This weekend in Barcelona was the annual Störung Festival of experimental music and digital art held in La Farinera del Clot. A very low key affair compared to bigger cousins like Sónar, it is nonetheless always a good opportunity to hear some ambient and minimal music often in the context of specially created visual compositions and multimedia presentations. This year all the concerts were held in a totally blackened and unlit theatre in the Farinera building, in one case even without the token gesture of a performer on the stage. The exception to the darkness was during the video interlude in the middle which worked especially well with eyes opening and adjusting to the light and trying to take in all the minute detail of the videos as they switched between rod and cone vision. In particular, two of the pieces shown here in the second half of the promotional video were spectacular.
Music wise, the Friday performance consisted of three musicians. The last to perform and generally the most venerable and well regarded was Asmus Tietchens a German musician with a pedigree that has seen collaborations with Thoma Köner, Merzbow, Tangerine Dream and Richard Chartier. Sadly, his performance was the least engaging of the three, albeit the most tranquil. Incongruous sounds often broke the resonating drones and the undulating sound fields and the overall evolution was often hurried.
Opening proceedings was American Kim Cascone who has a formidable reputation on avant garde electronic music circles. His piece “Dark atmospheres” was powerful and aggressive, described by himself as
“A thirty minute immersion into a Lynchian hissing, sparking soundtrack for an irradiated wastelend…”
Sandwiched inbetween both these older artists was the younger Greek musician Thanasis Kaproulias working under the moniker Novi_sad. His work was arguably the most simple in idea, taking slowly pulsing and recognisable sounds and slowly building them over 15 minutes into (in)tense and over bearing noise pieces before fading out. He performed four pieces in this manner, all somewhat similar with the most intriguing being the last which slowly modified sweeping cello lines into burning arcs of noise. However, the similar mechanisms to induce their patient unfolding coupled with their varied starting material meant each piece was reflected in the others of the set for comparison and contrast, creating a relative context that the other artists did not have, they being more intentionally amorphous and disorientating.
Always part of the festival is the ubiquitous Spanish producer Francisco Lopez. Here is an intriguing video from a previous edition of the festival in which his working method is shown, again with the emphasis on hearing by detaching any visual engagement with his “performance”. The video is in Spanish, but it nonetheless gives a clear picture without understanding the words.
In terms of the digital art, one of the highlights was a local Catalan design group called The Onionlab who had made some extremely subtle and psychedelic videos to accompany some music. This video is in Catalan and features a short interview describing the technology they use with excerpts of some of their work. More of their works are shown in excerpts in the second promotional video.
Some works of other visual artists and related musicians who performed or premiered pieces at the festival are: