Live Report: Electronic Beats Festival Vienna 2013

EB takes up residence in Vienna with a night of  intense—and intensely fun—music to bring down the curtain on a showstopping EB Festival 2013 season. Louise Brailey was down the front to report on When Saints Go Machine, Laurel Halo, Metro Area and, of course, Giorgio Moroder. All photos by Doron Nadav.

 

In a city that’s never quite shed its imperial poise you’d be hard pressed to find a more grand and stately setting than Vienna’s MuseumsQuartier. The largely neo baroque complex is built on the kind of scale characteristic to the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, loaning anything that passes through the courtyard an air of expansive dignity. Tonight, there’s a real sense of event as beautiful things—handsome, bearded chaps in LBDs and pearls, women wearing underwear as statement outerwear—are all united in their desire to be seen.

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When Saints Go Machine

Still, such pomp and posing takes a backseat by the time When Saints Go Machine take their positions onstage. The Danish four-piece, swamped in black sweatshirts emblazoned with “Love and Respect“, possess a quiet, unshowy magnetism that’s distilled in frontman Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild. His heat-squeezing croon, nestled in that sweet spot between the studied quaver of Antony Hegarty and the ethereal soul of Arthur Russell, lends the glassy electro pop of “Parix” an all too human core—even when he bends over a bank of gear to time-stretch his vocals into a machine howl. “Iodine”, with its boom-bap spine, carbonated pads and heart busting chorus makes explicit the melancholic pop splendor that frequently underpins their records. The highlight of their all too brief set is a vital rendition of their much loved”Fail Forever” the mournful cello figure working in the same way as Vonsild’s vocals, offering a strange, organic counterpoint to the synthesized backdrop and the crowd sway along, mesmerized.

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Laurel Halo

Laurel Halo’s hardware driven set offers tough, rhythmic counterpoint to the understated drama of WSGM. Where their synths billow and swoon, her set is all sharp edges and metal-on-concrete pummel. Anyone familiar with her latest album Chance Of Rain would no doubt come expecting velocity—those enclosed atmospheres of Quarantine long since dispersed—but the forward momentum of her warehouse-ready set is breathtaking. Beneath whisps of steam or geometric patterns that make up the large scale visuals, some attempt to dance, their limbs spasming as they find footholds within the rolling snares while others are content to observe the ingenious way the percussive elements align on techno’s grid pattern before falling into arrhythmic sputters and bursts. This is techno’s life-force sublimated into strange new forms, given additional charge by the almost carnal analog textures, those blunt sounding chimes of “Thrax” take on a corporal heft live, “Ainnome”‘s  planes of synth feels more like a shape than a sound as they wash throughout the space. Tellingly, Halo began her set playing to a smattering of people, by the time she picks up her microphone to thank the crowd, the only time she picks it up, the venue is full.

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Giorgio Moroder

Next up, a living legend; the Munich Machine himself, Giorgio Moroder. At seventy-odd years of age he looks like a benevolent grandpa but don’t be fooled. His late period revival, thanks to Daft Punk, is shot through with vitality made apparent in the way he mouths along and conducts his way through his set, the odd gesture and flourish supported with a flash of strobe. And while his DJ set is essentially a comprehensive megamix of his most loved work, the heady blend of pioneering and populism leaves the venue reeling. From “Love to Love You Baby”, which is thrown in early, to Sparks’ “Beat the Clock”, via a disco-fied “Tony’s Theme” from Scarface, arguably Moroder’s best soundtrack work, then straight on through into “Together In Electric Dreams”all the big hitters are here, often slammed together with lashings of flanger effect. It’s quite the ride with just a couple of minutes from each before the next world-famous record is introduced and we’re ripping off our clothes with excitement because, oh God, it’s “What a Feeling” from Flashdance. This is disco writ large in the stars: if you’ve got a handbag, dance around it, if you’ve got a podium, dance on it, hell, if you’ve got a white horse, get on it, give it a ride. But for all the outrageous, chart monstering megahits, it’s “I Feel Love” that gets the biggest response. And rightly so, those carnal arpeggios, the cold, steely throb and Donna Summer’s cyborg vixen schtick feels ageless in a way that say, Limahl’s “Neverending Story” doesn’t (but that one gets a big cheer, too). It seems that Moroder enjoys it as much as us too, playing, naturally, “Giorgio By Moroder”, Blondie’s “Call Me” and, um, Lady Gaga‘s “Applause” as an encore before begrudgingly leaving the stage amidst chants of, “Giorgio! Giorgio!”

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Metro Area

New Yorkers Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani no doubt have a fair few dues to pay to Moroder. However, their take on neo-disco is relentlessly restrained, its lines clean, its attitude chillingly hip. In short, Metro Area are the ideal proposition to stabilize the rocketing energy levels. It would be easy to crash after two hours of back to back hits, but they reign it back with their spacious sound and restrained, cleverly deployed samples—a string flourish there, a breathy gasp there, enough to suggest ecstasy. When they drop “Miura”, those hiccuping vocals and fizzing chords provoke a collective second wind that lasts, among the faithful few at least, until curfew. Thanks Vienna, we feel love. ~

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Stay tuned for live videos of the performances over the coming days.

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Electronics Beats Festival Zagreb: Bigger venue, same killer line-up

 

We love doing music festivals for you. It’s always wonderful knowing that people are excited to come see a live show, and getting to bring people that kind of experience is half of the fun of this job. That’s why we’re so excited that our upcoming November 8th, Zagreb festival featuring EfterklangFritz KalkbrennerDena, and MS MR has received such a positive response that we’ve had to change to even larger venue, the Zagrebački Velesajam in Croatia’s capital city. And even though all of the regular tickets have now sold out, we’re not only offering a special discount for tickets, we’re also giving you a chance to get your hands on the last remaining tickets—five pairs, in fact.

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In the meantime, we have a few things we think will make you pretty excited for the show (if you aren’t already). The first is the banging DENA remix by another EB Festival fave, Coma. The second is a new slice of A/V from 4AD’s icy orchestral popstars Efterklang, taken from their fourth album Pirimida. “Black Summer”, which you can view below, and its release companion “Between The Walls” focus on the themes of restless love and bloody sport, respectively, so there’s some obvious emotional tie-ins going on between the two. Check them both out below along with a bonus track from Fritz’s latest album and new MS MR remix, and we’ll hopefully see you in Zagreb! ~

 

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Rain Dance: Angus Finlayson on Laurel Halo’s <i>Chance of Rain</i>

On her new album, the electronic musician finds her pulse quickened to the dancefloor, says Angus Finlayson. Laurel Halo plays Electronic Beats Festival Vienna on November 23rd. 

 

“Playing rhythmic music, playing dance music, live, is way more cathartic than singing,” Laurel Halo declared in an interview with SPIN’s Philip Sherburne earlier this year. Perhaps last year’s Quarantine LP, then, was a failed attempt at catharsis. Central to the record was Halo’s voice: dry, pungent, placed abrasively high in the mix, a vehicle for intense discomfort and anguish. This was an album about heartbreak, and while it was (justly) much-praised, its creator seems a little sheepish about it these days, unwilling to dwell on the extremes of emotion that spawned it.

Appropriately, then, its followup abandons the voice to seek catharsis in the collectivized confines of the dancefloor. Like much dance music, Chance of Rain gestures not at subjective emotion so much as collective states of intensity: propulsion and stasis, order and Brownian chaos. You could argue that this makes it a less brave album than its predecessor. But rather than a retreat, it feels like the moment that Halo, after numerous stylistic reconfigurations, has found a place where she feels comfortable. “I think maybe that this is the kind of music that I’m meant to make, because it just makes me feel better,” she said in that same SPIN interview. “It’s more of a joyous process.”

As with much of Halo’s music, Chance of Rain takes joy in subverting and refiguring its source material as much as tackling it head on. “Oneirai”’s multiple layers of not-quite-chords seem to tug in several directions at once, while its backbone pulse is implied but rarely explicitly stated, the successive grids of percussion forming and dancing lithely into the foreground before retreating just as swiftly. “Serendip”, meanwhile, is four-four but oddly static for it, its gushing, gaseous chords offering a rather clouded sort of euphoria. Halo has long cited Detroit—a site of pilgrimage during her Ann Arbor upbringing—as an influence, and in places here its presence is more explicit than ever. But while the title track, in particular, trades in a well-worn combination of mechanized propulsion and aqueous repose, before long it’s undercut by claggy Rhodes chords—a different kind of hypnotism more akin to Miles Davis’ smoky fusion masterpiece In A Silent Way than Derrick May.

The basic components of these tracks—the restless, polyvalent arrangements, the uncanny juxtapositions of digital and acoustic—are to some degree familiar from last year’s Spring EP under the King Felix alias and, before it, 2011’s expansive Hour Logic. But what sets this album apart, along with its precursor EP Behind The Green Door, is that it was built for, and on, the dancefloor: these tracks were first road-tested through Halo’s club-friendly live set before being tweaked and recorded in the studio. And while this is hardly DJ-friendly music, Halo really grasps the fundaments of techno in a way that many auteurish types don’t. “Ainomme”, for example, occupies a similar freewheeling psychedelic space to the work of Ital, but it’s executed with far more deftness and attention to groove than the 100% Silk affiliate has yet mustered.

As an album Chance of Rain feels light—light-footed in its rhythms, offhand in its gestures—where Quarantine was often oppressively heavy. Even occasional moments of melancholy, like pensive piano closer “-Out”, have a certain wryness to them. Fortunately, it’s no less rewarding for it. If Laurel Halo decides to make a long-term home for herself on the dancefloor, she will doubtless be more than welcome. ~

 

Laurel Halo’s Chance of Rain is out today via Hyperdub.

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Live Report: Electronic Beats Festival Budapest 2013

Last night Electronic Beats set up in Budapest for its second date of the fall festival season. Daniel Jones and Louise Brailey report from the front row.

 

In Budapest’s massive Millenáris Teatrum, the crowd was already packed tight and waiting with bated breath by 9pm. Amongst projected visuals, photo booths and try-me-out app stations, another edition of Electronic Beats Festival Budapest had just opened its doors and the Georgia-born Washed Out was set to take the stage first.

Washed-Out-Electronic-Beats-Szabolcs-NemethWashed Out (Photo by Szabolcs Nemeth)

With his recent sophomore album Paracosm proving that he was more than just the buzzword “chillwave”, the crowd knew they were in for a treat, and Greene didn’t disappoint. Summer vibes seemed to ooze out of his equipment, soaking the floor with memories of swimming pools and stolen kisses as the extremely tight lighting rig flashed across our faces. It was especially appropriate considering that Budapest is currently experiencing an unseasonable heatwave; when our flight from chilly Berlin landed, it was around 75°F. Buzzing through such t-shirt soaking killers as “Get Up”, Greene swiftly lent new meaning to the term “warming up the crowd”.

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Charli XCX (Photo by Rolf Wenzel)

By the time Charli XCX took the stage, everyone was ready for something with a bit more thrust. Charli gave it in spades, and it’s really striking how much of a rock diva she really is. Backed by a band of schoolgirl-styled musicians (which, really, was a bit naff) she laid down a set that would have made Joan Jett proud. Blending new wave bombastica with punk rawwwk showgirlship, she blitzed through crowd-pleasers like “Set Me Free” and “Grinz”, but what really slayed ’em was her version of Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care”—which she, of course, co-wrote. Her command of both stage and vocal chords shows that even though she takes much of her influence from the Internet, she shines brightest in IRL. Someone get this girl a stadium, stat, because she’s primed and ready.

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John Talabot (Photo by Szabolcs Nemeth)

John Talabot may not be commanding stadiums but hell, dude has reach. His 2012 debut ƒIN won over everyone from broadsheet critics, hard-to-please hipsters to one-dance-album-a-year indie fans. In a live capacity, Talabot tweaks and twists his sound, adding organic percussion and live vocals which heighten their capacity to leave you emotionally punch-drunk. Set opener “Depak Line” is a masterclass in clubbing tantra, building slowly, element by element, into a humid climax. Likewise, “El Oeste”‘s pitch-bent synths take on an almost insinuating quality on the venue’s excellent system. This is melancholic pop music popped at the joints and nailed to a grid system, its jouissance wrung dry—and the crowd love it. Before the show Talabot tells Electronic Beats that performing his music live is a feat of multitasking, but onstage he looks cool: striking a tom here, triggering samples there (that scream in “Oro y Sangre” now sounds with startling frequency) while long-time collaborator Pional provides ample back-up.

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Nôze (Photo by Jannik Schäfer)

From the sublime to the… well, almost. Nôze are certainly a strange proposition: coming up on the Paris house scene, Ezechiel Pailhès and Nicolas Sfintescu’s “we’re mad, us!” schtick and Balkan brass antics are much more likeable than they have any right to be. A surprise then, that onstage things don’t get much whackier than a glass of Champagne and  some undone top buttons. Foregoing their live band for MacBook Pros and a pair of microphones, they move through heads-down gothic minimal, accordion-powered oom-pah techno and… yes, plenty of brass swing (albeit welded to brawny, Get Physical-approved bass lines). Unsurprisingly, it’s their biggest record, the tellingly titled “You Have to Dance”, that gets the biggest reaction with one reveller, dressed in a stegosaurus onesie, particularly enamoured. And really, what hardened critic can argue with that? Until next time, Budapest. ~

 

Miss Budapest? There’s still a chance to grab the last remaining tickets to our remaining fall festivals, and stay tuned for live video footage from this event soon.

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Random Access Memories: Nôze

In our new regular feature, we ask artists to delve deep into their memory banks to surface with some of the tracks that have defined their lives. For the inaugural edition, we speak with the French electro-swing duo Nôze. Nôze perform at Electronic Beats Festival Budapest this Friday, October 25th—for full details, head here. Above, from left to right: Ezechiel Pailhes and Nicolas Sfintescu.

 

Somewhere between the Parisian party scene and the Marseilles Conservatory, Nicolas Sfintescu and Ezechiel Pailhès, aka Nôze, delight in a hybrid of electronic music and song forms. The pair have spent the last ten years perfecting this sound, retaining a sense of classicism with their modern twist, and releasing on labels like the German powerhouse Get Physical. For our Electronic Beats festival in Budapest, they perform live, to bring you their sound in its full potential. To get an idea of some of the embers that fuel their collective fires, we asked them about some of the songs that have provided the soundtrack of their lives.

 

1) What song sets the dancefloor off?

 

2) What was the last song you bought?

 

3) Which song do you never want to play again?

 

4) What was the first song you ever danced to?

 

5) Which song would make you leave the dancefloor ?
We don’t need to hear bad music to leave the dancefloor.

 

6) What song is your guilty pleasure?
See number 3

 

7) Which song do you play to impress someone you like?

 

8) What’s your favorite song to play when you’re getting intimate with someone you like?

 

9) Which song do you know all the lyrics to?

 

10) What song do you want played at your funeral?

 

Nôze perform at Electronic Beats Festival Budapest on Friday, October 25th. Random Access Memories was inspired by Mit Vergnügen’s Musik Mittwoch feature. 

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