Silent Servant in Venice

  • Share
  • The first On Land festival took place in Marghera, which sits on the mainland side of Ponte della Libertà, a bridge connecting the island of Venice with the rest of Italy. It's a gritty, industrial area, a world away from the quaint streets and canals of Venice, and ripe for creative use. On Land organisers have transformed their space, Spazio Aereo, into a small beacon for the arts within a science and technology business park. The first three days of On Land comprised a range of experimental art and film. The final night was a collaboration with local promoter Pulse that focussed on music and sound art, with performances from Vatican Shadow, Silent Servant and Nico Vascellari. After his live gear was lost by an airline hours before the gig, Vatican Shadow opened with an impromptu laptop set that veered between brutal drum workouts and sequences that were slower-paced but equally moody. It felt a little flat in comparison to his usually high-octane shows, which is understandable given the circumstances. Next, Silent Servant played his new live set for the first time in Europe. The show incorporated vocals and live keys, with a sound pitched between abstract techno and funky-as-hell EBM. It felt like a natural extension of his debut album, Negative Fascination. As coarse sheets of noise and static filtered out of the speakers, I was reminded of what Mendez said last year about trying to incorporate the feel of "live electricity [and] open cables…that feeling that shit could blow up at any minute." Though these comments were made in reference to Negative Fascination, they clearly underpin his live show too. Photo credit: Marco Pak Pasqualotto Mendez's vocals were delivered from a standing spot in between two canvasses, like a politician giving a rousing speech. The visual backdrop to his set was impressive, incorporating strange archival footage and eerie effects that had been run through a knackered VHS player (hawk-eyed Sandwell District fans might have noticed one or two nods to the disbanded techno outfit's live show). Though heavy rain and a Sunday night timeslot probably kept a few people away, the turnout was solid and the crowd warmed up as the night wore on. Rounding out the event—or so we thought—was Nico Vascellari, an Italian visual artist and musician based in the tiny town of Vittorio Veneto, about 40 minutes north of Venice. He had two tape recorders running on stage all evening, capturing Vatican Shadow and Silent Servant's sets, as well as crowd's chatter. The tapes recorded in a loop on top of each other, creating dense layers of sound—"sound fossils" as he calls them. Facing away from the audience, he manipulated the recordings on the fly. The degraded sound made for fascinating if difficult listening, a scuzzy aural document of the night's proceedings. Photo credit: Marco Pak Pasqualotto After Vascellari finished, Silent Servant returned to play an unexpected DJ set, taking in Severed Heads' "Dead Eyes Opened," Das Ding's "Take Me Away" and various other coldwave, synth and EBM gems. By this stage the crowd had thinned, but those who stayed, stayed to dance, and the night took on an unexpectedly warm and intimate vibe. "That's the kind of show that makes it all worth it," Mendez said later on. "You can go as weird as you want and people will still be open to it."