Damn & Blast! Supersonic Festival 2011 Reviewed

The Quietus goes to Birmingham and only a bit of our brains come back, thankfully carrying these words on Turbonegro, Cut Hands, Barn Owl, Electric Wizard, Envy, Byetone, Scorn and more more more. Words by Manish Agarwal, John Doran, Rory Gibb, David Moats, Luke Turner & Adam Anonymous. Photos thanks to Shot2bits.net

All photos courtesy of Greg Neate and Katja Ogrin/Shot2bits.net

A paranoid type might surmise that Supersonic organisers Lisa and Jenny constantly twiddle and fiddle with the layout of their festival, now in its ninth year, to disturb the minds of their attendees even before the music has begun. For example, the deep pit stage where last year Factory Floor played a Sunday teatime knees up is, in 2011, a water-filled pool. A new stage is accessed via a bridge, topped with razor wire, over a deep trench down which a sad, litter-strewn river flows. One wonders when it last knew fish, fowl, or o’erhanging foliage. But Birmingham is a muddle too, boarded up Victorian warehouse stock a launching point for pigeons to hop to ill-thought out 60s developments, or the hideous squat silver slug of the Bullring.

It all makes it an apt place for Supersonic, where once again the Festival proves itself to be one of the most enjoyably diverse you’re ever likely to attend in this world, another world, or the next – fiery or milk & honey locales. Take Sunday night, for example, where our evening consists of a talk by Cut Hands, Vice’s Guide To Liberia film, the hairy desert riffs of Barn Owl, some great quotes in John Doran’s Q&A with Tony Conrad ("I figured I was going to flip Pythagoras over on his back and skewer him"), German precision engineering from Alva Noto and Byetone, before Turbonegro round everything off with a blistering set featuring their new frontman, friend of the Quietus Tony Sylvester. Needless to say, a fine time is had by all, accounts of which can be found below…



DJ Scotch Egg – Boxxed, 23:20

Computer games and YouTube harvesting have a strange potency right now, taking people back to a mush they imagine was better than the present. Scotch Egg, though, uses old tech in a defiantly non-smug assault on such complacency. In his hands, a Nintendo Game Boy is no ironic talisman but a weapon, its inherent brute simplicity – blocks of data, grey scale electronic signals – whipped and whirled by Shige as if he were a dodgem maestro. Scream if you want to go faster! Oh yes, we do… Luke Turner

Cloaks – Boxxed, 12.30 – 01.20

Once, after a night spent listening to Throbbing Gristle, I had a vivid dream about an Orwellian near future government who had become very proficient at legalizing against rave. They built upon the framework laid down by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 by working out a computer virus that would infect and close down all drum machines, samplers and sequencers used to create repetitive beats. The virus even contained an algorithm for thwarting rascals like Autechre and their non-repetitious dance beats. But this in turn lead to a new music called Flow; a heavy electronic distorted techno pulse that had no beats whatsoever. This pops into my mind unbidden at the start of Cloaks’ amazing if too quiet set. Layers of static build up with throbbing spasms of bass; this is dance music stripped of all functional rhythm and melody; only an unrelenting pulse remains. Cloaks is Steve Harris and Carl Jordan making something that could be called dubstep, but then it could also be called industrial techno or a chopped and screwed Speedy J falling into the very maw of Hell. There are beats of course, but they are hidden in sheets of stained glass static and they are secondary to the impervious dread and sway. John Doran

Scorn – Boxxed, 01.30 – 02.30

More should be made of Napalm Death. It seems weird that it’s taken until Capsule’s recent Home Of Metal project to draw mainstream attention to the group in the form of art shows, university lectures, museum exhibitions and the like. But as well as this interest there should be a 40ft tall brass statue of Napalm Death, perhaps leaning against the wall of the Bullring, smoking massive brass cigarettes. Because you can bet your bottom dollar that if they had been American we’d never have heard the end of it. But if you add up the influence of not just Napalm Death but of Godflesh, Jesu, Techno Animal, Cathedral, Rise Above Records, Head Of David, Painkiller, Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine and Scorn, then you are left with arguably the most ‘important’ leftfield or extreme band of the last 25-years.

Scorn has primarily been the solo dance project of Mick Harris for nearly two decades, creating proto-dubstep over a decade before that genre had been given a name. While this is stiff, asexual, oppressive and aptly named it is still a joy to dance to and contains unbelievable heaviness that happens without having to resort to fairground bass drops a la Skrillex. It’s one of Supersonic’s best shows to date and is only made all the more intense by Chris Plant’s hypnotic visuals, which are part Orwellian future broadcast, part Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and part unpleasant psychedelic mishap. Harris is a master of delayed gratification and dishes out relief to his audience exactly when they need it rather than when they want it. In the final forty minutes of his mammoth set he starts dropping in gnarly, hardcore rave noise via decks and samplers, and he even manages to end on the theme music to Trailer Park Boys as heard through a Leyland James Kirby filter without sounding daft. Get him back next year! John Doran

Part Chimp – Space 2, 22.20

London’s loudest rock band of the past decade unite grizzled diehards and curious onlookers alike with fresh meat from their most recent Thriller opus – ‘Trad’s faux stoner groove imagines Kyuss bred on pints of mild and drizzle, rather than bong hits and desert sunshine – and still underappreciated deep cuts such as the lumbering ‘Iron Pond’ (roughly, a power ballad wrought by Godzilla). Resembling a demented young Alfred Molina in tartan scarf and blue prison jacket, frontman Tim Cedar breaks string after string as he and fellow guitar-strangler Iain Hinchliffe conjure a gale force rusted-riff blizzard, casually threaded through with brilliant slivers of melody. Anchored by rhythm section Jon Hamilton and Joe McLaughlin’s wrecking ball swing, ‘The Watcher’s valedictory tube amp din takes on a poignant aspect, its slack jawed "This is the end now!" refrain signposting the imminent amicable break-up of Camberwell’s finest. Manish Agarwal



$100 and a T-shirt – Theatre Space, 17:30

Saturday afternoon, while nursing, a hangover we check out a doc about "zine" culture, $100 and a T-shirt. Appropriately enough for a film about this photocopied and stapled DIY art form, the doc is lovingly cobbled together from different types of video and haphazardly strewn with subtitles and text. It mainly focuses on the political and confessional strands of zines and the interesting characters and communities who produce them. In a typically interesting Supersonic panel discussion hosted by Quietus writer Frances Morgan, we hear about the politics of archiving zines and whether fetishising them might rob them of some of their potency. Napalm Death founder Nic Bullen talks about making political / music zines at the tender age of 12 and how it offered him a way into the music scene. Current zine maker Alex Zamora talkes about the current tension between political zines and the rise of graphic design focused production as well as the growing role the internet can now play in the culture. Archivist Charlie Woolley treats us to a slide show of political zine covers, some of whose slogans could almost refer to our current post financial crash world. David Moats

Teeth Of The Sea – Space 2, 17:00

Teeth Of The Sea are the mustachioed sonic love child of Delia Derbyshire and Ming The Merciless, proof that experimental derring-do and imperial pop style need not be mutually exclusive. Check the molten squeals of gizmo ecstasy electronics man Mike Bourne creams out of his FX boxes for Hypnoticon Viva’s clarion call fanfare, or the clenched-fist fret spray winkle pickered Flying V slinger Jimmy Martin hurls to ignite ‘You’re Mercury’. One can just picture dear departed Freddie humming the latter’s star-swept coda as he rinses the dwarves’ head-bowls. Sam Barton’s plangent trumpet motif through ‘Swear Blind The Alsatian’s Melting’ rescores Sketches Of Spain as a spaghetti western shoot-out. Filmic bona are fides reasserted by animated percussionist Matt Colegate turning microphone manipulator to warp the Paris, Texas dialogue-sampling tumult of ‘Red Soil’. As a capacity teatime crowd cheer the dramatic pauses and prog-disco contours in sci-fi finale ‘A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.’, it feels like a rubicon has been crossed: surely these sui generis thrill shapers can’t remain underdogs much longer? Manish Agarwal

Bardo Pond – Space 2, 18:45

Compared to the previous evening’s stern, brain-tinglingly artificial talking-to from Cloaks and Scorn, Bardo Pond on Saturday offer a wholly natural sort of health boost. In contrast to the scorched earth approach taken by many of the bands surrounding them on the bill, the Philadelphia ensemble’s set bathes Space 2 in positive energy. The riffs, when they arrive, are just as towering, but they’re warm, grounded and holistic; you can practically taste the antioxidants in the air. The group’s earth child manner helps – it’s hard to complain too much about sore legs and a scooped-out head when they’re soothed by music that sounds so wholesome. For the heavier portions of Bardo’s set, Isobel Sollenberger’s breathy vocals and flute appear to hang in space above the rest of the music, but their set is most involving when they drop into longer, sun-dappled psych jams. Lovely, and just what your complementary health practitioner ordered. Rory Gibb

Wolves In The Throne Room – Space 2, 20:30

Given that for much of the weekend Space 2’s sound does a good job of battering the audience into submission, it’s a surprise that, for the first half of their set at least, Wolves In The Throne Room sound a little thin and reedy. For a band that deals in such thematically and sonically overwhelming music, that’s a slight setback from the off: set opener ‘Thuja Magus Imperium’, from excellent new album Celestial Lineage, strikes slightly hollow compared to its recorded counterpart. There’s no shortage of atmosphere, mind – Nathan and Aaron Weaver stalk the front of the stage, bathed in a wash of cool blue light, and the skeletal tree drapes that surround them tie their performance very directly to the ideas of earth that inform their music. Towards the set’s second half, though, the volume and depth of the sound that pours from the stage begins to match its dramatic setting. Though it stops short of completely swallowing up the audience (a trick at which their albums are beautifully adept), Wolves’ performance retains their most compelling trait: an innate ability to make ostensibly harsh, unforgiving textures sound hopeful, human and resonant.Rory Gibb

The Furies – Kindle Theatre Company

After plenty of theatrical rock, we decide to head to the Midlands Art Centre to check out some rock-inspired-theatre. A thundering drum beat leads us into a minimal standing venue made to feel like a gig, complete with smoke machine and fake roadies and beer in plastic cups. In near darkness, three voices seem to come from all directions before materialising into slinky shadows that glide through the crowd. The three girls, dressed in sexy but disturbing outfits straight out of a Ken Russell hallucination, re-tell the rape, murder and revenge tale of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra through by turns funny and scary songs. With a live backing band, they recall PJ Harvey with maybe a dose of glam and opera. There is no stage vs audience boundary and the performers constantly herd, harass and seduce the crowd like female Fad Gadgets off the leash. There’s a sense that anything could happen. This kind of devised performance hinges on the actors maintaining the intensity throughout: but even when they’re grabbing you by the collar and singing in your face they don’t flinch… though you might. David Moats

Pharaoh Overlord – Boxxed, 21:45

It’s hard to explain to people what’s going on with the Finnish Krautrock/NWOBHM/space rock obsessives Circle and their offshoot band Pharaoh Overlord. Indeed, people can come away from watching them either bewildered or disappointed. When watching either band (there is a third called Pharaoh Overlörd but they are not here today, or rather they are but they aren’t playing, if you see what I mean) it is simply best if you prepare yourself for Judas Priest riffs, Neu! rhythms and Hawkwind grooves; or any imaginable combination of aspects from those bands. I hope those who were disappointed with Circle’s heavy metal heavy set made time to see PO, who were on fire in the small Boxxed room, climaxing with a 20 minute song that had one, rapidly deployed chord, like an amphetamine-chugging Wooden Shjips or an adrenaline-sodden Harmonia. The great thing about all the Circle family is that they are such superb musicians that they can afford to be very good fun and even funny without sacrificing a single serious groove. John Doran

Electric Wizard – Space 2, 22:15

As much a Dorset institution as Thomas Hardy or blue vinney cheese, Electric Wizard are remarkably fit for purpose after 18 years and myriad personnel changes: one wag notes their "Sugababes-esque" revolving door policy toward bassists and drummers. The latest pair acquit themselves with aplomb, carving out monumental slabs of bottom end over which devilishly whiskered leader Jus Oborn and long-term guitarist Liz Buckingham wield the psychedelically distressing riffage and Grand Guignol themes of ‘Black Mass’ and ‘Satanic Rites Of Drugula’. Doom purists might sniff about the vocal-friendly tunefulness of these recent numbers (committed to wax by Toe Rag garage nabob Liam Watson), but their behemoth biker-metal swagger fits the group’s vintage horror aesthetic like Christopher Lee swigging claret at a blood sacrifice weekender, while ye olde bong-rattling chestnut ‘Dopethrone’ simply brooks no argument. Manish Agarwal

Alexander Tucker – Theatre Space, 23:00

After queueing outside the packed theatre venue, we finally grab a seat for Alexander Tucker’s visual rendering of his Dorwytch album. Wearing his famous full body ‘Yeti’ costume, complete with glowing LED eyes, Tucker looks kind of like a fuzzy Cthulhu. It’s a genuinely unnerving get up especially in the dim lighting and close quarters of the theatre, though the illusion is lost slightly when one of the LEDs begins to short out – as if the Yeti were winking. His music is built out of rising drones and layered samples, and the very spiritual vocal parts seem to bubble up out of the deluge. The tiny, seated theatre space also allows for really deep silences, which Tucker uses to great effect. The evocative shifting and cycling visuals certainly complement his performance, though with eyes closed the transporting music needs little assistance in conjuring up images. David Moats

The Skull Defekts – Boxxed, 12:30

Sunday’s double dose of pummelling Raster-Noton techno aside, The Skull Defekts command one of the weekend’s largest and most foot-shuffling crowds in Boxxed. A notable absentee is ex-Lungfish beard wearer extraordinaire Daniel Higgs, frontman on the Swedes’ masterful recent album Peer Amid (if anybody figured out which of the multiple readings of that title is correct, please do let us know). No matter, though: the lack of bewhiskered brilliance is ably compensated by respective between-song deadpan humour from six-stringers Joachim Nordwall (beard, bald head) and Daniel Fagerstroem (endearing sarcasm, nice shoes). The majority of an electrifying set vaguely answers the question ‘What if The Teardrop Explodes were raised wild on unforgiving tundra?’ Except for album standout ‘No More Always’, which motors along in a manner suggesting Queens Of The Stone Age navigating a golden autobahn to Krautrock heaven. To wit: awesome. Adam Anonymous

Monarch – Boxxed, 12:30

Gone midnight and it’s most definitely witching hour in the Boxxed space. Specifically, Burning Witch hour. In much the same way that half the journalistic reactions to Rolo Tomassi involve combinations of the words ‘surprising’, ‘growl’ and ‘for a girl’, it would be easy to reduce French doom royalty Monarch to a lazy caricature. Except this evening the hellish tones flying from their doubled over leader Emilie – aka Eurogirl (got to love the Turbonegro nod) – are equal to any troubled soul abusing a mic in 2011. The set’s brevity only adds to its impact, Emilie crashing us back to reality after a truly cacophonous conclusion by thanking everybody for coming in the sweetest Gallic trill you’ve ever heard. Mighty, and mighty well mannered with it. Adam Anonymous



William Bennett/The Vice Guide To Liberia – Theatre Space, 17:00

While it was interesting and instructive watching William Bennett of Cut Hands and Whitehouse talking in the Theatre Space, he has carefully constructed a personal philosophy which means that anyone who listens to his provocative work has to take a lot of things on trust. His entire stance on art can be handily summarised as, ‘Why? Because…’ Much more satisfying was the VICE Guide To Liberia. I won’t say more enjoyable because that is most certainly not what it is. By the time you get to seeing a child in a Man Utd top chasing the dragon and talking about raping "a big belly woman" you’ll be filled with equal amounts rage and disgust. But only an idiot would direct this at the people who made this amazing film. I have no idea what motivated directors Shane Smith and Andy Capper and to be fair it doesn’t really matter. It opens, as you’d expect, with a high-octane montage of graphic violence, children firing automatic weapons and references to cannibalism, prostitution, cross dressing, drug addiction and AIDS. As with any top tier documentary however, what you think you are getting and what you receive are two different things entirely. They deflate the Heart Of Darkness comparisons early on and give a rapid fire history of America’s only example of colonialism in Africa, through post war modernisation, liberalism and stability which was then destroyed by a US backed military coup, leading to decades of fierce civil war fought along tribal lines.

The war may have ended in 2005 but we see in visceral terms just what it means to have a country where over 80% of the population live under the poverty line. Scenes of beaches covered with human faeces, streets running with piss, people living in towns that resemble garbage dumps, graveyards that have been emptied of bodies by people wanting to sleep there… it is a literal vision of Hell on Earth. The film makers’ main aim is to track down the former warlords who brought death to their people in unimaginable numbers. Once operating under such names as General Rambo, General Bin Laden and General Mosquito Spray, they now cut incongruous figures. One however refuses to keep his head down, General Butt Naked, who used to lead his child soldiers into war naked after smoking drugs and drinking human blood because they believed it made them impervious to bullets, is now a Christian minister called Joshua. As he preaches to his congregation he calls Smith up to address his flock. Smith subsequently comes to a realisation of what might happen when the UN forces leave Liberia (something that is happening now). When the director is on his way to a hellish looking brothel he asks if all the prostitutes are drug addicts, his guide grins sheepishly and says that they must call them "sex workers". In this context, the politically correct euphemism is disgusting.

It is understandable why people need to think in a euphemistic way about Africa but it is this kind of thinking that leads to Live8, a sickening act of self-absorption claiming to raise ‘consciousness’ about the continent despite not educating about it, discussing it or even featuring any music from it. The Vice Guide To Liberia is the exact opposite; thrusting the facts of this grotesque situation that we allowed to happen, straight in our faces. It is a typically subconscious form of racism to think of Africa in terms of the dim and distant past. However, in Geopolitical terms Africa represents a probable future for Europeans and Americans; a fact we should start paying more attention to.John Doran

Drum Eyes – Boxxed, 17:15

The usual idiot:rock festival fan ratio dwindles to almost imperceptible levels at Supersonic, such is the right-on people-we’d-like-to-meet content in the assembled throngs. We make a case for the moron column, however, by gawping at five minutes of Barn Owl’s dry ice enshrouded reverberations before realising we’re actually in the wrong space of the slightly confusingly reshaped Custard Factory. Once sheepishly re-situated in the Boxxed arena, our favourite Anglo-Japanese troupe, Drum Eyes, are in full flow. Their de facto leader, Shige ‘DJ Scotch Egg’ Ishihara, summons spirits of bass monsters past to propel the whole noise onward with deeper-than-hell frequencies. Twin percussion smashes the mid-evening air with little respect your stereocilia, while Ishihara’s better half Kathy takes the ‘he’ out of ethereal with intonations that don’t so much cut through the buzzing momentum as scythe into your very waking consciousness. Which is, frankly, more than we can say about Barn Owl. Adam Anonymous

Barn Owl – Space 2, 17:15

With energies generally on the wane, it’s hard to fault the choice of Barn Owl for Sunday early evening. Stood on either side of the stage, backlit for dramatic effect, the duo’s set is formless in the most pleasant way imaginable. It’s essentially an hour long squall of melodic guitar fuzz that repeatedly swells in volume before retreating into the distance again. Like Bardo Pond at a similar time the previous day, there’s something very necessary about warm, earthy interludes between the onslaught of heavier music, and when their set drops down to near silence it’s a welcome respite. Though at a festival where seating is at a premium and legs are aching, it’s hard not to feel that the experience would be greatly enhanced by an armchair. Rory Gibb

Cut Hands – The Old Library, 19:00

As John Doran points out above, William Bennett is a master at accepting while abdicating responsibility for his art and its consequences. And it’s clear that some present are uncomfortable with the imagery and footage displayed behind him on the screens as he plays – the silhouette of a gyrating, naked woman, and African soldiers in Colonial dress greeting the Queen in an elaborate ceremony, set in direct contrast to footage of a voodoo ceremony that sees men foaming at the mouth, skinning a dog, and eating its brains. It is bracing stuff, but Bennett’s devotion to and respect for the music of Africa (as expressed in our interview by Rory Gibb) suggests that if Bennett is making a point with this imagery, it’s to celebrate indigenous culture and attack our notions of it as primitive. Musically, Cut Hands is one of the most enervating performances of the weekend. The beats rattle and clatter around the Old Library with crisp, glacial precision, the rhythms rolling forth, wave after wave, inexorable. It is a bit of a shame that he’s playing so early: later on, in a darker venue, chaos would have ensued. This is music that commands. Luke Turner

Envy – Space 2, 20:45

Anybody else that witnessed Japanese leviathans Corrupted lay waste to these very walls at Supersonic two years previous might similarly find enjoyment reduced to notions that Envy are an equivalent outfit to suit those with less fortitude. Corrupted for post-rock wimps, if you will. That’s a little unkind to the Tokyo quintet, though, not least as Envy’s veteran status means predating said countrymen by a year or two. A bigger obstacle is that Space 2 never quite lifts the volume levels to those required for Envy’s victorious peaks. Their quiet instrumental passages consistently fail to demonstrate more than supreme competence. But when cap-clad vocalist Tetsuya Fukagawa launches himself into unashamedly cathartic howls that mark the pinnacles of almost every track, barely controlling his unhinged emotions while clasping his mic desperately, Envy are a cyclone of hair-prickling intensity. Adam Anonymous

Silver Apples – Boxxed, 20:15

Silver Apples’ music from so long ago brought into the now is simultaneously a welcome balm and perplexing to minds that have been pedalling hard since Friday night. It still seems remarkable that the roots of this thoughtful electronic music are so old, when it still sounds so next Tuesday. Even the bizarre visuals – rolling fruit, orange ducks, winged demons, the odd snail – can’t detract from this. That’s because – faulty and admonished oscillator and all – Silver Apples are/is unpolished, here and there, still experimentation, remaining a work in progress. As all the best things ought be. Luke Turner

Alva Noto / Byetone – Boxxed, 22:00

Most of the electronic music at Supersonic feels poised on a knife-edge between dancefloor bliss and noisy, chaotic collapse; DJ Scotch Egg on Friday falls defiantly into the latter category, while William Bennett’s Cut Hands carefully toes that line to exhilarating effect. Both Alva Noto and Byetone, however, lean more towards the former. Though just as punishing as you’d expect from a festival that leans towards the extreme, both understand the importance of restraint for a club audience. And the crowd in Boxxed does look more club-worthy than any other this weekend – it’s Sunday night and it would appear that many attendees have munched their remaining supplies for one last push.

Where much of Alva Noto’s new album Univrs is slightly too harsh and asymmetric for easy dancing, tonight he’s focused with nigh-on predatory intensity. His beat structures essentially recall techno, but stripped of most of their organic content they’re deliciously chemical, inducing rigid, staccato dancing. Mid-set, ‘Uni Acronym’ is the highlight of the entire weekend: over a gradually escalating industrial thrum, Anne-James Chaton reels off an alphabetical list of three-letter institution names in heavily accented deadpan. By the time he reaches ‘OMD’, it’s hard to imagine its brutal extended climax ever ending.

But end it does, and after an atmosphere-destroying ten minute break, Byetone plays to a much-reduced crowd. Where Noto’s tracks stretch the idea of techno into different shapes, Byetone strips it away to almost nothing. His reductionist approach plays havoc with the ability to dance, in an entirely enjoyable way. Four-to-the-floor kickdrums forsaken in favour of hanging, pregnant pauses between beats, most of the music’s forward propulsion is lost in favour of violent, thrashing stasis, pinning the crowd in place. The momentum slowly builds, and by the end of Byetone’s set rapid strobes usher in an unrelenting final five minutes that more convincingly evoke your stereotypical, drug-addled Skins notion of a ‘rave’ than any other dancefloor I’ve ever spent time on. Rory Gibb

Turbonegro – Space 2, 23:45

Introduced by sailor hatted bass general Happy-Tom as hailing "from the slums of Harrow", Oslo’s deathpunk demigods have a new singer in much-loved Fabric/The Dukes Of Nothing veteran and properly attired English gent Tony Sylvester. His manly growl (deeper and rougher than previous incumbent Hank von Helvete) perfectly suits the grime/glitter duality of homoerotic anthems ‘Denim Demon’ and ‘Prince Of The Rodeo’, which as ever are further enhanced by lipsticked axe hero Euroboy’s hot glam licks. There’s much quality banter, too, with ‘All My Friends Are Dead’ and ‘Gimme Some’ being respectfully dedicated to "the true standard bearers of Birmingham music" and "a man who did his best to bring people and technology together" (that’s UB40 and Colonel Gadaffi respectively). As several Turbojugend chapters from around the globe – Kent, Stoke On Trent, Loughton, Theydon Bois – link arms and lay down pit justice for encore favourite ‘I Got Erection’, it’s clear that Supersonic 2011 could not have wished for a more joyous closing act. Manish Agarwal

White Hills – The Old Library

Although the lysergic heaviosity of Radiate and Dead’s cosmic howl certainly fit the bill, ‘space-rock’ feels too distant a term to describe White Hills. Boosted by new drummer Nick Name’s ebullient pounding, the sheer physicality in tonight’s hair-flinging, arched-back performance gives wah wah mantra ‘Oceans Of Sound’ and the turbo-charged ‘Glitter Glamour Atrocity’ a giddy, in-the-room presence. Their larger-than-life assault on the senses is accentuated by the colourful stagewear transforming founder members Ego Sensation (sequinned red strides, see-through bass) and Dave W (silver facepaint, wide-collared ’70s shirt). It’s likely the New York outfit will never headline arenas, but when they play you sense the stack-heeled gods that fuelled a million teenage dreams – Alice Cooper and KISS, refracted through Hawkwind and The Stooges – delivering supersized dynamics on a basement budget, saucer eyes shut and lost in the music. Manish Agarwal

Thanks to Shot2bits.net for the images

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