Raw Power Festival – The Dome, London

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Ghost Cult’s tagline is “exploring the boundaries of music”. Luckily Raw Power Festival in at The Dome in London is providing a weekend of weird, wondering and noisy experimental music.

Day One

Metal and any sort of identifiable guitar riffs are largely absent from night one, as was anything so commonplace as a chorus. Opening proceedings is Graham Dunning’s Mechanical Techno, a one-man DJ set with the aesthetic of a garden shed. Dunning uses layers of vinyls in towers to create minimalist beats, but the steampunk-like spectacle includes ping-pong balls and quartz crystals to create an odd light and sound show. Worth seeing for sure, even if the music was a notch above “interesting enough.”

Teeth of a Sea seem to approach music with a kitchen sink approach. Guitars, trumpets, synths, programmed beats; every member of the band plays at least two instruments, usually switching back and forth during each piece of music. There’s a lot going on, each piece builds an intensely layered piece of alluring if incomprehensible nose.

the crowd at The Dome in London, photo credit Raw Power Festival

The crowd at The Dome in London, photo credit Raw Power Festival

The sheer aggression displayed by London’s own veteran industrialists Test Dept: Redux is a great exercise in catharsis. The band are known for their use of “found” percussion instruments, and don’t disappoint; there’s sheet metal, metallic windmills, steel pipes, spring coils, plus two drummers and a host of abstract industrial noises. Primal, aggressive punk done right.

Day Two

Much of day two strays into even more unusual territory. Opener Agathe Max only comes to the stage armed with an electrified violin and some loop pedals, but creates a dense mess of Nosie and feedback. It’s chaotic and a good way to wake up from the fug of the night before.

Bonnnacons of Doom’s short but trippy set feature’s mirror masks, and a banshee-like front woman wearing a witch’s cape and hood. Selvhenter redefine the kind of racket you can make with a saxophone, violin and trombone, and make the kind of jazzy droning distortion most bands couldn’t dream of. The Cult of Dom Keller’s hazy psych rock is perfectly pleasant (and would probably go down well with the likes of NME if it was in a guitar music phase) but compared to most of the band’s on today’s bill they lack any real amount of energy or personality.

Slabdragger and Sly & The Family Drone are the two bands from today that GC readers are probably most familiar with. Croydon’s Slabdragger provide an education in proper riff worship – Sleep’s influences are particularly audible – providing a set as heavy as their name suggests. Despite the crushing riffs, the band have an abundance of energy and get a suitably welcome reception from the crowd. Probably the least weird band of the day, but that’s no bad thing when you can crush it.

Eschewing the stage to instead set up in a ring on the audience floor, Sly & The Family Drone gather the crowd around before covering them in beer and Clingfilm and throwing paper plates at them. It would be easy to believe not a note of the band’s set is pre-planned or rehearsed, the band describe themselves aptly as “a primal orchestra of drum rhythms, radiophonic oscillator noise and electronically-abstracted vocals”. There’s no cohesion, no sense to be found, but it’s chaotic fun and rare to be so close to a band when they play.

With the exception of Baby Metal (and make of those what you will) and Boris, Japanese rock and metal doesn’t get a whole lot of coverage on our fair shores. Props then to Raw Power for putting on three wildly different but very hugely entertaining bands from the Land of the Rising Sun. Qujaku (formerly known as the Piqnic) combine both the quiet and droning extremes of Boris melded together with the ability to lock in to a Queens of The Stone Age-like groove. During the band’s quieter moments, the band’s waif-like vocalist Shyuya Onuki floats about the stage before transforming like a man possessed when the chaos cuts loose. Confusing but compelling to watch.

Pikacyu-Makoto, photo credit Raw Power Festival

Pikacyu-Makoto, photo credit Raw Power Festival

Pikacyu-Makoto a two-piece consisting of Acid Mother Temple’s Kawabata Makoto and Afrirampo’s Pikacyu are far more messy, but no less entertaining. Throughout the set, the drum and guitar combo always treading border between genius and a complete mess. Great when it works, but doesn’t always stay on the right set and occasionally just becomes a bit unlistenable.

Melt Banana, however, are nothing short of excellent, and deliver the set of the weekend. Where there’s been a lot of “weird”, the music Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata make is mental. The combination of punk riffs and grinding drums makes for a crushing set, and Onuuki’s use of motion controlled handset means the bass and drum beats are changed on her cue. Combines brutally heavy with the kind of fun you get from good punk. You’ll rarely see a band like Melt Banana.

Melt-Banana, photo credit Raw Power Festival

Melt-Banana, photo credit Raw Power Festival

Day Three

Sunday is mostly dedicated to punk and the heavier side of things with a few outliers thrown in to catch you off guard. Opening act Ill make music to fit their name; rough, grungy punk with a snotty sardonic sneer. Occasionally remind of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds at their most abrasive. Lower Slaughter, meanwhile, might be the angriest band on show. The Brighton four-piece are packed with dirty riffs and in front woman Sinead have a ball of lyrical vitriolic rage with a surprisingly throaty growl.

Italian trio Stearica are an instrumental band with personality. They crack jokes between sets, show their humour on stage and the drummer at one point jumps of stage to start eking out a beat on the bar. The Baroness-like riffs help too. All I have in my notes for Mugstar is “riffs upon riffs upon riffs.” The Scouse instrumental quartet know how to make good, driving music with a purpose.

The noisy stoner punk of Workin’ Man Noise Unit is good fun, while Follakzoid are probably the worst band of the weekend. Where the former are all energy, the latter make slow, lazy and uninteresting music. Follakzoid might strut around the stage, but their stage presence doesn’t make up for the lack of interesting music. You should listen to more Workin’ Man Noise Unit instead.

Part Chimp, photo credit Raw Power Festival

Part Chimp, photo credit Raw Power Festival

Considering some of the oddities seen over the weekend, Part Chimp are an oddly straight-laced choice of Sunday headliner. A proper heavy stoner band, the London five piece can jump from more groove-laden to full on crushing at a moment’s notice, but it’s all inhumanely loud and bruising. One of the more unusual festival’s I’ve been to, but no less fun or heavy.

DAN SWINHOE

 

Festival Preview: Raw Power Festival, London, UK

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One of the more unique and intriguing festivals of the summer is this weekend’s 4th annual Raw Power Festival at The Dome in Tufnel Park London. Hosted annually by Baba Yaga’s Hut, purveyors of the finest underground live performances and must know acts; this years fest pulls together the best from the work of psychedelic rock, eclectic electronic acts and avant-garde visionaries. Headlined by the sublime and crazy Melt Banana, they are joined by a bevy of killer bands such as Test Dept: Redux, Picacyu-Makoto, Follakzoid, Teeth of the Sea, Taman Shud, Housewives, Bonnacons of Doom, Mechanical Techno, Part Chimp, Selvhenter, Cult of Dom Keller, Mugstar, Anonymous Bash, Sly & the Family Drone, Orchestre for Spheres, Orlando, ILL, Workin’ Man Noise Unit, Woven Skull, Melting Hands, Lower Slaughter, The Picniq, Stearica, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Slabdragger, and many more. If you don’t have these bands in your collection, you have some research and hours of listening to do.
melt banana

The program also includes DJ’s, merch, food and drink options and of course, cool people watching. Be part of something truly special and not the typical fest expeirence. Tickets are stil lavailable for the weekend at this link:

Stearica Streaming “Shāh Māt”, Colin Stetson Guests

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Italian instrumental rockers Stearica is streaming “Shāh Māt” featuring Colin Stetson (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, etc.), off of their forthcoming album Fertile, out April 13, 2015 via Monotreme Records below.

The sprawling new single from the long-running Stearica trio, “Shāh Māt,” showcases the beautifully diverse textures of this and the immaculate presentation and production of their impending sophomore album, Fertile. But as a special added feature with this track the band is also proud to share the fruits of their collaborative efforts with acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Colin Stetson, who has also worked with such luminaries as Tom Waits, David Byrne, The Arcade Fire, Lou Reed, The National, TV On The Radio, Bon Iver and others. Providing a mystical brass orchestration of flute, French horns and tenor and bass saxophones on “Shāh Māt,” Stetson is one of several guest appearances on Fertile, as Scott McCloud (Girls Against Boys) provides vocals for “Amreeka,” and Ryan Patterson (Coliseum) provides vocals on “Nur,” these guest inclusions just one example of Stearica’s undoubted exploration into vast new territories with their songwriting and delivery.

stearica fertile

Stearica — comprised of Francesco Carlucci (guitars, bass, synths, electronics), Davide Compagnoni (drums, percussions, samples) and Luca Paiardi (bass) — captured Fertile at Blu Room, Chivasso, Cavoretto Hills, Cavoretto and Wave Life, Torino, the album recorded by Daniele Mattiuzzi and Francesco Carlucci and produced by Carlucci, after which it was mixed by Daniele Mattiuzzi and Carlucci at Wave Life, and mastered by Michael Fossenkemper at Turtle Tone Studios, New York City. Corralling the primordial nature of the trio’s dynamic live performances — at times brutal, chaotic, mysterious, tranquil — Fertile is music born of our time: instinctively revolutionary.

Fertile Track Listing:
1. Delta
2. Halite
3. Bes
4. Geber
5. Nur
6. Tigris
7. Siqlum
8. Amreeka
9. Shāh Māt

Stearica will be performing live throughout the UK in April, with additional tour dates to be announced in the near future.

Stearica Tour Dates:
Apr 25: The Blue Room – Blackpool (UK)
Apr 27: The Hope and Ruin – Brighton (UK)
Apr 28: The Old Blue Last – London (UK)

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Stearica Streaming “Halite”

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Turin, Italy based instrumental trio Stearica is streaming “Halite”, off of their upcoming second release Fertile, out in Europe on April 13th and in North America April 14th via UK based Monotreme Records, here.

A powerful, adventurous recording, inspired by the squares of the Arab Spring and Barcelona’s Indignants, Fertile, will be released in the early days of Spring; the season of renewal and fertility in many parts of the world including the region historically known as The Fertile Crescent, the birthplace of some of the earliest human civilizations, and also the scene of the revolutionary political uprisings that swept across the Middle East in 2011 known as the Arab Spring. “Upon arriving in Barcelona to perform at Primavera Sound during the 2011 Indignants protests was the spark that ignited the inspiration for this record, and the Arab Spring revolutions unfolding across the Middle East as we wrote the album further fuelled our inspiration,” issues the band’s Francesco Carlucci. Both the concept of “fertile” as “life-giving” and the revolutionary impulses of the Arab Spring and the Indignants protests in Barcelona provided inspiration for this latest work from STEARICA, who begin their creative process by freely improvising for several hours. The ensuing torrents of sound give birth to finished songs, just as a receding flood leaves behind fertility-bringing silt. Produced by the band’s Francesco Carlucci, Fertile captures the primordial nature of the sound that the trio creates in their dynamic live performances. At times brutal, chaotic, mysterious, tranquil; Fertile is music born of our time: instinctively revolutionary.

Over the past decade, STEARICA has gained a cult following in the independent music underground, touring and performing live with the likes of Girls Against Boys, NoMeansNo, Dälek, Tarentel, Damo Suzuki, Coliseum, and forming the Acid Mothers Temple and Stearica Orchestra, which recorded a full-length album during the last day of a glorious one-month European tour together. The key to STEARICA’s success is their powerful and adventurous sound, which is geometrical yet visceral: so intense that there is no need for words, much like The Scream by Edvard Munch. This is especially the case live, whether in clubs, or crowded festivals such as Primavera Sound and Villette Sonique, or in their live film soundtrack of the 1920 silent horror masterpiece Der Golem, which was commissioned by and performed at the National Cinema Museum and winner of the Audience Award in the 2014 Rimusicazioni Film Festival. Their desire to go beyond the traditional concept of a band has also led them to begin work on an ambitious multimedia show. Therefore, the title of their 2008 debut album Oltre (loosely translated as “beyond”) is very appropriate, and the response to the album at home (“…the best record produced in Italy in years” – Il Mucchio) and internationally (UK avant garde magazine The Wire featured STEARICA twice on its covermount CD) confirms this.

STEARICA:
Francesco Carlucci –
guitars, bass, synths, electronics, additional sounds
Davide Compagnoni – drums, percussions, samples
Luca Paiardi – bass

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