Incubate Festival 2014 – Saturday Review By Guido Segers
Let me not bore you too long with how I had to be at Incubate in time for a panel that gave lost visitors advice on what to see and how I got trapped in public transport, harassed by a sadistic train conductor and finally covered in sweat, got to sit down with some renowned journalists for the job.
I will also skip by the part I was overwhelmed by the amount of choices on the program, the fact that Incubate Saturday was sold out and of course that it was hot. Let’s go to the music, for which I’ve gathered some nice pickings for you.
Lend Me Your Underbelly / T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society
For the early birds, there’s the one man psych blues project Lend Me Your Underbelly playing in the record store Sounds. This is part of the brand new Incubate Zero program, which is free live music during the day for whoever feels interested. With a collection of pedals and other devices in front of him, weaving guitar patterns into songs.
With a dull drum sound, the swirl of sound forms up slowly droning music, streaming by slowly. The melancholic vocals are gentle as well, creating a dreamy autumnal feeling. The careful finger picking guitar work looks as if it might be easily disturb shop visitors walking past. Still the sound captivates. Someone who stands still a lot less is Tom Gerritsen, with his one man project The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society.
Inspired by the natural sound of Americana/folk from the states, he grabbed a guitar and a harmonica and started playing. Today he does this in the record store as well. With a full album out on V2 Records, he must be doing something right. His howling vocals remind of a Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and those of bygone times. Like the namesake of his band, he rebels against the modern sound and reaches back in the tradition for that original sound. To find it, he travelled America.
The result is a gut wrenching collection of folk songs, which sound natural and pure. He sings slightly louder than he needs to, but it only adds to that heart felt feeling these songs deserve. The sound is not just American though, it is somewhere in between continents, where Tom Gerritsen found his own voice. With sweat dripping from his face, he smiles and thanks his crowd for listening. For me, the pleasure was all mine.
I’m still a bit puzzled about the entity Hadewych and Hadewych++. It features members from various groups in the Netherlands, like Dead Neanderthals, Donné et Desirée and Distel. Today the Paradox stage has the entity Hadewych++ on stage and it promises to be something special.
One is not disappointed, dark sounds of a ritualistic nature fill the venue. On stage the group is hammering on drums, while soundscapes circle around them. The feeling is that of martial folk or industrial, that is evoked by the pounding drumming. Screeching vocals add to the tribal atmosphere of the setting. This descent into the primitive is one of those strange and haunting moments during incubate. One could easily regard it with sceptic eyes, but to float along on the foreboding sounds offers the most reward for visitors in the darkened venue. One of the biggest surprises this Incubate edition.
Innerwoud / Monnik / Charnia
The ConSouling Sounds stage is as a mobile stage at Incubate, where interesting acts get to perform while the audience enjoys a cup of coffee or in this case, a free beer. One can buy records there of the Incubate acts and look at some art while you’re at it. In 45 minutes these three acts are going to play their music.
Innerwoud is another one man band, playing double bass and creating deep drones with the help of some electronics. The man was active in Ghent based quartet Zura Zaj and neoclassical band Ana Barii. Silence descends when he plays the instrument gently, creating careful soundscapes. Call it ambient or neoclassical, it is enchanting to witness, especially with the great visuals. Not without reason Innerwoud was tipped as one of the highlights of the festival.
The next act taking the stage is Monnik, who does a similar thing with his guitar. In his work, he seeks for spiritual isolation, which is much how the music feels like. The meditative drones bring a feeling of calm and peace to the venue and as a listener you take that moment to look inwards. When Monnik looks down at his guitar and starts playing, he is gone from the room, remaining there alone with just his guitar. When he looks up again, his set is finished and his band mates of Charnia join him on stage for the final part of the triptych.
The despair in the doom sound of Charnia, with Monnik doing the vocal duties, is very introvert again. Band members face each other, not the crowd. Heavy, mournful riffs start pouring out of the open doors onto the sunny streets. The Belgians from Waasland have mastered a dark sound filled with sorrow. For their song Het Laatste Licht, they are joined by Jens Debacker on Violin and Innerwoud on the double bass for a worthy closer of this wonderful set.
Ye who enters here, abandon all hope. Aderlating is Mories from Gnaw There Tongues and Erik from Mowlawner. There sound are drones of doom, black noise and dark ambient, however you want to call it. Upon entering the basement venue of V39 the cold atmosphere grips you immediately. Standing behind their table, like mad scientists doing unspeakable things, the duo is producing creeping darkness in sound.
Strong visuals do a lot of the work for them. Footage of old horror films and occult rites work very well with the barked vocals under layers of noise and distortion. The complexity of this product may elude some of the visitors, who walk in and almost instantly decide that this is not the place where they want to be.
Just before the end of the set, the video is finished and a windows screen appears behind the duo. This leads to a bit of laughter, which feels like a moment of liberation from the dark drones. As if the light goes on and the monsters are proven to be illusions.
We’ve discussed Galg on the Sleeping Shaman before. In fact, you can read my interview here and the review of their debut ‘Monochroom’ here. Galg, like Aderlating, is part of the Tartarus records showcase today. Their blend of black metal, doom, noise and anything that has a nihilistic taste to it definitely is a match for Incubate.
Live, the subtleties of their debut seem to fade away in to a bleak, repetitive harshness. With very little lights (and not much of a lightshow) this might be exactly what the Dutch band is aiming for. Barked vocals, cold jagged riffs and an atmosphere of doom and foreboding is what Galg brings to the stage with much skill. The songs feel improvised, born on the spot from fury and despair. Everyone that climbs up the stairs after this must have felt a dark cloud hanging over them. You’re welcome.
Did I mention the Norwegian invasion at Incubate? I should have, because an extensive part of the line-up comes from the land of the Vikings. That doesn’t mean black metal though, do not worry. It does include weirdo’s like Oslo’s own Tuskmørke.
What you see on the stage is a bunch of wacky looking wizard hats and robes, combined with a Jethro Tull reincarnation musically. Vocalist ‘Benediktator’ is dressed like the child of the sun for a pagan ritual. A flute is present and used to call up the feeling of mysterious progrock from a bygone time. It makes little sense these days, but the band is a refreshing breeze in the program. They describe best what the idea is behind this band: “The idea was that we should be an acoustic corner trio after the fashion of troubadours and gallery minstrels seen in Monty Python movies and the Black Adder series. We played several concerts and did a memorable Advent tour of local shopping malls, supported by the council. Angry news agents-ladies told us to take our African bongo nonsense elsewhere’. (Prog-Sphere.com, interview).
That strangely sums up what you experience, a strange band that brings back old fashion fantasy in progrock. The flutist Krizla really determines the sound with his high pitched flute sounds. Another wizard with shades on is behind the keys, creating layers of sound to emphasize the magical element in their music. After a while the band starts to sound a bit repetitive, but the act makes up for that.
If a band makes folk/country music and Metal Hammer publishes a page long interview with their lead singer, something special is happening. That is definitely the case with Denver natives Wovenhand, the band around David Eugene Edwards. The Midi theatre is thus packed for this band.
The sound of the band is heavy and full of gloom. There is always something hanging over our heads when we listen to Wovenhand’s sombre songs that feel like the spun out landscapes of the American heartland. Reverberating riffs linger in the air and tell us a weary story. Edwards continuously shifts around while playing, gesturing up at the sky, tilting his hat backwards. The deep spiritual feeling of his lyrics, combined with his unique voice, quickly captivate the audience.
With their latest record being a huge success, Wovenhand has also made an album that sounds heavier than the work they did before. Refractory Obdurate has one major downside in this live setting though, and that is actually the heavy bass driven sound. It totally envelops the languid singing of Edwards, taking away the focal point for the listeners. Somehow Wovenhand plays a great show, but consistently gives me the feeling that it’s a routine job. The band never really brings the light to Tilburg this time, just some sparing rays of it.
After checking out the violent against-the-system hardcore punk of Skitsystem and the twisted pop songs of Vin Blanc/White Wine, we settled on visiting Extase for Agrimonia. The Swedish blackened sludge band likes to put themselves musically between Neurosis, Counterblast, Bolt Thrower and Bathory. That would be selling them short, since this band clearly has their distinct own sound that draws from all that, but adds their own spice to it.
The contrast in their sound is what makes Agrimonia so fun to see. Clear, razor-sharp guitar work, pounding drums and the insane bark of vocalist Christina, combined with atmospheric layers of guitar and soaring solo work worthy of the more epic sludge/doom works. There’s the thunderous black metal swagger to their sound as well, with a continuous flowing melody weaved in the walls of distorted guitars. Combine that with a very tight set and passionate performance and we have one of today’s winners.
Well, what can you actually say about Goat? Apart from the fact that the writer of these words didn’t manage to get into the venue. There was quite a cue for perhaps the most anticipated act of Incubate. Photographer Paul Verhagen did, and experienced the extravaganza of the Swedish band.
Goat does what Goat does best and there’s no real comparison you can make. The performance has something carnival-esque and grotesque with the masks and outfits, the singalong and the random selections of world music. Their show contains a lot of theatre, making it something you don’t want to miss out on… ever.
The music is repetitive, entrancing the listener to the strange voodoo world of Goat. When Goat plays, the people dance and they do that with such enthusiasm that the Midi theatre is once again shaking on its foundations to the beat of Goat.
Under the moniker of Ancient Ocean, John Bohannon is playing in the Stadskelder tonight. The Brooklyn, NY resident has set up a series of equipment around his guitar, from where he’s going to start producing his dreamy music.
Soundscapes, ambient and drone is what the combination is for Bohannon. The results are dreamy drones and sounds you want to relax to. Sounds from nature are put in samples that liven up his meandering soundscapes. They are easy and calm, building up gradually to a full sound to float along with.
This is one of the rare occasions though, where the venue is actually not helping. Ancient Ocean would benefit from a calmer location with seats probably. Still the sonic meditations get well under your skin.
The last band for the Saturday of Incubate is the peculiar Innercity Ensemble in the Paradox. The Polish collective does improvisation and likes to bring all sorts of backgrounds to their mixture. What you hear ranges from industrial and jazz to noise and electronics. The group doesn’t sound as complex or weird as that may seem, they actually sound accessible and fun, especially regarding the late hour after a very long day of incubating.
The sounds the group produces are mesmerizing, ever changing and still captivating to their audience. Bringing in experience from various other Polish groups, the eclectic mixture of their skills brings the day to a close in perfect Incubate style. Mixing styles and offering a smörgåsbord of musical flavours, all in bite size portions so you never get overwhelmed for too long. Innercity Ensemble has all that and was dubbed one of the highlights by those who witnessed their gig.
Incubate Saturday has brought a range of bands and some I’ve left out of this review because it’s just too much. The diversity is amazing and to focus on one style is always a big waste. Like the aforementioned Scandinavian meal, you have to sample all the types of food on the table. In the case of this festival, it leaves you exhausted but so fulfilled. One more round to go!
Scribed by: Guido Segers
Photos by: Paul Verhagen (www.achromemoments.nl)