Various venues, Turin
2020 will mark 20 years of Club to Club.
Club to Club started out as a series of club events in the early 2000s, bringing a more progressive, experimental curve to Europe’s electronic festival landscape. Over the past few years, their line-ups have become more high-profile with blockbuster bookings like Thom Yorke, Kraftwerk and, last year, Aphex Twin. As they look forward to their 20th anniversary next year, the 2019 edition felt like a festival finding a new beat.
By placing live acts in time slots typically occupied by DJs, bands found a new intensity at Club to Club. Black Midi’s frenetic, freeform compositions function better live than they do on record, and the kinetic sounds of their debut album Schlagenheim puts the band’s remarkably skilled musicianship front and centre. In the vast, looming confines of the Crack Magazine stage, their darker moments became all the more disorientating.
Improvisation became a through-line for the acts on the Crack stage. The explosive, cosmic wanderings of The Comet Is Coming reverberated around the hangar. Kelsey Lu’s magnetic free spirit shone brightest when she ad-libbed vocals and allowed the music to move her physically. Her hypnotising cover of 10cc’s I’m Not In Love was particularly special.
Even in the electronic realm, impulse and improvisation felt present. 72-Hour Post Flight created a gorgeous landscape of ambient textures. SOPHIE unleashed 60 minutes of bright sketches and pummelling productions, rearranging them in real time. During a talk at the festival’s evening symposium, Shabaka Hutchings spoke about composition as a process which doesn’t end when the song is written, but when the tracks are played to an audience and their response guides the final form of the music – an approach he clearly shares with SOPHIE despite their music existing in different worlds.
It’s that embracing of flux and evolution which marks Club to Club out and unites the community that’s built around it. Having worked on Aphex’s show last year, Weirdcore returned to give some glitchy visual accompaniment to a shapeshifting set from Skee Mask – a DJ whose golden streak is showing no signs of waning.
The imagination that goes into programming like that did occasionally amplify the few bum notes. Flume’s loveless brand of spring break EDM sounded decidedly out of step with the rest of the bill as did the slightly stale, nostalgic sounds of Battles and Chromatics. But these were minor misfires which still nevertheless pulled some of the weekend’s biggest crowds.
Club to Club still carries the tenor of something that started as a series of parties formed by real music lovers. At a retrospective talk celebrating 30 years of Warp Records, one of the label’s senior figures spoke about the enduring ethos of the imprint. “Why not not let the borders mean too much?” he said, “Let’s just smash everything together.” It was a nice reflection of Club to Club.