Transformer 1 was a pretty special all day event at Manchester Victoria Warehouse earlier this year, you can read all about it here! The title comes from Lou Reed’s iconic album rather than robots in disguise, with bands influenced by such noise picked out to represent on the big day. Swans and The Fall were the big gets, but there were plenty of smaller bands waiting to be uncovered; have you listened to Suuns yet?
A Transformer 2 seemed to be a dead cert after such an ear-splitting set of shows, and yes, we got one. Check that line-up out in the poster image above… you got Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bardo Pond, Ben Frost, The Field, Sculpture, and more, more, more! Unfortunately, a month or so before, the event moved to the Albert Hall with only three bands intact. At least it wasn’t outright cancelled like All Tomorrow’s Parties and Safe As Milk festivities. Are lovers of noise a dying breed? Was everybody too busy getting it on with Metallica at Manchester Arena the same night? And could three bands recreate the magic of the enduring endearing day that was Transformer 1? Read on to find out… yes, yes, maybe.
The two bands before Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Bardo Pond and Liars, only had 45 minutes apiece to impress, with Bardo Pond being the first off to bat. Unfortunately Bardo Pond isn’t a band best suited for such a short playtime.
A friend pointed out that the drummer and the guitarist in the back seemed to be playing a completely different tune, another genre, those drums certainly sounded metal, contrasting against the folk-ish front on ‘Crossover’, and I guess that is one good way to describe the band as they mixed the two into a swampy drone.
It takes time to really feel the clashing sounds as one whole, and that happened when the flute came into play for the final track, ‘Moment to Moment’. The piece starts a little country before melding into a flute powered drone. There was a certain magic, the mood setting the crowd up for more. But of course there wasn’t to be any more, for the 45 minutes were up. I’d love to see this band play a full set one day… the end was like being snapped out of a dream, even if for some it took a little time to fall into said dream. So it goes.
Angus Andrew of Liars arrived on stage fully garbed in wedding attire, the dress seen on the album cover for latest release, TFCF (Theme From Crying Fountain). He’s really taking this whole ‘stood up at the aisle’ regarding the departure of past members seriously, turning it into part of the act, gown and all.
The music helped provide a different palette to a night of drone, with noise fuelled electronica to stomp around in a wedding dress too, though only Angus got that memo. Despite a shift in genre for the night, Liars music fits right in with the sense of experimentation and pure racket that can be put out through electronics, drums, and guitars. Shorter experiments also fit the 45 minute support slot well too, for instead of a slow burning build, Liars instead erupted from the start.
And just to be extra annoying, here is a blurry vertical image to break up all those horizontals from before.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor had a full two hours to orchestrate their dystopian future/present, with slow build ups, massive cello powered droning delights, and a whole lot of atmospheric video to roll through.
Rather than being a bit of a bum shuffler/leg killer, the mood sucked the listener in, and even though they forgot to bring a saxophone to truly replicate the album opener ‘Undoing a Luciferian Towers’ (I waited for this moment, I’m always waiting for these moments), the new pieces were as captivating live as anything from the past, with the video of falling planes and derelict buildings acting out a dreamlike looping narrative. Or one long beautiful nightmare, you could take it either way.
I still see those falling planes whenever I listen to the new album. I still see them when I’m lying in bed in silence. I still see them when I close my eyes. I still see them.
Transformer 2 was a tighter budget constrained sequel to Transformer 1, with a whole load of cuts made just to get it out to an audience. More time would have been nice to let Bardo Pond get their drones droning (I mean drone not drones of course), but there is never enough time. At least with what time we had, all three bands provided moments to lose yourself in, be it through flutes, electronica beats, or the loudest cello playing you could ever mosh to.
And I won’t hold my breath for Transformer 3, the noise rock fan-base would end up with one less fan. Maybe that’s what happened with the promises made with All Tomorrow’s Parties and Safe As Milk? A dying breed indeed. Keep breathing and enjoy the noise, no matter how slight. Lap it up from the floor till you can crave no more.