2. Icelandic Punk Rock and SIRI
Rushing through the detritus of the Montreuil flea market, I reach the familiar house on rue Richard Lenoir. A large crowd is conversing outside, between the neighborhood trash cans and a parked boat. If one didn't know any better, they'd think the show was about to start or was already over.
Among the dense crowd, I spot the silhouette of Jean Charles crouching over his array of electronics in front of the stage. He switches between the mishmash of mick-ed up tape recorders, khaos pads and pedals with convulsive grace, illuminated by a single night light in the pitch-black room, his back to the crowd like a rock star's. His set is a loosely knit journey through noise and club music, striking a fragile balance between delicate ambient almost-silence, wall of noise bursts and an occasional thumping beat pulsating under harsh textures, creating an emotional, tormented mix.
It was refreshing to see him get more exposure as Scenes from Salad, his new solo moniker, after over a decade of a highly prolific career both as a performer and as a promoter, whose events are like a love letter to the true DIY curiosity. Jendrek from Le non jazz dubbed them "the real underground events".
Italian duo Aspec(t) provided an example of form over substance, their fascinating noise-making machines producing textures which, while engaging as sonic matter, suffered from a lack of structure and dynamic, rendering the performance rather flat.
The transition from one show to the next was punctuated by short video compilations by Lico, another familiar face from the Sonic Protest family. His selections hit the sweet spot between humorous and cringy, with crude punk videos and potentially viral randomness. Picture a bunch of '80s punk rockers screaming ''Cmon Reijkiavik!" to a seated audience in what looked like a community rec center, followed by a psychedelic animated taco commercial and a lady boxer hitting someone's balls that were hanging from a hole in the ceiling.
I was really looking forward to see the Graham Lambkin/Mark Hardwood performance, which turned out to be the most punk rock of the evening.
After the previous fetishistic display of gear, the staff prepared a large table on stage, empty except for a handful of mikes. The music stopped for a couple of minutes, leaving the crowd confused.
The performers finally arrived, accompanied by a mysterious lady who turned out to be Graham's partner and was later throwing paper planes towards the audience. Mark hooked up his iPhone to the PA, as the other began arranging random objects and sheets of paper onto the table. It was as if they had just emptied out their bags and started making noise with them, a feeling certainly emphasized by Mark's tote tangled in his string of bells all through the performance. After killing all the lights, they even turned a brown bubble envelope with a flashlight inside into their only luminescent source.
This primitive set up gave way to a moving performance, often bordering silence, that celebrated the very core of experimental music by elevating mundane objects to totemic sound entities, while playing a metaphysical game of cat and mouse with SIRI.
The surprise discovery of the evening was the deconstructed post-punk of Merry Crisis and their mix of spastic vocals over muffled synths. Everyone got slightly drunk and the atmosphere was openly festive - it was a great festival opening night.