XV. Wroclaw Industrial Festival (2016.11.03-06 @ Wroclaw)

After this summer’s Will To Power: Electronics II, it was festival time again, this time in Poland at the XV. Wroclaw Industrial Festival. While the two festivals were somewhat similar (two of the acts were even included in both’s line up), they were also very different. While in Mannheim it was all about power electronics, this one gave an overview of what is industrial music in 2016, including acts from every genre that is connected to industrial in one way or another (excluding the more commercial acts of course). Power electronics, ambient, dark ambient, noise, neo folk, experimental, techno and so on… and of course some rock acts as well.

The festival lasted for four days and took place in several venues scattered around Wroclaw’s historical city center: the main location was Stary Klasztor with its two halls: the huge and majestic Gothic Hall and the smaller, but equally gothic Old Monastery. The opening evening started at the all seated grand hall of the White Stork Synagogue (aka Synagoga pod Białym Bocianem) and ended in the nearby music pub Stara Piwnica, while the the last day (which had a more relaxed, laid back, afterparty kind of feel) took place a bit farther away from the center, at a very punk looking venue called CRK. There was also a concert on the second afternoon at the Old Mine of Walbrzych, that I decided to skip and there was another show I unfortunately missed (due to train schedule): the opening performance by 7JK. Below is the full line up of performers, the gallery and at the very end a short, personal, heavily subjective live report:

7JK (UK/PL), Aghiatrias (CZ), Ash Code (IT), Asmus Tietchens (D), Blackwood (IT), Burial Hex (USA), Circular (D), Codex Empire (A), Cut Hands (UK), DAF (D), DJ Blackdeath1334 (Francesca) (UK), Emma Zunz (PL), Folkstorm (SE), Hiroshimabend (USA), Holotrop (D), Instinct Primial (CZ), Konrad Becker aka Monoton (A), Main (UK), Mazut (PL), Mueran Humanos (AR), :Of The Wand & The Moon: (DK), Owls (UK-IT), Psychic TV (USA/UK), Ramleh (UK), Reutoff (RUS), Sardh (D), Sigillum S (IT), Vomir (F)

Wroclaw Industrial Festival / facebook event

Even though the WIF2016’s line up was extremely strong, with a lot of amazing concerts, it was also very diverse, so of course there were a couple of concerts, that I did not like that much… including the two neo folk groups. One of them was :Of The Wand And The Moon: whom I saw for the third time and while they were clearly better than at the two previous occasions, for me, they still sound too much like old, classic Death In June, just not as good. The other one was Owls, featuring Tony Wakeford, the man behind the legendary Sol Invictus and well, they were pretty bad… trying very hard to be all poetic and artsy, but failing completely. For me at least. But then, I am very picky with neo folk in general, so that was probably really just me, especially as most of the audience seemed to love both acts a lot. Interestingly enough the more-or-less same people who make up Owls did a pretty great show with the atmospheric industrial / dark ambient act Sigillum S the next day, again featuring Mr. Wakeford and his unique voice fit in there much, much better. And speaking of dark ambient or ambient in general… it was one of the most well represented music genres at the festival. The atmospheric Blackwood, yet another project by Italy’s Eraldo Bernocchi (who is also involved in the aforementioned two) was also one of the dark ambient acts, just as the somewhat more beat-oriented Russian Reutoff and two Czech acts, Instinct Primal and Aghiatrias, with their noisier approach, closer to old-school industrial. And also, Burial Hex from the US, whose performance was very atmospheric, but his music just did not work for me. The more relaxed, meditative side of ambient was represented by Germany’s Circular and by Main, the solo project of UK’s Robert Hampson, whose concert was also held in the synagogue, so the audience could experience his very silent, very tranquil music to full effect. And then there was Holotrop (from Germany) on the closing day, whose show turned out to be one of the best of the festival: meditative, trippy ambient, accompanied by a very atmospheric performance that perfectly managed to set and convey a psychedelic, ritual, mind altering mood he wanted to create.

There were also a lot of more beat oriented acts: Monoton aka. Konrad Becker, a pretty strange looking fella, who is also a living legend kind of sound sculptor from Austria. Codex Empire, another one of the great surprises of the festival, who started his set with calmer, more ambient-like sounds, but slowly drifted towards a fine, ryhthm-heavy mixture of techno and power noise. And on the last day, we had two locals, the more trance-influenced Emma Zunz and the “sounds like Converter, just not as great” techno of Mazut, plus Austria’s Hiroshimabend, who started with glitchy experimental sounds and then gradually shifted towards beats. But the best of these more… well, dancefloor friendly acts was clearly Cut Hands. Which is the recent project of William Bennett, known for his involvement in power electronics originators Whitehouse, one of the meanest, most (intentionally) repulsive bands ever. But with Cut Hands, he turned towards a completely different, much more beat oriented musical direction, drawing inspiration mainly from African tribal rhythms and it worked amazingly well live.

Another one of the festival’s best performances was by Nordvarg‘s Folkstrom project: it was brutal, primal, elemental power electronics which resulted in the biggest moshpit of the festival (well, except for DAF of course). The noisier side of industrial was represented by Ramleh‘s loud and remorseless performance and also, Vomir, from France… which was amazing and amusing at the same time. It was basically just a guy in leather jacket, standing still at front of his little box, vomiting a heavily layered, slowly changing wall of harsh noise into the soundsystem (pre-recorded or self-generating? who knows?). It was like the ultimate materialization of minimal, brutal noise, stripped of everything. Pure genius. Germany’s Sardh on the other hand had five members, many instruments and a lot more old-fashioned, but equally interesting approach to industrial, that even included some good, old pounding on metal plates.

And back to DAF, one of the festival headliners: it was interesting to see them again (I saw them once about 10 years ago at WGT) and it was damn good to hear those good old classics, like Alle Gegen Alle, Der Mussolini and especially the amazing Verschwende Deine Jugend, but just as back then, it offered nothing more, really. They were revolutionary once, but nowadays all they do is revisiting those times, which is nice, but still a bit disappointing. The other headline act and also the biggest name of the festival was Psychic TV, that’s been around for decades as well, but unlike many acts as old as them, they kept on changing and evolving (well, of course, the constantly changing line up also played a big part in this as well, but still…) and they still do to this day with their current incarnation, with music deeply rooted in 70’s psychedelic rock. They mostly played tracks from the last few years, but of course also dug up a couple of songs from the vast PTV archives. The oldies were interestingly all chosen from the most charming, lovely little songs they’ve ever made, including Stolen Kisses, Just Drifting and the ever amazing Just Like Arcadia and these presented a very nice and interesting contrast with the heavy, trippy psychedelia of some of the more recent tracks. And speaking of contrast: it was just amazing the see hundreds of black clad industrial fans singing along Stolen Kisses Fa Fa Fafafa… and that also kind of summed up what made this festival so great in general: the diversity and the open-mindedness of its audience, that enjoyed all the shows, no matter if it was noise, ambient, power electronics or neo folk. Or maybe the excellent, dark mixture of minimal synth music and krautrock, presented by Spain’s Mueran Humanos on the first day or the more classical dark / goth rock of Italy’s Ash Code, that closed the festival. So, all in all, WIF 2016 was really a prefect summary of what industrial is all about nowadays and the organizers did an exceptional job in putting together the line up.

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