Halloween. Recoil. A beautiful club space in downtown Baltimore. The highlights should have been obvious, but before Recoil even took the stage, everyone was buzzing about the quality of the opening bands, Architect and Conjure One.
The former, a creation of the Germany-based Daniel Myer, showcased a energetic beats with a tonal background, and the latter, Conjure One, a creation of Rhys Fulber (formerly of Frontline Assembly), played its ethereal synth. Both played extremely strong sets, and it was a perfect lead-in to Alan Wilder's performance.
Set in front of a giant screen with a vibrant, well-produced slideshow behind them, Alan Wilder and his longstanding friend and associate Paul Kendall filled the club with a feeling of sensory overload; the sharpness of the music contrasted well with the whirlpool of sexual innuendo, political conflict, and 80's-inspired tones that the imagery on the screen flashed out. While there was less dancing than I'd expected for the quick electronic beats of Recoil's latest (and past) creations, the audience was extremely vocal about wanting an encore when Wilder and Kendall left the stage, so they returned to the cheers of the crowd and performed a couple more songs.
Perhaps one of the most pleasing aspects post-show was seeing Wilder signing merch for a long line of people - despite his iconic status in more than one genre of music, he was very easy with people and looked to be enjoying himself.
The night closed with several DJ sets stacked with Depeche Mode tracks, a clear nod to Wilder's past, with the result being a duel feeling of nostalgia and excitement to see what Recoil will do next.
After a long day in the recording studio I got to the venue 45 min late and was majorly bummed to find out that I had just missed Conjure One. I was told Rhys Fulber shared the stage with a female bass player/singer and I'm sure his stuff sounded as good as one would expect considering the level of his productions.
The German one man band Architect took the stage next with a powerful set of electro-industrial beats, heavily manipulated in real time with filters, some delays and Ableton Live-style sample-freeze-n-repeat artistry. Very well produced music with a slideshow of nice images and graphics with the recurring theme of the color red.
Eventually ex-Depeche Mode Alan Wilder came on along with his long time collaborator Paul Kendall and immediately filled the house with deep bass lines, powerful beats, layers of synthscapes, an army of samples, great sonic textures and mostly tunes from his last record.
Although the album had a plethora of guest vocalists, the concert only had one (many in the crowd were hoping that Dave Gahan -who was present at the show- would sit in for a tune).
Three mac laptops and a small analog synth with patch cords were setup up stage left to avoid being in the way of the projections, which were really great: the work of a number of people (credited in the end with a movie-type credit roll), these videos (one per song) were what really made the concert special: blurry dancers, a sporty black guy ceremonially putting streaks of white paint on his body, an African American blues singer (whose voice you might recognize from the album), sexy strippers in a bar, seen and unseen black and white archival footage of plane crashes, explosions, war, shootings and great animations of HR Giger in motion (which as a Giger fan I liked the best and had never seen before).
The impact of the music coupled with the images made sure the message was delivered loud (I repeat, LOUD!!!) and clear: Recoil is here and is as powerful as ever.
Interestingly both Architect and Recoil paid short tributes to Depeche Mode by triggering some duly altered instantly recognizable DM tunes mixed into their sets.
This was the last leg of their tour. Had that not be known I might not be saying this, but it kinda did feel special and like a farewell concert. Hopefully it's only a farewell from this tour and we'll be seeing Wilder back making music soon enough.
I'm really impressed with what Vampire Freaks and AudioLust have put together: Triton festival was an incredible three day long festival (technically three very very long nights!) featuring 25 established and up and coming bands. Contrary to what you might expect, there were almost no dark/goth bands and the line up consisted mostly of electronic/industrial bands with the occasional guitar and maybe a drum set thrown in there. The turn out was great and bands flew it from all over the world for Triton, and some of the most respected names in the genre were there too, including: Icon of Coil, Apoptygma Berzerk, Clan of Xymox, Celldweller, Aesthetic Perfection, Hanzel und Gretyl, Razed in Black, Imperative Reaction, Reaper, Ayria, State of the Union, FGFC820, Syrian, Terrorfakt, System Syn, Deadstar Assembly, Komor Kommando, Life Cried, Northborne, Ink Dot Boy, Panic Lift, The Gothsicles, Interface, September Mourning, Anti-Mechanism... and of course a ton of DJ's in between the bands!
In the heart of Russian Brooklyn and in an unusual location for this type of event, Triton festival took place over Memorial Day weekend (Sept 3, 4 and 5) and brought out and together the entire dark/goth/industrial scene of NYC and surrounding areas for a full immersion and in-depth experience. Although having it at the most southern tip of Brooklyn presented its challenges for some, I'm sure, being by the beach and away from the craziness of the city had it's perks for others (especially for who like me happens to live in Brooklyn!).
My only complaint is that there was so much music for so many hours that they should really have had a couple of stages going at the same time to contain the duration of the nights and allow people to see more stuff without the 9 hour marathon commitment every day. Due to personal scheduling conflicts but also to the unforgiving and relentless timeline of the festival I was unable to attend all the shows (and I am sure it was the same for many), while producing the event with shorter set times and two stages would have allowed people to see more if not almost everything. Amongst the ones that I was able to see, my favorite were Celldweller (EBM done well and with a great stage presence), Terrorfakt (finally somebody brings back real industrial into the watered down industrial scene: these dozen dudes used metal baseball bats, electric saws and grinders to smash and sparkle cans, metal plates and wheelchairs) and Apoptygma Berzerk (great show and great stage presence, although their new sound is borderline almost too mainstream!).
The organization of the event was almost impeccable too: showtimes and stage changes were perfectly timed the first night (although there were the expected delays the following two), sound was powerful, loud and clear, visual and lights were excellent, the bar and the merch stands were popular and the crowd was all leathered-up, latexed-up, chained-up, sprayed-up. Needless to say both the vampires and the freaks came out and we all had a good time together checking out bands, dancing, buying records (yeah really!) and people-watching or enjoyed being seen (or photographed). Great event all together.
Vampire Freaks and AudioLust have really done it and have demonstrated that when you put your money where your mouth is you can make great things happen. I can't wait for the second edition of the festival and I wish these guys all the best with everything.
Long life to sex, drugs and industrial'n'roll!
Belgian Lords of Acid's first US tour in 8 years seems to be going well, at least judging by the turnout in New York. People seem to remember not just them but also every word of their songs' explicit lyrics. I was very impressed with the sonic and visual impact of their set. The original member Praga Khan sings and jumps around the stage with a ton of energy, all while violently rattling his keyboards and microphone stands. His fiance doesn't move with much rhythm but is an eye candy for the goths in the crowd when she comes out with her latex suits, whip and gas mask. Even foxier than her though is the new singer Lacey Conner (from the industrial rock band Nocturne but maybe best known in the US for being on that Bret Michaels reality TV show) who spent the whole night pulling up her super short latex shirt and singing her cute butt off. She danced, touched herself, sang and screamed all night long and proved she sure knows how to handle herself and the mic and really deliver on the stage. The rest of the band was actually really great too. With members of Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Powerman 5000 and Society One it should really come as no surprise! Everything was right about this show. Their stage presence was great: the easy on the eye female appearances, the super-tall and cymbal-crowded drum set which worked well with the electronic drum loops in the background, the sexually charged lyrics and performances and the aggressive arrangements featuring a full live band (drums, bass, distorted guitar). The band also invited girls from the crowd to join them on stage for "Spank My Booty" and their "Pussy" encore. It all made for a really entertaining show and the music was really good and sounded great (the Blender/Gramercy theater has a great sound system which too contributed in the delivery).
My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult was also very good. The original members Groovie Mann and Buzz McCoy were joined on stage by Levi Levi on bass. Their set was a little more static (maybe partly due to the fact that they didn't have live drums) but their set list pleased the crowds and they too brought on a latex-covered female singer (from The Bomb Gang Girlz, Sinderella Pussie and Jacky Blaque) to keep in style with the night's theme.
Lords of Acid and Thrill Kill Kult did a joint tour back in 1995 called Sextacy Ball tour and this new 2010 tour marks the 15th anniversary of that and is called Sextreme Ball 2010 (updates and info at http://www.sextremeball.com/)
Unfortunately I missed the openers Blownload but I heard they were great and the music between sets was being selected by Vampire Freaks' DJ Deathwish and I was digging the selections a lot!
Bang on a Can is a collective of composers and musicians who, since 1987, have been writing and performing avantgard/experimental/new music. Their approach somehow speaks to a more 'ordinary' and less 'niche' audience and so, to some extent, they have succeeded in reaching larger audiences where others might have failed (or, depending on who you ask and where you stand, might have deliberately chosen to keep it a bit less accessible to filter out the casual listener from the really dedicated and interested followers).
The Bang on a Can marathon is a 12 hour concert (from noon to midnight) which takes place every year and presents pieces from a number of experimental music composers performed by musicians from anywhere around the world.
I've stayed for about 4 of the 12 hours and in that time caught Buke and Gass (a vocal+guitars duo with foot-operated tambourine and bass drum who played some interesting stuff and had a very powerful sound); german piano player Moritz Eggert (who played a few of his compositions based on falling fourths and fifths which were interesting in concept but at times felt a bit forced in their presentation); dutch performer Slagwerk Den Haag (four people writing and drawing with chalk on four amplified blackboards ' see picture); Vernon Reid (who presented a piece based on the recordings of voices of some of the last people born in slavery ' accompanied by Mazz Swift on violin and Leon Gruenbaum on Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeeee); Bang on a Can All-Stars themselves (performing a pretty powerful composition by Kate Moore ' see picture); Mira Calix (doing some live laptop improvisation); Kyrgyzstan-based players (playing traditional pieces on traditional instruments); french upright bass player Florent Ghys (who performed a nice piece on his double bass playing along with two or three tracks of himself from a laptop and a video in sync with his playing ' see picture); Burkina Electric (which consisted of three dancer/singers and a guitarist from Burkina Faso accompanied by two american composers/performers on electronics, mallets and drums; ' the musical results were not always as interesting as the authentic dancing and singing); and finally the ensemble called 'Signal' conducted by Brad Lubman who performed the BAM-commissioned piece 'Shelter' in seven movements. Composed by the Bang on a Can founders Michael Gordon, David Lang and Julia Wolfe, this piece reminded me at times of Glass, at times of JG Thirwell, at times of Zorn'¦ I thought it lost some steam in the middle but I really enjoyed the last and the first two movements, especially the second one, my favorite; the piece featured a libretto sang by three great singers and some film projections by Bill Morrison and Laurie Olinder (for the video too, I thought the first and last movements were the most interesting).
Very interesting event all in all. I wonder how many people stayed for the whole thing, but it's definitely an interesting event and it's great that it is free, which further lowers the barrier of entry if you are trying to bring this music to the masses. I still prefer to see this kind of music in the quiet and dedicated confines of the Stone, but nevertheless I enjoyed it.