The Hague’s multi-disciplinary music festival is upon us this weekend. Beats Per Minute has cherry-picked 11 acts to catch.
The recently deceased Ryuichi Sakamoto is an emblematic figure for the raison d’etre of The Hague’s Rewire Festival. Sakamoto never stopped pushing the possibilities of sound and music, even when he could’ve easily taken his flowers and bowed out into the sunset decades ago. The stories pouring out of his passing echo his vision as an artist; always curious, always innovative, always bewildered, and always paying things forward to future generations.
If Rewire has proven one thing over the past years; that which blindsides and befuddles us, leaves the most lasting marks. Just off the top of my head from last year, I frequently think about Caterina Barbieri becoming a living renaissance painting at post-brutalist stronghold Amare, or Bendik Geske making transformative noise within the sonic limitations of the baritone sax. And how about the likes of the late Jaimie Branch, Mabe Fratti and Circuit des Yeux, all prompting sonic outpours of profound physicality.
Heading into four days of Rewire Festival, Sakamoto’s generous outlook on life is something to behold as we subject our senses to some pioneering new sounds. And while it’s tempting to namedrop some of the more marquee names – namely Patti Smith & Soundwalk Collective, Fever Ray, Kelela and Godspeed You! Black Emperor – it might be more fruitful to turn our collective gaze to some of the lesser known performers gracing the stage. Let’s jump right in with 11 brain-breaking shows to check out.
Much like Arca and the late SOPHIE, Chinese DJ and producer Tzusing forges his corrosive blend of techno, industrial, alternative pop, samples and non-Western electronic music with a subversive glee, abandoning strict continuity in favor of joyful impulse. Don’t be surprised to hear the incidental pop or hip-hop staple protrude from beneath Tzusing’s cavernous beat barrages, hidden like easter eggs on an alien planet. Tzusing is a well-traveled soul who doesn’t stay at one place very long, and he sure as heck sounds like it too.
Sunday 03:00 – 04:45 – PAARD
Alto Arc is a ragtag mix of individuals that forms an implausibly compelling whole: Deafheaven’s resident snarler George Clarke, hyperpop heavyweight Danny L Harle, Trayer Tryon of the ever-stylish Hundred Waters, and probably the biggest enigma of the bunch, visual artist Isamaya Ffrench. The result is a dramatic pop vernacular that could probably soundtrack a rebooted version of The Hunger. Alto Arc will make their live debut at Rewire, and though it’s anyone’s guess what will happen, I suspect it will evaporate that fault zone between sinister and sensual.
Saturday 22:35 – 23:35 – PAARD
The Rotterdam-based duo of Marijn Verbiesen (Red Brut) and Michiel Klein (Lewsberg) have been pioneering together for over a decade; though different in execution, style and tools, their big creative overlap comes in their mutual fascination for the spontaneous and unpremeditated. Goldblum is the pair’s shared musical garden where they jump into the rabbit hole of tape loops, soundscape and improvisation. No Goldblum performance is ever the same, and that’s part of the fun. Check out their Bandcamp page.
Saturday 18:30 – 19:15 – Grey Space In The Middle
If someone assumes the combination of finger-picked guitar folk and cutting-edge pop is ill-advised, well, that someone has clearly never heard Julia Reidy. The title of Reidy’s latest LP World In World says it all: this music sounds as if you’re listening to AM Radio through an alien transmitter. Reidy manipulates guitar melodies with washed up modulated effects, while applying haunting auto-tuned vocals and sprouting percussive movements. Indeed, seeing Julia Reidy is the perfect surrogate for stargazing on psilocybin.
Saturday 20:55 – 21:40 – Korzo
US-born, Berlin-based omni artist LSDXOXO gained grassroots notoriety through Tumblr during the first half the past decade, mainly because of a singular talent to weave his pet interests – club music, pop culture and fashion – into his outré production prowess. LSDXOXO’s work has the vampire-like quality of siphoning everything it touches and converting it to fun-loving, forward thinking dance music, sparked by a seductive all-knowing wink. It’s a lexicon he shares with collaborators such as Shygirl, Eartheater and VTSS.
Friday 00:15 – 01:00 – PAARD I
Binkbeats presents OHM
Binkbeats – real name Frank Wienk – is kind of an anti-Wizard Of Oz when it comes down to percussive music. There is no smoke and mirrors; this polyrhythmic professor can actually recreate the most electronic sounding music with traditional instruments and compose the most baffling sonic worlds on-the-fly. Wienk self-described ‘OHM’ as an immersive sound ritual that explores the very physics of music on a quadraphonic, electro-acoustic spectrum. Suffice it to say, our minds are already blown.
Friday 20:10 – 21:10 and 22:55 – 23:55 – Korzo Studio
Dwarfs of East Agouza
One of the mightiest bands of North Africa, the Dwarfs of East Agouza sound like a cosmic whirlpool hoovering in the celestial bodies of free-jazz, noise, krautrock and homegrown folk. The Dwarfs shows are intense, hypnotic affairs that border on arcane illumination: brisk impulsive improvisation moves with slower, more deliberate currents of melody. It’s often hard to fathom it’s just three people – Maurice Louca (Organ, Synthesizer, Beats) Sam Shalabi (Electric Guitar) and Alan Bishop -(Acoustic Bass/Alto Sax/Vocals) – making it all happen.
Saturday 21:45 – 22:35 – Koorenhuis
Slikback x Weirdcore present VOID
Last year, Kenyan producer Slikback couldn’t take his boisterous AV-project VOID with Weirdcore to the Rewire stage because of visa trouble. Yet weirdly enough, the watered down remote version of this project – plastered on a huge projector screen – still drew heady raves at Paard. It’s pretty much the epitome of Rewire, a festival that always explores the outer realms of what live performance entails. Fortunately, this year we got the genuine article with Slikback in the house, which should make for an even bigger bang.
Saturday00:00 – 01:00 – PAARD
Nadah El Shazly x Elvin Brandhi present Pollution Opera
From one dynamic duo to the next. Nadah El Shazly is one of Cairo’s most inventive artists, brandishing a downright incredible vocal range with a deft range in production styles. Elvin Brandhi meanwhile is a sound collage artist extraordinaire who uses anything from seagull squalls to Blumbergian brass into batshit crazy noise compositions. Leave it to these two – along with performers from their own inner circles – to have a crack at the very canon of opera music. It’ll be a most amusing spectacle.
Saturday 18:55 – 19:40 – Korzo
Ian Mugerwa – aka Dawuna – became a word-of-mouth sensation after impulsively dropping his LP Glass Lit Dream online during the pandemic. One of those people entranced by Dawuna’s spellbinding R&B and gospel abstractions was none other than Moses Boyd, and we can understand why. There’s an intoxicated quality to Dawuna’s music; a batch of closing-the-blinders confessionals about PTSD, cultural displacement and mired spirituality. It feels like private music, not meant to be heard by outsiders, which somehow makes Dawuna all the more intrusive and prepossessing.
Sunday16:35 – 17:20 – Amare
Lucinda Chua is one of those rare artists who seamlessly occupies the space between experimental and pop, with collaborators as diverse as Stars of The Lid and FKA Twigs. Her recently released solo album YIAN is a breathtaking listen. To quote Jeremy J. Fisette’s review: “blossoming walls of soft sound, plaintive pianos and gentle keyboards, and her own deep and feathery voice. Her lyrics often settle into repetitive cycles, spinning their phrases like lost proverbs full of some deep knowing.”