Polish music festival Unsound had its 2016 edition on October 16 – 23. The festival’s SHAPE showcase featured sound art installations by Jonas Gruska and Killing Sound‘s Sam Kidel, Stara Rzeka’s special collaboration with Samo, a traditional band from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and performances by Voiski, Stine Janvin Motland, We Will Fail, M.E.S.H., Peder Mannerfelt, Laura Luna and KABLAM.
Peder Mannerfelt’s music is an evolving investigation into sound and technology, from minimal, technical opuses to polyrhythmic grooves and sound shaping on modular synths. A guitarist in punk bands in his wayward youth, Mannerfelt went electronic with house-techno project The Subliminal Kid, following that with something different yet again: analog electronics, experimental ambient duo Roll the Dice alongside fellow sound engineer Malcolm Pardon (also a former pop songwriter and member of Kinky Machine, now a soundtrack composer for film and TV). Roll the Dice’s semi-improvised, understated opuses have the quality of arthouse-suspense film soundtracks: often dark, minimal and loosely narrative.
Taking a solo direction under his own name in 2012, Mannerfelt drove his sparse techno further into soundscape territory, releasing EPs of dark drone journeys on the We Can Elude Control label. He created his own Peder Mannerfelt Produktion label in 2014, releasing his own I and II EPs and releasing an EP by Klara Lewis. Inspired by 1930s recording of sounds from Central Congo, Mannerfelt took a heavier, organic turn in his 2015 full length, The Swedish Congo Record, building its numerous tracks not out of samples but from his own instrumentation, crafting off-kilter lo-fi rhythms and vocal-like synth tones. He weaves a similar strangeness into his latest work, adding an upbeat intensity to strobing synth loops and clangs on delay: the album “Controlling Body” has already been named one of the best albums of the year by FACT magazine.
You can still catch Peder Mannerfelt playing live at three festivals this winter: Insomnia (Norway), Cynetart (Germany), Schiev (Belgium), as well as at a free entry event at the art centre MeetFactory in Prague.
Maintenant festival, organized by Electroni[k] association, presented (from 7th to 16th October) a snapshot of artistic contemporary creativity in visual arts, musics and new technologies. Proposed as an unprecedented urban path filled with intimate meetings and giant installations, the event also included a SHAPE showcase.
For Maintenant 2016, Electroni[k] welcomed from October 7 to 16, 100 artists including:
Amanda Parer (AU), André Bratten (NO), Aurora Halal (US), Avalon Emerson (US), Ben UFO (UK), D.K. (FR), Dr. Rubinstein (DE), Fuse* (IT), Gaëtan Cieplicki (FR), GareSud (FR), Gidge (SE), Joris Strijbos & Daan Johan (NL), Julia Kent (CA), Le Comte (FR), Lena Willikens (DE), Lokier (MX), Lola Gielen (NL), Pearson Sound (UK), Petit Prince (FR), Pictoplasma (DE), Samuel St-Aubin (QC), Studio PSK (UK), Tom Adams (UK), Yasuaki Onishi (JP)…
For 16 years, the Electroni[k] organization has been developing a project dedicated to the contemporary creation in the fields of sound and image, focusing on multi-disciplinary and innovative projects. The early project of the organization was to promote electronic arts through live shows, performances or installations. It now has broadened to other disciplines like graphic arts, and other aesthetics like contemporary or electroacoustic music, while asserting its singularity. Cultural activities set up with different publics (school groups and families, students, persons with major social problems, etc) are now an integral part of the project that goes beyond the days dedicated to the festival in October but now takes place throughout the year (residencies among school groups, workshops, the Belle de Nuit shows, cartes blanches, etc).
Riga’s Skaņu Mežs festival for experimental music returns for its fourteenth edition in two rounds – four days in October and one day in November. The first round, with its two sold out central concert evenings of October 14-15, featured four acts of the SHAPE platform: Klara Lewis, M.E.S.H., Peder Mannerfelt and Killing Sound.
Photos by Arnis Kalniņš and Alise Stefanoviča.
The Hague’s TodaysArt festival had its 2016 edition on September 22-25. The SHAPE showcase of this event featured performances and installations by: Charlotte Bendiks, Klara Lewis, ANTIVJ, Julien Bayle, Masayoshi Fujita, Nonotak, Piotr Kurek, We Will Fail, iii (featuring Francisco López), and a DJ set by the crew of BAKK.
Photos by: Stephan C Kaffa & Jan Rijk.
Martin Kohout is a visual artist and musician working under the moniker TOLE. He aims to create compositions rather than tracks, force rather than melody, and shifting details rather than clear patterns. The music project of Berlin and Prague-based visual artist Martin Kohout, TOLE combines ideas from his artistic practice and research with his own recordings and production. Listen to a track taken from his live set at this year’s RIAM Festival in Marseille, France. Read our interview with TOLE here.
Peoplemeter is an expanded cinema performance created by video artist Incredible Bob and WoO, an experimental guitarist and sound artist. Robots, living in a post digital world of signals, frequencies, oscillations and other media junk are protagonists in this immersive performance structured with lasers, LED stripes and lights. WoO’s guitar and effects are joined by Bob’s live electronic music. Peoplemeter premiered at MUTEK Festival 2013, and was shown in Mexico City in an IMAX cinema.
Can you talk about your respective backgrounds?
Incredible Bob: We met in the mid 1990s and started a noise band together. In 2005, we began our audiovisual collaboration and performed intensively. WoO released an album called Moby Rock on the Slovenian label RX:TX in 2007, as well as several other releases for independent labels in Atlanta and Belgrade at that time. With this AV show we performed at numerous festivals, including Elevate, Todays Art, MUTEK Montreal, Communikey, etc.
Can you talk about your project PEOPLEMETER? What does the name denote?
Peoplemeter as a device that measures audience viewing habits is a meta-narrative in this expanded cinema performance. As we watch television, television watches us. Machines are becoming independent and autonomous. According to some theorists, technology is not serving us but we serve technology, like apparatus operators. From that perspective, humans can only be a source of error. That’s why we created an environment where only machines exist and correlate. And they fight for dominance, of course.
Robots, living in a post digital world of signals, frequencies, oscillations and other media junk are protagonists in this immersive performance structured with lasers, LED stripes and lights. Is this a comment on contemporary technologies / dystopias?
Can you talk about Belgrade and its music scene, and general culture scene? Also in terms of its development after the year 2000.
Belgrade’s music scene is very dynamic. Many musicians are doing great stuff and perform internationally: Jan Nemecek, 33.10.3402, PonTon, just to name a few. Places like Drugstore and 20/44 are bringing the best international underground acts to Belgrade. Since the National Museum and Museum of Contemporary Arts are closed, having been renovated for a decade, independent cultural centres are playing the role of cultural bastions. After years of isolation behind the Iron Curtain, Belgrade in the 2000’s became one of the favourite destinations for artists and is famous for it’s wild nightlife these days. Cultural connections with cities in the region, Zagreb and Ljubljana for instance, are very strong and make this part of Europe very exciting.
The 2016 edition of Ljubljana’s SONICA festival, titled SONIC.ARCHITECTURES, was dedicated to sound and architecture. Ever since its first edition, SONICA festival (as well as its predecessor Spring Festival Ljubljana) has been discovering and reviving unconventional spaces with sound interventions. This year’s SONICA festival took the intersections of sound and architectures into its main focus. Every artist premiered a new project or present their latest projects in a different way. That’s at least 6 premieres and 2 commissions, as well as 3 new releases on the newly established ASONIC Label. Several SHAPE artists performed: Spatial with Sally Golding, Woo & Incredible Bob presented their project Peoplemeter, Nicolas Maigret with his Resonant Architecture project, Julien Bayle as well as the audiovisual duo Nonotak. (Photos:Katja Goljat, Špela Škulj)
UH Fest is a staple on the electronic/avant-garde music scene, presenting various genre-bending, thought-provoking music, lectures and talks. It traditionally takes place across various venues in Budapest. Several SHAPE artists performed at the Hungarian event this year: STARA RZEKA (PL), ÉTIENNE JAUMET (FR), GÁBOR LÁZÁR (HU), KLARA LEWIS (SE), KILLING SOUND (UK), STINE JANVIN MOTLAND (NO), IGNATZ (BE), SYRACUSE (FR), LANUK (HU)
While the Antinote label has gained notice for its roster of leftfield house, acid, and lo-fi electronics, Syracuse has served as a palate-cleanser of sorts. A Parisian duo that go by Antoine and Isabelle, theirs was the label’s second release and it offered woozy yet charming synth-pop. Syracuse is obsessed with the kind of gentle space-age psychedelia that wafted through the ’60s, as the breezy strum of last year’s Michelangelo Antonioni-repping single, Lovventura, made evident. The duo picked a telling acronym for their debut album, Liquid Silver Dream, but instead of staying in the ’60s, its sound skips forward a few decades with touches of cosmic disco, early electro, and Italo. A beating 808, an acid SH-101, plenty of synths and some love chants are a few of the impressive elements of Syracuse’s intense and sweaty show. We caught up with them before their live set at UH Fest 2016 in Budapest.
Were you inspired by the music of the past and the instrumentation of those eras?
Antoine: We use instruments from the 70’s and 80’s, but we try to make contemporary music. In the 60’s and 70’s, there were all these new instruments and electronics, so a lot of the pioneers we listen to today are from this era, but we like music from all sorts of periods.
Isabelle: Lot of people keep using these instruments and that’s why they are getting more and more expensive.
Is it important to you to use analogue instruments?
I: Yes, because the sound is different and when they break, we can fix them by ourselves. The components of the new machines are so small that when something happens, you just have to buy a new one.
A: It’s not because we are into vintage instruments or more interested in this period but because actually it’s the best instrument that can be repaired. When technology advances, it’s not always for the best. For instance the MP3, you can have a lot of music on a small device but the quality of the sound is even worse than in the beginning of the 20th century.
How do you make 2016 music on vintage machines? What makes it sound contemporary?
A: The means is really important, but what you do with it is even more important. For example, piano forte has been around for several centuries and there are people that invent new music with it still.
Isabelle, you left home when you were really young and got into the Parisian music scene. Can you talk about the history of Syracuse?
I: When I arrived in Paris to study I was 15 years old. I come from an island, and my family still lives there. Antoine was living really close to my place in Paris. He was doing music with an MPC XL 2000 and synths. I’ve played piano since I was 3 or 4 years old and had my first synth when I was 4. I’m still playing with it when we play live. I was making music and studying at the same time and my friends were DJing. We were all really young and doing it just for fun and didn’t think it was something serious. We were waiting for something to happen. One day, when Zaltan started his label Antinote, we woke up and started Syracuse. I really like to work with people I know.
A: When we made the first track, I asked him – because he knew everyone on the Parisian scene – where should we release our tracks and he said that he just started a label and he wants to do it himself.
In an interview, you mentioned specific ideas that you and the audience have in connection with your music. Can you talk about those?
A: Music is a personal experience. Everybody has their own way of seeing and hearing things. We have certain vibes and feelings that we want to translate into music, but our band is not political. It’s art.
I: It’s a snapshot of what we live. You can get inspired by a lot of things and you merge it with your own life and emotions. Maybe in a few years, we are not going to be able to listen to it anymore. People always change.
How do your live shows differ from your studio work?
I: It’s totally different, but you still try to reach the same point. We build the live set like a journey. It starts and end with waves and there’s a lot of stuff that happens in between. It’s a path and we try to bring the crowd along with soundscapes and voice. Maybe the lyrics are not really understandable all the time because of the effects. Sometimes there are people who don’t speak French or English, but they still get it and tell me what they felt after a show, and it’s actually close to my initial ideas.
What about your name, Syracuse, is it named after the famous historical city in Italy?
I: Yes, it’s named after the city in Sicily. So many things happened there. It’s really rich and inspiring.
A: Each of our records includes a story that took place in Syracuse. The first record is about Archimedes.
I: The second one is about Latomiae del Paradiso, which is a cave with really special acoustics. There was a tyrant who used to go there and imprison people below the cave. He brought musicians to play because the acoustics was fantastic and he took pleasure in listening to the poor guys crying. He fell in love with the music of one of the flutist. She could ask for whatever she wanted. One day she was practising in the cave and heard someone crying and screaming, and asked the tyrant to free the prisoners. There’s also a French song named Syracuse by Henri Salvador.
A: One of my friends told me it’s good to take the name of a song you like, and there was no band called Syracuse. And it’s a song we really like.
I: The song is about someone who really wished to be able to remember all of his travels when he gets old in Paris. We’ve been so happy since this experience started. We are able to travel everywhere. It’s really important.
Have you been to Syracuse?
I: No. I wish we could go and play there one day.
A: But it’s also nice to have it as an idea in our imagination. I was worried that Italians might think it’s ridiculous to name a band this way, but actually they like it and think it sounds good in French because in Italian it’s Siracusa.
G: We’ve connected with people because of that name. Once, I met an Italian guy in The Hague and told him I’m in a band called Syracuse, and he was like yeah, cool! He was making music in one of the biggest analogue studios in Europe and he was leaving the day after, and I went there the next day – his last day there – and tried it and it was crazy. I like when life is made of these small coincidences.
What are you up to next?
A: For the last two and a half years, we’ve been playing every weekend, mainly in Europe, but also in China. We have a song to be released on a compilation celebrating 50 years of Tele Musik, a great music illustration label. They asked many bands and artists to make a remix or a cover, but since we don’t do remixes, we did a cover. We’re also recording a new track for our label Antinote’s 5th anniversary compilation.
I: We will continue to tour and develop our solo projects to be happy to play together again.
A: And afterwards we’ll do a new Syracuse record.