Sheffield Sensoria Festival @ Abbeydale Cinema
Tonight is all about rhythm.
It’s all about the different nuances and shades and clicks and grinds of the king rhythm that draws you in and makes you want to dance and throb with humanity, it’s about the flexes and the twitches and the pulses of the way that music moves from scratching electric gunk rhythm to the finding humanity in the cold and the dark pulse of post techno. It’s a theme that has fascinated Sheffield for years and even if most of the bands that are playing in the crumbing beauty of the Abbeydale cinema are not from the city they certainly have been giving it a nod in their listening or accidentally reflecting the northern city’s powerful musical legacy from the early Human league to Cabaret Voltaire to Chakk and the rest of the early eighties rhythm gang who created a new kind of dance from the dying days of the industrial furnaces..
In the 21st century a revitalised city is teeming with music and life. Old pubs are being renovated, urban space is opening up and the 21st century Sheffield is a city that looks towards the future instead of the past. Of course it’s not perfect and there is still poverty and still too much money talking but the stench of decay has been washed away. All that is left from the early eighties is those fascinating takes on rhythm like with Blood Sport and what they were playfully terming ‘aggro beat’ when they first arrived on the scene a couple of years ago in their home city of Sheffield.
As they take to the stage before the doors are opened, in a typically brilliant piece of fucking with the norm, Blood Sport have honed down their thing to a rhythmic perfection. With that hypnotic repetition of krautrock and that jagged neo forest funk of the David Byrne and Brian Eno collaboration of decades ago the band created their own wonderful soundscapes that draw you in with their electric jive. Jagged guitars entwine with shape shifting rhythms that ebb and flow and combine noise and colour and sound to a twitching perfection.
Manchester’s LoneLady have been causing a fuss in the past few years since her 2010 Warp released debut ‘Nerve Up’ with their dislocation dance. This is a brave new pop music that collides the shifting electronic rhythms with the supremely talented Julie Campbell’s stark vocals and astonishing guitar playing where she manages to shoe horn all manner of shrapnel riffing into the songs whilst singing her plaintive vocals. Very much a 21st century pop LoneLady effortlessly combine this fascinating guitar noise with the pulsing electronics that was showcased perfectly on their recent Hinterland album.
Factory Floor have been with us for some time now and are one of those perfect creations that occupy their own interzone. Stripped down tectonic electronics provide the skeletal framework for an enticing melancholic atmosphere to hang around like a digital fog. This is a 21st century, moving away from the pulse beat and a perfect example of how to entwine humanity with the stark circuitry of the machine.
Nick Coid’s emotive-less yet emotional voice is the perfect example of how effective this can be. Using her haunting vocal as an instrument which adds a texture and a melancholic flavour to the pulse of the digitally stark, sic fi, metallic cleanliness this is a music that is ripped from the pages of a Phillip K Dick novel, this is the erotic autoflesh of the machine come alive and it’s this taking of her own vocal and twisting and bending it inside the sweating and fizzing circuitry that pushes this to the max. It’s a fascinating process that is like listening to the very breathe and stuff of life being sucked into the mystical digital and regurgitated as an ethereal and haunting sound of its own.
Their music’s captivating sparseness and shape shifting rhythmic pulse are at once cold and mechanical and yet like Kraftwerk themselves in the far off seventies they have somehow added a funk and human warmth to them that makes them so thrilling. Gabe Gurnsy may not have been on rhythm duties tonight but Dominic Butler is still there playing with the sound with his mixing desk and the shivering wires building up the beats, creating the sparse and erotically beautiful pulses that put the sex into the circuits and the humanity into the machine.
It’s a captivating gig, watching the pair of them hunched over their banks of machinery like black clad skinny beatnik wizards, seeking out the future from boxes and wires as they create these stunning vistas and atmospheres that make them one of the key bands of the moment.
And everyone danced…