Quiet where the line between experimentation and classic pop structures are drawn is an interesting question in music; perhaps more so in the world of dance music. Whilst Kraftwerk and Skinny Puppy showed us that often the most powerful electronic music is that which replicates the early belief of a cold and dark texture to the computer world, late 90’s drum n bass proved that improvised jazz structures, using heavily repetitive beats, can be highly emotive. Electronic music can sound human; if we want it to.
Spread across the Star and Shadow hosting of the Northern Electric festival, today’s assemble demonstrates both elements of this electronica world.
Opening up with Bert Verso, Northern Electric starts off with a combination of improvised electronica; a style which takes hip hop and dubstep beats and mashes them up into a sound over which Verso uses vocals to make the sound humane. Without the vocals, Verso’s set would be distant and cold, yet with them this is warm and immediate.
Propelling us into electronica experimentalism, the following two acts Lightwaves Museum and Behold a Pale Horse both use improvisation and pulsating electronic music to create interesting, loud, cosmic jams. Whereas Lightwaves take a more trance/techno route into their improvisation, it’s Behold who takes us further out into universal sound with a mashup of different sounds. Almost Hawkwind in their hypnotic cosmic sound and stage presence, Behold’s jam takes a while to access but once caught in their hypnotic fishing net it’s impossible to escape as the rhythm locks you in and holds you firm. Like most of the day their set is proof that if you persevere and drop your preconceptions, you will understand the sound. It just takes time. And effort.
With a polymath electronic sound, and a math rock approach to electronics, headliners Cauls end the day with a more direct, more human, sound. Highly experimental in places, it’s the vocals of front woman Katie Oswell who’s Bjork esque delivery adds interesting texture and colour, as well as accessibility, to the show. Headliners filling the room always helps a festival feel more connected, and it’s warming to see Cauls fill the venue with a collection of people all looking both interesting and interested.
Northern Electric? Clearly it’s interesting music for interesting people.