Cover photo: Rebeca Balas
Before starting with the chronicle of the last day of Ombra, I would like to comment that the festival program offered after parties in the Upload club with interesting names such as 89S†, Philipp Strobel, Andi, Curses or Omar. As my intention was to cover as much as possible the official program I opted not to go to any of these parties that, I have been told, were quite successful. On Sunday, the program started a little earlier, at ten o’clock, so it was possible to follow the party from the day before, although at a slower pace. I didn’t even set myself the goal of being there first thing in the morning, but I did get there in time to see the last part of first DJ’s set. As a curious moment, when leaving the subway I met a group of Processional giants that were the first big surprise of the day.
I arrived almost at the end of the Dj set of Oriana, who played for three hours in the Megabreakz stage. Raúl Gallo told me that he had met her at an after party and thought that it could be a good idead to have her opening the last day of the festival. She had started with slower beats but when I arrived, she was playing some classic EBM tracks. I was surprised that there were quite a lot of people for the hour it was and that there was a good atmosphere in the room.
The Milanese duo Tamburi Neri is formed by Andrea Barbieri who is more dedicated to reciting than singing and Claudio Brioschi who is in charge of the electronic part. They started with a slow song, something normal since it was half past twelve in the morning, but already with their magnificent “Dolce Veleno” they began to rise in intensity. Andrea is a very funny and dynamic frontman with a way of reciting very rich in nuances. They continued with the song “Bolle di Dolore” with a very intense voice and original rhythms. As you can check on their bandcamp, the duo makes quite original music, an elegant tribal electronica on which Andrea gives free rein to his verb. We also listened to some new tracks but also others like “Urlo” which gives its name to one of their EPs, and in which the solemnity of the voice over a haunting background stood out. They went back to 2019 for one of their first tracks, “Pechino” which appeared on Works #1 in which Claudio worked out some danceable electronic rhythms. The audience, although it was quite early yet, did not stop dancing. Very good electronic music to start the day.
I stayed in the same stage to see the Openthenext collective, which this time consisted of Umo on the electronics, Shen on dance and ob-server’s visuals. In the audience we saw another member of the collective, Kat, dancing, although she was not part of the performance. I was surprised by the perfect interaction between dance and music, Shen was molding her movements to the speed and power of the music. On the other hand, the visuals were very well done and were an important part of the performance. To begin with, Umo gave us danceable rhythms but with a low BPM, a sample of what he calls slowdance. With his music and Shen’s tai chi inspired movements we got our bodies back in tune for the rest of the day. The collective’s rave past was also present in some intense and more acidic moments that were very well received and fit in between more relaxed parts. Perfect for the hour.
My intention was to see Spammerheads next, but the Openthenext live finished a bit later that I expected and the performance of the Valencian band was already started. As Alba was watching them and I prefer to chronicle the whole concert, I watched them for ten minutes and went back to the main stage.
Zona Utopica Garantita
On the Ombra Stage another pleasant surprise was waiting for me coming from Italy. Zona Utopica Garantita is an original band where we find Danilo Fatur from the classic Italian punk band CCCP Fedeli alla Linea, together with Frasco from Bloodygrave & Die Lust! (they have a compilation on Young and Cold Records quite recommendable) and Jules (from Cronaca e Preghiera). For the occasion we couldn’t have Danilo and the band, in trio format, had to present their electronic punk without him. They sound as if Gabi Delgado had gone to live in Italy and met Roberto Görl, native of Trento. My sensations were very similar to the ones I had with The Ne-21 the day before at the same time: they seemed very fresh and with a very good live performance. They played very catchy and danceable songs like “Volskwagen Punk” which sounded quite origianl, “Sexy Garage”, the harder “Going Backwards”, or more punk compositions like “Quello che mi Serve” from their latest EP, entitled Non Stop. They had some more experimental and intense moments and greeted their friends from ø with whom they edited a split handmade for the festival. For the final stretch they played “Trabant Punk” with their DAF sound to which a nice keyboard melody was added, resulting very danceable. If you don’t know them, take a look at the five track EP released by Oráculo in 2021, from which several tracks were played, to get an idea of their sound.
One of the most anticipated moments of the festival was the return of Neon Electronics to the stages. The band formed by Dirk Da Davo, Glenn Keteleer (Radical G) and bassist Pieter-Jan Theunis had not played for some time, in fact, the last time they came to Spain was on Christmas at a DJ Pepo’s party, so expectations were high. And they did not disappoint. They proved to have pretty good chemistry between the three of them and presented an unbeatable setlist. They started with that sort of jam that is “El Barranco”, which was followed by “Mondriaan”, with Glenn wielding a strange melodica-like instrument. While Dirk and Pieter-Jam managed to create a very personal and original sound. Next, Glenn sang “Glimp” a great track with amazing work guitar from Dirk who sang the following track, “Road To freedom”. “Invisible Man” was another great song we heard with fantastic guitar work. Sometimes we forget what a great guitar player Dirk Da Davo is and that night he was fantastic. Glenn for his part seemed to be a different person than the day before, delivering a passionate and serene interpretation of his songs. The concert continued with the powerful “More” with the whole audience dancing and the catchy “Better Way”, which was co-written with The Hacker. It is a perfect song to listen to in concert and has an incredible bass. They followed with the powerful “Follow Your Dreams” with a wild performance of Glenn. “157” sounded intense, a very original track with a melodic sound and an industrial touch. There were a couple of nods to Dirk Da Davo’s first band, the legendary The Neon Judgement with two updated versions of “Schizofrenic Freddy” which was more danceable and a great “TV Treated” of unusual power. The audience was really committed throughout the performance, something that the band noticed and hopefully that will make them tour again in a short time. They said goodbye with “Energy X” a frenetic song that, like the concert, seemed too short. One of the best lives of the festival.
Monolith is the project of Eric Van Wonterghem who was accompanied by his son Aaron. The veteran musician has been part of Absolute Body Control, Klinik and Sonar as well as having his solo project since 1997. As a curiosity, if now it is his son who accompanies him live, before it was his wife, Hilde Ivens, sister of Dirk Ivens. But let’s move on from family matters to focus on a live show that, we could say, shared time and power with Codex Empire the day before. Monolith delivered a hard, danceable and very powerful industrial techno. At that moment, after two long days of festival is what we needed and the duo gave no respite with their piercing melodies and hard percussion. This year they have released an album called Concrete Playground whose title, in a way, perfectly defines what we saw there.
The surprise on arriving at the Operator stage was to see people wearing masks of the Catalan musician, one of the fathers of Spanish electro. The room was full, something considerable if we remember that in the main stage was the legendary Terence Fixmer. After fifteen years without making lives people were looking forward to see Dark Vektor who fulfilled perfectly in a live in which he included many of his best tracks. Electro is a genre that celebrates itself and that’s how Dark Vektor started, with his classic robotic voice acknowledging that we wanted electro, just before the bass drum came in full blast. It was a live, like most we saw that afternoon to enamored electro fans. “Bailando sudando” (Dancing sweating) was the description of how we were at that moment in old factory. He followed with dreamy and playful melodies typical of the artist and tracks like “Es que no lo veis” and “Hasta Que el Cuerpo Aguante”, from the incredible EP he released on HC Records. One of the highlights of his performance was the “Siega las cadenas” that Dead Violets Night has played on so many occasions and that live was a blast. Another great moment was the “Mil Imperios Mil Destinos” that appeared on a compilation of the Madrid label Distrito 91. He did surprise us with his remix of “La Quiero a Morir” by Manzanita that is included in the second volume of Unknown Weapons in an emotional ending that turned the room upside down. Interestingly, a few days later we saw Exzakt djing at Specka and he also played this track.
Legendary German DJ and producer The Exaltics started his live set with some elegant electro tracks. It was part of what we could call a mini electro festival within the festival and featured lives by Robot City, Chino, Dark Vektor, The Exaltics and Umwelt, one after the other. That each artist sounded completely different from the rest says good things about them and the genre. The Exaltics continued his performance with strong dancefloor material, but always with his own sound and haunting melodies. There were more acid moments, almost industrial percussion and really good electro melodies. While it was getting dark outside, at the Operator we danced to the best electro possible.
We met the Frenchman Umwelt at breakfast and he turned out to be very nice and friendly. It was the third time we saw him live and we were really looking forward to it as he is an artist whose material we buy regularly. He presented a powerful but melodic live set, with a quite elegant touch. He is one of those producers who has a very characteristic sound and that night he proved it live. There were moments more acid, others with apocalyptic sounds, but all very enjoyable. One of the best of the festival, no doubt.
I thought Umwelt‘s live set would partly overlap with Spike Hellis’ concert and that’s why I didn’t dig in their music them before the festival. And maybe that made their music more of an impact on me. When I got to the Ombra stage and they started playing it was like a train ran over me. The duo is overwhelming live, two beasts on stage delivering a mix of EBM with industrial and eighties sounds. At times their vocals sound very punk while at others, with their dynamic phrasing and response, they sound like a duo of rappers. They have only released one EP and an eponymous album from last year, which they played in front of us in an impressive performance. From the opening “Flight” onwards they bewitched us with their stage presence and their original mix of sounds. They transmitted us an energy that I did not expect and that I needed at that hour after so many hours of festival. They continued with songs like “Cause of Death” or “Feed”, the latter coming from their first EP. They closed the festival with some encores in front of a devoted audience that did not want to leave.
Finally, I would have liked to see Spammerheads again and Robot City, who I also missed in Madrid. Chino and Terence Fixmer would have surely fallen on my route if they had not had such hard overlaps.
And finally the last day came…
I have to admit that on Sunday I had mixed feelings, since it was hard to get out of bed because my legs and body were already very tired, but at the same time I felt a little pain in the depths of my heart because the festival was coming to an end. I managed to get there to see the last part of Umo’s live (Openthenext), and for another of the festival’s favorite bands that I knew I didn’t want to miss, the Spammerheads.
Spammerheads, working class electronic music, as they define themselves, is a duo that with their music pay tribute to EBM with hints of industrial, synthpunk and post punk and made their impressive live at the Operator Stage in broad daylight. Since I discovered this Valencian duo formed by Ana and David last summer, I have been listening to their music assiduously. However, and without a doubt, I’m sticking with their live show. No matter how good their records sound, live is always better.
Besides, they break the mold in something else. In most duos the voice is usually the female component, and the one who plays the drums is the male one. In this case, in the live performance it’s the other way around. It’s something that has caught my attention from the first moment and that on Sunday I commented with several people on the dance floor, so I see that I’m not the only one who has noticed that detail.
From their live set, I love those moments when in the middle of the rhythms and vocals that David throws, with an energetic and rabid performance, suddenly Ana creates a cloud of noise that twists your mind to the limit. What a pity that the Operator Stage had the screen system right in front of the set up, and that the fences didn’t allow David to mingle with the audience (although he did stick his head out from under them while singing his rabid lyrics, one of the highlights of his live show).
After this, I don’t remember moving hardly anything from the Operator Stage. It was the beginning of what could be summarized as one of the best electro marathons I have ever experienced in my life.
The truth is that at that time and being already the fourth day of the festival, memories and sessions are intermingled, I just remember how the daylight gave way to the darkness of the night while electro mercilessly took over the room with the live sets of Robot City, Chino, Dark Vektor and The Exaltics.