TESCO 30th ANNIVERSARY
Text & photos: Mikko A.
For long time, I was hesitating whether it would be possible to attend this festival. Multiple festivals during late summer and autumn had postponed decision to absolute last minutes. Facing obstacles such as tickets that were sold out meanwhile, as well as late bookings of flights making travel to festival expensive, but in the end, worth of every penny!
Travels, on the way to Mannheim as well as return, was painful. Every means of transportation was always late. Luckily not cancelled. Hours of delay didn’t cause severe problems as arrival has been already booked for thursday. Time to collect energy wasted at delays at airports and cues at the stations.
Venue is known for previous Tesco events. Big, but not huge. Certainly smaller than demand would have been. It is just hard to get venue big enough that could be suitable for rough nature of festivals artists. With 400+ people, it was packed, but still enabled everybody to see and hear.
Both nights had opening act, who is barely connected to actual Tesco roster. Kevlar has made its name on Unrest Productions and Zoät-Aon is known from Aural Hypnox. Perhaps this was the way to show Tesco is not utterly closed circuit, but label is known to present new acts and put out releases of bands known from elsewhere. Not to mention one of longest standing distributors of international industrial/power electronics movement who has helped out countless labels during decades. Who would not remember remarkable thick catalogues of Tesco from times before internet, which were not only list of items to buy, but a way to find out what is out there.
Anenzephalia, Genocide Organ, Grey Wolves, Contrastate and Post Scriptvm has plenty of releases on Tesco, Swedish groups Trepaneringsritualen, Alfarmania & Proiekt Hat are fairly new additions to Tesco discography.
Kevlar started evening with strong live show. On surface level it is very traditional heavy electronics. Kevlar’s advantage is extremely nice craftmanship. Highly textured electronic sounds and dense multilayered completely rejects the simplest and dullest standard oscillations and tones. Perhaps for some, material will sound the same as other projects in genre, but experts who immerse deeper into texture, composition and detail will find such a talented sound manipulation Kevlar rises among top of the genre. In this live show, using pretty much one style of vocal effect, was the only criticism. Their ability to use vocals not only as commanding voice, but as artistic and creative sound element, could benefit live gigs. Video offered violent riot footage amongst other things and stage presence of two kommandos was strong.
While Kevlar presented material just as one could expect and be satisfied, Alfarmania & Proiekt Hat seemed to rely on surprise. It is a gamble. In one hand, to not give what is expected and experiment in different tracks or different type of material is certainly welcomed. In this case I hoped material would have been closer to their collaboration LP on Tesco as that particular release stands for me as one of the more listened vinyl albums of the year! What we got here, was surprisingly ”kraut” feeling synth material. Long pieces of synth songs with added distant rumblings of industrial waste. Two men, obscure masks, neat and stylish video projections, and overall haunting atmosphere.
While the swedes performed pretty much flawlessly on technical matter, same can’t be said about Contrastate. I like the project. Especially earlier works, but also most of the later material. Undisputed fact remains that the old material has unique flow to it. Later works has abandoned ”natural flow” of hand-made mixing of sounds in favor of lap-top editing and what I assume to be software sounds and plugins? Results are as expected: Not as good as before. Dialogue heavy pieces were not bad. Proclamations and obscure dialogues over soft passages ambience and droning guitar sounds was decent, but the drunken fun while wearing slightly amusing costumes combined with some technical problems was enough to make it far less interesting than it could have been. Chatting with audience about failing tracks and re-starting things… ehm.. It didn’t take long, but enough to break the illusion. I’m still highly curious about the new vinyl LP, what appeared to be other projects doing Contrastate material?
If there was technical issues and humorous stage presence in Contrastate, none of that with the cold heavy electronics legend Anenzephalia. Now that project became dormant, Ke/Hil has proven to be new masters of German industrial, yet there is still such a tension, coldness, bleak and haunting madness in Anenzephalia’s work that is different. What could answer to the gap what the project leaves in industrial movement? Probably nothing! Ke/Hil new 12” proves that project rises to new strengths, yet also here Anenzephalia delivered so flawless and powerful performance, one just hopes he’ll feel like recording again. Gig barely needs further comments if someone has heard or seen the project before. Headliner of the night, position certainly deserved.
Saturdays Zoät-Aon was in similar situation as Kevlar. No strong ties to Tesco as label. Project was most active more than 10 years ago and people still remember and worship this northern Finland ritual sound project. It is odd to see such underground act have tens of thousands listeners with albums uploaded to youtube while CD’s were out-of-print. For this live gig, Vanhala had recruited second member and they performed flawless set. Technical know-how, utmost care on detail and material crafted just for this performance makes project to stand out. While ZA uses some of the trademarks of the ritual-music genre, one can’t blame it. It would be foolish to abandon what has intrinsic role in the project. Horns, ghastly sounds, droning voices, slow percussive clangs of metal cymbals and so on… What sets ZA apart form vast majority of projects in the genre is how these things are used, in combination of out-of-this world swirling electronics and physical elements. Utterly crispy high pitched electronic sounds what feels closer to birds singing than generic pitched choirs. Lack of ”software plugin” -feel, they have tasty ruggedness in form of field recordings, rusty cavernous metal junks and even some ripping harsh noises. Many times current dark ambient and such material feels so… teflon. Just smooth artificial sampling and soundtrack music. Zoät-Aon has much more real flesh and bone in it. Compared to many live sets of droning ritual sessions, it is clear this material is composed. Despite slowly drifting nature of set, it had actual songs. You could sense where one thing mutates into next, and each piece was development to climax in the end. Only negative element one could find, is that slowly starting set as first act of the night was crawling in rather unexpectedly. No backing videos, almost bleeding into previously playing Arktau Eos drones being played between the artists. For me, not a problem. I was there in first row. But I would assume it took a while for some to realize band had just started.
The Grey Wolves is something I have never seen live. Having seen countless of power electronics shows all over the world, it is odd that I never managed to see them. Based on video material, and various live recordings, I knew what to expect. Show was mixing both, new album material as well as old classics. I was not very thrilled about new quite ambient-esque material nor nearly mp3 quality sounds/samples that appeared in beginning. Even less for dullest possible sample choices. I just don’t like hearing things like Samuel L. Jackson sample from infamous mainstream box-office hit in context of obscure industrial music. On the other hand – how could you not get cold shivers on your spine when variations of Beyond Hypocrisy would blast loud as fuck from PA?! First long remix type version, like known from the 12” done with Genocide Organ. And when finally the original absolute power electronics anthem hits the speakers. It was time for pit to emerge in front of stage. Add Victory Through Violence and other essential material and I was happy to finally see then live! Victory Though Violence appeared far more fast-paced vocal delivery than in old versions. This time with additional guest vocals delivered by Prurient. His contributions was fiercely distorted, resulting most of all layers of feedback and noise and physical action.
Post Scriptvm surprised for being this aggressive. Of course, half of material was gloomy and nearly cinematic hi-tech post-industrial, but that was just one half. I didn’t remember that they were this noisy and hard on CD’s? Half of the material resembled stuff like Control or such! Multi-layers, heavy, dense, very crispy and sharp production. High pressure well produced massive sound, highly effected vocals, and so on. As opposition you’d calm down into dark ambience with piano fragments and French female whispering.
Trepaneringsritualen I like from albums, but not live. Why? To me it appears that musical possibilities of project are not manifested well in live situation. While recordings offer variety, from noisy lo-fi scrapings to deep and subtle droning dark ambient pieces, suffocating death industrial soundscapes and heavy beats, live shows appear to focus merely on sing-along to playback of projects rhythmic hit tracks. No doubt – with well done video material, very well done light show, grotesque costume and hoarse growling voice, this most likely appeals to a lot of people. It might have been even best gig I have seen from him so far. Nevertheless, I find myself thinking all the possibilities what it has, if there would be some actual live music. Something made at the spot, noises and drones and more abstract material. Things what still appears to be crucial element in his recorded work? Something to break free from uniform repetition of mere playback of verse-chorus type of pop music templates? One has to give credit for firmly staying on tempo with lyrics and maintaining the voice through long set.
But talking of templates that work. How about headlining act: Genocide Organ? During the years, group has certainly developed their style and approach, but only with minimal changes. The basic ideas remain strongly faithful for their idea of industrial. Previous show I saw at Tower Transmissions was great. I was told some people were disappointed not to hear collection of expected hit songs, but conceptual gig based on new album. For me, it was great. Sign of group being alive, not presenting mere nostalgia. This time, festival celebrating the long history of Tesco Organisation, it was logical to offer set what collects killer songs from entire duration of group. And that they did. From old classics to material of latest album as well as entirely new track. Genocide Organ has so much amazing tracks, that despite long set of ecstatic hit track after another, with chaotic pit going non-stop in front of stage, there would have been plenty of more to do. I ain’t complaining that there wasn’t Elders of Zion, Dogday or such. If G.O. would have to play all their memorable tracks – it would take hours. It is good to see that many of the new works do not lose in comparison to old! New Israeli themed work is very intense. I don’t want to die from Obituary of Americas is contemporary response to the sheer intensity of White Power Forces. With loud live sound and more aggressive voice, it beats the studio recording easily! What caught my attention, was that this set was highly dominated by vocals of Wilhelm Herich. Previously it appeared almost as 50/50 vocal duties with Brigant Moloch. Now, Wilhelm Herich was clearly more dominant frontman of the set. It also appeared as if his performance had more aggression and more intensity than in previous shows? Genocide Organ is known for it’s vibrating, inhuman vocal effects – yet it remains fact that no other band has been able to replicate the sheer vicious coldness of the vocal tone. It is not result of going to music shop to buy flanger or phaser effects, but actual tone and character of vocalist voice. Both vocalists have very distinctive way of delivery, what transforms even simple drum beats and ms-20 oscillations into something which can’t be really copied by the others. Excellent live show with zero complaints! What a way to end great festival.