Northwest Gig Highlights – March 2016

March madness takes hold of the music calendar, with out-there experiments from Ryoichi Kurokawa, A-Bound festival and FutureEverything all on offer this month

Preview by Laura Swift | 27 Feb 2016

Ears, eyes and brains get a joint workout this month as March brings a load of experimental goodness to Liverpool and Manchester, from award-winning sound artist Ryoichi Kurokawa presenting his large-scale audiovisual work syn_ – based on synaesthetic principles – at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Room (11 Mar), to the always ambitious sights and sounds of Manchester’s FutureEverything festival (more on that below).

A-Bound festival (23-27 Mar), meanwhile – a new series of interdisciplinary shows at Islington Mill – is a welcome newcomer to this mindbending mêlée. Each night is programmed by resident promoters Fat Out with a different partner, and highlights include a 12-hour chugathon with Ruf Dug and others on Saturday 26 March, and the team-up with Supernormal Festival on Sun 27th, which brings us cult power electronics duo Consumer Electronics and Gum Takes Tooth – as evocative in sound as they are in name – plus workshops and film screenings. You’ll want to spend the whole weekend in the Mill, basically; maybe pace yourself during that all-night Optimo set on the Friday to make it through…

Not part of the A-Bound lineup but providing a nice prelude to it, Lydia Lunch brings ‘an all-star cast of sonic brutarians in a no-holds barred survey of her musical output from 1977 to the present’ – because we couldn’t have said it better ourselves – to the Mill on 7 Mar, and, rounding things off nicely, in Manchester at least, is contemporary composer Anna Meredith, who comes to Soup Kitchen on 24 Mar. She’s written for everything from body percussion to full orchestras, for the vibrant Aurora Orchestra and for sleep-pods in Singapore (seriously). Somehow, she’s found time to make a debut album as herself: Varmints, out on Moshi Moshi in March, which this tour showcases.

Offering a thoughtful mix of classical and contemporary composition in Liverpool is Open Circuit festival, running 4-10 Mar and spanning a George Crumb piece played on wine glasses (Gildas String Quartet, Victoria Gallery & Museum, 4 Mar), a screening of Walter Ruttmann’s 1927 film Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis accompanied by players from the Liverpool Phil (FACT, 7 Mar), and a special appearance from one of our greatest modern composers, Sir Harrison Birtwistle (Leggate Theatre, 5 Mar).

Elsewhere, a real highlight will be the only Northwest appearance from poet, beat-thrower and agitator Saul Williams, trailing new multi-platform project MartyrLoserKing: an album, yes, but also a graphic novel, and a film. Take your chance to see a true firebrand in action at 24 Kitchen Street on 5 Mar.

Finally, Liverpool darling Låpsley is out of the studio and presenting the results – the chart-potential ballads and big-boned big-band numbers of debut album Long Way Home – at Manchester Academy 2 on 5 Mar, while for some danceably dark grooves we recommend Brooklyn quartet DIIV; their brand of indie rock is lean, devious and a little bit twisted in all the right places (Manchester Gorilla, 20 Mar; Leeds Belgrave Music Hall, 22 Mar; Liverpool Arts Club, 27 Mar).

DO NOT MISS: FutureEverything, various venues, 31 Mar-2 Apr

FutureEverything festival doesn’t so much test the boundaries of art/music/tech as believe they don’t exist in the first place. The annual event – founded 20 years ago in Manchester and now an international proposition, with recent excursions to Singapore and Moscow – has for the last few editions boasted an especially daring live programme running concurrent to its main tech conference, and this year is no exception. A new commission from sonic artist Gazelle Twin, Kingdom Come, forms the centrepiece of the programme at Manchester Art Gallery (31 Mar), flanked by a series of performances conceived in response to an art installation by Ed Carter and David Cranmer at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation (31 Mar-2 Apr). The installation, Smoke Signals, is a form of data visualisation, taking information from a number of arts organisations and turning it into – yes – dancing smoke rings, which form, interact and cross paths in an audiovisual representation of digital communication. Presenting new work in response to this rather beguiling display are musician and composer Sara Lowes, Jo Dudderidge (of The Travelling Band) with multi-instrumentalist Harry Fausing Smith, and Jon Hering (who you may know as one of Liverpool’s brilliant Ex-Easter Island Head). There are many other events besides; for full details, go to