How would you like to be catapulted in a dark, electro-popish world where everyone is imbued with shivers of excitement? Hold your breath for three seconds and let your legs drag you to the next show, Club to Club has just begun.
For this year edition the festival proposed an exhortative point of view: “Dancing cheek to cheek”. “How would musical shows change if people in the crowd danced in pairs, or if artists included moments to share in two in their acts?” This is the question made by artistic director of the festival Sergio Ricciardone. For the occasion, a special interview was held between Sergio, Arca and the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans.
Before jumping straight to the late night shows we will like to spend a few words on the event that took part on Thursday afternoon: the Absolut Symposium, a great meeting with very profound discussions and cheap but delicious drinks. The atmosphere itself was simply wonderful, and with Arca’s fresh and eccentric sensibility together with Wolfgang’s wise view on the modern music landscape, this will definitely remain one of the highlights in the understanding of the whole concept of the festival. Sergio Ricciardone pointed out the general loss of physical contact while dancing to electronic music and underlined the lack of a social experience in the scene. This inspired him to turn the situation around by stimulating people to find that tenderness once again. He also commented on how, in an over-connected world like the one we live in, we are even more disconnected from social interactions than in the past. Could we reshape social ties starting from musical events?
Our first musical experience of the festival began with Kamasi Washington in a brand new location in the heart of Torino. With a long blue tunic, his thousand rings and his shiny saxophone, he took the stage and smiled at the public as if he knew what was about to happen. Together with his team, Kamasi performed a charming and surreal live show expressing the passion and the depth of contemporary Black Music. From the arrangements to the vocals, everything flowed perfectly for two sublime hours. In the middle of the concert he also delighted us with an extraordinary special guest: his father Rickey Washington, who’s great clarinet performance provided an added value to the amazing exhibition. Unfortunately many people left the festival after his exhibition, which highlighted the difficulties in trying to combine different genres and different publics in the same night. Nonetheless the effort was definitely worth it for the rest of us who were able to appreciate and enjoy the different spirits involved in the festival.
From then on the night definitely took a more electronic approach starting with XL Recordings’ founder Richard Russel and his guests who performed an extremely dull DJ set, mixing reggae, drum‘n’bass and dancehall music directly from early 2000s UK Soundsystems. To be honest his performance wasn’t really able to connect with the public and his show didn’t totally convince us in the first place. The night was still young though and maybe the vibe and the attention weren’t the best just after the magnificent jazz concert by Kamasi Washington.
In contrast, Powell’s show was totally reckless. As last tired eyes were slowly dropping, survivors on the front line danced like it was just them and four trembling walls. The dancefloor was suddenly flooded by the most refined EBM’s sounds and the amazing visuals by extraordinary photographer Wolfgang Tillmans made the performance sensational. The noisy industrial synths featuring techno/IDM drums lead the way in a greatly sophisticated live set.
Knowing that the best was yet to come and really looking forward for the acts on Friday, everyone had a very pleasant, heated night.
After a tipsy dinner with my dear Soul Feeder colleagues we all rushed to Lingotto Fiere, the main structure of the festival, hosting all the Friday and Saturday night’s events. Centro Fiere is part of a wide complex of buildings named “Lingotto”, which was originally the main FIAT automobile factory. The expansive location featured a main room called “Crack (Magazine) Stage” and a smaller one called “Red Bull Music Academy Stage”. Just like every previous year the main room’s sound environment was supreme and furthermore, the stage was an enchanting explosion of lights and smoke. A stunning choreography that perfectly adapted to the performance of each artist. The smaller room was a totally different experience, with a much darker environment with a more confused and raw sound giving the room a much more immersive and emotional taste. Much closer to the classic underground club mood the room worked perfectly as a home for the more diehard clubbers.
We started our Friday’s experience with Arca’s performance and no one could have been ready what was about to come. Fiercely strutting towards us, 12 inch heels and a white corset, Arca was surely the queen of the room. Being used to his earlier live sets, hearing him sing sounded extremely bizarre but comforting at the same time. Expressing all of his torment to us through his mother tongue (Spanish) delivered a special intimacy to the whole performance and clearly touched the entranced audience. The whole show consisted in Arca mourning, shouting, falling on his knees and walking through the crowd on stilts, embodying agony, thrill and sweat. All of this sumptuously enriched by Jesse Kanda’s always perfectly matching visuals.
We then hopped into the other room, where Laurel Halo was performing on the Red Bull Music Academy stage. The first thing we said to ourselves was “This could not get any better”, well we were damn right. The same artist who puzzled together such a well-crafted album like “Chance of Rain”, performed like she had just woke up from a nap. She mainly played an ambient set, where her improvised vocals were lost in a considerable lack of electronic sounds. She wasn’t worthy to reproduce the talent she has expressed on her latest album Dust, but according to your expectation, you could enjoy a static ambient live or really hate it. The confusion in people’s eyes was evident, and most of the audience looked rather bored or disappointed.
After rambling around for half-an-hour we decided to give Bonobo a shot. His performance also didn’t really grab our attention. All of his sound palette sounded extremely dated and monotonous, so we decided to move to something fresher and definitely more contemporary in style: Jlin.
Dark room. Obscure stage. 6 or 7 lights projecting mysticism in the air, and there she is. Her humble soul had transformed into a savage beast on stage. The equalization was beyond insane. The maniacal focus on bass waves and the perfect sound support was able to perfectly deliver the rawness and power of her music. From the front row the violent air movements due to hard pushy bass were able to compress lungs and make bones vibrate, giving amazing sensations. We could physically feel her rhythm inside us. She started her set on fire and never dropped the violence of her drums all the time. She expressed the most pure form of footwork and made all of us dance for an hour.
Two minutes break, just enough time to take a breath, and we’re back on the dancefloor for Nicolas Jaar. The set definitely started low key and didn’t really kick in at the beginning (he might have been high on the same stuff Laurel Halo had had). So we moved to the bar thirsty and broody, found out the price of cocktails and immediately ran away. There, is actually where everything started turning out for the best. Jaar started to really feel the crowd’s heartbeat rhythm, pulling out his best tracks and tricks. Good we hadn’t left the room early and enjoyed the rest of his lovely set made of great beats and emotionally delivered vocals.
After that: The Black Madonna a true guarantee. Her Nu-Disco / Deep House DJ set kept us dancing for hours in a timeless experience, and her choreographies are simply amazing. A huge amount of smoke and an explosion of lights immediately conquered the stage. You could smell happiness in the air as the Jazz and Funk influences immediately saturated the crowd. Everyone was dancing for her performance in a sensational 80s mood. There were also a good amount of couples dancing cheek to cheek during her show, which easily made her act the closest to the concept of the festival.
On the other hand Yves Tumor’s performance was definitely the most obscure and intimate experience of the festival. Explosive drums and post-industrial sounds pervaded the stage where he singed incomprehensible words fully covered with reverb and echo. You could feel a mix of psychedelic, danceable, explosive sensations which mentally took you away from the room. There was a virtual bond between our souls, and you could get in touch with Yves’s intimacy straight away. The feelings grew even more when he jumped into the crowd and built a physical contact with most of the fans, which carried him in a wonderful crowd surfing.
The Crack Stage closed the day with the Batucada/Techno Italian duo Ninos Du Brazil in a Brazilian explosion of catchy and danceable rhythms which recharged our energies as if we hadn’t been already dancing for around 8 hours. They were the perfect “closing party” for the event of Friday and underlined the really good time we had.
Ready, set, go. Jungle opened the main stage on Saturday, putting everyone in the right mood. With their funky groove and catchy songs, an enjoyable light atmosphere surrounded the room.
Liberato was the most controversial artist at the festival, but we totally agree with the decision the staff made with him.
He is an anonymous Italian artist that shared a bunch of extremely well crafted, catchy songs/videos over 2017 that were able to get massive attention within all the underground scene. Setting him before Mura Masa was a brave and perfectly coherent choice in a festival which defines itself as an “avant-pop festival.” The performance he delivered got the crowd totally out of control and all discussions went forgotten in seconds. Three musicians with hoodies masking their face, the middle one of which seemed to be the actual Liberato. Was it really him? Does it even matter? The Neapolitan dialect mixed with electronic synth sounds and romantically sad lyrics are making everyone in Italy crazy in love with this mysterious guy.
External note: Some guy was dedicating the entire concert to his girlfriend on FaceTime; Liberato is a nameless, faceless music artist, nonetheless he’s able to create a very unique connection with its audience.
Mura Masa lighted up the passions right after one of the most hyped shows of the year. Widespread euphoria catalysed in the main room for an hour-and-a-half long set, through his trademark delightful beats and ultra-catchy melodies that made everyone happy with no effort. He’s just so genuinely good at what he does live, no one could stop dancing and jumping. Just three months after releasing his first LP, Mura Masa put on one of the most entertaining sets we had the chance to see recently. He gave the crowd a taste of that edge of colorful electronic pop music performing at a perfect time on the festival schedule, with amusing drum kits, guitars, keyboards and singing on stage with Fliss too. Tons of live energy, which unfortunately lacked at times during other sets.
During his live set, Actress proposed a dynamic alternation of tracks from his latest fatigue, “AZD”, and improvised interludes. This peculiar choice, allowed him to create a great variety in terms of tempos and atmospheres, and made his (over an hour long) show, never boring. With just a techno beat and an aggressive drone he was able to make everyone dance. Everything then melted into a distorted piano that connected with the crowd amazingly, without ever spoiling the flow and the coherency of the set. The visuals were also particularly touching, with the silver mannequin (featured on “AZD” cover) set in front of the stage as a simulacrum of the British producer. The only flaw of the set was probably the fact that Actress didn’t play “X22RME”. Oh well, we’ll forgive him this time since he has been so goddamn good.
Helena Hauff performed her set on the main stage at around 2:30 am, after Richie Hawtin and proved to be in extremely good shape. Her set was extremely dark, heavy and angular, with the crowded room being soaked in obscure energy. Never insecure, with her punk attitude she killed it and went straight to the point. Nothing but dangerous acid grooves stuck in the depth of my mind for 2 hours. Relentless.
Lanark Artefax played the entirety of his live set hidden behind a black cage placed on the right side of the stage, while the center was occupied by a tall flat screen, on which differed glitching patterns were projected, changing along with the music. And although the young Glaswegian producer’s performance wasn’t entirely in line with the idea of cheek to cheek, it was indeed one of the best performances of the day. Watching him play, for me, was like reading a post-modern book. in the beginning all of the sounds he generated seemed so detached from one another, like if there was no actual structure but just abrasive textures of drones and drums violently crumbling and then sinking into placid synths. But as the set kept going, those same sounds that at first glance may have seemed chaotic or random, were organised, structured, becoming beautiful songs that I, along with the rest of the audience, couldn’t resist to dance. An avant-gardist prospective, in which order and structure are never final, and disorder is both fertile and inevitable.
Lorenzo Senni, at whatever time, day or night, always fits perfectly no matter what. Our legs where desperately begging for help, but when Lorenzo popped on stage and started banging with “Win in the Flat World”, no bed could be more appealing than him, no matter what time. The thing about Lorenzo Senni’s live set was not his complexity technically speaking but the extreme freedom with which Lorenzo left his position in front of the mixer, and started raving by himself on the stage. Such a simple thing and yet so engaging, that made everyone’s desire to dance together, cheek to cheek, even stronger.
Gabber Eleganza’s closing act has been something amazing. The Italian blogger and DJ, placed himself behind the mixer and in front of a wide screen where, contrary to most of the artists that played at the festival, no peculiar visual was project. The visual act of Gabber Eleganza’s show was in fact not made by machines, but by bodies. Four gabber dancers, two males and two females, occupied the front of the stage, dancing with each other to the sound of over-180-BPM hardcore bangers. The music they were dancing to was so distant from what we would normally think it would be right to dance cheek to cheek, and yet they were all dancing, eyes in the eyes. At one point one of the two couples of gabbers kissed while dancing. It was probably one of the best moments of the night, in which the main theme of the festival was portrayed beautifully.
That said, Gabber Eleganza’s selection was pure fire. The people literally went crazy, jumping wildly, pushing each other. We kept raving until after 6:00 am, when Lingotto’s staff turned off the light. This is what clubber culture is all about in the end, no matter what type of electronic music you prefer. We’re happy this project is finally getting its right recognition.
In the evening of this cloudy day the festival moved the clubbing root in a urban layer: a little square surrounded by graffiti called Piazza Madama Cristina. The space was invaded by handicraft markets, where you could buy vintage clothes, ethnic food, jewellery, vinyls and other cool stuff. From 6 pm the environment was surrounded by the music of the show called “Call To Investigate” which animated the square with immersive hip hop and r’n’b’s beats and sounds. Guarapo!, the project of Jim C. Nedd & Palm Wine, ended the festival spreading the sound of the far South Americans’ electronic culture. We could finally assimilate the huge amount of adrenaline accumulated in the previous days.
Club to Club is something more than a musical festival, it not only brings together the best electronic artists of the year but over time it gained the power to build its own underground scene by promoting the best Italian artists around through its ITALIAN NEW WAVE collective. Without them we might have never heard some amazing producers like Warp’s Lorenzo Senni, Hyperdub’s Mana, Not Waving and many more.
The most important feature of the festival is its way of inexhaustibly growing each time succeeding in building a more and more solid line-up. The growth is also confirmed by the data which showed an increase of 15 thousand people in just one year (from 45.000 to nearly 60.000). For how many years will they be able to continue improving? Simply unbelievable, especially if you are only used to Italian standards, a country that is notoriously famous for NOT being a festival country. See you next year.