Back from Maschinenfest 2010… Well done to all involved for an impressive debut in surely the best venue yet, and thanks particularly to Thomas and Tim for letting me switch DJ spots with them so I got to see Niveau Zero after all (more on that below)! With so much talent on display it’s impossible not to pick a few highlights, so here’s a review of the latest releases from my five favourite acts.
Frl. Linientreu – Lifelines
CD/digital, Ant-Zen, 2010
Frl. Linientreu made me stop and pay attention with the rather novel gimmick of bringing an actual band to Maschinenfest. This is not unheard of but is certainly rare. In their case, the presence of live drums and bass guitar gave her set – for me at least – an atmosphere not unlike 65daysofstatic, but much noisier. Unfortunately they were short of a violin player due to illness, but this at least gives me something to look forward to.
This year’s album “Lifelines”, Ina Peters’ second, is a deliberately quirky affair. It draws on the tradition of lo-fi experimentalism and punky surrealism that used to be a key part of industrial music but which is missing from many of the live acts in the current noise scene. Some tracks are comfortably in the domain of contemporary electronica or noise, while others bring to mind Malaria!, Nurse With Wound or Cabaret Voltaire. Some of it is pure drone or what sounds like ambient field recordings, and while this won’t be to everyone’s taste, I’m much happier with these styles when used as interludes as here, rather than the basis for an entire project. Music to cut up film strips by in a 1980’s Berlin loft. [7/10]
Matta – Prototype
CD/digital, Ad Noiseam, 2010
It always gives me a glow of pride to see Londoners rocking the stage at Maschinenfest, and despite being in an early slot on day one, Matta didn’t disappoint. As with Niveau Zero, I was used to hearing them on headphones… But when they were unleashed onto the very loud and reliably clear P.A. in the Turbinenhalle, all hell broke loose.
“Prototype” is a collection of their first few singles and EPs, so be careful – you may already own some or all of it (I made this mistake with the Broken Note album last year). It covers similar territory to Niveau Zero’s “In_Sect”, but is slightly less aggressive overall, a touch more melodic, holding back slightly on the post-industrial aggressiveness and punctuating the dancefloor stompers with clean electronics and dreamy ambience. In years to come, opener “Mass” will be the most-remembered track, a powerfully beautiful song led by ethereal female vocals and driven by an absolutely killer low end. I think this is my new ‘so-what’s-this-dubstep-stuff-all-about-then’ tune. [7.5/10]
Niveau Zero – In_Sect
CD/digital, Ad Noiseam, 2010
Like Broken Note, King Cannibal and Matta, Niveau Zero’s sound is anchored in the darker corners of dubstep, but reaches out much further. Maschinenfest’s enormous sound system lent itself particularly well to the searing synth stabs and massive undulating basslines that are Frédéric Garcia’s stock in trade, and which kept the crowd bobbing happily in unison like moshers at a metal gig.
“In_Sect”, Niveau Zero’s debut full-length album, mixes the trademark chunky noisestep with sinister hip-hop and beefy techno, and throws in plenty of carefully-machined riffing and layered effects, giving the whole package a rather industrial feel – dance music for people who grew up listening to Skinny Puppy. I’d love to see it performed ‘properly’ live, with a guitarist and a couple of vocalists – the one-man-band setup at the gig rather limited how much of the album’s variety could make it through while remaining credible. But what the show lacked in ‘liveness’, it more than made up for in sheer, brutal punch. [8/10]
Subheim – No Land Called Home
CD/12″+CD/digital, Ad Noiseam, 2010
Much more melodic and relaxing than anything I’ve seen at Maschinenfest before, Subheim came as a bit of a relief. Well, you can’t bludgeon yourself repeatedly in the head with NOIZE!!! all night without a bit of a let-up. Subheim’s Kostas K is big into epic movie soundtrack instrumentation, dreamscapes and tribal/ritual drums, and the excellent vocal delivery of singer Katja on many of the songs kept my interest piqued where otherwise I might have wandered off to find a comfy chair. Live instrumentation would have made it a truly first-class performance. Get a cellist and a drummer, guys, seriously.
This is their second album and it certainly doesn’t disappoint after the live show. It falls between the less fluffy, more downbeat side of Delirium, and the more accessible end of the Cold Meat Industries label. It would easily appeal to fans of Dead Can Dance, but while Gerrard and Perry are into exploring the world’s traditions directly, Kostas and Katja forge a more contemporary sound, inspired by folk musics of the East and West but subtly deploying synthesizers and effects where appropriate. I’m not keen on the male vocals on “The Veil” though, but apart from that… Beautiful. [8/10]
Architect – Consume Adapt Create
CD/digital, Hymen, 2010
www.ant-zen.com/architect / www.myspace.com/architectmusic
Architect wouldn’t have been the obvious choice as a final-night closer for many people, being rather restrained by Maschinenfest standards, and certainly compared to Winterkälte or Sonar, who headlined the other nights. But I’m not complaining. Daniel Myer’s set was the most versatile I saw all weekend – he has an ability to remain dance floor-friendly while retaining a playfully experimental attitude and avoiding predictability; something which goes all the way back to the Haujobb days. Although his dubstep remix of “Behind The Wheel” gave me a dilemma: love dubstep, hate Depeche Mode! The fact that I kept dancing all the way through says much for Myer’s remixing skills.
A quick spin of this year’s “Consume Adapt Create”, my favourite Architect release by far, will demonstrate that his recent adoption and adaptation of dubstep rhythms is impressively cliché-free. The same is true of the album’s breaks, d’n’b and electronica moments. Make no mistake, Myer is an accomplished musician with a good sense of quality control who has taken the time to develop his own distinctive sound. Check out Paul’s full review of the album here. [8.5/10]
— Andrew Clegg