This weekend saw me back again to my previous home city, to attend the now annual Resistanz Festival, which joins the much longer-running Infest in now offering two major industrial festivals a year for the UK. Last year was broadly enormous fun, with a good mix of new and old bands, and I was looking for the same kind of entertainment this year, although I have to confess that I was rather disappointed when Seabound had to drop out, as it seemed to make the line-up feel somewhat unbalanced, at least in my eyes.
Still, one of the joys of these festival lineups is that while there will be bands I really want to see, and others I’m not keen on, perhaps – we all have our own musical tastes, of course – there will be a number of bands as yet undiscovered.
Anyway, we missed Friday, choosing instead to have a relatively quiet night with old Sheffield friends over a few cocktails (I said relatively quiet!), although there were apparently various talking points from the first night of the festival. The buzz that I got was that Surgyn have improved in leaps and bounds from the year before, and Alien Vampires reportedly had something of a questionable stage show which featured context-free semi-naked girls. But seeing as I didn’t see it, I’ll leave it to those that did to tell us more.
Onto Saturday, and after the usual catching up with world plus dog, it was time to get on with the live acts. Opening proceedings this year were German industrial act Phosgore, who seemed to be opening to perform a similar role to Memmaker last year – to get everyone into the venue early and to create a buzz from the off. I personally found them a little samey – there is only so much four-to-the-floor industrial techno that I can deal with in one go – but judging on the ecstatic crowd they did the warmup pretty well.
I have to confess that I wasn’t expecting Cease2xist to sound like they did. A stomping, punky industrial juggernaut with a nice crunchy guitar sound at points (even if from the photo pit it didn’t appear to be live guitars) – their songs could perhaps be a refined a bit but they certainly appear to me to be a promising band. Chainreactor were the first and only band I missed entirely, unfortunately – reports were positive from elsewhere, so maybe I missed out here…
Lessons learned from last year clearly influenced the intermission halfway through the evenings, which gave everyone a break from racing to the bar post-band and missing the start of the next, and allowing a more orderly changeover. And interestingly enough, there were three bands out of the four during Saturday evening that I saw at Kinetik in Montreal a couple of years back, and the two years since allowed a look to see how the three had progressed over that time.
I’ll be honest, though – Funker Vogt were not the band I was hoping to see at this time. Late replacements for Seabound, and they were never really going to live up to what we were missing. Indeed, those two years that have passed since I last saw FV – and indeed the eleven since I saw them at Infest – have really changed very little. The songs and style are still the same, the new songs sound like the old ones…but even so, Gunman in particular still sounded fantastic.
I’ve been a fan of iVardensphere since discovering them at Kinetik, and their third album APOK released since then has pushed them further up the pecking order (now signed to Metropolis) and has also seen them expand their already distinctive style further. In amongst a day of bands who rely heavily on 4/4 beats – in fact it was dangerously one-dimensional at points, this first day – Scott Fox and his band stood out by doing something radically different. With five band members – including Yann from Iszoloscope and Jamie from E.S.A. assisting – and at points four of them hammering out rhythms on various drums, both electronic and “real” drums, there was a variety and intensity here that many other bands lack. The set was also a pretty good spread of material from all three albums so far – in other words a useful introduction to a band that have not played outside North America before – with Jamie offering his best Matt Fanale impression to add vocals to a stomping Myopic, while debut album opener Sentient Wave Form was a clear favourite with the crowd, as the squelching, woozy electronics writhed around the pounding rhythms. Also of note was that despite the obvious complexity of the material, the whole thing was performed live.
Closing the set saw the intensity pushed up a few more notches, with a marvellously unexpected take on Slayer’s Skeletons of Society, followed by a brutal The Source of Uncertainty, one of the few points where iVardensphere play it straight, and even that was thrilling too. Easily one of the highlights of the weekend, and the way no-one talked about any other set for the rest of evening confirmed to me that the band certainly owned Saturday night.
Here Lies Lily Brant
Sentient Wave Form
Skeletons of Society [Slayer cover]
The Source of Uncertainty
Uberbyte continued their rise through the ranks with a prominent slot in the schedule, and from those that saw the whole thing, the set was well-received. Apparently there was a Harlem Shake in there too, but I’m afraid – as I’ve noted before – their newer material heads down stylistic pathways that do absolutely nothing for me, so I chose to watch only part of the show from the bar before retiring for some fresh air and missed that part of it.
A big, big crowd greeted the Saturday night headliners Aesthetic Perfection, and Daniel Graves and his band did not disappoint with a bruising, hard-hitting set that concentrated on more recent material (confirming my thinking that the debut album is now pretty much forgotten, which is a shame).
All Beauty Destroyed
A Nice Place to Visit
The Devil’s In The Details
One & Only
Hit the Streets
The Great Depression
Spit It Out
But thinking about it, this is no bad thing. A Violent Emotion was my top album of 2008, and I stand by that – chock-full of awesome, furious electronic anthems, and no less than four of the best were played here, including the sleazy electro of The Siren (long my favourite song by the band). I was a little disappointed by the follow-up album, but it certainly grew on me, and the songs aired from it here were much better live with a cleaner sound than the muddy mess that was the last Slimelight show.
A future direction was signposted, too, with a great new track that appeared to be called Antibody, with clever lyrics and a filthy electro groove that suggests the sound is evolving again for album number four – and on this evidence, I can’t wait to hear more of it.
Refreshed after an earlyish night on Saturday – we chose to eschew the post-band DJs on Saturday to allow more fun for the second day, Sunday started well band-wise and just got better and better.
It started with a weary, slightly depleted crowd (quite a number of festivalgoers partied very hard indeed on Saturday night, judging on the stories I heard!) being given a jolt from the mains by Voster. Basically Jamie, Scott and Yann (see the iVardensphere mention above) kicking loose and having a whole ton of fun with an industrial dance project that had beats that kicked like mules throughout and got a larger and larger crowd as the set went on. No need for hard-dance stylings or whatever, this was simply industrial music to dance to, and it was great fun.
My find of the weekend was BlakOPz, a band who while following a well-worn path, did it with a style that I really approved of. Snarling, hard-hitting harsh industrial of the kinda-Suicide Commando mould, it was thankfully less death and violence and appeared to me at least to be trying to widen horizons a little, with some great hooks and electronics that added much-needed variety to a musical style that all too many proponents of which end up offering nothing new at all. Also of note was a third appearance of Scott from iVardensphere onstage over the weekend (he would later make a fourth in rather less planned circumstances!), who added live drums and electronics to a live rendition of BlakOPz’ outstanding remix of Ancients that was the lead track on last year’s iVardensphere remix album.
Following that, Terrolokaust didn’t impress me at all. Apparently they aim to be industrial rock of sorts, but to my ears they were a mishmash of sounds that certainly bore no relation to the glowing reviews I keep seeing about them. I’ll give them a go on record at some point, hopefully that might be better than the live show.
Much, much better were local(ish) band Method Cell, who I’ve seen a couple of times before and frankly have been getting better with each show, and this was another huge step forward. Their melodic take on a well-worn industrial sound is a hugely enjoyable one, and their set was stuffed with great songs, culminating in their quite wonderful new track The Fallacy (that I covered in Tuesday Ten 170 last month). Unfortunately, for reasons that were unexplained, the band were cut short after this that meant that their club belter Push had to be omitted – a great shame. These guys are seriously a band who could and should go onto much bigger things.
Another band who I chose to take a raincheck on were Noisuf-X. Their club-aimed beats clearly are popular, but they do absolutely nothing for me nowadays, and seeing as I’ve seen them twice live before this, without anything that really interested me, I decided to give it a miss and catch up with friends instead.
Taking that break was actually the best thing I did all weekend, too, as things got seriously odd from this point on. Part of the credit for this can be taken by Alter der Ruine, whose long-awaited debut UK show was one of the most anarchic shows I’ve seen in the scene in a long, long time.
Only two of the band made it across to perform: Mike Jenney on drums and samples, and Mike T. doing the vocals and some electronics. And the sheer energy released from the stage throughout the whole set was really quite something – as was the sheer musical variety they packed into a forty-five minute set.
I Am Drugs
Tundra [New song]
Keep The Devil Off Your Back
Relax and Ride It
There was the old-school, straight-up (very fast!) industrial of Demon Missile, the vocal-led industrial funk of I Am Drugs (complete with the deeply odd lyrics that appear to be an internal monologue between a drug user and his drugs), the belting electro of Boozetooth, and then the utterly wonderful, delicate synthpop of Ghosts. And this was all within the first seven songs! Also squeezed in there were three new songs, all wildly different and suggesting that a new album will be just as enthralling and eclectic as the last few.
As we might have expected, though, things closed with a riotous Relax and Ride It, complete with a fair proportion of the crowd sporting fake moustaches (as arranged beforehand) – but what the band didn’t expect was a mass stage invasion by other bands, resulting in most of them mooning the crowd with appropriately drawn moustaches…on their bare arses. They then stuck around to bang cowbells and Dave from Cease2xist took the mic while Mike T. got lost in the maelstrom, marvelling at just how nuts things had become.
Needless to say, it was a damned shame to see the set end. One of the most fearlessly experimental and accessible industrial/electro bands of their time, who manage to a keep a keen sense of humour to all that they do, it was fantastic to see them live at last, and indeed to see them return after their short hiatus. The massive buzz that this set caused afterward, and the grins on everyone’s faces, suggested that I was not alone in my joy.
After that – a seriously difficult act to follow, frankly – Celldweller made a good fist of it with what was billed as a “live DJ set”. What this actually meant was a solo performance from Klayton, armed with decks, laptops and a guitar. There was the odd Celldweller song, and various mashups, but rather than the industrial-rock hybrid that I’m used to from his older stuff, it was a heavily dubstep influenced set. The cynic in me may suggest that with the enormous success Celldweller has had in licensing material for films, games, TV and many trailers, moving with musical trends is essential to keep the flow of licensing coming.
That said, the crowd clearly went nuts for it, and while much of the set (watching from the back) left me rather cold, particularly a version of his big hit Switchback that appeared to be missing most of the chorus, there were some impressive mashups that did some good things with old stuff (particularly a Metallica mash-up that went off like a bomb). I’d rather have seen a full band performance, but I appreciate that there were likely reasons that this didn’t happen in this case.
So, we were left with the weekend headliners Neuroticfish. They strike me, in hindsight, as the forgotten men of the Futurepop boom. The extended period before they followed up debut No Instruments meant that they missed the peak period of the style, to some extent, and by the time of the third album Gelb, fashions had moved on, despite the quality of the material – the likes of Combichrist were taking things into harder realms by this point. So it was no surprise to hear that they had quietly disbanded a few years back, however it was much more of a surprise to find that they had reformed and were headlining Resistanz.
And the big question was, how many would remember them, and would the new songs be up to scratch? The answer was a resounding, glorious yes on both counts.
Right from the off, this was Sacha Klein and his cohort on electronics in scintillating, energetic form, backed by a crowd that roared the band on, and indeed joined in with almost every word of the many old songs aired. Indeed such was the reaction at points that Sacha just stood there grinning, apparently lost for words as he looked out over the crowd.
For those of us of a certain age – in other words, old enough to remember the thrill of the old songs in the first place – it certainly dredged up more than a few memories. It seems most of us had a particular Neuroticfish song that we held dear – for one friend it was the melancholic lyrics and spectacular burst of dancefloor energy of The Bomb, for another, and myself, it was the utterly glorious, thundering basslines and tightly wound chorus of Velocity that had us shedding a tear or two – for how great it was, and also for the memories it invoked.
Why Don’t You Hate Me
Wake Me Up
They’re Coming To Take Me Away
Don’t Need The City
But it wasn’t just those memories that made this awesome – it was also the steady stream of storming pop hooks that song after song contained, and hearing songs I’d all but forgotten until the first notes, at which point I realised I still knew all the words to (hello, Wake Me Up, MFAPL…). There was even time for that throwaway cover of Napoleon XIV’s sixties novelty hit, that always seemed a bit out of place, and to be honest did here too – perhaps the only time where the self-deprecating description of “stupid German techno” from the stage felt apt.
The new material sounded great, too, with an ultra-limited four-track CD EP released over the weekend and all three new tracks were aired, happily not showing any changes in style but picking up pretty much where they left off with Gelb, and that certainly bodes well for the forthcoming album A Sign of Life which is reportedly due later in the year.
An unexpectedly triumphant return, and frankly who knew so many people loved the band so much? My only quibble – shared with friends who were watching the show with me – was the surprising omission of Prostitute, but I guess with only an hour alloted there was always going to be something missing. With this band back, Covenant and Seabound also returning this year, can we hope for a resurgence in intelligent, melodic electronic music, rather than the relentless negativity of much of the industrial scene of late? Here’s hoping.
So anyway: two days, fifteen bands, loads of friends, more Corp Vodka than was perhaps healthy…I’d say this weekend worked out pretty well. I still prefer Infest for the sheer musical variety, but it is becoming clear that they appeal to slightly different “markets” within the wider industrial scene, with the side of industrial that has moved towards “dance” music scenes being where Resistanz is clearly aiming for, while Infest could be said to be casting the net a bit wider. While this results in some acts – and DJ sets – that I don’t care for at all at Resistanz (and this was the case last year as much as this year), it has still resulted in an enormously entertaining weekend, which featured new discoveries, new friends and even looking back at parts of my past in a new light.
Next up, Infest in August. See you all there, and then at Resistanz in 2014.