Audacious Art Experiment

Café OTO

To give Londoners an idea of what a real beating-heart art scene looks like, Sheffield’s Audacious Art Experiment hosted a night of experimental music in Dalston’s Café OTO.

The AAE itself has been flying on its own momentum in Sheffield since 2002, and mostly takes the form of a label and long-standing club night at its own Audacious Space. According to Blood Sport baritone guitarist/vocalist Nick Potter, the abundance of disused warehouses within walking distance of the centre of town give Sheffield’s artists and musicians a unique opportunity for creative freedom.

The collective also exists to facilitate and bring together its artists, offering rehearsal spaces and a basement lab for building synths and other music-making creations. One such innovator is the night’s first act, ambient drone artist Spandril, who the AAE calls its ‘resident lab technician’. Spandril’s deep, rumbling ambient tones evolved and explored, and kept the audience glued to their seats. It’s pure doom-laden drone, which deftly deploys moments of chaos amongst a thick, bass-heavy bed of sound.

Between acts plays a compilation of songs chosen by almost every contributor to the AAE, and giving the audience an immersive introduction to the creative range (and impeccable taste) of the label.

Soon, the same crowd that had been lulled into serenity was jolted back to attention by experimental noise duo Trans/Human, who tore a gaping hole through their guests’ collective peace of mind. Incorporating a walkie-talkie moved in and out of proximity with a TV cathode, the duo created 45 minutes of feedback loops, strobe lights, and apocalyptic noise.

Backed by the same flickering TV set whose innards were being fried before us, Adam Denton and Luke Twyman used everything at their disposal to create an arresting, abrasive spectacle.

And finally, to bring us back from the brink were self-proclaimed ‘aggro-beat’ three-piece Blood Sport. Since the release of last year’s acclaimed debut LP Life In Units, the band have clearly hit on something significant with their mix of nimble afro-beat rhythms and choppy guitar experimentation. The band played almost an hour’s worth of urgent, expansive and entirely new material, which will appear on their eagerly awaited EP Axe Laid To The Root later in the year.

If Life in Units was a canvas-splash of a nascent new style, their new songs are tighter and more focused. The tracks tread their own distinct path between loop-driven electronic dance and experimental guitar music, a unique balance between noise and rhythm that right now belongs entirely to them.

At its heart, it’s great dance music, but there’s still a tremendous amount going on. The last two (as yet unnamed) songs especially were under-the-skin infectious, and had the audience not been subject to the earlier emotional rollercoaster, every one of them would have been on their feet.

The night made a great case for Sheffield’s rich scene, and as I nursed my £4 half-pint and checked my suffering balance for the oyster home, I can’t have been the only one considering a move up north.