Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Clash of the Japanese Noise Titans and the Scary Canary Venue


A few weeks ago my band Swoomptheeng played at Scary Canary Venue in Stourbridge with hip-hop legends Ugly Duckling. I also shot a quick music video there for Spiros Abatis, and last weekend, when I returned to pick up some kit, I had the opportunity to see the Makoto Kawabata and KK Null Duo play - and what a treat that was.

Firstly I have to say that Scary Canary Venue is a Black Country rarity - a venue that plays genuinely exciting, cutting edge music. It's grown from a vintage clothes shop into an essential night spot for creative people. Stourbridge has always had a great music scene, but in recent years it's become somewhat of a Tribute band and Lagerboy town (with a few notable exceptions mainly Katie Fitzgerald's and The Temple of Boom). Scary Canary however, is a stunning venue, with pot plants hanging bizarrely from the roof, and ceramic hands attached over tabletops made from old doors (to help you drink?).



Last weeks entertainment kicked off with Adam Beckley - a local lad known best for his doom metal band Opium Lord who have just returned from an American tour and graced Supersonic Festival last year (as will Swoomptheeng again in 2 weeks). Beckley's solo stuff leans towards the ambient, and his set seemed to consist of mixing cassette tapes played incredibly slowly. He managed to create absorbing textural landscapes and fuzzy rhythms in a well-paced narrative mix more usually seen at contemporary art venue's like Birmingham's Vivid Projects.

Next up was MaggotHouse favourite Concrete Belly who had brought his usual circuit-bent kids toys and electric guitar to create chaotic sonic attacks over hard, stripped-down beats and samples. It's difficult to put Concrete Belly in a camp so to speak, as he moves quickly from ice-cold, stepping beats, and out into glitchy chiptune while squeezing it all together with a barrage of grunge guitar riffs - it's dirty, and messy, and exciting. You don't know what he's going to do next as he eyes up the various instruments and effects laid out before him.

Photo by James Butroid Photography
Finally two godfathers of Japanese noise stepped onto the stage : Makoto Kawabata of Acid Mother's Temple and KK Null of Zeni Geva. Both men looked fearless, yet approachable, but noticeably different. KK Null sat upright at a laptop with a shaved head, his eyes fixed to the screen, with just occasional flicks of his wrist orchestrating the noise. Makoto Kawabata stood waring flared jeans and played a headless guitar with his eyes tightly shut, waving his long curly hair about. Behind them both video clips of factories and explosions complemented the most inspiring, brilliant and poignant noise performance I've (perhaps) ever seen (and I've seen a few).

Where many try and usually fall short, these two men made soaring white noise, synthetic hammering, fizzing static and juddering chaos awe-inspiring, like a thunder storm. This was the sound of a modern age. It was loud, really loud, and overwhelming, but unlike most others, this performance had depth and character. It spoke of struggle and collision, endless repetition, factories, conflict, chemicals, growth, explosions, decay, chaos and control, and somewhere beneath it all - people. I was breath-taken... and my ears hurt the day after.

Here's a track from their EP "Psychetronic" - you will need to turn it up to full volume, drink a bottle of meths and punch yourself in the face to truly get a feel for the immensity of their live show.

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