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Music Review The electronic music fest returns with abundant and gripping surprises

Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Printworks, London

LONDON’S electronic music festival set in brutalist buildings around the capital got off to a grand start on its launch in 2019.

Finally returning after a two-year pandemic-influenced delay, the festival has been pared back somewhat to just three events, but its vision to showcase some of the most unique experimental electronic artists out there is still very much intact.

The only “live” event of the festival sees Italian electroacoustic composer Caterina Barbieri and friends — or fiends! — perform in spectacular fashion at Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall with visuals by MFO.

Before there’s any sight of the diminutive Barbieri, the imposing form of Norwegian saxophonist and performance artist Bendik Giske strides onto the stage in translucent heels to perform solo pieces from album Cracks.

Giske’s inimitable deconstructed approach to the sax sees him mic up the instrument to amplify every aspect of its performance, from the keys pressed to the hallucinatory caterwauling he produces.

Not content with merely playing, Giske uses his sinewy physicality by writhing and contorting his body as he plays, and at one point sings in haunted tones to create a powerfully charged performance.

Barbieri then joins him onstage behind a bank of modular synthesisers where the pair launch into a heady, improvised set, before Giske takes a bow to queue the next collaborators — a vocal ensemble led by composer Evelyn Saylor.

They launch into a collaborative performance of Fantas Variation For Voices, taken from last year’s album of reworks of the hypnotic track from Ecstatic Computation.

Rounding off the night is Nkisi, a Congolese-Belgian DJ whose take on techno incorporates pan-African drum rhythms. The set makes for an abrasive finish, but already the evening has proven to be one full of surprises.

The festival continues the following night at Printworks with a lineup of DJ sets headlined by techno powerhouses Paula Temple and Helena Hauff.

Their finales, massively complemented by Berlin visual artist Theresa Baumgartner, are second to none — and hopefully bodes an unhampered return for Re-Textured next year.


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