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LIVE REVIEW: Roskilde Festival 2018 Day 2, 05.07.2018

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Boris live with Merzbow at Roskilde Festival 2018

Every festival has its highlights and hot tips, but it’s rare that you actually get locked out of seeing a band. The hottest ticket of this year’s Roskilde Festival wasn’t one of the headliners, but weirdo pop collective Superorganism. We attempted to catch their set on the Gloria stage, but half an hour before they were set to go on, the queues snaked around the building and into the Food Court. We’re among the many that missed out, so feast your eyes on what we did manage to catch. But if anyone actually did get to hear them, we want to know if they lived up to the hype.

Smerz live at Roskilde Festival 2018

Smerz
Smerz drag you into their murky musical world with no remorse and no second thoughts. But not in a devious way, more so with their nonchalant “we don’t really give a fuck, we’re going to do our thing regardless” attitude. And their thing is somewhat difficult to explain which is why they are so fascinating. Their heavy beats, twisted synths and dry mantra-like vocals pin them as electronic experimenters who are so serious about their art. On the other hand, they bring a sense of humour to their stage show that is somewhat out of place, yet they stand behind it completely unabashed. Their first two guests were two topless muscular men doing chin-ups on workout gear in the background (for only one song). Then their stage became a runway for a fashion show which was so ironic and serious that it was…not actually ironic. Check out their video for “Worth It” for further reference. Smerz delivered a flawless performance showcasing their inventive production, post-pop songwriting and a though-provoking aesthetic that left you guessing what exactly it was you just felt. — MT

Yangze
Jakob Littauer’s solo project is firmly rooted in electronic pop with clubby beats and groovy keyboard progressions, and it’s clear that he’s a talented producer with a solid musical background from the way his songs are crafted. The hooks are interesting and catchy, and the arrangements are unpredictable yet flow naturally. And damn, this dude can sing! Yangze is really all about the vocals and his pitched-up or vocoded lyrics cut through and complete his sound in a novel way without needing to hide behind clouds of reverb. Yangze captivated the crowd at Klub Rå and strung us all along with every note.

Boris live with Merzbow at Roskilde Festival 2018

Boris with Merzbow

There is something irresistible about this Japanese noise rock power coupling. Merzbow a godfather of noise rock. Boris are somewhere between glamorous, beautiful goths and super cheesy; while their guitarist and bassist pose elegantly, their drummer is conducting the audience from behind his kit with his drum sticks and manages to elicit a genuine horns up moment.

While the drummer is not about subtlety — something I love him for every time he bashes the gong behind him because gongs should not be about subtlety — there is something quite nuanced about the way songs shift from lurching rock to dark and dreamy to the spiky punk of Pink. Merzbow is hidden off to the side behind a table with his electronics, and it’s a little hard to make out what he’s doing until the last two minutes of the performance when Boris go quiet and his noise is finally distinguishable from their noise. But this set is a reminder of how textual and varied noise rock can be. — AF

My Bloody Valentine

There are some rumors about My Bloody Valentine’s live show that continue to hold true: They are loud (but not playing as loudly as their initial reunion tour 10 years ago), even when compared to Boris and Merzbow in the same night. The vocals are buried, but, as on the three-part female harmony of “New You,” can be unexpectedly beautiful. The visuals are a little 90s Windows PC screensaver, but after being blinded by Nine Inch Nails, it feels right, warm rather than harsh.

But there is no getting away from the abrasiveness that comes with the beauty. While Loveless and m b v songs have added synthesizers to brighten them, earlier songs have a car crash quality no harmony can take the edge off of. Par for the course, the band don’t engage with the audience, so we can only intuit that the emphasis on the burned film guitar sound over the synthy sparkle on “To Here Knows When” isn’t intentional by the annoyed way Kevin Shields looks at his guitar. This tentativeness is what throws things off, likely a nuance only he can hear, the fabled perfectionism that causes the band to disappear for years at a time.

In the end, there is “You Made Me Realise” to cap everything off, ecstatic cheers to the noise interlude, and ecstatic cheers for the final chorus. Metaphorically one would usually say that the dust settled, but in reality, as we stumble away from the stage, the dust swirled around us. It probably looks lovely from a distance, but in the midst of it, there’s an abrasiveness you can’t escape. — AF

Words by Mikael Tobias and Amanda Farah. Photos by Morten Aagaard Krogh.

Sónar Festival Day 1, Koncerthuset, 13.03.2015

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Sónar’s inaugural Copenhagen festival, cushioned within different spaces at DR Koncerthuset, ironically covers a lot of ground. There is the broad spectrum of electronica represented, from pop music to dance friendly synths to industrial to the somewhat frightening. But then there is also the balance to strike in atmosphere between festival and club night, unsure of whether it wants to be bright and shiny or evoke a warehouse feel. Where Sónar succeeds is in allowing everyone to physically move from room to room and adapt accordingly.

— Words by Amanda Farah and Alex Maenchen

Smerz — 19:30

There are two hard surfaces prominently at play as Sonar Festival kicks off its two-day residency in DR Koncerthuset: Metal and glass. Opening the program on the intimate SonarDome stage, the Norwegian duo Smerz embody the venue’s stark concrete staircases with their uncompromising brand of electronic pop. It feels like a deliberate choice to play on the basement level because here everything hits you heads up. Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg’s compositions are measured, two-part exercises in breakbeat that mix the sublime with the violent. The machine Smerz builds from it is one Stoltenberg operates with deft percussive gearshifts, throwing up gang signs like its a FUBU convention, while Motzfeldt feeds it with her porcelain vocals and melodic keys. They’re definitely tougher than they look and almost as tough as they sound—sometimes they rip it so hard that it seems like wheels are going to fall off, but then you hear the tires squeal so slow they grind. —AM

Puce Mary — 20:00

What’s most jarring about Puce Mary is the beautiful, serene expression fixed on her face even as horror movie screams of feedback rise up around her. The only time that beatific expression changes is when she sings, holding the mic close to her mouth in her fists and producing guttural, inhuman sounds. She spends her set bowing something that doesn’t appear to be a stringed instrument and eking out rhythms from pulsing industrial noise and series of stutters and clangs. Add to that the soft colored lights swirling around the room and it’s like going to prom in the third circle of Hell. —AF

Sekuoia — 20:25

Sekuoia takes the stage and won’t let you forget it. Behind him the LCD screen shows the name plastered in tall, static white letters superimposed on scenes of blue and white skies, blue and white mountains, blue and white islands in the ocean. And that’s what the proceedings feel like: static and white, and sometimes blue. Sekuoia may be the stage name of 21-year-old electro ventriloquist Patrick Alexander Bech Madsen, but considerable credit should be given to the mercenary work by his accompanying guitarist and drummer, who both look clean out of a Dorito-encrumbed sofa cushion variety Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band. While Mr. Madsen takes a swig of water mid-song, the facade of live performance is held somewhat intact by his band. It doesn’t help matters that these songs seem build proof, never committing to a thought long enough to let the non-dancers in the crowd enjoy it too. These kids should be watchmakers, you can set time to these beats. But some flourishes make the stage show entertaining, and this goes for the drummer especially, who at times looks to sprout second and third heads where his shoulders are. In Sekuoia’s world of stacked samples and resonant dins, the clash of a real high hat goes a long way. When technical issues bring the show to an anticlimactic end, it becomes clear that the music is just a blue color swatch, cut so square and flat that the most interesting thing about it is the funny name behind it: Sekuoia. —AM

Darkness Falls — 20:45

The Danish trio makes for a convincing, non-specifically 80s tribute band right down to their costumes: Their singer is wearing an amazing sequined dress with severely jutting shoulder pads that look like they could cause harm. Their performance paints them as a band with potential to be a really great pop band some day. Their programming is pretty slick — which is good, because there’s more programming than anything else despite the presence of keyboards, guitar, and drums — their energy is good even if their movements are a little awkward, and they have a cohesive direction. And based on the way their final song is received, they have at least a few hometown fans ready to go crazy over them. —AF

Vessel
Vessel

Metronomy — 22:00

Perhaps what fans find most charming about Metronomy is their unabashed approach to heartfelt indie pop, and with a frontman in Joseph Mount who seems the kind to shyly shrug when asked whether he’s got any plans on prom night, it’s difficult to think it’s all some sort of coy affectation. Whatever doubts a middling appreciation for their studio recordings may conjure, Metronomy are for real. On the big SonarClub stage, they get right to the point with “Love Letters,” a song which could run on an endless loop on a channel devoted to unrealized iPod commercials. Percussions are particularly emphasized in keeping with their dancier numbers, working to push the other instruments forward rather than snuff them out. It’s a simple but smart bit of audio engineering that has the rest of the band all jazzing hands and gesturing toward drummer Anna Prior before Gbenga Adelekan’s bass plunks in on “The Look.” Metronomy’s music is given dimension on the stage that it just doesn’t have at home, in spite of whatever high end DJ rig you may play them through. “Resevoir” bleeps and bloops while Prior and keyboardist Oscar Cash do a go-go jig, and “Corinne” is a go-nowhere song that highlights precisely what’s working for this group—an infectious conviction to hit the notes, no matter how dull they are, as square and precisely as possible that you could very well take them home to meet your mother and go out for a raucous jig on the dance floor afterwards. —AM

Kenton Slash Demon — 23:15

The Kenton Slash Demon set feels like a welcome recalibration of mood. Big beats veiled in thick synths—like a good lover, they take their time. This is a DJ set through and through, but you’re in it. Everything is prudently mixed so as to give generous room for the listener to sink into the pulse of the track. Their builds are like suspension cables pulling taut. Even the out-of-place looking lady who caught the tambourine during the Metronomy set can’t resist joining in. The bar setup ensures that beer flows one way, into the thick of the crowd, and where it isn’t flowing in, it’s keeping those not having any fun stuck to the floor. The guys on stage are all smiles as they pull onto the familiar gravel of their own driveway—big beats and emotional high notes. They fade out in a mist of reverb before they pop the clutch for one more go. —AM

Vessel — 23:35

There is something inherently violent about Vessel’s music. His set opens with searing, painful static that, when it settles into something that by comparison could only be called gentler, it’s still thick, sludgy, and metallic. It’s also so beat-heavy that people are dancing in as thrashy a way as one can before they’re technically moshing. Behind Vessels is a series of distressing film projections — even the overly sexual ones imply distress — that are mesmerizingly well synched. So mesmerizing that I failed to notice at what point he had taken off his shirt, and really, the flailing, sweaty man behind the table would have been pretty compelling on his own. —AF

Jon Hopkins — 00:30

For a man with a slight frame, Jon Hopkin’s got clout. It seems only he can open a set with extended, elliptical whirring, like the orchestral track’s been ripped from it spine and skull, and still have the crowd visibly excited for what’s coming. The images on the screen behind him are like a minimalist film, primitive graphics interspersed with hi-def photography of particles from deep space, be it that of a night sky or a fathomless ocean. Point is, he’s sending our world spinning in a surge of fragments. His beats are incisive and sharp and dampened with sonar pings of strings. Hopkins is best when he’s building these polygonal sound structures, these open marriages of percussion and synths. About twenty minutes in there appears to be technical difficulties, with the video going black. Three minutes pass as things are furiously rewired. A heartbeat. High hat. Snare. We’re back and Hopkins is more animated than ever, a mad ship’s captain whose way of fixing what’s broke is breaking it some more. One thing was always certain—he’s was never going to let us drift. —AM

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