When millions of pounds of arts funding got sucked up by last year’s Olympics celebrations, Colour Out Of Space – Brighton’s international festival for experimental music and art – was forced to sit 2012 out. A few fundraising gigs and a redistribution of arts cash later, it’s back for nine days of films, workshops and exhibitions, culminating in an extended weekend of performances at The Old Market and random events in the city’s churches, streets and Oxfam shops.
Friday at The Old Market gets underway with an opening burst of vocal mutterings, sax, drums and electronics from Tel Aviv’s Primate Arena, before Brighton duo Occult Hand’s ever-more refined mix of tape loops, laptop and pedal work. Refined, that is, until Isa Brooks’ cheapo keyboard expires in a cloudburst of static. Other day one highlights include Poulomi Desai’s treated, partially-gutted sitar pounding and the combination of Woven Skull and Core Of The Coalman, whose rising steam-head of rhythm-heavy thundering is accompanied by Brighton improv stalwarts Andy Pyne and Iain Paxon.
We’re not sure exactly what the highbrow trio of Glasgow-scene guitarist Richard Youngs, Astral Social Club’s Neil Campbell and 2012 Turner Prize nominee Luke Fowler are going to come up with this evening. Even if you sat us down with a million typing monkeys, “acid house influenced dance pop” wouldn’t have made our list of guesses. Lit in brilliant pink, with Youngs’ yearning vocals and some on-the-fly keyboard grooves from Campbell and Fowler, it’s the unexpected, melodic peak of the night. They’re a lot more fun than the tiring shock tactics of headlining duo Kenny Millions and To Live And Shave In LA’s Rat Bastard, although hurrah for the polite Old Market doorman who greets the latter every evening with a genteel, “And good evening, Mr Bastard.” Time for bed.
We miss some of Saturday’s daytime and early evening performances but are back in The Old Market in plenty of time for a stunning set of sustained electric-blues songs and drones from ex-Vibracathedral Orchestra guitarist Bridget Hayden. Overall tonight doesn’t reach the heights of extremity and entertainment as Friday, although the chance to see 1970s veterans DDAA from France and US duo Dinosaurs With Horns (featuring two members of the legendary Los Angeles Free Music Society) pursuing their lifelong interests in sound, voice and tape manipulation underlines the unique quality of the festival.
Sunday afternoon finds us in chilly St Andrew’s Church on Waterloo Street, where composer CM Von Hausswolff and artist Michael Esposito are presenting their shared interest in Electronic Voice Phenomena – recordings of voices from beyond the grave. We take the selection of sounds they’ve spent the week gathering in sites around Brighton with a fair pinch of salt, but there is something unnerving about letting yourself get drawn in to the distorted utterances (“I’ve been bad”, “I know your name”, “Get out!”) being played back. Fortunately they’re followed by a pair of Dada disciple Dutch poets, Hans Clavin and G.J. De Rook, who flood the church with good humour and daft performance.
Back in The Old Market, we’re showered in a blast of fierce free jazz from sax and drums pair Jooklo Duo. A barbershop comedy piece from Dora Doll and Usurper is pure Crackerjack, leading the way for a voice piece by Angela Sawyer that melts into warm stand-up stories and a headline finale from The Sons Of God that’s basically silent comedy slapstick, with the silence replaced by an all-out noise whirlwind, two Swedish gents wrestling around a table as if in a Beckett play scripted for Cannon And Ball. And you don’t see that very often on a Sunday night.
The Old Market, 8th–10th November 2013
Words by Stuart Huggett