Swans, Wolf Eyes, Matmos and more for Supersonic 2014

Preview by Colm McAuliffe | 14 May 2014

Birmingham’s Supersonic Festival occupies an exalted position at the vanguard of the festival circuit. And rightly so. Since its inception over ten years ago, it has maintained a staggeringly focused and intelligent curatorial policy, transcending the music and art worlds to present a programme teeming with invention, audience participation and a certain amount of unpredictability. It’s also a bloody good knees up.

The festival returns to the Custard Factory on May 30 and 31 this year after a short hiatus with an strikingly interdisciplinary feel to the proceedings. However, experimental fans need not fret; the music line up is exciting and dizzyingly eclectic in equal proportions.

The brutal noise extremities of Michael Gira’s Swans, the conceptual electronics of Baltimore’s Matmos and the post-industrial grind of Wolf Eyes occupy the headline positions but dig a little deeper and some fine gems are to be found. Liverpool’s Ex Easter Island Head bring their orchestrated, African infused cosmic jams while Nottingham’s Sleaford Mods will bring…probably whatever they feel like on the night. The eccentric Jenny Hval, Codeine’s Chris Brokaw and the magnificent Evil Blizzard – replete with four bass players – are also set to perform.

The most recent additions to the bill include the esotericism of Khünnt (featuring Richard Dawson and Pigs x 7), the chamber pop of Felix Kubin and the magnificently monikered Sly and the Family Drone, with an array of shamanistic sonic tomfoolery.It’s not all wilful eclecticism though; the legendary Bill Drummond will re-enact a musical art project; there’s a film programme featuring Crass’ Steve Ignorant and Low’s Alan Sparhawk detailing their rather obscure habits away from music and performances and exhibitions from Sarah Kenchington, who builds mechanical instruments from discarded materials and sound artist Ryan Jordan who will demonstrate his self constructed hardware built with raw minerals and metals before detouring into a talk on theories of cybernetics, neuroscience, art, music and physiology.

In an already overcrowded festival circuit, the admirable multidisciplinary focus of Supersonic is a treasure to behold; the festival has maintained and honed a quite distinct personality far removed from the anodyne and mundanity proffered by its immediate rivals. Swans and Matmos are apposite headliners for Supersonic, while the former will certainly bring the heavy, tectonic grooves, the latter provide the conceptual, intellectual framework, wrapped in scuzzy electronic beats. 

Here's our dedicated playlist of just a handful of acts playing this year...

Supersonic takes place on 30-31 May at the Custard Factory, Birmingham http://www.supersonicfestival.com