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Moers Festival Interviews: Anguish

Martin Longley By

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Anguish are born to be in Moers. This supergroup of the underbelly bleeds together from varying times, diverse sonic areas and different lands. Alternative New Jersey hip- hop roams into the realms of vintage Krautrock, causing distress during an inbreeding feast with the masters of free-Viking jazz. Two pairs of players apiece from Dälek and Fire! meet a founding Faust-father. Then they record for one of the finest jazz-adventuring labels, RareNoise, run by Italians in London.

Anguish made an album called Anguish, its cover striking unquiet via its coiled, exposed serpent brain, nesting within a side-viewed skull. The aural insides are also extremely affecting, seething with squall, blasted by noise textures, loaded with wordy rap-rhymes and featuring contributions that are not necessarily audibly attributable to its makers. These highly individual artists become a composite, collaborative, sick mind, dedicated to avant noise-hop, darkness pervading throughout, acting as a suitable soundtrack to now.

Anguish will make their live performance debut at the Moers Festival, in Germany, not far from Cologne. It will be the first time they've assembled since the album recording sessions. Your scribe met up with MC Dälek, also known as Will Brooks, at a table on the sunny parklet that looks across at NYC's Lincoln Center complex. This is where Anguish should also be welcome, sometime soon, perhaps during this arts hub's Out Of Doors summer music festival.

Brooks is wearing shades, but this doesn't hide his sincerity, or his enthusiasm for Anguish. "Trying to set shows has kinda been like wrangling cats," he muses. "With all the bands, the projects that people are working on, schedules. It's difficult to coordinate. So when there's one that can happen, we're out to make it happen."

There's a Dälek gig in Austin, Texas, just two days before the Moers appearance of Anguish, but Brooks really wanted to make it, when he heard that his bandmates could all intersect at this innovative festival. "I trust those brothers with my life," he states. "Everyone knows what they're doing, especially the Fire! side of the equation..! They live and breathe improvisation, so we're in good hands. And Joachim as the spiritual centre, I think we're good, y'know...!"

Dälek had already worked with Hans Joachim Irmler on their 2004 collaboration with Faust, of whom the keyboardist was a founder member. They had long been set on replenishing that artistic flow, although taking several years to coincide in suitable fashion. Eventually, Dälek returned to Irmler's studio, bent on hanging out. "I hadn't been there since it had been completed and functional," says Brooks. "There was a whole other session that we recorded, that was more of a preliminary, testing the water, and not really knowing that a year later, when we were scheduling a tour in Europe, we would be starting to brainstorm with Joachim."

Dälek had name-dropped Faust in one of their early songs, and word got back to the band, via their booking agent. Soon, that 2004 recording collaboration was activated, with Irmler and fellow founder-drummer Zappi. "We've had a relationship with them for a long time now," says Brooks. "That era was heavy, man. They were creating some brand new stuff that was really good to hear, and to be a part of...Joachim played me stuff that he's been working on in recent years, and it's really beautiful, a lot of solo synthesiser or organ stuff. There's one hand-built synth that he's had since the '70s. He's pretty minimal. It's more what he plays, and how he plays it..."

Even though the Anguish album is riddled with effects, most of what Irmler contributes is a direct product of his keyboards, more naturally individualist. The final track, "Wümme," namechecks Faust's birthplace town, deliberately evoking a Krautrock sound.

For around a decade previously, there had also been talk of working together with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (he of Fire! and The Thing), but nothing had ever lined up correctly. One request that Gustafsson had made was that he wanted Fire!'s Andreas Werliin in as drummer, so suddenly there were the makings of a band line-up in place.

Brooks recalls a gig at The Knitting Factory, in the venue's old Leonard Street location in lower Manhattan, where Dälek played with drummer William Hooker, registering their early interest in free improvisation. He smiles when acknowledging that Antipop Consortium beat Dälek to recording such a crossover project when they released a collaborative album with pianist Matthew Shipp in 2003. He also observes that Dälek have long maintained an equal attraction towards drone and noise explorations. All of these zones are, of course, writhe-ingly crossbred down in the Anguish snakepit.

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