Hulme Group MInd

On Friday night I got the bus to Hulme to see Richard Norris take his ambient/deep listening project on the road. The two Group Mind Abstractions albums he’s put out this year have remained close to my turntable since their release and should be available on the NHS- their effect as a kind of aural medicine, totally absorbing mind clearers and mood enhancers is second to none.

The event was at the Niamos, an old theatre close to the city centre, formerly the Nia Centre and before that the Hulme Hippodrome and Grand Junction. Hulme was famously the home of the Crescents and the birthplace of Factory. Now there are masses of student residences right up to the theatre, buzzing on a warm Friday night. Niamos is an arts and culture hub, cans of Red Stripe behind the bar, the faded grandeur of the theatre interior and a boho vibe. It’s so relaxed there wasn’t even anyone checking tickets on the door. I was expecting a Group Mind night for some reason and hadn’t quite realised until I got there that Richard was supporting a Brighton band/collective called Partial Facsimile. A see through screen was hung across the front of the stage with fractals, shapes and digital waves and cities projected onto it during Richard’s set. He played for just over half an hour, long drawn out sounds, warm waves of ambient noise and twinkling riffs, the 5.1 surround sound really proving its value. Sitting in the main, tiny auditorium as part of a very small crowd- there were fewer than thirty people there- the effect was striking, encompassing and enveloping. I loved it but wanted more. I’d have happily immersed myself in the Group Mind for another hour or two.

Partial Facsimile are a surround sound and visual art collective, four guitarists, three playing sitting down, and a drummer plus keys playing long, drone rock, plenty of reverb and space with FX pedals- a  little like an expanded Spacemen 3 but without the drugs and the walking with Jesus. The songs comment on modern life- commuting, social media, lives lived through screens, fake news, climate change, Brexit, immigration- and films cutting up images of the same projected onto the screen while the group play. At the end of each song a QR code appears, linking to articles and research. Pretty interesting and worth seeing even if the realisation that I wasn’t getting any more Richard Norris and his Group Mind initially left me a bit deflated. Below is a clip, a minute’s worth, that I took during Richard’s set. I don’t usually film parts of gigs on my phone but having a visual and audio record of this show seemed like a good idea- part of me wishes I’d filmed the whole thing.