Monday, 7 August 2017

First Annual DroneFest. Dartington. 2017.

The 6th of August saw the first annual DroneFest organised by local Community Radio Station SoundArt Radio (102.5 FM). It was part of DRONEWEEK : An uninterrupted week of continual Drone Work broadcasted by SoundArt. It's the brain child of SoundArt head honcho Chris Booth.

                                                           Chris Booth (in the shadows)

DroneFest saw six local musicians / non-musicians / artists perform live for a radio broadcast, eight hours of continual live dronework with small interludes of Stephen Cornford's "Centrifuge", a live recording made by SoundArt Radio almost 10 years ago at Dartington College Of Arts, whilst equipment was swapped over and checks were in place. The Festival took place inside the studios of SoundArt Radio.
The Festival started with South Brent artist Dark Mother Wood. The solo project of Alasdair Robertson. This was only the second live performance of DMW in two years. A crackling and short circuiting amplifier was mic'd up and left to play with itself for 60 minutes. Sounds changed and altered by themselves, and for the listener by changing position in the space. A couple of years ago I saw the first live performance by Dark Mother Wood at South Brent's library. It was a performance of static feedback and sine waves that attracted the dogs of Devon to gather at the door. Alasdair has dropped the high frequencies.

                                                                Dark Mother Wood

The Diamond Family Archive aren't strictly a "drone" project. It is included in the sound of bowed electric guitar and organ amongst tape loops of birdsong and monotones etc .. but the sound travels in to areas of motorik percussion and sea shanty style vocalisations. There were moments of Camberwell Now / This Heat alongside KLF in their "Chill Out" period and Neu!
Due to the no show of Sophie Wilder DFA played live for two hours, fortunately they brought along some of their "fanbase" too so Chris took up his favourite role as barkeep.


                                                         The Diamond Family Archive

Dieter Müh followed. I was billed as Steve Cammack, but this was a Dieter Müh performance. I was uncertain as to what Chris actually wanted for the Festival, I did not know whether it was to be a "live performance" per se or whether it was just a meeting of artists who would "jam drones" for eight hours etc. So, I thought I would just use my name ... I was wrong. A slight problem with a mystery pianist who cut in through the PA about ten minutes or so in to my piece, but other than that it was an enjoyable 35 minutes, and whetted the appetite for Hamburg later in the year ... Unfortunately I have no picture(s) of my performance so here's a picture of "Kosmology" an unfiltered beer from New Lion Brewery.


By now the Festival has reached its' halfway point. Audio Hacking Club are a duo who create drones through homemade instruments, theremins, triggering devices and bastardised effects boxes. Their piece was 100% improvised, starting with a taut metal string attached to a bowed piece of wood, machine head one end and pick-up the other being played by a battery operated rotor blade.

                                                               Audio Hacking Club

This sound was continual morphed and manipulated through a series of devices including a Roland Space Echo, a device / instrument I love! The sound of Mühviertel. Whilst this was happening the other half created blips, loops and patterns on a variety of devices - homemade and otherwise. The sound resembled early Throbbing Gristle and mid '80's Soviet France and Nocturnal Emissions.

                                                              Audio Hacking Club

SoundArt Radio stalwart Dave Mutch is Oima Orchestra. Dave (with his partner Maggie) have been producing a live weekly show for SoundArt for 10 years. Dave began building electronic devices for Nigel Jacklin and his Alien Brains up in Aberdeen in the late 1970's and has been producing electronic sounds since. For the DroneFest Dave mixed prepared loops and found sounds culled from the Oima Show back catalogue. Japanese ladies, birdsong and livestock mixed with deep bass, train station announcements and throbbing walls of sound.
I am fortunate to have Dave as engineer / producer type figure on the MuhMur Radio programme. He tells me what is shit and what is good (radio) as well as fixing all my technical hitches.

                                                                The Oima Orchestra

                                                     Tony Whitehead & Oima Orchestra

DroneFest ended with a rare live performance by Tony Whitehead. Tony rarely does solo performances, for SoundArt & DroneFest this a bit of a coup. Tony runs Very Quiet Records, a label of very quiet music that has released material by Slavek Kwi / Artificial Memory Trace, Jeph Jerman, Francisco Meirino and Sala amongst a host of others. Here in Devon he often puts on evenings of very quiet music, usually in churches and art centres - it's all about the acoustics. Tony also operates "Other Voices" a project that records animal and bird sounds and tries to understand / decipher them. Fascinating stuff. Tony's drone piece was a collection of spoken word creationists mixed and mashed up within a wall of sound. New Age tapes destroyed by electronic madness, deep drone thrombosis and a nod towards the sound of Boyd Rice. A superb and fitting end to the first annual DroneFest.

                                                                   Tony Whitehead

Droneweek is still happening on SoundArt Radio 102.5 FM, it will carry on through to August 13. No doubt sounds from this day will be broadcast throughout the week, SoundArt Radio can be streamed live via their webpage. There are some unique submissions too ... I know Arvo Zylo has mailed some sounds ... always worth a listen.
Thanks to Chris Booth for organisation, to Dave and Tony for making it fun and to Alasdair who I now know was the annoying shouty bloke at the Whitehouse gig at Camberwell Union Tavern in 1990 who was dragged up on stage and "spanked" by Glenn Wallis. Small world.

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