Storung Festival 2012

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  • Despite the unbridled success of the seventh edition of the Störung label and radio show's annual ambient and isolationist festival, the organization finds themselves at a crossroads. With the small but dedicated crowd slowly increasing year after year and its best lineup yet in 2012, there may be a big choice to make on how to go forward and increase the profile and the attendance without sacrificing the intimacy and experimentalism that make the festival so important. But Störung should only be encouraged. Thursday's show in particular was exceptional, with all acts complementing each other in some way. Glacial Movements label boss Alessandro Tedeschi, using his Netherworld moniker, opened with a classical ambient set built around slow rhythmic core of breath-like drones and, occasionally, resonant metallic drums. Woven into this were loping loops of sine waves, field recordings and occasional radio voices played to the accompaniment of projections of icy landscapes in fitting with the labels image. Francisco López has been a regular feature at the festival over the years and his first night performance of a piece entitled "Machines" showed why he will always be welcomed back. A shimmering mirror of sound layered gently over the background noise greeted the crowd returning from the interval. As is customary at López gigs, the audience was encouraged to wear blindfolds to enhance the auditory senses. With all vision negated, the room suddenly became audibly three-dimensional. Movement seemed everywhere and yet for a long time it seemed as if nothing was happening. Then gradually, the mirror broke and the air began to vibrate more violently. As the waves built to a crescendo, the whole body became engaged in responding, channelling micro hair movements into the listening response and forming an enveloping sonic tunnel. Once wrenched from this hallucination by a sudden change, López then lead the journey through several suites of machine-made rhythms that began as arrhythmic clusters and gradually dissolved into tempests of meditative noise and ether. The switch from blindness to sight only magnified the visual overload of Finnish duo Pink Twins who presented a range of their staggering digital works to an equally enthralling soundtrack that was like cyber ambient, but played in a free jazz style. The inner core of the music had an uneasy stillness to it, a defocused sight line that came wrapped in bubbling streams of sampled instruments from their recent Inwards to Infinity project and interjections of sculpted noise and warped tones that were forever changing, but holding the inner core in stasis. Last minute problems cancelled my attendance at Friday's show where López presented a companion work to "Machines" alongside Israeli artist Shay Nassi (aka Mise_en_scene) and Swiss artist Zimoun. Saturday may not have needed two shows by the resident Störung Festival Ensemble, but all the same, neither was boring or redundant. Perhaps the second set was the better for being more concise as well as relying more heavily on glitchy techno rhythms which brought out the best in the improvised group, made of Italian artist Retina.it and some of the organisers. The more patient ambient sections that dominated the first show were rich in detail, but perhaps lacked at times a recognisable style motif. Maybe the Ensemble's secret longing for techno is what drove the inspired choice to bring former Chain Reaction luminary Rene Löwe to the festival? In any case, his closing set caused chills even from just the sound check as they prepared the equipment for the accompanying live visual ensemble, trained in one of the festival's workshops. He may have given nothing away in facial expression or body language, but for well over an hour Löwe turned the room into a temple, an almost beatless echo chamber that was devoid of any sense of time. Moreover, the strong sense of optimism that pervades a lot of Löwe's tracks shone through the performance and left a tranquil, sedate feeling at the conclusion that lasted long into the night.