Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Hallowed Scrapings

I-Bar, Bournemouth

In Michael Reeves’ 1967 film The Sorcerers, Ian Ogilvy, as the representative of the arrogant, self-indulgent youth of Swinging London – following his French girlfriend around the beat dungeons of Chelsea and Kensington - is taken home one night by hypnotist Boris Karloff, portrayer of Frankenstein in James Whale’s original adaptation and scion to generations of horror fans. Placed in Karloff’s new machine, resembling an electric chair, he’s bombarded with a kaleidoscopic torrent of noise and light, analogue electronic whooshing and psychedelic flashes. Karloff and his wife, who resents the years of deprivation caused by the scandal that ended his psychiatric career, let him loose, leaving him with no memory of the event. Now able to control Ogilvy’s mind, the wife indulges her whim for fine furs, speeding and violence. When he visits his former lover, he listens to Cliff Richard's 'Out In The Country' on a Dansette, then proceeds to kill her with a pair of scissors, the soundtrack screaming for mercy. Almost a proper 180-turn on Jacques Attali’s theory of noise-as-the-political-economy-of-sound: the tinny-45 beat-group sound of the contemporary, swallowed and immolated by the noise of the old, the fragmenting signal of horror.

On a Thursday night, as the last of the summer revellers prepare to swarm the meat-market battery-clubs of Bournemouth, we’re down in the basement of I-Bar, probably the most clinical venue in town. Fridge Noises, their backs to the audience, rattle out a flow of click-beats interweaved with meandering electronic blasts and live bass. Their keyboardist – looking for all the world like a smaller version of Bournemouth’s own Chris Moss Acid – seems intent recreating the entire history of Krautrock synth arpeggios in one evening, the bassist hitting it at seemingly random intervals. Fuck, I’ll never fathom improvising. I have to plan tying my fucking shoes, for Christ’s sake. But they weave around the sparse beats with more expertise than their experience (and age) warrants, producing a head-nodding, synth-splurging mass of goodness.

With minimal set-up required, Animal Magic Tricks comes on. Frances Donelly’s entrancing Fisher Price meditations are given another shake-up, as she goes from singing literally over the pulses of a toy instrument to ‘Redox’, a tidal wash of noise topped by her wordless siren vocals, which build into terrifying screams before she turns the din down and produces a guitar, picking out the prettiest of melodies and vocalising over the continuing cracked-glass sound. It strikes me that her music is not so much about corruption – the naïf, twee elements of her performance blackened by the violence and cruelty of human relations – as damage, the gradual corrosion that occurs over a lifetime; the ambivalence of her work’s seemingly naïve warmth and beauty, tempered by the scouring cold of digital electronics and her damaged vocals lends a thrilling charge to proceedings, resolving in the hypnotic cadences of her final number, imagery of blood boiling reverberating in shimmering piano chords and burbling atmospheres.

Slate Caverns seems to know a thing or two about atmospheres: having apparently ditched the hip-hop beats he deployed the last time he was seen in these parts (at the #Forbidden Planet# David Lynch Special) instead carving out a slab of sound so heavy and unrelenting it could have been used to kill Catholics during the Reformation. A shifting mass of cavernous electronic throbs, punctuated by occasional blasts of feedback, peaking into teeth-grinding sonic pain, twists of feedback and glowering bass frequencies sounding like they might crack the speakers at any moment. Ah yes, this is exactly why I listened to noise in the first place; the only thing to add would be the spectacle of Dominic Fernow’s amp mutilation, but Slate Caverns’ marvellous beard almost compensates. Vocal samples flash across the surface: "Are. You. OK?" Damn right I am.

Sadistician, meanwhile, uses nothing but a trumpet, a mike and an antiquated computer – no laptop pussyfooting for him. With a mock metal-snarl, he starts the assault: a rollercoaster ride of every conceivable sound source – random arpeggios of jackhammer beats, caustic synth blasts, casual guitar shredding, even a sample from He-Man: Master Of The Universe, everything occasionally dropping out to leave deadpan chatting samples from TV talking heads, before accelerating back into the torrent. Imagine if IDM, instead of dying in the late ‘90s, "gorged on a thousand software patches", as Louis Pattison put it, but continued to grow like the sci-fi monster it should have been, to city-crushing proportions. Sadistician adds his own cookie-monster roar to the mix at intervals, the noise stretching far past what feels like the thirty-minute mark, then accelerating even faster, sounding like some monstrous hybrid of gabba and black metal. He’s finally encouraged to give up as Planet Monkey! starts trying to set up.

PM!’s brand of heavy-duty analogue sound-sculpting connects better in the frigid angles and severe surfaces of the I-Bar basement than the cosy Portman Green Room, where I last saw him play. It’s certainly clearer now what he seems to be after: the channelling of electricity, the manipulated impulses of silicon, into blocks of sound verging on the solid. Crouched over a host of equipment far behind the monitors, the Transformers cartoon playing in the background, the phrase ‘sonic sorcerer’ springs to mind – as with all of tonight’s acts. And whilst the music could use some more motion – or, at the very least, more volume – it’s still a powerful, alchemical effort. As he hops from the floor to the wheels of steel for a DJ set, most go out, into the night air. The efforts made to put together tonight’s show have definitely been worth it, and with the potential to become a regular night, this is beginning to look a singularly important event: a black hole of inspired heaviness situated right in downtown Bournemouth.


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