Back in March, Apocalypse Music was invited to the 2022 instalment of multi-venue, multi-sensory festival RE-TEXTURED. Hailed as “an arresting sonic and visual experience” by founders Krankbrother, the festival comprised a fluid and overlapping programme of electronica, new compositions, techno and experimental music across three venues over three days…here’s what we thought!
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The festival opened with a showcase curated by Italian composer Caterina Barbieri, whose label light-years launched last year. Caterina was joined by performers Bendik Giske and Nkiski, composer Evelyn Saylor and bespoke visuals from Marcus Weber (MFO) at the Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, a space typically occupied by concert musicians but which flexibly hosts gigs, talks, comedy events and more. Barbieri’s event proposal is an admirable exercise in the experimental and the now, seeking not merely “to create a ‘programme’ of acts, but to form a continuous, enveloping environment”. From this I was expecting an extensive cross-pollination of artistic contributions, and yet the largely linear ordering of musical items felt deserving of a physical programme.
Continuity came most concretely from MFO’s ethereal visuals, which added particular depth to Caterina Barbieri and Bendik Giske’s collaborative moments. Beneath the hazy shadows, white light and earthy tones, it was as if the two were floating between worlds, exploring imagined spaces beyond the Anthropocene. Coupled with a healthy serving of reverb, the sonic and visual combined felt like a nostalgic rendering of a time gone by, before neatly fading into Caterina’s ambient solo composition.
The transition from this to Evelyn Saylor’s minimal composition Fantasia Variation for Voices slightly broke the spell for me, for many of the artistic choices made here felt like an afterthought. The awkward shunting of music stands on and off stage, very understated and uncoordinated dress and lengthy tuning pre-performance accelerated a temporary departure from the otherwise “continuous, enveloping environment” which had been constructed thus far. Coupled with some nervous pitching from the singers, a modified offstage performance could have made for a more atmospheric live experience.
A standout mention must go to Norwegian-born Berlin-based saxophonist Bendik Giske, who opened the evening with an intimate performance of his album Cracks. Bendik’s performance was physical and immediate, with continuous sound facilitated by superhuman circular breathing and light electronic manipulation guiding the audience into the realm of the disembodied. The audience were exposed to a breathtaking range of spectral and timbral colour through the incorporation of multiphonics, jazz-infused melodic fragments, and visceral, alien-like gargles produced from rapidly rattling the instrument’s brass mechanisms.
The more intricate details of Bendik’s opening set were sadly lost due to the Southbank Centre’s elastic approach to latecomers, with audience members coming and going as they pleased. However an invitation to fluidly move around the space would have been a welcome surprise later on in the evening, for Nkisi’s hyperactive, bass-heavy beats fell slightly flat in and amongst an otherwise static, silent crowd.
The architectural shift from auditorium to nightclub on the following day felt conceptually sound for this exact reason, with the misty journey through Surrey Docks to Printworks further adding to the excitement of the build-up. Kicked off by a sensational set from Krankbrother, the cross generational appreciation for hard-line techno on offer was uplifting and energising, with some bobbing along with the masses and others dancing with complete abandon.
The audiovisuals on display were satisfyingly trippy and the iconic Live Hall glowed hot pink and ochre to the chimes of visual artists such as Theresa Baumgartner and Michael Titze. In the depths beneath, revellers were free to weave in and out of the historic ink distribution pipes and pillars in Printworks’ intimate Inkwells room. It was here that Nkiski really came to life, going on to smash an electric third and final set of the week at FOLD.
Shout out to the RE-TEXTURED team for having us and for introducing us to some incredible artists!
You can get all the latest updates regarding RE-TEXTURED 2023 here:
Words by Pia Rose Scattergood
Photo © Apocalypse Music