After DJ sets by Raime and Evian Christ, Mark Fell made his way through the audience, took to the stage and proceeded to bend time for the elastic duration of his slot. He unleashed taut airburst beats that hung in space for mere moments before being dragged through his mangling software, emerging on the other side as atomized slivers of themselves. He confused the mind and feet with brief sections of 4/4 before smashing off the grid into an ultra-abstract syncopation; like Chicago Footwork melted by the Stuxnet virus. The other main element: the glassy synths, made some parts sound like a fog-bound Autechre, lost in a blizzard of their own complexity. The set was a brain straining manipulation of time; any musical narrative was stretched into malleable non-shapes with impossible angles.
Mark Fell did nothing to prepare the audience for the punishment about to be dished out by Pete Swanson who continued his Techno/Noise explorations with a violent set which at times became almost physically oppressive. Its ugliness and gigantic volume, the loudest I’ve ever experienced, inspired looks of rapture and hysterical screams from some members of the audience; one particular person called for more. Whatever he wanted more of wasn’t clear, but whether it was volume or savagery, it would have been an unreasonable request to expect ‘more’ of it. The air was thick with sound; this combined with the darkness and fierce strobes, caused a sense nulling disorientation. I have no idea how long it went on for, it could have been hours, minutes or days; I seem to remember my animal flight response instinct kicking in at one point when I had a weird urge to flee the venue. This compulsion wrestled with the pleasure gained from being obliterated by the screaming machine noise coming out of the amps.
Concealed behind a wall of people stood at the front of the stage, Swanson crushed the audience under flaming wheels of melting electronics; the thumping beat giving the audience something to cling to, no matter how scorched it was. The debate around whether Techno is inherently incapable of dialogue with Noise, that mixing automation and chaos does nothing to span an unbridgeable gap, was largely irrelevant on the night; all I could think about was the sheer immensity of what Swanson can produce with a few boxes and wires. The frame thrown up by the constant techno thump was alive with squirming maggots of tortured circuitry and howling gusts of sharply granulated metallic noise. There was a deluge of splattered sound that invaded the ears like shrapnel while the body shook with every percussive concussion. It was smothering and painfully confusing in the best possible way, it was an overwhelming mind hammering performance. If ever an artist was to find the ‘brown note’ it must surely be Swanson.
An amazing evening, but a bit heavy for a Monday night if I’m honest.