Live report- The Grosvenor 14/11/11 [2011-11-21]On Monday 14th of November 2011 The Grosvenor in Stockwell London saw host to a night of mainly HNW bound noise, which featured in it’s line up the following: French extreme wall master Vomir. London’s horror fed HWN profit Unearthed. Atmospheric, progressive and deeply nilistic Irish HNW project A View From Nihil. British/ Irish two piece Harsh noise meets brutal electronica project S.A.F.E, and Uk noise jester Cementimental- whose seemingly dabbled in ever form of noise genre since the projects start in the early 00’s. Below you’ll find reviews of the event by Roger Batty (in blue) and by Lutheran Thanon (in red).
Opening this great evening of mainly Hash Noise wall is London based project Unearthed. Like many HNW projects this is a one man project, and the one man behind this project is London based Robert Meldrum who runs Spider tapes who have organized tonight’s great event. Meldrum is also behind horror bound Harsh noise & sinister ‘n’ caustic drone project Corpse Candle, and old movie sourced Harsh noise project Ghoul.
Unearthed is Meldrum’s horror based HNW project, and tonight’s set sees his first ever live appearance. Robert appears on stage soaked in a suitable ghoulish green light. He stands behind a table featuring a his line of pedals, and with out a word & the ‘wall’ kicks in. The ‘wall’ starts off been built around a deep, meaty, sinister and subterranean drone that has a catch static pulse riding over it’s top- to start with this static pulse brings to mind a fly stuck in a glass jar, but later it starts to sound more like a twitching & dying beetle stuck in a tin can. Over his twenty minute single track set Meldrum offers up a very appealing, yet subtle shifting & altering slice of walled noise- the two key elements stay in place through-out, but he slowly and atmospherically alters each element with wonderful subtle pedal control.
Following Unearthed we have a twenty minute set from another London based project Cementimental. This project has been around since the early 00’s, and has tried it hand at all manner of noise bound genres from: ugly synth feedback, sound collages, crunchy analogue noise scapes, circuit-bending meets instrumental to hip-hop, ambient weirdness, cod death metal, and lo-fi slugging doom punk.
Tonight the project have a 'go' at a mixture of HNW and building Harsh noise texturing ‘n’ shift. The projects tonight a one man band, though in the past I think the project has had more members. Once again this set features just a single twenty minute track, and it all starts off with a thick accelerated phone ringing like purr, which has been turned down a few notches. Underneath the constant loop there are these waves of noise currents that seem to get more prominent & noticeable as the track progresses. Ever so often these waves edge towards higher pitched noise burns, but mostly they stay fairly mid-range but active in there feel. Towards the end of the track the projects one & only member, who looks a little like a young Geddy Lee of Rush fame, appears from behind his table of pedals with a metal comb that’s linked up to his equipment….firstly he attacks a Michael Flatly book, then random objects and lastly his long hair. This 'comb' action creates some quite effective Merzbow like trail blazing like noise pitchers. This set was certainly amusing and active, but for me I felt it was a little too active & a bit too harsh noise bound for my liking, I also felt it was sad that cementimental didn’t have the patience to let the 'wall' hang around untouched for any length of time.
Next up is S.A.F.E who are a English/Irish male two piece who make dense harsh noise with a few dwells in 'walled' textures, & some buried groove like moments. Their set starts off as a sudden tunnel of thick noise texture that’s scraped & ripped by sudden raisers of high pitch sound. To start with one member is pressing a microphone to his mouth- creating more textures to pile on the dense mesh of noise instead of vocals. The other member is manipulating pedals and putting cds of field recordings into small cd players to manipulate their textures too - both elements add to the thickness of the sound. As the set goes on both members focus more on pedals, field recording cds, and other electronic equipment. And it’s during this part of their set they create a dense cage of sound which ever so often swims with groove based textures that go from locked mantras onto to bouncing, stuck & fried beats structures. But for all the beat bound/ groove elements the noise textures still very much remain in place. The single morphing track lasted around the twenty minute mark, and all told it's an enjoyable take on Hash noise taking in buried and brutal electronica textures, and manipulated field recordings.
Taking to the stage next in complete darkness is A View From Nihil- this again is another one man project featuring Irishman living in Scotland Andrew McQuaid. Andrew sits hunched behind his laptop on the floor and unfolds a near on thirty minute set, which is clearly one of the highlights of tonight’s concert. Just like Unearthered this is the first time the project has performed live.
The sets single mophing track starts off as a rich galloping 'n' roasting ‘wall’ of noise. As time ticks on McQuaid adds in this great darting tunnel drone that keeps flirting at the edges of the ‘wall’ - this tunnel element buildings up power and range before once more slipping away again; this part of the track is truly spell binding & it sucked me deeper and deeper into the ‘wall’. As the track progresses McQuaid effortlessly moves through a series of subtlety morphing changes- firstly the ‘wall’ becomes battering and sped-up rain like in it’s feel, then the tracks focus moves towards more bass gut level hinting frequencies and drones. The track settles down on this meaty throb which feels like a mixture between HNW and blacked crusty metal drones that hint of doom, blacked metal and slight crusty punk edges. The last quarter of the track moves even deeper into drone territory as McQuaid creates this huge earth moving bass drone that’s drilling ‘n’ slowly slicing through a land scape of static sounding rock. By the end of the set you feel like you’ve been on a epic, blacked and noisy journey that’s taken you through a mixture of HNW, ultra grim drone matter, and nasty blacked bass bound battering’s.
The hour is getting late and the patrons of The Grosvenor pub have now been witness to over two hours of brutal noise punishment. But despite the fatigue the audience displays a palpable sense of expectation as a man in a tweed jacket circulates among them handing out black plastic bags. The bags are accompanied by a small note: “Please feel free to place the plastic bag over your head for complete immersion in Harsh Noise Wall sound, to separate yourself from everything else but the noise.” We are approaching Vomir.
This unassuming build-up that operates without the use of props or the laying out of elaborate equipment is nevertheless effective in focussing the attention of the whole room on the smallest motions of the man in tweed. Once on stage he steadies himself just beyond the speaker stack, and taking stock of his position places the last of the black bags over his own head. After a few short seconds in which those assembled round the stage hold their breath the wall erupts and the venue is transformed from a dimly lit backroom in a secluded South London pub into a vortex of transgressive audio force.
Despite the density and volume of the sound it’s clear that this wall is constructed from a harsher set of sources than Vomir’s previous visit to South London. As you sit in the dark auditory objects begin to emerge: the splintering of wood, crushing of masonry and huge surges of water all recalling the demolition witnessed by amateur cameras as the Japanese earthquake tore through the land and unleashed the sea. These are just some of the images that emerge from the dark in the total emersion of the black bag. I couldn’t tell you precisely how long the set lasted. Your sense of time is thoroughly dislocated in the face of Vomir’s wall. In that regard there is a curious comparison with his work and that of Morton Feldman. Another master of the suspension of temporality Feldman’s repetitive minimalism and tapestries of micro tonality seem a world away from the brute force of the Wall, but they both have the effect of drawing in the listener and pulling them out of the everyday modalities of conventional musical structure; in the life of the mind time itself begins to stretch out to infinity.
Most people in the room have availed themselves of a black plastic bag, and it makes a curious sight; part exorcism, part masochistic ritual, despite the shared space the experience of Vomir is highly personal. The injunction to dive within, as David Lynch might put it, is not one that is conducted at the behest of a triumphal rock star or posturing diva, it’s a solipsistic pursuit that requires space and time. Vomir’s pure approach to sonic abrasion testifies to the fact that today finding just such space to dive within is itself a difficult task. By purifying his sound of all sentiment and artifice, by pushing the listener even deeper into the void by use of the bags, he opens up a world in which you alone are the existent object of contemplation. Vomir offers a Wall through which to break down those of your own, to emerge perhaps dazed, or perhaps a little more purified than before.
When the speakers fall silent the back room in grimy South London appears again, the room begins to empty, the man in the tweed jacket removes the bag from his head, and casually steps down from the stage.