What would have happened if the (apparent) mainman of Skullflower had not detected a “bass hum” that he clearly felt was ruining their set? He interrupted their wall of feedback after five minutes to snap at the sound engineer and insist that each member of the three piece group turn up their instruments slowly to discover the source of the seemingly grave offence.
When he shouted “what is that bloody bass hum?”, someone replied “it’s you!”, a man who said what many of us were thinking. Mr Skullflower however, did not agree, but surely he must have seen that coming right? It was very dark in the narrow Factory space, the smallest of the stages. As the electric double bass player bowed her instrument slowly, facing her amp stack for the entire set, and the two guitarists moved their fingers around fretboards and fiddled with pedals (the effect of which was indiscernible to these ears) the claustrophobia I felt became…. Well, it became more claustrophobia and it offered me little in terms of experience. It reminded me of going to see Painjerk back in January, though it wasn’t nearly as bad to be honest, at one point in this set I did get some intriguing moments where it all sounded like banshee screams, but banshee’s aren’t considered evil for nothing.
Before they began their performance the bass player lit some charcoal discs upon which she placed some heady incense. It was a rich and woozy concoction, with little subtlety, much like their music. If I had been stoned or a habitual stoner for that matter it might have smelt delightful but to be honest it was only vaguely more pleasant than an adolescent’s over application of deodorant. I suppose that the ritualistic lighting of incense is perhaps intended to suggest that their use of high volume feedback bears relation to eastern ceremonial music, such as the Tibetan ceremonies where multitudes of Dungchen players create an overwhelming swell of noise.
I am not knowledgeable enough about either those ceremonies or the wider genre of Noise which Skullflower seem to operate within (on the evidence of this performance) to compare the two in terms of deliberation and skill; but I do know that I got a whiff of self-importance and indulgence long before the noise or the incense began, and long before the seemingly ridiculous complaint about the sound. That might be unfair, perhaps the band do have a clear idea of precisely why they wish to operate within a certain frequency range, but I doubt that if they had access to the perfect environment and sound system that I would have felt at all bothered by their uniform blast of brash boredom in the form of that credential carrying noise: feedback.