I purchased my weekend ticket for this year’s festival following the announcement of the first act confirmed. To be honest, I was happy enough paying £75 for the pleasure of seeing the re-ignited Swans in action anyway, but imagine my delight when a ton of my favourite bands started to trickle onto the line up too. Here’s a little list of the performances I’m looking forward to most.
Frontman Michael Gira has been keen to emphasise that this is not a Swans reunion. So I guess you couldn’t call it a reformation either. I’ve tended to use “revival” and “re-ignition” to describe the return of Swans in 2010 – the project never died or disappeared, but rather lay in wait until Gira deemed it time to call upon it once again. He’s also said that this isn’t some “dumbass nostalgia act”, and yet thankfully this isn’t ruling out what are sure to be some fantastic re-workings of the ferocious early Swans material from Cop and Filth. Not to mention the fact that the phenomenal pieces from My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky will be on show here.
The details behind the return of Justin Broadrick’s Godflesh project seem to be even more confusing. It wasn’t too long ago (a couple of years, perhaps) that he was adamantly stating that he couldn’t possibly connect with the music of Godflesh again. Re-mastering their 1989 album Streetcleaner was fair enough – the 2010 version sounds infinitely better than before, and the accompanying disc of bonuses is more than welcome – but if he’s now so detached from the aggressive, angsty state of mind required for Godflesh, surely the last thing he’d want to do is play under his old guise in front of an audience again? Nevermind. Whether he’s genuinely come round or just fancied a cheeky cash-in, I’m actually not too fussed. As long as it means I’ll be hearing “Like Rats”, “Spite” and “Crush My Soul” played at full whack. One thing Justin has stuck by thus far is his belief that his best material was recorded up to and including Selfless – their Hellfest set consisted of just that, so hopefully the Supersonic gig will follow suit.
Continuing my collection of artists who have blessed me with an unexpected opportunity to see them, ex-Khanate frontman Alan Dubin will be spewing his psychotic screams all over the shop. The music of Gnaw is as gruesomely twisted as Dubin himself, so it’ll be an absolute treat to see him really “let go” here – whilst I’ve played their debut This Face enough to prevent it being as frighteningly unexpected as my initial listens, no doubt the sight of Dubin possessed by the bludgeoning soundscapes around him will be enough to bring it all back again. Don’t get me wrong – I loved Khanate, but it seemed to be as much an O’Malley vehicle as it was Dubin’s. Gnaw, on the other hand, feels like the perfect soundtrack to Dubin’s deranged head.
Drummer Tatsuya Yoshida was already due to be at the festival as part of Zeni Geva, so it’d be an outrage for him not to appear as Ruins too. Like Dubin in Gnaw, Ruins is Yoshida’s chance to unleash a sound he knows and loves best – in this case, in the form of frantic and technical jams between drums and bass guitar. On record, the music is incredibly busy and often difficult to comprehend (not least because the lyrics are babbled and yelped in a made-up language), so I imagine seeing it unfold in the live environment will be doubly overwhelming.
And another captivating drummer that’ll be on display. I first discovered Chris Corsano at Supersonic last year, where he formed an explosive and hypnotic collaboration with Mick Flower on his “Japan Banjo” – a sort of Eastern tinged rock-out that dipped and rose and rolled and fizzed with the sound of improvisation done very well indeed. This year he’s back with pedal-steeler Heather Leigh, and their debut release The Rocker provides ample proof that this is sure to be a weekend highlight. The album bursts with an unfaltering ferocity, sustained by stamina that only really arises from being utterly in the zone for 40 minutes straight.
I’m still neck-deep in the honeymoon phase of listening to Blackshaw’s latest album All Is Falling, and I doubt that will have changed when the festival rolls around in a month from today. His music is intricately done, without ever losing sight of the beautiful melodies that lay at the core – lesser musicians may have drifted into the vacuous territory of their own self-indulgence, but thankfully Blackshaw is grounded enough to only use his technical abilities for good. I’m uncertain as to who will be accompanying him on stage for this performance, but I’ll be far from disappointed if he decides to strip away the other instruments on the recorded versions and play them entirely on his 12-string.