April 1 | Old Coroner’s Court
Q: How do you make noise music, a genre (sometimes unfairly, sometimes not) pegged as the confine of balaclava-wearing, distortion pedal-toting, transgression-obsessed refuseniks, palatable for a room full of spangled dance fans? More to the point, how do you make it fun?
A: You do what Giant Swan do. You place it in the context of kinetic, warped body music. You stick a three-tonne kick drum up its arse. In short, you make it banging.
Friday’s revelries came courtesy of a meeting of minds between two thoroughly competent Bristol-based promoters: You’re Not Human, who regularly put on excellent billings of ritualistic noise and avant garde metal, and Room 237, arguably the city’s first name in techno.
The success of this symbiosis could not have been better encapsulated by Giant Swan, the two-piece psych-noise group who make a convincing argument for the benefits of hardware abuse; pure electronic abstraction meets concrete rhythmic pull. Also on the bill are Young Echo associate Ossia, dub-influenced techno from Black Amiga, industrial rumblings from Ansome, and foreboding Teutonic moves from Headless Horseman.
Ansome’s offerings certainly blow out the cobwebs. With his close relationship to the Perc Trax label, it comes as little surprise that his live set illustrates an abrasive, grainy approach to techno sounds well within the tradition of industrial-tinged dance music set down by the likes of British Murder Boys.
Aided by a thought-destroying barrage of strobes, it’s certainly punishing, but with a sense of variation and textural nuance that ensures things never stray into the realms of heads-down masochism. Cleansing in the same way that sandpaper is, Ansome’s set of techno rippers points to promising things from the young artist.
It’s a pity that the same couldn’t be said for the monochrome assault of Headless Horseman, whose claustrophobic live set ticks all the right boxes when it comes to heavy, propulsive dance music, yet does little to provide any moments of surprise beyond that. In his only interview (that I’m aware of), Horseman has admirably stated that the intention behind the curtain-like mask which obscures his face and identity is to remove the sense of spectacle around practitioners of dance music and encourage people to fully immerse in the music. An interesting idea, but one that fails in practice.
It seems to me that in creating this mystique Horseman only rouses an increased sense of spectacle and theatricality; like most dance music events, the crowd largely remained facing towards the music-maker rather than closing their eyes in rapture or dancing in groups of friends. Furthermore, Horseman’s music does little else but remain at one level of forebodingness, insisting on its own darkness and depth without providing enough nuance to back this up and creating a soporific effect, for this writer at least.
This was in marked contrast to the aforementioned Giant Swan, who exercised a short, sharp attack on a startled crowd early on in the evening. Capering and slam-dancing around their banks of guitar pedals, drum machines and samplers, it’s thoroughly refreshing to see musicians in this sort of setting really go for it – no aloofness or steely mystique, Giant Swan go in sincere, hard and Taps Aff. An abandon-inspiring beginning to what was to all extents and purposes a solid night of heavy, heady dance music. Still, I don’t envy the next techno artist that has to follow Giant Swan.
Check out a documentary on Giant Swan right here: