Various Venues, Torino, Italy
Sixteen is an impressive age for any festival to reach, in particular one that prides itself on left-of-centre bookings. Regardless, Club To Club hit this milestone in style with a five-day programme of music, art, and discussion spread across Turin.
The bill for this year’s instalment boasted a fittingly broad selection of artists, from stratospheric live bands to up-and-coming electronic acts and DJs, with most of the action taking place at Lingotto Fiere, an enormous expo centre housed on the site of a former Fiat factory.
Arriving on Thursday, we venture across town to the beautiful baroque hall of Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory to watch veteran no-wave guitarist Arto Lindsay present a specially commissioned piece with prolific jazz drummer Paal Nisselm-Love. The outcome is a mixed bag- Lindsay’s fitful riffing occasionally strays into jarring territory- but when it works the duo are exhilarating to watch.
Heading back to Lingotto Fiere, we find Tim Hecker obscured by a wall of mist, crashing out vast slabs of sound recognisable from Love Streams via the chest-rattling sound system. It’s impressive stuff.
Arca opens his set with an operatic solo before taking to the decks to blast out an array of noisy techno interspersed with incongruous club bangers. Jessy Kanda provides a grisly but arresting visual accompaniment that ranges from first person footage shot from the deck of a storm-battered fishing trawler to visceral close-ups of a goat giving birth.
The music at Club To Club starts mercifully late- usually no earlier than 7 or 8 in the evening- so we’re afforded plenty of time to check out a huge breadth of contemporary art on display as part of Turin’s city-wide Artissima arts week, or else sit in on one of the many panels and interviews taking place at the nearby AC hotel.
One notable highlight is Gaika, who in a one-on-one discussion is coy about his collaboration with Dean Blunt (“Hackney versus Brixton dot com”) but candid about his musical upbringing and the alienating effects of London’s haywire gentrification.
Friday night is undoubtedly the noisiest of the weekend. Swans sound positively apocalyptic, and at one point we retreat next door to catch the end of Mura Masa, whose saccharine melodies elicit one of the liveliest crowd responses of the weekend.
Silhouetted by a blinding bank of strobes, Amnesia Scanner pull off the rare trick of making deconstructed club music sound great in a live setting, twisting pitched-up vocal snippets into rave stabs and panning thunderous kicks from one side of the room to the other to dizzying effect.
Autechre’s early-morning performance provides a surprisingly placid end to our night as the Sheffield duo loosely hang together fragments of bass and droning synths.
Buoyed by the joyous performance of Junun by Jonny Greenwood, Shye Ben Tzur and the Rajasthan Express we head next door where Daphni is entertaining a sweltering packed-out room with a selection of bouncy house and techno. The vibe is suitably loose and the crowd erupts when Snaith drops a pitched-up version of Mall Grab’s I’ve Always Liked Grime.
Clams Casino continues on an upbeat trajectory, dropping back-to-back Vince Staples tracks and initiating what might be the only singalong of the festival.
One criticism we heard levelled at Lingotto Fierre several times across the course of the weekend was that its steel-and-glass expanse felt a little sterile. Fortunately, as Saturday night comes to a close we find ourselves at a nearby train depot repurposed as an afterparty venue, with a rotation of Turinese DJs banging out mordant techno in a dark, smoke-filled basement- a welcome change of pace.
Sunday sees Club To Club relocate to the Madama Cristina Piazza for Dance Salvario, a block party-esque affair in downtown Turin replete with workshops, street theatre and food stalls. Sunday remains open to the public throughout, so the assembled crowd for footwork lifer RP Boo is an amusing mix of haggard festival attendees and intrigued passers-by.
It’s a poignant moment- whereas many European festivals can feel at odds with the their host cities, Dance Salvario feels like a concerted effort by Club To Club’s organizers to involve Turin’s wider population in the spectacle, and as RP Boo whips the piazza up it’s hard to disagree with its effectiveness.
Of all the problems a festival will encounter in its lifespan, the toss-up between commercial viability and underground credibility is amongst the most fraught. The safety afforded by surefire ticket-sellers can often prove more alluring than any kudos that might result from a progressively-booked lineup, which can lead to a risk-adverse attitude amongst organisers and a mundane experience for attendees.
Club To Club, however, nailed this balancing act with an event that was as challenging as it was enjoyable, reaffirming its status as one of Europe’s most crucial and diverse offerings.