TOWER TRANSMISSIONS IX
15-16.9.2023 Dresden, Germany
Text, photos, videos: Mikko A.
Return of Tower Transmissions festival is awaited and welcomed! I missed the two first ones, but since 3rd festival (2012), have always been there. For Finns, Germany is good place to go. A lot of prices are about half of what we have to pay over here. Whatever the travel costs, may be almost irrelevant for anyone who is going to be spending couple days involving drinking and such activities. Not that it would be absolute must to do so, but there is always little extra. Buying craft beer bottles for less than euro, while Finnish standard tends to be 5 euro upwards. Large venue bar selling beers for 3 euro.. while over here you may have to pay anything from 7 to 10 euro by default. Food will costs very little. Traffic not bad either. Rental car, bus, whatever is fine. Especially for guys like the editor of Special Interests who simply jumps into trains with no intent to pay, Dresden is very easy.
New venue was almost shocking news. Club Puschkin was maybe not absolutely perfect, but the environment with its “beach” and all that was something I liked a lot. New place, Reitalle Strasse E, in the end, was bigger place, bigger stage and bigger PA. One can’t really criticize anything else but that fact is, smaller space with loud sound is optimal for noise. The violent in-your-face noise screech may be impossible to make happen for large audience. Here we had clarity, power of sound and good visibility. All these were advantages, especially for more industrial leaning material.
Some of the Finnish noiseheads had arrived day before. Three more, myself included, come friday. Couple american power electronics fans who had been in Finland some weeks before were here as well and first few hours were spent in meeting at our place, discussing while getting started with beers. After few hours time to head towards venue.
When being on train towards the festival, we were approached by person asking “are you heading to Tower Transmissions”. I guess that is pretty amusing question to ask from bunch of guys wearing Bizarre Uproar, Genocide Organ and Cervical Smear t-shirts. At the trainstation, someone asking what direction to go.. I could simply say “lets follow that guy wearing Throbbing Gristle t-shirt!”.
Friday started with fairly unknown Polish project LUGOLA. His older material has been CDR releases. I have not heard any of them. 2021 debut album on CD/tape is pretty good material and since then also live CD out of his Wrocklaw Industrial Festival live set has been published. I liked the “closeness” of the line-in harsh sound of some of songs of the album. Almost like Kill to Forget era Slogun vibes there, but also technically varied material. Live show this time felt like either it was the big stage with its massive subwoofers that sound felt big and booming, and it didn’t have the same ripping in your face approach. Vocals drenched in effects, that were enough to not really make much distinction would he be shouting out loud or with less intensity. Same efx pretty much through entire set. Heavy electronics is the name of the game, and he knows how to do all the things for good basic genre music, yet we do not yet see much originality or personal touch. There is the usage of slightly more complex electronics. Moments of randomness of modular-synth noise & pedal-noise type of material between or as addition of tracks, including making live loops on the spot.
Perhaps the last track had more impact as it had the recognizable edgy lyrics in lines of “you’re nothing, but piece of meat” repeated over and over again. Releases are worth to look into, and gig served as good opener. It would be nice to see this type of one man project on smaller stage.
Vastly more known AM NOT operates in kind of similar direction. Since beginning he has been pushing the sound into more personal direction and has clear vision how to make more distinctive tracks. His early approach of low pitched vocals and almost cinematic approach has made room for aggression and roughness. Still not being noise or filthy and violent power electronics. In fine tradition of euro industrial, background video material was more detailed and contributing a lot of visual elements related to sound material. Man had abundance of gear he was utilizing to craft the electronic sound and in many songs he would walk front of stage to perform aggressive vocals. He had plenty of rhythmic elements, not beats, but variety of massive bounding loops and such. Good set!
ANTIchildLEAGUE was last minute replacement for Sardh who had to cancel. I would not be surprised if some didn’t even have realized there was change of artist! After her recent WCN podcast interview, and the fact that ACL has been improving release after release, I was curious to see what her show will be like. Set started with slowly oscillating electronic signals and Gaya engaging into self flagellation. Her microphone cord was crackling heavily, and it sounded actually really good. It made me think her link to The Rita. It felt like this was purely intentional, something made for the shows that didn’t happen in UK. It was this totally crushing sound from PA that gave unusually noisy edge to sound. In the end, I guess it wasn’t intentional, but actually broken microphone cable. For big part of set, it was actually positive, but at the very end, when it finally cracked enough to make vocals disappear at critical moment, one would knew what it really was. There was good rhythmic pounding electronic tracks with fierce vocals assaulting political liars. Anyone who has heard the early ACL and thought it wasn’t fierce enough, I’d recommend to check out later works!
JFK has always been drum beat oriented stuff. Back in the 80’s, there was more “band instruments” besides the drum machine beats. His later works have followed technological possibilities. Still based on very simple and effective elements: Bounding drum machine beat being always at the core. Simple bass tones on back, but more colorful electronic swirls and busy modulations of high pitched elements keeping it alive. He looked more like DJ doing his set, constantly adjusting headphones and actively turning knobs in ways that you see from DJ sets. After his great interview in Noisextra podcast, I did have urge to go through his later works. I have to admit, and it is no surprise for people who read my reviews, I am not usually big fan of type of material that has this type of production and starts to lean towards material I would associate with “club music”. Sure JFK has the heavy and dark qualities to it, but I am always been so passionate admirer of his very earliest works that I simply can’t get over my brain always comparing any of his later works with Ethnic Acid material. Of course it would be foolish to expect him to do something in lines of teenage years noise, but what can I do if I keep thinking about it, hah..
Same doubts I had when I was being told about idea to ask LILLE ROGER to play. My gut feeling was that this could be interesting and people would be into seeing material pretty much nobody has been able to witness. At the same time.. Resurrecting works from the 80’s for one show? Would that make sense when BDN is going strong? But all the doubts was cleared when he started to play. He clearly had idea to set up stage in a way that one man could make it “full”. As simple as setting “walls” to block part of the stage. This is something what clearly sets apart newbies and the old veterans. After a lot of shows, you know there are options, other than just piling gear on table and playing it. You know you can find out of the stage or place is, and act accordingly. He seems to have clearly thought how stage must look like and therefore what he will do that it is also working visually? Like all he does, elements are basically pretty simple, yet nobody, absolutely nobody can, or is doing it. Trademark vocals, bass and bow, slowly bounding industrial-noise rhythm and as good as best BDN sets have been, I must say this Lille Roger set might have been among best Karmanik live gigs I have seen.
THE SODALITY, I had no idea that it would be even alive. The main works being 1987 “Beyond Unknown Pleasures”, 1988 “Orgies of Crime” and then leap into 1997 one 7″ on Bloodlust! label. Seems like a bit of remix/reworked things appeared as CDR labeled Sshe Retina Stimulants Plays The Sodality. Had no idea what to expect from the gig, but it was fantastic! Andrea Cernotto, the original main man and person behind Aquilifer Sodality label was doing backing vocals. Sort of weird whispers. Intrinsic Action / Bloodyminded Mark Solotroff was the lead vocalist. Guest vocals by Iugula-Thor and of course the known veterans of Italian industrial-noise on electronics, who have been associated with project since beginning.
Mix was perfect. Gloomy and almost theatrical combination of vocals, backing vocals, crystal clear synth / electronic sounds. Like The Sodality in the 80’s, they would not rely on being insanely noisy. It would be like The Sodality is sometimes described: “Personal sexual theatre”. I have told to organizer of Tower Transmissions many times that Bloodyminded would be great to see at the festival. This performance of Solotroff should make it clear he has the charisma and the intense delivery of power electronics vocalist that not many can compete with. If they can dig The Sodality from the grave, how great could be Intrinsic Action on Tower Transmissions X!? His voice is better than ever.
Solotroff being so long time advocate of Italian power electronics and long time associate with all the people on stage, his involvement in The Sodality felt very logical. Big venue with massive PA was clearly advantage for their sound and style. Plus, the charisma of the lead vocalist, you can’t underestimate that element. It will become clear also next day!
Luckily place to sleep merely couple stops away from venue. Place was booked with idea that one could walk from Club Puschkin in matter of minutes… but that change after the venue change. Still, not bad distance at all. Five Finnish noiseheads at the place, more beer, more hard spirits and discussion till later in the morning.
Morning starting with the veteran finn noiseheads asking younger guys all the scene point questions about rare Gerogerigegege tapes and top best Merzbow releases. Followed by long walk to only open sex shop of town. Wasn’t anything that good, but one of busen-fanatical Finn got few things worth to grab. Finding place to eat a bit, drink something and after scorning sunshine and heat, returning to relax for moment before need to rush into venue to get to see everything from the beginning.
PRELEST debut gig. Many had no idea what this even was. Man has been doing heavy electronics since the 90’s, but projects has always been fairly low profile. Tapes, CDR’s and such. Prelest is technically and thematically big enough leap that it is not necessarily continuation of the old works but new thing. Being opening act in big old factory room, where big windows are in the middle of roof meant that room could not be made dark this early. Sun was still up and for this type of bluntly bleak industrial sound it was a bit difficult. Barely samples and no vocals, just slow paced modular synth oscillation patterns, metal junk dragging sounds, and such.. it would be idea if it came out loud and in the dark. Music itself was very nice and set was carefully composed out of synths full of details and live processing, yet most audible was that opening act was being played unnecessary lower volume than the later ones. Set was growing louder by each song, and it got pretty loud by the end. Prelest had zero showmanship, all about the sound. Only blunt text of band name projected on back and artists working through actual sound making. You can’t really hear from the one song linked at this article how the composition actually was. I may be honking my own horn saying that you should check out his releases, since the new 3″miniCD is out now on Freak Animal. For fans of bleak, colorless, slow paced industrial waste!
Another band with his latest album on Freak Animal is HUMAN LARVAE. Man has build quite a following already and I can see why. And that is also reason why album came on FA! Hearing so clearly how his work is at very top of the heavy electronics material. Aggro vocals, heavily delay treated, songs always build out of elements that have impact. Not just “something”, not just noise to be under the vocals. Compositionally good, each song different, many traditional heavy electronics elements combined with innovations. Neat, sexy yet not obscene video material on the back. Audience seemed to react on gig very well, and I would think the noisier tracks got the best reaction? Maybe hint of something.
I was talking with some of friends about BOCKSHOLM. Saying I have their stuff, I have often sold their CD’s, I have always liked what they do, but I can’t really say that there would have ever been moment in my life when I am sitting in livingroom thinking “I should go get that Bocksholm CD and give it a spin!”. Why so, I have no idea. Watching this gig, I was even more wondering how come, since material was very good. You could almost define “industrial-noise” with Bocksholm! Not that it would be violently noisy, but it has this factory-esque approach. Vintage factory / industrial process videos, rusty metal junk sounds, machines, mechanical sounds, hydraulics, electricity, old sound reels, etc etc. There is this conflict of sounds that are processed to be notch too nice, and sounds that are as manual, broken, crude and rusty as in the very best noise works. However, standing at the venue, seeing Peter Andersson x2 crafting the sound, it made me feel this must be again best live gig I have seen from them. That might be bold statement, knowing that I have seen Raison D’Etre, Stratvm Terror, Deutsch Nepal.. and so on. I certainly need to revisit their recordings!
Band I was waiting the most must have been ANENZEPHALIA. As we all know, he already quit… but like so many times, it won’t last. How could you quit something you have done most of your life? I can’t imagine ever quitting and like famously mentioned by Jojo Hiroshige in old Bananafish magazine “to quit now, would indicated it wasn’t worth starting in first place!”. Indeed. Some things were worth starting, and worth keep doing!
This Anenzephalia gig seemed like utterly vital presentation how you simply re-evaluated what to do, how to do it, and then get it done. I would never recommend to announce “quitting” as very few care about that anyways. One, three, five years… it goes fast at this age and announce quitting out of temporary lack of interest seems foolish when you can just wait inspiration to come back.
Anenzephalia was strong. Classic tracks we all know from the absolute masterpiece albums were performed by Brigant Moloch as lead vocalist. Full grey beard, equally charismatic performance with perfect piercing vocal sound, but luckily this was no way just nostalgic return! Big part of the set was new material! I heard some guys being slightly critical of this, but I must say new material was absolute great way to display band is alive, not merely “festival act”. Plus many songs were way way better than Magenta was. Another curious element was that additional member of live show was not Wilhelm Herich, but daughter of Brigant Moloch! I didn’t know this when set started, and being slightly cautious at beginning of set, after couple tracks I was convinced this was great addition. Little bit of Joy Division -esque “running” in front of microphone stand, but other than that, she was basically following exactly the Anenzephalia mode! Equally cold vocal performance, and none of the negative traits I associate with “female recruits of old PE men”, haha. I hope they will continue from this and we’ll see more gigs!
DBATICOTLH was supposedly last gig under name of Der Blutharsch And The Infinite Church Of The Leading Hand. Now that Albin Julius is no more, one would think doing project referring to Der Blutharsch would be unnecessary. I suppose this was kind of last tribute to him? Whatever it was, I can bluntly say that in my life, I have played in music bands who played enough live gigs with other bands who jam kraut/psych/heavy rock and anything related that… I have no more capacity remaining to take this type of stuff. All the other artists I watched from beginning to end, but this one, I could not. It clearly had its fans and probably among headliners, yet I don’t see point of rock band in middle of industrial fest.
I was not sure what to expect from SUTCLIFFE NO MORE. I have endless love for the old Sutcliffe Jugend material, but with new stuff there is gambling mode. Sometime I like, sometimes I do not. I have seen SJ play several times in UK, USA, but now that I think about it, it was all during the earliest moments of comeback years. Time travels so fast that first of all, they are no more band that did comeback, but been around way longer active period than they were back in the first phase! Plus, they are no more SJ. When Sutcliffe No More hit the stage, volume was louder than pretty much anyone else. That is advantage. Yet it is not the only thing. Both guys entered the stage with confidence of Great Britain rock’n’roll tradition. Hands in the air, crowd-pleasing bad boys of experimental electronics and any doubt I may have had, was pretty much put aside. There was unseen humorous element, theatrical performance, physical activity exceeding level of anyone else at the festival. Undeniable are the similarities you can hear with Consumer Electronics and Whitehouse, but so what? It is among that tradition, and still with their own identity. They had classic WASP synth, perhaps kaosspad, probably backing track or sampler for the main song structures, vocals most often without any effects. Some delay tricks were done in more experimental tracks. These guys are not youngsters, but the level of energy they had one stage, was almost breathtaking. Starting hard… and then just keep going for.. 40? 50? 60 minutes? I have no idea. If one may have thought Sutcliffe Jugend was about the old legacy, I suppose I am convinced that… Sutcliffe is no more! They have indeed build something new that is no more the early 80’s thing, but something new. Probably have to grab some of the latest recordings…
It was getting late and knowing I had to drive from Dresden to Berlin airport next day, it was about the time to go empty the fridge. Some beers and late night discussions, most of the guys zoning out while couple still discussing the best acts of the fest.
I was talking with organizer who confirmed this was best selling year so far. I would assume Tower Transmission has already firm reputation among industrial & heave electronics & power electronics genre. Some years they have had hard hitting noise acts like The New Blockaders or Jaakko Vanhala. I would think that instead of trying out rock or metal, like they did in couple of occasions, some really good harsh noise could be best addition. Already as it is, I have no complaints, and I would recommend anyone who has hesitated, book tickets when 10th festival comes.