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.
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.
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.