Time for something different to start the Sunday; and what better than a film? Scuttling off to the marvellous Film Foyer and sitting in comfortable swivel seats, we took in ODDSAC, an “audio-visual project” (namely a film with a soundtrack) that was the result of a collaboration between Danny Perez and Animal Collective. We were there for the soundtrack. And we weren’t disappointed in this regard, as the music was little short of magnificent. The film was less so, bits of occasionally inspiring and intriguing ideas (setting up a drum kit on a river bed, a vampire canoeing through the night, TV interference) were often too short, or stilted, or overshadowed by the most boring passages of film imaginable; passages that were, in effect, a souped-up rock video with the ending as contrived as any MTV promo shoot. Shame. But hell’s teeth, I hope Animal Collective take those sonic ideas a bit further…
Look, there’s a Cossack! Not what you’d expect to see walking down Tilburg’s shopping street at midday on a Sunday, but there was no denying that a tall, aesthetic-looking man (walking in the company of other Gothic –dressed types) had full First War Cossack regalia on. Fans of a band, doubtless. That band turned out to be Die Weisse Rose, a collection of intense individuals from Denmark, who deal (using drums and loops and spoken-word “soliloquies”) with Europe’s dark Totalitarian past: (their band name is an inspiring one, no doubt of that). In terms of image think Laibach - without the metal. It was a mixed bag, at times the use of tapes and speech and the rat-tat-tat of the drums promised something truly spine-tingling. But this kind of thing is reliant on tension and needs to be informed and supported by a certain amount of light and shade, both in the concert’s pace, the sonic mix and the delivery. As soon as it becomes too perfunctory, it can lose shape and become a tad boring. And that’s how we felt; a presence promising an interesting gig with a powerful anti-war pro-freedom message, but falling short due to a certain stiffness or indeed, realisation on what they could do with that look. Next was something completely different. Premonition (the alter-ego of the nomadic Wino, (ex St Vitus frontman) smashed out a set of diesel-fuelled metal in the Batcave. According to the festival booklet there were no songs, just “jams” and there are no records for Premonition. And I can’t really be arsed finding out if the band does have records out or not, but you know I’d recommend seeing this guy. I don’t like any form of metal or metal-informed blues, or indeed a lot of blues music. But it says something for Wino’s stage presence and delivery (and bucket-loads of lazy charm) that he had Team Incendiary rooted to the spot for nigh on the whole gig. It ain’t what you do…
The Cul de Sac was our next port of call, there to catch Cyaneed, a Norwegian girl pop band, who dressed in ra-ra skirts and jumped around like Cindi Lauper in one of her numerous videos but really failed to capture us, not through want of trying, but more through lack of any notable songs.. oh well… We quickly ran off to what was rapidly becoming our HQ, the Buitenbeentje, to take in Believo!, a Belgian garage/screamo three-piece (yes, another), who made a marvellous LP last year, one that Incendiary praised pretty highly. We didn’t get to hear much of it because (according to the band) they don’t really like playing it live. How Belgian. We got lots of new songs instead which were crisp, terse garage pop that boasted that quality that only good bands can conjure up; namely the ability to re-sell a sonic idea (clashing, shifting, buzzy garage with a high treble sound) you’ve dismissed as old hat ages ago. Mainly it’s in their charm: they don’t seem that bothered about being liked (which gives instant brownie points from us) but there were some good tunes belted out, that’s for sure Look out for them. Back to the Cul de Sac for another three-piece band, the much hyped Cold Pumas from the UK, who were, well, just okay on this outing. I can’t really think of much to say about them apart from they were pleasing enough.
We hung around the Cul de Sac to catch Bachelorette, a young lady who bore a remarkable resemblance to the Thomas Henry illustrations of William Brown’s mother. This quiet and pastoral mental image was backed up to some extent by the music, which was wistful singer-songwriter stuff, aided and abetted by some digital ju-ju via the obligatory lap top and pedal/knob set up… Nevertheless, this set comprised of brilliantly crafted music; the songs carried enough emotional weight for the audience to become engaged, and their spiral, repetitive nature allowed the listeners to relax and create their own space in the music. All too quickly it was over. One of those great festival moments that catch you unawares, top stuff.
A break before Michael Rother and his all-star band reinterpreted Neu!, in the shape of a kebab; (the food break not some spectacular career-shift for Mr R I hasten to add) and then to the Kleine Zaal to see something we’d waited all weekend for. Now I know people are going to feel that Hallogallo isn’t really Neu!, (of course not) and that the absence of Klaus Dinger means it’ll never be the real thing, but what the heck? It’s Neu! music reinterpreted for a new audience by Michael Rother and he’s a bloody genius. (Funnily enough I wonder out of all these sudden Neu! experts we have, just how many people did miss Klaus when he WAS alive? Or knew who he was? Just a thought…)
Anyway, Steve Shelley did a pretty bloody admirable job of knocking out that Klaus/Thomas Dinger non-drummer drum fill that Rother obviously grew addicted to AND the meditative ticking beat that Jaki Liebezeit and Mani Neumaner backed Rother up with on Harmonia’s Deluxe and his first handful of solo LPs. Indeed we had snippets of Harmonia as well as a full run-out of the romantic Immer Wider from Deluxe, a mighty brooding vessel that eclipsed everything else in the show, even the Hero-tastic ending and the E-Musik-tastic beginning. A warm, wonderful gig and it was marvellous to see young and old finally give one of the great pioneers his due reward. An aside: an open message to porcine dude in cap and Neu! tee-shirt at the front, who boasted loudly he had “all the records”. Squire, you really shouldn’t text through Immer Wieder, it made you look a right nob-hound.
Bitchiness aside, it was a great festival, and I truly hope it keeps it’s gentle, provincial, underground vibe.