Can music experiment and engage at the same time? Can it remain individual and also reach a public without compromising that? Does it matter? LEM festival uses its experimental tag very liberally, but if there’s one thing that struck me this year it’s that it all depends on the space. La Fontana is a very ‘public’ space in which performance became as important as musical and thematic content of the acts. In such a space, the sound atlas created and curated into a coherent narrative by Carlos Zingaro & his Electroacoustic ensemble in the confines of the Macba auditori wouldn’t have been possible. Something would have been lost in all the distractions. So?
A band like Institut Fatima pulled it off big time in La Fontana by confining their experimentalism to content and adopting a range of familiar musical genres, from drum ‘n bass to industrial, as vehicles for a brand of smart-arse absurdism that is super rare in these parts, where bands tend either to take themselves very seriously or not seriously enough: remaining aloof or just goofing around. Carsten Galle and Paul Rose (aka Fatima)’s set included a song about soap, about not being able to take … something … anymore, and a cheeky reading of a letter contracting the band to play in that very festival. Clearly not afraid to nibble the hand that feeds them, then, and long may they do it. Institut Fatima on YouTube
I began to wonder if the Cargo duo (Belgian Nico Roig and Raül Fernandez of local band Refree) may have benefitted from a more intimate sit-down venue, but it would have meant toning and whittling down their act into something less amplified, something less hm … ‘electronica-rock’, and something less themselves. It was a hard balance to pull off and I totally cuddle the effort. Rock seems to gets by on raw energy alone which might be why all bands sound the same to me; like accomplished but ultimately bland band Graves, slipped betwixt Cargo and Institut Fatima, like an inside-out meat sandwich. Electronica, like classical music, seems to need a storyline, more than a repeated theme, a sound journey. Cargo went safari: African singing, threatening animal sounds, reverberating heat. There was lots to hear, and moments enraptured, but where were we going? Still, when you think that much about a band that can only be good.