Already on Wednesday, 28 November at A4 – the Space for Contemporary Culture in Bratislava, eighteen loudspeakers will be heard in surround during the opening evening of the NEXT Festival for Contemporary Music. The special sound system was brought for the occasion from Amsterdam, but that is not all. Opening NEXT, A4 will stage the world premieres of three new electronic projects prepared by musicians from Slovakia, Korea and Mexico.
At the opening of the 19th edition of NEXT Festival on 28 November, audiences will find themselves surrounded by the 18 loudspeakers that compose the ‘The Pentacle’ sound system. These were brought here from the Amsterdam-based institute STEIM – Studio for Electro-Instrumental Music, which for several decades now has supported artists in developing electronic musical instruments and multimedia installations. The festival’s unique opening evening will present four concerts with an international line-up.
The new works were commissioned by A4 and the Dutch festival Sonic Acts as part of the several year-long international collaborative project Re-Imagine Europe, co-financed by the European Union’s Creative Europe programme, which joins A4 with nine other partner organisations and festivals. The project focuses on supporting new, experimental art that incorporates new technologies in innovative ways while critically reflecting on contemporary social and technological developments as well as on important global issues such as migration and climate change.
Berlin-based Slovak music producer and DJ Nina Pixel tells stories that go beyond mere ritual rhythms looped in endless sonic landscapes and dirty dark techno. Her Bias Loop is a new sonic poem, which she described as the choreography for a ‘dance on the edge of paradox,’ attempting to capture the ephemeral feeling of immersion in an invisible field of reality we try to comprehend. “Entering the loop is like pulling the cable of the matrix and briefly observing the layers from above, although the loop never comes to a halt.“
Another Berlin resident, Mexican electronic producer Hugo Esquinca creates sonically intense music incorporating randomized processes. In his performance, which will take place in complete darkness, he is prepared to make full use of the sonic potential of the space and thoroughly vibrate the A4 venue.
Korean composer Ji Youn Kang often draws inspiration from her native shamanic ritual tradition, and she also currently teaches spatial sound composition at the Institute of Sonology in the Hague. Her live sets promise an exotic blend of modified pieces of bamboo, a small Korean gong and an analogue electronic system in conjunction with the performer’s body. Each of these ‘instruments’ creates separate rhythmic voices with a peculiar character that will gradually fill the space with their joint ‘song and breadth’.
Besides premieres during the opening evening, the potential of this unusual sound system will also be demonstrated by Dutchman Fedde ten Berge, who is also its co-creator. In addition to music, he also creates interactive sonic installations and objects.
The new works will be first presented at NEXT in Bratislava and subsequently at the Sonic Acts exhibit in Amsterdam in February.
A condensed overview of the best on the international and local innovative music scene. The 19th edition of NEXT Festival (28.11.-1.12.2018) presents established names as well as newcomers worth following. Italian innovator Caterina Barbieri, Kuwaiti producer Fatima Al Qadiri, free improvisation legends AMM, synth pioneer Peter Zinovieff or Tanzanian hot topic Bamba Pana x Makaveli.
A Mexican, a Korean, a Slovak and a Dutchman walk into a 15.3 channel sound system…
From auditorium to ventilation system, on Wednesday, A4 – the Space for Contemporary Culture will reverberate with a special immersive show revolving around ‘The Pentacle’ 15.3-channel sound system, designed at the prestigious studio STEIM in Amsterdam. Its limits will be tested by Mexican Hugo Esquinca, Korean Ji Youn Kang, Berlin-based Slovak native Nina Pixel and the system’s architect himself, Fedde ten Berge. Four different perspectives on the physical properties of sound! Hugo Esquinca will explore the complex resonatory potential of A4. A failure of one’s sense of orientation was also experienced early this year at Berlin’s cult Berghain by the visitors of CTM festival. The sonically powerful concerts of Ji Youn Kang draw on the rich ritual aspect of the Korean shamanic tradition, forging it into gradating noise structures with a sense for detail by use of acoustical instruments (both traditional and new) and electronic systems. A balance between DJing, sampling and looping in the realm of dark sonic landscapes is struck by Nina Pixel. The festival’s opening evening will conclude with Fedde ten Berge – the Dutch sound artist will invite the audience to give up the comfort an impartial observer and assume responsibility for their own experience of his work.
What does ‘live electronica’ mean in 2018?
The two featured projects Ctrl Freq and DATANOISE will likewise explore new possibilities of engaging the audience. “In my case, every visible action causes an audible reaction, so what you see is what you get.” Sonic explorer, improviser and hacker Kacper Ziemianin specializes in creating interactive instruments. His light-based sequencer LightSeq is literally capable of manipulating sound by means of light.
In a performance titled DATANOISE, Canadian audiovisual duo Pierre-Luc Lecours and Alexis Langevin-Tétrault probe new possibilities of interaction between gesture, light and sound on DIY instruments. This extremely physical experience, in line with Emptyset, Lanark Artefax or Fis, synthesizes sound, lighting design and video in a sense-overloading response to today’s ubiquitous smog of information.
Back to the future, bypassing Western conventions
For the past 15 years, the Tanzanian megalopolis of Dar Es Salaam has been home to one of the most exciting underground electronic music scenes in East Africa. One of the flagships of this scene is duo Bamba Pana and MC Makaveli. Up-tempo beats, percussive patterns that sound oddly funny to the European ear and explosive phrasing – their unique take on the Singeli genre borrows from Zanzibar’s Tarab music. Its frenetic, digitalized version absorbs Western music influences, while remaining faithful to a rough-edged, DIY aesthetic. Their show will no doubt be one of the most energetic performances at this year’s NEXT.
The club program also features Italian hypnotic duo Primitive Art, in-house DJ wyme as well as the notorious New York eclectic known as Total Freedom. The acclaimed club night Mäss collaborates with NEXT to bring his unique blend of recontextualized club music, which makes terms like underground and mainstream tumble down like a house of cards.
Besides special projects, a slew of Slovak premieres and unique audiovisual performances, NEXT will also include an educational program packed with workshops, lectures and talks with genre pioneers such as British synth innovator Peter Zinovieff or trio AMM, who have broken ground in free improvised music since the 1960s.
Fatima Al Qadiri, Caterina Barbieri and trio AMM are among the headliners of this year’s NEXT festival, which for the nineteenth time now brings a selection of the most interesting projects from the innovative music and sonic arts scene to the Slovak capital. Visitors can look forward to four days’ worth of original musical approaches, unheard-of sounds, spontaneous improvisation and audiovisual performances, complemented by a series of talks and workshops.
Between 28th November and 1st December, several venues in Bratislava will host over twenty concerts and performances by artists hailing from the USA, Canada, Italy, Tanzania, the UK, Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia and elsewhere. “The compass of styles is broad, ranging from the electroacoustic avant-garde of prominent sound artists, through improvised music, experimental instrumentation to visionary electronica on the boundary of club music,” says the festival’s artistic director Slávo Krekovič. The artists all share a desire to explore new, open-minded approaches to musical production.
The Italian New Wave
The most eye–catching names at this year’s festival include figures from the Italian New Wave scene, Caterina Barbieri and duo Primitive Art. Barbieri is considered one of past year’s most remarkable discoveries, and her debut album ranked highly on almost every end of the year music chart. The young Italian artist probes the hypnotic potential of psychoacoustic repetition on the human mind. Her Indian–rooted approach to composition unfolds into surprisingly organic sonic images.
Caterina Barbieri – Scratches on the Readable Surface (Important Records)
Primitive Art create a unique blend of apocalyptic dub and echoes of industrial. Their EP on Arcola – a sub-label of Warp Records – is characterised by intense percussive and vocal storms hovering on the strange boundary of cool artificiality and animalistic vitality.
Fatima Al Qadiri is leading the way in futuristic, conceptually distinctive electronica associated with the Hyperdub label (Burial, Kode9, Laurel Halo). Be it virtual words or war through the prism of video games – her cold sinogrime is equally politically engaged as it is fierce. Quasi-traditional instrumentation, depersonalised choral voices and contemporary club sounds, Al Qadiri presents these at NEXT in the new guise of her thought-provoking audiovisual performance Shaneera, with visuals by Berlin-based studio Transforma.
Fatima Al Qadiri – Shanghai Freeway (Hyperdub)
Though more than half a century has passed since the founding of the legendary British group AMM – Eddie Prévost, John Tilbury and Keith Rowe still captivate with their engaged and radical message, consisting in a continuous redefinition of free improvisation. To trace the history of improvised music without AMM would be impossible: they were right at the genre’s birth in the 1960s.
This year’s NEXT will also present a number of special projects as well as several premieres of new works. Living electronica legend Peter Zinovieff, an innovator and co-creator of synthesizers for London’s EMS (Electronic Music Studios) who left a distinctive mark on the sound of the 1970s, will perform together with cellist Lucy Railton, whose innovative approach is poised between classical instrumental music and experimental electronica.
… and many other unique projects
NEXT is by no means only about big names. Hungarian Bálint Szabó’s Gosheven undermines and bends the status of the European musical tradition, sidesteps the staleness of contemporary tuning and draws inspiration from other, more or less forgotten tonal systems, which find expression in his slowly but steadily-paced tracks. Szabó’s first-time quadraphonic performance will be the culmination of his autumn residency at Bratislava’s A4 – Space for Contemporary Culture under the Visegrad Artist Residency Program.
Gosheven – Leaper (Opal Tapes)
Contemporary futuristically–minded electronica will be represented by several artists. Crystalline polyrhythms built into precise structures – that is the gist of the project Jung An Tagen, which demolishes all boundaries between technoid unrestraint and the sterility of conceptual electronica. His audiovisual performance is presented in collaboration with the SHAPE platform and the Austrian festival Musikprotokoll.
An intense, almost laboratory spectacle titled DATANOISE will be brought by Canadian duo Pierre-Luc Lecours a Alexis Langevin-Tétrault, who explore the interaction between gesture, sound, light and space, and escalate it into an extreme physical full sensory experience. International electroacoustic trio Shitney will swipe improvisation of the dust of complacent elitism.
Mäss x NEXT presents Total Freedom
NEXT will follow up on last year’s club night with a number of special guests. In collaboration with the club label Mäss, this year’s edition will feature the godfather of the legendary label Fade to Mind (Kelela, Kingdom), New York-based DJ Total Freedom, who is known for delivering eclectic combining a wide variety of contemporary club production.
Festival Pass and strictly limited number of Single Day tickets are available via Interticket
NEXT 2018 is organised by Atrakt Art together with A4 with the support of public funding provided by the Slovak Arts Council, the EU’s Creative Europe program, the Bratislava Regional Grant Scheme, SOZA and Ars Bratislavensis.