Kraak Festival 2018
March 3, 2018
Kraak is three days dedicated to exploratory music, mostly on the electronic front, although acoustic instruments do feature, but are mainly subject to amplification, processing or distortion. That seems to be the best way to point out what happens, with the resultant sounds possessing a diverse thrust, shooting outwards (or driving inwards) from dance, ambient, rock and modern classical cores, often with hybrid entanglements, or perverted collisions. Electroacoustic boffins are free to mingle with post-techno rhythmicists. The Kraak organisers (Niels Latomme, Pauwel De Buck) term the music 'off-stream.' The event happens in the upstairs medium-sized standing-space of Beursschouwburg, an arts venue in central Brussels, a few strides away from the Grand Place. Downstairs is a café bar, complete with revolving DJs and mini record fair. Short films are customarily flickered in-between the live acts, and sets are relatively short, accommodating a substantial run of artists.
Your scribe was spending most of the weekend at the Bruselas Flamenco Festival ( https://www.allaboutjazz.com/bruselas-flamenco-festival-2018-by-martin-longley.php?page=1 ), but also managed to investigate Kraak on its Saturday afternoon, and then again, at the end of the night, fortuitously catching a few hot acts. The best of these was the first, SEF III, a remarkable 3.15pm trio of Baltimore electronic renegades (Max Eilbacher, Alex Moskos, Duncan Moore), with some genuinely fresh strategies. Unusually, their set involved a high content of vocal narrative material, periods of prolonged minimalism, and a marked visual sense, as one of their number displayed his highly effective technique of making gestures in response to real time sounds, not only as if he were conducting, but also making it appear that he was actually producing said sounds. Another member intoned text, with sparse blurp backing. There aren't many laptop-orientated artists who are attuned to physical performance, the form usually attracting insular glow-starers.
Leila Bordreuil is a French cellist, dwelling in NYC, back across the Atlantic for a spell. Apparently she can move with differing sonic manifestations, but this particular set involved solo cello, heartily amplified, and concentrating on the drone, most of the gradual changes happening through grainy, distorted bowing, thickening up the granular mass. She played loud, using amplification as an instrument in itself, following a steady arc up to an expected climax. She could happily move across the free improvisation, abstract rock and extreme classical scenes, catching new followers at each stop.
Capelo are a Brussels duo, Michel Nyarwaya and Eve Decampo (the latter having Vulcan ears) with a pulsing electro-pop sensibility, refracted into a darker realm. Performing facing each other, they succeeded in being accessible whilst brooding with a retro 1980s menace. They seemed quite cheerful but their tunes had a firm bite.
Lemones performed on the floor, in the centre of the room, brandishing strange circular instruments that seemed to be part-guitar and part-Irish bodhran, with a drummer and a guesting almost-rapper. A Brussels threesome, they construct their own instruments, and the above-mentioned axes are supposed to look like lemons. Art garage rock could be their chosen genre, but even if it's not, their set was reeling with primitivist riffing and psychedelic climaxing.
Paradon't are a German duo (Paraklang and Don't DJ), setting their controls for a fractured techno romp, juddering forward with an ungainly dance motion. A certain hypnotic vibration set in, taking electronica to the tougher side of the square. The closest comparisons could be Autechre and Mouse On Mars.
On the evidence of your scribe's tentative immersion, Kraak is surely an exciting way to spend a weekend, even in the midst of a conflicting flamenco festival. Perhaps next year said quill-bearer will make it for the entire weekend experience..!
Photograph: Lyse Ishimwe