By: Bruce Cowie

Photos: Bruce Cowie

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Support: Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs | facebook | BRITNEY | facebook | Voe | facebook | Star Turbine | facebook |

Bannermans Bar | February 20, 2015

This is a NEW THING, this Sonic Mass. Two nights of ‘space rock, prog, sludge and noise’. In a snug little venue, in Edinburgh. It’s risky. Is it going to work? Well, let’s see…

Day 1, Friday, February 20th.

A late addition to the bill, Norwegian/Danish duo Star Turbine are tonight’s kicker-off. A duo, it appears, for whom the phrase ‘experimental noise’ might have been invented. There are no guitars, no drums, no, nothing like that. There is, though, a spread of odd looking pedals, children’s toys, old cassette tapes, a plastic tube with a wire attached. There is a violin bow. A 7” single. Some springs and a bundle of wire wool. A small keyboard, a box with knobs to twiddle. And a laptop.

All of these things, and more, are poked, twiddled, scraped, rubbed against each other and otherwise manipulated to produce, well, noise. Was that the sound of a dropped bottle in the bar, captured and looped into the piece? Entirely possible. Odd snatches of almost recognisable songs drift in and out. There appears to be no particular structure, but Star Turbine seem to know exactly what they are doing, nodding along to some undetectable rhythm. The latter part of the performance develops into some hefty droney thing, and then it stops.

Star Turbine

Star Turbine

The Edinburgh ‘metal’ audience is, on occasion, not noted for its tolerance of the weird, but there are far more people in the room at the end of Star Turbine’s set than there were at the start, so that must surely count as a win, don’t you think?

It was meant to be local nutters BRITNEY next, but logistical problems mean that not all of them can make it in time, so there’s a quick shuffle and Glaswegians Voe take their place. I have never seen Voe before. I have heard good things. And I am not to be disappointed.

Voe play a hefty Amenra-esque breed of dark post-metal. Not quite as harrowing as the Belgians, but not far behind. Occasional vocals are harsh and the music is bleakly beautiful. One of the cabs is playing up. The guitarist is less than happy, but they seem to manage. They don’t play for long enough. I want more, but there is a schedule to keep. Voe are excellent, and I WILL see them again.

Voe

Voe

BRITNEY are complete, and it’s their turn now. Just three of them, bass, drums and vocals. I know and love BRITNEY, in all of their chaotic madness, but they seem, initially, out of place on what is a largely ‘metal’ line-up, and I’m concerned that they might send the crowd to the bar. But no. The crowd stays, and BRITNEY are better than ever. Songs blast past, some in mere seconds. ‘Shan Tribal’, ‘Woodpeckers’, ‘Tummy Touchy’, more, too fast to remember. Was that ‘John’? Probably… Robbie’s bass bellows like a wounded animal, Stewart gabbles rapid fire noises that might be words. I think he might burst at any moment.  Davey is (relatively) serene on drums at the back, but machine-gun fast. Self-mocking anti-banter seems more like a private joke between the three than any attempt to inform the listeners.

BRITNEY are astonishingly good, and they make new friends tonight.

Britney

BRITNEY

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (hereafter referred to, for convenience, as Pigs x7) have arrived late, held up by an accident on the appalling road to Hell that is the A1, but they start on time and are simply sublime. They, like Voe, don’t play for nearly long enough. I would be happy to listen to their throbbing, pulsing psychedelic heaviness all night, but they give us a scant 25 minutes, seemingly drawing largely on their Psychopomp release. Shamefully, I know nothing of Pigs x7, but they are a relentless, seething, bass-driven Sabbath/Hawkwind monster, crushing stoner-doom riffs heavily spiced with fabulously old-school swirly space noises. Matt Baty, the man responsible for those noises, and indeed the impressively muscular vocals, is the first tonight to get his ‘tap aff’. It’s getting warm in here.

Pigs x7 are awesome x7, and they are going to be tough to follow.

Pigs

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

And, sadly, tonight’s headliners, Hey Colossus, don’t quite manage it. It’s close. They’re pretty darned fine, but they don’t quite hit the same heights as Pigs x7. To be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. They’re suffering from an ongoing technical problem, one mic seems to be non-functional and there’s a persistent and annoying crackle coming from one of the PA speakers.

They’re another band that I’m not familiar with. I had been expecting – if, indeed, I had been expecting anything – some variety of abrasive noise rock, but what we have instead seems more…. controlled, maybe. It’s rhythmic and hypnotic, a bit psychedelic. The vocals are reverb heavy and spooky, Nick Cave meets the Cramps, the singer writhing and contorting. I’d like to be able to lose myself in their heftier grooves, but that crackle is distracting me. Which is a shame, because they could be, and SHOULD be, riveting. It’s only towards the end of their set, three or four songs to go, when the chap on the left manages to sort his mic, we can hear his voice for the first time, and that crackle goes away. Immediately they seem to acquire a bit more heft, the riffing seems a bit more muscular, and they finish on a high. If only… y’know?

Hey Colossus

Hey Colossus

So, that’s Day 1 done, apart from the aftershow party, which may go on for some time. I won’t be there, as I need my beauty sleep – and those of you have met me will agree, I need a LOT of beauty sleep – but I’ll be back tomorrow. Today has been fun, but Saturday night is looking…. heavy. Oh, yes.

Sonic Mass poster

Sonic Mass merch table




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