I love Supersonic festival, and I've even put on my Supersonic festival t-shirt to write this Supersonic festival preview. You can guess how happy I was when the news broke that Capsule have returned from a year off doing various stuff that wasn't Supersonic festival with something that is Supersonic festival. 2014 brings a more streamlined affair than the usual sprawling four-festivals-in-one vibe they strived for in recent years, but that doesn't mean the line-up isn't as impressive as ever. Across the past ten years there's been some truly historic performances - Corrupted playing a rare date outside of Japan, Bohren & der Club of Gore playing a rare date at all, Thorr's Hammer reuniting for a one-off performance, Lash Frenzy laying waste to a warehouse full of fans, and one of Turbonegro's first live dates with new singer Tony Sylvester - every year something new and special happens. There's only 400 tickets available for the two day event, taking place at the Custard Factory in Birmingham, so consider yourself already perilously close to not getting a ticket. Best just close this page and book one, or two, or more, then come back and read this next bit in which I talk about the line-up.

Pharmakon: New York-born Margaret Chardiet has been making music as Pharmakon for five years. As a key member of the Red Light Collective she has been a key driving force in the experimental underground with her personal brand of power electronics. Fresh off last year's Abandon, Pharmakon's in the midst of a tour with such luminaries as Godflesh and The Haxan Cloak. She's a formidable force live, constantly striving to make ever more challenging and provocative work using both conventional instruments and devices of her own creation, which sit surprisingly well against her agonised, screaming vocals. She likens her performance to an exorcism and, as a pretty big fan of exorcisms, I and the people of Birmingham and the surrounding areas are excited to see what she'll get up to.

Felix Kubin: The utterly unique synthetic electronic pop of Felix Kubin is magical, bizarre, and just plain weird. He is a bringer of insane beats and half-broken disco, each song sounding like a German rave in a collapsing toy shop. He's been a pioneer of cult electronic music, melding an avantgarde approach with an irresistable pop sensibility, for over twenty years, first getting his start with noise outfit Klangkrieg before going on to release his debut solo album, Filmmusik, on his own Gagarin Records in 1998. He's also an engaging performer on the microphone, bring a magnetic presence to the stage and his various lectures, radio plays, and theatre productions. He is nothing if not memorable.

Matmos: Recent Thrill Jockey signings Matmos have been peddling their experimental brand of electronic music for nearly twenty years now now, gaining rave reviews and artistic acclaim in the process. They've collaborated with Bjork, Marina Abramovic, and have made a name for themselves with unusual samples of non-traditional sources including "freshly cut hair" and "the amplified neural activity of crayfish" on their self-titled debut, and "the snips, clicks, snaps, and squelches of various surgical procedures, then nipped and tucked them into seven remarkably accessible, melodic pieces of experimental techno" on A Chance to Cut is a Chance to Cure. Enough of the Wikipedia bollocks though - their experimentalism never feels academic or shoehorned into a track, nor is it ever towards any purpose other than servicing the track. So they're good, is what I'm saying. My personal favourite of theirs is The Rose has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast - it's sumptuous, decadent, but also fucked up. It sounds like the best bits of Portishead played backwards.

Sleaford Mods: Sleaford Mods are grime in the true sense of the word, as in dirty. Covered in dirt. They're raw, working class Nottingham chav hop making the most baldly political music since Crass. In fact, I'd be amazed if Crass wasn't a huge influence, so strong is their driving sense of rhythm and spastic drums. The Streets would be the obvious comparison to make to MC Jason Williamson's ranting free verse, but there's a bit of Jello Biafra in there too. He's great at reproducing the turns of phrase people use in day to day life and twisting them to acheive a further meaning. It's impressive. If ever you wanted an insider look at the realities of working class life in Cameron's Britain, Sleaford Mod's first vinyl LP Austerity Dogs will give you a comfortable wormhole to look through. It's urgent, it's immediate, and it's vital. It's now. They're worshipped by Wire Magazine, Uncut, and they're making waves across Europe, so get in on the ground floor. They played a storming set at Capsule's mini fest Bring To Light last year so there's no excuse really, unless you have other plans.

Basic House: Basic House are a K-pop band, but that Basic House is not this Basic House. This Basic House is Stephen Bishop, throat for transcendental sludgers Drunk In Hell and head of Opal Tapes, through which he releases his work as Basic House. At its mellowest I'd call it ambient-as-landslide, slowly shifting beats and garbled vocals vying but never quite succeeding in acheiving dominance over the track. When it veers into straight staticky noise it's impenetrable, an arctic tundra of mixed up frequencies. There's always a beat - be it the aforementioned garbled vocals or the chug of grinding interference, there's always rhythm, which I suppose is an aspect it shares with Drunk in Hell. No matter how violent it gets, there's always something to draw you in. He was just on tour with Gnod but will be coming to Birmingham Gnodless, but no doubt still in fine fettle.

Jenny Hval: She's a Norwegian singer, composer, lyricist, and also provocateur. She's playful, kinky, and also a published novelist, columnist, and writer whose subject matter in all media is the female body as object of desire, affection, hatred, and violence. Her music straddles the worlds of folk rock and more abrasive fare but is always saying something; getting in your face, challenging orthodoxies. She occupies the same sort of dramatic space as Kate Bush, if Kate Bush had a sudden meltdown. She sounds at turns naive and knowing; intimidating and acquiescing. She's both dominant and submissive, childlike and yet so, so very old. Imagine Joanna Newsom and PJ Harvey in Kate Bush's bathroom and you'd be edging close to a fun-sounding but ultimately meaningless visual metaphor for her sound. She's just great, and she'll be at this festival, what the fuck more do you need?

Agathe Max: I love it when people with classical training and a shitload of natural talent decide to go against the usual circuit of pantomimes, musicals and orchestras and try and investigate the outer limits of what is possible with their instrument. Agathe Max is a violinist who plays with Jimi Hendrix's tone and Derek Bailey's imagination, creating soundscapes with just a simple string instrument and an array of effects pedals. She dwells and meditates on feedback and melody, creating a magical chaotic sound, cast as a lone figure on a darkened stage. What you expect when you see a violin player is absolutely not what you get, which sounds like just one part of a grand tragedy being played out in front of you. It's dramatic and operatic, but you're not quite sure why, like magic.

Wolf Eyes: Detroit noise legends Wolf Eyes don't really need an introduction. I've never seen them live, and wasn't that keen on their most recent album No Answer: Lower Floors (although it did get rave reviews in the specialist music press), but their vast body of work is so strong that I can't help but be drawn to them again and again. I'm sure they're pulverising live, and fully intend on being front row centre for their performance. They'll no doubt be further investigating the sound they were prodding on their most recent album, which I may grow to love, one day. Hopefully they'll turn it up to ten live, just cut the crap and let rip. Noise has always been an important part of Supersonic - I distinctly remember Merzbow destroying my ears with what looked like a 4-way plug socket - and Wolf Eyes will surely carry on the tradition the genre has at the festival.

Ex-Easter Island Head: Even for Supersonic, Ex-Easter Island Head are pretty fucking weird. Musically, they don't sound all that bizarre, but the real genius of the group is in the conception of their live form - they perform solo, as a duo, a trio, and in groups that can reach as high as thirty members. Their sound is part of the modern experimental compositional orthodoxy, like Glenn Branca or Steve Reich, and the power of their music combined with the joy of seeing an unexpectedly large or small group of people playing a piece of beautiful music is joyous. After all, their line-up changes would be just a gimmick if the music wasn't so strong, and luckily the music is strong. So strong. Strong enough to justify what would, in other, less talented hands, be a bit of a gimmick. EEIH are brilliant.

Swans: Who are Swans? Only one of the greatest live bands in the history of extreme music. They've been going for hundreds of years and have never been louder, more extreme, more grinding. They've played Supersonic in various incarnations (as Swans; Michael Gira by himself; and former member Jarboe played in 2011) and will be making something of a victorious return to the festival after the triumph of their most recent album The Seer. They are a crushing live act, who have to be seen and heard to be believed, and only get more extreme with age. They've got another album coming out just before their appearance this year, To Be Kind (scheduled for the 12th of May), so they'll probably be mining that release for live material, along with older stuff.

It's not all about the music though, oh no - they also hold artist's workshops, panels, a massive art project featuring The KLF's Bill Drummond doing various crazy things, and homegrown experimental audio lecture/workshop team If Wet will be parading their wares for all and sundry at the Custard Factory, along with various other workshops and kids gigs.

I thought about writing this preview as a series of haikus, but I didn't in the end, and now I regret it. One you thing you won't regret, however, is going to Supersonic festival. You'd be supporting a fantastic organisation that does great work for the local area, and a valuable artistic concern. Just buy one, it's only fortyish quid, it's (probably) not going to break the bank.

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