Strange Sounds From Beyond has the line-up that makes your jaw hit the floor. Two days at the northern bank of Amsterdam bring exclusive experiences of seeing Identified Patient, Alessandro Adriani, Mata Hari, Nurse With Wound, Les Filles De Illighadad, African Acid Is The Future and many more on the same bill.
For decades the Netherlands have stood out for their vivid electronic music scene and impeccable organisational skills. Weather is much better than our apps have predicted, so we dive straight into the tide of strange sounds, sun and drinks. A tasty mix of dance, experimental and folk/world music is scattered over the three stages, i.e. Red Light Radio (yes, the notorious Amsterdam’s online radio), Tent (the mainstage) and The Rest Is Noise (dedicated mostly to live instrument shows).
SSFB is organised very well in so many ways (line-up, timing, food & drinks, ambience, no queuing), but somewhat atrociously in others. Placed directly at the water of Noorderlicht, this industrial space is inviting and perfect for your techno exercise. Yet the stages are located too close to one another, resulting in a slight sound clash. It’s the third edition of the festival; I can only wish that SSFB grows and, in future, finds a more suitable location sonically.
My feet start moving with the Serbian DJ Vladimir Ivkovic. The resident at Salon des Amateurs in Düsseldorf is a very special invitee at SSFB – he plays twice. Before the legendary Nurse With Wound occupy the Red Light Radio stage, Vladimir tells us an eclectic story, aligned well with the moods of the records released on Ivkovic’s label, Offen. Obscure experimental soundscapes are interspersed with more techno oriented tunes. Drifting towards darker and weirder, Vladimir’s set is an original blend of sonic flavours.
One of my most awaited performances are certainly Steve Stapleton's Nurse With Wound. The experimental outfit is kicking for 30 years now. Titled as the weirdest band in the world, Nurse With Wound have already released over 50 full-length albums and they never play two identical shows. This time we have three musicians on stage and their live set is littered with guitar passages. My expectations of nightmarish terrifying soundscapes are not met. Tonight dark ambient tracks are hypnotic and serene.
The electronic music duo from Detroit, Dopplereffekt play a dry but solid live set on the mainstage. Simple emotionless beats and sequencing hint at German proto-techno. The duo wears masks, an accurate metaphor of hidden feelings.
Italian Alessandro Adriani joins forces with The Hacker. On one hand, their set reflects the familiar sound of Adriani’s Mannequin Records. Industrial soundscapes elegantly intertwine with experimental. The previous Detroit duo is referenced - ‘Sterilisation’ by Dopplereffekt takes up a new life here. The Hacker brings “Joy Division” vibes onto the mainstage. The two played electro, new wave, tracks such as ‘Sato Sato’ by Westbam and ‘No Tears’ by punk-rockers Tuxedomoon, which brought us back to the 80s. Plenty of vocals make the set seem lighter than we’d expect. [P.S. Catch more of Adriani at DT Camp, a wild wild northern European celebration of electronic music, August 10-12].
Another duo, this time from Bristol, UK, brings a more guttural sound to SSFB. Giant Swan (Robin Stewart and Harry Wright) deliver the most aggressive set of the fest, - and we are loving it! Heavily distorted live vocals with added reverb perfectly matches their brutal beats and dirty synths. I have a feeling that if Bristolians were closer to the audience, they would jump the crowd for some serious moshing.
The SSFB closes for me with an experimental music artist Lanark Artefax. The Scottish DJ takes up The Rest Is Noise stage and places a giant LED screen up front. The sunset, flickering visuals and industrial scenery certainly provides an added value to his unorthodox set. The photo below gives you an impression of this Amsterdam weekend-festival.
The Rest Is Noise stage: Lanark Artefax
We are heading towards Club Night: Strange Sounds From Beyond x Dogma for the after-party. Mad Miran is playing and I am super excited about Zohar!!… yet we cannot get in. The bouncer does not like our appearance or perhaps our accents. We got tickets in advance, yet he prioritises people without tickets (?!)… And while every club keeps the right to refuse you entry without an explanation, the conduct of the bouncer is simply rude.
Sunday begins for us with the locals Twice Upon A Time. The crowd seems to adore them. A synchronised jumping to Prodigy’s ‘Diesel Power’ indicates loyalty to local artists. Known for their dreamy show on Red Light Radio ‘Traumgarten’, Twice Upon A Time deliver an uplifting set. But our minds (and ears), now completely immersed in the festival state, crave for something a bit different. We make our way to The Rest Is Noise to see the South African jazz icon Letta Mbulu. Accompanied by her live ensemble, Letta embraces African styles, funk, soul and jazz. I would never give Letta 75 years, so energetic her performance is! Wind instruments, three backing vocals dressed in traditional African clothing, a range of percussions radiate grooves suited to the dancefloor.
Another live act not to be missed is Die Orangen from Australia. The duo comprised of Kris Baha (a man behind Melbourne’s label and weekly club night Power Station) and Dreems (Angus Gruzman, known also for DJ Crew Bang Gang) exceed our expectations. The setup of Australians is immediately impressive. Multiple live instruments allow diverse soundscapes ranging from droning ambient to industrial dance. Tribal percussive bursts and buzzy synths give Die Orangen a unique (perhaps Australia-inspired) identity. Their live is intelligent, layered and groovy. It makes our feet move without the need of hitting higher BPMs.
I have circled in my diary the Amsterdam-based young talent Mad Miran’s set long time before SSFB. Being one of the festival organisers, Mad Miran is also unapologetically good selector! Her flow and mixing are fantastic. Crazy track selection surprises us with ‘Lekker’, the legendary tune by Dutch electronic music trio Noisia. Mad Miran receives the very best response from the crowd which goes absolutely mental, whereas ‘Lekker lekker’ soon becomes the festival’s unofficial anthem. I’m certain Mad Miran will be hitting European clubs and festivals more and more frequently. Fans of breakbeat, breaks, electro and downtempo, keep your ears peeled for the next show of Mad Miran.
The last on the bill is another much-anticipated local artist, Identified Patient. This young gem plays some acid, italo and even trance, but unfortunately we must leave… kissed by sun and bathed in 4x4 rhythms, we promise to come back. SSFB offer a solid line-up in a convenient location and for a very reasonable price. The non-commercial vision of the festival makes it exceptionally cosy and warm. Thank you!