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Live Reviews

Numusic Festival 2009

By Published: October 22, 2009
By Thursday, the emphasis had turned to Numusic's core venue, the converted factory space of the multi-roomed Tou Scene. It's straight into the most out-there night of the festival, dominated by dark rock, free jazz, disjointed electronics and disorienting balladry. The sparkly party-goers might be set for the weekend, but Thursday belonged to the disease-mottled underbelly.

Englishman Philip Jeck might look like he's hunched over a pair of laptops, but he's actually using vintage record players, lovingly recalling the textures of vinyl surface-scuzz. Jeck amasses layers of held tones, thickening the atmosphere under a sickly bluelight haze. He aims for cumulative effect, steadily seeking a climax that eventually floods the room.

Pl Asle Pettersen and Anders Gjerde operate knobs, faders and mice, but they're also out front screaming into their microphones, in the greatest macho black metal tradition. Their piledriver effect was complementary to Jeck's mass, but arrived from a different zone entirely.

For true metal extremity, Norway's own Shining dominated the night. Formerly more of a post-John Zorn
John Zorn
John Zorn
sax, alto
avant jazz combo, they've become increasingly rocky, but are still betraying an instinct for complexity and savage time-signature shifts. Jrgen Munkeby is the central figure, singing and playing guitar. He also picks up a saxophone at strategic points, spewing abstract solos amidst the spasm-riffing carnage. Clad in a vest to expose God Of Thunder thews, Munkeby might have some irony buried deep inside his music's rampant contortions. The keyboard squiggles would push the nature of the songs in an unsuspecting direction, but unfortunately their sonic battle with the guitars is lost. Aside from that, the mix was gloriously vivid. Big testosterone bulbs were burst to send their contents arcing over the crowd, which didn't distract from the cerebral joys of headbanging to avant-twitchery. Booted feet were riveted to stage-monitor speakers in a variety of meaningful poses. This was going to be a hard act to follow.

It seemed as though Austria's Fennesz was attempting to move in Shining's sonic jetstream. Normally, he's prone to near-ambient layerings of guitar and laptopiary, but for this set he was intent on achieving a rock jangle, but failing to reach inside ears already pulped by Shining.

A more successful transition was found in the slow motion mood music of Oslo's Navyelectre. They incorporate non-corporeal folksiness without losing an essential individuality. On disc, this is a one-man band, but Jonas Howden Sjvaag elects to sing and play drums, inducting a band for his live existence. Martin Smrdal provides a helpful degree of personality, sharing the vocals, as well as playing harmonium and guitar. Andreas Ulvo contributes worming vintage synthesizer parts. This was a timely atmospheric changeover following the Shining set. It was the only advisable direction following such an earlier ejaculation.

Norway's DJ Strangefruit was surprisingly disappointing, spinning a set of mainstream pop-disco-soul platters. So too did countrymen Noxagt fail to rend, the guitar-bass-drums trio turning out a set of sludge-riffing that hiked up volume levels to the highest level of the night. By this time, everything was turning into leaden mush.

The Friday night had a presumably deliberate preponderance of kitschy 1970s disco and 1980s electro influences, so its delights had to picked out with precision. Actually, the Mungolian Jet Set, fronted by DJ Strangelove, set out to revel in both of the above genres, and their new album had tantalized with its vibrant collision of elements. Sadly, the live experience was somewhat disappointing, although still with an enjoyably romping nature. The band were all clad in gear which hinted at Mongolian horse-o-centric steppe-riders on their way to a mirror-balled club, employing an initially hidden technique of using a large stack of cardboard boxes in lieu of a back-projection screen. The opening salvo involved a heavy degree of funk humping, but then the emphasis transformed into disco monotony.

There were similar problems with a couple more acts until salvation was found within the realms of Biosphere's set. The Norwegian Geir Jenssen usually creates grand vistas of ambient washerama, but has lately been tinkering with beats, hoping to coax folks onto the dance floor. This he does, but only with preconditions. The new Biosphere technique is to flirt with a sequence of bomping, just long enough to prompt twitched, contained moves on the floor, but then he tears away the tarpaulin, floating up again until the next slinky wobble encroaches. He's influenced by dubstep, but this gets manifested in the peculiar Jenssen manner, slightly disorientating in its progression. Anyway, the result is compulsively magnetic.

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