Tricoli’s gig more than lives up to his LP’s reputation. Gothickle Musique Concrète has never sounded so fucking groovy.
Our Rewire Odyssey continues...
Saturday 8 November
Day two begins on a bloody note. Only one thing for it. That’s right, earnest discussion panels about found sound and weird gigs full of strange domestic appliances and laptops. Yeah, that’ll help the burning sensation in my insides no end. Off to Zaal 3 / Studio Loos then, for the day programme.
I get there in time for the KRK gig in Zaal 3 which could go either way. Namely it could be a right load of complicated intellectual stuff my head can’t take in or it could be kicking. It’s the latter; an incredible mix of wild and brutal sounds conjured up by an iphone, weird controllers and Theremin-like instruments (is it a Theremin?) a contrabass and manipulation of some amps. It is absolutely fucking brilliant: made the moreso by the actions of the KRK lads. Matthew Ostrowski and George Cremaschi play up to their strange brittle music by throwing out a few shapes and pulling some theatrical poses. Sometimes gigs that also look to “deconstruct the instruments being played” can come over like the worst sort of (amplified) navel gazing. This isn’t. It’s a brilliant performance piece. After this we watch a panel on found sound with Wanda Group, Klara Lewis, Thijs Geritz and Mike Kramer. Together, we fumble towards a description of what found sound actually is. Asking artists to describe their work is never easy – as half the time they are shooting from the hip in the creative process - but hey, we get something out of it. Then it’s time for Klara Lewis in Studio Loos. Lewis’s recent LP, Ett, and her new EP are things of wonder; vast and soulful jets of noise that also have a playful, poppy edge. Lewis, bent studiously over her equipment cranks out her noise, a noise which reveals a more sensitive side in a live setting. You also can’t help but think she has a lot in common with Cluster; especially Cluster’s early records; big weather balloons full of sound floating off into the distance. I also really dig the gaps between the tracks, something few artists of this sort do; and the tracks “feel” like songs because of this. It also gives the audience clear marker points helping them to relax, and a timeline that adds a certain something to the gig. There’s one track that is long and comes over like a sublime mix of Eno and Terry Riley, or (yes kick me) a brilliantly avant garde womb-like take on Simple Minds’ lost epic A Brass Band in African Chimes. A real highlight of the day.
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OK at this point I just want to say, when can we gig goers go to a trendy post-post-post-industrial joint that was once a factory that produced ball bearings or tinned axle grease (but is now an art space or what have you) that just serves simple food like a cheese sandwich with no frills, at a price that is affordable and doesn’t look to add a service charge onto our carbon footprint guilt? Or is a cheese that isn’t a special cheese or an Italian cheese or a cheese from cows herded by farmers that have an MA & are sensitive blah blah…. I enjoyed the quiche and salad at Zaal 3, it was lovely, and the ubiquitous brownies were nice too. But when can we have a good old fashioned cheese sandwich with nothing on it (but, obviously, cheese), costing a euro or so (‘cos the bread you can get that from a supermarket for 1 euro and make say 10 sandwiches from that so incrementally your profits rise the more cheese sandwiches you make). You can get corned beef or luncheon meat for the meat heads. Or hummus for the vegans. Just make a fucking great big plate of them, cover them in kitchen foil and job’s a good ‘un.
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A talk with Hydras Dream follows, during which the ever charming Anna von Hauswolff laughs a lot, and then it’s off to catch Wanda Group start up. In total contrast to Klara Lewis’s structure, Louis Johnstone (for Wanda Group is he, and no-one else) builds up a seemingly shapeless pressure cooker of tones and white noise; it’s akin to tuning into interference on your radio. However unlike radio interference, these slabs of sound have a feel and sympathy to them that is very surprising. Johnstone is adept at employing the space around him to create a statement and you get the feeling that he’s looking to feel out the room, to see what he can get away with. Which sort of makes you think what sound works, where. I mean this isn’t THAT MUCH different to inadvertently tuning into interference on your radio. So is it down to the space, or Johnstone’s manipulations? I don’t know frankly but what the hell? It’s great, though intense. Then it’s time to watch Geritz / Kaffa create the most sublime set of shapes and textures with their gig. More considered than Wanda Group’s wild extempore into sound, but possessing a sort of latent menace, the duo start to muck about with a variety of instruments, getting close to the sort of dry, pleasing passages that someone like Holger Czukay plays around with. The visuals also add a weird 70s note (all those reds and browns), one that gives a strong filmic edge to what they do.
We’re running a bit late. We were going to take in Efterklang but to be honest the day programme has been so good so far it would be churlish not to watch Valerio Tricoli, whose LP, Miseri Lares, is a work of towering genius. Disbelieve me and forever fry in the hell of my approbation. Got that? Tricoli’s gig more than lives up to his LP’s reputation. Gothickle Musique Concrète has never sounded so fucking groovy. He’s got this table full of stuff; tape reels, buttons, nobs, switches, and doubtless an old CB receiver, or old stuff like that. He also has a powerful, flickering light that blinds us now and again with its sharp flashes. The voices chatter and hum, the strange ticking beat hat underpins the gig sets out a series of Morse messages to a vanished world, and various whirrs, clicks, and hisses create a strange moonlit world of the imagination. A quick “thanks a lot” and he’s off after 20 enervating minutes. It’s stupendous stuff.
How to follow that? Well, we peg over to Paard van Troje to take in DNMF (the collaboration between Machinefabriek and Dead Neanderthals), who I am desperate to see. Their LP is amazing and brazen and they are some serious Heads who are leading the charge in the current explosion in the Dutch ambient/noise scene. This is a one-off show really, and something that can’t be missed. Wait, fuck, there’s CHAIRS in Paard II, not a good sign. What does the venue expect? DNMF make the sort of racket you should be roasting an Auroch to, not stroking your chin. Oh well. We take a seat and hope this isn’t a sort of under attended show with about 7 people nervously looking round. Luckily it gets packed out, attended by the usual Hairies and some other curious types, including a bunch of well-appointed young ladies who are obviously on some journalistic assignment. Just to help them I “helpfully” write the words “FUCKING LOUD SPACE ROCK” on the back of my hand. I get stared at quizzically. Still DNMF fulfil my brief admirably, beginning with a brilliantly meditative piece based round a wheezing drone; one that sets us up for the proto-Coltrane cum Rite-era Julian Cope racket we’ve all been waiting for. From then on all hell breaks loose; René thumps the drums, Otto makes the most annoying sounds possible on his sax and Rutger creates a set of electronic yawps and squeals courtesy of his laptop. We nod along, blissed out. The girls leave after a good 20 minutes. Boy, how are they going to write that up?
After this we charge over to Prins27 to catch bits of Hydras Dream which is packed out. As such it’s impossible to get a handle on what Matti Bye and Anna von Hausswolff have cooked up but from the brief snatches of strange, atmospheric electro-folk I do pick up on, this could be a very promising project if they want to make a go of it as a live act.
Argh! Can a girl not rest? Back to Paard II to catch the heroic Colin Stetson who’s brilliant LPs are regulars on my stereo. Everyone’s here for him and no wonder, what he does is fucking out there. Using a range of saxophones (for my fellow Luddites, a fucking great big sax, a medium sax which I think is a tenor sax and a diddy sax) and modulating his voice courtesy of a mic’d up, Siouxsie-style choker, Stetson floors the room with a virtuoso display. His music is romantic; huge sweeping gestures encased in the most ridiculous, drawn out ragas. It’s almost melismatic in approach. I know that borders on sounding like a dog’s breakfast of an explanation but well, the modulations in tone and pattern play round a fairly steady and limited octave range. Oh fuck; let’s try another time. It’s the sonic equivalent of some ridiculously ornate temple carving that’s been covered in moss and tendrils for a thousand years; sensuous, intricate, and full of codes and signs that are almost impossible to decipher. The overall effect is still stunning though. We get three or four long pieces, some drawn from his last LP, New History Warfare Vol. 3., each of which is rapturously received by a swaying Paard II. What a gig! Then another quick dash over to Wouter van Veldhoven, whose strange installation at Acte de Présence seems like some enchanted shop; a space that, if you enter, won’t come out of again. Hearing the strange whale-like noises and treated guitar through the “shop window” is very, very, weird. It’s a hidden highlight of the festival. Fiium Sharrk lay down some complicated jazzy/noisy stuff in Paard II, which is obviously good and interesting but I can’t really settle into it. Oh well. Truth be told, I’m beginning to feel a bit knocked out by the day’s events. I decide to crash in the main hall and soak up Cabaret Contemporain. I wasn’t really going to pay that much attention to them as reading about them didn’t make me feel as if they would be my cup of tea. It all sounded a bit, well formulaic. Well, fuck me after five minutes of letting their sound seep into my consciousness, I start to realise that this lot are superb. The band starts to hit this ridiculously catchy Ur-Kraut groove. If you know the Organisation LP, Tonefloat (the proto Kraftwerk LP from 1970) well… prepare to be amazed; as they sounded like an updated, powerful version of that. Add a touch of (yes, clichéd but true) Gallic whimsy in there and we are cooking with gas. Wow this is great! The packed main hall runs with it. This is how groove music should sound, and I am reformed, remade and remodeled for yet more kicks.
Off to Paard II for copeland, who is the first act up on the Hyperdub showcase, and one of the people we are really anxious to see. On she comes, a slight figure dwarfed by the huge table with all her stuff on. Watching her play is mesmerizing; it’s like she’s cooking up something we can’t see, something mysterious; and it does feel as if she’s literally shifting her sound about the table, the smallest movement having untold aural significance. Now and again she dips down behind the table to grab a record, or grab one of those mouth pianos Barney used to toot in New Order. Or, back turned, she laconically sings a few simple melodies or spits out a load of Russian lyrics. It’s an astonishing set bordering on genius and one that opens up a whole new set of possibilities. Frankly I can’t be arsed going anywhere but Paard II now. Yeah Holden’s Inheritors set will be ace, the Field will be ace, Gold Panda will be ace. But I want to see Kode9 and Cooly G. The latter comes on first and basically takes the Paard II to pieces with a relentlessly sexy set, full of yearning and hormones and lust and shit like that; all of it translated into beats. It’s absolutely incredible and a sort of sound that is impossible to do justice to in a review. It does remind me of a Parliament set, the relentless focus, the ever-giving energy, and the massive preoccupation with the sensual side… Jesu H, any more of this and I may have to have a cup of tea and a biscuit, oh wait here’s Kode9. No rest for the wicked! Somehow, by some agency of the devil hisself, I find myself gyrating like a wheezing, arthritic bull at the side of the stage, swigging from copeland’s rum bottle and puffing at a fag from Cooly G herself. I take my boots off, and stand in a puddle of beer. No matter as in the meantime Kode9, pummels the room with a sort of digitake on a 1987 rave. It’s intense and fun; an abrasive and absurdly light-hearted power game with the audience (and with only one winner). Kode9 lays down the noise in a clear sighted way that only Lokiesque, shapeshifting Tricksters - like Kode9 - can pull off. I’m fucked! Where are my boots?
Off to take in Ital who is pommelling the main hall with a brilliant and romantic set that really should end when the sun appears but hey, it’s 4:30. How? It’s over. Oh. Time to go to a mad party where I talk about gardening with Ital. I think. Who cares? Myths don’t grow on trees, you know. You have to cultivate them; and this year’s Rewire was worth mythologising.