Re-Textured 2019: Five key performances

  • Who cut the mustard at Krankbrother's new London festival?
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  • There was a moment last May, during William Basinski's live performance at Union Chapel, that Danny and Kieran Clancy, AKA Krankbrother, decided to pursue their dream of holding a festival in London. "There were 700 people there watching William play a crazy ambient piece about the cosmos, and it reassured us the scene was there in London to do something more abstract and interesting and push the boundaries a little bit," said Keiran during a recent RA Exchange. Less than 12 months later, Krankbrother hosted Re-Textured. The festival's four-night programme was split across six venues, including Walthamstow Assembly Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall and The Silver Building, with a lineup skewed towards experimental music and techno. Here are five key performances from across the weekend.
    Cabaret Voltaire Though most of Re-Textured's lineup was dedicated to contemporary artists, Cabaret Voltaire, now a one-man band, was a nod to the past. Trouble is, Richard H. Kirk would hate being thought of as a heritage act. "I don't play anything from the past," he once said, "it feels more dignified than a band full of old guys wobbling about on a stage." On Thursday night, Kirk, who followed Trevor Jackson's killer DJ set of industrial, wave and techno-adjacent dub, stayed true to this principle. The music was essentially a dance floor-primed industrial sound, interspersed with combative dialogue and some odd touches—one of the best tracks, for example, had a one-shot that sounded like a pop of spit. Kirk often walked a fine line between being colourful and garish. The euphoric, synth-laden techno bit he played towards the end was good, but some of Kirk's older fans seemed less enthused, and there weren't that many people dancing. (It's hard to really let loose on a Thursday night in London.) "Colourful and garish" could also describe the gig's visual element, a wide projector running three sets of TV news footage, a lot of it from last century. The images that flashed by—protests, dictators, air disasters—gave a sense of sameness to world events that spanned decades. It would be easily read as a topical comment on information overload—and maybe that's what it was—but it actually brought to mind a line from an Alan Bennett play: "History is one fucking thing after another."
    Nina Kraviz On the facade of Walthamstow Assembly Hall, a 1930s Art Deco building in North London, reads a quote from the British designer and poet William Morris: "Fellowship is life and the lack of fellowship is death." On Friday night, several hundred Nina Kraviz fans strolled under these words and into the Grade II listed building to hear the Russian DJ play a four-hour set. The space, high-ceilinged and wood-floored, with huge curtains draped down the side walls, had been converted by Krankbrother into a space primed for dancing to techno. There was a balcony overhead, a useful spot for people who wanted to enjoy the music and impressive lighting away from the heat of the main dance floor. What followed was a typical Kraviz masterclass. After a warm-up set from Blue Veil, she immediately toughened up the sounds, throwing down 130-plus BPM tracks like Donato Dozzy's acid banger "Duetto" and Steve Stoll's "Corona" alongside the odd vocal-tinged tune. Kraviz's star power was on display throughout. The crowd cheered not only her DJ skills—again she proved that she's able to command a big room without resorting to big-room techno clichés like white noise and incessant breakdowns—but also her dance moves onstage, where Kraviz's outline was silhouetted against a large LED screen.
    Aurora Halal On Friday night, E1 hosted one of Re-Textured's flagship techno parties. The music, of course, was often intense—Dr. Rubinstein's high-tempo acid techno was especially frantic—but the most rewarding acts showed an open-minded approach. Objekt, for example, dropped Groove Chronicles-style garage, percussion-loaded rollers and IDM-schooled techno without breaking stride. Going this way and that is harder to do in live sets, but Aurora Halal wrung out a compelling variety from minimal tools. The overall mood was by turns ethereal and nasty, sometimes in the same breath. On one track, strident alarms blared over hopeful arps and warm piano chords, a combination that came together far more naturally than you might imagine. On another, a noxious synth riff near the end recalled an extraordinary DJ set at Berghain last September, where she closed with Christoph De Babalon's "Could We Be?" The lights, however, made it difficult to get lost in any of this. At one point during Halal's set, the rig was frozen on a setting you could call "prison floodlight." The setup in the main room, while not as extreme, wasn't far off excruciating. At least the selfies were nicely lit.
    Fatima Al Qadiri The danger of experimental events is that they often draw a chin-stroking crowd, which can create something of a vibe vacuum. But Fatima Al Qadiri, who performed live in character as Shaneera, the "outrageous," hyperfeminine, "evil queen" persona from her 2017 EP of the same name, was having none of that. Wearing a luscious wig, metallic makeup and T-shirt with her own alter-ego emblazoned on the chest, Shaneera taunted the crowd while delivering exaggerated vocals, flipping her hair when she pleased. She performed at ground level between two imposing speaker stacks at Concrete Lates' usual spot, the foyer of Queen Elizabeth Hall. Behind her, a screen projected visuals of hair, nail polish and other items typically perceived as feminine, magnetised so aggressively that they looked disgusting—the bass was also appropriately uncomfortable. While the eye-level crowd interaction was fun, it didn't feel right: Shaneera deserves a raised platform, vamping for all to see.
    Jan Jelinek Lucrecia Dalt wanted to confuse you. The Colombian artist, who opened Village Underground on Saturday night, sent beams of white light pointing to the center of the room, while thin red lights flanked the dark stage. At first, it looked like she might be among the crowd, lit up by the bright beams, but then there was her shadow lurking between the red rods. Once her robotic haze of a set ended, Jan Jelinek flipped the script and the light switches. Positioning his table of hardware beneath a camera exposing every turn of a knob and press of a button (as is his preferred live setup), Jelinek was as transparent a performer as he could possibly be, one step short of giving a demonstration. It's hard to know if he leaned more experimental than usual for the show. His synth noodling featured fuzzy radio-inspired samples from his last LP, Zwischen, which might've frustrated fans of his influential 2001 album, Loop-Finding-Jazz-Records. A group of nearby lads were demonstrably itching for a kick drum that never came.
    Resident Advisor co-hosted two parties at Re-Textured 2019. Photo credit / Lawrence Jones / First Light Media