return of Cubanate in
2016 at the Cold Waves Festival in Chicago caught pretty much
everyone off guard. Much loved on the industrial/crossover
scene, their last official album of new material was [gulps]
20 years ago this year. Since their return, gigging and the
release of Brutalism, a compilation album featuring
14 remastered songs from Cubanate's first three albums, the
response has been pure joy for most.
Personally, I was never taken by Cubanate. Which,
when I stop to think about it, is curious. Not least
because original member Graham Rayner's work since then,
particularly with K-Nitrate
and Audiowar, has always
appealed, and operates in a very similar vein. Moreover,
pretty much everything else Marc
Heal has been involved with I like (C-Tec, Cobalt
60, PIG and Lord of the Flies). Maybe it's guitarist
Phil Barry's influence, as founding front man Heal's solo
album The Hum from a
couple of years ago really grabbed me.
Anyway, I digress.
Fully accepting I was very much in a very small
minority tonight, I vowed to give this a good hearing. Few
can holler quite like Marc Heal. The floor was packed to
capacity for their set. With Inertia's
Reza on percussion at the back and Barry on guitar up
It didn't take long for Heal to get up to speed.
Referring to the lyrics of Junky - "The junky
needs the dealer. The dealer needs the junky" - when
he shouts to the crowd "Which one are you?" you
could tell he was was well into the performance. Likewise,
during the encore of Ordinary Joe when he yells: "Look
in the mirror, beat your chest, and say I'm a genius!"
you can believe he has done that at some point.
Heal clearly draws extra energy from his
audience. He could so easily of phoned it in and might
just have gone down as well but he didn't. Lord Of The
Flies was the most compelling track of the set for
me. But, obviously, it's Oxyacetylene which closes
on a well-earned high, inducing the by now sweaty Infest
masses to scream along.
Setlist: Colossus, Barbarossa, Hate
Song, Joy, Junky, Body Burn, Isolation,
Annihilation, Lord of the Flies, Kill or Cure, It,
Oxyacetylene Encore: Ordinary Joe
Photos [L-R]: Iszoloscope, Cubanate x2
I came to UK three-piece Flesh
Eating Foundation some years ago via their
attention-grabbing and leftfield remixes for Global
Citizen. But this was my first live sampling of
their activist electro punk, almost co-fronted by John
E. Smoke and The Juddaman.
They have a penchant for circuit bending
children's toys, which were in evidence today. These
were further augmented by the prongs of a gardening
fork struck with a piece of metal, and an instrument
that appeared to be a plug in a socket on a piece of
skirting. I've absolutely no idea what that was doing
musically (if anything) but the randomness of its
appearance appealed immensely.
Delivery was enhanced by the participation of
angry poet Adam Probert, who when he wasn't adding his
voice, was brandishing hand scrawled banners
emphasising key lyrics on a couple of songs including
a cover of The Fall's Blindness (given extra
frisson as Smoke is both blind and deaf). Probert
recklessly (but impressively) jumped from the stage,
over the photo pit and barrier and onto the dance
floor. He crumpled into a heap after one leap but the
adrenaline carried him through. (Don't try this at
home kids but do pay attention to their message.)
Their recordings can't capture the raw
feelings they seem to bring to the stage. It's not
easy, on any level, but not is it supposed to be.
Angry and political, just what Infest needed an
injection of at this point. The perfect opening act
for the afternoon.
Setlist: We Are Fucked, Scumbags and Spent
Slags, Futurelast, Punch Drunk, Having Fun, So Yeah,
Blindness (Fall cover)
Adam Is A Girl
- or two guys and a gal tonight to be precise. In
the studio, based out of Berlin, they're the duo of
Alexander Pierschel and Anja Adam. On stage they are
clearly properly into what they're doing, and they
do it with aplomb. Lead vocalist Adam is
captivating, reminding me a little of Sol Flare's
former vocalist Jenny Jones, in that she totally
immerses herself in the music and her performance -
almost blanking out the audience.
Not that she needed to, mind. As they were
well-received by an open-minded audience.
The rendition of their best-known single, Soldier
was terrific, confirming that the solid writing of
the studio carries over to a live setting, losing
none of its impact. Last track of the set, Sky
is the next single, almost having something of
Chvrches about it.
Each member appears confident in their
role. Each playing their part, rarely looking at
each other, but all gelling together. Serious about
what they do, but through their charming lead
vocalist they came across as down to earth, clearly
loving the reception they received for their
first-ever UK gig. They wondered if they should take a bow.
Hesitated for a moment, then did. It was well
Setlist: World At Your Feet (Intro),
Shadows, Chase Her Down, Your Silence, Soldier,
Photos [L-R]: Flesh Eating Foundation x2,
Adam Is A Girl
little goes a long way with Yura
Yura, most tracks giving plenty of space within the
compositions. Whilst only about half the slightly lighter
crowd appear to have found the beat this is no reflection on
the confidence projected from the stage.
Recdrum in the middle of the set is a
track on the last Maschinenkrieger kr52 vs Disraptor
release (who appeared at Infest in 2011), but here Yura
Yura added noise and melodies on top of the original
rhythmic track. And then there's the bass that makes your
insides vibrate. Like Izsolosxope yesterday, the best stuff came
towards the end of the set. The drum driven, less crunchy
noise tracks appealed the most.
Setlist: Holokine, Morder, Okiko, La mort,
Recdrum, Nigra, Shamdead, Eko, Suspiria
Joy Division-influenced post punk meets early Clan of Xymox guitars via
Interpol - is what I thought when listening to Actors
ahead of the festival. Live, it all sounded rather
different. Oddly, less thrilling somehow. This is a band
that is always playing to an arena of 100,000 - a massive
amount of competence and confidence beaming out from the
stage. They're not there yet but they're headed in the
The music is arguably a little mainstream for the
Infest crowd, but no doubt also too alternative for the
mainstream. Some of the crowd doesn't seem sure quite what
to make of it, or how to deal with it, but there is no
denying the quality of delivery.
I'd like them to dig deeper to find what it is
that could make them stand out in what is currently a very
crowded sub-genre. They saved the best for last though.
The final guitar-driven anthemic Like U Want 2
seemed to come more naturally and may be where they should
start that search for a more distinctive sound.
It Goes Away, How Deep is the Hole, L'appel Du Vide,
Slaves, Face Meets Glass, Crystal, PTL, We Don't Have to
Dance, Bury Me, Like U Want 2
Photos [L-R]: Yura, Yura, Actors, Liebknecht
Liebknecht is one of
Daniel Myer's projects little-known to me - seemingly
because he only created it last year, having released
only one 4-track EP to date. So I was looking forward to
hearing this one live for the first time. I'm a big admirer of much of Myer's work, and it
seems the festival organisers are too, as he's appeared
previously several times, under different guises (Destroid
and Architect in 2006, Haujobb
sees Myer focusing on the his techno material and, in
tonight's specially curated set, remixing several other
artists, including the likes of Maelstrom, Djedjotronic,
Mikron and Rendered (yet another Myer project). Remarkably,
seeing the response to his dropping House of Pain's Jump
Around into his DJ set yesterday, overnight he
rustled up a version of it to include it into today's set.
As is often the case, there were flashes of
genius, and more than a few moments where the music and
the crowd are in perfect sync. Probably because the
project is so new, and the decision to include works by
other artists, it didn't feel quite as clear a sense of
purpose and identity as some of his other more established
Setlist: CMU (Infest Intro Version), Danzig,
Lux (Maelstrom - Liebknecht Edit), ICE Over
Erfurt, Hamburg, Chasing The Lights (Djedjotronic -
Liebknecht Edit), Smoke / Jump Around (Infest
Version), Leipzig, Sink (Mikron - Liebknecht
Edit), Köln, Adrenalien (Rendered - Edit), Berlin
is a little tough to work out what Mesh
want to achieve. Their lyrics are downbeat and show the goth
influences, but the melodies and the way they push the crowd
can be more upbeat. The crowd are there, and in big numbers
too, confirming their appearance is undoubtedly a major draw
They were willing them on, but have trouble knowing what to
do other than sway most of the time. The band are sharing,
and being acknowledged for that, but at the same time
leaving some perplexed. Until the encore Born To Lie
- which seems to deliver what many are after from them. As
for me? I remain as impervious as ever.
Setlist: My Protector, You Didn't Want Me,
Tactile, People Like Me, The Fixer, Little Missile, I
Fall Over, Leave You Nothing, Last One Standing, The
Traps We Made, Friends Like These, From This Height,
Taken For Granted Encore: Born To Lie
up, as we approached midnight on day three, was Sarin.
The Infest website said he was from Iran but it seems he's
based out of Berlin. I enjoyed this quite a lot. At times I
had thoughts of early Cabaret
Voltaire as if heard through the mind of Andrew
Lagowski and Brian Williams' Terror Against Terror project
(whose only album Psychological Warfare Technology
Systems on Paragoric in 1992 still thrills and
I wasn't surprised to learn afterwards that Sarin cites
Terror Against Terror as an influence - it is readily
apparent. Though this wasn't nearly as punishing as I'd
expected. The mask he was wearing was very Danger
Diabolik (the titular hero of the kitschy 1968
French/Italian spy thriller - check it out if you aren't
The compositions are deceptively simple in
nature. A steady beat throughout with a couple of big
drops, works much the same as techno does and Empirion did
on Thursday. Squelchy overdubs and some moody voice
samples all add up to something special. Some nice,
minimalist, geometric black and white visuals too. No
hurry, no rush, no face - just solid beats. Sublime,
utterly sublime and the perfect choice for the hour.
None of the music from tonight's set has yet been
converted from Sarin's machines into proper tracks,
meaning what we got here was essentially improvised works
in progress. Impressive indeed.
Setlist: none - all improvised, works in progress
Photos [L-R]: Mesh, Sarin, Promenade Cinema
A male/female two-piece from Sheffield, I
first heard Promenade Cinema
via their track As The World Stops Revolving when
it appeared on the Synth Wave
Volume 1 compilation album a couple of years ago. This
sounds sharp, looks sharp (so sharp, in fact, you could
cut yourself on it) and, crucially, works live.
I realise this was the opening slot on the final
day of the festival (and there will have been some fragile
heads in teh audience) but their entire set could have
done with being a lot louder. They were almost scuppered by the infamous
Infest fire alarm four songs into their set, but
thankfully after a few seconds it was cleared. Cue a huge
cheer from audience. They had just started playing Credits
- a terrific song in an already impressively strong
The Vangelis Blade Runner like synthpads
that cropped up here and there worked perfectly. Indeed,
film soundtrack are clearly a big influence on the music
composition - helping to set them apart from, and raise it
above, many others working in the same genre. They refer
to their sound as "cinedramatic synthpop" - and that sums
it up perfectly. Electronic pop with more than a twist of
classic, cinematic noir.
Their debut album Living Ghosts, released
at the start of this year, showcases production by Steve
Whitfield (wo has worked with The Cure, The Mission) and
mastering at The Bowling Green (who have worked with The
Human League, Pulp and Moby). So they're clearly investing
in their self belief. Based on what we saw and heard here,
it's a self-belief that's well-placed. Emma Barson's voice
in particular was seriously good live.
When As The World Stops Revolving
reached its crescendo you could easily visualise this
act playing massive festival stages - Chvrches stylee.
Their stylishly a more minimalist take on synth
that flirts with taking itself a little seriously but
overall delivers a solid opening performance for the
day. Very healthy crowd help support the effort with
Setlist: Polaroid Stranger, The Quiet
Silently Wait, Cassette Conversations, Credits, As
The World Stops Revolving, Spotlight
It's hard to pin down all the influences on Massenhysterie. It's
possible to pick out rock, pop and all kinds of electro in
a performance that identifies as 'kinky' but apart from
the commitment to PVC is more broad and accessible, if
hard around the edges.
However, some of those influences were explicit
in two cover versions that appeared during their half-hour
set. Rammstein's Buck dich, a smart choice,
unsurprisingly went down well, and the slightly more
obscure Eins, Zwei, Polizei by Italian dance act
Mo-Do also cropped up.
Knuppel aus dem Sack, set to the backdrop
footage of marching female soldiers of the Korean army,
appeared be channeling the spirit of 2 Unlimited's No
Limit - which worked for me. It's all delivered
tongue-in-cheek and is best consumed in the same manner.
More fun than filth.
Setlist: Mehr Geld, Weiber Regieren die Welt,
1000 rote Rosen, Buck dich, Hart ist der Stiefel,
Knuppel aus dem Sack, Schmutzige Finger, Eins, Zwei,
Photos [L-R]: Massenhysterie, Valhall, Elegant
act new to me, Sweden's Valhall
(another female/male two-piece), billed in the run-up using
words like fantasies, folklore, myths, dreams, nightmares
could have served up po-faced histrionics. Thankfully, their
darkwave songs, wrapped in a cloak of witch house and
neofolk, were far more fascinating than I'd expected.
An occasionally disconcerting blend of music and
noise that refuses to define what it is, and consequently
strikes out into new ground. Particularly notable for
being a noise-related act where the microphone is not
solely a detracting instrument of torture, rather even a
positive influence on the overall work. The male/female
vocals counterbalancing one another. His were grumbling
rather than roaring. Hers nicely tempering his, recalling
Chandeen at times.
One of the acts worth investigating further for their
recorded output - where I imagine further detail and
subtleties might be found.
Einhärjar, Bonetrees, Lilies For Belial, Ormens Offer, A
Threat, Dead Waves, The Hunt, Water Harp, Grimoire, Down
In The Woods
in 1993 I picked up my first Elegant Machinery album Shattered
Grounds (their second). Although it came out the same
year as Depeche Mode's
somewhat more sophisticated Songs Of Faith And Devotion,
the casual listener could have been forgiven for thinking it
had been released a full decade earlier.
Indeed, it actually plays better on the ear now,
25 years(!) later, than it did on release. Largely,
because one listens to it on its merits the context of the
year of its release long since faded from the memory. But
it still feels more impressive if you choose to believe it
really was released in 1983.
Pure, melodic synth-pop is what Elegant Machinery
do. And they do it unashamedly, with a passion and joy
that's disarmingly compelling. And that was before I heard
Surprisingly, this appearance marked their UK
debut. The commitment of frontman Robert Enforsen's
delivery instantly made it clear that if you weren't up
for a fun ride, there'd be little point in staying for the
duration. I preferred Enforcen's vocals today more than I
did back in 1993. Then they were too mannered. Today,
they're more measured.
His irrepressible bouncing up and down, punching
the air, and clapping was mirrored in the audience, who
clearly shared Enforsen's sheer delight at them finally
performing to a UK audience. Songs I knew well like Hard
to Handle and Shattered Grounds had been
given an update. The latter was quite a different
arrangement, both sounding punchier than their poppy
origins, but neither suffering as a consequence.
Over the next forty-five minutes they slickly did
the business, leaving an energised audience with smiles as
broad as their faces would allow. And they sure know how
to write some cracking melodies.
Setlist: Feel the Silence, Entwined, Hard to
Handle, Watching You (Hard Rain), Move, Do You Know,
Shattered Grounds, Process, Save Me
met the members of Canadian outfit Strvngers
on the Friday evening. One of the bands who was here for the
entire festival and clearly in their element, more than
happy to mingle and have a drink with the Infest regulars.
Formed only in 2015, they followed their self-titled 2016
debut with Amor/Noir on the Negative Gain
Productions label earlier this year.
Calling your album Love/Black in French
could either be cheesily obvious or a bold statement of
confidence. It's definitely the latter. For the
uninitiated, the stage set - looking like a set from an
imaginary expressionist Ed Wood horror movie - nicely set
the scene for what followed.
Photos [L-R]: Strvngers, This Morn' Omina,
the broad church of electronic music has its tribes, and
those tribes have edges. Stare into the space where those
edges come together and Strvngers are staring back. A deep
electronic bass beat, melodic layers, industrial guitar
lines, growly vocals, on stage energy - it should be an
almighty mess, but instead it is a robust delivery of...
something much more.
they recalled old favourites U-turns (who I introduced to
Infest in 2011), and sonically a more sinister and kinky
sounding version of Mr Kitty who appeared on the same stage
in 2014. Only the guitar sounded a bit out of sorts
live, even though I can see why they thought it was a good
genre witch house is never mentioned in their promo, but
elements of that are definitely in there. Lead vocalist
Maria Joaquin is a commanding presence - even when he's
hidden behind a jeweled mask. And on tracks like Noir the
agility of his voice is a distinctive asset, flipping
between almost twee and demonic from line to line.
was bonkers - but in a good way. If Tim Burton had turned to
music as a teenager instead of filmmaking it would probably
have looked and sounded like this.
Fetisha, Shapeshifter, Venus, Pink Coffin, 976-EVIL,
Noir, Vanity, Hexxxed, Dancing With Myself, Dressed To
was introduced to This Morn'
Omina by One eYed Man - one of their finest
tracks - via the Thisco label compilation Thisoriented back
in 2002. But this was my first live sampling - and it turns
out that they are one of those acts that sound better live
than recorded. The energy they generate on stage takes it
onto a higher level.
eYed Man made the set and it was a stomper (and,
coincidentally, includes a repeated chant throughout that
could quite easily be heard as "Infest!"). Front man Mika
Goedrijk asking for, and getting, strong vocal support from
an appreciative crowd, many of whom will have waited years
for this Infest debut.
beat is everything, and everything is the beat. There is
such power in the background that it dominates the
foreground. Not to say all the vocals subtract rather than
add, but less is definitely more with most This Morn' Omina
tracks. The voice as instrument works so much better than
the voice as oration.
the time they get to Garuda Vimana from the last
album, its chanting is echoed back from the 1,000 strong
Infest crowd back to the stage. Drawing the audience into
the performance, taking the show into another dimension.
Another highlight of 2018.
Ayahuasca (Let's Shift Together), (The) Ninth Key,
Kachina Red (The End of the World), One eYed Man, (fl),
Iboga, The Immutable Sphere, Garuda Vimana, (The) Rûach
(of God), Maenad Encore: Epoch
Aesthetic Perfection are
another band that I just don't understand the popularity of.
At best indifferent but most often I just find them boring,
not only didn't my opinion shift, it only confirmed that I
would consciously avoid ever hearing them again. If only
bands I do like, who use Aesthetic Perfection for remix
duties, would also play ball, then I might get my wish.
the fact it doesn't take itself too seriously means it works
for the many - and there were many soaking up this final act
of the festival. Meanwhile, I was socialising elsewhere.
takeaways from this, the 20th Anniversary Infest?
Hook and The Light's set was excellent, and the undoubted
highlight. If you're in any doubt as to whether or not
they're worth seeing, go. Caveat - just be sure that the set
they're playing is the one you want, as they tend to focus
on specific albums when they tour.
the noisy side of the field, this was one of the most
satisfying festivals for me with Yura Yura, Iszoloscope and
Sarin all doing something within the genre that was either
pushing further than many do, or (in the case of Sarin)
nailing their particular furrow. Whilst This Morn' Omina
handled the tribal rhythm thing perfectly.
Cinema lived up to the constant praise I've been hearing
from friends for a couple of years. Elegant Machinery were a
pure joy from start to finish, whilst Empirion proved their
new material is some of the finest yet - the perfect
promotion for their new album.
the lineup this year was missing a one or two personal
favourites that usually seal the deal for my attendance (and
deliver the emotional rush typical of Infest), the quality
of the hitherto little-known acts was pretty constant,
proving yet again that Infest delivers to those always open
to anything new. 8/10
Rob Dyer (with additional perspectives from Simon @