Hunter’s Moon, The Beatyard & Bring To Light – Ian Maleney takes a look at the festivals happening in Leitrim, Dublin and Birmingham this October Bank Holiday weekend. Hunter’s Moon Festival – 25-27 October – Carrick-On-Shannon, Co. Leitrim
The third and unfortunately last Hunter’s Moon festival takes place in Carrick-On-Shannon, Co. Leitrim this weekend. Organized primarily by Willie Stewart and Natalia Beylis of Woven Skull with the help of many friends, the two-day festival brings over some great cult names every year and, just as importantly, celebrates the diversity of talent coming out of Ireland’s weirdo underground.
This year’s big names are avant-garde guitar legend Rhys Chatham, Thrill Jockey’s droning Zomes, Italy’s Control Unit and pivotal UK noise act Consumer Electronics. Chatham stands atop the bill as quite a coup for the festival, with this show being his first ever in Ireland. The New Yorker was a central part of that city’s art/punk/classical cross-over in the 1970s, combining the sheer fuck-you rush of the Ramones with the expansive minimalism of Steve Reich or La Monte Young. His Guitar Trio piece, originally created in 1977, has had a huge influence musicians looking to tap into ideas of primordial, body-moving drone. Now resident in Paris, Chatham continues to explore the possibilities opened up by that piece, such as the 400-guitar A Crimson Grail, as well as evolving into a unique trumpet player.
Having started out as a drone side-project for Asa Osborne of Lungfish, Zomes is now a duo, with Osborne randomly hooking up with vocalist Hanna Olivegren at a festival in Sweden. Since then the Swede has added soulful vocals to Osborne’s layered synth sounds, bringing a human heart to what could be some pretty off-kilter compositions.
Control Unit and Consumer Electronics reflect two different shades of the same industrial noise world. The Italians are capable of being almost languid in their uncomfortably slow and damaged sounds, the listless vocals of Silvia Kastel deadened against the slimy walls of guitar noise. They sound like depressed students recording opiate dirges on a boombox in an attic in an estate somewhere Northern England on a rainy November day in the 1970s. This is, obviously, a good thing. Consumer Electronics were actually likely to have been depressed students recording dirges on boomboxes in the 1970s but theirs is an aggressive, conscious and confrontational brand of noise centered on the in-your-face physical presence of vocalist Philip Best. Starved of the coverage peers like Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse received, Best’s project has rotted and soured over the intervening decades, spitting bile-fuelled rants over the impenetrable output of fried circuitry.
Less known but no less worthy international names include Dutch master of skin-crawling ambient Innercity, Bird People‘s soothing, aura-stroking drones and UK noise-makers Nacht Und Nebel.
While the international set is undoubtedly impressive, it’s from the Irish contingent that Hunter’s Moon gets its unique character and energy. Jennifer Walshe is one of Ireland’s most under-rated artists and a festival mainstay. Her incredibly engaging and unsettling performance in St George’s Church last year was a highlight of the weekend, her breathy vocalisations rendered with unnerving clarity and deep focus making for a time-bending listening experience without compare. A talented visual artist as well, Walshe doesn’t perform half often enough in her own country so any opportunity to see her should be made use of.
Dublin is represented by School Tour, death metal optimists Zom, the unique Feral Barbershop Trio experience and noise artist Katie O’Neill. School Tour is the solo project of Ger Duffy, late of Children Under Hoof and one of Patrick Kelleher’s Cold Dead Hands. His heavy, rhythmic cold-wave is wonderfully strange and constantly surprising, built from a small phalanx of unusual musical equipment. Zom are one of the most exciting and crushingly heavy metal acts at work in Ireland today. Their tape on Invictus was a thrill-ride of blasting beats, forceful riffs and guttural vocals expunged from the deepest void imaginable. Feral Barbershop Trio are one-third Woven Skull, one-third United Bible Studies, one-third Luxury Mollusc and three-thirds complete madness. An acapella group the likes of which you’ve never heard before. Katie O’Neill is a musician and visual artist who has been steadily releasing music through her Bandcamp page for at least the last year or so. The latest EP, W H I T E N O I S E, sees her raging against the dying of the light in a Pharmakon-like fashion of super stripped down screaming and barrages of electronic noise.
From Cork, the twin talents of Phil Collins Project and Mvestle make the journey north. Phil Collins Project is a truly strange dual-drumming tribute to the bald hero of air drummers everywhere from Paul Hegarty of Safe and Kevin Kennedy of First Blood Part II. There is no way to describe this in any way that would prepare you for the reality so I’m not going to. Mvestle released an excellent tape on the always reliable Box Emissions earlier this year and it is a solid representation of their sparse, improvised noise which is well worth picking up.
There is, as always, a healthy local contingent too, with Leitrim contributing the impeccably named Cat Piss Brain Rot who made their debut at the festival fundraiser back in June, saxophonist Cathal Roche, Alan Woods and Devon MacGillivray. There is also a full line-up of independent films (including Pat Collins’ revelatory Silence), exhibitions of visual work from many friends of the festival and workshops from Marta Lyszkiewiczo(gongs and chimes) and _maker, who will help you make your own fuzz pedal. All in all, it can be a pretty hectic weekend and the intensity of the music and film on show is likely to send your brain into places it is not normally accustomed to. The cheap Buckfast they have up there isn’t likely to help. Expect thrills, shivers and, at the end, exhaustion.
Bring To Light – 25-27 October – Library Of Birmingham & The Rainbow, Birmingham, UK Bring To Light is a new festival presented by Capsule, veteran organizers of the Supersonic festival in Birmingham, arguably the finest festival around. With that pedigree, it is forgivable to have high expectations and Bring To Light doesn’t disappoint on first impressions. The line-up manages that tough trick of having something for nearly everybody without any real weak spots. Headlining Friday night is Dinos Chapman, a Turner Prize-nominated visual artist-turned-musician who released his début album of weird, haunted techno earlier this year. As you might expect from one of the Chapman brothers, the music is unsettling and comes accompanied by a rich, colourful visual element. There is a strange, Lynchian sense of wonder at the heart of Chapman’s music, an obvious ear for melody and no real desire to impress.
If Chapman’s music is not energetic enough for you, then Shangaan Electro will surely have the cure. Having been brought to Western attention via Honest Jon’s, the South African dance troupe dole out frantic beats, shuddering bass and crazy melodies that are created only with the movement of bodies in mind. It’s a warped version of more familiar dance musics, refracted through the lens of an entirely different culture.
Also on Friday night, American black metal/shoegaze cross-over successes Deafheaven bring their ever-so-cheesy take on metal to the genre’s home. It’s a long way from Black Sabbath and longer still from Napalm Death. For something a little more at home in the UK’s second city, then hit up Sleaford Mods for some heart-stopping colloquial realism. “Boris Johnson and the cheeky girls shut down the underground so it’s back to orgies on the buses”. Like an even more in-your-face McLusky who couldn’t be arsed with any of the riffs.
Saturday’s events are just as diverse. Josephine Foster, one of the most unique voices in contemporary folk music, brings her band to Birmingham. The American recently supported Swans on their European tour and managed to squeeze in a couple of house gigs along the way, which tells you something of the way she can engage an audience, whatever the size.
Epic American drone lords Robedoor (featuring Britt Brown of Not Not Fun) released another stellar album this year on Hands In The Dark, Primal Sphere which saw them take their psychedelic mountainous drone to whole new levels. As good as that record is, you get the sense that it will really come to life with a monstrous sound-system to support it.
Keeping it psychedelic are French artist High Wolf and Nottingham’s Masters of the Monoriff, Koguzuma. High Wolf makes music for transcendental moments, conjuring skewed pastorals over long improvisations and deep, immersive rhythms. Koguzuma are an altogether heavier proposition, referencing Sabbath, Moondog and Lungfish with their tight, hypnotic version of aggressive rock music. Not as unpredictably weird as GNOD, but certainly in the same mono-riffin’ ballpark.
Richard Dawson rounds off proceedings on Saturday, doing one show for adults and one for kids. Without exaggerating, Dawson is simply one of the most enigmatic, engaging, funny, talented, heart-warming performers at work today.
Sunday’s line-up is dominated by Masaki Batoh and his brain-funnelling machine that takes brain-waves and turns them into sound. Undoubtedly one of the weirder things on a bill that’s weird enough already, Batoh has been touring consistently over the past few years and perfecting his brain instrument. That he uses volunteer’s from the crowd only adds to the unpredictability of what you may witness on stage. Lately, Batoh has blended his machine with a renewed interest in the rich history of folk music in his native Japan, making elegant and emotional music in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. His music now is neither past nor future, but something which can begin to link the two.
Also on Sunday you’ll find Clipping, who are like a more desolate Death Grips without the macho bullshit and major label shenanigans. Imagine they singed to Anticon instead of Epic and you’ll be a little way there. A far more refined and intelligent combination of hip-hop and noise musics which is bound to go off in a live environment.
Given Capsule’s record as a promoter, the quality of both Supersonic and the events they run throughout the year in Birmingham, it’s fair to say that the impressive stature of the line-up will be matched by an overall experience of fun, surprise and exploration.
The Beatyard – 19-28 October – Multiple Venues, Dublin Technically the Beatyard kicked off last Saturday weekend but it’s expanded to take over a whole week right up until the wee hours of next Monday morning, so its inclusion here is certainly warranted. Bodytonic are at the heart of the Beatyard, which began as a bi-annual weekend-long series of gigs and DJ sets across the Twisted Pepper and the Bernard Shaw. This year, the festival has expanded greatly and includes events promoted by Choice Cuts, U:Mack, Harmonic, Irish Moss and many more. It’s spread out to include the Button Factory, Moxie Studios, Copper Alley, Block T, The Pepper Cannister Church, The Workman’s Club, the Sugar Club, Whelan’s, etc. Basically most venues in the city centre are going to see some action at some stage.
And there is plenty of action. Blondes kicked the festival off with a fine set of pounding hardware house which went all hands-in-the-air before the night was out. Still to come there’s big names like Redinho, Will Saul of Aus Music, Belfast’s Boxcutter (who has a hairdresser’s named after him in the Twisted Pepper), Sam Amidon, Chelsea Wolfe and Russian Circles, Fabio & Grooverider doing a history of drum and bass set, an Eglo records showcase with Fatima and Alexander Nut, Efterklang, Blawan and Pariah’s Karenn project, legendary reggae and dancehall DJ David Rodigan… Way too many to get through here.
One expected highlight is the Waxahatchee and Swearin’ show in the Workman’s, which sees both of P.S. Eliot‘s Crutchfield sisters in one venue, though two different bands. Also from the east coast of America comes Anthony Naples to close out the party in the Twisted Pepper, replacing Henrik Schwarz after the German had to pull out. Honestly, Naples is a far more exciting prospect, bringing a rough-and-ready sensibility to his sets which go from straight house classics to far more leftfield adventures. A genuine, natural talent who deserves a room as full as the Pepper no doubt will be on that night. (As an aside, Forza Italo have I-F and Mick Wills in the Odessa and Network have Omar S, AnD, Neil Landstrumm and lots more in the Grand Social that same night. Perhaps the best night for dance music in Dublin in a very, very long time.)
John Daly‘s sets are always worth catching and when he plays the Bernard Shaw, it’s like he’s playing in his own sitting room. There is no more intimate place to catch one of the country’s most talented producers and DJs. He’s duly supported by Shane Linehan of Basic Grooves, who does a neat line in big, bouncy house music, the Lunar Disko crew and Slowburn, who’s record on Lunar Disko is one of the finest Irish releases of the year.
There’s plenty of non-musical action too. There’s a panel asking, What Does It Mean To Be Urban In Dublin? There’s the Vice coffee barista jam. Jim Carroll asking some questions about housing in the capital. A typography exhibition and a BBQ. A brass band, art jams, a flea market, a homebrew festival. The list goes on and on, making for a great week to be out and about in Dublin, if the weather doesn’t piss on us all.