Cover photo: Rebeca Balas
Moving is always a traumatic experience, even when it’s for the better and the Barcelona-based festival had to change location for thie ediction again. During the first years of Ombra, it seemed that they had found the perfect residence in Utopia 126, an ideal place for the festival’s proposal. But last year they already had to look prematurely for venues where to hold the festival and after the transitory edition of 2022, this year we have had in the old Enmasa factory an unbeatable location.
After a little confusion with the Rodalies line, I was surprised how quickly I arrived, leaving from the area of El Clot, at what was the old Mercedes Benz factory. As a space, it continues to capture the same essence of the missed Utopia, but being bigger gives many more possibilities. One of the improvements was the merch area, where we could spend our money in the stands of some of the best labels of the moment like Unknown Pleasures, Oráculo, BFE, Geometrik or Industrial Complexx. There were also several food trucks where you cold have lunch or dinner and tables where to sit down and rest. The position of this area, very close to the two main stages, made it much better than the slightly hidden one in Utopia. The new space also allowed to include some exhibitions and installations that helped to give an even more artistic character to the festival. Because the festival was so intense, I didn’t have the time to have a close look at this side of the festival, as I was running from one room to another during the whole weekend. As for the building, sadly, part of the space is going to be demolished to build there, so next year the Ombra will have to find a new home.
As a meeting between the underground electronic scene, the Ombra this year has been unbeatable again and among the audience you could make a who’s who of the most interesting music with artists of yesterday and today as Shorai, Moira, Javier Hernando, Petra Flurr, the couple of Telephasycx!, Negocius Man, HIV+, Víctor Hurtado from Dame Área, an omnipresent Chris Shape, Abraxas, HBK1, Lambmother, the dj and promoter Pako Vega and people from the sector, like Blanca from DarkMad and Albert Pavia from Sturm Promotions, journalists and photographers like Cristina del Barco and Ruth G. Núñez de Arenas and record label owners like Andrés Noarbe from Geometrik, Andreas and Suzi from Cold Transmission or Adrián Marth from Italo Moderni.
Because of my confusion in the train, I arrived just when the Turkish darkwave duo Ductape was starting, although I missed the beginning with “Sinners”. In front of the first congregates they released some of the pearls of their discography, such as “Never” or “Sevmiyor”. Çağla is a great showwoman with a presence that oscillates between sensual and mysterious, while at her side, Furkan on guitar creates the right atmosphere for each song. They continued with a couple of songs in Turkish, “Hata” and “Hatirla” and then they offered us a preview of their upcoming album titled “Closer”, which surprised me with its powerful sound. Another novelty was their latest single “Veil of Light” which sounds a bit more commercial and danceable than the old material and was very well received by the audience. They got back into the groove with a tremendous “King”, in which Çağla sounded like a modern Siouxsie. They continued without lowering a bit of intensity with “Fire”, one of the highlights of the concert and ended with the first single from their latest album, entitled “Red Star” and which is, at least for me, the best song they have composed so far. Although I had just seen them the night before, they bewitched me again.
I Tpame I Tvrame
I Tpame I Tvrame were, for me, the surprise of the day. The Kosovar Albanian duo makes a very personal and subtle music in which, sometimes, the forcefulness of the beats collides with dreamy keyboards and the whispering voice of Dina Hajrullahu. In 2021, the label Diffuse Reality (on its sub-label Periphylla) released their very interesting album II, while their previous work appeared on the visionary label Oráculo under the title Ikin Vijnë. To all this we must add several self-released cassettes that complete their discography. From the album released on Oráculo we heard “Always Near” with Dina’s suggestive voice and inspired electronics and from the Diffuse Reality LP we listened to “Can you be you” a bit more sensual and, at the same time, terrifying than the original, although always with those refined rhythms that are a trademark of the duo. Franc Kurti was divided between machines and bass while Dina Hajrullahu sang magnetically. At times it seemed darkwave mixed with idm experimentation, at others we found industrial rhythms with dreamy keyboards. They completely blew me away with their concept of electronica and a sound that kept amazing me at every moment.
Waiting for the next concert, I saw a couple of tracks by Mitra Mitra who surprised me with their minimal synth. Leading the band is Mark Crumby, whom we saw repeatedly at the festival, and an apparently shy Violet Candide on vocals.
At that moment I suffered another little confusion and thought that JG Outsider was performing at the Megabreakz stage when it was at the Operator and that’s why I missed the beginning of the musician who I had the pleasure to meet the next day. When I arrived he was on with his fantastic version of Aviator Dro‘s “Amor Industrial”, which had been preceded by “Dracul”, a track that appeared on the German Nein label, and “Goth”. JG Outsider energetically sang this synthpop classic by one of our most pioneering bands. He followed with the more EBM rhythms of “Two Black” and its more New Beat melody, and the characteristic samples of “Stay Safe”, two of the tracks that you can find in the fantastic album released by Oráculo and Banshee Records. The rest of the performance was dedicated to new songs, highlighting the powerful rhythms of “Faith”, a song with a televangelist sample reminiscent of Front 242‘s “Welcome to Paradise”, which I will buy as soon as it appears in physical format. JG Outsider sang another track, this time titled “Graveyard”, of which I highlight the beautiful melody. He continued with a slower and hypnotic vibe with “Psyche” and went up in intensity with “Time”, which featured a forceful percussion. We were approaching the end with “Volcano” with other beautiful keyboards and the grand finale that was “Lucrecia”. After the festival we found out that JG is going to record an album with the singer of The Arch and it will be released by one of our favorite labels: Unknown Pleasures.
Derrière Le Miroir
Derrière Le Miroir, the classic German darkwave band was celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of their first album, the legendary Alibis, however they actually played songs from their first three albums. They performed in trio format although due to personal problems Nicole had not been able to come and in her place they had a substitute. They started with one of their most pop and catchy songs, “Alibis” and some slight problem that was soon fixed. They got solemn with “L’ Autre Mort” and sweet with a celebrated “Pictures”. With “Mirror” they proved to be goldsmiths of the most elegant pop music and capable of writing melodies as beautiful as “GT” which was perfectly accompanied by the martial percussion. With “Snow Girl” people started to cheer up and it was not rare to see little groups dancing in the audience. They followed with the sad composition “This Room” and the very well received “A Notion of Light”, a very lively and powerful song, one of the peaks of their discography. They finished with a great interpretation of “Electric Chair” with everyone dancing. A fantastic concert from a band that should have much more recognition.
Years of Denial
And if we had just had a visit to the past, on the Ombra stage the present and future of electronic music awaited us. The French-Czech duo Years of Denial were presenting their Suicide Disco Vol 2, one of the albums of the year and, in addition, they gave what for many was the best performance of the festival. Barkosina Hanusova has a really magnetic and impressive stage presence and it was impossible to look away from her. With her dark glasses she completely dominated us while, on the machines, Jerome Tcherneyan delivered his peculiar and very modern version of darkwave. They were splicing the songs without letting us take a breath in an unforgettable performance. I always say they are the best in their genre, and after having seen them live, I think I will keep saying it for a long time. “Never Satisfied” was one of the first tracks we heard, one of the peaks of their last album that sounded really potent. “In Pain I Meditate” was a real dancefloor filler despite the lyrics. With “Dancing with Demons” the room was already completely devoted and they continued to increase in intensity with “La Pendue” in which Barkosina finally took off his glasses. The songs gain a lot of live and Jerome does a great job. The concert continued with Barkosina putting her shawl over her head and singing the next song kneeling on the floor, creating a terrifying image. The music kept getting louder and louder to end up with an incredible track that we danced like crazy. Unbeatable.
Ghosts in the Machine
Kris Baha was presenting his new project, Ghosts In the Machine, in which he moved away from the EBM that we love so much to embrace a sound, as he defines, “Cyberwave”. Although his new approach doesn’t quite match my tastes, Kris is always extraordinary live and doesn’t fail to put on a show and, evidently, his frenetic music was what the already tired audience needed. He started behind a curtain that was instantly tore. The Australian musician’s look was in keeping with the music he was presenting, very colorful and with luminous shoulder pads. He based his set on his latest album of which we listened to a good part. He started with the catchy “I Become” to continue with “SENTIENTS”, the powerful “Nothing is Real”, “Haunting Me” and the frenetic “Code Age”. The music mutated until it ended in an accelerated drum n’ bass that turned the room upside down. To finish he delighted us with a very energetic “Mvtational”. The audience left delighted and wanting more. I, who was already quite tired, went to the hotel to sleep.
To finish pointing out that it was a day of hard overlaps. I discarded Exzakt because he will play in Madrid for the anniversary of the label Noise to Meet You and I hope to see him there. About Mitra Mitra I hope that some smart promoter will bring them to Spain soon so I can see a full performance of theirs. And it really hurt me not to see Ancient Methods and Chloe Lula who I hope to hear as soon as possible.
On Friday, I arrived quite early, because I didn’t want to miss Manisdron, who was on first thing in the day with a very powerful live show…
The first surprise when we arrived was the entrance, which we did in a different place than the day before. During the festival the entrance was through a subway corridor, illuminated with electric blue lights, ambient-drone music and screens with black and white images to set the mood for your arrival to the festival. At the end of the corridor, stairs put you in the heart of the festival as soon as you arrived. Wonderful way to start the experience.
From there, the discovery of the wing of the factory farthest from the entrance began, composed of the Ombra Stage, an open space in the middle with the market and the food trucks area, and at the end, the Operator Stage.
Manisdron played at the Operator Stage, the farthest room. I ran through all the factory because I didn’t want to miss the Japanese drummer with his energetic live set, which didn’t disappoint me at all. The definition of a one-man band. Surrounded by a huge drum kit and synthesizers, the intensity and dynamism of this live show was a declaration of intentions of what was going to be the festival, although it was a pity that he started this live show with only 20 people on the dance floor. The work of the visuals of the Operator Room was remarkable and captivated all my attention during Manisdron live, and part of the live of We Love Dolce Vita, which came later.
I was really looking forward to seeing WLDV live (like most of this festival, anyway). The careful aesthetics and staging of the artist based in the Basque Country did not leave me indifferent. EBM, synth, electro and even some italo, all with a very dark touch, mixed perfectly with blood red visuals of symmetrical skulls, while Nathan, mask and harness marking his artistic identity, energetically deployed all his artillery in this live performance.
The last live of the day was another one that I was really looking forward to see live for the first time, and that did not disappoint me at all, since I was all their performance without moving from the Ombra Stage. It was Mitra Mitra, a band formed by Mark Crumby (who is also behind the Codex Empire project, who performed the next day) and Violet Candide. The slow but danceable dark wave rhythms that flooded the Ombra Stage matched perfectly with the broken voice and the penetrating gaze of Violet who did not hesitate to stick her piercing eyes in the audience and to go down to mingle in the public.
After this live set, the DJ Sets of the day began for me. I went running to the Megabreakz room, not because there was nothing I wanted to see there in particular, but because I knew that there I would have a sound that I had barely tasted that day, a couple of DJ Sets of danceable and enjoyable electro.
And so it was. With a new discovery and an old acquaintance, a good time of electro and broken rhythms that came to me like a drink of fresh water on a hot August afternoon.
Larry McCormick, also known as Exzakt, was one of the discoveries of the festival. Known as one of the most representative, prolific and recognized of the heavy sound of Electro Miami and responsible for some of the most memorable, timeless and hard-hitting tracks in the style.
From Internal Operator, our dear Nacho Romero, I already knew what to expect, and he did not disappoint me. A recognized Electro activist since the mid-90s to the present and who has been one of the most visible faces of the organization of the festival in previous editions, who not only always surprises with his musical selection, but for his way of playing vinyls and for the dynamism of his sets.
I danced to it for a while until I could no longer delay the moment to move, running again, to Operator, where I wanted to finish the festival with the dj set of Ancient Methods, which, as always, did not leave me indifferent. Because, let’s not fool ourselves, Michael does not disappoint. At the closing of the first day of Ombra he made the Operator shake to the rhythm of destroyer industrial music.
And of course, again running home, because this was only the first day, and the next day I wanted to be back as soon as possible to miss as little as possible.