Incubate Tilburg 2011 – Friday 16/09/11

Incendiary did wonder whether this whole song and dance act was a calculated attempt to align herself in the audience’s mind with the likes of quirky divas such as Kate Bush... If so, Austra, throw away the manual girl!

 

 

Fresh from the afternoon's DIY conference, Incendiary plunged into Incubate’s famously diverse programme with a fair amount of abandon.  First to catch our attention were Dead Neanderthals in Café ’t Buitenbeentje. The Neanderthals - a grizzled sax/ drums duo from Nijmegen- hammered out a frantic sound based on the sax’s blurts, squeaks and moans, all the while powered by some industrial strength drumming.  Their tracks never seemed to last more than a minute, and they made me think of a machine press, or the old bulb packing machine which I used to maintain back in my factory worker days. And a plus mark for the programmers in putting them on at the start as this kind of sound could have finished most off at 2am…  

Slightly frazzled by the experience, we strolled across to Café Cul de Sac to catch SJ Esau, a young lad whose LPs are Incendiary favourites. Esau, a mild-looking soul, had something of the country parson about him: his gentle and precise movements and his slightly donnish air calmed us after the sax maelstrom from over the road. When the sound man had finally sorted matters out, Esau started to knock out his carefully layered music. His vibe reminded us a bit of the Ex, who also mix up quiet whispered sections with stabs and shards of strange noises, such as in the acerbic bits of Part of a Diagram and The Wrong Order. And unlike a lot of one man band merchants, Esau has a strong knack for marrying off harmonies and tones.  Still, there’s enough grist in Esau’s mill to shake things up if need be, and Incendiary were treated to a great version of I Threw a Wobbly to finish off with. A great gig.  

Then a decision we regretted in hindsight. Instead of going to see Chris Corsano and Herder, we chose the glitzy world of electro pop, on this night represented by Germany’s Kool Thing and Canada’s Austra - both at 013. Both failed to grab us. Kool Thing just seemed woefully out of tune and no amount of attitude can keep an audience steady in the face of truly shit singing… Oh well. Austra turned up in the Kleine Zaal and went through a set that can only be described as an animated adolescent’s dressing up session – albeit one set to synth music.  I mean, hmm….  Austra’s LP is an enjoyable listen; and her voice is tremendous too, she sings with a lustre not often heard, we’ll give her that… but we felt that everything was too careful, too calculating, too copy book. Incendiary did wonder whether this whole song and dance act was a calculated attempt to align herself in the audience’s mind with the likes of quirky divas such as Kate Bush... If so, Austra, throw away the manual girl!

 

All these kind of reservations began to grate more and more as a series of hyperbolic texts reached us mostly referring to the Godlike genius of Chris Corsano’s set with Christine Sehnaoui and the beauty of Herder’s performance… To cap a series of Mike Ashley-like blunders, pizza (unforgivably) took precedence over Klaus Beyer, but you live and you learn.