Various venues, Turin
Club To Club’s latest instalment proved itself relevant as ever, with an adventurously-booked line-up delivering groundbreaking performances on a grand scale.
The Turin festival has forged a reputation as a staging ground for new work and a springboard for artists on the rise and this year – its seventeenth – was no different, with an eclectic bill that included Arca & Jesse Kanda, Yves Tumor, and Ben Frost, as well as more accessible performances from the likes of Nicolas Jaar and Mura Masa.
The majority of the programming was centred around the Lingotto Fierre expo centre throughout the weekend, buffered on either side by a smattering of smaller performances sited in some of the city’s more interesting spaces.
Undoubtedly the most arresting venue of the weekend, the Palace of Venaria is a UNESCO World Heritage site located a short bus ride from Turin that played host to the festival’s first night. Bill Kouligas might be more readily associated with moody surroundings and darkened clubs, but the PAN boss’ heavily textural and entirely beatless set felt particularly compelling as it resonated around palace’s ornate auditorium.
Despite being billed relatively early on Friday evening, Amnesia Scanner didn’t fail to make an impression. Mixing reverb-drenched mutant pop with juddering kick drums delivered with nu-metal bombast, the duo traded the wall of smoke they performed behind last year for a pair of whirling spotlights and a gruesome RDJ-reminiscent projection of a mouth miming along to the cut-up vocal samples that littered their set.
Friday night unquestionably, however, belonged to Jesse Kanda & Arca. Emerging from an avalanche of noise and strobes, the Venezualan strutted, shrieked, and fainted on a platform that extended into the centre of the crowd, jerking around like a broken marionette, cracking a whip overhead and tossing salvos of flowers across the room. It was a breathtaking performance (at one point he descended from the stage to stalk through the crowd on a pair of centaur-like stilts), with a theatrical intensity compounded by Jesse Kanda’s visceral visuals.
The pair’s last live show of the year together, the set concluded with a genuine moment of tenderness as a breathless Arca called Kanda to the front of the stage to soak up the adulation of the crowd, offered him a rose, and then slumped on his shoulder, exhausted.
Subsequent performances by Bonobo and Nicolas Jaar felt frustratingly muted by comparison, but in the newly-located second room of Lingotto Not Waving and Yves Tumor’s one-two punch of acerbic techno and noise brought the first night proper to a climactic finish.
One of Club To Club’s biggest coups this year was a mammoth seven-show run by Kraftwerk, each one consisting of an album being performed in full at OGR Torino – a former railway depot repurposed as an imposing concert venue. Saturday’s sit-down rendition of Radioactivity was a welcome change of pace, feeling at once nostalgic and eerily poignant.
If Friday at the Lingotto was given over to more cerebral sounds then Saturday night was aimed squarely at the dancefloor. Ascendant duo Smerz impressed with glossy pop whilst Helena Hauff didn’t pull a single punch, foregoing the chuggy EBM that marks many of her sets and taking full advantage of the main room’s imposing system with full-throttle techno.
A frustrating quirk in Turin’s licensing laws means that all of Lingotto’s bars close at 3am, a few hours before the music itself stops. However this seemed to have little effect on the assembled crowd for Lorenzo Senni and the Gabber Eleganza crew, who closed out the second room with ravey-but-reverent dedications to trance and hardcore respectively (hearing Senni’s One Life One Chance belted out to a cheering contingent of Milanese fans was a particular highlight).
We left Turin on Sunday evening, but not before taking in the Piazza Madama Cristina street party, an annual, open-access arts fair organised by Club To Club. It’s a neat reflection of the festival’s eclectic outlook, with an array of street vendors and performers and record stalls. An elaborate tango demonstration drew a crowd of families before things took a sharp left-turn into a smoked-out A/V show from local crew Gang Of Ducks blending strains of trap, gqom, and hip-hop. Initially met with a wave of bemusement, the collective’s quiet intensity soon won the audience over, and before long the square was packed with dancing bodies.
The breadth of choice on offer at Club To Club is both a blessing and a curse: for every amazing act on offer there’s another you’re bound to miss. However, this is as much a reason as any for a return trip. With genre-blind programming and knack for nailing the brightest and best acts in both pop and avant-garde circles, Club To Club shores up its place as an essential festival for Europe’s musically adventurous crowds.