It sounds like Jarboe’s upcoming tour is going to be a truly special experience, as the singer recently revealed some further details about her Supersonic performance to the Quietus -
The interesting thing about the whole European tour, which includes Supersonic, is that it’s an example of my own stretch or eccentricity as a performer, in that I’m doing it with a classically trained pianist and vocalist, Renee Nelson. We’re going to be reinterpreting Swans and World of Skin classics in a very beautiful way. When that’s done, we’re coming home and then immediately going on tour with Nachtmystium, a black metal band. I don’t know how many people there are that do that kind of stretch, but I’m in my element. I’m 100% punk rock and experimental and will remain true to my roots. That’s what you get with me – you’ve got to be an adventurous audience!
You can read the full interview here, in which Jarboe also talks in depth about her contribution to the new Swans record, life on the road with Micheal Gira, and writing her memoirs…
Jarboe will perform at Supersonic on Saturday 20th October, as well as taking part in our ‘You Can Be You’ panel discussion alongside Oxbow’s Eugene S. Robinson, Crass’s Penny Rimbaud and the Quietus editor John Doran.
Oxbow is a band that should need no introduction; their bold and uncompromising penchant for experimentation has placed them at the forefront of contemporary rock and resulted in a startling sound that no self-respecting music enthusiast can ignore. This year marks the beginning of yet another new chapter in Oxbow’s long and storied history, with vocalist Eugene S. Robinson and and guitarist Niko Wenner teaming up to play Niko’s arrangements and orchestrations with a variety of classically trained string and brass players as the Oxbow Orchestra, news that has sent ripples of excitement through the Oxbow fanbase worldwide. Niko managed to take some time out of his busy schedule to give us a little more insight into how this idea originated, what we can expect from their upcoming album, and some potential collaborative performances at this year’s festival, both scheduled and impromptu…
Supersonic: What can we expect from your set this year? Niko: It’s a rare and great thing. I’m very pleased that Supersonic has again made it possible for us to make explicit aspects of Oxbow music that, live, are often only implicit. OXBOW ORCHESTRA will bring to the stage new music yet to be recorded, live premieres of recording arrangements, and special music created just for this event.
Our recordings begin our songs. Our live performance solution to the music on our recordings – mass-persona, mass-musical/sound information – is often simply “volume.” To sound like twenty guitars playing at once, turn up the one. Unlike our band gigs, Oxbow recordings have always exploited the performance of larger groups. From the Kecak-inspired chanting and clapping by a Symphony of a Thousand on the recording of “Daughter,” to the massed overdubbed guitars of “Pannonica.” From the string quartet and multi-tracked guitars and rock-band of “Bomb,” to the Hammond B-3 organ, male choir, piano, guitars, et al., in the musique concrète texture of “Acker Sound/Read All Over.” The live-in-the-studio nine piece drone orchestra of “Shine (Glimmer).” The scored string quartet plus woodwind quintet of “Mr. Johnson,” and adding rock band to that nonet: “Frank’s Frolic.” The aim has always been for an orchestral texture.
Our next studio album ‘The Thin Black Duke’ will feature brass in addition to strings, which suggested the OXBOW ORCHESTRA live line-up. I’ve wanted for some time to bring my friend from Paris-based band Heliogable (and bandmate in Bellflower) guitarist Philippe Thiphaine into an Oxbow performance. Oxbow has by tradition always made a new set minutes before we begin to play. The opportunity offered with the Orchestra is too special to leave quite that much to chance. A great deal of care has gone to arranging and orchestrating music both new and old for this special format of strings, brass, and additional guitar.
There should be surprises for all.
How did the idea for the Oxbow Orchestra originate?
Being asked to perform at Supersonic’s ten year anniversary is an honor. Dan and Greg can’t be here unfortunately. So my desire to create a performance that would arrive at the same transcendent place that Oxbow aims for, but through different means, drove some soul searching. The solution: A chamber music version of Oxbow songs new and old. And from this OXBOW ORCHESTRA was born.
Who else are you looking forward to seeing at thefestival this year?
Merzbow; ORE and KK NULL; Ruins Alone; Sir Richard Bishop… I’m excited for everything. Everything I already know and knowing that things I don’t already know will be great too.
If you could pick any artist on the lineup this year to collaborate with, who would it be?
One? Merzbow. And, we have indeed arranged a last-minute collaboration.
If you were curating Supersonic, which three artists would you most want to have on board?
György Ligeti is dead now sadly. Of those still living:
1. Ornette Coleman. Because I realized twenty years ago when pondering who – if I somehow could - I would time-travel to experience performing that he’s one. And he’s still performing now!
2. Mathew Shipp. Because he makes music that is like directly listening to a brain at play and at work, without the filter of “language” (à la cognitive scientist Steven Pinker).
3. Elliot Carter. For his music of course but also so that I could shake his hand. I was too shy to do so when standing next to him in an empty foyer during a break in a performance of his first four string quartets in San Francisco. Not incidentally, a life-changing concert for me.
Which items would you say are essential for festival survival?
A curious audience, daring artists, and the support to join the two.
How would you sum up Supersonic festival in five words?
One, two, three, four GO!
…or maybe better…
Jenny and Lisa create bliss.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Oxbow?
Quite soberly and sincerely, I feel like we are stronger than ever and in mastery of our strengths, in ways I’d barely dared to hope we could achieve when we started. Truthfully, these are partly benefits of simply “not giving up,” tenacity, irascibility, not anything special. In any case IF we can continue, stay alive long enough, inch Allah and gods willing I think the future looks good.
Specifically, our next full length record ‘The Thin Black Duke’.
The Oxbow Orchestra will be performing at Supersonic Festival on Sunday 21st October.
For 10 years now, Supersonic has been tirelessly emphasising the importance and beauty of the independent spirit; one need only glance through the reams of musical mavericks that have graced the festival’s stages to see how successful their efforts have been. To celebrate, Capsule have planned a couple of events to highlight the free-thinkers that have helped turn the festival into the glorious tour-de-force it is today.
In keeping with Supersonic’s tradition of featuring enlightening panel discussions, ‘You Can Be You’ promises the audience one of the most intruiging and horizon broadening conversations to ever take place in the Custard Factory, as The Quietus Editor, Vice columnist and all-round music enthusiast John Doran takes the chair to quiz Jarboe, Oxbow’s Eugene S. Robinson and Crass co-founder Penny Rimbaud on how these extremely accomplished artists have maintained their integrity and independence whilst operating in the furthest regions of the avant-garde.
Anyone who’s ever been moved by Eugene’s feral howl and imposing stage presence, Jarboe’s dulcet tones and emotive range, or Rimbaud’s energetic drumming and sneering social commentary will not want to miss out on this. These are artists that divide opinion with their untameable drive to create, and are united in their refusal of musical standards and any perceived rules or guidelines that others may wish to impose upon them, but how is this passion sustained through times of difficulty? Will there ever come a time where this deep-seated desire to create is satiated? There’s only one way to find out… See you there!
Running with this theme of independent creators, Jason Forrest of the new online TV site Network Awesome has curated a film prgramme entitled ’3 ______ And The Truth’, a loving tribute to the maverick minds that created things that only they ever could, ranging from the ingenious to the downright bizarre! The Network Awesome site features a number of specially made programmes, curated by visionaries like John Zorn and Barry Adamson, and is well worth checking out!
There are several exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime collaborative performances taking place at this year’s Supersonic, ranging from Lash Frenzy’s all-star noise ensemble to KK Null’s performance with local tuba-drone pioneers ORE, and of course, the pairing of several string, woodwind and brass musicians with Eugene S. Robinson and Niko Wenner for the much anticipated Oxbow Orchestra. There must be something about the adventurous atmosphere of Supersonic, as the festival has a long history of inspiring musicians to step out of their comfort zones and join forces with one another to contribute something truly special to the festival. Indeed, these one-off spectacles and collaborations are part of what makes the festival so unique, and have provided avid concert goers with a veritable smörgåsbord of cherished memories over the years. Here are just a few of the highlights – which one was your favourite?
2011 – Fire! & Oren Ambarchi
Last year’s edition of the festival saw Swedish avant-jazz trio Fire! team up with Australia’s finest purveyor of drones (and frequent Sunn O))) collaborator) Oren Ambarchi, for an enthralling set that touched on noise, jazz, and musique concrète with the kind of subtle elegance and deft textural sensibility we’ve come to expand from these fine musicians. Evidently these guys enjoyed the performance as much as the audience did, as Fire! recruited Ambarchi once again for their third album, ‘In The Mouth – A Hand’, which was released last year.
2010 – Lash Frenzy VS KK Null
When these two noise titans clashed together two years ago, the results were akin to a nuclear bomb detonation, obliterating all in its path (it’s rumoured that there are still children being born in Digbeth with tinnitus to this very day). Holding the honour of being one of Supersonic’s loudest ever performances (and, as those who have attended the festival before will attest, this is certainly no small feat!), the Library was packed to the rafters for this one-off show, with a lengthy queue of dedicated noise addicts stretching around the block. Be sure to get there early for this year’s special performances to avoid listening from outside!
Providing some respite from the ear-bleeding antics of the aforementioned duo, 2010 also found Iraqi Oud virtuoso Khyam Allami teaming up with mysterious psych-rock collective Master Musicians of Bukkake for this exclusive performance. Named after the Bosphorus Strait that divides East and West, Europe and Asia, this was an extremely diverse set that sought to bridge musical schisms, joining Allami’s meditative Eastern melodies with the Master Musicians’ penchant for acid fried jams, taking the audience on an aural pilgrimage to the furthest regions of their collective psyche and sounding rather fantastic in the process.
2008 –Kikuri, feat. Merzbow & Keiji Haino
The pairing of two of Japan’s most extreme musical exports was never going to make for easy listening, but nothing could have prepared us for the deafening onslaught produced by these masters of their respective crafts. Masami Akita’s torrential outbursts of static and rich, layered walls of feedback provided the perfect counterpoint to Haino’s chilling, ethereal wail and guitar mangling histrionics, resulting in an eclectic and vibrant set that’s often spoken of in hushed tones by Supersonic veterans.
2007 – Oxbow Duo Presents: Love’s Holiday Orchestra
When Oxbow’s Eugene & Niko performed at the festival 5 years ago, they brought along an all-star ensemble (featuring Godflesh/Jesu mastermind Justin Broadrick, Sunn O)))’s Stephen O’Malley and ex-Head Of David bassist David Cochrane) for an unforgettable and thrillingly intimate set, never to be repeated again (but fear not – Oxbow will be returning this year with a small orchestra in tow, and Justin Broadrick will also be putting in an appearance with his new JK Flesh project).
The performance was captured on tape and released on wax as part of Capsule’s limited edition vinyl series. Unfortunately all 1000 copies are long sold out, but there are still a number of great releases available, chronicling Supersonic sets from the likes of Harvey Milk, Tweak Bird and Iron Lung – the perfect way to relive those Supersonic memories and keep your excitement under control during the wait for this year’s edition!
Film week, day 3: ’Still Before’, a film about Oxbow
‘Still Before’, a film by Manuel Liebeskind, draws the most intimate tour portrait of this exceptional band from San Francisco and is perhaps as close as one can come to the exhaustion of everyday tour life. Here at Capsule HQ we’ve only seen the trailer, but, believe us, that was more than enough to whet our appetites. ’Still Before’ is also highly notable for being filmed entirely on an iPhone with a 640×480 pixel resolution, probably the first feature-length to be so.
We can’t imagine it would be easy to get close to a band like Oxbow, so how did Liebeskind do it? Turns out he’s their former booking agent, soundman and general man-Friday and thus the band gave him unprecedented access. Through his film, Liebeskind attempts to uncover the obsessions, machinations and thought processes behind making, playing and touring music that embraces art as though its life depended on it. Across five countries, over a dozen shows, and in front of rapt audiences, ‘Still Before’ explore the whys of art creation, the touring life and the motivations for continuing the process over two decades.