Rewire 2017

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  • Rewire isn't exactly a party festival, but it has its moments. It's not a technology and visual arts one either, despite supporting plenty of A/V shows. Nor is The Hague much of a city break destination compared to other parts of The Netherlands. But Rewire is special. It's a singular event incorporating all of the above, plus a conference (The Sound Of Story, which focused on sound in the gaming industry this year) and a series of artists talks, panels and workshops. It is also one of the best places in the country to discover a wide variety of stimulating, intersectional music. This year, there were numerous interdisciplinary collaborations to see and even more acts blending traditional musicianship with contemporary electronic or digital practices. Jayce Clayton, AKA DJ /rupture, topped Saturday's bill with his Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner performance in the Grote Kerk. Piano pieces by the late African-American minimalist composer were presented on twin pianos and processed live by Clayton using custom-made software. Pitter patter morphed into a raging thunderstorm and back again beneath marbled arches and stained glass windows. On Sunday, revered Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen faced off with the incomparable Jeff Mills. The pair's percussive dialogue between drum kit and machines was technically astounding. Here were two artists totally attuned to their instruments, and each other.
    There were plenty of bands to enjoy too. Sex Swing were a highlight, largely due to saxophonist Colin Webster's input. The post-rock and electronic crossovers were even more impressive. Kangding Ray and Mogwai member Barry Burns' SUMS project (with added drummer in tow) stormed the main Paard I venue on closing night with leaden soundscapes pocked with jangled melodies. These Hidden Hands followed in the smaller Paard II room. Tommy Four Seven and Alain Paul's combined sound design is exceptional, and onstage they crafted an arc of psychedelic industrial music, crescendoing in Vicarious Memories' wonderfully warped "Dendera Light." The best guitar-orientated dance set came from Forest Swords on Friday. It was swampy, euphoric and deeply dubby. The weekend did have a couple niggling disappointments. Even though he was billed as a DJ/live AV set, I wasn't expecting to find the outlandish Arca tucked away behind his laptop. I was also anticipating the songful poignancy of Croatian Amor's Love Means Taking Action album to come through in Loke Rahbek's A/V show. Then there was a fateful moment on Saturday when the whole of Rewire were trying to cram into Paard II for the only club night of the weekend (with Kassem Mosse, Aurora Halal, SHXCXCHCXSH and Helena Hauff). Things did settle down eventually, but the one-in-one-out situation left some day-ticket holders upset. Though not technically part of the club bill (she was in Prins27, a closed-in theatre space with superb sound), SØS Gunver Ryberg's dynamic live techno set was the standout of the night. As well as battering us every which way with her punishing rhythms, she was using handheld electromagnetic scanners (which she made herself) to create unusual sonic textures over the top.
    There was a distinct socio-political undercurrent to this year's programming. Warp signee GAIKA was booked for his social commentary, but it was his showmanship that really shined through. As the Londoner performed with two other band members, Paard II was transformed into a stadium for "PMVD" (from GAIKA's SECURITY mixtape) with the crowd raising their lighters and singing along to the chorus. Moor Mother's activist agenda was more pronounced, and the intimacy of Prins27 made her set all the more galvanising. She is a charismatic and impassioned performer. The theremin was a surprising addition to her setup, and she put it to noisy work. Pharmakon should have performed in Prins27; the New York noise artist needed better access to the crowd than what Paard II could provide. She bent the venue to her will nevertheless, leaping offstage and scrambling around the space, wrapping people up in her mic lead and shrieking in unsuspecting faces. The weekend wasn't all doom and gloom or highbrow programming. Jameszoo Quintet, for example, were delightfully breezy. The Brainfeeder artist was accompanied by four freeform jazz and funk musicians (elephantine-sounding sax player included). Jameszoo himself acted as compère, adding noise and other tongue-in-cheek touches, including a kazoo ditty. N.M.O. were also suitably whimsical on opening night. The live drums and computer duo performed in the thick of the crowd, kicking off their rambunctious set running in and out of the room in a mock bleep test. Entertainment is obviously key to Rewire, and these playful peaks were commendable, but the festival seeks to impart so much more. The festival also aims for inspiration, education and challenges, all of which were delivered in spades. Photo credit / Pieter Kers (N.M.O., Jeff Mills, Tony Allen) Parcifal Werkman (GAIKA)