Cafe Oto, London, UK
The venue is plunged into darkness. A sonic assault ensues. The processed drums strike the ear with an industrial regularity. The sound is heavy and repetitive like endless rows of pumpjacks nodding in an oil field. Coloured spotlights frame Vymethoxy Redspiders (Miss VR) aka The Ephemeron Loop in a halo of blue. She plays guitar, stationed behind a midi controller, which is connected to a laptop nearing its teenage years. In a moment of respite, Miss VR takes to the microphone. Channelling Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, her vocals envelop the room like a velvet mist. This moment of vulnerability is propped up with hazy guitar effects that evoke the secret majesty of a sleeping city. Until, that is, we are overcome by further bursts of speedcore and screaming.
Miss VR is a prolific musician who performs under different pseudonyms and lends her talents to a multitude of projects, each of which looks at the art of noise making from alternative perspectives. She is perhaps best known for being one half of the Leeds duo Guttersnipe whose off-kilter brand of noise rock takes the audience on visceral excursions. Her solo project Petronn Sphene, meanwhile, is a relentless barrage of gabba beats and disintegrating electronics. The Ephemeron Loop combines the two extremes of guitar-based songwriting and high tempo dance music to form a new palette of richly layered psychedelic nuances.
Last year’s debut Psychonautic Escapism took Vymethoxy Redspiders fourteen years to complete. The album is composed of fragmented sessions – reprocessed and woven into new arrangements by Miss VR and producer Ross Halden – and draws its influence from shoegaze, rave and the Leeds queer underground scene. As the album title suggests, psychedelic drugs also factor in the mix, catalysing the artist’s self-realisation and forging her identity as a neurodivergent trans woman.
The record translates well onto the stage. The disparate stylistic elements of hardcore rhythms, guitar freakouts and sublime instrumental passages stack up on top of each other like multicoloured building blocks. Although the resulting structure may look unconventional, it is stable and fit for purpose. Close your eyes and the sweeping gusts, metallic scrapes and glitches take you to the centre of a derelict shopping mall at the moment of demolition. Open your eyes and witness the audience in abandon, fists furiously pumping in time to the frantic beats. Miss VR is acutely aware of the music’s summoning power. Her body movements and facial expressions mimic electricity. It’s what you might see in a strobe light snapshot at a club: the searing white flash arresting a stranger’s gestures and imprinting them in your mind.
The gig concludes with a rumbling bass resembling a soft explosion. When undertaking a psychedelic journey it’s worthwhile surrendering yourself to the active ingredient. That’s the key to having a transformative experience. Vymethoxy Redspiders surrenders to the sound, drawing from it a nurturing energy, in spite of the music’s dark overtones. She invites us to follow her – like Eurydice into the underworld – down endless back rooms lit with flickering fluorescent bulbs, past people with fluid features and cruel intentions. It’s a disorientating trip, but when you finally reach the exit, you find that the sun has come up, you’ve shed your skin and left your former self behind. Just remember not to look back.
Originally published by The Wire, March 2023