Re-Textured festival review – perfect dive into the pitch-black underground

Various venues, London
This new festival brought together artists on the periphery of club culture, from Lee Gamble’s impressionistic rave to Alva Noto’s exquisite sound design

When it comes to music festivals where you drink cans of cider in the pouring rain, the UK shows the world how it’s done. But a certain kind of event, popular in continental Europe, has been lacking here: the experimental club-cultural festival like Berlin’s CTM or Krakow’s Unsound where beats pound arrhythmically, the phrase “modular synthesis” is spoken confidently, and anyone not wearing black is presumably kept outside in a holding pen to be given a change of clothes.

Nerd-enrapturing … Jan Jelenik.
Communing with a spirit world … Jan Jelenik. Photograph: Ayden Whitfield

The debut of Re-Textured goes a long way to redress this, situating an ambitious series of shows amid brutalist buildings – the minimal techno of architecture – across a long weekend in the capital. At 180 The Strand, Danish artist Puce Mary keeps galloping glam rock drums from falling into a groove, before stalking the stagefront on the mic amid an anxiety attack of techno-leaning noise and trouser-vibrating bass. The tough techno of Mancunian duo Demdike Stare shows how confidently they’ve stridden to the heart of the dancefloor from its fringes, and Michael England pairs them with a gawping but humanist series of images: Blackpool punks, vogue dancers, Times Square tourists. But the night’s standout is Lee Gamble. Accompanied by exuberant high-gloss visuals, he daubs impressionistic streaks of rave across the crowd – a jungle break here, a hardcore synth run there – to poetically condense a 12-hour bender into less than an hour. A bloke offers me half of his Twix: “Energyyyy!”

In Village Underground, Lucrecia Dalt plays a riveting set, where Laurie Anderson-style warped balladry morphs into dub techno skanking, complete with Timmy Thomas-style congas. Jan Jelinek chooses to show his forbidding, er, modular synthesis setup on a big screen as he manipulates it – an interesting, nerd-enrapturing decision that destroys the magic of what he’s doing, but also enhances it somehow. As he shifts from hauntological bursts of psych-pop to fiendishly intricate analogue melodies, he seems to be communing with a spirit world via his machine, Ouija-style.

At Walthamstow Assembly Hall, Jasss taps into the en vogue fascination with ultra-rugged breakbeat techno, her power growing with her intensity. This uncouth, lo-fi sound is sent to a Swiss finishing school by the artist who follows her, Alva Noto: still pounding and swinging, but now with a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer. His kick drums are exquisitely designed, like darts of hard air, and there is a kind of Bond-villainish evil to the malevolent craft of it all. Andy Stott loosens the night’s collar again – this peak-time set means he doesn’t get to show his strongest, slower work, but the brilliantly chaotic flurries of junglism have a group of lads shouting “Order!” à la John Bercow. Despite his dub techno pedigree, Moritz von Oswald keeps the energy levels up, even allowing a disco-house line to sass its way into his DJ set.

Ultra-rugged breakbeat techno … Jasss.
Ultra-rugged breakbeat techno … Jasss. Photograph: Ayden Whitfield

Closing on a high out in Docklands on Sunday are Caterina Barbieri, who taps into the melodramatic grandeur of trance with her serious, reverent synth chorales, and Shackleton, whose use of cantering Afro-Cuban percussion and marimba remains inimitably his. With nine other events not mentioned here, including techno heavyweights such as Nina Kraviz and Blawan, longtime party promoters Krankbrother deliver a knockout: a smoothly run, smartly curated new festival that draws lines between head and feet – in, of course, pitch-black.


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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