In a few recent posts I made mention of the recent Laboatorio Electrónica Visual (L.E.V.) Festival in Gijon. My official review can be found at Resident Advisor. While I continue to prepare a general overview feature for Cyclic Defrost in Australia, a little bit more detail here of what went down on the ground.
Installations and visual art.
Given its name, L.E.V. is obviously half visual art and half music. This year there was an exhibition “Visualising sound” as well as two major installations by Japanese artists Ryoji Ikeda and Ryoichi Kurokawa.
Ikeda should need no introduction and presented this year a monumental work called “Data tecture” which featured several projectors firing synchronized streams of data onto a screen on the floor in a large room. The profundity of the work was obviously its size, but also its minute detail. It could simultaneously evoke the infinite and the atomic as it strobed black or white emptiness, flashed 0s and 1s and then the whole genome or a galaxy of mapped star data in patterns and streams to Ikeda’s characteristic glitch music.
Equally impressive was the eccentric Kurokawa who won the coveted Golden Nica Prix Ars Electronica in the Digital Musics & Sound Art category in 2010 for his piece “Rheo: 5 horizons” presented at L.E.V. in the church. Consisting of five screens with five accompanying speakers the work bares many similarities to Christian Marclay’s “Video quartet” where the music heard depends on the screen, or screens viewed. Kurokawa explained the piece in an interview as a study in asymmetry based on Japanese gardens. With five screens the observer has to choose between 2 and 3 or 4 and 1, but never 2 and 2, for example. Graphically, the screens displayed highly rendered landscapes that would shift from near-virtual to abstract in synch with the often climactic audio. The horizon line of the title was an interesting detail, obviously dividing each screen in two equal halves, but oscillating from white to red with intensity and thereby fading in and out of recognition.
Kurokawa also played live on Saturday night in the theatre, a 30 minute piece called “Syn” featuring two massive projections of some of the most mind boggling scenes imaginable: hybrids of human and animals, frayed edges and clear lines shifting uncontrollably.
Also on the theatre on the Saturday night was French group 1024 Architecture and their celebrated show “Euphorie” which like Amon Tobin’s ISAM show takes projection mapping to the next level, creating an interactive digital stage to perform in. While immensely entertaining it was somewhat let down by rather twee music at times.
It is also worth talking up L.E-V-s art credentials by mentioning one of the headliners from the 2009 edition which was none other than maverick English film maker Peter Greenaway who performed a live VJ called “The Tulse Lupper”. Greenaway manipulated three screens with a custom control while Serge Dodwell performed a live electronic improvisation. The results were, as you can imagine, quite spectacular and what Greenaway announced as “the future of cinema”. The first video shows an important introduction to the work by the man himself (with live translation into Spanish)
But better quality video and sound can be found here:
One of the important features of any festival is the ability to foster local artists and give them an arena to perform alongside bigger acts. The local Asturian and Spanish artists at L.E.V. made an excellent account of themselves and are worth highlighting a little more.
Perhaps the best was Asturian producer Komatsu or Hector Sandoval, one half of the hard techno duo Exium with Valentin Corujo who have released one album and many 12”s on different labels. Komatsu played on the first night with a sound that fell somewhere between dubstep and techno, using the latters fluidity of style, but the formers preference for more skeletal beat forms. Not as brutalist as his earlier Exium material (some of the newer stuff is more stripped down and reminiscent of Stroboscopic Artefacts, for example), but more nuanced and swimming in detail. An ep is due out soon I am told and will definitely be worth paying attention to.
Playing in the rainy Botanic Garden on Saturday afternoon was the all-girl group from Asturias Las Casicasiotone (translating as The Almost-Casio tones) who were musically somewhere between Thomas Köner and Windy and Carl and totally engaging.
Finally a few more sign posts, firstly to Arbol the new project by former Piano Magic member Miquel Marin who played an intricate show in the theatre with live cello, percussion and electronics and a lot of interchange between musicians. Vocal duty was covered by Lucrecia Dalt who starred at this year’s Micro Mutek festival and who is herself about to publish her next album on HEM (Human ear Music) Berlin. However, vocals on Arbol’s latest album “She read the wrong book” recently out on Barcelona-based label Spa.RK, were by a vast array of international guests. Lead vocal on this, the opening track, were by Brooklyn-based Evagelia Maravelias who is part of the duo Elika.
There were also two winners of the Scanner FM call for young artists, the Barcelona-based artist Adyo who has a vast array of experience with commercial sound design as well as performance-based ambient and IDM.
The other winner was Madrid-based artist JM or José Merinero who runs his own netlabel Artico where you can find his latest release “Broadcast” for free down load. JM’s approach is blacker and more intense than Adyo’s melody-rich and more uplifting style, but both equally good and showing a lot of promise for the future.
Just about everyone at L.E.V. produced a massive set with the exception of Prefuse 73, but here are four of the very best.
To Rococo Rot founding member Robert Lippock was a clear standout, playing in difficult circumstances in a crowded gazebo on the edge of a lake in the rain, but he easily triumphed with a techno set that somehow managed to combine old and new equipment, repetition and organic form, seriousness and humour. I haven’t heard his album on Raster Noton yet, but am very eager to track it down after seeing him play.
Byetone is now one of the most bankable names in techno and yet still seems unfairly lumped with the “art-only” side of things, perhaps struggling to escape the association with Raster Noton into pure clubland. But he dominated Sonar a few years back in the Raster Noton showcase and once again delivered an emphatic set of powerful rhythms and elegant visuals to close the first night. I have used this video from Sonar 2009 as it has better sound than the Youtube video from L.E.V. this year.
Anstam’s closing set was also magnificent. A master class of chaos and clarity, swerving from out-of-focus bass music fog to microscopic detail and hyper clear house sounds that never abandoned intensity or momentum in their forward trajectory. A new ep is out now on 50 Weapons and hopefully more soon, but a brilliant way to close the festival (sound is not great in the video unfortunately).
Finally, perhaps the most striking performance of all was young Austrian musician Anja Plaschg or Soap&Skin who shocked all present in the theatre on Friday night. She entered the stage in near darkness and sang over a pre-recorded track before moving to the piano and playing unaccompanied there in a style reminiscent of Tori Amos possessed by Diamanda Galas. She then returned to centre stage for several more electronic songs which she performed in way that was very particular without being easily describable. In particular her movement was uncanny, her arms gesticulating with a precision that was almost unmeasurable, while in between singing she would scamper and wander about the stage aimlessly and hunched in a manner suggestive of deep listening, deep introversion or one mad or lost or listening to voices. Indeed, I bought one of her records after the show and had to stupidly carry it around all night, but it served as a beacon for attracting people who wanted to talk about the show. Surprisingly the word most people used was “diabolic”, but not in the English sense meaning awful, but in the literal sense meaning she may have been possessed by some kind of devil. At one stage she heard a little bit of laughter from the audience as some applause died down and she immediately barked a single, viscous laugh into the microphone that silenced the audience. Her pièce de résistance was to perform as an encore a piano version of The Doors “The End” an interpretation that of course must evoke images of Nico who performed the song on an album of the same name. But at 21 years her playing and interpretation of the song were deeply impressionistic, being both profound and tongue in cheek. The only surprise is that the audience on the night (and in the video below) were unable to recognize the signature music of the song and only identify it once the vocals start. A brilliant performance.