9:48 AM GMT 27/02/2013
"It's really interesting," says former Can singer Damo Suzuki of Incubate, which ran from September 10-16 in Tilburg in the southern Netherlands. "It's a smaller city, different venues, every kind of people coming for energy and to enjoy the atmosphere... If there is energy, it's good!"
It's a sentiment hard to argue with at Incubate. A free-thinking affair running since 2005 (it was called ZXZW until Austin's SXSW advised a name change in 2009), it's grown into a week-long funfest of "Independent Culture" on the underground/freak-hand side. Throw in the DIY Conference on art and the music biz - one component of which was a live-to-internet Q&A with Suzuki that MOJO got to host - and that's several hundred performances, films and talks to choose from at a variety of concert halls, clubs, bars and galleries across the city. In fact, with shows from Laibach, Buzzcocks, Reigning Sound, Napalm Death, King Midas Sound, Mogwai, British Sea Power, Moodymann and many others, there's atmosphere and energy in glorious abundance.
So what to do on Friday night? Well, Nurse With Wound are on at the 013 venue's Dommelsch Zaal. Five-strong on a dimly-lit stage, Steven Stapleton's arcane experimentalists play an extended piece of rhythmic Martin Denny-exotica crossed with Dark Magus murk and Popol Vuh's transmissions from the land of the dead - well toe-tapping. But Incubate being that kind of bash, we have to leave before the end to catch the first instalment of the Damo Suzuki Network, an ever-growing conglomeration of unrehearsed musicians who tonight "spontaneously compose" fugue-state rock sounds at De NWE Vorst, with three members of big-hall headliners Mogwai in the line-up.
From there it's a quick dive into music-bar Extase to see Mancunia's rocking maxi-minimalists Gnod stink up the place with their splendidly grunting riffage. By now we're unstoppable, with a trip into the Pauluskerk church to hear Aidan Moffatt confessing his guilt and rancour to the music of Bill Wells, while back over at the 013, Throbbing Gristle alumni Chris And Cosey do a punishing, techno'd up hits set with some kind of sonic assassin on the mixing desk. It's not that loud, but it makes the spine and viscera shift about in peculiar ways.
Saturday's broken in with a DIY Conference talk that asks, 'Is Rock Dead?' - a panel including The Membranes' John Robb conclude, luckily, that it isn't. The Damo Suzuki Network's second show at the NEW Worst is a more acoustic, contemplative affair, with flute from MOJO's pal Clare and a percussionist stroking small glass bells with a brush. Keeping it free at the Duvelhok, Vermont's flange-folk freakazoids MV & EE With The Home Comfort Sound System are a cosmic experience drenched in psychedelic lights. They spectrally ignite, slowly.
There's a suitable contrast over the railway bridge, where a reggae bashment is taking place at the Hall Of Fame. It may seem like a long trudge to nowhere through the deserted night-time streets, but with local DJs United Sounds taking charge of the bass, imagine MOJO's delight when it appears that none other than Tippa Irie, the genial deejay behind 1986's chart hit Hello Darling, is on at 11pm. Still as enthused as he ever was, the Brixton verbalizer says 'Tippa', we say 'Irie', and some attendant ganja druids respond with delight. After final exposure to Moodymann's funk and house back at the 013's secondary Kleine Zaal, a search for the 'til-late 'Heavy Metal Deejays And Heavy Metal Beerdrinking' event at the Little Devil is boozily abandoned. Gah!
Sunday afternoon offers the chance to see such groups as Primordial Undermind, Sadistic Intent and Fully Blown Dental Reform - but realising that you can't do everything, we go and see Wolvon from Groningen instead, who bring intense rhythmic agitation and howling with a tea tray full of effects pedals and a drummer who grimaces in what looks like joyful agony. There's madness too with British Sea Power at the NWE Vorst. They may be on at the perplexingly early hour of 4.45pm, but possessed of a knockout set of songs like No Lucifer, Carrion and Remember Me, they kick out the jams anyway. For All In It, the customary BSP homemade robots take to the stage for dadaesque rabble-rousing. As one of the droids loses it, tears off his gear and throws it in the audience, a mini papier-mâché cow is being abused to the point that one of its legs falls off. But can there be creation without destruction?
It just remains to sit a spell in the venue's splendid beer garden before the bell tolls for the main hall set from Laibach, the Slovenian troublemakers once described by John Peel as "our chums from the Greater Europe". Harsh, magisterial and with many messages for the world, they perform highlights of their soundtrack to Nazis-on-the-moon film Iron Sky before dropping into their recent covers collection. While gruff vocalist Milan and keyboard/voice Mina are the primary visual focus, gigantic screen projections are inescapable. A cover of Queen's One Vision involves a close-up of a meat mincer in action, while their version of Ballad Of A Thin Man sees '65 Dylan peering enigmatically. Surprisingly, they also do a punishing glam synth perversion of Blind Lemon Jefferson's See That My Grave's Kept Clean.
Enjoying a post-show whiskey with Laibach's Ivan Novak, talk turns to the group's cover version philosophy. "Everybody usually does See That My Grave's Kept Clean as a blues, but it's already a blues song," posits the urbane Novak. "We are trying to do this switch. With Dylan, he's such a terrible singer, and he's not really a good guitar player, but he's made very good records, and this is a big inspiration. The original Ballad Of A Thin Man is already really good, and you know, we really like the 'duh, duh, duh-duh duh (sings the tune)'..."
As talk turns to the possibility of nostalgia for the old Yugoslav communist days, Ivan wonders, "Why should we feel nostalgic? Communism is returning soon. There is no way capitalism is going to survive if it's not going to introduce a certain level of communist thinking. Even America... But it's not going to be a big splash, so don't worry about it; it's simply a cleaning process."
Thoughts of a world cleansed of monetarism resounding in our skulls, there's a nutsy Incubate closing party at the Little Devil with lashings of Dutch schlager and crates of lager to go to. This leaves MOJO with a befuddled head, priceless memories and a forming but strong conviction - can we come next year too?
Posted by Ross_Bennett at 4:03 PM GMT 20/09/2012