Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The first Brussels Electronic Music Festival

Right now I'm sitting on the train from Brussels to Luxemburg - quite wasted but rather inspired after having attended the Brussels Electronic Music Festival which was held for the first - hopefully not the last - time. It was one of those pleasant and digestible mid-size events with a great line-up in just a few halls. Plus, the venue itself - Bozar - was quite special - it's a labyrinth-like palace normally serving as an art exhibition centre.

There were three nights of blissful music and beats on the offer, however, due to some practical implications, I'm missing out the last night when basically Raster Noton artists (Alva Noto, CoH, Byetone etc.) perform. But now a bit on what I've actually seen not missed. So, the first opening night was somewhat calmer and with less people in comparison to the following night, which was not necessarily a bad thing, as it made the atmosphere more intimate. One space was given to the ~scape artists, namely Pole and Deadbeat - no surprise, the both filled the hall with a profound bass sound, slightly surprising though was that Pole's live set was rather upbeat. Deadbeat took over the floor with even more energetic "deep structures" and riddims. Although the most of the tracks he played were already heard from his brilliant "Roots And Wire" album, there were some unheard gems, too - particularly a tune in which a lovely garage-style vocal was masterfully coupled with a solid bassline. Apart from the music, the air was filled with that instantly recognizable cannabis aroma which made the whole experience even more familiar, although the venue itself, as I already said above, was a formal establishment, think of a state's museum. Meanwhile, a project from the French imprint Tigersushi - Principles Of Geometry - was entertaining the crowd with a no-nonsense house music in the main hall. However, a live set by Yapacc - a producer whom I shamefully hadn't known before - made my day or night, to be more precise. His music is more the one used with the adjective "house" than "techno", even deephouse, though with that more electronic, techy edge than the traditional house music - I imagine that a few years ago it might be easily pigeonholed as so called microhouse... A bit of DOP meets Lee Jones sound - just beautiful and groovy music with uplifting yet deep vibe that moves people literally and emotionally. At least, that's how it worked on me. Afterwards, Jay Haze with his laptop and controller reigned over the danceflor - his tracks were good, too, but more stripped down, and somehow after the emotionally charging set by Yapacc they sounded emptier to me. Or I was already tired, so it was pretty enough for the first night and I left soon.

The second night started early with two very special live performances by the IDM/techno icons The Black Dog and the legendary sci-electro workout Dopplereffekt. It happened in a hall which might be more appropriate for staging operas or at least classic music events than this kind of repertoire. The Black Dog duo, bent over their laptops (pictured in the beginning of this post), started with deep and immersive ambient soundscapes gradually adding more rhythmic spice. A half through, the performance got ravey, still keeping the melodic elements though. The people from their seats responded with cheerful whistling and clapping along. The music was accompanied by marvelous, minimalistic visual lines distantly depicting the nature (like clouds, a forest, meadows), then switching to more urban elements which didn't seem to be out of place or contrasting to that first out-in-the-woods approach, on contrary, everything together worked very well and seemed just natural.

The sound and images of the following Dopplereffekt were of a different kind. The anonimity and mysteriousness that surround this project were kept intact - there were a man and a woman standing behind keyboards and facing each other, both of them disguised in black masks. It seemed that they were playing chords and sounds on top of already prerecorded (or at least preprogrammed) tunes. The mood was such as one should expect from them - very reserved, even soulless (unless robots have a soul). As it's common for the classic electro - the main focus was on melodies and sound effects, whereas drum patterns were pretty simple and the use of samples - limited. Also the visuals were intentionally simple and lo-fi, dealing mostly with the 80's science-related themes, for instance, early computers and particularly satellite dishes. At some point, both performers unexpectedly left the stage leaving a rough electro beat still running. The rhythmic sequence went on for a couple of minutes and then it was the end. No any closing remarks or thanks to the public, but somehow very appropriate.

OK, enough sitting, it's time to get out to inspect what's on the dancefloors. The main floor is given to Kompakt, i.e. Mugwump (DJ), Matias Aguayo (live), SuperMayer (DJ). I was just on time to see the last 20 minutes of Mugwump's set which was pretty good and, in any case, far from minimal. One of the last things he played was a tune by Photonz which I heard at least once more during the festival. Mugwump, by the way, is a local guy and can be seen in some Brussels' record shops.

The next one was Aguayo. I'd always been curious to see him live, because judging from his records he's got his own unique way... And, yes, he looks quite the same as he sounds - energetic, life-assuring party animator. He was shouting, commenting and singing on top of his tracks, all the time making tongue-in-cheek references to pop music, for instance, Chris Isaak, something sounded to me as Digital Emotion and even Macarena. This all together seemed perhaps quite bizarre and spaced-out, nevertheless outstanding and all about having fun.

Meanwhile, Guy Gerber rocked another smaller room. He was quite fine, although a bit too epic and trancey for my liking. The next thing was more my cup of tea - a French duo DOP. In fact, I really like some their releases, and they turned out to be entertaining and interesting as a live act as well. In their performance there was a guy singing on a mic with sort of jazzy vocal but keeping it raw and sweaty as, in my view, real jazz music should be. DOP was quite dope, indeed.

As the last ones for the Saturday night M. Mayer plus Superpitcher which together are known as SuperMayer spun some lovely and melodies-driven records. The guys looked really enjoying playing records and the crowd responded cheerfully. One of the last songs Superpitcher put was the uplifting song by Animal Collective - For My Girls. A very nice ending for a great event in general.


Carnatic Instrumental music said...

Very detailed and interesting updated here. I missed it :(

aurimassive said...

a very detailed description of the festival indeed. its a shame that raster noton performance was missed. i wonder how did that go...