one would not immediately recognize providence, RI as a happening place for the noise scene, although one would get at least curious, when noticing regularly impressive dj sets by peter lee (the person behind force of nature radio show and label). I have to admit that I did not do my share of research prior to the concert, thus some names were a complete surprise to me. for the most part, however, those turned out to be pleasant discoveries.
we arrived a bit before two and witnessed a few curious episodes, when organizers, bands and label/merchandize people were meeting each other for the first time, putting faces to online personalities.
I remember my half-delirious state after six hours of ant-zen festival in NY a few years back, this time around it was almost 12 hours of noise with 16 bands and few djs. I have been to a few all-day events before, and their poor planning and punk rock haphazard attitude left everyone quite unsatisfied. in retrospect, I have to congratulate peter on very successful line up - just when you thought that the bands started sounding the same, the genres would switch, from power electronics to rhythmic noise, from minimal dark ambient to performance art. I was quite skeptical at first, but after about 10 hours of this marathon, observing the crowd greeting each act with renewed strength, I had to admit that most of the line up was very successful, probably due to organizers' excellent knowledge of the bands - both their material and live presence.
after all these compliments it would only be appropriate to mention two biggest mistakes in the line up - both pneumatic detach and scrap.edx were placed as opening acts, with minimum of sound check (all acts after them sounded at least twice as loud) and only about 20 minutes of material each. both acts were one of the main reasons for me to come out to the show, both had most impressive releases in the genre in past few months, and both definitely deserved a lot more recognition.
pneumatic detach had great stage set up, and if they only had more time to prepare, they would have been one of the few that actually had a stage presence, complete with impressive lights. stacia from infrastructure ("ancient thrones" cd-r just came out on her own "fire in the
hole" label) accompanied justin (the person behind pneumatic detach) and bob roy. they played a short explosive set, a mix of intelligent technoid textures and heavy rhythmic noise, re-creating aggressive driving atmosphere of their release on frozen empire media.
set by scrap.edx was equally short, but they did play their most impressive material off the release on dta records - these eerie atmospheric textures overlaid with venetian snares-like breakbeats and stomping noisy rhythms. considering it was their first live performance, it went quite well.
I went outside during karlheinz set, and all I could tell was that I did not miss much, judging by the sounds coming from the door - very typical power electronics. following pleasurehorse was more annoying than interesting, without direction or substance; he played around with various random breakbeat and noisy loops, looking comically angry and quite out of place. speaking of the sets that really should have been swapped for opening acts, fragment king, strangely praised by many (it would be fair to notice that most of those "many" came in after 6-7 pm), was a tiring mix of fast-paced monotonous breakbeats, that compared to other acts in this genre sharing the same stage, was obviously placed in the wrong spot. same goes for synth etik, that was quite draining with his so-very-familiar brand of "new york rhythm'n'noise"; I do question his placement right before the headliners, since his biggest merit included a hands release. his material might be a revelation to anyone entering the genre, but one soon notices very "mechanical" nature of the music, lacking distinguished drive of early radial or determination and force of aural blasphemy (both could be tagged as a part of aforementioned "new york rhythm'n'noise"). speaking of aural blasphemy, joe managed to pull off a full shift behind the distribution table before getting on stage and playing a set of quality rhythmic noise, that could be described as the essence of frozen empire media sound, evolving and yet keeping its identity. radial preceded him with a set that was better than unfortunate failure of "nexus", with some cool textures and noises, heavy rhythms, but still lacking the drive and feel of his early releases. c2 was quite a pleasant surprise with his very straightforward and yet impressively energetic set; too bad towards the end it seemed that his on-stage live drumming did not really contribute much to the music.
now for the unexpected highlights that really made my day. first of all there was antigen shift with the set that could be described as the embodiment of my ideal for this genre - complex, driving rhythmic noise with layers upon layers of abrasive static and compressed explosive beats. his presence on stage and the ideas behind the music is what I have been looking for - a combination of appropriate aesthetics, intelligence, vision, aggression. in certain respects he reminded me of synapscape live, they were the only ones that i've seen live that had similar uncompromising approach to on stage performance. after klangstabilantigen shift was the most impressive surprise.
I think one of the reasons that I enjoyed his set so much was his attitude - not shallow pretentiousness of goth, not trashy redneck junk noise terror, not impersonal mechanized idm, not music for the sake of *just* music, but something deeper, something *other* that has always been the core of my fascination with the genre to begin with.
skincage played right after antigen shift (yet another compliment to organizers, it would have been impossible to top the energy of nick's set); jon hunted around before the show, collecting samples around the venue, as well as various artifacts that made their way into his set (those that were present should remember the "car door solo" that became the source of roughly third of his set). leech of ntt contributed his vocals; listening with my eyes closed, I was startled by his screams, immediately manipulated and transformed by jon. this experimental improvisation, happening right in front of us, re-contextualizing the environment of the club, building its own atmosphere out of surrounding ambience, transforming and reassembling it right in front of our own very eyes was something quite overwhelming on many levels, including pure intellectual joy of extending these ideas and trying to imagine the perfect venue for this kind of performance.
a little while later emil beaulieau delivered his performance, an eerie mix of banal and grotesque, a noise comedy, a performance art that should only be witnessed live. what made his performance so impressive was its "resetting", ironic and refreshing nature, so unusual and yet much needed break from seriousness and intensity of other acts. this definitely was a well-placed and much needed interlude. prurient had the same effect on the crowd with his 5-minute "set", attacking the audience, flailing his mic around, hitting people and convulsing on the floor, generally sending an adrenaline wave throughout the crowd.
ntt was a well-placed "intermission" between rhythm'n'noise sets of aural blasphemy and synth etik. what was so impressive about the set was its slow, gradual build up, nothing that I expected, based on his releases and live performance during achtung amerika that i have witnessed. starting with soft, gentle drones it gradually build up the sound, with leech adding long, drawn-out, barely audible (at first) screams. the whole set had this theatrical feeling with both of them frozen in their places. maybe the fact that everyone expected them to explode into familiar power electronics territory added so much unreleased tension to the performance, with people eyeing their every move. definitely one of the highlights of the show for me.
finally both maurizio and boris got on stage wearing matching "fist" t-shirts. I had no idea what to expect from them live, so I was completely unprepared for the sheer intensity of their set, obsessive "mad scientist" looks and gestures, complete concentration, heaviness and violence. their live material most closely matches "fünf minuten klangstabil" track; slowly building, rhythmic, monstrous beats reminding me of funkier, more saturated head-nodding groove of celluloďd mata with unmistakable analog touch. this very groove is what made the term "powerfunk" spring into existence (coined by a friend of mine); the high point of the show was maurizio playing the game boy, transformed and manipulated by boris into this splatter mix of compressed, blistering electronics. too bad their set was so short, but even those few tracks blew everyone away. the seeming simplicity of their sound and its slower pace proved how much heavier and more engaging the music can be, given talent and experience, compared to overloaded and tedious fast-paced sets of some other acts. needless to say, klangstabil topped the list of most impressive acts that evening.
special thanks to dj sickrobot for all the organization and killer disco dj set, a much needed contrast of legowelt, making most of the serious noise heads freeze in mid-motion, when they realized that they were nodding along with the music.
despite the 12 hour non-stop aural assault, we left feeling surprisingly hyper; a lot of it due to the variety of acts participated and successful line-up. I am really glad I was able to make it, and in retrospect it turned out to be one of the most intense and exciting shows as of late. hopefully the success of the festival will allow force of nature productions to hold this event next year.