Like some high priestess at Boudicca’s side, invoking an army of Wode-covered Hairies to the slaughter, Lipstate urges us on. Magic.
BL!NDMAN: courtesy of Pieter Kers
Staggering towards the train station through a deserted Den Haag, bathed in the cold light of a Sunday morning, wasn’t the best experience I've ever had. Especially after the "bewildering" highs of a house party where I’d talked to Ital about (I think) gardening. What a night. Had someone really shown me a picture of Finnish [percussionist Tatu Rönkkö holding an ironing board with the picture of an attractive lady on it? Had I really drunk copeland’s rum? What Godless piss had I talked about with Anna von Hausswolff? All these things must remain a mystery; the sort of cover up the NKVD used to specialise in. And anyway; enough of me and my idiocy. How on earth to sum up Rewire?
Now I’ll confess (before we go any further) I’d helped out on this festival for the previous three months; so I am aware that writing about Rewire in glowing terms is going to sound a bit, well, fraudulent. I get that. But I’m going to rave about the festival because it surprised me a lot. And a lot of gigs that I assumed would be the sort of faux intellectual jerk offs I normally hate turned out to be really fantastic gigs; some of them revelatory. Let’s try to start at the beginning and split it into two; if only for my own sanity.
Friday 7 November
EO.N Electriciteitsfabriek is fucking freezing. There are portaloos outside. Inside the building is a shell, the sort of place that post-industrial/brutalist/concrete junkies give themselves hand-shandies over. It’s so cold that holding a beer in your hand is unpleasant. Never mind, we’re here (along with a load of high school kids who’ve been roped in on a cultural mission and a lot of comfortably off middle aged arthounds) to take in Herman Kolgen’s collaboration with Belgian percussion group, BL!NDMAN; based round Kolgen’s audio-visual pieces, Train Fragments. Suddenly there’s a load of banging and crashing in the Mezzanine above, which turns out to be BL!NDMAN knocking the collective shit out of pipes and washboards and the like. Kolgen’s band saunter on stage, the incredible visuals (which fall JUST on the right side of being incredibly slick and impressive without looking like a perfume ad) flicker into action. My, this is something; a sort of surfer’s wave of sound smashing into the seated – and awestruck audience. Everything is off the scale; and in terms of sensory attack beyond what you could imagine. Half way through, some divvy in the building pulls the plug. Disappointed? You bet. Whoever did that needs a thorough wigging. But in retrospect it was the ultimate ending; adding yet more surprise to a remarkably ebullient opening gig.
Now what? Well we had a load of choice on what calming gig to attend; as after Kolgen’s attack you certainly needed to reclaim your headspace. We decide to leave Bohren & Der Club of Gore and Maarten Vos & Greg Haines to more gentle souls, checking out Lee Noble instead. Noble’s spiky, understated, work has always tickled us. We really dig his cottage industry take on things. And in the beautiful old Barthkapel, his quirky, but incredibly empathic approach to sound is brilliantly showcased; the swells of emotion and the precise way he builds up his set matching the old church’s benign atmosphere to a tee. At one point a partner in crime joins him to twiddle nobs or flick switches (or whatever these tabletop musicians do) lending the gig the aura of a gentle experiment. Truly great stuff. We decide to catch Dotlights play in the Prins27 foyer. Dotlights’s set is full of a dreamy frailty that isn’t a million miles off The Durutti Column’s old sound. Think LC updated for a new age. We feel suitably calm; a calm that isn’t even shattered by the fact that we throw beer over ourselves for no apparent reason. Then it’s back to the Barthkapel for Void of Sound (aka Sigurd Kristoffersen); who lays down yet another tenet of “the law of ambient”. We get strongly expressed stretches of richly layered sound; something that is used to forcibly express a mood, or a state of mind. In stark contrast to Lee Noble’s attempt to meet his audience half way, Void of Sound looks to pummel us with his ideas. Which is fine by me, as the way the gig is built up (thick, almost impasto passages of noise) and offset by some suggestive visuals (the dark of night, deserted cities) is cleverly done. Quite a show. Can we top that? It seems we can. Noveller’s gig holds us all under a spell. Forget the brilliant, simple melodies on the song-like tracks such as No Dreams, or the hypnotic guitar runs, or even the way Sarah Lipstate builds up the loops and hooks into a dizzying equation of sound; the best thing about Noveller is that she treats her gig like a rock gig. Yes, you heard me, there’s a rock sensibility at play that isn’t ashamed to show its face. You can see this in the way she injects a clear, bold set of dynamics into proceedings, or maybe by the way she holds her guitar; it is so powerful and suggestive. And seeing she’s stood where the altar used to be in Barthkapel you can’t help but think that she’s acting out some magical, religious rite. Like some high priestess at Boudicca’s side, invoking an army of Wode-covered Hairies to the slaughter, Lipstate urges us on. Magic. Then it’s a quick dash to catch Jozef van Wissem at Prins27. Van Wissem’s new LP, It Is Time for You To Return is a very powerful thing, and one that boasts a fair dollop of electronic trickery. But tonight, we get Jozef with only his lute for company. We need nothing more as this is a fabulous demonstration of skill and feeling; the cyclical and timeless nature of his music holding everyone in a spell. And this despite the fact he blows the monitor up two times over (or unplugs himself or does something with leads and wotnot) it matters not a jot. In fact the bit when the sound cuts, and van Wissem carries on is unintentionally brilliant. You can hear a pin drop.
So far we’ve watched a lot of moody textural stuff with hardly a beat. Time to rectify that with the first of Rewire’s club nights at the Paard van Troje. First on the list is Tilburg's Drvg Cvltvre (aka Vincent Koreman), who is a big favourite of this magazine; mainly for his uncompromising (dare we say headstrong) approach to dance music. We are expecting a crushing of the senses. That we don’t get anything like that is all the more exciting. Koreman plays the mood beautifully; and through employing a patient, almost reserved approach, he slowly but deftly adds beats and notes into a mix that always suggests something more is going to happen. He then removes them just at the point when you get comfortable with things, looking to introduce darker or more abrasive elements by increment. In terms of playing the crowd this has to be one of the best club gigs we’ve seen in a decade. Suitably enervated we take in bits of Koreless and Dauwd in the main hall; both of whom seem to be playing blinders. Koreless is patient and dreamy, whereas Dauwd smashes into his set with a headstrong panache and Soul Boy take on having FUN. He’s looking to promote a warm, empathic take on enjoying yourself; something the crowd in the main hall is up for. Back we saunter to see Vessel rip Paard II a new back passage with a cavalier mix of sounds and shapes that is high on testosterone – or bloody mindedness – or maybe a bit of both. This is surprising in a number of ways; I was thinking that Vessels’ could be one of the more cerebral sets of the night, but the sheer physicality of his fractious take on dance music has me holding my breath. Following that, Lee Gamble fucks our minds with a non-dance dance set, which is marvellous and baffling in equal measure. The bit where Mimas Skank kicks in is fantastic mind; everyone’s pent up and wanting to cut some rug, but this headstrong loon keeps throwing white noise at us. It’s one of those gigs that can drive you mad at the time, but you’re damned glad you’re taking it in. Simian Mobile Disco’s avuncular take on the history of all cutting edge club music is proving a hit, but this is a set that demands attention and my head’s spinning. Mind maps are further stretched by the dark, proto-industrial gloss of Albert van Abbe and the tremendously colourful “thump” of Gardland. Round the midpoint of van Abbe’s set I realise I’m making no sense at all to my companions. The dreaded night train from Holland Spoor awaits.