Sunday, March 08, 2015

Crater Lake Festival 2015

Crater Lake Festival
Wharf Chambers, Leeds
March 7th, 2015

Evil Moisture
Stephen Cornford
Charles Dexter Ward
Dylan Nyoukis & Kieron Percy
Dale Cornish
Kay Hill
Stuart Chalmers
Yol & Posset
Mel O'Dubshlaine

Five pound entry for eight hours worth of Crater Lake was always going to be the best fiver spent all year. And so it proved. As the rest of Leeds' desperate late night thrill seekers parted with the same sum for a bottle of lager in a crap pub a knowing and not inconsiderably large crowd of people took the opportunity to soak up large amounts of sonic exploration for the same amount.

Arriving just after 3pm I was met with the sight of people wandering around clasping empty beer bottles with wires and batteries coming from them. Most of them were wearing idiotic grins, like they'd just discovered that there was a way of getting drunk on water. All this due to an Andy Bolus workshop in which objects of a personal and round nature could be turned into ghost detectors or something. I don't know what it was but it seemed to make half a dozen people sat around a table insanely happy. I half wished I'd joined in but I find things with wires terrifying and I'd have no doubt had to have drunk the bottle of beer first which, with the day ahead of me, would have been a mistake, with lunch time beers turning in to afternoon beers turning in to night time beers turning in to a review of the first three acts and nothing else. With such a great line up sobriety was for once to the fore.

Someone called Ted said I should incorporate more beer related content in to reviews and with the Wharf Chambers supplying a decent stock of vittles the opportunity was there and when I spied Rudolph clutching a bottle of something looking good I asked him what it was and came back from the bar with a non alcoholic beer that tasted of Lapsang Souchong. Which actually wasn't that bad in the way that a generous mouth feel lager with no alcohol does. So I went back to the bar for another bottle of Club Mate and contented myself with the fact that whilst various bits of the Ceramic Hobs were rolling about on the floor in drunken dishabille I was able to retell to you in these words exactly what happened at the 2015 Crater Lake Festival.

Pete Cann's once a year all day festival of sonic exploration has become a firm favourite on the calendar. It ticks all the boxes in that the venue is perfect, the city is perfect, the sound is well, there’s no complaints and its cheap to get in. Did I mention that its only five pounds to get in? Five English pounds to see over dozen or so people get to grips with drone and noise and cassette improvisation and many things that lay in between. Well I never. Tell that to someone from that London and they wouldn't believe you.

At around 3.30pm Mel O'Dubshlaine began talking in to a small microphone manipulating her voice via god knows what so that what emerged from the speakers were broken fragments, not Norman Collier meets Jaap Blonk but disembodied voices, ghostly appearances. When Phil Todd joined in on something that looked like a futuristic tambourine the whole thing went kind of spacey. And off we go.

The original red tiled floor of the WC performance space has born the brunt of Yol's previous performances there especially with regard to a steel mop bucket. Along with the north east’s very own dictaphone merchant Posset they make for a match made in scratch heaven. Yol hits the floor with a steel rod and scrapes empty yoghurt pots across the tiles, Joe Posset screams into a variety of Dictaphones. Yol's head goes back and he screams about glass cathedrals [shopping centres?], Joe Posset screams into his Dictaphones and screams about what I’ve no idea. Voices appear through the murk only to disappear and there in its place but the faintest tinkle of metal on red tile.

Cassettes feature prominently in several acts including Stuart Chalmers who kneels in front of two lit candles and dons a long black wig which he lets fall over his face as he performs his own private ritual. Playing a Walkman in each hand he fast forwards and reverses over the capstans before hitting a pebble with a stick and eventually strumming a very small zither. I've been waiting a long time to see Chalmers play live and the wait proves to be worth it. Like Nyoukis and Percy he creates atmospheres in which impossible to identify sounds appear. Sounds that are being created by the manipulation of a never ending supply of cassettes. At its start Chalmers moves from received pronunciation spoken word 50's BBC female announcer to atonal classical compositions before blending everything into noise. Nyoukis and Percy become so involved in their composition that beads of sweat appear, each adjustment to their ongoing work morphing into disturbing atmospheres. You can almost smell the cassette cases.

Dale Cornish plugs in a lap top plays thirty seconds of something and then gets involved with an audience member after being sarcastically applauded. He then gets involved in a discussion about the merits of merch before delivering some low end frequency beats in a Panasonic kind of way. When he rips out the link to the PA loud cheering can be heard and he has a grin from ear to ear suggesting that he's just enjoyed himself very much thank you. We are all enjoying ourselves very much thank you very much.

Everybody gets a loud cheer. Its an enthusiastic audience. After Lee Stokoe's sublime two mini keyboard drone set I'm given the best ever eulogy about how the man is a giant amongst drone makers. And who am I to argue? Stokoe has the nous to let his relentless waves of crashing drone play out its finale on his own amp leaving the PA to lick its wounds. Charles Dexter Wards drone set is, I think made from electric guitar, but I'm sat on the reclaimed pew at the back of venue and all I can see are peoples backs, but its loud. Easily the loudest thing so far and with my head back and my eyes shut I soak it all in.

I see five minutes of Kay Hil’s set but he seems to be having problems with his equipment causing unwanted feedback and equipment chatter to leak in. Its the only set I miss.

Stephen Cornford has four TV's stacked up with a contact mic on each screen. The two TV's in the middle of the stack are side on and when they are brought to life they show interference and static from which Cornford mixes the results relaying them to us. I'm stood about three feet in front of his TV's trying not to remember what my mother told me about sitting too close to the telly because this is the best place to be to take full effect of those ever changing flickering screens and the drones they''re making. I now know I’m not epileptic. If you were sat at the back on those reclaimed church pews I dare say the impact may be lessened but being that close and with the volume getting louder it was the perfect place to be. When he begins to turn the TV's off one by one there's an almighty jump in volume as the last one dies, a noise so shocking and unexpected in its volume that it brings audible gasps.

When Andy Bolus takes to the stage he tells us all to turn our phones off or get out of the room as their signals interfere with his sensitive equipment. Which seems to contain a butchered tape machine that has a crinkled length of cassette tape looping out of it and into another home made machine. This is now the loudest set of the night and the longest set I've seen Bolus play [this from a man whom I once saw play the Kirkstall Lights for all of about thirty seconds after falling off the stage dressed as a rabbit or a dog and injuring his back].  There are people getting carried away after eight hours of steady drinking and they begin shoving each other about and waving their fists in Phillip Best homage. When Bolus releases huge thunderclaps of noise this only goes to induce further jostling but there's only about four of them and they look like they come from good homes.

The days entertainment ends with Rudolph sat behind a mixer delivering a series of his trademark sounds, my favourite being the fly trapped in a bottle. At one stage he sticks two brain activity sensors covered in black boot polish on to his head, an act which  makes his eyeballs swivel. There's a change in frequency and a change in's appearance as he now has black dots all over his head. A completely different performance from the last time I saw him at the Extreme Rituals in Bristol which was bare chested and crossed legged with the added sense destroying stench of burning vinegar for accompaniment. If we'd have had the burning vinegar in the confines of the Wharf Chambers there’d have been a stampede for the door. As it is the feisty crowd down the front make the most of's brief forays into all out noise but for the most part this is a short stray in to's own sound world.

Outside and on the way to a taxi the streets are clogged with £5 bottle of beer merchants. I could tell them about Club Mate and the Wharf Chambers but somehow I don't think they'd be interested. Roll on next year.

1 comment:

Pascal Ansell said...

Great review -- gutted to miss Stuart Chalmers set. Anyone got a video / recording?