Memory of a Festival: 020: Resistanz 2014

Christ, 2014 is passing by in a flash. With Easter so late this year, it has resulted too in Resistanz and Whitby being on back-to-back weekends, which has left a number of us fearing for our livers during April, never mind an attempt to get any sleep. As I write this, the first of those weekends is done, and I’ve been left shattered and more than a bit croaky, with two days of work to face before I can head off to the North Yorkshire coast on Thursday. And yes, that’s meant I’ve gone all the way north to Sheffield from London, back for three days, then north again. The perils of having a limited leave allowance from work…

Anyway: this was my third visit to Resistanz, after missing the first due to family commitments, and this time ’round was also my first time where I’d ended up on the bill myself – as a DJ on the Saturday night, playing my preferred “old-school” industrial alongside old friends Gadge Europa and Grenadier181. I think between the three of us we did fairly well – my setlists can be found by following the link in the box.

Working aside, though, I got a fair crack at seeing many of the bands, got some photos (maybe not as many as I usually do), and got to catch up with many old friends. So what follows is my take on the weekend’s bands. The usual disclaimers apply, re-posted here for the benefit of any new readers: I’m fairly opinionated in my views, what follows is my view and mine only, and if you don’t like what I say about your band, sorry. I’ll see you over a drink sometime.

Not for the first time – and certainly not for the last – we didn’t exactly rush into seeing bands from the off, preferring instead on a couple of drinks and time to catch up with our friends before we got on with the “serious” business of the weekend, and this meant that I missed both of the first two bands (a first for me, I think). Neither were especially of interest to me, but if you think I should have given them a chance, let me know, yeah?

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 18-Apr 2014I did quite enjoy CHROM, though. Heavy electro beats with a melodic edge – so I’ve heard a number of bands (never mind from Germany) do this kind of thing before, but they did do it well, and it was certainly an enjoyable set. Not come across these guys until they were announced for the festival, maybe I need to adjust my radar so that I catch more new bands on the up again – I seem to have fallen out of the habit a bit.

Modulate setlist:
(not noted)
Dirty Fckn Disco
No Good
Hard and Dirty
Electronic Battle Weapon
Dirtygrrrls/Dirtybois (feat. Faderhead)

No such issues with Modulate, an artist where I was there early on (and indeed saw a very early show in Manchester, in the basement of tv21, over seven years ago now). I don’t think any of us could have quite anticipated how big a hit Modulate have been in the wider scene – and this was rammed home at the insane reaction to them at Kinetik in 2011 – and the buzz before this show seemed to be fairly intense too.

There was no doubt whatsoever that they delivered on any expectation, too. Geoff, Rhys and Steve were in fearsome form, unleashing a hit-filled set that kept a big crowd dancing throughout, barely giving time for a breather and instead pushing on harder and faster. Of the newer songs, Boombox remains perhaps the pick of the bunch in hitting peak after peak, while the electro of Robots is hugely enjoyable, if not a little derivative perhaps – although was made more amusing by the appearance of a dancer onstage in a cardboard robot suit (which must have been absolutely stifling to dance in – it was warm enough in the crowd).

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 19-Apr 2014More interesting for me was the appearance of new material in the set. Jackhammer we’d already heard, on the festival compilation this year, and it’s possibly one of the best Modulate tracks yet. A thundering, unstoppable rhythm that coils until it explodes into life, and comes complete with a synth hook that dancefloors are going to go absolutely nuts for (as did the crowd here). Even newer song Stars (apparently only completed that morning) I wasn’t so sure about – the old-school trance synths were kinda cool, but I didn’t think it entirely gelled with the thumping, hard beats that elbowed them aside. I may get used to it on subsequent listens, though.

Otherwise, this was an hour of what I’ve come to expect from Modulate, which is as usual enormous fun. But I can’t help thinking that the covers and remixes that featured (this time featuring Faderhead helping out on Dirtygrrrls/Dirtybois) are kinda superfluous now. Modulate have so many great tracks of their own that relying on remixes live is selling their own work short. Either way, though, they delivered the goods once again – indeed I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen a bad Modulate performance, and this one was only second to that Kinetik show.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 18-Apr 2014Friday night headliners Straftanz had already made it perfectly clear that this was going to be the end of the band (their blurb in the programme was a hoot), and by the time they arrived onstage – with Marco from XP8 assisting on one of the versions of their eponymous song – it was fairly clear that they were demob-happy and ready to have some fun. And so they did – not too many songs were played, really, with huge gaps between songs later in the set that I never quite worked out the cause of (I had dropped back deep into the crowd by then), but they had absolutely nothing to prove, other than to end the time of Straftanz in style. I certainly think they managed that, at least. I’ll miss them, though – a band in this scene with a wicked sense of humour and a good line in dancefloor-slaying anthems is hard to find.

Lots of booze and lots of silliness on Friday night post-bands meant a perhaps slower start to Saturday for many, but it was encouraging to see a good turnout for first act Iszoloscope, performing quite a service in blasting the cobwebs away. I’ve seen Yann’s project live in his native Canada, of course, but somehow this was the first time I’ve seen Iszoloscope live in the UK, and it was every bit as impressive as I’d expect. A few of us noted just how clean the sound was, some feat for such a loud and noisy style, but there was little distortion and instead punchy beats and rhythms, with those cold-sounding synths fleshing out the soundscapes. Few “industrial noise” artists can hold the attention for a whole set, I find – sometimes it gets a bit samey. No such danger here – this was enthralling for the whole forty-five minutes.

Also a fascinating watch were The.Invalid. The internet – well, our little corner of it, I guess – lost their shit over Séamus Bradd’s debut album last summer (and it sold very well, by all accounts), and while I wasn’t wholly complimentary, I was happy to admit that there was some clever work and great songs amid a fair bit of hero worship.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 19-Apr 2014Live, though, it was taken to another level, partly because there was so much energy in their set. Séamus was all over the place, almost hyperactive in his movements across the stage, while giving his all into what are very emotional songs. The live set also allows the many layers of electronics to shine through, too, with much more bass (and some impressive drops) making for a hard-hitting performance that was memorable. Talking with a friend in the crowd, we also noted how impressive it was to see another young band making it through – too many of the younger members of our “scene” seem content with bitching about the music, rather than getting up there and doing it themselves. Here is a band doing exactly that, making waves, and hopefully inspiring others too.

Rather unexpectedly I really enjoyed the short part of the Nitro/Noise set that I was able to catch (I was pulled away for an interview during it!). Not the run-of-the-mill harsh electro I was expecting, instead they were metal as fuck, with thundering basslines and grinding riffs elbowing their way into the industrial beats. I was certainly a little sad to miss the rest of the set.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 19-Apr 2014Late entries to the bill Memmaker were less subtlety, more huge entertainment. We’ve all seen them live now, right? No matter, I’d happily see them again and again on this form – nothing too difficult, just shit-kicking industrial dance music that never takes itself seriously, has fun with sample sources and never fails to produce enormously enjoyable music to dance your ass off too. And is there a better dance track to raise the roof than København Robotic Youth? I think not.

There was much chatter about the “secret” band, with a number of suggestions prior to their appearance, but a number of us called it correctly on Friday – it was of course Faderhead. There was, I have to say, an audible sigh of disappointment from some about the choice, particularly as they aren’t a live act unfamiliar with Corporation, that’s for sure. Anyway, they came on, played for thirty minutes, rolled out the hits, and apparently covered Scooter (but I’d long given up by then). Why had I given up? Because Faderhead used to be great fun. Now, each new album feels like a rehash of the last, the same dancefloor-bound tricks, the same tired themes. I want for better.

For much of the rest of Saturday evening, I didn’t see a great deal of music. Part of this was down to apathy for some of the live acts, part was down to my DJ work clashing with some of it. So I missed Organ Donors entirely, who by all accounts were good fun, while I quickly tired of Cyberpunkers‘ DJ-set-cum-live-show that mainly seemed to comprise of other people’s songs. My first DJ set clashing with much of Assemblage23 was just one of those unfortunate things, but then, I’ve seen A23 countless times over the years. I did catch two of my favourite songs later on, though – Let Me Be Your Armor and Disappoint, if you must ask – and they were bloody marvellous, so at least not all was lost. Apparently some of Tom Shear’s new project Surveillance was played, which was a bit of a surprise, and now I’ve finally got ’round to listening to it since, I see why – it is Shear returning to his earlier A23 sound, pretty much, and it’s really, really good.

Another late start – after the excesses and very late finish of Saturday, there was no way I was rushing Sunday – meant that I missed the first couple of Sunday bands, and indeed it turned out that another (Cutoff:Sky) had to pull out at the last minute due to some form of travel issues. So, I didn’t perhaps see quite as much of the bands on the day as I’d have liked, but it at least gave me the energy to see the bands I did want to see. Which was a good thing, as it turned out.

So I didn’t catch Freakangel or Cyferdyne at all, unfortunately – I have been told since that Cyferdyne were pretty good, so perhaps I need to catch them on a future support slot (they seem to be coming through London relatively regularly at the moment, as I recall). Die Sektor played a slightly longer set than originally intended, as I understand it, but I have to confess that I didn’t catch all of it. They were certainly interesting, though – a hard-edged, “harsh electro” sound that had a sense of utter fury rippling through it, underlined by the vocalist’s hyperactive stage behaviour that saw him never staying still, and seemingly tearing out inner demons from himself as some form of penance. No phoned-in performance, that was for sure.

This Morn’ Omina setlist:
Enuma Elish
(The) Rûach (Of God)
The Immutable Sphere
One Eyed Man
(The) Ninth Key

This Morn’ Omina were one of the acts that I was really stoked about when they were announced – I’ve been following them for years (and indeed their outstanding recent album l’unification des forces opposantes was the album of the year 2011) but somehow had never been in the right place to see them live in the meantime. The band have always stood out somewhat, their heavily tribal/spriritual-influenced industrial frankly having sounded like no-one else, but having influenced many, particularly in recent years iVardensphere.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 20-Apr 2014So, the question was, how were the going to go down here? Following the show there seemed to be a split of opinion – apparently the sound was rather muddy and there being far too much sub-bass further back, apparently – but down the front where I and others were, it sounded broadly fine – and was at many points packed an almighty kick.

Needless to say, we were subjected to the full tribal attack of the band – two guys on electronics, two others on percussion and drums, and then Mika as the vocal focal point clad in all while (and barefoot. On the Corp stage. Points for bravery there), helping to whip up a storm onstage and in the crowd. But, with the songs played – all in shorter versions than on album, where tracks frequently stretch to epic lengths – it was hard to see how he wasn’t going to. Particularly when the first fifteen minutes were a triple-whammy of Enuma Elish, Epoch and (The) Rûach (Of God), all of which hit insane peaks (particularly the early build of the resurrection themes of Enuma Elish, which when it kicked in nearly took most of the front half of the crowd through the roof with it), even if that left us wondering exactly how they were going to top that.

The answer was fairly simple: calm things down a bit with a few “slower” tracks, maybe at 120bpm rather than the breathless pace of the earlier material in the set, before whipping up a stupefying storm with another trio that was off the charts. The Immutable Sphere started slowly, raising the level of the incantations before Mika dropped the volume to the minimum, got the crowd chanting and then with the sampled roar of “CRY HAVOC” the crowd were taken into something resembling a religious fervour. There was no chance of coming down after that, though – the old club hit One Eyed Man hit even harder, before (The) Ninth Key (apparently heavily requested) resulted in a joyous stage invasion, with Mika as the ringleader. That was forty-five minutes that was over far too quickly, although frankly I’m not sure I’d have been able to withstand much more of that intensity in one go. Quite possibly, I thought at the time, the most thrilling live act of the weekend.

Rather more thrilling than Belzebass, anyway. Their bio in the programme sounded intriguing – a background in extreme metal, apparently with chiptune, bass, hardcore and other electro influences. The reality was rather less interesting, somewhat pedestrian electro that had me heading back outside within five minutes and not coming back.

Seabound setlist:
For Life
Avalost (Vocal Version)
Scorch The Ground
Poisonous Friend

Watching Over You

Partly, I needed a break generally, but also I wanted to ensure I had the energy to get through the whole of the final two bands, starting with Seabound. Regular readers will know my long-held love of Seabound, and indeed pretty much anything that Frank Spinath has put his hand to, and this was the fifth or sixth time I’d seen them live over the years. They’ve evolved immensely in that time as a live act – initially they were a timid, almost apologetic band live, their intricate songs much better-suited to home listening, but over the years they’ve relaxed onstage and also hardened their sound somewhat.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 20-Apr 2014This show, too, was also helping to make up for their late-notice withdrawal from Resistanz 2013. As it turned out, clearly they weren’t quite ready, and long-awaited album Speak In Storms finally dropped at the start of this year, bringing them back into the glare of publicity once again. With a good reaction to the album, too, it seems, expectations were high for this show.

Ok, so the sound wasn’t perfect (the odd mix at points very nearly ripped the heart from an otherwise wonderful Torch), but when they hit their stride they more than met what we might have expected.

Actually, I’m wrong. Despite the sound issues, they easily put in the best performance of the weekend, one done without pulverising beats and instead music that went for the heart and mind. This was “synthpop” that wasn’t afraid to slow things down, to catch it’s breath, and wallow in thoughts and memories. None more so than a simply gorgeous Avalost that was at the heart of the set, a sweeping tale of sorrow and loss that always leaves a lump in my throat anyway, and here had me choking back tears as the first chorus washed up. It was that kind of night.

It wasn’t just one moment, though. This was an hour-long victory lap, where Seabound’s patient work over the years finally paid off and allowed them their moment in the sun, as it were, with an adoring crowd singing along to nearly every word and roaring them on. I have to confess I was a little surprised to see only a handful of new songs played (and omitting Nothing But Love was certainly unexpected, at least to me), but the set worked so well as it was that I could have no complaints.

Seems that Resistanz is going to put us through the emotional wringer at least once each year, then (see also Neuroticfish last year)? If it stays this good each time, bring it on.

Apoptygma Berzerk setlist:
Burnin’ Heretic
In This Together
Dead Air Einz
Love Never Dies (Part One)
Something I Should Know
Kathy’s Song (Come Lie Next To Me)
Major Tom (Coming Home)
Until The End of the World

Non-Stop Violence

Onto the weekend headliners, then – and Apoptygma Berzerk are one of those bands that have made a point of moving in a different direction with their sound over the years, only to find that they left many of their fans behind in doing so. Indeed, it seems to me that never has there been a band more trapped by their past than Apop, and to a point it was perhaps an issue of their own making. Their darkwave-gone-dancefloor-pop was a huge, huge thing back at the turn of the millenium and the few years either side – truly, if you weren’t going to industrial clubs around that time I’m not sure you could quite understand just how much of a Big Thing they were – and then, just as they appeared to be on the cusp of something even bigger, he returned with a goth-rock-pop album that, well, wasn’t really that great. And since then, they have continued to tour – to mainly great acclaim – and occasionally release another album, to a general shrug of the shoulders for many of us that would automatically bought their material in the past.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 20-Apr 2014The past year or so, though, seemed to have brought a slight shift in fortunes. The Major Tom (Coming Home) EP was an exceptional cover of another old eighties hit, but crucially also had a B-side in Dead Air Einz that harked back to their best material, a swooning electronic ballad that is better than anything they’ve done since Welcome To Earth. So, the hope was that this show really might be something great.

Sadly, it didn’t quite work out like that. Something was clearly up from the off – a downbeat Unicorn got people singing along, yeah, but any momentum was checked very quickly indeed by a totally reworked Eclipse that ripped the heart from what should be a skyscraping pop song, followed by the “old-school” Burnin’ Heretic that lost much of the room. Well, I enjoyed it, I guess, but I was very much in the minority.

Things went further downhill from there, too – and by the time of the aforementioned Dead Air Einz, which admittedly sounded great, there was a notable loss of people from the back of the room, and even though from then on it was hit after hit after hit, frankly the damage had been done. What I couldn’t work out was whether the crowd were feeding off the apparent uncertainty of the band – it was difficult to tell just how “into it” Stefan Groth was, but it certainly wasn’t the enthusiastic, rabble-rousing frontman of old we were watching – or whether the band were struggling with a tepid crowd. But either way, it meant for a curious set that didn’t come together like it should, despite having what appeared to be the right ingredients.

Well, at least until the encore, anyway – where the shackles finally came off and the Apop of old came to the fore. The hightlight for me, though, wasn’t a punchy Starsign (or the expected finale of Non-Stop Violence), but instead a rare airing for old favourite Paranoia, the fourth of the massive pop songs that dominate Welcome To Earth. The problem for Apop, though, is back to that original point – all three of the songs in the encore are fifteen years old or more, but are still what the fans broadly turn to and still love.

No matter what Apop do, they are absolutely and utterly trapped by their past, and either they need to leave it behind, or just embrace it and give the fans what they want. Sadly I think neither will happen. In the meantime, we look destined to watch a band that don’t appear to want to be there, to a crowd that don’t really either.

Resistanz 2014: Sheffield: 19-Apr 2014It kinda ended what had been a weekend of enormous fun on a bit of a bum note, too. Once again Resistanz has proven it’s place in the calendar with an enjoyable weekend, admittedly with a cross-section of music that wasn’t all to my taste, but I did enjoy quite a bit of it, and even discovered the odd new band in the process too. The weekend was also marred a little by unpleasant antics on Saturday night once the normal club punters were let in (despite promises to the contrary in the run-up to the festival – there have been statements elsewhere on all of this), but otherwise it was a well-run weekend, and despite an ambitious schedule it broadly ran to time.

So, see you all in Sheffield again next Easter, eh?

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