Tower Transmissions VI Festival 2016: 16th/ 17th September, 2016
Club Puschkin: Dresden, Germany
Friday night: Salo Salon, Satanismo Calibro 9, Nocturne, 1997EV, Club Moral, Snuff
Saturday night: Sick Seed, Soldergeist (did not perform), Satori, AIT!, Genocide Organ, Einleitungszeit
Tower Transmission VI: show report
Review: Richard Stevenson
Photos: All photos by Nero Azzolut, except for above ‘Groupo de Autodefensa’ photo of Genocide Organ above by unknown
Although 2015’s Tower Transmission V was an excellent event (reviewed here), the fact that Genocide Organ has to cancel their headline slot created an ‘unfinished business’ scenario for me, which resulted in my return to see them headline 2016’s VI edition of Tower Transmission. Thus the long journey back to Europe was facilitated as part of a two-week vacation, with attendance at Tower Transmission VI being the centrepiece of the trip. Being held again at Club Puschkin: a nightclub venue with dedicated stage, sound booth/ sound system and bar, as per last year mechanise from various sellers (myself included) was available in the space between the main stage and bar area, with further large circulation space in a ‘chill-out’ back room and further outdoor area. After arriving at the venue around 6pm on the Friday, time was spent drinking and chatting with some of the Finnish crew in attendance, before moving inside to set up at the merchandise table and to watch the first act.
Seemingly relative newcomers, Salo Salon were in the perhaps unenviable opening festival slot. For their show, it featured both banks of pedals and noise equipment at side stage, and oil barrel and other mic’ed up sheet metal to the centre of the stage (…in addition to the use of a video backdrop). With both members clad in black and balaclavas, it started with using the noise equipment to build a base of hard industrial noise clatter and further augmented with live junk metal abuse and manipulation. Although there seemed to be clear aggressive intent on the part the duo, this was however not fully reflected in final stage performance and in the end seemed to lack impact and appeared to be not much more than an improvised and rather uninspired ‘bashing randomly on junk metal’ session with an industrial noise backing. Generally it all lacked ‘something’ in final execution and while perhaps the project will improve in the live arena with more stage experience, it did not hit the mark this time around.
The Italian ritual industrial trio Satanismo Calibro 9 were up next and from my perspective delivered the first highlight of the festival. With all three members sat on the floor in front of various noise implements, this allowed focus to be equally on the video backdrop, a small ritual alter to centre stage and the members themselves. With the main vocalist being sat in front of a ‘rat’s nest’ of cables, throughout the show he delivered commanding and low drawling vocal chants, which were coupled with additional noise created from contact mic’ed ritual bones and sheet metal. The other two members focused also on providing layers within the ritual soundscape, while the ritual aspects were further realized through one member drawing sigils on sheets of paper and burning these at the ritual alter at key points throughout the performance. Although being perhaps more ritual dark ambient on record, in the live setting the presented sound represented a heaving maelstrom of droning industrial / ritual chanted soundscapes with both force and presence, where Satanismo Calibro 9 presented a very strong and excellent performance, with controlled pacing throughout.
Up next was Nocturne, where it has been many years since I have paid attention to their musical works. Although I appreciated their very early ‘Les Joyaux De La Princesse’ styled martial industrial material, it was their overly long industrial noise show at the two day Stigma Industrial Festival in London in 2001 which turned me off the project, and meant I did not follow any subsequent output. Given this context I was then most surprised when Saphi and supporting female member Cecile delivered a set of minimal synth & martial industrial pop songs, thus charting a new sound and direction for the project. Featuring Saphi on mostly the synths and musical equipment and Cecile on violin, with both members sharing lead vocals depending on the track. A clinical/ medical/ phycological slant appeared to be the main thematic focus as demonstrated through both the lyrics and lab-coats being worn, noting that both members also engendering a strong stage presence and holding character relative to the spoken/ sung lyrics being delivered. Although this style of music is not one that I would listen to at home, in the live setting it was a strong and entertaining performance.
Being a project I was previously unfamiliar, 1997EV are evidently a cult-revered project in some quarters. In the end 1997EV revealed themselves to be a psychedelic noise rock act framed around 2 guitars and drummer, but given this is a style and type of music which is not typically to my taste I took the opportunity to instead mingle with other guests of the same view. Can’t like everything as they say!
The technical headliners for the Friday night were long standing Club Moral who have been operating in various formations since 1982. Although I am partially aware of the legacy of the group, musically they are a project that have simply passed me by, so I was left with no option to experience their performance on face value. Although initially delayed with some sound equipment issues, the male/ female duo soon launched into a set of vocal lead minimalist synth/ atonal industrial ‘songs’. For the performance it involved Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven seated at a table to manipulate a sound equipment, while the main focus of Danny Devos was to deliver the vocals while either stalking the front stage or making random angular arm gestures at the microphone stand. My main impression from the performance was that Club Moral exemplifies the initial early era of ‘industrial’ music, where there were little or no genre classifications and the music reflects a perspective that the music can be whatever it is, without compromise. Although musically not being to my personal taste at all (particularly given there seeming to be a lack of seriousness), the performance was definitely well received by the bulk of the audience, where the crowd reaction also managed to generate an encore from the group. Later discussions with various attendees also highlighted that the show was considered excellent as it was based on numerous old ‘hits’ from the group, rather than a set of more academic ‘sound-art’ material which I was informed that have delivered in recent times.
Thus the final closing act for the Friday night was Snuff, being a Finnish project associated with the Filth & Violence label and a collaborative duo featuring Pasi Markkula (aka Bizarre Uproar) and Pekka PT (aka Sick Seed & Gelsomina). Talking with Pasi and Pekka over the course of the festival I was informed that apart from a private performance the TTVI show was the first public performance of Snuff, but given both of their extensive experience in the live arena, the show promised to be a strong one, which in the end amounted to the standout show of the Friday night. Appearing to take on an archetype and ‘stereotypical’ appearance of a sex offender, chosen stage wear consisted of sweat pants, zip-up sports jumpers/ hoddies and ski masks. With both members utilizing racks of noise pedals and associated equipment, a number of large stage speakers were also employed to facilitate a wall of shrieking overblown feedback. Over the course of the set a fierce power electronics / filthy noise industrial set was constructed, with both sharing turns howling aggressive vocals. As for the set Snuff’s potential ‘hit’ single ‘Male Supremacy’ got an airing, along with other recognisable tracks from other recent albums. Late in the set the stage antics descended into a ‘celebration’ of the male gut with both members suggestively rubbing their middle girth. Clearly playing off a perspective of ‘pitch black humour’, the sonic approach and vocal barrage were nevertheless presented with complete seriousness and dedication to their sonic craft, which showed in quality, aggression and volume of the set, meaning I left the first night of the festival happy having been suitable brutalized by punishing power electronics and industrial noise filth.
With Pasi and Pekka effectively closing the Friday night, both returning to open Saturday night, yet this time it was Pekka’s main project being featured with further live assistance being provided by Pasi. Although of the industrial noise/ rough Finnish power electronics slant, the mood and tone was of a more desperate and mournful style, particularly provided by the anguished, but clearly enunciated spoken presentation of Pekka’s vocals (…delivered while stalked back and forth across the stage). Given that much of PE type vocals are lost in the distortion and delivery, here there lyrics could have perhaps been more fully audible if they were elevated in the mix, which seemed a missed opportunity. As for the stage setup this involved Pekka manipulating his side table of equipment and providing vocals while further backing noise manipulation assistance came from Pasi’s further table of noise equipment and bass guitar providing atonal low end sonic input. All in all a strong, enjoyable but quite short set, which had me wishing it were longer.
Soldnergeist were meant to follow and although not necessarily an act I am obsessive about, I was at least looking forward to seeing this German power electronics project in a live setting (…as were many others I chatted with). However this was simply not to be, as Soldernergeist did not show up to the festival and without explanation being provided. When later speaking with head promoter Eric the reason for their absence was unknown and remains unknown and unexplained at this point in time.
The UK project Satori were the next act to follow and although featuring a revolving lineup (and in the later era with no original members), in 2014 an original member Dave Kirby took over the name again as a solo project, which is who performed here. Although pushing towards a dark ambient sound in terms of execution and sonic clarity, the sound was also far heavier and driving that typical dark ambient fare, given the equal focus on a heavy electronics and industrial slant. With Dave behind a low table with laptop and effects units he had a high degree of stage presence, and with the music presented being manipulated to be in sync with a specific backing video. As such the generated rolling, heaving and constantly evolving vortex of sound made it was virtually impossible to become fully impressed in the set and for me was another highlight of the festival.
AIT! followed, being an Italian project of Tairy Ceron who is perhaps more recognised as his earlier project …Today, I’m Dead which was associated with Marco Corbelli’s Slaughter Productions. For his performance in consisted of mournfully toned industrial/ dark ambient/ drone soundscapes with apathetic spoken styled vocals, where Tairy was stationed at the back of the stage and being only barely visible due to the video backdrop and strategically placed curtain screens (…in addition to a bizarre garden flower arrangements placed at the front of the stage). Although being sonically acceptable, it appeared that the performance involved live vocals to backing tracks being played from a sole laptop. Given there were clear breaks of silence between tracks (and making to appear if Tairy was just queuing the next track), it tended to break the mood of the performance and made it less engaging that it could have otherwise been, which resulted in me opting out of the later half of the set to catch up with various people.
Moving on to Saturday night’s headliner Genocide Organ, after so many years of wanting to see the group in a live setting, there was a worry on my part of potential personal hype leading to disappointment – yet any such concerns were in the end completely unfounded as they group demonstrated they are simply in a league of their own. Also noting that Genocide Organ grace the stage infrequently and are known for preparing and presenting ‘stand-alone’ live performances which are not repeated, and in this context the attendees at TTVI were treated to a specific performance centred around the new album ‘Obituary of the Americas’ (reviewed here). Sonically the performance was perfectly loud and forceful (‘chest rumblingly’ loud in fact), allowing the live renditions of album tracks to be clearly followed (…which also included the various dialogue samples used on the album). Apart from the opening and closing pieces material was drawn almost exclusively from ‘Obituary of the Americas’, where the final aggressive rendition of ‘Vive La Guerre’ (previously only known from the 2007 expanded re-release of ‘Remember’), which with it mercenary focus conceptually aligned with the balance of the presented set.
With a sole member at the back of the stage (Doc M.Riot? …not absolutely sure), flanked by a backing video projection, the introductory track provided a sonic backdrop of a rain soaked jungle with helicopters circling low overhead, before the remaining 3 members (Wilhelm Herich, Brigant Moloch & D.A.X.) marched through the crowd and joined the stage, being also accompanied by a further two ‘commandos’. With all members wearing camouflage face covering and some with brimmed jungle bush hats, interestingly this new stage attire was noted to specifically reference the cover image of the CD version of ‘Obituary of the Americas’, and functioned to illustrate the depth of thought which the group put into the presentation of their themes. In addition to the headwear, all members were clad in camouflage trousers and Genocide Organ branded ‘Por Una Vida Libre / Grupos de Autodefensa’ t-shirts, which based on later investigation were noted to be specific replicas of the design of the Mexican ‘Policia Comunitaria / Autodefensa’ group/s (aka Community Police / self-defender group/s). Once on stage both vocalists Wilhelm Herich and Brigant Moloch stood front and centre, menacingly brandished machetes as well as using them as specific implements to generate further noise when being symbolically ‘sharpened’ on the edge of a contact mic’ed oil barrel.
The lengthy opening section demonstrated further dedication to thematic cause, given the vocals were exclusively presented in Spanish and as if being a proclamation/ sermon from a South American Jungle Militia leader, and continued within the first recognisable album ‘Autodefensa’ which sonically hit hard. To speak further of the vocals, the impassioned delivery of Wilhelm Herrich on ‘Formacion de Guerilla’ were another specific highlight, as were the imposing shared vocal approach on ‘Todo por la Patria’ and ‘Escuela de las Americas’, with the later being coupled with specific hand gestures to reflect lyrics of: “your mind is in our hands: our hands are in your mind”. As the momentum and elevating heaviness of set progressed the perhaps now obligatory aggressive shoving match at the front of stage broke out. But noting also the controlled aggression of the new album, the unhinged nature and more direct aggression of ‘Vive La Guerre’ was a perfect way to conclude the performance, with no encores to be contemplated or provided, despite the vigour of the crowd reaction.
The focus of the group in their presentation of specific theme within a live setting was further demonstrated when early in the set the two assisting ‘commandos’ were instructed to hand out white versions of the ‘Por Una Vida Libre / Grupos de Autodefensa’ t-shirts to select members of the audience, where interestingly this very action threatened to pull focus away from stage as there were minor scuffles as audience members attempted to procure one of these ‘exclusive’ Genocide Organ rarities. However for those who did receive a t-shirt, they were instructed to put in on immediately so as to show faith to the cause, but were then specifically targeted later in the set by Brigant Moloch when he entered the crowd to apply camouflage face paint to such marked audience members. When noting such attention to detail of how the music and themes presented on stage, conceptually it was extremely strong and perfectly executed and far from being a mere live rendition of new album tracks.
By way of an observation regarding stage performance and aggression, it is widely recognized that the group demonstrated an extremely violent and visceral approach on stage in their earlier days; where this early phase of the project is documented on the Heavy Electronics: Two Days of Agony VHS (a live recording made at the 1993 Heavy Electronics festival where the project performed). What is evidenced on this video stands in stark contrast to what can be witnessed on stage in the current era; where there is a much more reserved and calculated stage performance element; and where the violence and aggression is implied through posture, gesture and imposing stage presence as embodied by Wilhelm Herich and Brigant Moloch. Although some elements of the audience were effectively wanting to see the group of yesteryear, to my mind this is completely missing the point of how the project have evolved their sound and thematic approach over the last 2 decades, where the Genocide Organ of today absolutely demands focus and attention based on the strength of their stage presence.
Another observation to be made of the performance followed on from a conversation with Klaus (Wilhelm Herich) after the show, where it was confirmed that and the total live performance concept was intended to be delivered at Tower Transmission V last year, (i.e. prior to the actual release of “Obituary of the Americas’), and at the time would have been the first time anyone heard the new material from the group. Despite this scenario not eventuating, it perhaps allowed the majority of the audience to be well acquainted with the new album, where for me the TTVI performance functioned to reinforce how strong the themes underpinning ‘Obituary of the Americas’ are.
The only this left to say is that having waited for many years to see Genocide Organ live, with their total commitment it resulted in an amazing performance which will be etched in my memory for a long time to come.
Noting the totality of Genocide Organ’s performance it must have been a potentially daunting task for Einleitungszeit to follow and to effectively close the festival. Yet this in the end was not an issue at all, given they completely embodied and owned their own unique approach. Although another project I have not extensively followed, Einleitungszeit are a Slovak-Czech ‘power industrial noise band’ which presents a sort of ‘industrial theatre’ type approach (…and which even including a ‘chorus line’ bow at the end of the show). With the 5 members utilising a wide variety of stage costumes (including body paint, gas masks, radiation suits, cyborg face-masks etc.), a clear impression was provided of a post apocalyptic/ nuclear fallout type theme, which itself is reflective of the country of origin and that key original members would have grown up during the cold war era. Further stage antics included aggressive dual male/ female vocals, fire breathing (i.e. directly in the faces of the front row audience), and sprayed arcs of metallic sparks generated from sheet metal and angle grinder abuse. Sonically it was partially rhythmic and totally chaotic with its wild industrial/ noise/ junk metal abuse approach, where the over the top nature of both costumes and performance meant it was an extremely engaging show. Straddling a playful and bizarre yet equally serious approach, it was all very entertaining and in the process allayed any concern of how a project could possibly following Genocide Organ, given the project completely owned their own unique approach.
Returning to Tower Transmissions for a second year running was again a pleasure, and thankfully the niggling sound issues at the 2015 event were completely rectified this year, with all acts sounding excellent (…both in terms of clarity and volume). The organisers of Tower Transmissions should again be commended for pulling together an excellent festival lineup, and while not all acts were necessarily to my personal liking that is also missing the point. Clearly the organisers have sought to pull tougher a diverse roster of acts from the various genre corners of the broader post-industrial underground, which also provides opportunity for newcomers, current projects and long standing acts to share the stage. From this perspective Tower Transmission VI was another total success and personally provided more than ample performances that were specifically targeted my music tastes and interests. The festival providing an opportunity to chat with various friends and long-term contacts in person, which such opportunities for me are few and far in-between. Until next time? We shall see.
More Neuro Azzolut photos from all acts available: here