As already erected at the Supersonic festival a few weeks earlier, the Ideas Of Noise shed made a comeback for its own weekender, sitting just outside The Edge, encouraging not much more than duos due to its tiny space. Dropping down from Sheffield, Garlic Hug made a mark with one of the weekend's most arresting sets, right at the beginning of the Saturday evening run. Helen Papaioannou played speed-glottal alto saxophone, whilst Alessandro Attavilla worked at untying his electronics tangle, otherwise known as a Microbrute analogue device. Laptops were also involved. The Garlics capered in racing prog fashion, making a math-freedom sound, with appealing metal percussion samples, either as beat decorations, or as pure grinding distress, as they veered into an extreme slow-dance minimalism. These were the sounds of the garden shed: sawing wood, over rollin' beats, a dark humour in place throughout. Isolated bursts of drilling magnified the near silences. The set sped by, due to its rich mineral content of micro-events, always trowelling up some fresh audio truffle.
The Celebrating Sanctuary organisation presented its own set soon afterwards, inside The Edge, on the main stage. Ideas Of Noise co-organiser Andy Woodhead played keyboards, with Didier Kisala (vocals/guitar), Millicent Chapanda (mbira/percussion) and Aaron Diaz (trumpet/electronics). This group was called Elda, and involved the blending of naked Afro-acoustic sounds with curlicued jazz atmospherics, wefted via effects manipulations. Their beguiling impact was magnified by following Garlic Hug, as Elda savoured a softer, gentler area of adventure. Chapanda's mbira was one of those full models, set inside a gourd, complete with metallic rattles, whilst Woodhead provided copious bass line input, pulses growing, a swirling mute-trumpet captured then released via cloaking fx. Their second number utilised Congolese rain stick, high vocals, and a clipped jazz funk feel, whilst the third had Chapanda holding Zimbabwean court. This was well suited to the ambient groove-making. To conclude, Woodhead delivered another of his hookline bass figures, and Diaz removed his mute, for full crisp jazz solo effect. Comparing Garlic Hug with Elda was a positive tactic for understanding the changing faces of 'noise.'
The Saturday night was easily the festival's most impressive stretch, as one powerful act followed another. Anna Palmer is a central presence within the fast rising Birmingham band Dorcha, here giving a solo performance, rooted somehow in singer-songwriter forms, but with a very abstract bent. She glanced bowed strikes off the top of her bass neck, injecting sudden surges of laptop, shunting straight out of the Stockhausen songbook. Palmer's vocals leaped towards shouty indie rock, but then a controlled humming restraint took over, with precise footpedal triggering, followed by some fluted keyboard progressions, as she actually entered into the realms of a song, orating with full Gothic drama. Palmer has grasped the gobbets that hang between rock and improvised music.
Next up was a meeting between two significant figures on the Birmingham underground music scene. Bassman (and beyond) Chris Mapp
hails from a jazz foundation, whilst laptopper Annie Mahtani has a background in electroacoustic music. Their hardcore tonal wrenchings matched each other very well, to the extent that their knitting was frequently difficult to untangle into distinct patterns. That's the way they made it, their extreme landscaping bereft of obvious bass playing, as Mapp turned his axe into a freed audio tool, the glitches getting more cracked, like melting leatherette. This was often soft noise, a pliable growth of Colosseum proportions. The rhythms developed, and our innards were pulled out of our pits.
The last combo were Strobes, a trio between Dan Nicholls
(keyboards), Matt Calvert
(guitars/synths) and Dave Smith
(drums), who ended up sounding ultra unsubtle when set beside most of the day's preceding performers. They possessed an unrelenting hardness that tended to bludgeon the crowd, leaving no room for thoughts between their pressed edifices. With the venue's low stage, it was also tough to snatch a view of what they were physically about, as they ran through their moves of mathematical twitchery. Your scribe once caught Calvert's band Three Trapped Tigers, who suffered from similar density problems. Nicholls managed to release the spirits eventually, with an explosion into some circus spiralling on his keys.