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.
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.
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.
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!”
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. ~
Stay tuned for live videos of the performances over the coming days.
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. In this edition, we speak to Danish electro-pop four-piece When Saints Go Machine. The band will be performing at Electronic Beats Festival Vienna next Saturday, November 23rd—for full details, head here. Photo by Thomas Skou.
When Copenhagen’s When Saints Go Machine heralded their 2013 return with “Love and Respect”, a collaboration with Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, it made explicit the adventurousness that has always been at the core of their music. With their credible references (think: Sugarcubes, Broadcast, and The Smiths) and engagement with the now (hi, Tumblr art cover), the band keep the sometimes predictable landscape of indie-friendly electro-pop interesting. Infinity Pool, their third album, certainly seems to fret and chafe against modern living; the open, breathing spaces of Konkylie contracted even as the spongy, mutable tonalities remain. We caught up with the band to thrash out a kind of psychological roadmap with the aid of some YouTube clips.
1) What song makes the dancefloor go crazy?
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?
6) What song is your guilty pleasure?
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?
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.
Danish electro pop stylists When Saints Go Machine are having a hell of a year. Their third album Infinity Pool represented a shift towards the edge for the four-piece; everything from the Netscape artwork to the Killer Mike appearance signalled a band willing to step away from the quirky dance pop safe zone of “Kids On Vacation” or “You Or the Gang”.
To help them thrash out this weirder course, the band have roped in Close for a remix of Infinity Pool‘s single “Mannequin”. Close is, of course, the new project by British producer (and Electronic Beats Magazine contributor) Will Saul and by golly, is he on a darker jag with this remix; adding a cheesewire bass line that wouldn’t be out of place on The Cure’s early records, the track takes on a medicated slant with Nikolaj Vonsild’s quavering vocals more affecting—and strange—than ever.
What’s more, When Saints Go Machine have lined up a string of European dates which we can exclusively announce below. As you can see, the band are playing Electronic Beats Festival Vienna alongside Giorgio Moroder, Metro Area and Laurel Halo on November 23rd—grab tickets here and watch a live video from EB Festival Prague, recorded in 2011.
Oct 10 – Kolding, Denmark: Pitstop
Oct 11 – Aarhus, Denmark: Voxhall
Oct 12 – Aalborg, Denmark: Studenterhuset
Oct 17 – Odense, Denmark: Posten
Oct 18 – Copenhagen, Denmark: Store Vega
Oct 19 – Albertslund, Denmark: Forbraendingen
Oct 22 – London, United Kingdom: XOYO
Oct 23 – Dublin, Ireland: Button Factory
Oct 25 – Berlin, Germany: Lido
Oct 26 – Leipzig, Germany: Täubchenthal
Oct 27 – Munich, Germany: Kranhalle
Oct 28 – Stuttgart, Germany: Keller Club
Oct 29 – Wiesbaden Germany: Schlachthof
Oct 30 – Luzern, Switzerland: Südpol
Nov 1 – Roskilde, Denmark: Gimle
Nov 23 – Vienna, Austria: Electronic Beats Festival
Nov 24 – Budapest, Hungary: A38
Nov 27 – Zurich, Switzerland: Stall 6
Nov 28 – Paris, France: La Fleche d`Or
Nov 29 – Edinburgh, UK: Liquid Rooms
The line-ups for 2013’s EB Festival season are pretty sweet, if we do say so ourselves. The showcases in Podgorica and Dresden (which have already been announced) feature some of our favorite contemporary artists including Disclosure, Mount Kimbie and Woodkid. With our Vienna edition, however, we wanted to bring you something a bit different in the form of a headliner… something a touch more legendary for the suitably glamorous location of Museumsquartier.
Electronic Beats is proud to announce that production legend and daddy of EuroDisco Giorgio Moroder will be performing with us for the very first time. Aside from his work as a soundtrack composer for various films such as Scarface, American Gigolo and The Neverending Story, Moroder is also responsible for a number of hits on his own and in collaboration with other musicians including disco legend Donna Summer (including this unforgettable number) and The Human League’s Phil Oakey. Expect the dancefloor to get a bit cinematic. Next in the lineup is Danish synth-poppers When Saints Go Machine, who earlier this year released their newest and darkest album Infinity Pool. We always love seeing artists shake up their formulas, so we’re definitely looking forward to seeing how that has changed their live show from the last time we saw them.
Joining us will also be avant-garde musician Laurel Halo, whose 2012 album Quarantine is still on rotation in our editorial offices. Her new album Chance of Rain will just have come out, juxtaposing her slow-burning, subtle beauty with analog techno for the perfect balance to Metro Area. The duo of electronic music veteran Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani are bringing their love of brightly-shining, hip-shaking nu-disco and house all the way from Brooklyn, making for diverse dancefloor action all night long. Opening the party will be local DJ and promoter Wolfram, whose exploits with Lady Gaga are still talked about around these parts. If you still feel like dancing, be sure to hit up the official EB afterparty celebrating 20 years of Kompakt Records at Pratersauna featuring live sets from Kölsch and Saschienne and DJ sets from Sascha Funke and Terranova. EB Festival wristbands not only get the discounted price of €7 (everyone else pays €15), they also get fast-tracked, guaranteed entry.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, all regular tickets have now sold out. However, there’s still a chance to get hold of the last remaining tickets via our voucher giveaway—go here for details.
When Saints Go Machine
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