Written by Raul A.
Established in 1987 by Wilhelm Herich and Doc M. Riot of Genocide Organ, Tesco Organisation has become synonymous with Post-Industrial music and an embodiment of Industrial culture. While the over 85 releases throughout the years vary in form and presentation, from the brutal German Industrial/Power Electronics of Genocide Organ, to the hypnotic ambience of Galerie Schallschutz, and the pagan ritual sounds of Apoptose, the one common element is a commitment to integrity and the spirit of Industrial. Based out of Mannheim, Germany, Tesco Organisation expanded label operations with their archival Functional division (dedicated to reissuing out of print classics), an international Tesco Distribution network, and an American division in Tesco USA/North American Tesco Organisation (NATO, of which I was accompanied by for this event).
On the weekend of November 16th, 2012, Tesco Organisation, with their partners L´affaire fatale, celebrated the 25 year anniversary of Tesco with a 2 day festival in the literal industrial sector of Mannheim. The 7er Club is surrounded by automotive workshops, streets littered with broken records, and nearby factory smokestacks; a fitting location for such an event. Tickets for the festival sold out within two weeks of announcement, filling the venue to near capacity. This would have been an issue if not for the spacious outdoor smoking & lounge area, which helped the crowds clear out in between performances. The sound and lighting systems were excellent, which in the United States is usually a challenge for these genres. In all, the high quality of the execution and staff itself speaks to the aforementioned dedication Tesco and L´affaire fatale have for putting nothing but first class productions. Instead of a track by track break down of each performance, these live action reports should serve as a witness testimony to the aesthetics and atmosphere created by each act, as such elements are just as important as the music itself.
Whether intentional or not, I found it fitting for the festival’s first performance being a project which was one of the first to be officially released by Tesco Organisation (Lyse, TESCO 003). Headed by Brigant Moloch with live support from Wilhelm Herich, Anenzephalia delivers a no-nonsense psychological assault on the audience. Moloch is a stern front-man, no rock and roll antics, no bullshit. He is a Svengali weaving nihilistic messages into the subconscious with pulsating strobes, looping drones, and waves of heavy electronics. In a world where everyone is made to think they are special, Moloch and Herich are there to remind you this society does not need you, and ultimately the scent of decay of the sleepers are a perfume for the awakened. The metaphysical and philosophical concept of Noehaem is prevalent throughout the performance. Noehaem represents a home, vaguely familiar, but that has changed over time. Is it progress or decay? Much of this can relate to city of Mannheim itself. The back video welcomes you aboard a flight, final destination, Noehaem. Welcome home.
Although a relative newcomer to the Tesco roster (“Identify”, TESCO 081, 2010), Lutz Rach has been releasing experimental ambient recordings under Tho-So-Aa since 1995 via Art Konkret. Instead of providing comfort and relaxation Tho-So-Aa’s creeping digital ambience crawls under your skin, like the spiders projected on the screen. Even amongst a packed crowd, feelings of isolation arise, and subtle rhythms kept me engaged throughout the show. Like the sharp pain of neurotoxic venom, high pitched audio rips through the layers of dense audio, leaving us wounded prey for the predators and wolves ahead.
Evil. That’s the one word I’ve heard used to describe Operation Cleansweep repeatedly, both in their sound and presentation. I personally find “evil” to be both entirely subjective and a necessary social element. All the good guys need bad guys to give their lives purpose, and this German Power Electronics duo is more than willing and able to play the role. Their lyrical and thematic content no doubt places them at odds with the politically sensitive, but their very sound is menacing in and of itself. The brooding, bass heavy Power Electronics of “House of his Promise” rattle internal organs as frontman IB instigates the crowd with a sinister smile. The first wave of violence erupts during “Lesson 1”, as the pace picks up and frenetic frequencies exercise inner demons. No backing video is necessary, but synchronized lighting provides a visual sense of urgency. The forces power and dominance wrap around the hands like gloves, a perfect fit for Operation Cleansweep.
The Grey Wolves
The Grey Wolves are less of a “band” and more of an international cultural terrorist cabal fronted by two British Power Electronics agents, Dave Padbury (aka Dap) and Trevor Ward. Since the early 80’s the Grey Wolves have been in the business of providing brutal reality attacks with over 50 CD, vinyl, and tape releases, accompanied by aesthetic pipebombs and counter-cultural literature. Their performances are known for being lo-fi, unpredictable, and consisting of any number of additional recruits. For this live action Dap has contracted W. Herich for support and the two of them proceeded to deliver a short set that was planned to be about the Seven Deadly Sins. Gluttony and Lust were on visual display as an obese couple fornicated on video. The audio was sharp and mid tempo with Dap staggering across the stage, clinging on to every shouted word. Unfortunately some technical problems would soon arise and the backing audio would start to fade away. After a few moments, the call was made and a backup unit was brought in. As Dap steps back to take on audio assault duties, the legendary Mike Dando calmly steps up, and the amorphous Grey Wolves reassemble into Control Domination.
For almost 30 years, Mike Dando has been exposing the forces of control, domination, manipulation, and organization however it may appear. White supremacists, black panthers, catholic priests; these are all confronted and exposed, unearthing the dirt behind the daydream. As the bare chested Dando unceremoniously slathers white chalk throughout his body, text scrolls in the background and two men are shown riding horses. T. E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia, comes to mind, “the Prince of Our Disorder”. The text as in excerpt from Lawrence’s “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, the subject of Con-Dom’s “The Eighth Pillar – A Confession Of Faith” album, which Functional Organisation reissued in 2008. Like Lawrence, Dando is a man seeking inner faith, unsatisfied with formal institutions and seeks individual freedom. His vocals are delivered clearly and loudly, reverberating throughout the crowd. While Con-Dom performances are known for “audience participation”, they are on his own terms, as one audience member will remember after getting a swift kick for trying to interfere. The “music” is more of an audio collage of looping samples and oscillating feedback noise, inter-spliced with the occasional distorted synth pad to give volume. As loud and oppressive as it is, there’s a sense of calm that washed over me, almost a meditative state that comes with masochistic abuse. But then, the iconic balaclava comes out and the crowd’s Pavlovian reaction is immediate. Often used by irregular military forces, paramilitary organizations, and terrorists, the balaclava or ski mask is a stark symbol of both control and revolution. Who can forget the grim black and white images of Black September? Along with the mask came a powerful electronic assault, and the visual footage shifted to a visceral display of abuse. Towards the end, the paced slowed down and Dando was left alone, yelling “I am not nothing, you are nothing!” After a round of applause, Dando unenthusiastically claps back, as if mocking the crowd. What do you think this is? Art? Music? Some kind of performance art by a Fine Arts student seeking approval? No. After 30 years, it is my hope that Mike Dando has realized that he truly is not nothing, that his mark has been left, and he will live on in the minds of those he has both influence and provoked. This is true immortality.
As the iron curtains draw close and the first night of performances comes to an end, I (Silent Signal) would join DJ’s Markus of Art Konkret and Larry of White Rabbit Records for after-party duties. While most of the attendees head home, a good amount stay for the sounds of Whitehouse, SPK, David E. Williams, Cult of Youth, Der Blutharsch, as well as classic selections from the Tesco archives. After catching up with old comrades, my wife and I regrouped with our NATO alliance and headed back to our forward base for the evening. The streets of Mannheim were dark and cold, our bodies tired, but hearts filled with anticipation for another day of reconnaissance patrol.
Disclaimer from the Author: For full disclosure, it is worth noting that Raul A. participated in this event as a DJ, Silent Signal, and has collaborated with Tesco USA in the past. So rather than an objective review, consider these subjective documented experiences.