12th & 13th January | The Brunswick Club
Photos by Simon Holliday
We’re standing in a dark, warehouse-like basement, with obscenely white strobes flashing above the crowd that has shuffled and shifted downstairs. We’re blissfully unaware of what to expect, or what is to come from this unique and engaging Saturday night. The whole notion of New Year/New Noise seems to come from the very foundations we find ourselves within at The Brunswick Club. Spontaneity rises at every possible venture; visceral creativity thrives at the very heart of its proceedings. This is the place where sheer openness, an unadulterated state of mind, is required to understand what has been presented in previous years, and what the future holds for one of Bristol’s most eclectic and fervent movements. This is where it ends.
Friday is not merely a warm-up; it’s a focused and excellent introduction. Obsidian Teeth figure in enveloping, searching electronica that is as jarringly tectonic as it is exploratory. The enigmatic closing moments of the set in particular reach for something distinctively emotional. It’s almost playful.
The highlight of the evening is Daniela Dyson, a poet and spoken-word artist who embraces the crowd with a sharp and delightfully-individual set that reflects personally, while being undeniably empathetic. Their utterance is empowering as much as it is arresting, grasping the steeped subjects of heritage and gender and investigating them from the everyday environments of nights out, afternoons with family, engagements with friends. It’s striking, approachable and unquestionably relevant – a really distinctive performance.
Saturday, amongst the bare and imposing darkness of the Brunswick basement, Nervous Conditions captivate with the set of the weekend. An eight-piece group from Cambridge, they are incredibly tight live, their experimental expression all the while being succinct and acutely intense. Connor Browne is a conductor, incensed and imposing, sparking into life with vigour as a raised fist informs the band of the next barraging succession that is to come. Each member is fixed in focus, yet certainly not without vivacity – both drummers play with jazz-like consideration, yet still leave you shaking, as they explore another phrase to find another way of impressing this already large crowd. It’s purposeful and inventive – an exciting preview of what could come from such a group.
From here on in, dry ice engulfs the basement with an undoubtedly eerie atmosphere, one that particularly suits the following acts that perform through the rest of the evening. While S4U certainly show off their hip-hop foundations throughout their excellent set, their experiments with RnB, soul and ‘Untrue’-esque dubstep are what make them a particularly stand-out proposition. The duo exude a powerful balance of catchy, emotional vocal hooks and fragmented beats and breaks, a fragile intensity simmering underneath throughout. This works favourably live; the vocals are at times particularly vulnerable, juxtaposing the heavy thread of beats that inform the set. Great personality lies in their concise and singularly distinctive tracks. S4U again delivers something different for this event.
Following the sad announcement that Vessel would no longer be able to play the event and the surprise unveiling of Mica Levi for a highlight-filled DJ set, Moor Mother stage an engaging, political performance that is bracing, minimal and vigorous. It is almost dystopian in its form, a singular hum crackling under Moor Mother’s powerful brace of commanding spoken word and angsty, anxious rap. Live brass figures through the reverberating vibrations, lingering as Camae Ayewa lurches over an array of pedals. When synths appear, they are alien and whirring, harnessed like the brass, an unnerving centre-point of the overwhelming whole. It’s abrasive in sound and speech, acutely anxious and invigorating in equal measure, the body-shaking tectonic beats sounding absolutely colossal in the basement, delivering distortion in varying ways.
And so to Giant Swan, the headliners of the first and the last New Year/New Noise and one of the most pivotal components in this underground enterprise. Their set is a sweaty pile-up of topless bodies, hovering over the duo’s cornucopia of pedals and equipment. It’s a ceaseless array of contorted communications and sonically-cascading functions that form something delightfully preoccupying. It’s techno that glares into the very crevices of its mechanical procedure and somehow exerts some functioning form of human emotion. All the while, it’s immediately revitalising through their absorbing performance. It’s of course a suitable closer for this event and the community that exists within it. With New Year/New Noise, Howling Owl have, time and again, presented the most expressive and vital music they could find, in the abrasive context of a live show, never once following in any other direction than their own chosen path.