Negative Midas Touch

14 January
Audacious Art Experiment

For those acclimatised to noise music, howling feedback and waves of nihilistic static can provide a deeply cathartic experience. Similar to the outer edges of metal, there is spirituality embedded in the excess. Noise is music able to hold you in a trance. As Negativland asked in 1987, is there any escape from noise?

Seemingly not in Sheffield, where even in early January the Audacious was at capacity for a performance by Bethany Patrick's Negative Midas Touch project. For 25 minutes she coaxed waves of sonic brutalism from a distorted keyboard and a range of other bewitched machinery.

The voluminous productions of Merzbow, the General Secretary of noise, are as flat as an oil painting and usually leave me cold. Patrick’s approach is more three-dimensional and, if you’ll excuse the deployment of a hideous cliché, she really does project a sonic landscape from the speakers.

But it’s a bleak one, a topography of barren flatlands and long buried voices. Her set was hit by a few technical issues, seemingly leading her to finish earlier than planned. Although doubtless frustrating for Patrick, the sudden failings of her equipment didn’t detract from the set, giving the illusion of us approaching a sonic Stannage Edge and plunging over it.

According to my blurry snap of the running order it was Salwa on next, switching things up with a set of noise-indebted grime and mucky bassline. Finally the boys of Blood Sport took us with them deep into the night, eschewing beat matching and instead just sending one song on a collision course with the next. We had ‘Goodbye Horses’ and ‘I Feel Love’, as well as more obscure 80s electro pop and dark industrial, before they handed over to DJ Human Sacrifice for more oddball party fuel.

Sam Gregory

Sheffield Is Super

13 January
Yellow Arch

In an era where listeners are rarely raising an eyebrow at the bizarre and strange aliases musicians are creating (Icytwat and Ross From Friends being two recent examples), Mess Your Hair Up managed to pique interest with their pseudonym even before taking to the stage for Sheffield Is Super.

Yellow Arch felt like it was dressed up for the event due to the golden tinsel that was on its walls, and although the audience for the following party was mostly absent the music was all-round good. Sheffield classics were played alongside popular tracks from musical legends dominant in the 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s.

For those who attended, it was a reminder of how good music from Sheffield was, is and can be. And for people who weren’t fully aware of the talent to come out of Sheffield, such as myself, it was a pleasing eye-opener to hear tracks from local artists being indistinguishable in quality when played beside many nationally and internationally renowned artists.

Sheffield Is Super was one of those nights where you wish you had made a note of the tracklist, and my intention before writing this was to mention a couple of the songs played on the night, but hearing the DJ behind Mess Your Hair Up play a variety of music filled with Sheffield talent in a seamless way for a few hours is something that needs to be heard to be appreciated.

Akeem Balogun

Cervo

The Harley
27 January

This was the first Sheffield night of the year for Banana Hill, allowing their resident Cervo a sufficiently large gap of preparation for his night-long set. Over the last year, Cervo has had some significant mentions in the underground world, such as his inclusion in the Dimensions DJ Directory. Nevertheless, the colourful performer has retained his modesty, accepting the many praises he’s received with the utmost humility.

Cervo’s super chill tropical groove was a perfect reintroduction for partygoers who underwent a winter hibernation. Banana Hill’s summery sound is almost physically warming and at the very least uplifts the spirit, leaving attendees itching to get back on the dancefloor. These promoters certainly know how to entice in those longer, warmer days.

His sound has been described as global underground, but what exactly does that mean? It seems to me like a sound that makes you feel like you’re somewhere exotic, experiencing the rhythms of a new musical culture or various cultures at once. This was achieved through the world flag bunting above Cervo’s decks and more significantly the mixing of a tropical fruit salad of tunes, from the warmth of Bonobo’s ‘Kerala’ to the bounce of Joey Negro’s ‘Love Hangover’. 

Banana Hill’s happy, spring-like selection was a welcome break from the January chills. Despite its title, the twangs of ‘Misery’ by Kimara Lovelace did nothing but bring us up some more. It was almost as if we were on top of the world.

Jennifer Martino

Dawn Ray’d

Audacious Art Experiment
28 January 

Like stepping into a wind tunnel, Saif Mode/Attic Salt’s bizarre ritual is an enthralling mix of dark electronic drone and tortured performance art. A bank of blinking electronics sits centre stage, the two white-robed and sometimes masked figures pacing around the small candlelit space, contorting on the floor whilst speaking unknowable tongues over the toneless aural massage coming from their various equipment.

Despite technical issues breaking the mood for brief moments, the climactic, thunderous rhythm accompanied by a relentless strobe light makes sure that this experimental service won’t be forgotten, though if there’s an intended message it’s blissfully lost to the void.

Bringing the first taste of structure to the evening, Underdark have a sound so clearly captured in this space that even when the bass amp stops working in the final song, their heartbreaking melodies ensure the performance is nothing less than stellar.

Playing crushing post-metal riffs shot through with the emotive power of gorgeous post-black metal crescendos, Underdark nail that winning formula of making you want to simultaneously bang your head and cry. Tied together by some sharp blasting passages and undeniably Deafheaven-esque screams, they are hard to find fault with.

Also benefiting from tonight’s crystal clear sound, Dawn Ray’d make a huge noise for a three-piece, especially in the typically cold, treble-heavy genre of punishing black metal.

Uplit by lamps on the ground and with a battle standard centre stage, their politically charged music is highly atmospheric but never less than ferocious. With all three members often mouthing along with the lyrics, this is an impassioned performance, the sole guitarist seeming to force his massive guitar tones through a permanent grimace. Rarely will you see a solo violin used so prominently in such brutal metal and the whole room-filling sound is all over far too soon.

Richard Spencer

Veronica Vasicka

Hope Works
21 January

It's hard to imagine the recent revival of New Wave and EBM aesthetics without the 12 years of groundwork laid by Veronica Vasicka and her Minimal Wave and Cititrax record labels. After starting with vinyl re-releases of obscure 80s tracks by the likes of Oppenheimer Analysis, Absolute Body Control and Das Ding, Vasicka soon moved on to releasing contemporary artists working with the same sounds. The impeccable curation of both imprints suggests a great depth of knowledge and I was excited to see how it would translate to a DJ set. 

A three-hour set felt like the minimum of time that someone like Vasicka needs to have full effect. As effortlessly as she switched between bleeding-edge body music and archival releases from her own labels, the breadth of her selections demands the breathing room of an extended set. I wasn't expecting to hear both Front 242 and Floorplan in the same night and it's a credit to Veronica's skills as a DJ that she made such a diverse set work.

Likewise, the set benefited from the intimate surroundings of Mesters, Hope Work's smaller annexe space. This is not the sort of music that is enhanced by a fancy light show and anything more than the laser and smoke machine present at Mesters would have seemed at odds with the music's lo-fi roots.

It was also a joy to not only hear these classic tracks but to enjoy them with a small room of dedicated enthusiasts, especially after seeing Helena Hauff looking bemused by a total lack of crowd response when dropping Cajmere's ‘Percolator’ at The Night Kitchen recently.

Michael Hobson