It was the evening of another blistering day of this most un-British heat wave and, as the haze shimmered over the industrial setting of Muther’s Studio, anyone who knows anything about extreme and experimental music gradually assemble, eager for something special and something rather unique.
For this evening is a rare treat. Birmingham’s own, the very much revered, Justin Broadrick is in town and he has brought along a mighty assemblage of cohorts. Justin never seems inactive with a large number of performing alter egos, but with the recent return to action of Godflesh interest is high. To see Final live is quite something, but the prospect of the debut live performance of another of his myriad of projects Council Estate Electronics has the noisy underbelly of Birmingham grumbling with hunger and anticipation.
Before any of this happens however, there is much to marvel at. The venue itself is worthy of remark, a recording and rehearsal space with a hangout area and bar strapped on the front and an impressive performance space to the rear which tonight it decked out with an imposing sound system. Another worthy mention must go out to Radio Black Forest who have done it again with a stellar event and line up, that shows in part how interconnected and fertile the Birmingham underground music scene can be.
First up tonight is a special guest Robert Curgenven, an Australian sound artist who made Cornwall his home before descending on Birmingham. Tonight he assumes his position behind his assembled altar of turntables (three of them), effects pedals and other things capable of emitting internal organ troubling frequencies. And they did! The bass in the place was serious. Convoluting and aurally massaging sugared and sprinkled with various additional audio artefacts. His set of drones and soundscapes flew by and left the audience wanting more and heading to the merch stand to purchase his recent vinyl only release ‘Sirène’.
We are back to Brum for the second act Khost, who comprise members of Iroha, Carthage and Techno Animal. This is the second time I have seen this heavyweight (in sound not girth) duo and luckily for both Khost and the audience, their set is free from technical issues and their master plan is laid bare for all to witness. That plan includes slabs of twin guitar drone and snail paced gargantuan riffs, marshalled into order by immense overdriven drum machine soldiers, while lulls in the assault are dominated by ethereal voices, found sounds and rather lush and spellbinding ambiances. A punishing set that bodes well for their debut release ‘Copper Lock Hell’ coming soon via Cold Spring Records.
And so that special occasion was upon us, the debut live performance of Council Estate Electronics who are Justin Broadrick & Diarmuid Dalton (also of Iroha). The project is an outlet to the analogue synth urges of said individuals, with nods to Throbbing Gristle and Tangerine Dream in all the right ways. ‘Analogue only’ is the claim, and one I am fully supportive of myself. It is said that computer music has set composers free, but with the ever present creativity killer of too much freedom, sometimes the most fertile grounds are those created by limitations and focus on using fewer tools well. The set commences as the light fades from above as the sun sets, and feels like somewhat of a pleasing respite after the aggressive and imposing sound of Khost, but it is lapped up by the ever present faithful, some of whom chose to sit and kneel before the analogue temple on the stage before them. Lovely stuff. Hopefully Justin and Diarmuid will treat us again at some point with some more electronics from said council estates.
Onto the finale (see what I did there?). With a shared personnel, changeover is a simple matter and before long, the commanding ambiance of Justin Broadrick’s Final is underway. Final as a project can be traced all the way back to 1983, prior to his days in Head of David, Napalm Death and of course Godflesh. Never quite going away, the Final project has a healthy discography and this here reviewer has been lucky enough to see a Final performance twice before. The mix of noise and guitar based dark ambiance has always been turned up to 11 and the gathered crowd tonight are appreciative indeed. Sadly I had to leave prior to the end of the set but I was already assured that I had witnessed a splendid evening and perhaps a unique one too.