- by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date: Label:
It’s about half 9 on a Saturday night in Shipley and it looks like my friend is about to be indoctrinated into a cult. Tribal rhythms and shadowy figures work their way through the crowd and it feels like I’ve inadvertently stumbled into the middle of a horror film; the closing scenes to Ben Wheatley’s disconcerting Kill List perhaps? Well, let’s hope things don’t go that way. Of course all this makes sense when I remember that I’m actually at The Golden Cabinet, West Yorkshire’s finest night for all things experimental.
My night starts in a slightly less bizarre way with a solid set from Sheffield/ Leeds punks Beta Blockers. Brutal punk with a hefty dose of noise is the order of the day as the band launch into a brilliantly bludgeoning set. The lead singer clearly enjoys his work; sliding along the floor and even rubbing his knees like an excitable Vic Reeves at one point. Committed to the sound as he goes about shredding his vocal chords; he’s going to need some David Yow-strength Strepsils. The whole set clocks in at around 15 minutes. Short but sweet.
Being in the midst of an unexpected heat wave, we step outside between sets. When I walk back in to the strains of Alice Coltrane there’s what looks like, to all intents and purposes, a huge shower curtain hung up in the centre of the room. With a table of electronics set up in front, the stage is set for Nottingham’s Aja Ireland aka experimental noise artist AJA. The night is about to get a whole lot stranger.
Dressed in a white outfit adorned with tinsel and her face painted like a tiger, AJA’s act sits somewhere between uncompromising noise and performance art. Clutching a microphone the set begins with some heavenly harmonies before descending into waves of floor-shaking, let strangely euphoric noise. This certainly isn’t for the faint-of-heart.
Animalistic screams are filtered through an effects laden microphone as she disappears behind the shower curtain, theatrically peeking out between howls. Heavy, rhythmic beats add a touch of techno to proceedings and the crowd starts to dance, AJA trailing her microphone lead behind her as she walks out into the throng. At one point she’s writhing around on the floor. It’s a surreal and wonderfully intense sensory experience.
Things aren’t about to get any less intense with the arrival of UKAEA Kult Ritual. The room is bathed in ominous red light and there’s what appears to be a circle of bones on the floor, a perspex box with a microphone on it and a couple of percussionists preparing themselves. It’s then that the ritual begins.
Dressed in robes, faces painted and wearing spiky headdresses, nightmarish occult priestesses appear. Two of the performers blindfold a third, slowly walk her out into the bemused crowd and then begin the process on the audience. Taking hands at random, slowly walking them to the bone circle and blindfolding them. Initially I’m worried about being chosen while later on I’m disappointed I’m not.
The music is a mix of tribal, mesmeric percussion and feverish levels of hypnotic, mind-altering noise. The lights are strobing as the groups vocalist stands atop a perspex box chanting, hollering and generally whipping up a storm. There’s an otherworldly energy to the performance that simply doesn’t let up. That sense of performance reminds me a little of Lone Taxidermist except the pop influences and day-glow revelry has been replaced by something altogether darker.
Long strips of fabric are dipped in plaster of Paris and used to tie unsuspecting revellers at the wrist. Their whole performance in fact thrives on bringing the room together. We’re all part of the ritual, all contributing to the surge of communal energy as pockets of dancing break out across the room. Others stand stock still, completely hypnotised by it all. Part underground rave, part campfire death cult.
Just like AJA, UKAEA Kult Ritual manages to make all this chaos thoroughly euphoric. The experience at times akin to standing inside Susperia or The Wicker Man. A nightmare for many but, for horror fans, an absolute dream. To paraphrase Lord Summerisle (or Edward from The League of Gentlemen for that matter), you did wonderfully UKAEA Kult Ritual.
Amazing picture of UKAEA Kult Ritual by Maria Spadafora. More here: http://www.mariaspadafora.com/