April 23, 2016 | Bologna, Italy | Club Kindergarten
Written by Nicola Vinciguerra | Photography by Primula Jones & Antonio Cristofaro
Old Europa Cafe‘s Congresso Post Industriale is the longest-running industrial/noise music festival in Italy. The mere fact that it managed to get to its eleventh edition in a country that’s pretty difficult for weird underground music (or for any kind of music at this point) means that it deserves the utmost respect. The head honcho of the label, Rodolfo Protti, has been putting together solid lineups at various venues all around Italy for years, including big names like Whitehouse, Mz.412, Brighter Death Now, Deutsch Nepal, and Con-dom as well as local heroes like Atrax Morgue and plenty of new and lesser-known Italian acts. Hell, in September, he’s going to have Maurizio Bianchi perform his first proper live set ever! That must count for something in the man’s resume.
Like the last few editions, the city of choice for the festival this year was Bologna—home of the oldest University in the Western world, of a couple of impressively tall medieval towers, and a quite lively music scene in general.
I arrived at the venue—aptly named Club Kindergarten (brilliant if you’re hosting power electronics bands that have pedophilia-themed songs like Nicole 12 or Column One‘s Dream Time), obviously in the outskirts of town and in a slightly industrial setting—with my wife. She happens to hate noise, but she was kind enough to follow me to the slaughter—for the thousandth time.
There were many known faces in the little queue outside as essentially the entire Italian noise scene was present, so the atmosphere was quite relaxed from the start. There weren’t many goths around, which did seem a bit weird as Bologna is one of their favorite nesting places.
As a social curiosity: most underground venues in Italy are more or less forced to be part of a cultural association (sometimes of political nature, other times sports-related, and so on). This is to avoid extremely high taxes, cut on the Ankh-Morporkian bureaucracy, and also to pay less for the licence to sell alcohol. It’s all fine and dandy to me, but there’s a downside: if you want to get into one of the aforementioned venues, you have to become a member of their association.
This much-hated toll is omnipresent and added to the normal admission price from north to south, and—especially in Bologna—it’s difficult to go to a gig and not have to fill out a stupid form and pay a few euros for the membership.
Kindergarten was no exception, and even if Old Europa Cafè (miraculously) got the venue to set a lower price on the subscriptions for the night, everybody still had to fill out a form with their data before even being able to purchase the actual ticket to the festival. This created a bizarre system of queues and an annoying delay at the entrance. Even the performers had to sign up! The clueless staff from the venue didn’t help—a classic Italian situation.
However, as soon as we did manage to get in, we were assaulted by a barrage of nasty feedback and bizarre, grainy images of death and bleak squalor. Somebody decided to project excerpts from Old Europa Cafè’s legendary Macrocephalus Compost VHS compilations before and between the sets, featuring semi-lost pearls from the likes of Murder Corporation and Sshe Retina Stimulants, among others. This meant that, for the whole night, the noise would never stop. I had found paradise.
The opening act was Corrado Altieri‘s Uncodified, from Sardinia. I really enjoyed a few of his recent releases (especially Hardcore Methodology and the Vindicta series), but I never saw him live so I was quite curious. The stage, appropriately enough for a noise gig, was high and surrounded by a metal net, Blues Brothers style. Corrado graced us with a massive wall of piercing synth, distorted digital noise, pounding loops, and contact microphone shredding. Its excellent sound fell into a place that was somewhere between Japanese harsh noise, Italian classic death industrial, and nineties European power electronics.
I noticed a few technical mishaps here and there, but they weren’t anything that disturbed the continuous flow of chaos since Corrado easily fixed them. This is also the beauty of noise: the true sound of love.
Uncodified layered up quite a lot of different sound sources, and I think he actually tried to play structured tracks. That’s definitely a commendable effort. I recognized Marco Deplano’s (you know, the guy from Foresta di Ferro, Wertham, and Caligula031) buried beneath the stream of electronic mayhem. It was a nice touch, but it would have been much better with Deplano actually present on stage.
The only real problem I had with Uncodified’s set was that it lasted a bit too long. If it had simply been ten minutes shorter, it would have been perfect. Still, it was a good way to start the dance.
I was eager to see the following act, N.—maybe even more than the headliners. Davide Tozzoli rarely plays live with this project, and I think he’s been delivering some of the best extreme electronics from Italy for many years. He’s perhaps the only one that legitimately and successfully carried on Slaughter Productions‘ tradition of absolute sound nihilism.
His set was hypnotic and minimal, yet surprisingly dynamic. I noticed just one sound source (I might be wrong, of course) that quickly went from sputtering synth-like pops, chirps, and squeaks to droney tones, working its way all the way back to screeching feedback in the end. The delay/echo effect was heavy and it created an uneasy, psychedelic mood that I really enjoyed. Sometimes the space between the bursts of noise was quite wide, so the delay had plenty of room to show off its intoxicating powers. Imagine a death industrial version of stop-and-go harsh noise à la Killer Bug, Facialmess, or Sickness, and you’ll have an idea of what this sounded like. Tozzoli almost didn’t move at all, while his sounds were extremely dynamic. I loved it.
I also had high expectations for the Rita’s set. I’ve been a fan of Sam McKinlay‘s work since the very start, but I was never able to see him in a live setting. Here, he was accompanied by his partner, Arlie (Burrow Owl, Amphibious Pariah), and backed by a video by Marco Deplano (whose shadow, in hindsight, was looming over the whole night, I suppose). McKinlay had a fairly simple setup of pedals connected to a tape Walkman and to a big Crank Sturgeon-made contact microphone, attached right under a metal plate on the floor.
Arlie positioned herself right in the middle of the stage in front of McKinlay’s table. Her ballerina shoes were sitting on the side and she had a keyboard stand in place of an exercise bar.
The video projected a mix of ballet backstage footage and nylon/foot-fetish clips, while McKinlay’s equipment started to churn out vocal samples from interviews with ballerinas and caustic, crunchy, stripped-down harsh noise. Arlie started to put on her ballerina shoes very slowly and proceeded to exercise on her points—all right on the amplified metal plate. Every little movement she made produced heavily distorted crackles and clicks, low-end hums, and sporadic bursts of white noise. McKinlay left her sounds a lot of room, even leaving her ballet moves as the sole instrument a few times. The reverb (I’m actually not sure if it was from the pedals, the P.A. system, or just the room) and the silence around these sounds made this my favorite part of the set.
A special mention goes to the bunch of people who quickly approached the stage as soon as Arlie was barefoot and frantically started to take pictures of her feet and her ass—just like a bunch of standard Italian creeps. In their defence, I must admit both subjects were quite tantalising. McKinlay gave one final touch to a great performance by gently caressing a giant nylon-covered foot on the screen. It was an incredible performance in the end—everything I expected from the Rita, and much more.
McKinlay later confessed to me that this was the longest set he had played in a while, so it was quite a privilege to be there.
I experienced a Slogun live set in a London pub many years ago, but his (their?) first performance in Italy was something I had to witness. As I suspected, they (he?) didn’t disappoint. John Balistreri‘s imposing and menacing stage presence, backed by Chris Goudreau (Sickness, Omei)’s excellent laptop noise, combine into a perfect and dangerous cocktail. While Goudreau produced heavy, brooding, shifting, dynamic harsh noise (in fact, it was almost like a Sickness solo set for the first ten minutes), Balistreri just stared at the audience, munching on a small packet of snacks and throwing some at people’s faces, all while sporting the grin of somebody who’s looking for trouble. He walked around the stage slowly, as if looking for something. He pushed some lousy drunks around. He spat and threw water at random people. What more do you want from a Slogun gig? Maybe some weird semi-techno/late-Whitehouse rhythmic noise and distorted whispers? Check. Done.
When John started to shout his venom into the microphone with Slogun’s trademark effect, I was just fucking happy—and scared at the same time.
The lyrics, as usual, were soon eaten up by a frank and confrontational, hateful rant directed both at the audience and at himself. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people at Club Kindergarten understood a single word of English, so the potentially explosive effect of his words was a bit lost. Probably all they got was a series of ‘fuck you’s and that’s about it. Maybe it was for the best, since no fights started.
The set went on with Balistreri jumping downstage, screaming right in front of our stupid faces, and Goudreau just holding the cable of the microphone while a constant flow of noise erupted from the P.A. system.
The duo also offered an unexpected encore with perhaps one of the most iconic power electronics anthems of all time: ‘I just kill…’ That was incredible and a nice gift for the people who actually knew what they were seeing and listening to—a fucking lesson in power electronics. It was simple, straight to the point, honest, and brutal—a perfect set, and I would watch it again tomorrow.
On the same day I saw Slogun in London, I also happened to see Sutcliffe Jugend for the first time at the Hinoeuma festival. I had really fond memories of their gig, and they’re obviously among my favorites in the genre, so being there for their first time in Italy (yes, lots of cherries were popped that night) was a no-brainer. I followed the last bunch of albums they released, and I think that after so many years of activity, they’re still among the very few who try to do something truly original with power electronics. Maybe they’re not always successful, but when they do hit the spot, it hurts.
Their set was the most energetic of the night, and one of the most powerful I’ve seen in a while. Kevin Tomkins shrieked like a mad man the whole time, climbed the metal net, hurled himself and the microphone around, and produced extremely nasty feedback and synth noise. Paul Taylor handled various electronics and tortured the strings of his guitar, grinding his teeth as he tweaked knobs and pressed buttons. Pure rock ‘n’ roll.
Tomkins’s vocals were extremely clear in good Sutcliffe Jugend tradition, with a few concessions to effects, and were utterly deranged. In this aspect, it was one of the most over-the-top power electronics vocal performances I have ever witnessed, rivaling and maybe even surpassing 2000’s Whitehouse in intensity and dementia.
Seeing him throw the microphone on the floor and howl, unamplified, while beating his chest like a sex-crazed English gorilla was priceless. Every track was perfectly distinct and recognisable; some moments were even kind of catchy, and Sutcliffe Jugend just looked and sounded like a proper band. That doesn’t happen very often in this genre.
The Sutcliffes maybe didn’t have the bulk of volume they deserved, and some people left before their set because it started quite late, but I was completely satisfied with the experience otherwise. Their noises were varied, weird, obnoxious, clear, and hypnotic, while their vocals were even more skull-drilling, genuinely creepy, and simply crazy. It was the freshest set of the festival; the old guys did great.
In conclusion, Congresso Post Industriale IX was a pretty damn fine night, and the relatively small but dedicated Italian hardcore noise and power electronics crowd totally reveled in it. Thank you, Rodolfo; we need audio candy like this sometimes.
The following couple of days that were spent with the guys from the Rita and Slogun and a bunch of new and old friends were intensely filled with: mummified medieval nuns, drinking sessions in front of Pasolini’s Salò villa, anatomical theatres, intense renaissance terracottas, cocktails, good food, beer, and whisky. There are all things that I absolutely recommend everybody try in Bologna, perhaps at the forthcoming twelfth edition of Congresso Post Industriale in September.