KRAAK FESTIVAL 2024
ALL TBC TBA TBK
Why try to come up with new descriptions when Andra Ljos’s album titles are eager to communicate the feeling her music evokes? Based in Vilnius, the Russian-Armenian artist Aleksandra Evseeva (one third of trio 2muchachos) creates sonic stories that feel indecipherable, uncanny, otherworldly and megalithic, yet also exude a sense of familiarity and intimacy. She makes soundtracks for different regions, which have a kind of narrative quality. Taking various routes — droning organs, enchanting percussion, chirping birds — they transport you into mythical realms straight from legendary tales. No matter what kind of oasis you end up in, you’ll want to hang around and let the place inspire you to do some worldbuilding of your own.
Cluster Bomb Unit
Originally formed in Stuttgart in 1989, Cluster Bomb Unit has been touring the world many times over with their straightforward, no bullshit German Raw Punk Kommando march. Though names and people have rotated over the years, the current lineup includes members of the Metabolismusverse at large as well as stalwarts of the Baden-Württemberg crust scene who continue to deliver unprocessed punk realness straight into your core. Eye socket-bursting riffs, earsplitting feedback and fast-paced drum assaults ring out scorched anthems for peace and political justice ~ don’t let no perceived aggression dilute the message of love, and let the catharses come as they will. And, of course, don’t forget your earplugs.
Hopping over from the ridges of Nantes, Arnaud Aubry and Thomas Durand began their adventure as Elastic Systems in 2022, diving deep into human/machine synergy by means of wiggly electronic playtime. Electronic drums and MIDI wares play interchangeably complementary roles and generate disparate forms that range from jaunty krautrock to sinewy body music to the open-ended chiptune of yesterday’s tomorrow. At times highly technical and angular, Elastic System’s improvisations can just as soon melt into free-floating waveforms that push listeners - and their dance moves - to engage in a perpetually shifting sonic worldbuilding, bringing it all together in a choose-your-own-adventure cascade of relentless euphoria.
Since 2015, Finnish multimedia artist Rusto Myllylahti has been using the moniker Elatu Nessa to spread his DIY, meditative, lo-fi sounds throughout his home country and across Europe. A mix of field recordings, psychedelic guitar, hypnotic chanting, and soft humming. His latest album Pääportti, released on Ultraääni & Raatoraita in 2023, was recorded, mixed and produced in Helsinki, London and by the sea. Still, this sound wizard will have no trouble working his magic in the dark and mysterious Antwerpian forest, as the owls and foxes are already jumping out of their hiding places to experience his trance-inducing loops and will happily be rocked into sweet and gentle never-ending reveries ~ Het Bos may never be the same again.
This shifty wheeler of electronic dealings, whose real name is confounding even to those who know him, has been subtly infiltrating under and higherground scenes since at least 2002, including this here one with his 2020 KRUT EP Cordial Invite. Originally from the larger Norfolk area and based in Berlin for far too long now, HP confounds all preconceived notions of what could possibly come next in a tune, relying on drum machine wackery, layers of unhinged samples, demented loops and unintelligible vocalizations for some raucous auricular bait-and-switch. Disruptive, hypnotic and aptly described as “almost danceable”, Pollard’s post-industrial baitings take us into brazen new worlds of sonic misdirection where we’ll gladly bide our time. That golden mic is the true beacon of hope.
Saxophonist Virginia Genta and drummer David Vanzan have been playing all sorts of circuits - official and otherwise - with their crushing blend of free-form jazz that descends into spastic inanity. Active since 2004 and blowing minds around the world with occasional high-caliber accomplices like Chris Corsano, Bill Nace, Makoto Kawabata, Dror Feiler, Mik Quantius and Thurston Moore, the Jooklos have been steamrolling ears and stages with demented psychedelic improvisations that defy all notion: percussive batterings relentlessly crash and collide through the frenzied drive of the reeds, opening expansive fields of sonic possibility that leaves you nothing short of bewildered, taking your ears places only your third eye can see.
Maria Valentina Chirico
Turin-based singer and multi-instrumentalist Maria Valentina Chirico and her harmonium seem to be inseparable. She fell in love with its sound as a child, and this innocent devotion runs — or, rather, peacefully strolls — through her music. Trained in baroque, classical and contemporary music, Chirico uses her angelic voice, harmonium, tapes, and electronics to create haunting and magical ambient-folk songs. She frequently collaborates with other musicians, including 11-year-old Marta Arbarello, and is part of the duo Tubipora Musica with harpist Vanja Contu. Her music triggers that strange mix of melancholy and happiness that is as comforting as it is unsettling. Listen with caution, as false childhood memories might start messing with your mind. You may find yourself longing for a past that was never yours, reminiscing about falling in love with an instrument you’ve never even played ~ music for building a snowman and watching it slowly melt.
The musical brainchild of artist duo Maddie Banwell and Grace Black, Mosquito Farm, revolves around homemade instruments. In 2022, the pair started making music with setups containing objects like powdered milk, fans, ping pong balls, camping tables and plastic bottles. They make their way through this noisy pen of automated and manually played acoustic creations in a playful yet seemingly deliberate manner, like true puppet masters, resulting in live performances which produce erratic percussion and ominous industrial drone sounds. These sonic farmers have brought their mosquitoes/instruments to several DIY and art spaces in London and are now ready to come buzzing overseas!
Nina Garcia & Maria Bertel
Longtime sound explorers Nina Garcia and Maria Bertel collide in a fever dream come true. Nina’s guitar-based excursions as Mariachi push the limits of audible experience to the brink, using movement and modulation to sculpt inventive noise formations; Maria, both in her solo activities and in collaborations with multiple figures in the larger improv world (Johns Lunds, the aforementioned Jooklos, the many talents of the Selvhenter ensemble), uses the trombone to blare out distorted drones for an explosive sensory overload. As a duo, textures and rhythms come alive through burning amp bulbs, guitar and trombone reacting and refracting, a powerful complementarity slicing through roaring blasts. Their first collaborative release KNÆKKET SMIL is out this February from a unique co-release constellation formed by No Lagos Musique, Otomatik Muziek and KRAAK’s yours truly.
Here’s some leftfield freshness from the ever-prescient Spettro microverse: Simone Bornati of the Twoonky/TwoMonkeys/Chorus Abstract/etc and prime selector/sound artist Luisali sonically enmesh for one of the most confoundingly enjoyable musical trips in recent memory. Luisali’s tape manipulations, which cover field recordings, warbled disco, sampled beats and indiscernible cosmic soundings, provide a launchpad for Simone’s sax diversions, looping and echoing seemingly from another time and place. The result is dystopian trip hop for liminal dance floors, where what initially feels clumsy and unsynchronized quickly gains a sense of its own, sending confusing signals to your body about what to do with all the moves that invariably ensue.
Budapest-born composer Tibor Szemző has been an unavoidable fixture of the Hungarian avant-garde since the 70s, as a founder of the minimalist ensemble Group 180 (which drew on collaborations with Steve Reich, Alvin Curran, Phill Niblock - you get the idea) as well as of multidisciplinary performance outfits like Fodderbasis and the Gordian Knot Cinematic Music Lab. His extensive solo output spans over 40 years yet still remained somewhat on the “cult” end of things until reissuings of rarities such as Snapshot From an Island began making the rounds. Similar to his peer and frequent collaborator Laszlo Hortobagyi, his diaphanous soundscapes have an instant recognizability while ostentatiously defying all attempts at categorization. Stealthily slitherings between the realms of ambient, new age, minimalism and spoken word render an undefinable vision that feels grounded in the modern world, which just as soon evaporates into inscrutability as soon as you think you got it.
When Ghent-based Benoît Monsieurs, aka Venediktos Tempelboom, starts playing his 12-string guitar, reclusive roamers line up to ride the whimsical sound waves he produces, spontaneously joining him in his meditative body rocking and headbanging. After releasing the Het Ruist EP on KRUT in 2021 and Het Vuil Volkske on KRAAK in 2022, Tempelboom continues to wander through the KRAAK realms, overwhelming listeners’ senses with his ringing primitive folk songs and swaying them into deep contemplation. He imbues his surroundings with a transcendental quality, even managing to transform the bleak, melancholy landscapes of East Flanders into vast majestic terrains that approximate what the Romantics meant by the sublime ~ terror and awe unite!
Sisterly duo of Acte Bonté sobcore prominence and Rattus undeground notoriety, Rebecca and Fiona are also known for tearing it down behind the decks with a truly unpredictable blend of bangers which can only be qualified as absurdly exhilarating. Computer-crooned ballads, italo campfests, rabid electronica and wave-wave certifiables: genres cackle in the face of reason while senses do be getting lost when this sister act takes over, to the point that nobody ever remembers how they started dancing and whether they ever stopped.