Experimental Sonic Machines.

This piece was written in September 2012 for The Lincolnshire Echo.

Regular readers may remember a couple of months ago I talked about the phenomenon of the open microphone night, and the cavalcade of talent often contained within. I recently went to the weekly open mic night at The Jolly Brewer Pub in Lincoln (which comes highly recommended) and I was treated to a spectacle like no other, when Peter K. Rollings took to the stage with his Experimental Sonic Machines. This is a man who commands your attention, thanks in part to his outlandish, Tim Burton meets steampunk masks and his outlandish, insane Sonic Machines (for it would be wrong to refer to these items as instruments in the traditional sense), and also thanks to his commanding stage presence. This guy puts the likes of Mick Jagger to shame, but make no mistake, he’s no ageing, crotch grabbing lothario. This is a man who becomes truly, truly absorbed in his performance, and its hypnotic to witness, in much the same way as a lava lamp. His movements are free and theatrical, adding to the sense of sheer wonder.

His Machines almost defy description. He begins with a device that comprises a large wooden turntable, which on one side lies an array of metallic tubes, each engineered to play at a different pitch, and keys that only faintly resemble a piano on the other side. It looks like something out of Caractacus Potts’ house in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. And it sounds as incredible as it looks. As Peter begins to turn the wheel, a low level hum fills the entire pub. When he presses the keys and begins to play, heaven’s bells themselves greet your ears. Fabulous. His other primary instrument is guitar like, in so far as it has a neck, and again a large turntable where the body would be. I could not for the life of me even begin to fathom how he was playing it.

The music itself is a peculiar mix, all of it relatively slow in tempo. If I had to pin a genre on it (not easy), the best description would be along the lines of contemporary classical meets progressive jazz. Probably not even close.

His masks are equal parts beautiful and disturbing, and almost all look like they were created by the Dr.Who props department. One in particular looks a little like a cross between a cyberman and some sort of stag, with an empty yet piercing stare and expressionless mouth, which has enormous, curved antlers sprouting from the sides. This certainly isn’t Sesame Street.


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