Preview: Supersonic Festival 2012

Supersonic Festival returns to Birmingham this weekend for its 10th anniversary instalment and three days of advenrturous music and art. Kez Whelan looks ahead to some of the characteristically eclectic highlights.

Since its inception in 2003, SUPERSONIC FESTIVAL has grown from a single day event into a full blown, three- day extravaganza, transforming Birmingham’s Custard Factory into a hub of exciting, cutting edge music and art. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Capsule’s illustrious festival, and the organisers have assembled a stellar line-up to mark the occasion, placing some highly regarded Supersonic alumni alongside a host of fresh new faces. Whatever kind of music you’re into, you’ll find something here to satisfy your tastes. Supersonic is a festival that will surprise and astonish, so expect the unexpected…


Kevin Martin (AKA The Bug) performed at the very first edition of the festival back in 2003, so it seems only fitting that the dub master has been invited back to play at this special anniversary edition. This time he’ll be joined by the world’s fastest rapper (and founder of Raggamuffin hip hop) Daddy Freddy and Flow Dan (co-founder of UK Grime collective Roll Deep) for a set that promises to deliver earth shaking basslines and grimey dancehall vibes in abundance. And Kevin isn’t the only Supersonic veteran to return this year; the festival’s unofficial house band PCM have been gracing the festival with their unique style of dark, energetic drum n bass every year since 2003, and of course this year is no exception. Newcomers Hype Williams will also be bringing their lysergic, lo-fi trip-hop along to the party, and sound artist Tim Hecker will be weaving more intimate soundscapes with his vast waves of warm ambient noise and soothing electronic drones.


Ben Chasny has played with everyone from psych-rock heroes Comets On Fire to David Tibet’s esoteric Current 93, but with his primary project, Six Organs Of Admittance, Chasny gets the chance to show off his skills as a songwriter. The band will be bringing their spacious and often psychedelic strand of American folk to the stage this year. Meanwhile, a trio of prominent Finnish artists will provide some more exotic sounds, with Islaja’s unique and, hypnagogic approach to folk, Lau Nau’s curious harmonies and Tomoutonttu’s exuberant cacophony of streams, mutilated voices and found sounds all awaiting the more intrepid festival-goer.


Jazz fans can look forward to an incredibly rare UK performance from Germany’s Bohren & Der Club Of Gore. This four-piece specialise in doom- laden, richly atmospheric film noir-inspired jazz, often played in such a minimalistic fashion that the music takes on an otherworldly and hypnotic ambience. The band haven’t visited these shores since 2008 and there’s no guarantee they’ll be back anytime soon, so make sure you take this opportunity to see them while you can. Prolific jazz percussionist Chris Corsano will be making two appearances this year, one as part of the psychedelic improv pair Flower-Corsano Duo and the other as part of experimental supergroup Rangda, also featuring Sir Richard Bishop and Six Organs’ Ben Chasny.


Capsule’s tireless efforts to celebrate Birmingham as the Home of Metal evidently haven’t gone unnoticed, and this year there are several riff devotees ready to blow your eardrums wide open. Ufomammut, Italy’s finest purveyors of psychedelic sludge metal, will be taking us on a supremely cosmic trip, whilst Dylan Carlson, of drone/ doom pioneers Earth, will be unleashing all manner of seismic six-string vibrations. To top it all off, Japan’s avant-metal mavericks Zeni Geva will be cleaving heads in two with their tortured, angular take on the standard metal blueprint.


Supersonic has never shied away from the noisier end of the musical spectrum, and this year is no exception. Infamous Japanese feedback god Merzbow will be obliterating the stage with his inimitable brand of sonic warfare, whilst Zeni Geva guitarist KK Null will be teaming up with local tuba drone pioneers ORE to deliver a set that’s sure to be quite a spectacle indeed.

THE UNCLASSIFIABLE…Bill Nace and Kim Gordon from Body/Head

One of the joys of Supersonic is stumbling across an artist that doesn’t fit neatly into any generic categories. This year Godflesh/Jesu mastermind Justin Broadrick will be unveiling his new JK Flesh project, a hybrid of industrial, dub, metal and noise, whilst Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon will be teaming up with guitarist Bill Nace for the unpredictable aural experiments of Body/Head. And then there’s the voodoo-inspired afro psych-punk of Sweden’s Goat, a truly bizarre prospect indeed.Goat, who will be live at Supersonic Festival 2012


If all this wasn’t enough, there are also various film screenings and exhibitions taking place this year, including Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller’s new biopic The Bruce Lacey Experience, a documentary examining the remarkable artistic legacy of this renowned avant-garde artist. Following on from this celebration of Lacey’s visionary attitude, a talk entitled You Can Be You will offer an insight into maintaining an independent spirit while on the very edge of the avant-garde, featuring Oxbow’s Eugene S Robinson and ex-Swans songstress Jarboe (both of whom are also performing at the festival). Friday will see a number of similar discussions at the School of Art, including a panel entitled Art of Listening, which explores the context of how we present sound-based work and performance. For a more hands-on experience, Imperfect Cinema’s workshop offers attendees the chance to shoot and edit their own short film, which will then be used as a visual backdrop during noise-rock monoliths Drunk In Hell’s set the next day. The Vinyl Rally is surely the icing on the cake, a large scale art installation involving a race track made from old vinyl records and a remote control car with a needle attached to it that has to be seen to be believed.

Supersonic Festival runs from October 19-21 at the Custard Factory, Digbeth. For the full programme and ticket details visit A limited number of tickets will be available on the door or visit to book.


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