Written by Raul A.
The second day of the festival starts off with conspiratorial ambient electronics from Galerie Schallschutz. Two projection screens flank the stage, displaying acts of enhanced interrogation techniques, explorations of secret government bunkers, and various surveillance equipment. Sky busting super-weapons and extraterrestrial communication round out the overarching themes over the past 10 years of this project’s existence. On stage are a duo of performers on two tables decked out with various digital and analog equipment, including electronic percussion. Their mid-tempo ambient electronics is made eerier with distorted and reverberated vocals, a welcomed harsh element to their hypnotic sound. I couldn’t recall specific tracks, mainly because I was focused on the visuals, but video elements indicate material from “HAARP” (“Angels don’t Play this HA(A)RP”, in specific), and the recently released KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation. The grittier, Industrial material very much sounds like Teddybear, potentially “Electrical Nerve Gas”. This was one of the better sounding Galerie Schallschutz performances, but I would have liked to have seen some of their more theatrical actions from past shows.
Jérôme Nougaillon should be recognized as the Post-Industrial renaissance man that he is. On top of his highly regarded Propergol project, he also runs his own independent label in Hermetique, mastered over a dozen releases (including two Genocide Organ remasters for Tesco Organisation), and produces stunning visual designs via Panopticon Studio. His video trailers are known to be some of the best in the genre, displaying a professional level of craftsmanship. So it’s of no surprise to see that tonight’s performance was more of a visual showcase of Nougaillon’s latest videos, backed by both new and old Propergol tracks. While I enjoy the gritty, raw video elements of many Power Electronics and Industrial projects, (see The Grey Wolves), the flood of YouTube amateurs has saturated that style. So it is exciting to see such high quality material on a large projection screen. In terms of content and theme, the word would be paranoia. Cameras encircle giant imposing skyscrapers, like mountains of concrete and glass piercing the clouds, simultaneously evoking feelings of grandeur and claustrophobia. Tigers battle for dominance, and the clock pumps cortisol into the system with each rapid tick, pushing you closer to fight or flight responses. The city looms ahead, home to random acts of violence, urban terrorism, and body mangling car wrecks. The ambient soundtrack leads up to “Running Scared” (from the new album Paradise Land) and comes to a conclusion with a final tick of a clock. Church bells introduce “The Getaway: Roadside Story”, originally released as a video trailer from Panopticon Studio and later retitled as “Psycho Road” on the new album. City traffic is the blood stream that runs through the concrete heart of darkness. The frantic video footage of airplane failures bring to mind the Ground Proximity Warning System album, but the audio is a lot more kinetic than I remember the album being. The looped flood of bodies crashing against a concrete wall, which utilizes Hollywood found footage, serves as a fitting analogy for the human swarm of mediocrity. All throughout the music and video were perfectly in sync, making me think that much of the audio tracks were re-edited versions of their studio counterparts, mixed live. Jérôme Nougaillon recently revealed plans for this video material to be released for home viewing. Whether it comes out as its own release or part of a new album is yet to be decided. Either way, I’m looking forward to it.
“Paranoia of the system is the main idea. A feverish run away from this world (inside & outside the system). But it’s an uncertain way out. A sort of decayed ouroboros.”
– Jérôme Nougaillon
After a 10 year release hiatus and 13 years since a performance (at the Oblique Lu Nights Festival in 2000 in France), 2012 marked the UK Industrial troublemakers’ return with a live appearance earlier in the year at the Sweetness Overdue Festival in Sweden. Tonight’s show was an expansion of that earlier performance with video accompaniment and religious symbolism. With two audio engineers and Jonathan Grieve on vocals and guitar manipulations, Contrastate delivered a metaphoric performance, focusing on the melding of religious iconography and state control. I personally found them to be a refreshing break from the extremes of Power Electronics and Dark Ambient, but not a bit less intense or hypnotic than either. Their sound was structured and orchestrated, and heavy on the low-end bass, giving it a definitive dense form. Presentation-wise, the religious motif could not be ignored, as Grieve would break out into a seemingly possessed state, speaking in tongues and kneeling into prayer. Alongside this performance, a new album, A Breeding Ground for Flies, was released via Dirter Promotions and available at the merch tables. According to Jonathan Grieves, the project is working on a couple of compilation appearances, including a John Cage piece. Given these new developments, it seems like Contrastate is back in action, and with the current state of world politics, they couldn’t have come at a better time.
The prototypical German Power Electronics project, Genocide Organ are the progenitors of much of what has become iconic Power Electronics aesthetic and sound. Certainly bands have done limited releases in strange packaging, used politically charged imagery, and blasted harsh electronics before Genocide Organ, but I would argue very few fully committed to the total Gesamtkunstwerk as GO have. From limited releases that will draw blood and require power tools to open, to masked performances and burning photographs of political leaders on wooden crucifixes, GO has taken the blueprints from cultural terrorists SPK and executed them as only discipled Germans can. As mentioned in the intro of my Day 1 report, Genocide Organ is also the flagship project of Tesco Organisation, thus spearheading this current generation of Industrial music. And here we are, twenty-five years later, standing upon the concrete grounds of Mannheim, prepared to witness the begotten fruit of a city in the midst of social and cultural turmoil, the unpleasant byproducts of a “modern” society.
For their “Industrial Strife” introduction, Wilhelm Herich and Brigant Moloch are set up at the front, slamming and churning poles into a pair oil drums as D.A.X., Doc M. Riot build up the aural assault. Upon closer observation, one notices that the poles being used are those found along the streets of the city of Mannheim, marked by the raised wolfsangel symbol. While a mere fashion statement for some, the wolfsangel (wolf hook) used in Genocide Organ’s regalia is part of the heraldic arms of their home town. It is this kind of attention to detail, in this case tying geography (and all the history that comes with it) to the form and function of the project, that makes Genocide Organ continue to standout amongst the many one-dimensional bands that follow in their footsteps. As the visuals for Under – Kontrakt are revealed and “Dogday” is in full force and Herich is in control, instigating the crowd with taunts. The hidden identities of grinning mercenaries feed the aura of moral ambiguity. Massacres, suicide bombings and acts of ethnic cleansing are all part of the human experience, and are not relegated to any side of political dualism. And for a rare few, present lucrative opportunities.
Herich challenges the crowd to roll up their sleeves and revel in the aural violence. During “Tamil Eelam”, the message is loud and clear, and more than a few rush the stage in waves. Throughout the performance I had my two feet firmly anchored, my weight pivoted against the human wave that would crash into me from time to time. The bass heavy “Forever Whore” and “I’m with you All Days” rattled teeth and punished those who situated themselves close to the sound system. For those yearning for the classics, GO did not disappoint with “Hate”, a collage of splashing oppressive electronics, hypnotic bass, and choice samples from Made in Britain. A series of famished prisoners dance along to the minimal yet subversive rhythms of “John Birch Society”. For one of their more notorious tracks, the dark roots of the United States of America is presented unabashedly during “Klan Kountry”. At the end of the GO performance, we have a lone W. Herich, chanting to the crowd, appropriately ending the set with screams of “it’s fucking over”. And just as I had hoped, based on prior live actions, Tesco Commando Dave Padbury of the Grey Wolves would join GO on stage for two tracks, including a climactic performance of “Beyond Hypocrisy”, again getting the blood pumping and fists flying before images of world leaders shedding empty crocodile tears. This here is the definition of Power Electronics, and in turn the essence of Industrial music; the combined arms of audio, visual, and physical presentation, overloading your senses and creating an atmosphere of doubt and aggression. There is no clear agenda, only “to have a good time”. That phrase is an easy one to dismiss, or to playfully latch on to. But there’s more to it. What is good? Who is good? Who are the bad guys? The fulcrum of the world needs villains, needs adversaries willing to point out the hypocrisies of the self-righteous, whether they be political, social, or cultural. This can be a heavy flag to carry, weighed down by practical needs and shifting focus. So for such a project to still be active after 25 years, and showing no signs of fatigue, is an event worth celebrating. “To confound and confuse ’til the stars be numbered.”