• REWIRE 2014: More prog percussion than at an ELP concert!

    11 nov. 2014, 21h44m

    Fri 7 Nov – REWIRE Festival 2014
    Various venues in The Hague, The Netherlands.

    Friday - E.ON Electriciteitsfabriek

    Being a gen-X codger who fondly remembers the on-site location gigs of bands like Test Dept. in the mid-'80s, the electricity factory location for the shows of Herman Kolgen & Bl!ndman (Friday) and Tatu Rönkkö + Efterklang (Saturday) felt weird. There was something incongruous about the rawness of the factory setting on the one hand, and the non-confrontational music and, quite frankly, a-bit-too-civilised-for-the-location audience on the other. Bl!ndman's prologue of polite metal-banging was an attempt to banish this jarring incongruity, but it was to no avail. Herman Kolgen's visuals were not abstract enough: the commuter-mundaneness of Dutch passenger trains and Amsterdam skylines not only dwarfed the stage in size, but filled the set with a sense of everyday familiarity that you'd think the choice of location would be trying to avoid. It distracted annoyingly from Bl!ndman's music, which was decent enough but only started to work when I decided to close my eyes, as per the band's name.

    On the surface it may have been ironic, given the regular function of the electricity factory, that the show was cut short due to a power outage. But on a deeper, enantiodromian level, it seemed fitting that the just forces of chaos would step in to end what was basically a faux-industrial charade. The audience was left wondering why Bl!ndman couldn't simply continue unplugged, considering that their instrumentation consisted mainly of acoustic percussion.

    Friday - Gote Kerk

    Bohren und der Club of Gore was not bad, but the concert's appeal depended for a large part on the ambience of the large church venue and the noir-ish lighting, a powerful combination that slightly upstaged the ambient music itself. The German combo's - ap... .proa... ch..... to cocktail-jazz works well for a few tracks, but is too minimal for a whole concert. When music is played that slow, the human brain has difficulty discerning the melody, so the songs ended up sounding all a bit the same. A less kind critic could even argue that the band's concept is a bit gimmicky, but I wouldn't go so far.

    Friday - Prins27

    Jozef van Wissem, best-known for his recent collaboration with Jim Jarmusch, was rather impressive. I was expecting a mix of and electronics but the lute on its own, in all its simplicity, worked well enough. Though, considering that his lute has such a tonal range (I counted something like 30 strings), it was a pity van Wissem only rarely ventured into the bass region of his instrument.

    Friday's highlight for me was Greg Haines, mixing grand piano and electronics. Nothing much to add, just that it was, at times, intense.

    Friday night - Paard van Troje

    Overall the first day was slightly unsatisfying, despite featuring some of my favourite artists like Vessel and Lee Gamble. Vessel suffered from poor sound (which was only corrected halfway though Lee Gamble's subsequent set), contributing to a muddle that was subpar to the excellent gig that Vessel did a month ago at OT301 in Amsterdam.

    By focusing heavily on 4/4 beats, Lee Gamble's latest album KOCH is a disappointing step backwards from his first two brilliant albums. Sadly this new monotonous direction dominated his REWIRE set. By trying to be a bit club-oriented and a bit experimental at the same time, the resulting compromise lacked the intensity to convince at either of these poles. I wish Gamble had incorporated both his ambient and more rhythmically complex sides into his set to provide for the necessary variation and tension.

    Saturday laptop matinee - Studio Loos

    Some great music was to be heard during the afternoon in the intimate setting of Studio Loos. Anglo-Swedish prodigy Klara Lewis does that rarest of things: create ambient music on a laptop that is actually engaging on an emotional level. Her flawless album Ett is one of the best releases of 2014.

    Valerio Tricoli's albums are fairly interesting, but his music only becomes really gripping in a live setting. Who knew that an artist operating an analog tape machine could be so thrilling to watch? The combination of Tricoli speaking Italian to the sound technician, noisy audio tape running out its machine and the harsh strobe-light climax made it seem like the venue had been magically transported into a scene of the film Berberian Sound Studio: a dangerously aroused goblin prowls the auditorium...

    By contrast, the set of Wanda Group lacked a compositional arc to make it interesting. Without much discreteness to Louis Johnstone's sounds, his music was like lazily turning on a tap and just letting the sound flow in one continuous stream. The live show sorely misses the added dimension of sheer ridiculousness that the macho/gay-sounding titles of Johnstone's releases brings to his recorded music.

    Saturday evening - Paard van Troje

    Highlights of the second evening were Colin Stetson, James Holden and Kode9.

    Generally speaking I'm not a big fan of the saxophone, the instrument still suffers from awkward connotations with the cheesy '80s pop of Wham! and Spandau Ballet. But lately there has been a renaissance of the instrument, something that this rather jazzy-but-not-jazz 2014 edition of REWIRE evidently showcased, with the likes of Colin Stetson, James Holden and Bohren und der Club of Gore. The fact that Stetson managed to hold my attention (and that of the audience as a whole) with a stirring solo performance on a saxophone is a testament to his greatness.

    Another trend expressing the festival's jazzy tinge was the amount of elaborate percussion set-ups. Not since the heyday of have I seen so many kettle drums, gongs, hand bells and shakers. Fortunately, this prog-factor seldom affected the structure of the music itself.

    The concept behind the French Cabaret Contemporain is to create music with the sensibilities of and , but with a more acoustic instrumentation of drums, guitar and two (occasionally prepared) double basses, added with two synths. Their concept suffers from redundancy: too many musicians in the five-piece ensemble+guest performed the same function, either rhythm or ornamentation; none of them were concerned with melody or soloing. As such they created a groove that, while solid, didn't really go anywhere.

    Conversely, the three lean trios DNMF (Dead Neanderthals + Machinefabriek), Fiium Shaark and Holden were more effective. Packing Paard's large hall, Holden has a quasi-superstar status that is well-deserved, yet still surprising for me. I guess it's the result of being able to give his still-quite-experimental modular synth music a trancey, thus somewhat mainstream, crossover appeal.

    Saturday night Hyperdub - Paard van Troje

    I won't spend many words on the music of (Inga) Copeland, for the sole reason that I neither understand it nor feel it. I suspect that it's music for Millennials, and I'm just too old. So I will let those who are more in tune to her music judge her set.

    Coming straight after Cooly G's instrumental set (which was quite good and, thank gods, nothing like her dreadful new album), Kode9 was smart to counter that with , and drum 'n' bass, occasionally even daring to put the much-needed back into Hyperdub. The prominence of vocals in Goodman's set was a delight, a welcome alternative to the all-too-disembodied minimalist styles that pervade the dance floors these days. Now if only Hyperdub's recent releases were more like this!