Preview: Sounds From The Other City 2012

Article published: Wednesday, May 2nd 2012

With the onset of May and a slightly better chance of blue skies, the local festival season is fast approaching. Ian Pennington looks forward to Salford’s Sounds From The Other City, with particular interest in combinations of new technologies and classic instruments.

Design by David Bailey & Lucy Jones

Those who spent last year’s May Bank Holiday Sunday treading the pavements of Salford’s Chapel Street witnessed the development of a recent theme in music making. For it was a Sound From The Other City (SFTOC) event focused on modern production methods and gadget-laden live performances more than ever before.

That’s not to say everything scheduled for this year’s festival will include a mass of flickering LEDs lying before laptop musicians – far from it. There are, as ever, a plentiful array of musicians both familiar and less so. But of that mix, it is inevitable that more and more artists will be embracing the trend towards synthetic solo symphonies.

Drum pads, samplers and looping pedals are ever more commonplace onstage, given the ease of accessibility, increased cheapness and the lessened necessity for bandmates to be transported, organised and disputed with. Put simply, you don’t need a full orchestra to create a room-filling sound, although a downsized orchestra need not be totally bereft of traditional instruments. Indeed, those who combine old with new are becoming the most eye-catching.

An excellent case in point is Michigan’s Zach Saginaw, who performs as a solo musician under the Shigeto alias having previously drummed with bands in the USA. He returns to the festival after a gig at Islington Mill in December, at which his live show melded the electronic with the analogue, placing equal emphasis on the two. To begin with, Shigeto programmes complex musical algorithms into his selection of sonic gadgets and then mans his drum kit to unleash a mesmerising display of jazzy dexterity, with samples continuing to repeat all the while. Despite all the synthetic trickery, it was the sheer energy, spectacle and expertise of the drumming that caught the audience’s attention and drew them in closer.

Shigeto at Islington Mill, December 2011; photo by Nathan Gibson

Half-Manchester act Walls and highly tipped G R E A T W A V E S are others who match organic with digital, filtering live guitar into button-pressing sound manipulation, but as duos rather than solo artists, while Borland also layer waves of electronically produced noises, aided by MIDI keyboards.

Closer to the other end of the technological spectrum is Laura J Martin, who offers the clean tones of her flute, mandolin and xylophone but, again, remains a solo performer thanks to use of a looping pedal, which records and repeats sections of her performance at her control.

It is the presence of a live instrument that can add so much to a show otherwise concentrated on electronics, as previous SFTOC festivals have proven. Vieka (drums), Denis Jones (acoustic guitar), Capac (guitar) and Magic Arm (acoustic guitar) have all exemplified this in recent years.

But electronic music’s machinery can be classed as instruments in their own right. Indeed, pioneers such as FC Judd, Daphne Oram, Simeon Coxe and Delia Derbyshire would attest to that as they all used electronic equipment as a tool for making music. So the key is to enjoy music in its many forms; a mentality at the heart of Sounds From The Other City.

Ian Pennington

Sounds From The Other City takes place at various venues along Chapel Street in Salford on Sunday 6th May.

Shigeto is due to perform at around 11pm in the Old Pint Pot venue curated by Mind On Fire and This City Is Ours, while Laura J Martin will perform at roughly 7.30pm in St Philip’s Church curated by Hey! Manchester.

Walls are scheduled for around 11pm on the Grey Lantern and Drowned In Sound stage at The Black Lion pub, Great Waves have been booked by Underachievers Please Try Harder to start soon after doors open at around 3pm in The Salford Arms and Borland will also perform at the Old Pint Pot with a mid-afternoon stage time.

Tickets are available from links on the official website or in person from selected outlets.

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