I walked across the square towards Extase in the company of the other Krallice pair, chatting about common acquaintances and good music. As we entered the pub’s narrow corridor leading to the small concert room, I dared asking Mick Barr if he realised that the previous night Krallice had given us a mindblowing mystical experience. He looked completely startled: ”Wow… that’s strange…” I laughed. I am perfectly used to perceiving music in a very powerful and enhanced way, but this time... this time I had not been on my own.
In the foyer gentle-looking Danish blonde PUCE MARY was working at her experimental, heavily industrial performance, mesmerising the small crowd gathered around with some truly harsh sounds mixed with a hint of dark ambience.
In the meantime in the main arena sound artist HOLLY HERNDON was building up her captivating sound installation with the aid of two huge screens projecting images inextricably joined to the intricate outpour of sounds brimming with unexpected samples taken from everyday life. She opened her set communicating via computer written text with the PA and then audience, then surprised us by clicking on the personal pages of some of the attendees via Facebook, highlighting extracts of entries and photos. It felt very weird and openly intrusive, challenging the very notion of social media and our contradictory relationship with them: we oddly have become accustomed to communicating online with friends and colleagues when in fact the entire world can watch and virtually enter our private lives in secrecy. Technology geared towards mass control disguised as fun? I am sure everyone intuitively gets that we are increasingly becoming open to intrusions, but we chose to be happy with that, such is the desire not be left behind by progress...
After this perfectly legit prying exercise through facebook profiles, Holly stepped up her set through pleasingly engaging sounds, visually inviting us to engage with the surprising complexity of the everyday: from city pigeon mandalas to the virtual compact home of what could have been a Japanese student. We visited its every minute corner, ending up inside humble colourful boxes of washing powders which turned into kaleidoscopic wonders, stressing the invasive place that products have in our daily lives, becoming almost an extension of us.
I then prepared for the culmination of the Female Pioneers of Electronic Music event.
CARTER TUTTI VOID are non other than Chris Carter & Cosey Fanni Tutti from legendary avantgarde/industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, and Nik Colk Void from post-industrial/noise project Factory Floor. The performance was part of a small European tour which followed on from a previous London appearance all the way back in 2011. Cosey is a fascinating 60-something all-round artist who influenced experimental art and music in a substantial way, alongside other eminently relevant names of here generation, such as Genesis P. Orridge (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and Penny Rimbaud (Crass). Their set saw rhythm-meister Chris positioned in the centre while the two women stood at the sides armed with electric guitars, from which they extrapolated eerie sounds by stroking and grating the strings with implements.
Cosey seemed very pleased to be back in Tilburg, where a good crowd had gathered. Black and white geometric imagery appeared on the large screes, subtly messing with our senses, while we were treated to a very sensuous, slow-building, elemental techno. I found it all very subtle and mellow, but towards the end of the set they came out with a stronger, more vibrant edge which made me finally take off in blissful aural contentment. I felt catapulted back in the mid nineties through lush, organic lashes of psychedelic trance finely balanced with a clever, arty kind of techno, steering well away from the in-yer-face commercial stuff these artists have shunned throughout all their careers. At the end of the performance, although I never felt I was witnessing anything cutting edge or new, I was pleased to have experienced such a heart-warming old-school set, which felt rewardingly uplifting.
Too bad I had to give up on Unaussprechlichen Kulten who had plaid simultaneously over at Little Devil, Tilburg’s famous death metal hell-hole, but I still had some energy left to walk to Paradox to see MICK BARR’s solo clinic (Krallice, Octis and Ocrilim). In front of a few guitar nerds eager to catch some of his secrets, Mick plugged in and began flying along the guitar neck at the speed of light: probably one of the fastest guys I have ever seen, he was not too concerned about perfection but rather on capturing the essence of his unique slant on metal: unrefined, moody and darkly claustrophobic. Mick awed and entranced us with his eccentric syncopated avant-metal language, uttering the odd toxic lyric through the microphone. Many of us were speechless. The first complimentary word that came to mind upon leaving was: nutcase...
The Cynic link goes beyond the obvious musical influences, since at the core of the band we have none other than Tymon Kruidenier, who appears on guitar and growls on Cynic’s come back album “Traced in Air” and in the subsequent EP “Retraced”. My special, and at times troubled, relationship with Cynic goes way back, so it was nice and comfortable for me to see Tymon walk on stage barefoot and in modest hippy attire. He stood gracefully and shyly in meditative stance while playing, his inner eye gazing at the flow of a glowingly familiar cosmic stream…
Yuma performed on a rather simple kit positioned sideways on the left hand corner of the stage, so his moves were on full view. While I could not fault his well-mixed recordings with Exivious, on the night I could not help comparing him with Sean Reinert, the gifted Gary Husband’s number one fan. Exivious music stays well clear from the speed of an extreme metal band, but Yuma’s jazzy approach didn’t always score particularly high on fluidity and nimbleness. As I learnt early on from the godly Gene Hoglan during his European tour with the unforgettable Death (incidentally, I could not help sparing a thought for Chuck when I watched both Krallice and Exivious), these hard to acquire skills do make all the difference in a progressive/fusion context. That said the band's performance was excellent.
So there was just enough time for a round of refreshments while waiting for the night to finally turn blacker than black…
Half an hour break gave me time to pop in and out of V39, a venue showcasing hardcore, to see the final glimpses of SVALBARD, a captivating young band from the UK featuring a really energetic, talented girl on guitar. The venue was heaving, which was a great sign, and from what I managed to see and hear, these punks seemed to truly wear their hearts on their sleeves and are well worth checking out.
He set foot on stage bringing with him a halo of eeriness that immediately made everything feel authentic and credible: the long, straight blond hair narrowly framing the sinister white face and blood-shot eyes of a true wizard. His faithful companions Sg.7, whose short haircut lent him a cool punk edge, looking like living art with his large tattoos on display, and TG with his Sumerian style beard, were equally a sight to behold. As the show unfolded, thick black clouds gathered to create a mesmerising downpour of soaring melody carrying unmistakably that ineffable, primordial "female quality” that characterises the deepest, most mysterious layers of BM.
Easy preys, our trembling souls were uplifted by an intense cold storm which had all the hallmarks of magik. An overwhelming orgy of misanthropic melancholy, forlorn heroic chants and breathtaking blasts swirled in the air with spellbinding power and meaning. The poignancy and the beauty raised by the blizzard-like tremolo riffage and the gloom, stirring slow/mid paced sections alike, was elating for both the ear and the eye, making of this show one of the most vividly evocative displays of haunted Black Metal in its purest essence.
To me, at this point of its artistic journey, Baptism has it all. This ritual proved to be one my most cherished live moment since perhaps Vemod, as it reinforced my conviction that when Black metal addresses unreservedly the intense beauty of dark human emotions, becomes simply a sublime and unsurpassable form of art. It is not often these days that we are reminded that his pure, deeply soul-searching brand of black metal is still the one and only heir of Romantic classical music, living and breathing antagonistically through the bleakest, most hidden crevices of modern life… Such a miracle, such a treasure to cherish and respect.
SARGEIST: The Scourge
In its X year of existence Incubate returned to deliver metal from the very entrails of the underground: no big one-dayer with big headliners, and I throughly enjoyed that. The true measure of a good event comes from the effort of being novel and eager to present those few selected acts that genuinely influence the present and future of metal. Incubate’s winning formula is that of offering, within a week long sequence of concerts covering a huge spectrum of music and art performances, a stimulating selection of underground metal acts across the genres: a juicy treat to indulge in, while supporting the music we love.
Thanks to Jelle and the Incubate crew.
See you next year!
All photographs by Alex Mysteerie