Written in the dust (Chris & Cosey + Wrangler at Sensoria fest)

Sensoria festival in Sheffield is “the UK’s festival of film and music” to cut and paste directly from their website. I’d not come across them before, but it’s certainly one of the more interesting. Although, sadly I only discovered this after the event. I’d come to Sheffield for the Carter Tutti plays Chris & Cosey and Wrangler gig. Shame on me, but I missed some great events and screenings.

The gig’s venue, the Picture House Ballroom, is a large, cavernous space, and former cinema originally opened in 1920. At the moment it’s in a state of ill-repair (I’m being kind) and looking to raise funding for it’s restoration. If you have a building with uncertain infrastructure, that’s dusty and fragile in parts, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you shouldn’t invite these two bands to play there.

But. It turns out that an ex-cinema is the perfect place for a gig. For a start no matter where you stand, the floor is angled so that you can still see the stage. On the downside (no puns, please) the bar is angled just enough so that even before you’ve ordered a drink, you feel pissed. Or maybe it was the champagne and wine I’d been on with friends before I got there?

Wrangler at Sensoria Sheffield 2014
Wrangler at Sensoria Sheffield 2014

I’m an ignoramus. I had no idea who Wrangler were and hadn’t thought I’d need to make an effort to get there before they went on. Luckily, I was there before they went on. They cranked up and immediately pulled me towards the stage and made demands on the ears and feet. With still no idea who they were, despite the signifiers/identifiers being there. This is a bit Cabaret Voltaire’ey, and that guy looks like he’s a bit Stephen Mallinder’ey. And these other two look familiar. Turns out that Wrangler are Phil Winter of TUNNG, Benge and of course, Mal of Cabaret Voltaire. Genius that I am, it wasn’t until they played CV’s Crackdown and Mal barked out, “Thanks for remembering.” That I realise who he/ they were. Like I said, I’m an idiot.

Wrangler hit deep, snapping beats that, standing two foot from the speaker as I was, hit the chest and on some tracks, try to push your bowels around and re-organise your innards. Luckily I did some bloke dancing and everything stayed in place.

 Carter Tutti plays Chris & Cosey image copyright @TomJones1875

Carter Tutti plays Chris & Cosey
image copyright @TomJones1875

Having been to see Chris & Cosey playing as Carter Tutti Void (CTV) a couple of weeks ago, I was really looking forward to comparing how the two different sounds would play out. Sometimes, a different band configuration just means musicians on different instruments, but the same sound plays through. Thankfully, this was never going to be the case with Chris & Cosey. Whereas CTV pull out more seemingly random electronic backdrops to their sound with improvisation and filtering of sounds to create a 3D sound, Carter Tutti plays Chris & Cosey tends (for many songs), to locate the music and beat behind Cosey’s voice and, even though heavily filtered, the emotional content feels its way through.

Carter Tutti plays Chris & Cosey are fun to watch! Chris, as any musician should, of course had his head down, playing out the beats and effects. Cosey sings and (shock horror to those who only know their Throbbing Gristle incarnation) dances and smiles and says thank you to the crowd while playing guitar and horn section. As anyone who has had any communication via email or Twitter with Chris & Cosey can tell you, they’re a long way from the Wreckers of Civilisation the British Government painted them as all those years ago. They’re lovely considerate and despite some drunken side stage shouts of “We want some Disciple in here” ( the fan even got the intonation right from that particular live album!) pay attention to the audience and engage with them (and myself, thanks Chris). Why mention this? Because all of the musicians playing tonight have had long careers, and yet still seem to bring something fresh and enjoyable to a live event.

The Picture House Ballroom looked great with washes of lights cast across the decaying, aged walls. If the architects and funders had any doubts about the building being able to stand the test of time and hard use, tonight’s gig has settled the foundations once and for all and probably shifted some last vestiges of dust from the cracks.