two decades old, Supersonic Festival is back once again with the cream of international extreme music. Running from 8 to 10 July in Birmingham, the headline acts include The Bug, Jerusalem In My Heart, Föllakzoid, Thou and BIG|BRAVE but as is customary, the focus is also on new, or relatively new talent as well.

More information can be found and tickets bought here.


Bristol MC and producer Grove has a handful of vocal credits dating back to the mid-2010s, before a glorious creative awakening that’s thus far yielded two EPs titled Queer + Black and Spice. Their past in or around somewhat more straight-laced pockets of club culture, before a radical left swerve, isn’t unique among the city’s weirder rave/noize creators. Grove’s music, or certainly the combined strands of its presentation – well, if deeming art “unique” is just setting the target up for a fall, I maintain there’s little to nothing else in the UK with quite this vibe.

There’s the sheer largeness of the production aesthetic, with its EDM-brash synth crunch, bloomer-flapping sub bass and choppy drums: you might catch flyby hints of ballroom house, modern dancehall, the PC Music continuum and, yes, Grove’s ever-fertile local scene (Yokel and Giant Swan’s Robin Stewart both have production credits on Spice). There’s the lyrics, which whether righteous or rude – “we tear Colston down to make history” versus “me want someting that ah guh touch up me cervix,” shall we say – consistently induce a “fuckin’ right” response assuming you feel emotions. And there’s the sense of freedom in Grove’s whole deal, a (self)-celebration of queerness and Blackness that does so on its own terms rather than the many predetermined ones.


Deep funk hypnosis-dub post punk workouts that fully epitomise the ‘tight but loose’ paradox thrown up by most of the greatest rhythmites. Holy Tongue debuted in summer 2020, members Al Wootton and Valentina Magaletti restless workers whose creative arcs had perhaps began a fair distance from the other – but who had, in that respect, moved inward over the years. Meanwhile, the project’s two 12" EPs (a more recent cassette release is a recording of one of Holy Tongue’s very few live shows to date) marks this music out as out: industrial weightlessness, towerblock brutalism in space.

Wootton has long exhibited a taste for dubby studio tricks, although for several years under his Deadboy alias it was more in the shouty quasi-dubstep/UK bass scheme of things: latterly, he’s taken a turn for the meditative. Magaletti, an Italian who’s been on the London scene for two decades, might be this island’s most thrilling and inventive percussionist. In Holy Tongue, they sound symbiotic – building animated skeletons from crisp snares and spring reverb, the drummer’s gifted playing elevated by the producer’s arsenal of ideas and vice versa. Live, they’re joined on bass by Susumu Mukai, also a bandmate of Magaletti’s in Vanishing Twin.


Tanya Byrne and Joe Rawlings formed Bismuth at a genre-evolutionary point for doom metal where the gambit of playing exceedingly slowly – unleashing riffs at the burdensome pace of a 19th-century soldier firing a flintlock rifle – felt like it had run its course. If anything, the duo have given the whole idea a new lease of life over the proceeding decade, with a series of releases evolving glacially but palpably, and revelling in the niceties of extreme tone and volume.

On the duo’s most recent album, 2018’s The Slow Dying Of The Great Barrier Reef, you have the naturalist/ecological concern of the LP title (Byrne has been studying volcanology for much of Bismuth’s existence); cleaner, almost dark ambient synths that incrementally sink into the silt of Byrne’s bass and Rawlings’ drums (a ‘rhythm section’ that, in the best way, offers very little of the sort); intense, low-register vocals from the bassist and a general affirmation that one can dispense with the bathwater of doom cliché without tipping away all the useful elements. (A Hymn Of Loss And Hope, a one-song, 40-minute transatlantic collaboration with previous tourmates Vile Creature, was surprise-released while I was writing this article.) As for Bismuth live, anticipate enough amps to sink a cruise liner and volume to rattle a spacestation. You could see it as Byrne reclaiming such things from prevailing macho tendencies, but I think it’s more that loud amps are just really good.


Like Bismuth, this foursome are a spawn of the oft-strong punk-into-noise DIY scene in Nottingham: prior to Bloody Head’s mid-2010s birth two of its lineup, Andrew Morgan and Henry Davies, played in Nadir alongside Tanya Byrne. As captured on two LPs – Freedom/Mobility/Speed on Morgan’s Viral Age label, followed by The Temple Pillars Dissolve Into The Clouds via the London-based Hominid Sounds – and a gaggle of tapes and 45s, Bloody Head, completed by Dave Bevan and Steve Larder, are about combating life’s deluge of bad times via crawling, clawing, lumbering dirgepunk muck. Humour, yes absolutely (seek out Bevan’s lyrics for confirmation), but deadly seriousness about this pursuit.

The rotten-minded rumble and pummel of BH’s first few releases have ancestry in the likes of Flipper, Black Flag’s My War and more obscure types such as Stickmen With Rayguns. Sometimes you might sense a bend toward British blues-rockers – think the Groundhogs – and there are phaser-tastic psych touches that get properly aired on Temple Pillars. It’s just as much of a nihilistic goof as before, but Morgan and Larder have a ball blasting into orbit Hawkwind/Terminal Cheesecake style. Oh yeah, killer live experience too.


The five years this London hardcore mob have existed, big pandemic-related missing scene notwithstanding, has given us a little under 20 minutes of their music as the time of writing. Nekra’s set at Supersonic will probably be about that length too. If your instinct here is to assume slothful activity or creative limitations, please recalibrate your standards before going any further!

Nails-hard, bellicose and unvarnished even by the standards of the capital city HC scene that spawned ‘em, Nekra sound like a hundred different micro-styles and none. Internationally collated, with members originating in Greece, Spain and the United States, dedicated spotters might identify this or that regional punk tendency in these buzzing bass tones, moshable breakdowns and mean-muggin’ riffs – but when all’s said and done, a lot of this is a thrill without borders, as it should be.

Frontwoman Spooky Runo is an uncomplicatedly great lyricist, putting abusers, energy vampires and other fuckers on blast, and has a voice to deliver that vitriol and then some. She and her three bandmates (Paula Darias, Alexandra Graves and Kaila Stone) have each done at least one other band you ought to hear, and are generally just what makes contemporary UK punk great.


London’s Charlotte Valentine has six years’ worth of music under their No Home alias on Bandcamp, much of it emotionally and/or musically gruelling. Fucking Hell, a cassette album released in summer 2020, is the clear watershed release for the project. Not by design – it was, indeed still is, described as a “younger sibling” of a preceding No Home EP, and was only released once Valentine had given up on finding it a label – but by some happenstance it garnered music press attention, and initiated opportunities including a guest feature on Sasami’s recent Squeeze album. And, for that matter, performing this extraordinary music at Supersonic.

Analogue format loyalty notwithstanding (Fucking Hell was also reissued on LP in 2021), No Home’s abstraction of emo-rock, synthpop and alt-r&b is a distinctly digital-era take on the lo-fi continuum. Some or all of it appears to have been recorded straight into a computer, and where home tapers of yore might have reckoned with layers of cassette fuzz, album opener ‘Burning The Body’ is characterised by these nasty clipping sounds: deal with it or do one. Lyrically speaking, Valentine’s imagery is not notably harrowing, but conveys its truth – that the small components of daily life can drag us down the hardest – with an incomparable outlook.


As Valentina Magaletti is to the drums, Rachel Aggs is to the guitar. That is to say, should someone ask me which resident of the British Isles is the best at playing them, those are my readymade answers. I doubt anyone would ask me, but you never know, and ideally would prefer ‘favourite’ over ‘best’ so as to eradicate the possibility of facile comparisons with death metal supershredders or whatever – but I digress. For unfettered tonal joy, innovation with a global ear and a commitment to making underground music diverse and inclusive, Aggs (a Londoner relocated to Glasgow in recent years) is a properly crucial presence.

Her playing style joins the dots between early 80s post punk jitter, austere no wave and the geographical and temporal span of West and Central African musical movements – highlife, most evidently, but a suitably inclined listener might pick out the celebratory rush of soukous or palm-wine music’s casual minimalism. Aggs has three concurrently running bands – Trash Kit, Shopping and Sacred Paws, all of whom last released an album shortly before the pandemic began – and self-released a solo cassette in 2020 in which her playing takes a slightly softer (maybe Young Marble Giants-esque) approach and is augmented by keyboards. Given its home-recorded nature, it’s not clear whether it’ll be any major harbinger of her Supersonic performance, but honestly, as an instrumentalist she’s a certified pleasure to listen to and watch.


Sludge metal doesn’t have to explicitly stand against white supremacy and colonialism to be good – I mean, if that were the criteria it’d have produced almost no worthwhile music – but when such a band emerges onto its arid plains, they feel deeply valuable. Such is the aura around Divide And Dissolve, a Melbourne duo whose existence is oppositional: their music is instrumental, save for occasional spoken word and poetry guest spots, but Takiaya Reed (guitar, sax) and Sylvie Nehill (drums) profess to be doing this with a view to chipping away at extant oppressive structures. Those present in ‘heavy music’, perhaps, but more likely those systems in the world at large.

The latest of Divide And Dissolve’s three albums, 2021’s Gas Lit, is an unorthodox sludge record with its absence of guitar and passages of ambient jazz atmosphere, but a transcendentally heavy one. Massively downtuned, arranged so the riffs drop anvil-like at the prime moment, and produced with a keener ear for this stuff than one might expect Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra to have, it’s an outré genre landmark. Intriguingly, the duo have claimed to be broadly indifferent to most other sludge metal, but play this way because it serves their needs. And so say all of us!


The opportunity to see free improvising bassist Farida Amadou deliver a solo performance is a rare one – at least in the context of her previous decade of musical creation, which has been predominantly a vehicle for collaboration. And some heavyweight heads in that history, too, the Brussels musician sparring live with Linda Sharrock, Ken Vandermark, Thurston Moore and (most recently) Peter Brötzmann – but a renewed focus on generating sound by herself has yielded some sterling results.

00:29:10:02, an hour of one-take performances released on her own 19 Mars label, finds Amadou tuning way down at points, other times getting a tickly, quasi-rhythmic skitter from her four given strings (she is also credited with playing “objects” on this one, and it does sound like there’s a prepared element to parts of what we hear). Rewards concentrated listening, certainly, although in a live context I’d anticipate the frying amp buzz to add some extra whack. Without a concrete notion of what this performance might entail, it’s worth flagging up Amadou’s desire to incorporate blues and hip hop elements into her practice, likewise her (sadly, seemingly) brief tenure in excitable Belgian noise rockers Cocaine Piss a few years back. I don’t imagine her set will much resemble them, but it reflects a willingness and ability to rock out.


Nine-strong at the last count and approximately located in London, Shovel Dance Collective bring what you might call an intersectional approach to the folk music tradition. A solid case could be made, albeit not in the limited space afforded me, for this having been inherent to folk long before the concept of intersectionality was coined. Either way, it’s highly valuable that the SDC can both reach deep into the archive of ballads, broadsides, jigs and reels from Britain and Ireland, and fold in “proto-feminist narratives and queer histories” without there being a suggestion that this runs counter to the trad.arr set’s sensibilities.

Utilising various stringed, brass and woodwind instruments, as well as the earthy drones of the shruti box and Irish folk perennial the bodhrán – plus the vocals of Mataio Austin Dean and Nick Granata – Shovel Dance Collective can rustle up a suitably communal alehouse vibe. Equally, Daniel Evans’ guitar playing and the innovations of Jacken Elswyth, on self-built banjo, lean into Takoma Records/American Primitive territory. Elswyth released SDC’s one physical item to date, a split tape with C Joynes, on her Betwixt & Between label in 2021; you can find it on Bandcamp alongside a digital compilation, Offcuts & Oddities, which in spite of its title hangs together more than ably.

More information on Supersonic 2022 here