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2022-05-12

ROADBURN FESTIVAL 2022 • DAY THREE: Saturday, April 23rd

 - The call of a thousandfold sounds:
Once upon a time in the Church of Cartography -

Senyawa

Good morning Saturday! My body clock and the bleating sheep outside made sure that I didn't sleep until eleven, so there was some time at hand between breakfast and lunch. I wanted to do something, but not spend too much energy, so a little 4 km walk around Biezenmortel had to suffice.


Afterwards I luckily took a look at my still relatively reasonable merch haul and thus discovered that one of the two Five The Hierophant CDs I had bought yesterday wasn't sealed and had in fact not even a disc inside! Somehow I had accidentally acquired the display copy. Now that was a reason to get to Tilburg in time.

After sorting that thing out without being suspected of the most pointless fraud in criminal history, I was already in the right place, as the longest Roadburn day once again began at 1 pm in The Engine Room.






Midwife

After three days (including The Spark on Wednesday) all starting with earthshakingly brutal wake-up calls it was a welcome change of pace to float into the festival on a sweet ethereal note for once. Madeline Johnston aka Midwife welcomed the audience alone, playing guitar and singing through a vintage telephone receiver, which made her voice thin and distanced, yet evoked that melancholic quality of a silent call between lovers, where neither of them wants to hang up. It also forced the audience to stay silent and listen closely - which was the proper way of immersing oneself into the featherweight aesthetic of her songs anyway. This minimalistic dream pop with the patience and sincerity of funeral doom was just achingly beautfiful.










Divide and Dissolve

Two young women, one black, one of Maori ancestry, calling for the destruction of colonialism and white supremacy through the language of crushing instrumental drone doom. The intriguing premise of the duo from down under indeed resulted in a devouring wall of sound, yet failed to deliver its massage through the music alone. With that I'm not saying that I disliked the long and quite charming speeches addressing the world's deeply embedded racism in front of a predominantily Dutch and white audience. I'm also not saying that I disliked the music of Divide and Dissolve itself at all.

It just seemed that similar to the Vile Creature x Bismuth show two days before, the band wasn't really ready for the size of the room (this time being The Terminal), which caused the narrative intention, which is clearly audible in the studio versions of their songs, to get lost. Every piece started with a looped soprano saxophone introduction, which was at some point steamrolled by a stream of sludge, which was performed rather loose and introverted in the back half of the stage. It created a mood I could get into, but didn't tell a story beyond that. Not a bad show, but obviously a little behind its own ambitions.
 





Up to this point the planning of my running order had been easy, since only the two Koepelhal stages had opened yet. What followed now was one of the most dreaded clusterfucks of hard decisions, even though there had already been an important cancellation earlier. Still this calls for an intermission to once again celebrate...

CLASHBURN:
In the heart of the afternoon cluster had been a huge series of shows on the Next Stage, starting with ambient artist Lustmord, morphing into his collaborative work with Karin Park and afterwards culminating with the show of Årabrot. How much of that could you watch, when at the same time there were the rivalling must-see performances of Emma Ruth Rundle playing her solo album "Engine Of Hell" and Kanaan, as well as a fully electronic show of Radar Men From The Moon?

Lustmord falling away didn't make it much easier, as part of the Next Stage slot would now be filled with a Gnod surprise show. But at least I didn't have to miss all of the aforementioned artists. And I could forgo Emma relatively easy anyway, because I already had a ticket for her postponed tour date in Hamburg.

The saddest miss during the later course of the day would be Pulled By Magnets (and generally no show in the Paradox jazz club today), Ulver playing "Flowers Of Evil" and still not knowing if Duma are worth the hype. Apart from that me seeing Kaelan Mikla appearantly just isn't meant to happen.

And right now, as I finally continue with my report, there was no chance of witnessing even a glimpse of Sordide performing their great black metal piece "Les Idées Blanches", because a prolific cellist and brilliant musical mind waited on the Main Stage with one of Roadburn 2022's defining experiences...





Jo Quail

With completely new works, the repeated Redux performance of Gggolddd and several shows originally meant for 2020, this edition of Roadburn will surely go down in history as being stacked with commissioned projects, put together specifically for the festival. I'm not even mentioning every single one of them in my write-ups.

Jo Quail's "The Cartographer" was special among all of them in more than one way. Of the shows originally scheduled for 2020, it was the only one which was supposed to be moved to last year's streaming event, but then due to travelling restrictions that didn't happen either. And in hindsight this probably was for the better, since there's no doubt that the piece deserved to be played in front of a live audience.

Musically it was also far from the norm, even with that norm having become extremely blurry at Roadburn by now. However a contemporary classical work led by electric cello - including Jo's typical, amazing loop effect shenanigans - and electric violin, backed up by piano, two orchestral percussionists and not one, not two, but an ensemble of eight trombone players, is still something which stands out, not only here, but anywhere you could possibly perform it.
The composition in five movements also included bits of narration and two singers, male and female, both delivering sometimes supportive, sometimes center stage vocal performances of a versatile range between operatic, mystical and metal.

Together they all created something as unique as it was dynamic, emotional and captivating.
To find fitting comparisons for this brave piece we must look to the world of soundtrack composers. And even without too much expertise in that field, relistening to "The Cartographer" (which given the unexpected opportunity has also been recorded as studio version between lockdowns) I am confident that Jo Quail's labour of love can rival the masterworks of Bear McCreary, namely for Battlestar Galactica, The Walking Dead or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. This is just fantastic stuff.

The audience in the 013 felt it. The musicians knew they nailed it. This was a well-earned triumph.
  











Kanaan

Me, leaning back, striking the coolest pose in the Hall of Fame:
You know... [dramatic pause] I... [even longer, infinitely longer pause]... yeah.

The unsuspecting victim of my weird flex: You what?

Well, back in the old days, in 2019, I saw these guys on the very first date of their very first European tour, you know.
 
Cool, good for you.

Good for them, too. Look where they are now:
They've just won the Spellemann for their recent album!

Spelle-what?

The freaking Norwegian Grammy!

Ok... So ehm... I guess you're implying that is somehow your doing?

I'm implying nothing. Just saying. *

Kanaan have in fact come quite a way since then, even though there haven't really been many chances to perform live anywhere. But the trio unmistakably sounds different now. The mixture of Danish instrumental kraut jammers Papir and the almighty Mahavishnu Orchestra I had heard in them is still there, yet they have reduced the fusion rate and really doubled and tripled and quadrupled down on the fuzz and heaviness. The musicianship is still off the charts, drummer Ingvald André Vassbø still one of the craziest madmen on any stage; and if you were beginning to think they might have gotten a little bit more controlled and less excessive with their increased focus on rocking hard, think again!
I'm just a little bummed that my schedule didn't allow me to stay for the whole finale of this great show, being a mammoth tribute to Japanese space rockers Acid Mother's Temple, because why not. That's how you celebrate an award, right?

* While I had indeed been involved a funny little exchange about the band before the show, it had a completely different subject and was nothing like that. This is just a tribute.









Årabrot

From Norwegian freak-out to "Norwegian Gothic". Lord, how I thrilled I was to finally hear some tunes from this fantastic album live! Ok, I had actually already seen Karin Park perform "Hallucinational" on the same Next Stage the day before during her solo show. And she wasn't the only familiar face of this weekend on stage, as she and her husband Kjetil Nernes were completed to a trio by none other than Yodok III (or more famously Motorpsycho) drummer Tomas Järmyr.

Mostly comprised of the recent album's carnival of dark rock hits, but also a killer rendition of "Sinnerman" from "Who Do You Love" the whole Årabrot show took absolutely no prisoners. Given the slim line-up with Kjetil on lead vocals and guitar and Karin not only singing (mostly) back-up vocals and playing regular synth parts, but also stepping in for the bass on the keys, the songs were clad in different, often more minimalistic and electronic clothes.
On the other hand though Tomas Järmyr being the absolute beast and powerhouse he is, still provided a drive that was out of this world and left no doubt that Årabrot's religion is rock'n'roll. Be it "Kinks Of The Heart", "Hailstones For Rain" or "Feel It On" - every song on its own was a force conquering and turbo-missionizing the room. Fuck yes, this was my kind of church!









Five The Hierophant

Remember the merch incident at the beginning of this report? After that thing there was of course no question that I felt obligated to stay in front of the Next Stage and watch Five The Hierophant now. And only there I realized that I had already seen some of those guys during the fantastic Atonia show.
And maybe the only little downside of this show right now was the dramaturgic mistake of having seen that even bigger and even more sprawling and eclectic performance before this one.

Nonetheless the massive, yet mystical and sometimes even fata-morganish doom metal grooves as a backdrop for darkjazzy saxophone melodies, spiced up with the occasional odd surprise like the swaying waltz of "Der Geist der stets verneint" was one of those Roadburn-in-a-nutshell shows, which wrapped you in a comfortable cozy texture woven of heaviness, dreaminess and love of musical adventure. Needless to say I loved it.













Slift x Etienne Jaumet

Immediately afterwards began the third gig of French psych firestarters Slift and I was a little surprised that I still could get my desired Main Stage front row center spot. Compared to the wild "Ummon" show which I had attended on Thursday, this final performance, which saw the trio jamming with saxophonist / modular synth player Etienne Jaumet, had a far more time-bending and spaced out vibe. Loose enough to just let you enjoy the flow of the kraut stream without thinking, but also controlled and chararacteristic enough to avoid drifting into randomness. Or in other words: peak performance psychedelic rock. Bar à merveilles!









Senyawa

Where do I even begin with Senyawa? I love this band. Their recent album "Alkisah" ("Once Upon A Time") is at least my second favorite album of 2021. So when the Indonesian duo summoned me into The Terminal I just couldn't resist following their call. The reward was one of most fascinating, storytelling, mysterious, noisy, sick, unique experiences of the whole festival. Because apart only from Zaäar, who had utilized some related vocal and percussive elements, to my knowledge nothing about Senyawa even remotely resembled any other artist. This band plays a music style made up from scratch - and they have achieved a mindblowing mastership in their blend of neubauty experimental noise, drone and tribalistic Javanese influences.

Rully Shabara's voice appearantly is a complete stranger to any kind of limitations. I'm not exaggerating, I just can imagine any kind of tone, pitch and noise coming out of this man's organ. Of course he mainly chooses to use it in ways beyond what most other vocalist would even think about. His combination of wailing, shouting, snarling, screeching, grunting, throat-singing, whistling, animal-noising and working with both physical and technical effects for such a compelling dramatic purpose is one of a kind. And in the same way the music is its incomparable own world, being performed by Wukir Suryad on self-made custom instruments which reveal an astonishing variety of sounds while being plugged, hammered, scratched and bowed. Utterly outstanding!








Kungens Män

A couple of Swedes meet for the first time at Roadburn and later decide to play some kind of Roadburn music together themselves. That's the whole origin story of Kungens Män, who now, ten years later performed one of the longest shows of the night on the Next Stage.
Their chosen style materializes in long psych rock jams, so you could also say it's the dad rock of Roadburn music. But seriously, with multiple guitars, keys and sometimes also sax and maracas, there was just a lot of music, more music and also the joy of playing music going on. For most of the time I got lost in the colourful trip and admittedly don't have a very clear recollection about the actual sound apart from enjoying it. Maybe it was the looped video of Chevy Chase in the background, getting more and more ridiculously hypnotonic, which wiped my memory clean. 
Or it was the hunger. I stayed long, but not through the whole show, because I had neglected the mundane task of eating for many hours now and seriously had to grab a bite, if I wanted to make it through the last one and a half hours of this Saturday Roadburnathon.









Full Of Hell x Nothing

Truth be told - already back when Full Of Hell were announced as Artists in Residence for the Roadburn edition not to be, I just couldn't develop a great interest for their stuff. It certainly isn't the sheer brutality of them that throws me off, but somehow this band just doesn't click for me.
Therefore I hadn't planned to watch any of their various activities and was positively surprised when I caught their Main Stage collaboration with shoegazers Nothing, which turned out to be a massive, crawling slow burn of snail post metal I could actually get into. Yet unfortunately I probably still didn't watch enough of the show to properly review it though, so let's hop back to the Next Stage once again!










Kanga

The official announcement called it dark pop with industrial elements. And while that description may technically be true, it doesn't really nail my impression of what the intention behind the performance of singer / electronic artist Kanga might have been. Well, as if I knew whether this just was what it was or had a bazillion layers of deeper meaning behind it... Was I just supposed to enjoy the sight of the aerobically presented underboob cleavage or was this some trick coercing me into being a male-gazy idiot? A little bit of both perhaps? I choose to believe just that, but mostly it was a fun, highly dancable and extremely heightened exaggerration of certain über-sexualized 80's pop stars - kinky lyrics, booty dance, stripper fish-out-of-water moves and all included.
Would I spin this endlessly at home? I doubt it. Yet it certainly was exactly the right closer to now thirteen hours of festival overload. 





It was beyond 2 am now. I fell asleep in my hotel bed between 3:30 and 4:00 in the morning.

Which means that I'm basically already deep in my Sunday report. See you later on the other side!






reviews of the other festival days:

- Burn your burdens in the Temple of Rebranded Ignition! -

- Tumult of magic, turmoil of transcendence. -

- One day you will find me here
Hiding behind the sun with athousand loaded guns -

- Sinner get jazzy! Jammer get heavy! -



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